Drowsy Roland Park wakes up (barely) for 100th anniversary bash

Jacques Kelly

June 20, 1991|By Jacques Kelly

What seemed like half the Tuxedo telephone exchange assembled under a big white tent to toast the 100th anniversary of Roland Park.

Some 550 residents, former residents and friends spilled over the lawn of St. Mary's Seminary last evening for the kick-off event for the North Baltimore neighborhood's centenary observance.

"This party is like the neighborhood, compulsively understated," said Garrett Power, of the 100 block of Longwood Road.

Indeed. There were no lavish table decorations -- just green and white balloons. The music, all recorded, consisted of an old Andrews Sisters tape and "Tea for Two," in cha-cha rhythm. Then the men who work the butchers' counter at Eddie's Super Market donned straw hats and did a little soft shoe number.

Roland Park, a drowsy old neighborhood of shingled houses and encircling porches, has set a week's worth of events to mark the community's beginning 100 years ago.

The Roland Park residents dressed the part for the cool June evening for this party, which was called, "A Taste of Roland Park."

The women wore wrap-around skirts, floral shifts and gold circle pins. The men had on seersucker, madras long pants and khaki. No male was seemingly admitted without a button-down collar shirt, preferably purchased at William H. Lohmeyer, Warner's, Payne Merrill, the Canterbury Shop or Frank Leonard's. There were lots of tortoise-shell rim eyeglasses.

Emily Johns, who was officially recognized for her decades in the PTC community, gave her age as "92 and a half."

When asked to describe her first impression of Roland Park, she responded without a moment's hesitation: "It was Aug. 25, 1925. I got off the No. 29 streetcar at Oakdale Road. I took one look at the trees and said to myself, 'This is the Garden of Eden,' " she said. She has lived at the Oakdale Road home ever since

"It's gray hair, sensible clothes, a certain dullness and the idea the rest of the world doesn't exist," said Larry Case, in describing Roland Park.

Case, as a resident of the 2600 block of St. Paul St., shouldn't have been at the party at all. But, as he explained, he was a former seminarian at St. Mary's and spent several years of his life studying theology and bridge-playing "in my spare time."

For many people, it was an evening of renewing old friendships. There was much discussion of long-gone September days at the Girls Latin School, the Visitation Academy, Boys Latin, Bryn Mawr, Gilman, Roland Park County and the Homewood schools. "The first thing I learned was that everybody knows everybody else in Roland Park. So you better watch out when you're talking," said Laura Curran, of the 600 block of St. Johns Road.

Steve Kuehn, manager of the Eddie's store in the 5100 block of Roland Ave., estimated the partygoers consumed 125 pounds of the sliced roast beef his store is locally known for preparing and selling.

"It can't be a party in Roland Park unless there's Eddie's roast beef," said Alfred W. Barry 3rd of the 500 block of W. University Parkway.

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