“My mother is on the cover,” wrote an astonished Ray Alcaraz.
“I was floored! I couldn’t believe someone had identified the woman in our cover photo,” said Tandy who published the special edition “to explore the term ‘Hon,’ its relationship to Baltimore past, present and future and why so many feel so strongly about it.”
He added that the cover photograph on that issue — a blonde with upswept hair — is a vintage from A. Aubrey Bodine’s collection. It depicts what appears to be a fierce conversation between the blonde woman and a couple who are sitting at the table upon which the woman is leaning. Their facial expressions reveal rapt attention. “The visual showed the style of a hon – her hair – for example,” said Tandy. “Rather than a parody, like the kids at Honfest. It is a real vintage photo of a hon.”
“That was in St. Leo’s School Hall at a pizza dance,” Maryann Boggio Alcaraz said. “In the photo with me are Henrietta Lancelotta Guiliano and Michael Guiliano. They married late in life. He was a widower. They’re both dead, now.”
“The photograph tells a story in itself,” said Tandy. “The body language — the guy’s look on his face is a reaction – exudes that working class pride.” It also embodies Tandy’s vision for the special edition: to explore who were the “working class women whose memories forever call home to a past as resilient to the erosive ravages of time as the marble steps of an East Baltimore rowhouse.”
“It’s a Baltimore saying. Everybody calls everybody, hon,” Maryann Alcaraz explained. “To me, when someone asks a question and they don’t know your name, they call you, hon. But I don’t. I’ll say miss or mister.”
To Tandy, a hon is a woman with a “fierce devotion to whatever it is she believes to be right.” He added that the woman will not accept anything derogatory from anyone. “Many people think their mothers, aunts, grandmothers are hons. And someone — quite literally — saw his mother [in the Bodine photograph].”
Jennifer Bodine remembers the night in August, 1969 when the photo was taken, “It was brutally hot.” She had driven her father to St. Leo’s and remembers “standing up on a table to hold the lights” for him to shoot photographs.
Jennifer Bodine was a twenty-one year old college student when she accompanied her dad to St. Leo’s. She had brought a new boyfriend who aspired to be a photographer and wanted to meet A. Aubrey Bodine.
“My father was unpredictable,” Jennifer Bodine stated. She and the boyfriend had arrived from College Park at the Bodine’s Park Avenue home in Mount Vernon for dinner. She believes that they had not yet had dinner when her father announced that “we’ve got to go over to St. Leo’s.”
It was a Baltimore Sun assignment. Jennifer Bodine came across the St. Leo’s photo while researching her father’s collection at the Sun decades later. A. Aubrey Bodine worked for the Baltimore Sun for fifty years. He died a year after the photograph at St. Leo’s was taken.
His pictorial photographs are famous. On his website his work is described as “… documentary pictures … of the finest quality, often artistic in design and lighting effects far beyond the usual standard of newspaper work.” It is said of A. Aubrey Bodine: He did not take a picture, he made a picture.
Maryann Alcaraz remembers A. Aubrey Bodine taking photos that night, “He wasn’t always at the pizza dances, but I know he was at this one.”
Mrs. Alcaraz worked at St. Leo’s rectory. She helped out at all the fundraisers for the church: the ravioli dinners, oyster roasts and the pizza dances, “We’d sell pizzas. There’d be beer, soda, chips, pretzels, and a band. The tickets were ten dollars.”
But she cannot remember what she was saying to the Guilianos that night. She has no recollection of what was being so fiercely debated over that checkered table cloth.Jennifer Bodine could not remember either. She does recall that “all the women had high hair, spike heels. I was dressed in cut offs and a tank top. I was not dressed right for the event.” The impression she must have made that hot night has lasted over forty years.
Mrs. Alcaraz recalled, “I remember the dress I wore. It was tangerine. One of my favorites. I bought it on Howard Street. My husband also liked me in that dress.”
“Baltimore still has its Hons, but today many of them live beyond the city limits,” reported Tandy in his special edition.
Not Maryann Boggio Alcaraz. The youngest of her siblings, she and her family have lived down the street from St. Leo’s Church for generations.
A graduate of Seton High School, Maryann Alcaraz met her husband, Remigio, at a Little Italy pizza place where Caesar’s Den now stands. “I would be in there with my girlfriend, Delores. We both knew the owner.”
Remigio Alcaraz, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in the Philippines, was in the Navy. “He walked in to get some pizza and all of a sudden, that was it,” Mrs. Alcaraz added. The Alcarazes have a son and a daughter. Ray, who discovered his mother was in the Bodine photo on the cover of HON, and Michelle. Ray graduated from Mount Saint Joseph’s High School and Michelle is an Institute of Notre Dame graduate. Both of Mrs. Alcaraz’s children are also Towson University alumni. They have given Maryann and Remigio Alcaraz seven grandchildren.
At her home on Stiles Street, Mrs. Alcaraz opened Gilbert Sandler’s The Neighborhood, The Story of Baltimore’s Little Italy, published in 1974, to point out the photographs by A. Aubrey Bodine.
The photo of the St. Leo’s pizza dance was not included in the book. But she has purchased several of Tandy’s HON issues, “Ray called me and told me I was on the cover. I was so surprised!”
“My UPS man wanted one,” she added. “He takes good care of me and I give him treats. He’ll keep my packages when I am away. I was feeding him lunch when I showed him the book [the HON issue]. He said, ‘I want one.’ And I told him if you’re good, I’ll give you one!”