Wesley Pruden's attainments stretches from...


December 02, 1991

THE LIST OF Wesley Pruden's attainments stretches from Dennison Street in Little Rock, Ark., to Cathedral Street in Baltimore. As a boy, there in Arkansas, he lived next door to the Robinsons; some days he played catch wearing Brooksie's glove. In between there were Memphis, where a newspaper columnist recently denounced Mr. Pruden as a "barracuda," and Washington, where Mr. Pruden too is a columnist and no mean denouncer. In Baltimore, the other Friday, he was back to playing catch, as recipient of 1991's Mencken Award, the $2,500 prize, and plaque, offered nationally by The Baltimore Sun in memory of its own famed and mighty fish.

The presentation came during lunch in the Poe Room of Pratt's Central Library, before an audience of Mr. Pruden's colleagues at the Washington Times and Mr. Mencken's Calvert Street successors. Mr. Pruden as speaker had fun; he revived that 1920s Mencken slash, "Perhaps the most revolting character the United States ever produced was the Christian businessman."

Dan Rodricks of The Evening Sun also spoke, as author of the book, "Mencken Doesn't Live Here Any More." All, he demonstrated, is not lost; Mencken, returning, would find Baltimore as full of rogues and rascalities as ever.

But what would Mencken, who ducked and debunked formal honors, think of a contest bearing his name?

The consensus was that H. L. Mencken would've enjoyed seeing Central Library open on a Friday.

* * *

A FRIEND recently bought a grand piano, which he found in a thrift shop on Charles Street, above North Avenue.

We went to look at the mahogany instrument at his Union Squarhome. It had been made by Chas. M. Stieff Inc., which was a celebrated Baltimore piano maker for 110 years until it went out of business in 1952. (Knabe was the city's other famed piano factory. No parlor was complete without its product).

William H. Garrison, a piano technician who plays at Harbor Court and Baltimore Country Club, was cleaning the grand when we came in. He had a bucket of water, a vacuum cleaner and an assortment of rags and rods with which he dredged accumulated dirt and all kinds of mementos from the innards of the piano. A sample: a 3-cent U.S. postage stamp, several pins, an earring and a flash card which some tot had used to learn the alphabet.

"This piano has not been tuned for years," said Mr. Garrison, whlearned his craft from his father at 12. Half a dozen tunings will be required to bring the instrument back to life and musical vibrancy.

A professional can produce miracles and Mr. Garrison soon was playing "Stardust." He sounded great. Our friend, the proud new piano owner, says his own modest goal is to brush up rusty skills in time for some Christmas carols.

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