Hitchhiker Gives Mt. Airy Thumbs Up

60 Years After Passing Through, Utah Man Recalls How Town Gave Him Lift

March 10, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

MOUNT AIRY — Weary and hungry, Francis M. Dozier wandered into town on an Octoberday looking for a bite to eat.

The dining options in Mount Airy were limited in 1930.

Dozier had hitchhiked in from Cumberland, Allegany County, on hisway from North Carolina to New York City.

The 17-year-old stoppedin town only briefly on that warm, sunny autumn day during the Depression.

But he was struck by Mount Airy's beauty and tranquillity.

"I remember thinking, 'Hey man, this place is something else,' " he said. "The air was so fine."

Dozier forged on to New York and, before long, forgot Mount Airy.

Last fall, 60 years later, a broadcast of the radio show "Larry King Live" jarred his memory.

"I had forgotten all about it, until one morning on a radio talk show someone called in and said they were from Mount Airy, Md.," he said.

"I almost fell out of my bed."

Now retired and living in Salt Lake City, the 78-year-old Dozier is awash with renewed curiousity about theCarroll County town he passed through more than a half-century ago.

"Suddenly I wanted to know what it looked like now," he said Wednesday from his Utah home.

So he wrote a short letter to Town Hall.

"Dear Mount Airy folks," Dozier wrote, "I hitchhiked through thereduring the 1930s.

"It was just a small settlement then. Please send me literature on it now."

Mayor Gerald R. Johnson Jr. read the letter at the Town Council meeting Monday evening and said he would send Dozier some information on Mount Airy.

Today's Mount Airy is asharp contrast to the sleepy community of 860 residents Dozier saw in 1930.

Dozier came through town only after family strife and the economic hardship brought on by the Depression drove him from his hometown, Washington, N.C., on the banks of the Pamlico River.

A brother earlier had moved to New York City, and Dozier decided to join him, look for work and try for a fresh start.

While heading north during the several-day trip, Dozier said he hopped trains and hitched rides with motorists.

He spent cold nights sleeping in empty freight cars and begged for food off back porches.

"All I had when going through there were the clothes on my back," he said of his passage through Maryland.

The trip was difficult, but Dozier said he foundsolace during his stop in Mount Airy.

He remembers seeing a few bright, neatly kept homes and stopping for a brief chat with a man he met on the street.

"It was a tiny place, just a little settlement really," said Dozier, who has 11 great-grandchildren. "If I were looking to settle at the time, I would've stayed."

Later, Dozier movedwest and settled in Pasadena, Calif., where he worked in nursing homes and hospitals for more than 40 years. He moved to Utah last year.

But he said he won't again forget the tiny Maryland town on the hill.

"It's well named, because it's a ways up there."

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