Grammy, as I called her, was born at
North Broadway, north of Fells Point near Johns Hopkins
Hospital. Around 1900 or 1901, the family moved to 505 Franklin
Terrace, which is now 41st Street. Both homes still stand but have
been converted into apartments. She was the eldest daughter of
Christopher Miller and his wife Ella Maude DuVall. Christopher was
real estate agent who, with his brothers George and Benjamin, owned
their own business - The Premiere Building and Loan Association. Ella, who I vaguely remember (she died when I
was 3), was descended from Mareen DuVall, the Hugenot immigrant who
came to Anne Arundel County, Maryland in the mid 1600's. Grammy had
her dark hair and brown eyes.
I remember being told stories of the Great Baltimore Fire, which struck the downtown area near the Inner Harbor in February 1904. She was 5 or 6 at the time and told me that her father and his brothers got on the trolley to go downtown to help fight the fire. She said that you could see the flames and the smoke from her back porch. In an era without cell phones, it must have been terrifying for her and her sister and mother to be without contact with him for 3 days and not know whether he was safe or not. Her father went and stood on the roof of their business with a bucket brigade and kept the building wet so the fire wouldn't damage it.
Grammy was a fiercely independent woman who learn to drive while in her teens. She graduated from Eastern Female High School (now called Samuel Gompers Vocational High - the original school was built in 1870 and converted to a Grammar School in 1907 - Gompers was built in 1904) in 1916 and went on to graduate from the Peabody Conservatory with a degree in organ performance. She had studied piano with Gertrude Sappington and gave several recitals, using Liszt's The Erl King to audition for Peabody. She received a letter from Goucher College offering interest and more information, but ultimately she chose Peabody. She was always at a keyboard, be it the organ in her church, our family's piano, or (from what I understand) a baby grand in a ship's ballroom while on a cruise. Her sister Ruth, graduated from The Maryland Institute College of Art a few years later.
Notes she wrote about High School:
She apparently used to star gaze on the roof of the school. Her art teacher's name was Miss Slater and she stated that they had all kinds of artists and included in her book of memories an ink sketch portrait done by a classmate. Also included is a late pass - arrival time 9:20, with a little note wondering why she was so late, and on another page she quotes her teacher's favorite expressions. "Now let us have a little more order, please." and "Girls, pay attention and learn." Almost 100 years ago, it sounds like any classroom today. She participated in theater in high school as well, doing plays her second year there and taking part in the Shakespeare Tercentenary Festival at old Clifton Park (as a Sergeant At Arms guarding the Queen). The High School girls designed and made over 600 costumes for the event and raised over $1000.00 (over $20,000 today) in order to make it a reality. She went to gymnastics exhibitions, basketball games and football games - placing scores and tickets all over her memory book. Poly beat City 13-0 at Homewood on November 13, 1915. Nothing new here - Poly still kicks butt 94 years later. Also glued in her book are boys cards - Ralph Fairbank, Joseph Johnson, Eugene Kennedy - to name a few, in addition to pictures of high school sports heroes, newspaper articles and memorials to students who died. Flower cards, dance cards as well as programs from other commencements and banquets, and tiny photos fill the book too. Grammy was, apparently quite the social butterfly and attracted the attention of boys and well as girls.
She met my grandfather on a trip to Harrisonburg with an uncle. Her father's brother managed Wise Brothers - a shirt manufacturer located in the city. They were engaged on May 6, 1921, she received her ring in June and they were married on February 18, 1922 in the parlor of the family home. It is interesting to note that despite the wedding being obviously planned, Grammy wore not white, but a brown satin canton crepe dress which was beaded in bronze. She did carry roses, but the wedding was tiny - on 45 people present including the minister and his wife. The only people present from Granddaddy's side of the family were his 18 year old sister, Edythe and his younger brother Amiss, who stood as his best man. Neither his father nor his mother were present. Granddaddy took Grammy to New York for their honeymoon and in March she moved to Harrisonburg and settled at 218 N. High Street. They eventually moved to 637 S. Mason Street in what is now part of downtown very near to James Madison University and the hospital. In fact, the hospital still stands virtually across the street.
When my father was born in 1936, she became very ill afterwards. The RH factor played a part in several miscarriages, one before her eldest Charles, Jr. was born in 1924, and several after her second son, Clinton was born. Dad was born hemorrhaging and was rushed to the hospital (he was born at home) where the jugular in his neck was cauterized. He was also a "blue baby" - not from a cardiac defect, but from the antibodies in his mother's blood, working to destroy his red blood cells. Again, he was taken to the hospital and (per his older brother) transfused directly with his father's blood. Grammy told me once that if it weren't for "Perky" (Mrs. Perkins), a nanny employed by my grandfather, she didn't know what she would have done.
In 1949, she and my grandfather split up - the result of an affair that had been going on for some time between my grandfather and his secretary - a woman employed around the time my father was born. Her middle son packed one of the family cars and she moved, with my father, who was 14 at the time, back to her parents home at 505 41st Street in Baltimore. She had borne the brunt of her husband's alcoholism, affairs and abuse - physical, verbal and mental and came out a determined single woman. In a long paper written by dad about his family - he had this to say about his mother and his father's affair.
I do not believe that my mother was perfect, but then no one is. I am sure that she was not responsible for what took place. My father is a weak person in that he will give in easily. This girl came from nothing and was used to nothing, and as the affair grew in intensity she saw an opportunity to gain material status. She tried her damnedest to pit my father against my mother. She convinced Daddy that my mother was only interested in material things in life and that she did not appreciate what he did for her otherwise. Where she got all of her information I don't know. She was ruthless and cruel and threw an entire family into a state of being that it has not recovered from yet. - 1960, psychology class paper
She and my father occupied the 3rd floor attic rooms of 505 and other extended family members occupied the rest of the home. Eventually, she would move from there to her own apartment at 4413 Old York Road. She went to work for the State Police and would receive a citation from the Governor of Maryland for her service. She did move back into the family home at 505 41st Street around the time that my father married in 1959 and remained there until the early 70's along with an uncle (her mother's baby brother) Charles Wesley DuVall, Jr. and his wife Mary. When Uncle Wes died of a heart attack in 1973, the home was finally sold and she moved to the Towson/Bellona area - again to her own apartment. I remember her apartment and the soft bayberry smells in her bathroom and all of her antique furniture - most of which belonged to her mother. I still have the brass bed that she was born in and the sofa that served as my father's bed for 5-6 years. My uncle has her gorgeous gold-velvet upholstered rocking chair.
She belonged to Boundary United Methodist Church (now Boundary/Govans) and was very involved in volunteer efforts through that church. It had been her family's church since it was built at the turn of the century (as Boundary Evangelical United Brethren originally Boundary Avenue Methodist Episcopal founded in 1893). The old church still sits on 42nd Street which used to be Boundary Avenue - so named because it originally delineated the Baltimore City/Baltimore County line. The church went through several transformations, most notably in the 50's when the organ was replaced. In 1983, with it's congregation shrinking, the church itself was sold to Faith Christian Fellowship and in 1993 it became the Baltimore Christian School. The Boundary Church congregation merged with the older Govans United Methodist (built 1849-1850) and they are still today Govans-Boundary.
She drove a '58 Chevrolet Impala, bought a year before my father bought his '59, and she traded that 10 years later and bought a '68 Chevelle. She put snow tires on the rear and put a piece of shag carpet across the back deck and because it was a 'muscle car' everyone swore up and down that I had a older brother rather than a really cool grandmother. And to me - she was cool. She showed up at our house randomly with bags of tomatoes and other vegetables, naughty jokes and hugs. She went to the opera, the symphony and hiked around in the woods with us in West Virginia every year. She went to Disney World with my godmother and cruised to Scotland, St. Peterburg and Sweden. She hopped in her car and drove everywhere - much to my father's chagrin and despite his very loud protests, even cutting through parking garages to avoid traffic lights (while my father attempted to follow in his car). She was an independent, working woman in an era when women were housewives. She drove until she was in her early 80's, finally being sidelined by a broken hip and congestive heart failure. Before she died in 1985, she stated that she wanted to be buried next to her father, and so she is. There are eight others in the plot - Chris and Ella Miller - her parents, Charles and Margaret DuVall, Sr. - her grandparents, Charity "Chattie" Miller Groff - her aunt, Christopher and Marjorie DeVier - her youngest son and daughter-in-law, and Mariot DeVier - her eldest son's first wife.
1- With a friend -the picture is not
labeled but the young woman resembles Helen Courts (married name)
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