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BROOKLYN WAS NEVER a famous section of Charlotte. It was just a place where ordinary citizens lived. Most of them were upright, law-abiding people. At times, some of them ran afoul of the law and had to take an uncomfortable ride in the Black Maria to the police station.
The Black Maria was the name attached to what was known as the police wagon of long ago. It was an open horse-drawn affair with low sides, and anyone forced to ride in it was exposed in full view. Most people dreaded this ride because to be seen riding in the Black Maria was frowned upon as a public disgrace not soon forgotten by any neighbors who happened to be looking as it went by.
The people of Brooklyn differed greatly in their training. Ministers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, railroad men, teachers, artisans, servants and common laborers all lived together in one community.
Many of them raised a collard or potato patch on parts of the red hills behind Brooklyn. We never knew or cared who owned these hills. We just knew that they were there. Some were covered with trees, others were covered with corn, blackberry bushes, plum thickets, pig pens and field daisies. These hills were loved and enjoyed by the people. Most of the citizens lived in an average manner, but some of them were very poor. Even though the state of being poor existed in the superlative degree for some people, they tried to live with their poverty in a dignified manner. Few people begged or grumbled. Most of them worked hard and tried to make do even if it meant washing the same dress or pair of pants each night.
On Sunday morning, many waited for the fish man to come by in his wagon with fish for an early morning breakfast. Afterwards, they listened for the tolling of the big bell in the belfry of the Congregational Church that reminded the community it was church time. The tolling of this bell had a stimulating effect on most people. If families had been slow in getting Sunday morning chores done such as blacking the shoes or washing breakfast dishes, the bell reminded them to hurry. It was time to walk or ride to their church services. The tolling of the bell was for religious services, but it evolved into an established custom that had a wholesome effect on the community. After many years, the wooden timbers in the belfry tower of the church weakened; the big bell fell and was silenced. I had listened to it as a child, and in my later years, I always seemed to miss something each Sunday morning when I didn't hear the big bell toll.
The ice man was another important man to watch for daily, especially in summer. The ding-a-ling of his bell could be heard for blocks. Often, parents would tell children to stop the ice man. As soon as a big, wide wagon pulled by a horse and loaded with blocks of ice came in sight, a chorus yelled, Here comes the ice man!
Few people owned refrigerators or ice boxes. Each day those who owned them had to buy five or ten cents worth of ice and wrap it in newspapers or old clothes to keep it from melting. This was their only method to preserve food or to have a cool drink of water on a hot day. If a family member was ill, having a small piece of ice for their personal comfort was a great satisfaction.
The families owning refrigerators had the ice man fill their boxes with 25 to 100 pounds of ice. While the ice man carried ice to his patrons, small boys often jumped on the wagon's steps and snatched the few fragments of ice that were chipped off as it was cut. This chipped ice was a treat to many children who had none at home to enjoy.