The Chalkboard


I love chalkboards. Slate ones only.

As a child we called them blackboards. There’s something about the feel of chalk put to slick slate that is soothing. That’s how I learned my timetables, my multiplication tables. Mom would sit in her reading chair opposite the blackboard mounted on a wall in our family room (we called it a playroom in those days), and I repeatedly scripted timetables in columns using a dense, firm stick of chalk—unlike the airy sticks found today. When I felt I was learned in my math I would turn around, face my mother, and she would put down her Photoplay Magazine and test me on what I had just written. I so loved this exercise.

Later, in the 1960s in a West Frederick Junior High Algebra class, the teacher would ask for volunteers to write math equations on the chalkboard, and the class would learn from the chalked equations. Of course, I readily raised my hand to have an opportunity to write on a chalkboard!

On the backside of the mid-1970s “Downtown” Frederick commercial space was filling with young entrepreneurial tenants, and Market and Patrick Streets were hopping and growing in the local music and art scene. I was working at IBM then. I moved into a chic $200-a-month apartment on West Third Street (yep, that was a going rate for a nice place). Downtown was such a hip place to be and fed the artistic side of this somewhat sheltered and shy 1960s Urbana countryside girl’s brain. I still vividly remember the overwhelming feeling that came over me the first day I walked out of the apartment, off the porch, and three steps down to the sidewalk, and realized I could walk anywhere downtown I wanted to go. No more 10-mile drives to feel like I was just visiting downtown. Now I was part of it. And, months after moving downtown I walked out of my IBM job during a lunch break and never returned to that stodgy, albeit well-paying, position. Now I could immerse myself in the downtown scene–and I did, wholeheartedly and all-consumingly. Life was about being downtown.

Less than a year later The Deli opened at the corner of Maxwell Alley and East Patrick Street. Carol and Neil had in their window, with menu items scripted on it, a delightful 24×18 slate board. My best friend, Vera, who lived across the street from me, and I walked to The Deli almost every morning during the summer of 78, for tea and a bagel. And so followed our daytime of gallivanting and often venturing out in my orange Toyota pickup truck to swim at the Bakerton quarry or to jump the whoop-de-doos on Olive School Road in the countryside. Still, I wanted that chalkboard and pestered Neil to sell it to me. Oh, to have a chalkboard with provenance from my beloved Deli!  But Neil said he needed it, and with time the idea fell from my thoughts. 

Thirty-Four years later a sad day arrived for many downtown folks–The Deli closed. The News Post had an ad for the auction at the fairgrounds for the contents of the business. I was already an avid auction-goer every week like clockwork. So, when the fairground auction came up for The Deli sale I went, with hope that after these past decades the chalkboard would be there. And it was!  When it came up for bid, I stood before it and bid; but somebody I couldn’t see was bidding against me. I ended up paying $54 for that blackboard, and after I purchased it the gentleman bidding against me approached me and introduced himself. It was Neil and Carol’s son, Cary. He said he wanted the chalkboard for himself. I explained my history of love for that chalkboard, and we parted smiling. Today that chalkboard is lovingly installed on our family room wall where I keep my numerous lists, notes and other doodles scribbled on it. I so love that chalkboard and could not be happier, even if I had to wait 34 years for it.

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Grace currently hails from the shores of North Carolina, a trial retirement location, where she programs and broadcasts a weekly local news show on (all-volunteer) Radio Hatteras. Homesickness overwhelms her many days. A 50-year resident with a heart for Frederick, Grace attended West Frederick Junior and Frederick High Schools. A de facto paralegal from the days when legal secretaries did much research and writing, Grace worked in private law firms. Other employment included IBM, radio, band music, Montgomery County Attorney’s Office, and a long term position with the Montgomery County Council where she retired as a facilities manager. Grace was a minority practical conservative in a liberal charter government. Notwithstanding that environment, Grace is a resourceful, logical, thrifty, innovative, and independent thinking woman--and a great cook! She has been described as “thorough and meticulous.” Having cut her teeth in local government for 28 years, she is well acquainted with the workings of charter government. Grace will share writings of her amusements and observations...and, yes, recipes!