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Where's My Remote: 1938

Where's My Remote: 1938

July 1938. "Garages in alley behind row houses. Baltimore, Maryland." Which one is ours again? Medium format nitrate negative by John Vachon. View full size.


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ooo-ooo that smell!

As a realtor, I still occasionally get to experience the aroma of old garages here in Tulsa. And it's not just confined to garages. Old homes have their own unique scents as well. Sometimes, too, an old, vacant home can tell you stories if you just observe. For example, I showed one home close to downtown and behind a bedroom door were these different ruler marks notating a child's height as he progressed through life. The years were jotted down - 1930s to 1940s. Old structures will speak to you if you let them.

Garage vs. house width

The garages are probably not directly behind individual houses. I don't know where in the city these particular garages are, but here's another Baltimore example.

I heard through a neighborhood oral history project that back when cars were relatively rare, you weren't allowed to leave them on the street! Had to go in a garage at night. There are some in the alley behind our block, but definitely not one per house (we don't have one).

Traffic Jam

Imagine the fun of backing out of one of these garages when several of your neighbors, next to and across from you, were doing the same.

Old garage aroma solved.

When I built a new garage several years ago, it had the smell of adhesives and curing cement. Ugh. I found an old garage that was about to be demolished not far from my house with a very heavily built 30 foot workbench. At least 50 years old, with paint stains, oil, and who knows what else on it. After liberating it from it's doomed home, my neighbor and I split in half, and now we each have that great smell without the wait.

Eau de 10W40

That aroma dear to car nuts may have been due to the habit of draining the oil directly onto the garage's dirt floor, where it soaked in (harmlessly, as was thought back then) and perfumed the air for an eon or two. Most of the hazmat that has to be remediated when military facilities are turned over for civilian purposes, for example, can be chalked up to motor fuels/lubricants' and used dry-cleaning fluids' being disposed of by dumping -- a common practice for decades and cetainly not restricted to the military. In fact, coastal cities in California (and presumably elsewhere) often have stencilled on curbs above storm drains the legend "No dumping/Drain discharges to ocean."

Thanks, 'jwp'

Hate to come home on a Saturday night and enter this alley from the wrong end. 'The seventh garage on the right side' could turn into a real adventure!

VERY narrow rowhouses?

If the garages are lined up behind the row houses at one garage per, the residences must be very narrow.

Re: Old Garage Aroma

We had a garage similar to this when we lived in Brooklyn in the 50's. I know exactly what Jazznocracy means by the aroma. I often accompanied my Dad on the two block walk to the rented garage to retrieve the '39 DeSoto or the '50 Plymouth when we upgraded. Oddly, one of my better memories of that garage was the "lock protector" that Dad crafted from a piece of an old tire to keep the rain out.

The aroma!

Those old fashioned wooden garages had SUCH a delicious aroma! A blend of old motor oil, dry, unpainted wood, and who knows what else. Strong, pungent aroma. And you have to look far and wide to find one like this any more.

Thought this was Russia

When I first saw this photo I thought it was set in Russia, where I saw many of these garageplexes in every city I visited back in the Soviet days. When you lived in a Stalin-era apartment highrise, you had to have some place to put your car, not so much for parking, but for working on it, because keeping a car running was a challenge back then.

[Not to mention getting one. - Dave]

Overhead is Better

Having endured such a garage (and such garage doors) during a blustery winter in Ft. Leavenworth, I can state unequivocally that getting your car out on a windy morning requires either three people or one driver and two cinder blocks.

Marble Steps

Around front, one set for each garage door.

X marks the spot

X marks the spot.

Malvina Reynolds

wrote "Little Boxes"; Seeger (and others) only sang it. She wrote a whole lot of songs, actually; worth looking up on YouTube.


A variation on a certain Pete Seeger song comes to mind.

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