"I wouldn't ever have to beg," he said.



Reva Goodwin remembers lots of strangers showing up on her family's back doorstep, asking for something to eat. There was always a bowl of soup waiting for them.

In northwest Baltimore, she grew up with the constant smell of stock simmering from the blackened cast-iron pot that sat on the stove's back burner.

Her mother, Edith, would add whatever was available to the pot, depending on the season and the amount of money that Reva's father, William, made from the auto repair shop he owned.

Bunches of kale, winter squash and ruby-red stewed tomatoes went into the pot. In the summer, ears of corn were shelled to join onions, potatoes, rice and celery.

Meat joined the soup whenever available: ham hocks, chicken chunks, stew beef, bacon grease -- anything to make each spoonful more satisfying.

Visiting friends would cross the kitchen's gunmetal gray linoleum, carrying a gift for the pot. A couple that worked for a caterer in the city routinely arrived with boxes of leftover chickens, extra beans, even sweet rolls to enjoy after a bowl of Edith's soup.

That pot was never empty, and nothing in the kitchen was wasted. Ketchup bottles were turned upside down to coax the last few drops.

My mother "had everything imaginable in that soup, all of the vegetables that were nourishing," said Reva, the eldest daughter of six children. There was always something to share.

Her father complained that she was giving away food, but Edith shrugged it off. Theirs was a tight-knit African American neighborhood, a line of brick row houses filled with schoolteachers, chauffeurs and city workers.

As children grew older, winter jackets and summer dresses were passed down from home to home, until the cloth was too thin to wear. After that, they became rags for quilts and washing.

The people asking for food were often white. It didn't matter to Edith. In her eyes, having food to share meant the difference between being rich and barely surviving.

"In the neighborhood, everyone looked out for each other," said Reva, 79. "We had to mind everybody in the neighborhood. . . . People have forgotten that."



Even with the help of family and friends, there were sacrifices, many of them beyond the understanding of children.

In the depths of the Depression in 1933, Richard Harding's mother found a job as a nurse's aide at Whidden Memorial Hospital, just outside Boston. The pay was decent and there was a spare room in the hospital's nursing home where she could live for free. There was, however, no room for children.

Richard was 7. His father, a fisherman from Newfoundland, had drowned when he was 10 months old. His mother, Temperance Anne, had struggled to raise him and his sister, Margaret.