Summertime, and the living is. . .

Baltimore Glimpses

August 18, 1992|By GILBERT SANDLER

BALTIMORE is hardly observing dog days the way it has in summers past! In fact, many a dog would rather be outside, where it's nice and cool. This Glimpses is real nostalgia, then; it takes us back, via home movies, to those thrilling days when the city sweltered in mid-August.

Reel 1: It's dusk of a hot summer night. A crowd jams what appears to be a dairy store. It's selling chocolate milk, ice cream, milkshakes. This is Emerson's Farms. Located near Greenspring Valley and Falls Road, Emerson's Farms sold dairy products from the milk of its own cows. Baltimoreans would travel to the farm on summer nights fully convinced that eating ice cream (or drinking milk and milkshakes) was a way to keep cool. (The farm closed in 1953. Don Swann's Hilltop Theater operated there for a while, then it closed, too.)

Reel 2: Here are more people slurping ice cream during the dog days. But they're not at Emerson's Farms; they're at Price's Dairy, 6005 Liberty Heights Ave., one of the most popular family ice cream stores in the area. Owner Marion Price let it be known that he sold as many as 1,800 milkshakes a day. (The place closed in 1978 after almost 40 years.)

Reel 3: Not everyone, of course, headed for the country on hot summer nights. (Many had no way to get there.) Some caught the breezes while taking in municipal band concerts in the parks. In this film we can tell we're in Druid Hill Park because the bandstand is in front of the Mansion House, and people are seated on grassy acreage all the way down to the boat lake (now the bird estuary). Kenneth Clark is conducting the band and the audience, too, in a sing-along: "In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime . . ."

Reel 4: Before universal refrigeration, the icemen came. Adults and kids alike would grab a sliver or a cube, suck on it or press it against sweaty cheeks and foreheads. Above is a frame from this reel. That's Baltimore iceman John Boch in 1932. And that's young Joseph Lawendola slurping.

Reel 5: Here are scenes of people boarding the Bay Belle for an excursion by boat up the Chesapeake Bay to Betterton Beach. (Is that writer John Barth there on the pier playing drums in Buzz Malonee's jazz band?) There were other excursions: to Tolchester and Fort Smallwood. And as the film runs on we see people carrying bathing suits as they board the No. 26 streetcar. They're heading for the white, sandy beach and amusement park at Bay Shore, where the "Patapsaco" meets the bay. (Bay Shore closed in 1947.)

Reel 6: Here are people lined up on Eutaw Street to get into the Hippodrome! These were the days before air-conditioning, but the Rappaport family, which owned the Hippodrome, developed a Rube Goldberg arrangement to cool the place. Electric fans blew cold air over huge chunks of ice and through vents into the theater.

You can laugh, but it worked. The Hippodrome, which stands today empty, plastered with handbills and for sale, did as much business in summer as it did in winter.

But today there are new ways to enjoy summer in Baltimore. If it ever arrives.

Last week I misspelled the name of a popular old (and still very much in business) stall at Lexington Market. It should be Mary Mervis.

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