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.