. At Dutch Mill, the music dies

Dan Rodricks

August 12, 1991|By Dan Rodricks

Everybody knows the Dutch Mill Lounge. From the city to the counties, all the way down Harford Road, north and south and east and west, all the way around the Beltway -- everybody knows the Dutch Mill. Guys in Banlon shirts and startling toupes, graduates of the El Dorado, swinging seniors looking for action, cops and nurses, even a yuppie sneaking a taste of campy charm -- they all know the winking neon windmill at Harford and Northern Parkway.

They're all old friends. They know the barmaids, Carol and

Cookie, and the bartenders, Jack and Page, also known as Tom. They know Barry Goodhues, the owner. They know the chairs, the tables and the red tablecloths. They know the red and black shag rug walls, an amazing adornment that once fooled a tippler who tripped into it into thinking that he had fallen and couldn't get up.

Many, many people know the Dutch Mill -- intimately.

So I can't be accused of overstatement when I suggest the Dutch Mill's closing a week ago Sunday as reason for mourning cloth on the light posts from Hamilton to Parkville. Nor do I exaggerate when I refer to this bar as a Baltimore institution.

The Dutch Mill has had an open door -- two doors, in fact -- since shortly after Prohibition.

Over the last 57 years, those two entrances -- one to the bar, the other to the restaurant/lounge -- have confused some people.

There was the wayward inebriate who stooped by for a night cap. Barry Goodhues greeted the palooka at the door and told him he would not be served. The man stepped back out onto Harford Road, made a sharp right and walked into the second entrance. Again, Barry Goodhues greeted him.

"For crying out loud!" the boozer cried, "You own every bar on the block?"

If the neon windmill hadn't attracted that guy, it might have been the live music. You could always hear live music at the Dutch Mill. In fact, it might have been one of the few places where the musical offerings were multi-generational.

"Twenty-one to 81," is how Barbara Goodhues, Barry's wife, describes the Dutch Mill's clientele, though she probably goes a little lower than other regulars would to provide a range of ages. Certainly the mixture of people, in age as well as status, was a featured attraction. And the Dutch Mill's selection of music was a reflection of that.

You could rumba. You could samba. You could cha-cha-cha. You could foxtrot or disco beneath the spinning glitter ball on the Dutch Mill's ample dance floor. You could hear Dixieland, or Top 40. You could sing, "Sweet Adeline." The Bill Owens Trio used to play "The Girl From Ipanema" wonderfully.

Go way back with Barry Goodhues, whose grandfather acquired the place in the early 1940s, and he'll rattle off the names of the local groups that played the Dutch Mill. When Barry and his brother, Don, ran the place, they hired a banjo-organ duo, a guy named Harry, another named Johnny.

"They called themselves The Hazelnuts," Barry says.

And there were so many others: The Tired Businessmen, a Dixieland band later known as The Retired Businessmen; Teddy Bell and the Bell System; Jerry Strager, a great sax player; Al Rossi, Buddy Robbins and a singer named Tommy Christ.

"I made a Tom Jones outta him," Barry says proudly. "And there was Bobby Bassett, don't forget him. Ah, so many."

"Don't forget St. Patrick's Day," Barbara Goodhues says. "Everybody was here. All the regulars and then some."

"Seventeen cents a plate for ham, cabbage and boiled potatoes," Barry says. "Then we raised it later to $1.17. We'd do between 800 and 900 platters on St. Patrick's Day. You couldn't get in the place."

They used to serve steamed crabs from Jimmy Julian's place on the corner, and Barry's mother, Althea, made piles of delicious crab cakes. Way back, they sold for 50 cents each.

Don't get the idea the place is closing because the days of the 50-cent crab cake are gone, or because no one cares for the Dutch Mill's choice of music anymore, or because the crowd has become an unruly mob. No way. Things were great. Barry Goodhues says he's getting out for personal reasons having to do with family matters that followed his brother's death last year. The place is up for sale.

In the meantime, the old windmill is dark, both entrances are closed and, for the first time in nearly 60 years, the 6600 block of Harford Road lacks the sound of music and the laughter of old friends.

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