A Metro section article yesterday erred on the percentage of residents in the Baltimore neighborhood of Remington who own their homes. Fifty-four percent of the residents there are homeowners.
Wander down the rutted surface of W. 23rd Street, past the cheerless Baltimore row houses almost to the B&O railroad tracks, and you come to the home of Scott Lovill and Shirley Cucho.
Their 14-foot-wide row house crouches in the midst of Remington, a battered inner-city enclave that once served as a haven for Appalachian migrants.
Poor people like Lovill's and Cucho's parents fled the rocky farms and played-out coal fields of West Virginia and Kentucky for Remington's textile mills and printing plants. But the mills and plants have pretty much shut down, and much of Remington is drying up, too.
"I had seven brothers and three sisters here," said Lovill, 44, a diminutive, chain-smoking man with the slow rolling speech of his native West Virginia. "But most of them's scattered now . . . Jacksonville, Tucson . . . North Carolina . . . New Mexico." Furrows of worry cross his face.
Lovill and Cucho, like remnants of other Appalachian families, are hanging on, partly out of loyalty, partly because they have no choice.
They are part of a changing ethnic neighborhood of Baltimore, a bleak slice of the city two miles from Baltimore's glitzy Inner Harbor.
Named for a 19th century landowner who developed the area, Remington is not unlike many of Baltimore's celebrated blue-collar neighborhoods that are being reshaped by the demise of traditional smokestack industries, suburban flight and Baltimore's growing service and high-tech employment base, for which blue-collar workers are often ill-prepared.
While Remington, like East Brooklyn and a few other Baltimore neighborhoods, is a traditional gathering place for Appalachian migrants, its 40-block area is also home for Italian-Americans, other European ethnic groups and a few blacks. Some are not poor and hold steady jobs, but there are few signs of affluence in Remington.
Its population has been declining for decades. It dropped from 3,842 to 3,179 between 1970 and 1980, according to census figures, and is still declining as families move out to seek work.
Unemployment stands officially at 8 percent, but neighborhood organizers say it is more like 15 percent. Median household income is $11,931.
Fewer than half the families own their homes, 15 percent have no telephones, 20 percent live below the poverty line, and those figures are skewed by middle-income residents living in the northeastern quarter of Remington near Johns Hopkins University. Remington's high school dropout rate is a staggering 66 percent.
But there is more than numerical loss. Families have split. Neighborhood stores that once extended credit to residents have closed or been taken over by indifferent corporations. Police and community organizers say idle teen-agers widely use marijuana or inhale such common compounds as spray paint and aluminum-siding cleaner.
Also, they say, adults are heavy users of antidepressant prescription drugs. Male prostitution is common among teen-agers, they add, especially temporary homosexual liaisons with middle-class "chicken hawks," adult men cruising the Remington area for quick encounters.
"There is a feeling of real helplessness among a lot of the people here," said Tom Culotta, a neighborhood activist and head of the Remington Community Survival Center, where he runs a school for dropouts. "They feel they have no control over their lives, over their jobs, their children, the community, the city government. There's a kind of mass psychological depression that makes a lot of them unable to act."
That's the way it was for Lovill and Cucho. A skilled paper-folding machine operator, Lovill was laid off in 1982 when Arrow Press in Remington closed for good. Cucho, divorced and with four children, was on welfare. The two came together and tried to make a go of it financially.
"For two years, we didn't have nothing," said Cucho, 36. "I used to go to bed crying because I couldn't do for my kids."
Lovill worked at odd jobs and applied for other printing plant employment, "but they weren't hiring," he said.
Both drank, they acknowledged. "When Scott would drink, he'd go on the warpath," Cucho said. "His friends couldn't hardly recognize him. He was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
Then early this year, things began to turn around for the couple. Cucho found a job as a waitress at the Sunflower Restaurant on nearby North Charles Street, and Lovill became a full-time maintenance worker at a convent for retired Franciscan nuns. He said he has quit drinking.
"I clear $111 a week now," he said, and Cucho earns $1.75 an hour plus tips. That's not much by middle-class standards, but it's enough to cover the $190-a-month rent on their two-bedroom row house and other essentials.
They've even splurged. A General Electric video cassette recorder graces the top of a 21-inch television set in their otherwise sparsely furnished living room. The TV was a gift from the Franciscans where Lovill works, he said, "but the VCR cost me $600 -- $100 down and $25 every two weeks."
They watch four movies on a weekend -- "They cost 99 cents apiece through our video club," Lovill said -- and their favorites are old Elvis Presley flicks. "I just love him," said Cucho, sitting next to a lamp base carved in the likeness of the famed rock singer.
Both said they have lost contact with most of their remaining kin in West Virginia and have little desire to go back.
Cucho spoke wistfully of moving to suburban Baltimore, "but we just don't have the money."
"Money, security, control over their lives, that's what a lot of people here never quite reach," said Culotta of the Community Survival Center.
"Chunks of Remington have always been psychologically depressed," agreed Tom Seipp, who as a deputy commissioner of the Neighborhood Progress Administration is the city's point man on Remington.
But both Seipp and spokeswoman Betty Beggs in Mayor William Donald Schaefer's office disagreed with Culotta's contention that the city has contributed to the depression by ignoring Remington and pouring its money into more glamorous neighborhoods and the Inner Harbor downtown.
Remington has three playgrounds, noted Beggs, herself a Remington resident, and the community has received its fair share of Summer Corps and CETA program jobs. More important, she said, the city in 1978 built a multipurpose center in Remington with recreation, day care and tutorial facilities for children, a library, senior citizens program and an information and referral service for public assistance.
Also, said Seipp, many residents in predominantly white Remington don't want subsidized housing "because that means blacks."
A companion fear among poor residents, ironically, is gentrification by young white professionals already living in the adjacent Charles Village and Bolton Hill neighborhoods.
Gentrification would force out low-income renters, said Remington resident George Gavin. "I don't know what in hell the young people would do . . . with so many on minimum wage."
Seipp and other city officials counter that Remington's monotonous factory row house architecture and generally poor housing stock make it an unlikely candidate for gentrification. "There's no attractive mix of housing for that," he said.
Culotta, who fears gentrification, too, in a way agrees with Seipp. "This is the part of Baltimore the city doesn't want," he said.