What Others Are Saying: Reflections On Former Birch’s Market Building

What Others Are Saying: Reflections On Former Birch’s Market Building

(Editor’s Note: The writer’s grandfather owned and operated Birch’s Market in Ocean City from 1936-1968. After the recent demolition of the property, he offered these thoughts.)

Another torn down heart-of-town,

of famous past, its days of new.

Yet just such was shelter once,

for lucky child to grow, where

like Parthenon or Pantheon,

stood roof over moments of

life’s unrepeatable plenitudes,

Here family store grew with town:

’30’s Friday night, radio fights,

Coke box on end sat local men

round the wood stove, tilted in

to sound now vanished, listened

as vacuum tubes warmed, and dial

glowed “Philco” ’til fire was ashes.

“Don’t turn us out, Birchie! Cap’

Hudson jests, “Spend ‘nother log!”

Such winters then built community;

Each charge account grew on trust

that fed many a table set without

money until the fish Spring rush

begin the sleepy part of Summer;

Slow raising tide of prosperity’s

barely hundred days of spending,

earned. Sleep-short days of weeks

til time’s low tide left pockets dry,

again all scavenging for a living

come fall, watermen turned handy:

Carpenters, painters, shipwrights,

and Mothers stretched cooking

flour in a barrel, made ever much

slick dumplings cheap for supper;

Apples in straw under the porch

a treat of dull, dollar-less winter.

Hunt or fish, all ate in effort’s luck,

But milk’s bread and butter, Birch’s

stored essential, six days worked

plus one; no Sunday in summers.

Butcher’s white, bib-apron attired,

pocket protector below his smile,

Milton at his counter, patient, stood;

“Would you want I should bag

Miss, those bananas for you?”

Thirty-two, season-round years, serving

with Mary’s help, and four children.

There, undoubted, all their protection

for youth to grow its days cared;

Spin squeaking comic stand, making

imagined worlds, reading atop boxes,

child’s back against the cool slant

glass of the showcase enamel,

eye a-scant for the old grey cat

store mouser who’d rather scratch.

In that time, before youth knows

the truth, that everything changes,

they helped hold, and held good

old heart of town, gone Ocean City.

Some buildings keep souls awhile,

so if, “It’s not dollars made but,

what’s saved, son, that matters.”

When proof of place’s destroyed,

(yesterday bought by tomorrow)

no matter how a heart-place dies

pulled down for dirt to remember

unless is stored recall; sanctuary

of hearts resolute with history,

boxing time in adult reliquaries,

no value’s then in acumen of sale

no price ever for what was there

of cause, nor, no save in re-build.

Let then this, as drift wood script;

sentences floated, found walking,

High tide-line at forgetful’s beach,

dried out of liquid time’s drowning

Flotsam, by striving’s broken shells,

carry on these words that cherish

continually, our time of community,

as the built, loved endeavors again

in buildings torn, come down again.

David Bunting