Armistead Gardens – A Glimpse Back

Armistead Gardens’s newsletter “The Informer” interviews long-time resident Peggy Kirk

Armistead Gardens Community has many senior residents, who are some of the most dedicated, active and responsible neighbors. They have witnessed the e changes in our community over the years. Margaret Louise Kirk known to most as “Peggy” is one such resident.

Mrs. Kirk has lived in Armistead Gardens since 1944. When her sons were young, Peggy was active in the PTA and Cub Scouts. She also has been in local politics over the years. Currently, she is a member of the Board of Directors (she has served on the Board for 14 years), President of the Community Outreach Group, and Secretary of the Vestry for Faith Reformed Episcopal Church.

Peggy (Minton) was born in the small town of Jonesville, Virginia on August 24th, 1924. She remembers her rural childhood with fondness. Education was important to the Minton family. Her paternal grandmother, mother, maternal and paternal aunts, were all school teachers. Most had attended nearby Radford State Teachers College (as it was known then) in Radford, Virginia. Peggy also attended this college. It is interesting to note that this tradition has been carried on. Peggy’s granddaughter, Alethea, graduated from Radford. Peggy’s college education was interrupted by her romance with Marion Kirk. This was during the years of World War II, and the couple wanted to be married in the event that Marion was called to service. They married in 1943.

Meanwhile, spurred by war related industries Baltimore was flourishing economically. Due to the great influx of workers, Baltimore experienced a housing shortage. The federal government built Armistead Gardens in response to this growing need. Some members of the Kirk family, including Marion’s parents, migrated north to Baltimore for better paying jobs.

After a year of marriage, Peggy and Marion thought that, they also, might fare better in Baltimore. For a short time they rented an Apartment at North Avenue and Barclay street. Peggy, a country girl, hated living in Baltimore city. Once pregnant, her in-laws convinced them to move in with them. Peggy preferred living in Armistead Gardens. It was less urban than other city neighborhoods. There was a strong sense of community. World War II and shared social and economic conditions gave everyone a sense of kinship.

The Kirk’s had three sons David, Bobby, and Stanley. We asked Peggy how family life then, was different from today? She said without the distractions of  television and video games; eating family meals together was important to everyone. She still maintains the tradition of “Sunday family dinner”. We discussed the decline of manners and respect in our society. Peggy believes that a loving home should teach children to be respectful of parents, teachers, friends, and even your enemies.

Mrs. Kirk told us that there are things about this community that she will always cherish. When her eldest son, David, was killed in Vietnam, there was an outpouring of sympathy and support from neighbors. She said that she didn’t cook a meal for two weeks; so many neighbors came by offering food and kind words.

In 1956 the residents bought Armistead from the federal government. Each resident put up a monthly mortgage fee on top of the operating charges. During a 1976 general membership meeting at the Union hall on Erdman Avenue a symbolic copy of that mortgage was burned. Armistead  belonged fully to the residents.

Although some people regard our neighborhood as somewhat undesirable, Peggy is proud to be from here. She points out that many children who grew up here, went on to become lawyers, teachers, accountants, nurses, social workers, etc. She emphasized that this community can be whatever we make it. More residents need to take an interest and become Board and or community members.

It was a pleasure to talk with Peggy. We left with a greater appreciation for our community and the people who live here. Really it’s just as Peggy said, “Armistead is a unique community. Here we have the power to make the community whatever we want it to be.”

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