MOUNT AIRY — People have been known to hedge about their age, but a town?
While rummaging through a storeroom at Town Hall recently, Mayor Gerald R. Johnson Jr. discovered that Mount Airy isn't quite as youthful as it claims to be.
The mayor and some Town Hall staffers had been cleaning out the storeroom to make office space for Mount Airy's new town planner.
Among the junk stashed in the room, the mayor found an old town seal, a device similar to a notary public stamp, that is used to certify official town documents.
He's not sure how old the seal is, but Johnson thinks it dates to the town's origin in the late 1800s.
The Mount Airy artifact was quite a find, the mayor thought, especially fora town looking toward its centennial celebration in 1996.
Wondering whether the seal still worked, the intrigued mayor slipped a sheetof paper in the device and stamped away.
It worked indeed. But Johnson was astonished to see the incorporation date staring back at him was "1894."
The town seal used today imprints 1896 as the town'sincorporation date, a date listed on town stationery and even on theMount Airy flag at Town Hall.
"We have a problem," Johnson told members of the Town Council at its regular monthly meeting Monday night.
Thinking the date on the old seal might be in error, the town contacted state archives officials to double-check the date of the original incorporation documents on file in Annapolis.
But that search verified that the incorporation of Mount Airy was approved by statelegislators on March 21, 1894, back when Democrat Frank Brown, a Carroll County native, was governor.
After a good chuckle at the discovery, council members breathed a sigh of relief that they'd found out about the error in time to accelerate plans for Mount Airy's 100th birthday party.
"It's a good thing this has come to light, becauseit could have been embarrassing if that had come up down the road," said Council President Delaine R. Hobbs.
The council members wondered whether they could simply embroider the correct number on the town flag, instead of buying a whole new one.
"You have no idea how much that flag costs," quipped Hobbs.
The mayor said he didn't foresee any difficulty moving plans for the centennial up two years.
"I don't see it as a problem," he said. "But if we're going to have a 100th anniversary, we'd better have it in 1994."
And he indirectlycredited Teresa Merten, Mount Airy's new town planner, with discovery of the old seal.
"If we didn't have a town planner, we never would've cleared that room out and found that thing," Johnson said.
Discussion of the mayor's discovery prompted town officials to offer other stories about losing track of time.
"Something like that happened to me once," said Councilman Oliver Davis. "One year I had a birthday and thought I was turning 40, but I already was."
There was no motion to nominate Davis as head of the centennial committee.