Hon of the Past
Hampden, Md.- A neighborhood known for its eclectic vibe. Alley ways and row homes speak to the hard-working residents inside. In 52-year-old Ronni Hutchason’s yard, a Town of Hampden Flag flies in the wind. Hutchason, an activist for the neighborhood of Hampden, takes pride in where she resides. While walking through the alley ways, each yard reveals what type of families reside in these homes.
Hutchason, a spunky know-it-all, slipped some creamer into her coffee and stirred it vigorously. She slowly stopped and shook her head back and forth and says, “People will never understand the real truth about Hampden.”
Only certain members of this community truly understood what Hampden was and what it has become. Hutchason, a lifelong resident and community volunteer in Hampden, was finally ready to talk. Most importantly, she was ready to defend what was rightfully her hometown.
“Growing up, Hampden was like a world of its own. Everyone knew each other, may or may not have liked each other, but if a rival neighborhood came through, everyone sure stuck together,” Hutchason said with a clenched fist.
An aspect of Hampden that has caused a controversial divide throughout the community is the term “Hon.” This term originated in Baltimore, but specifically became associated with Hampden after Denise Whiting, owner of Cafe Hon, tried to trademark it to promote her restaurant. Hutchason, who has lived on East 36th Street in Hampden for 35 years firmly believes that the restaurant has single-handedly tried to take credit for a culture that they know nothing about.
“Today’s Hampden is fake. It is now known for beehive hairdos, pink and purple flamingos and the use of the word hon. If you ask me, it’s all to promote Denise Whiting and her restaurant. The real Hampden is long gone to me,” an emotional Hutchason replied.
Hutchason remembers when Hampden was full of families who truly appreciated the dedication and hard work of others. When families came together to be with one another and understood the value of hard work.
Today was the day that Hutchason was going to take it all back. Hutchason cracked her knuckles, one by one, and started to type aggressively, key by key. “I want them to know that our neighborhood needs to improve,” Hutchason said.
Minutes passed by slower than molasses. Finally, a subtle “ping” came from the computer. Hutchason ran from the cubicle to the computer and focused on each line.
Hutchason’s 16-year-old son, Tyler, was waiting to hear the news.
“I am so proud of my mom. She has been doing everything possible to ensure that the future Hampden falls back on the past ideals and not the present day mock-up.”
“This isn’t about me hating my community. It’s about instilling and preserving the real culture of Hampden into future generations. That’s what I want to accomplish,” said Hutchason.
One aspect that defines Hampden today is the diversity of residents who all have a story. Residents range from elderly men and women from “Bawlmer” that have spent years developing their lives and the lives of their children.
Then, you have the mid 20’s crowd who have this trendy edge about them. They seem like they have everything figured out. They’re talented. They’re taking over.
Hon of the Present
Taylor Gable, a 21-year-old artsy academic, packs her books into her book bag and zips it up rapidly. She heads for the door of her apartment and excitedly says “Oh my gosh, Hampden has always been one of my favorite places!”
Gable, who is a student at Towson University is quite familiar with the community of Hampden. For the past six years, Gable has been a participant in the “Miss Honette Contest.” More impressively, at the age of 13, she won the “Lil Miss Honette Contest.”
“Honfest is one of my favorite childhood memories. This is what Hampden is known for and honestly, I don’t know what I would do without it,” said Gable.
Honfest is an annual festival that takes place in the heart of Hampden and has attracted people from all over the country.
Gable has been coming here with her family since she can remember and perceives it as a family tradition.
“I’m going to be honest, I associate Hampden with Honfest and Cafe Hon. I know many people from my generation that associate these two trademarks with Hampden.”
There is no denying that Hampden is in the midst of a cultural shift. Gable, believes that the paramount aspects associated with Hampden are beehives and flamingos. Some people might disagree. However, Gable emphasizes that different generations are going to identify different aspects with Hampden.
“If you have lived in Hampden all your life, you’re going to have different perspectives. If you’re a part of my generation, you’re going to have a different take on it,” said Gable.
Recently, Hampden has assumed a population of mid to late 20s. It seems as if Hampden is acquiring a community of youth. Talented ones at that.
“I know a few people who have moved to Hampden right out of college. It’s the place to go and truthfully the present place to be for our generation.”
With a population of over 16,000, Hampden continues to maintain a reputation rich with traditions and customs. These two aspects are the energy that brings a sense of life to residents of Hampden.
The energy portrayed by the residents is evident to any visitor due to their spirited demeanor. No matter what age you are, Hampden somehow brings everyone together.
Hon of the Future
Jamie Arnold, a 30-year-old polished professional, puts the finishing touches on a public relations pitch for one of her clients. Arnold, who has lived and worked in Hampden for 10 years, is Vice President at Profiles Public Relations in the heart of Hampden She sits down, leans back in her chair and says, “ Man it’s just another crazy day at Profiles.” Although, she is still fairly new to the community, she has noticed some drastic cultural changes within the past few years.
“I have seen more and more younger generations moving into the neighborhood, as well as young families. It is a good mix of young professionals and those from other industries such as the arts,” said Arnold.
This week marked an important week for Arnold, Profiles and Hampden. This week was the week that would change the future, cultural direction of Hampden forever.
“When I first started working in Hampden, I would see older houses unkept. Driving around now, you see a more progressive Hampden, which is why this campaign launch is huge.”
Arnold started to paste, stamp, staple and arrange every last piece of information that would persuade people to join this exciting movement. “
There is no denying that Hampden is moving towards a brighter future. While I think people are still proud of the hon culture I get the feeling that the future Hampden is steering away from this,” said Arnold.
The moment had arrived. The last three months of preparation were riding on this day. Arnold and the Profiles team gathered every aspect of their presentation and packed it into the car. It was showtime.
Christina Camba, an Account Executive at Profiles says that this campaign was the biggest one of the year.
“We’ve been preparing and getting ready for this for months. Jamie has been a dynamite.” “All in a days work,” Arnold who has been with Profiles for 10 years replied.
Arnold and her team members neatly stacked every piece, one by one. She placed every poster on the stand, making sure they were straight.
“Good afternoon, I’m Jamie Arnold. We’re here today to tell you why we should be the firm to represent your community.”
Arnold continued to discuss her background and why Hampden is truly her home away from home. The campaign would ensure that the future of Hampden would become revolutionary and dynamic.
“I think Hampden will continue to grow as a neighborhood and will continue to attract young professionals and those people just starting families. While the neighborhood is still in the city, it has a more comfortable feel and will continue to attract people.” “The future Hampden is upon us,” an ecstatic Arnold replied.
Needless to say, Hampden is a mystifying and miraculous town. It allows for stories to be told and heard from old to new, even when you aren’t looking or trying to find one.