In Crofton, Pancake Club Has No Taste For Small Talk

March 29, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

They meet every Thursday morning at the Crofton McDonald's and "solve" world problems over pancakes. They rarely leave without coming up with a solution but say hardly anyone listens to their ideas.

The conversation jumps from county taxes to the war in the Persian Gulf to Gov. William Donald Schaefer's latest antics. They wear a conservative label but hold middle-of-the-road ideas.

Crofton definitely is becoming too big, they say, traffic is overwhelming, the mystique the community had two decades ago is lost to more transient residents who commute to Washington and Baltimore.

Pancakes and politics -- that's what Thursday mornings mean to this group of retired Crofton men, most of whom have 20 or more years invested in the community.

But the club is not all talk. When Town Manager Jordan Harding needs help at town hall, he calls them, and they come running.

"I rely on them heavily for volunteer activities," he said. "Last week, I had a mailing on gypsy moths that had to get out right away. Twelve members of this group came over and we had everything sent out in three hours. If my staff had to do it, it would have taken three days."

Harding, who just took on the job of town manager job several months ago, has fallen in love with the club.

"Theyasked me to come down as a guest," he said. "I enjoyed them so much that I try to eat with them as much as possible. I just love them."

The group didn't even have a formal name until Harding came along and dubbed them "The Thursday Morning Pancake Club."

Even the workers at McDonald's know who they are. "When they see our cars pull up, they start throwing pancakes on the grill," said Bob Darrow, the junior member of the club, having only lived in Crofton a scant 13 years."All the girls know us now."

And as eight of the members sat at two tables in one corner of the restaurant on Route 3 yesterday, they explained their philosophies on life. They rarely disagree with each other.

They represent the "old guard" in Crofton -- residents who remember when the community was small and isolated. Now, they say, uncontrolled development has taken over and people have lost their sense of community.

"I want a lot of the community to be the way it was 25 years ago," said John Dwarshuis, 68, who moved to Crofton in 1966. "But I guess we all know that it can't be. There is a loss of someof the identity we had in Crofton. It was more of a bedroom community. Now everybody works in Washington or Baltimore."

Breakfast clubmembers agreed that many residents don't much care for developers who try to capitalize on the community's name and reputation.

"All these outside developments attach the name of Crofton to their communities because of the reputation we have," said Richard Strauss, a resident of 21 years.

And just listen to Leo Lehtonen, who refused to give his age, except to say he's in his 70s. "Never ask a man where he's from," he said, recalling an old story. "If he's from Crofton, he'll tell you. Otherwise, don't embarrass him."

Taxes are a major topic of discussion with the group. Not only are they too high, but property assessments are out of hand. Crime also is a concern, with vandalism topping the list.

As for politics, the group is decidedly against new taxes. They don't like former County Executive O. James Lighthizer, saying "The Lighthizer Years," a retrospective of his eightyears in office published by his press office, was a waste of money.

"Mr. Lighthizer doesn't rate very highly with this group," Strauss said. "We hope (County Executive Robert R.) Neall lives up to his no tax pledge."

On the state level, the Pancake Club finds the governor funny, but worries that his exploits may be hurting Maryland's reputation on the national level. "I think that Schaefer and his girlfriend are amusing," Strauss said.

"He sure has changed his political view on life 100 percent," said Arlo "Pete" Pedersen, a 21-year Crofton resident and a member of the Crofton Civic Association.

But the group does like the governor's effort to restrict and eventually ban the sale of automatic weapons. And, they say, Representative Tom McMillen, D-4th, a Crofton resident, is gaining respect, especially for is support of the Persian Gulf war and his support for a bill limiting the number of terms for members of Congress.

"That is the reason he may get my vote for the first time next term," Strauss said.

The members of the Pancake Club all met through CARP, the Crofton Association of Retired Persons, which meets monthly.

During a Thursday interview, members kept talking about various positions on world and state affairs. They couldn't stop, even long after McDonald's hadstopped servings breakfast. At 2:15 p.m. Harding called a reporter to relay more of the group's discussion.

"They got together after breakfast," he said. "And wanted you to know that they support the 40-hour work week for state employees. They feel it contributes to progress. So be it."

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