Captain SeaweedHe's easy to spot. Just look for the guy...


December 02, 1990|By Mary Corey

Captain Seaweed

He's easy to spot. Just look for the guy with the green face, blue hair, white suit and . . . slimy seaweed dangling from his shoulder.

No, he's not the latest superhero or some teen-age mutant ninja-ed creature that kids will beg for this Christmas.

He's Captain Seaweed, protector of the universe, guardian of the waterways, friend of the forest. Since April, he has traveled to schools, parades and fairs in Maryland weaving tales of a turtle named Myrtle and a minnow named Mindy who need help protecting the environment.

And today, he'll be among the floats and bands featured in the Mayor's Christmas Parade, beginning at 2 p.m. at the intersection of Cold Spring Lane and Falls Road.

For the Captain, better known to some as 46-year-old Tony Fernandez of East Baltimore, what began as a pastime has turned into a full-time pursuit.

"Nothing matters more to me than the environment," he says.

His presentations, which often include puppets, have been praised by the governor and the State Department of Natural Resources. With partners Larry Middleton and Mickey McGraw, he's even begun work on a comic strip.

But the favorite part of his program, he says, is hearing children solemnly recite the Captain Seaweed pledge. One by one, each youngster vows not to litter and to help save the earth.

And in a line that has won him the admiration of many parents, he asks one other thing: He makes them promise to eat their vegetables. She may be the only businesswoman in America to have gone from truant officer to boutique owner.

But that's exactly the career path Margurite Shropshire-Addison followed when she left the Baltimore City school system three years ago to devote herself to Maggie's Place, a women's clothing store in Mount Vernon.

If it hadn't been for the first profession though, she might never have found the second. While encouraging youngsters to stay in school, she discovered one reason they didn't was easily remedied: They needed clothes. With the help of family and friends, she gathered used garments, mended them and stored them in her basement to give away.

Within a year, she had outgrown her cellar and moved to a small space in the Oldtown Mall. To help pay the rent, she began selling inexpensive dresses to mothers who'd accompany their youngsters to her shop.

By 1987, she left the school system, having been overwhelmed by the problems she had seen. "I found out I couldn't save the children or the world," says Ms. Shropshire-Addison, 45, who lives in Northeast Baltimore. "And it was wiping me out."

She has continued, however, to donate clothes to homeless shelters. But with more time to devote to retailing, she has been able to expand her shop, which moved to Read Street in 1984. She now counts Whoopi Goldberg among those who have shopped there. With her husband, Bill, she recently opened the Nu U, a men's clothing store several doors away.

As for her own style, the mother of seven who grew up wearing Goodwill clothes, says: "I wear whatever makes me feel good."

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