WE ARE HAPPY that a local development team is embarking on a $4.4 million plan to convert the vacant Congress Hotel to a 53-unit apartment building. Perhaps that will give a new lease on life to the corner of Franklin and Howard streets.
That area once was the heart of Baltimore's theater district. It was controlled by James L. Kernan, a Confederate soldier much taken to sporting top hats. In 1905, when he built what later became the Congress Hotel, he named it Kernan after himself and had the letter K embossed on every door knob.
The hotel was connected to three adjoining playhouses: the Auditorium Theatre (later the Mayfair before closing as a movie house), the Academy of Music and the Maryland. In his "Bygone Baltimore," Evening Sun columnist Jacques Kelly has a 1932 picture of Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan leaving the State Penitentiary after an inspection to get the proper atmosphere for their roles in a play called "The Last Mile" running at the Maryland Theater.
What does that have to do with the old Kernan Hotel?
Well, during that theatrical engagement Fonda and Sullavan got married. They held their reception in the dining room of the hotel.
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ONE OF THE worst problems caused by cold weather and central heating is the common back itch, particularly when out of reach.
Gallimaufry hired Scratch & Pickit, a professional polling company, to determine which methods are most successful in curing this condition. During the weekend of Jan. 18-20, thousands of qualified complainers were contacted. Allowing for margin of error of 96 to 98 percent, here is a sampling of their responses:
Twelve of our respondents who agreed to be interviewed said they seek aid from a second party, usually a mate. Two rely on the mates of others. Only four use Japanese back-scratchers (made in Taiwan). Two former cloistered monks share a cat-of-nine tails. And a vegetarian told our pollsters she finds relief from celery stalks.
The lone respondent whose remedy seemed most successful, however, said he just backs up to the nearest door jamb and wiggles.
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SIGN OF THE times: An advertisement in the prestigious New York Times recently hawking "GAS MASKS" for just $39. "Survival in the 90's!" the ad proclaims. And in case that's not enough to keep you secure in these troubled days, the advertiser also lists its other products for sale: bulletproof clothing; anti-kidnap systems; "nite vision;" "bug detectors," and hidden camera systems.
Best of all, the advertiser accepts charge cards.
We knew there would be companies quick to profit from what's happening in the Middle East.