HSP HISTORY Blog
Interesting Frederick, Maryland tidbits and musings .
As we embark on the most popular day and week, of summer, I wanted to look back at Frederick, Maryland and its relationship to the July 4th holiday. For those on vacation, and others hosting or attending a friendly barbecue, Independence Day is generally characterized by the other 3 “R’s”: relaxation, reflection and revelry. Some have labeled July 4th, “The Sunday of the Nation.”
The word that best sums up the feeling on this day should be contentment—content by having freedom, possessing unalienable rights and just plain being proud to be an American. And many times such as this year, additional contentment comes with having a three-day weekend to boot. It’s ironic that this holiday has roots going back to the specific day in 1776 where the mood of the general populous was one of discontent. The people of Frederick County, Maryland, and countless inhabitants of the other 12 colonies were not pleased with their governance under Great Britain’s King George III, son of our county/city namesake—Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales (1707-1751).
As a matter of fact, discontentment in Frederick County can be traced back to July, 1765 when word had reached America that King George would soon be instituting a tax on stamped paper in the coming fall. This blatant example of “taxation without representation” angered many, but perhaps none more than our famed “12 Immortals,” the county court justices of Frederick County headed by William Beatty. In late November (1765), they repudiated Britain’s Stamp Act and carried on the business of their court without using the newly required stamped parchment. This is considered the first formal protest against the crown by an official governmental body in the colonies. If the Battle of Lexington and Concord is considered “the shot heard ‘round the world,” then the 1765 Stamp Act Repudiation by the Frederick County justices can be considered the first “verbal shot.” If anything else, our lesser heralded “Paper Soiree” helped influence Bostonians to carry out another protest eight years later. This, of course, was the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
From a historical perspective, it’s interesting to look back and read about past Independence Days here in Frederick. I arbitrarily picked a year to explore and research for this article. For some reason, I chose 1893—a period that certainly does not roll off the tongue for its contribution to county, state or nation. To my surprise, and delight, I found major discontent surrounding the holiday. Residents of Frederick City would/could have no fireworks. Newly elected Mayor John E. Fleming had issued a proclamation on June 23 (1893) re-stating the city ordinance prohibiting “the firing or discharging of any gun, pistol or other firearms, squib or cracker within the limits of the Corporation.” He cautioned that this would be rigidly enforced on July 4th.
Interestingly, I found July 4th to be the birthday of Mayor Fleming’s late father, a local physician. Could there be some subliminal reason reaching back into the mayor’s childhood, possibly associated with having to be silent or reverent on this sacred date? Could the mayor have had an aversion to pyrotechnics, or was there a fear of loud sounds? Again, another irony lies in the old adage "Where there’s smoke, there’s fire," as the name Fleming (at the time) was synonymously associated with a popular tobacco and snuff store located adjacent Frederick’s square corner in the first block of West Patrick. This was operated by a William W. Fleming, likely a cousin, but I haven’t been able to attain this relationship. (NOTE: I also am curious as to the familial connection to today’s Fleming Avenue, a very popular locale to spend July 4th.)
In essence, this was the 4th of July equivalent of the movie Footloose. Many townspeople were livid, especially wayward teens and ornery children, not to mention more than a few uppity adults. Now in Mayor Fleming’s defense, this particular Fourth fell on a Sunday, aka Lord’s Day. Some decorum needed to be shown churchgoers, because firecracker hijinx was not just something that happened after dusk as we know today. In addition, things had gotten wildly out of hand over the years with the high frequency of firework-related accidents, maimings, etc., especially involving young people. The newspapers over the years could always count on these stories to help fill content. Fire risk was also a reality, and the mayor had been working hard for months on fire-related ordinances and strengthening support for the volunteer fire departments of Frederick. Lastly, who needs people shooting off firearms in town, especially after a long day of celebratory alcoholic libations?
To the average Joe “Son of Liberty,” this rationale seemed to buck tradition, looking more like an infringement on God-given rights. Isn’t there a Constitutional amendment providing for the right for American citizens to spend Independence Day doing whatever the heck they pleased to show their patriotic devotion to flag and country? The famed "Bentztown Bard" Folger McKinsey wrote in the Daily News another signature "tongue in cheek ditty":
"I believe in letting the eagle scream
On the glorious Fourth of July;
As firmly I believe that mankind,
Would perish 'twere not for pie."
Now don’t get me wrong, the good far outweighed the bad when it came to July 4th. Most annual celebrations went off with a bang, and good times were had by all. One of the best took place on July 4, 1828 in which simultaneous groundbreakings were taking place in Baltimore and Georgetown respectively. These included the birth of two legendary transportation lines that would greatly impact Frederick commerce, agriculture and passenger travel. These were the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Both would reach Frederick in 1831.
While many flame-loving residents escaped to surrounding areas to shoot off fireworks and guns, the event at City Hall was well attended, and equally received. The stage was beautifully decorated in red, white and blue, and collection boxes were strategically placed at the theater’s entrance to receive donations for a proposed monument to Francis Scott Key. This would become a reality five years later. Jacob Rohrback, a leading Frederick lawyer, Freemason and member of the Philomathean Society said the following in his speech that July 4th night: “We shall take pride in teaching our children the principles upon which the nation of sovereign states are based, for we must remember that it is our children and our children’s children who are to inherit what comes after us.”
That July 4th, Capt. Q. S. J, Beckley and his able corps of assistants of the Frederick Riflemen, celebrated the Fourth in grand style at the Frederick Fairgrounds. Among the amusements held, highlights of the day included a one-mile bicycle race around the track and a baseball game. In nearby Middletown, things were relatively quiet, save for a nice parade through town that afternoon. A like ordinance against explosives had been enforced, but the youngsters took to wearing grotesque masks and waving flags as they took march in the parade with their brethren.
After reading an account of a young doctor attending a party in nearby Jefferson, I certainly have a new view on what was considered “fireworks fun” during the period. It appears that this gentleman was lured in by a flirtatious group of young ladies working in tandem with a group of young hooligans. The boys attached, and lit, a bundle of fireworks to the physician’s frock coat. Luckily he escaped injury, but I can surely think of safer and less stressful ways to celebrate the independence of our nation. Luckily things got back to normal, "July 4th wise" when Mayor Fleming left office in 1895.
So in closing, I wish you and yours a very happy Fourth! But please think twice before shooting off your bottle rockets, cakes, and Roman candles this holiday as the ordinance is still in effect within the corporate boundaries of Frederick. You can still enjoy sparklers without repercussion, both literally and figuratively. While we can demonstrate the proper spirit of patriotism in many ways, take a few minutes to remember why we continue to have the right to celebrate such an incredible annual event and explain this to a young person. Not to mention “the self-evident truths” that most of us get a paid day off work and are entitled to all the hot dogs, hamburgers and apple pie we care to eat. Talk about being content.
Now let's make some noise for all Frederick County's patriots, past and present!
“ He was a humane, generous and charitable Gentleman, and a great Promoter of the Public Good, by encouraging all Kinds of Industry, towards which he largely contributed, and was very Instrumental in settling the back Parts of this Province.”
-Obituary of Daniel Dulany the Elder
The Maryland Gazette,
December 6, 1753
We have Daniel Dulany the Elder to credit for the establishment of both Frederick City and County. For nearly a century after the Calvert expedition established the Maryland colony in 1634, the region including the Monocacy River Valley was described as “a howling wilderness.” As a land speculator, well-versed in provincial government politics, Dulany saw the tremendous opportunity that existed in settling the backlands of the Maryland province, both for himself and the colony.
Daniel Dulany the Elder was born in 1685 in Queens County, Ireland. He came to America with two brothers in 1703 after abandoning studies at Dublin’s Trinity College. Dulany arrived in Port Tobacco as an indentured servant and was purchased as a laborer for a four-year term by George Plater, an influential Maryland planter and attorney. Dulany’s service as a law clerk prepared him for a legal career and introduced him to the colony’s aristocratic planters’ society. He was admitted to the Charles County bar in 1709 and would continue his practice of law in Prince George’s County and England before moving to Annapolis in 1720.
In 1721, voters chose Daniel Dulany as a councilman and a year later was sent him to serve in the lower house of Maryland. He was appointed attorney general (1721-25) and commissary general(1721-24, 1734-53) by Gov. Charles Calvert (fifth Lord Baltimore) and was involved in the provincial government under Gov. Samuel Ogle. Through investments in land, slaves and an iron foundry, Dulany amassed a great fortune. With the capital means to back himself, Daniel Dulany became one of the country’s first land developers, having bought several parcels in Western Maryland for the purpose of gaining profit through resale and renting.
Dulany saw the importance of taming the western lands for the benefit of growing the colony. He and others in Annapolis focused on what was happening within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where William Penn was having great success in attracting Germans to settle the lands west of Philadelphia. Dulany copied this strategy and began to induce Germans, living in Europe and Pennsylvania, to immigrate to Maryland’s Piedmont and mountain lands, particularly the vicinity of the Monocacy Valley, at the time considered Prince George’s County. This scheme worked according to plan.
At the urging of six German settlers, Dulany purchased a large tract in early 1744 named Tasker’s Chance from business associate, friend and neighbor, Benjamin Tasker. A year and a half later in September 1745, he had part of Tasker’s Chance surveyed in an effort to lay out a market town on both sides of Carroll Creek. Dulany named his proposed settlement Frederick Town. He is said to have named the town in honor of Frederick Calvert, the 12-year-old son of Charles Calvert -Lord Baltimore. But it is possible the name was a compliment to Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales, who was the son of George II and father of George III. Frederick Lewis was an important figure in public affairs in England and heir apparent to the throne at the time of the settlement of Frederick Town. The Calverts may have been eager to please him.
In 1745, Dulany assigned a group of commissioners to design the new western town. A main road running from Pennsylvania to Virginia already existed and Dulany had the town divided into 340 lots, laid out north to south with Patrick Street as the principal thoroughfare. A few people bought their own lots, paying two pounds, 8 shillings with an annual ground rent of one shilling for 21 years and two shillings a year thereafter. The majority of residents leased lots, paying Dulany a quit-rent of a shilling sterling.
To further increase value to his new town, Dulany successfully lobbied the Maryland General assembly to create a new county in 1748. Frederick County was carved out of Prince George’s County and consisted of the present day counties of Washington, Allegany, Garrett, Montgomery and Carroll. Frederick Town would become the county seat, launching its importance as home to the county courts and all legal matters and land transactions. By 1750, Frederick Town had become the Maryland colony’s largest town and a legitimate center for trade, commerce and politics on the western frontier.
Daniel Dulany died on December 5, 1753 and was laid to rest with wife Rebecca next to St. Anne's Episcopal Church, located within the famed Church Circle in Annapolis (adjacent the Maryland State House). Happy "Father's Day" just the same Mr. D., and thanks for our wonderful city and county!
Author's Note: In a town full of its share of monuments and memorials, Daniel Dulany is proudly remembered in Frederick, the town he founded, by the short, two-block avenue that bears his name....and is also, unfortunately, misspelled (Dulaney).
As I write this piece, I can't seem to get the song "The Things We Do For Love" out of my head. This was a smash hit by the British band 10cc in late 1976/early 1977. You remember it don't you?....
Too many broken hearts have fallen in the river
Too many lonely souls have drifted out to sea,
You lay your bets and then you pay the price
The things we do for love, the things we do for love
And I loved this song at the time, ironically being "10" years old and possessing a keen interest in pop music at the time but not as much as the band's earlier hit "I'm not in Love" (1975).... but I digress. 10cc really has nothing to do with this week's blog, but enormous sacrifices for love certainly do, as can be evidenced in the chorus of "The Things We Do for Love":
Like walking in the rain and the snow
When there's nowhere to go
And you're feelin' like a part of you is dying
And you're looking for the answer in her eyes
You think you're gonna break up
Then she says she wants to make up
A few years ago, I came across an article in the archives of the New York Times newspaper from July 17, 1881. It is a uniquely interesting news article about a Frederick woman named Anna Josephine Sifford (1844-1928) and "love and loss," but not the kind of loss you think. Nannie (as Anna was called) got the guy in the end, but her losses became great gains for the community.
As is usually the case with the newspapers of the day, especially with reporting on stories picked up from other newspapers, spelling errors and some inaccuracies occur. Estimates of the estate were reported to be at least $100,000. But Anna married well, so no need to worry about her making a bad financial decision. Husband Aubrey had served in the Civil War as a Confederate officer, and was quite successful in the business realm. They would reside in downtown Baltimore in the prestigious Bolton Hill neighborhood (about 1.5 miles north of the Inner Harbor) and had summer retreats outside of town such as Glyndon, just northeast of Reisterstown in northwest Baltimore County and Rose Hill near Pikesville. Col. and Mrs. Pearre lived rich lives both literally and figuratively. He passed in 1915, and she 13 years later in 1928. Both are buried in St. Thomas Episcopal Church Cemetery in Owings Mills.
Josephine left behind the home built by early Frederick physician (and War of 1812 veteran)John Baltzell. Built in 1834, this dwelling is located at 24 East Church Street, and is the current day home of the Historical Society of Frederick County. The house had passed to Alexander B. Hanson in 1854, then to successful businessman/farmer/philanthropist John Loats in 1871. Loats bought the property for $14,000. And speaking of property, the John Loats estate was located directly south of the City of Frederick, and in particular south of the original Maryland School for the Deaf property. I do believe this property included lands on both sides of the Georgetown Pike (MD85) and this included the ground that Harry Grove Stadium sits on today.
Loats passed in 1879, but is said to have always held a special place in his heart for Anna J. Sifford Pearre, his sister-in law by marriage. Thanks to the Pearre marriage, the property would soon become the Loats Female Orphan Asylum of Frederick City. It would serve in this capacity until 1959 and a contested legal battle ensued as "40 proven heirs" were making claim on the property. The Historical Society of Frederick County would take over in 1959, and have been here at this location ever since.
And now for your listening (and viewing) pleasure:
My boys and I had a recent conversation during dinner in which they asked me about important inventions that I have witnessed over my lifetime. Possessing a college degree in Communications, I have marveled at the major advancements in my field of study since I graduated in 1989. Technological advances have definitely made the world an even smaller global community than that professors told us about three decades ago. Household computers, the internet, digital video recorders and smartphones top the list.
The boys and I got talking about different eras in history and what my ancestors likely experienced, and what they would have reported to us should they had been part of this particular dinner conversation. We looked at things that evolved over the lifetimes of my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents. These included overarching achievements such as the advent of machines during the industrial revolution period, public improvements such as street paving and lighting, household commodities such as electricity and indoor plumbing, transportation innovations featuring the shift from horse and buggy to the automobile, (not to mention the local possibilities afforded by the interurban trolley and nationally/internationally via the airplane, weaponry advances with various wars, toys and games, and food storage/cooking aids (refrigerators, ovens, toasters, barbecue grills, microwave ovens, ice makers, etc.).
It’s always been important to me too use Frederick City and County for context when looking at the impact of inventions and innovations that swept our country. In the same manner, Frederick County has had its share of important inventors and innovators who helped change the nation. Off the top of my head, two individuals of note stand out immediately. I have had a familiarity with both gentlemen in the process of past research with documentary projects. These are McClintock Young of Frederick and Thurmont’s Richard O’ Toole.
McClintock Young (1836-1913) was the holder of over 100 patents over his lifetime, one of which was for the creation of an automatic “friction match”-making machine (sold to the Diamond Match Company) in 1870. Nearly 30 years later (1899), Young was responsible for a revolutionary brush producing technology which added to the heightened success of Frederick’s Ox Fibre Brush Company.
During this same time period, Richard O’Toole (1848-1918) busied himself with improving life’s lot. O’Toole hailed from Mechanicstown, a fitting name for a place full of tinkerers and experimenters. This was the original home of “great invention” in Frederick County. It was here in the 1830’s that America’s first friction match was invented by Jacob Weller, BS (blacksmith) and son Joseph sometime in the 1830’s. Three score (60 years) later, about the time of a town name change to Thurmont (another great “invention” credited to Catoctin Clarion newspaper publisher Charles E. Cassell), O’Toole received a patent for inventing the American Electric Magnetic Crossing Signal for protecting highway crossings of railroads.
His first patent was obtained in 1892, with one of Richard O’ Toole’s closest business associates having strong connections within the industry. Irvin W. Loy began a storied career with the Western Maryland Railroad in 1875 and quickly rose up the ranks. Loy (1846-1914) was a talented designer and architect who was head of the maintenance department for the railroad. Over his tenure, he built many bridges for the Western Maryland line, and would be responsible for the development of Pen Mar Park in nearby Cascade (MD). Loy built a fine residence called “Glenhurst” in Mechanicstown/Thurmont, helped design the roof of the former Thurmont Town Hall, and would have a nearby rail stop named for him—Loys Station. Today, this locale is better known for its covered bridge.
Back to Richard O’Toole, his American Signal Company attracted investors fast, and soon his Godsend device was being installed by railroads all over the country and world. His main office at one time was moved to Baltimore, 100 West Fayette Street. Unfortunately, the company was undercapitalized, big city investors pulled out and the company disbanded before reaching its full potential. Mr. O’Toole settled into a humble life back in Thurmont and became an expert in auto-chromatic photography. He is credited with making the first panoramic view of Thurmont. He also specialized in photographing dead people.
A few years ago while shuttling through microfilm in C.Burr Artz Library’s Maryland Room, I came across a local inventor that I was not familiar with—William M. Lease. I suddenly marveled at an article found in the June 29th 1901 edition of the Daily News. Due to its length, and scientific complexity, I was inclined to make a copy and had to read more than once to understand the spirit of Lease’s invention.
On June 11, Lease, a Mount Pleasant native now living in Baltimore, was given a United States patent (Patent No. 676,193) for his “Pleasure-Railway.” He would also receive a like patent (No. 135710) from the Deutchen Reiche (German Empire 1871-1943). The US patent for the “Lease Spheroid Pleasure Wheel” reads:
"This invention relates to the means for the transportation of freight or passengers from place to place; and its object is to provide a novel construction of a monocycle car movable upon a single rail and comprising a suitably large wheel within which is suspended the car-body and motor for driving the wheel."
Basically, this colossal monocycle featured plans for a 40-foot wheel equipped with 30 total baskets, each carrying 4 passengers. Mr. Lease boasted that his invention would change transportation forever, allowing a traveler to cross the continent in one day’s time. Read it for yourself:
Luckily, Mr. Lease didn’t quit his day job as a postmaster. He would never see the “Pleasure Wheel” come to fruition. However, he likely did see glimmers of his creation utilized as the premise for carnival amusement rides. I guess you could say he was partially successful, in a “round-a-bout” way. William M. Lease continued out his life working for the US Postal Service, a career that spanned 43 years. He passed away in 1953 at the age of 87 and is buried in Baltimore’s Mount Olivet Cemetery.
So I panicked the other night, while in the produce section of a grocery store. I was given a short list of items in the morning, and forgot one of five simple things I was supposed to come home with after work. I immediately went to the “life-line” and security blanket, my I-Phone, and placed a call to my wife. I knew I’d get a bit of playful razzing, but my short-term memory loss here could not cause a dinner mishap, or heaven forbid, a forced return to the market.
Unfortunately, the phone just rang several times and went to voicemail. I tried again to no avail. I then called the archaic, and seldom used/answered, home phone line. Instant success came as my stepson Jack had actually answered. Unfortunately, my wife had taken the other boys to a baseball practice, and inadvertently left her phone on the kitchen counter in her haste. I desperately hoped Jack could provide guidance, but this was a pipe dream as I caught him at a time of video game induced coma, something called League of Legends. He could barely remember who I was, let alone grocery items of survival for the household. As I hung up, I caught myself aimlessly staring at a bountiful stack of organic broccoli in front of me, and thought to myself, I’m “screwed.”
Oh the power and wizardry of smart phones, one of the most amazing inventions in my lifetime. Where would we be without them? How could we function at all? And this, coming from a guy who thought cordless household phones were God’s gift to mankind in the early 1990’s. Actually, I take that back, I was quite impressed with earlier technological advancement in telephony with the advent of call waiting and, best of all, the coiled phone cord extension of 30+ feet. This simple upgrade guaranteed a perpetual “cocoon of privacy,” a vast difference from the traditional norm of being tethered within a five foot radius of the hard-mounted wall phone of my childhood. You could actually travel to a spot "two rooms away." This was especially helpful in the early forays of talking to girls while under the surveillance of parents, and worse yet, being under siege from two younger brothers whose intent was humiliation through catcalling and mimicry. The only downside of the 30+ phone cord extension was the accidental “clotheslining” of a hapless elderly relative with cataract issues…but that's another story for another time.
Speaking of other times, and phones, I found out recently that Frederick, Maryland once hosted the original inventor of the telephone as a tourist for a weekend. Alexander Graham Bell and wife Mabel took in our ample historic sites and recreated in the beautiful surrounding countryside, all while staying in one of the many downtown Frederick hotels of the period—the City Hotel.
The brief weekend stay occurred just over 101 years ago, in late April 1915. Simultaneously, a “World War” was occurring over in Europe at the time, and America was contemplating a potential jump into the fray.
It had been 29 years since Mr. Bell, a native of Scotland, had made his own impact on both national, and international levels. He was at the forefront of the revolutionary change in communications, thanks to a landmark demonstration in which he would “place a call” on March 10, 1876 to assistant Thomas Watson in Boston. Bell first successfully transmitted speech, saying "Mr. Watson, come here! I want to see you!" using a liquid transmitter. This was the first successful demonstration of what we would come to know (and love) as the telephone. Five months later (10 August 1876), Alexander Graham Bell made the world's first long distance telephone call, about 6 miles between Brantford and Paris, Ontario, Canada.
Mr. and Mrs Bell departed Frederick in their automobile on Sunday evening (April 25). Although not mentioned, I assume that another structure of interest to them must have been the Maryland School for the Deaf. And this would not be simply for the sake of history as countless visitors have been impressed with the important past roles played by the Frederick's historic Hessian Barracks. No, I would think the Bells would have admired the school itself, with its grand façade and canopied turrets. But the important work being here was what would have been most important to the tourist couple. You see, Alexander Graham Bell had started his working career in deaf education, and his inventive spirit was more rooted in helping those who couldn’t hear, than assisting those who could (as he did with the telephone). This came honestly as Bell’s mother was deaf, along with his beloved wife Mabel, who had been deaf since infancy and a bout with Scarlet Fever.
Over the next forty years, Frederick continued to retain its hometown, rural charm, although a new wave of residents had come from around the country due to events tied to a Second World War in the 1940’s. Many of these people were bright scientists and pioneering inventors like Mr. Bell. They had come to study and experiment within the field of biological warfare at Fort Detrick. Life-long residents ingratiated the new-comers, and could sense that a major change was coming to the sleepy little town of “clustered spires, green walled by the hills of Maryland.”
Another first for Frederick took place on June 6, 1954. This event didn’t bring the same fanfare associated with Alexander Graham Bell’s 1915 visit, or the excitement voiced in 1876 with the invention of the telephone—but no one can deny that this day would certainly “relate” on more levels than anyone could have possibly known at the outset.
The C&P Telephone Company sponsored a special event at the junction of US routes 40, 240 and 340, where they had freshly installed Frederick’s first telephone booth. The location was specifically chosen to assist motorists in being able to stop their travels and “phone home” in style. To inaugurate this new service and christen the dial, company manager Walter Lanius would hail down one lucky motorist and give them the opportunity to call anyone, anywhere in the US on the phone company’s dime. A man was stopped at the light here and flagged down by Mr. Lanius, however he became suspicious, thinking the event was a rouse. He stepped on the gas and sped off, disappointing the throng of spectators and media gathered for this event.
Mr. Lanius went back to finding his contestant. The second recipient of his offer was a finely dressed woman en-route to Mercersburg, PA (from Washington, DC) to pick up her children from a private school for the summer break. After listening to the offer, she immediately accepted being delighted to be asked. The lucky lady revealed that she was Carol Grosvenor Myers, wife of a prominent Washington physician. Her pedigree doesn’t stop there as her father was Gilbert H. Grosvenor, longtime president of the National Geographic Society and editor of its prestigious magazine. As if this wasn’t enough, her mother was Elsie May Bell Grosvenor, a daughter of Alexander Graham Bell!
The stunned crowd would watch Mrs. Myers, the legendary inventor’s granddaughter, place her call to an aunt living in Miami, Florida. The recipient of the first phone call from Frederick’s first pay phone (and phone booth) would be Mrs. David Fairchild, aka Marian Bell—youngest daughter of Alexander Graham Bell.
After that story, I'm sure you would be willing to believe the forgotten item on my grocery list. That would be bell peppers, needed for making Italian sausage sandwiches.
In last week’s blog, we covered a few novel firsts for Frederick—incandescent street lights and the first traffic stoplight, located at the Square Corner. While putting that piece together, I couldn’t help but think of Frederick’s many other firsts, but more so, I thought of famous inventors, and whether they visited town this fair city or not? While some indeed did, I found that we have special relationships to others which I will explore over the next few weeks. For starters, I looked only a few blocks away (from the Square Corner) to our famed and beloved “95-year-old, girl next door—Barbara Fritchie.
I can hear an echo from the past say: “Drive if you must this old Model T, but spare your family’s horse,” he said. Could this have been uttered in jest by Henry Ford, the legendary industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company? I highly doubt it, but there is certainly a connection between the automobile mastermind and our Frederick Civil War heroine. Mr. Ford was born in the same year (1863)John Greenleaf Whittier wrote the "Ballad of Barbara Frietchie." Just over seventy years later, in the mid 1930's, he would send employees to Frederick to take detailed notes and measurements of the famed Barbara Fritchie House located on West Patrick Street adjacent Carroll Creek.
The Dearborn Inn, located in Dearborn, Michigan, was built in 1931 by Henry Ford to serve passengers arriving and departing from the automobile pioneer’s aptly named Ford Airport. Sitting directly across the street from the aviation hub, Ford’s 179-room Dearborn Inn was the country’s first “airport hotel.” In 1937 the Colonial-themed Inn's accommodations were expanded to include guest cottages— replicas of homes of noted Americans. Designed by architect Charles Hart of the Treadway Inns Company of New York City, meticulous records were gathered at actual historic locations. Five dwellings would be arranged in a village-like setting behind the main hotel. Today, the faux hamlet still contains these buildings, revolutionary statesmen Patrick Henry, writers Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman, Oliver Wolcott, and alas, former Frederick resident and star of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem –Barbara Fritchie.
The Dearborn Inn and adjacent guest replica homes still exist in their suburban Detroit setting, reflections of Henry Ford's admiration for American history. His ideal expanded to include the reconstruction and acquisition of several other important “heritage” buildings to form nearby Greenfield Village, part of the larger Henry Ford Museum— touted as the largest indoor-outdoor collection of our nation’s history.
Today, the Dearborn Inn, with its “colonial village,” is listed on both state and national historic home registers, while being managed by the Marriott Corporation. Located in close proximity to the Henry Ford Museum, the Inn not only offers a more traditional hotel experience, but for $200+/night, one can still stay in the Barbara Fritchie house.
Hotel guests and other visitors to this unique Michigan attraction have the chance to learn the romantic tale of Ms. Fritchie and her dramatic defiance of September 1862. The hotel’s brochure offers a short biography and picture of Dame Fritchie, while guests have the opportunity for further exploration through reading the 30-stanza poem written by legendary New England poet, and abolitionist, John Greenleaf Whittier. This is quite helpful because to most of Dearborn’s tourists, particularly younger generations, Barbara Fritchie is certainly not a known quantity. But then again, how many of us can rattle off the many-splendored accomplishments of Oliver Wolcott?—You know, the 19th governor of Connecticut, and Signer of the Declaration of independence? If nothing else, he had a son named Frederick, and was a signer of the Articles of Confederation, a connection to another local hero named John Hanson.
“Up From the Meadows rich with cars.”
Since Mr. Ford embraced Frederick in Dearborn, it’s safe to say that we paid homage back to our country’s most famous automobile inventor. This came in the form of the Barbara Fritchie Tourist Cabins, once located at 230 West Patrick Street.
Formerly known as The Tourists Park, a rustic campground established by the Maryland State Roads Commission to aid vehicular-based travelers, ground was broken in 1933 for a more sophisticated (relatively speaking) gas station and cabin compound—the creation of George S. Crawford of McKeesport, PA. Crawford’s brother-in-law, Charles A. Faust, actually managed the enclave of 26 bungalows which featured accommodations ranging from “DeLuxe, Twin, and Singles.” These were “Steam Heated” and boasted “Private Showers.” And if that’s not enough to entice the weary tourist, the site came with 24-hour service, and nightly lodging that costs from $1.50-$5.00. The Fritchie Cabin operation would last for half a century. It was sold at auction in 1987, “making way” for the mental health facility known as the Way Station, Inc.
May and June of 1888 was an enlightening time in Frederick City, both literally and figuratively. Crews of workman were busily planting poles and stringing wire for a system of incandescent lights throughout the city. These were being placed at 60 designated spots which included most major and secondary street and alley intersections. Lights were also installed at prime public use locations such as City Hall, the Frederick jail, the baseball grounds (Frederick Fairgrounds), the Black Horse Tavern and the Pennsylvania Rail Road Station.
Gas lighting had been installed in town nearly forty years prior around 1850. The Gas Works were located to the east of town, on East Church Street extended. This stretch of roadway leading in and out of town would fittingly take the moniker of Gas House Pike. In 1887, the municipality turned to the new innovation of modern electric lighting, the contract for this project was awarded to the New York Electric Construction Company out of New York City. At a cost of $17,000, a municipal light plant was built, having a capacity to illuminate 76 lamps.
This was just the start. Within two years, the Frederick Electric Light and Power Company came into being. $30,000 was the price tag for a plant would boast a 2,500 lamp capacity. Now homes, stores, and factories in town could be provided with light, heat and power.
By the end of the decade (and century) electricity would give birth to a new mode of transportation that would revolutionize Frederick. This was the trolley system which would eventually link Frederick to Middletown and Hagerstown to the west, and in time, Thurmont to the north. This was a boon for passenger transport, the movement of farm goods to market, and commercial delivery. Braddock Heights, a concoction of the new electric rail line, would arise as a result.
As the trolley made its debut in Frederick, so did the first automobiles. The streets of town now became extremely more dangerous, and at an exponential rate. Trolleys ran in the middle of principal roadways such as Market and Patrick streets. To each side was the right of way for motor cars, and the age-old transportation modes involving natural horsepower—vehicles such as carriages and wagons pulled by horses. It didn’t take long to employ the need for some sort of traffic control at the major intersections. And the busiest of all was the town’s central square at the junction of Market and Patrick streets, better known by the name Square Corner.
As travel modes had improved and traffic grew, Frederick lost the opportunities once connected to having the Square Corner serve as an occasional social center of activity and events as was the case with small towns sprinkled throughout the county. It, however, remained as a busy pedestrian crossing point. A police officer would be positioned here to help keep law and order over traffic of the bipedal and vehicular kind.
In 1924, a newfangled invention would be added to the Square Corner, one the likes had never been seen before. This was a multi-colored light, which had a much greater purpose than the simplistic overhead light which had been installed in this locale some 36 years earlier. This was not a spotlight, it was an enforcer. Frederick, Maryland, meet your first traffic light!
As another 36 years came and went, so did the trolley. Market Street would become one-way northbound, however Patrick Street would remain a two-way travel thoroughfare. This embodiment of the National Pike through Frederick City still served as the main route east and west through Maryland, and was as busy as ever in this era predating superhighways. At a time before Interstate70, not to mention US15 as a viable "north-south" bypass of downtown, the traffic light(s) at this location would lay witness to thousands of residents passing through Frederick’s central apex. This would hold true for an equal number of "out of town" visitors either heading to the legendary Francis Scott Key Hotel, one block to the west, or simply traveling through. Among these were key tourists of note, even United States presidents. We know with certainty the list included Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower. John F. Kennedy can be put on the list as well, as he was driven through Frederick’s Square Corner as a US senator while on the presidential campaign trail. He spent a whirlwind three hours in town on May 13, 1960.
In August of 2009, I had a work conference to attend in Denver, Colorado. I was working for the Tourism Council of Frederick County at the time, and one of my job tasks was to oversee a national scenic byway—this took the form of the Catoctin Mountain National Byway, aka US15. Today, this stretch of roadway through Frederick County is known as Maryland’s portion of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway.
Denver was the scene for the 2009 National Scenic Byways Conference, a biannual event that hosted tourism and transportation planning professionals from designated national scenic byways from around country: A1A in Florida, the Santa Fe Trail, Route 66, Skyline Drive, Merritt parkway, etc. having never been to Colorado before, and was excited with the planned itinerary for the week, and even took the opportunity to head out a few days early to do some extra sightseeing.
Upon landing at Denver International Airport, I grabbed my rental car and headed immediately to Golden, Colorado. This tourist town was very welcoming, as most everything revolved around its top export—Coors beer. I happily succumbed to the Coors Brewery Tour, and then made my way onto the Lariat Loop route, a Colorado byway, which took me to my next destination atop Lookout Mountain.
Once used by the Ute Indian tribe as a “lookout,” the attraction afforded me with incredible vistas of Great Plains as well as Golden below and Denver some 12 miles to the east. This foothill outlier of the legendary Rockies seemed about the same height as my hometown Catoctin Mountain back home with and its highest elevation of nearly 2000 feet above sea level. However, I was quickly reminded that the Denver vicinity already has the leg up on us as it’s not called the “Mile High City” for nothing.” The additional 5,280 feet combined with a like 2,000 giving it a total elevation of 7,377 feet above sea level.
The summit of Lookout Mountain is most famous for an unnatural feature—the gravesite of William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917), listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Cody experienced the Old West to its fullest extent. His skill as a buffalo hunter gained him the nickname "Buffalo Bill." He later became one of the greatest showmen in American history as his legendary Wild West shows traveled the world leaving a lasting vision of the American West.
The Museum illustrates the life, times, and legend of William F. Cody. It includes exhibits about Buffalo Bill's life and the Wild West shows, Indian artifacts and firearms. See Sitting Bull's bow and arrows, Buffalo Bill's show outfits, Frederick Remington's "Portrait of a Ranch Hand," and many other objects from the Old West in the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave.
Buffalo Bill died in early 1917 and would be placed in a deep shaft carved out of the mountain summit. There were definite security concerns involving the deceased frontiersman because many friends from Cody, Wyoming vehemently claimed he should be buried there in the town he helped found. Thousands were on hand for his funeral in June.
Louisa Cody, who had married Buffalo Bill back before he became famous, was buried next to her husband four years later. That year, 1921, the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum was begun by Johnny Baker. Baker was a close friend and more so, the unofficial foster son to Buffalo Bill. Although his parents never allowed Cody to officially adopt him, he nevertheless travelled, worked and studied with Buffalo Bill from the age of 7 years, after the death of Cody's natural son, Kit Carson, in 1876 at the age of 5. Under Cody's tutelage, young Johnny Baker became the sharpshooter star of "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" show in the United States and Europe, and later served as manager and worldwide booking agent for the show until Cody's passing.
Just as millions of people saw Buffalo Bill in his Wild West shows during his lifetime, millions of persons have visited Buffalo Bill’s grave in the years since 1917. Today it is one of the top visitor attractions in Denver and Colorado. And I would follow suit on the late afternoon of August 22, 2009. The Museum chronicles the life, times, and legend of William F. Cody and includes exhibits about Buffalo Bill's life and the Wild West shows, Indian artifacts and firearms. In the collection, I also saw Sitting Bull's bow and arrows, Buffalo Bill's show outfits, Frederick Remington's "Portrait of a Ranch Hand," and many other objects from the Old West period of our history.
However, among the many things I learned that day, there were actually two that stood above the rest. William F. Cody’s middle name was none other than Frederick! This was quite a happenstance, but I would find a deeper connection to home. In one of the galleries, I found a three-ring binder with an adjacent sign that read: Did Buffalo Bill Visit Your Town? This immediately captivated my attention, as I began to search for the Maryland section.
Alas, I found that Buffalo Bill did visit Frederick, Maryland—October 2, 1916. Along with nearly 20 visits to Baltimore, a few to Cumberland, and one to Hagerstown (September 13, 1907), I felt an instant bond and was so glad I took the time to search this binder. I wrote down the date and stuck in my wallet, vowing to look for anything in the local papers at the Maryland Room (C. Burr Artz Library) when I returned back home after the conference.
I found advance notice of Buffalo Bill’s visit in mid-September. In those days, entertainment opportunities like today’s concerts and sporting events did not usually have the several-month waiting period we know today. Advance teams contacted newspaper offices, affixed broadside advertisement posters and “barked” in the streets in the days leading up to the “big event.” This was the case with Cody’s visit in the fall of 1916.
It’s not only amazing to try to imagine the spectacle of seeing Cody and the show itself which often starred cowboys, Indians, Mexican peoples, but this was the magical and raw spirit of the far-off western frontier being brought to your sleepy hometown. And Frederick, unlike its own wild-west period of the 1740’s, was a tamed city of just under 11,000 inhabitants (ca 1916). The trains brought the performers and their animals into town.
The B&O train station was positioned at the intersection of South Market and All Saints streets. The Pennsylvania Railroad Station was near the intersection of East Patrick and East streets. From these locations, circus parades would form as the onlookers lining Frederick’s principal streets were given a glimpse of what was to come. Usually these went up Market to the fountain at 7th Street, back down and along Patrick or Church streets to exhibition grounds along either street. Best of all, boys of all ages had their chance this time around to gaze at Buffalo Bill, the larger than life American hero and his several co-stars as they winded their way up Market Street and over to East Patrick Street. This particular show was not held at the Frederick Fairgrounds, but nearby at a place called Schildknecht Grounds thought to be on the east side of the intersection of East 7th Street and East Street.
Interestingly, this would be Buffalo Bill’s last ride and show in Maryland. He died just three short months later at the age of 70.
Now in doing some additional research, I found an earlier visit to our fair town by William F. Cody. He performed here in 1894. The show was entitled "The Great Wild West" and was held at the Frederick Fairgrounds. An article pertaining to the latter 1916 visit claimed that Buffalo Bill was well-acquainted with our town, having used it earlier as a wintering quarters for his traveling show. I haven’t been able to “round up” any information to prove this statement, but am hoping somebody will “rustle up” something, someday.
A few years back, I found that Buffalo Bill’s good friend Gordon Lillie had performed at the Great Frederick Fair a couple of times. Lillie went by his stage name of Pawnee Bill and brought to town his Pawnee Bill’s Historic Wild West Show. Mr. Lillie’s wife May starred in the show as the “Champion Girl Horseback Shot of the West.” His first show was here in 1888, but more would follow in subsequent years and by 1896 the show had grown to be named Pawnee Bill's Historic Wild West & Mexican Hippodrome.
Buffalo Bill’s unofficial foster son Johnny Baker put on a shooting display here in Frederick in 18XX. As I noted earlier, Baker would go on to become a big star on his own and would eventually found the Buffalo Bill Museum, high atop Lookout Mountain.
Annie Oakley, the “peerless rifle and wing shooter,” and former staple of many of Buffalo Bill’s shows, came to Frederick as well. The renowned international star visited here with The Young Buffalo Wild Best, Vernon C. Seaver’s Hippodrome and Col. Cummin’s Far East . This “circus” spectacular occurred in Freed’s Field (near the Fairgrounds) on August 22, 1913.
Oakley was reported to have first visited Frederick nearly twenty years earlier while under the employ of Buffalo Bill. She would go on to reach legendary pop culture status for later generations as her life became the subject of stage and screen projects after her death in 1926.
Annie Oakley would make a posthumous return to town, just over two decades from her last. She would grace the silver screen (noted as being the only “silvertone” one in town at the time) of the Frederick Theater, located on N. Market Street (today the site of Starbuck’s Coffee House). The film, aptly named Annie Oakley, starred actress Barbara Stanwyck in the title role. Interestingly, Stanwyck (1907-1990) had started as a “Ziegfeld (Follies) Girl” and had a short, but notable, career as a stage actress in the late 1920s. She would go on to make 85 films in 38 years in Hollywood, before turning to television. Originally born Ruby Catherine Stevens, Stanwyck was urged to take on a stage name. She supposedly received inspiration while viewing a thirty year-old paper program or poster featuring a British actress named Jane Stanwyck who was then starring in playwright Clyde Fitch’s stage production of Barbara Frietchie, based on Frederick’s Civil War heroine. Ruby borrowed the Stanwyck from the star of the play, and Barbara from the “star” of our town.
It was nearly 40 years ago, but I remember those events like it was only yesterday. Ah, yes—the two times I ever got in trouble in school. Both were elementary school infractions, once in second grade, the other in third. In each situation, I was caught laughing at a classmate’s funny comment, told to me while our teacher was in the midst of instructing. I straightened up and flew right after that.
The first incident was certainly understandable, as another student was flopping all over kids in our reading group. This incident sent me and a cohort to the office for an inquisition from our principal who asked us the age-old question: ”What was so funny?” We made it through unscathed, and best of all, without further implications such as a call home. The takeaway was more the “principle” of being sent to the principal, which was a scary situation–one I didn’t want to experience again.
A year later, in math class, I found myself distracted and daydreaming from my teacher’s lesson. Not that this was an isolated event, as the subject of Math would always be an Achilles heel, never quite resonating with me—save for the fact that I am married to a high school math teacher. The day’s instruction centered on subtraction, but specifically on borrowing when taking larger numbers from lesser numbers. Today, this is known better as “regrouping.” Our teacher may have been gifted in Math, but apparently not in English as she could not pronounce the word “borrow” correctly. She repeatedly kept saying “borry,” as in “Since the 5 below is greater than the 2 above, you have to borry from the first (tens) column, which will make this a 12.”
All was going fine until my friend Johann turned to me and whispered: “Chris, can I borry a pencil so I can write this down?” I tried my best to hold in the laughter, but a chuckle snuck out of me, and Johann as well. As these life situations usually play out, the room at that moment had gone immediately silent, thus amplifying our laughter, and hence, our impending punishment. Mrs. G. stopped teaching and proceeded slowly to the back of the class towards us, pointing at us defiantly with her ruler. She used this “ancient” tool of measurement as a pointer, in the same vein an orchestra conductor uses a baton.
Instead of sending us to the office, she chose her own brand of vigilante justice for our unkind interruption and disrespect. We were directed to kneel on the cold, hard concrete floor. The surface was polished which made it even more difficult to keep balanced in Sears brand “Toughskin” denim jeans, which were the pantaloons of choice in 1977. We had to serve out our sentence for nearly 20 minutes until the end of class. Let me tell you, I was rehabilitated, and vowed never to disrespect another teacher again. I also never complained about having to kneel in (Catholic) Church from that time forward, appreciating the modern convenience of padded kneelers.
The reason I share these school memories of "pride and punishment" is to introduce a local news story from October, 1894 which caught my eye. It’s quite shocking, yet entertaining at the same time in a strange way. Like so many things in the study of history, you have to look at certain events, actions and reactions in context with the times in which they occur. With no further adieu, I present this clipping from the Frederick Daily News, October 4, 1894 edition:
Professor Adam Roser was born in 1851 in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Soon after, his family made its way to Frederick County and New Midway. He would receive his own early schooling here before embarking on a teaching career around the year 1876. Ironically, I found a reference to Roser in the December 13, 1903 edition of the Frederick Daily News in a weekly section called Local Logic: expressions of people picked up by diligent reporters. The following, written ten months prior to the “dinnertime debacle,” is a quote from Mr. Roser:
One week earlier (December 7, 1893), Roser had taken charge of the North Market Street public school. He had previously been employed at the Libertytown School. His new school building was no picnic as it was described as having a dilapidated interior and was not much more than a barn. Conditions were so bad that Arbor Day exercises for 1895 would be canceled because the staff were so embarrassed by the conditions of the school. A new school structure would be built on this location in 1896, and would become the home of the Boys' High School. (This would also one day serve as an early home for Frederick Community College as well. Today, it is readying for a new usage as mixed income workforce housing.)
Now before you jump all over Professor Roser for his unprofessionalism and obvious lapse in good judgment by “crossing the line,” I want you to think for a moment of the dealings between Mr. (Arnold) Hand and difficult student Jeff Spicoli, resident surfer/burnout/dude, in the 1982 cinema classic “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Mr. Hand practiced incredible patience with Spicoli when he tried to usurp “his" (Mr. Hand’s) time. Could there be an ounce of justification for Mr. Roser losing it back in 1894?
I went in search of Clayton Warner and found that he made headlines in early March, 1903. Apparently Warner and a pal decided to burglarize some merchants in the early morning hours of Sunday, March 1, 1903, nine years after Roser accosted Warner at the dinner table. Clayton Warner would be duly arrested, and it appears his parents refused to post bail.
As for Adam Roser, he had a storied, but apparently regretful, career in teaching. The educator remained a longtime resident of Woodsboro and the vicinity, and taught in the public schools of the county for nearly fifty years, retiring in 1926. He died in 1934 at the age of 82.
I certainly smiled the other day when I saw the Frederick News-Post article announcing the recent groundbreaking for the Frederick Towne Center project (aka the Frederick Towne Mall “Facelift”). I am truly excited to see the results of this new chapter in the history of this iconic Frederick landmark.
I suddenly began to reminisce about fond times had in my youth with my late father and two younger brothers. This was the magical, weekly trip to the mall on Saturday afternoons. And not just any mall, but the Frederick Towne Mall complete with with the old school spelling of “towne,” or should I say “olde school?”
The Frederick Towne Mall opened amidst great anticipation and fanfare in late summer of 1972. It was located amidst former sleepy farmland west of Frederick on West Patrick Street/ US40 West. This route would soon see rapid commercial development and soon earn the moniker of “the Golden Mile,” thanks to Millard "Mick" Mastrino, a Maryland State Police trooper who would eventually retire a sergeant with the Maryland State Police and president emeritus of United Steam-Fire Engine Co.
The original owner and developer of this “Shopping Taj Mahal” was the Shopco Company of New York City (owned by Harold Yasky and Arnold Praver). It would eventually be sold years later to DeBartolo Development, under Edward J. DeBartolo of Youngstown, Ohio. Now the name may be familiar to 80’s fans because Edward J. DeBartolo bought a professional football franchise in 1977 as a gift for his son Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr. This was the San Francisco 49ers, winners of multiple NFL Super Bowl titles during the decade.
The 580,000 square foot structure included 73 stores in its heyday. It was anchored by major department stores: JC Penney’s to the west, and Montgomery Wards to the east. In the middle, was Eyerlys (later known by its full name of Bon-Ton Eyerlys).
About 20 years ago, I found an original brochure from the Mall’s inaugural. It hadn’t traveled far since it was in a stack of local paper ephemera at the Wonder Book Store, located directly across the street from the once regal mall. The brochure proudly boasted that the Frederick Towne Mall was “…the most modern shopping center in the world—with the charm of Colonial America!” This was a pretty bold statement, but one that likely held truth since I didn’t remember anything quite like it when my parents dragged us down to Williamsburg during the 1976 Revolutionary War Bicentennial period.
What did catch me off guard when perusing this brochure closer was the artist depiction of an indoor skating rink in front of J.C. Penney. I remember the open space, but never any ice or skaters.
The true selling point of this Colonial themed consumer hub was free, easy-access parking that could accommodate 3,500 cars. At this time, a burgeoning Downtown Frederick sans parking garages was not convenient to shoppers who had to scramble for parking spaces, and feed meters. Now we may have no problem doing this today with a lunch or shopping jaunt in Downtown Frederick today (even with many parking decks at our disposal), but imagine having to find, and pay for, parking every time you have to go to any of the many box stores and “box restaurants” we have today? You can see the allure.
It’s no wonder the heavily marketed catch slogan of this place would become “The Frederick Towne Mall…The talk of the town!” As I have dabbled in product development and marketing myself, I personally don’t think the message was as powerful and poignant as that of the later, greater Francis Scott Key Mall (aka “The New Mall”) which would one day proclaim “The Francis Scott Key Mall: We’ve got shopability!” But the Frederick Towne Mall was our first indoor shopping center, the original, the trendsetter, and possessed so much more charm and personality than FSK….at least in as much as a shopping center could do.
The “Old Mall” was a big player in the onetime death of downtown Frederick. The story was the same in many other places. The suburbs were booming both commercially and residentially. My family was part of it when we moved to the Indian Springs area northwest of Frederick City in spring 1974. Clover Hill 1 and West Hills were newfound oases, far from town, existing almost like the early Las Vegas of the 1931 when Nevada legalized gambling. There was no Old Farm, or Whittier developments— just wide open farm land. Our house off Stonehouse Road, at the foot of the mountain, was among the first of a beautiful little neighborhood to grow up in. Traffic free streets to ride bikes, and acre sized lots that gave good separation between next door neighbors, while allowing you to build backyard sports complexes if you chose.
One of the nicest perks of our home location was that it offered a virtual backroads shortcut to the Frederick Towne Mall. Mapquest wasn’t on anyone’s radar back then, but one could get from Point A (our home) to Point B (the mall) by using a route that included Rocky Springs Road, Kemp Lane, (a quick 50 yards on) Shookstown Road and Waverly Drive. That was it, and we didn’t even have to get on the Golden Mile! Best of all, it only took about 8 minutes by use of our trusty, 1972, bright orange Ford Pinto station wagon.
Every Saturday, my father would take me and my brothers Tim and Jon to the mall. The rationale was twofold as my Dad had to run errands yes, but this was also a chance to give my poor mother a respite from the constant fighting or heated sport/game competitions involving boys. The trip would always start with a lunch stop. The Minute Grill (which would evolve later into the Casa Rico restaurant) was my Dad’s favorite and it can best be described as a poor man’s Ponderosa Steak House. As a matter of fact, it had been a Ponderosa before.
Oh, the magic of the times, one in which the western motif idealized in television shows of the 50’s and 60’s had now carried over into eating establishments like Arby’s and the Rustler. The sole survivor of this craze remains today and is one of Frederick’s own (literally and figuratively) Roy Rogers restaurant. And my Dad had us there at the grand opening when Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were on hand to open Frederick’s first of the fabled franchise on the Golden Mile, conveniently located directly across from the mall. As for the Minute Grill, it was always hamburgers and fries for us. However, the beverage portion of the meal was memorable as this was the important period in American history of the advent of the “all you can drink,” free refills. Something we would learn to regret week after week as we suffered from soda-induced stomach aches.
After lunch, we were soon heading across the parking lot to the mall. We were greeted by the delightful smells wafting from Pappy’s Pizza upon our official entry on the mall’s south west side. No offense to “the west end,” but the “meat and potatoes” end of the mall was on the east end, but not the far east side. And when I say “far east side,” I’m not talking about the east wing extension which included two Asian-American owned businesses: “Your Custom Tailor” and the “Real-Rich Ice Cream” establishment. The latter was owned by the Korean Cha family of town. A daughter, Virginia Cha, a Gov. Thomas Johnson High School grad is one of the most beautiful and talented women to grace the mall (and our fair county). She would hold the title of Miss Frederick, Miss Maryland and was runner up for the title of Miss America in 1990! The Princeton graduate has had quite a successful career as a news reporter and correspondent with stints throughout the country including CNN and HLN. Currently she is with KGTV ABC10 in San Diego.
The eastern end of the mall had our three favorite venues. For me, it was Waxie Maxies record store. Tim eagerly longed for the Time Out Arcade. My youngest brother spent an inordinate amount of time in Walden Book Store, but not by choice. This was my father’s favorite store, and since Jon was the runt, he had to accompany Dad as Tim and I got to do our own thing in our respective stores. This gave us our first real sense of freedom, as our dad left us unsupervised, and it didn’t hurt that all three establishments were next to each other in succession.
I would spend hard-earned allowance money (garnered from cleaning our house) on records, particularly 45 rpm records. I spent a lot of time and money in that store, eventually collecting over 1000 45’s and hundreds of 33rpm vinyl albums—more relics from the past. Meanwhile, Tim was spending just as much, however he was doing so one quarter at a time. He was caught up in the Pac Man craze of 1980, followed by the darker Donkey Kong period of Arcadia. I didn’t get crazy over video arcade games, because I preferred sports games. Back then, these were pretty clunky and some featured running in the form of spinning a stationary duckpin bowling ball, which lived in a recessed cavity in the arcade game's tabletop framework. I was much more satisfied kicking my brother's butt at home in football and baseball as our family was one of the first to acquire the coveted Mattel Intellivision, the “best in show” of the gaming world in the early 80’s.
Any quarters I had in my pocket weren’t wasted on video games, They would be “wasted” on miniature NFL plastic football helmets hailing from a lone coin vending machine attributed to McCrory’s—the Darwin missing link to the Wal-Mart of today. It was also home to one of the most impressive mall snack bars in the nation. It was an amazing place where commerce and coleslaw collided for a down-home store-cooked meal. Can young people today even comprehend an eatery amidst a 5&10/drug store?
For being patient in the bookstore, my youngest brother earned us a trip to KayBee toys, even if it was only a chance to simply window shop and play with toys within the confines of the store. KayBee was across from McCrory’s and next to another fine eatery, Friendly’s. Sometimes we’d get to eat at these establishments instead of the Minute Grill. Friendly’s was known for its colorful, sherbet inspired Fribble, while McCrorys had the best hot dogs, served on a grilled roll. And this was the same grilled roll that could be had at Friendly’s if you were in a seafarin’ mood, desiring the almighty Clamwich. Now that was fried goodness with an overwhelming “tang of the sea.” But why stop there, because true aficionados could make the trek to Long John Silvers, the only one of its kind in Frederick, for a bounty of fish planks and hush puppies.
The Center Court festival area featured mainstays like Radio Shack and the Earring Tree. Shipleys Sporting Goods was nearby and always captured our imagination. Moving in a westerly fashion from this locale was basically “Yawnsville” for our pack of young boys, save for the occasional chuckle when passing JoAnn’s Nut House, which would usually bring on a brief chastising by our father to mind our manners. The Hallmark Store, Hanover Shoes and Melart Jewelers elicited zero reaction.
We couldn’t quite figure out what role Fashion Bug Plus would ever play in our lives either. There were other girls’ clothes and shoe stores too, all of which barely register any name recognition to me. JC Penneys stood proudly at the west end, and it was big fun to ride the escalators to the second floor. The tradeoff, of course, was having to suffer through our father perusing the latest offerings from the Kenny Rogers Collection, but that was a “gamble” that was well worth it because the upstairs had electronic gadgets, and was a showroom for us to bug our dad for upcoming Christmas presents.
As we departed the mall’s biosphere by that southwest entrance and made our way back to the car, my brothers and I experienced that sad feeling that usually accompanies the end of a great vacation, holiday season or visit with long-distance relatives. This had been the high point of our respective week. Even harder to bear was the fact that we had to suffer through another six days until our triumphant return. Or maybe it was because we had the knowledge that we weren’t heading home just yet. We had to go to the grocery store for the weekly family shopping spree. And nothing for us was more unbearable, tedious and boring than going to the grocery store, something I still despise to this day.
The Frederick Towne Mall was an important part of my childhood, and I look back fondly at the male bonding experience had with my father and brothers during those days. “The Old Mall” was definitely something more than a close-quartered haven of trade and commerce, or a joyful recreational shopping experience and endless buffet of fried seafood— It was a childhood friend. Thank you Frederick Towne Mall for the memories...you were certainly “The talk of the town!” back in your day.