The Scene. County currents and undercurrents

The Scene. County currents and undercurrents

November 21, 1990


Not so long ago Howard County could brag of having elected the most women to "power" of any county in Maryland, and on a per capita basis, as many, if not more, than any place in the nation. Consider:

* We had three women in the House of Representatives simultaneously (heck, most counties our size don't even have three representatives).

* One woman went from the school board to the House of Delegates.

* For a while, women constituted the majority on the County Council.

Several women have chaired the County Council.

* We elected Maryland's first woman county executive.

* We elected a woman sheriff.

* A woman literally held the county's four or five Republicans together for many years before finding a real job.

* She wasn't elected, but we had a female District Court judge -- and some said, a hanging judge, at that.

Until this very moment, however, lost in the analysis of Election 1990 would seem to be a trend -- you've gone a long way, ladies.

County voters have decided that only the school board will continue with a female majority (4-to-1 female, in fact). Oh, yes, the Circuit Court will soon have its first female chief clerk.

But in the so-called power offices, we'll be down shortly to just three women: Delegate Virginia Thomas (D, 13A), County Councilman Shane Pendergrass (D, 1st), and Democratic U.S. Representative Beverly Byron of the 6th District (who hardly calls Howard County home).

Gone or almost gone are Marjorie Holt (retired), Barbara Mikulski (I guess you could argue that as U.S. senator, she still represents us), Virginia Donnelly (voted out), Ruth Keeton (retired), Diane Schulte (resigned for private law practice), Susan Buswell (chose not to run again), Joan Athen (who got a real job), Angela Beltram (voted out) and Elizabeth Bobo (ditto).

Now, students, does this mean:

* The times, they really are a-changin', again?

* That Maryland's first matriarchy, as some rather indelicately described our liberated views, has declined and fallen?

* Something about young Republicans that hasn't been researched?

* That Carol Arscott, head of the county's Republican Central Committee, and Sue-Ellen Hantman, her Democratic counterpart, have their work cut out?


SOURCE: Lowell E. Sunderland

Now is the time when the Mall in Columbia is preparing for its biggest season -- Christmas.

One of the most attractive malls in Maryland suddenly becomes even better-looking.

A few weeks ago the Mall added a special new touch designed to make the lives of shoppers easier: large benches.

The black metal benches seem to be everywhere, offering a much-needed respite for weary legs. They've long been a needed item.

"We're just sprucing up. It's something we've been wanting to do. They are probably more comfortable than what we had before, and they seat more people," said Sue Ellen Weisberg, community events coordinator for the Mall, as well as its unofficial historian.

One of the key reasons -- other than comfort -- for getting the benches was atmosphere. The Mall wants to create more of a Main Street atmosphere.

"They look more like Main Street," Weisberg said.

That's true.

I grew up in West Baltimore, and the Edmondson Village Shopping Center was my Main Street.

It was the type of store, the store's longevity and the open-air atmosphere that created a feeling of Main Street for me.

Edmondson Village had a great five-and-dime called Tommy Tucker's. It had a barber shop that featured live monkeys in its large storefront windows and rocking horses inside that kids could ride.

It had a beautiful movie theater, an ice cream shop with a real fountain serving cherry sodas and a pharmacy that also sold baseball cards and candy.

It seemed like the same stores were there my entire childhood. I never remember new ones coming in.

Weisberg says 24 of Columbia Mall's original stores -- there since it opened in August 1971 -- remain in business; amazing to me. I didn't think it was that many, although most of the survivors are either shoe stores, clothing stores, banks or jewelry stores -- not the kind of places kids usually frequent or remember.

It seems like every month another of my old favorite places in the Mall closes. A few months ago, an original tenant -- and my favorite Asian restaurant -- Jade Palace, closed up shop.

I recall Page One Book Shop with fond memories. It was a mom-and-pop store that gave the Mall a homey atmosphere, not like the chain book shops now there.

And I used to enjoy the art and framing shops that have disappeared, except for one.

Some real mom-and-pop type stores have survived at the Mall, including Bun Penny, a deli, and the Patowmack Toy Shop.

The tobacco shop was always a real Main Street type of place, but that's been reduced to a nook in the wall.

And Bun Penny recently changed its storefront and made a shift in some of its merchandise, making it a bit less homey place.

I know the Mall wants to keep itself looking fresh and appeal to upscale buyers, but it just seems a little too glitzy and glittery to ever be called a real Main Street, at least for us middle-age buyers who grew up with a different experience.

Maybe even if the Mall had more mom-and-pop type stores instead of mostly chains, it still wouldn't seem cozy like a Main Street. But more of those unique mom-and-pop stores would help.

Maybe for kids growing up today it does seem like Main Street.

But it would be nice to have in Columbia the kind of Main Street I grew up with.


SOURCE: Rick Belz

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