Lessons from a nostalgia historian

Baltimore Glimpses

December 31, 1991|By GILBERT SANDLER

GLIMPSES is supposed to be the keeper of local history (or at least one of the keepers). We don't specialize in serious history, the kind you'd expect school kids to know. We specialize in the people, places and events of the last half-century or so that might be lumped under the heading "nostalgia."

But there's a discipline to nostalgia, too. What might a nostalgia historian be expected to know about the Monumental City? Here's a partial curriculum:

You would want to know the story of the bail-skipping disappearance in broad daylight of Block figure Julius Salsbury. Is he still alive?

You should be able to recount the long, bizarre history of the Civic Center and explain why the arena isn't located over a (filled in) Druid Hill Park reservoir.

You should fill yourself in on the wondrous workings of the "3-G" ticket -- Grady for mayor, Goodman for president of the City Council, Graham for comptroller.

You should make sure you know the answers to these questions:

Why did disc jockey Johnny Walker disappear, and where did he show up? Why did Maryland's Constitutional Convention -- the great hope of reformers -- fall flat on its face? Who -- or what -- was Chester Peake? The Pallottine Fathers?

You ought to be familiar, too, with the likes of "Mr. Diz," Melvin Perkins, Folger McKinsey, E. Everette Lane, R.P. Harriss, "Cab" Calloway, Marse Callaway, Harley, Lou Azrael, Maria (of Maria's restaurant), Father Divine, "Betsy," Mary Avara.

You should be able to talk fondly in detail about the State Theater, Rice's Bakery, the Pennsylvania Avenue night clubs, Hutzler's balcony, the Emerson Hotel, Ford's Theater, the night the Beatles performed in Baltimore, the day Vice President (and favorite son) Spiro Agnew resigned in Baltimore.

By the way, who was Abe Sherman?

New Year's Eve belongs to Baltimore Glimpses. It is the one time of the year devoted wholly and without apology to recalling (and sometimes celebrating) our shared past.

Happy New Year from . . .

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