3 generations have run Linthicum bar with same dictum: No wise guys allowed NORTH COUNTY--Linthicum * Ferndale * Brooklyn Park * Pumphrey

March 01, 1993|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Every Friday, a florist truck pulls up to Howard's Subway, a Linthicum restaurant and lounge, and delivers a bouquet of flowers to be placed behind the bar.

It's been that way since July 1946 when Howard Sensibaugh, a former Arbutus soda jerk, set up shop in the basement of his home on Hammonds Ferry Road and charged customers 5 cents for a glass of draft beer and 25 cents for a crab cake.

A cash register capable of tallying sales up to 95 cents was kept behind the bar. Today's economy has made the register useless, but it's now a family heirloom.

Mr. Sensibaugh and his wife, Ruby, used the upper floors of the spacious building to rear five children, all of whom worked in the business at one time or another. His 85-year-old widow still lives there.

Just as the weekly delivery of flowers has become a tradition, little has changed as the business has moved through two other generations of the Sensibaugh family.

The basement business has been enlarged over the years. Where once only 35 people could gather, 120 customers can be served at a time.

But the rules remain virtually the same. And Howard's is still considered a "place where friends can meet."

Some 23 years ago, an Anne Arundel County newspaper featured the establishment in an article with a headline that noted "Linthicum boasts last of family taverns."

The rules are simple: no foul language, proper dress, and "if you get out of order, you're gone," said 61-year-old Norman Edward Sensibaugh, who oversees the day-to-day operations with his wife, Joan.

His son, Mike, is the manager. Son Larry runs the kitchen, and daughter Karen occasionally works behind the bar.

"This has always been a reputable place where you could bring your wife and children," the elder Mr. Sensibaugh said. "Some [customers] used to call this a church because I wouldn't allow any carrying on.

"There have been a lot of businesses around here that have come and gone. I think we're still in business, in part, because people know they can come here and enjoy themselves without having to worry about anything.

"I have been doing this for a long time now," Mr. Sensibaugh continued. "Some of the customers I used to serve are gone, and I'm now serving their children and some of their children's children.

"And you know," he added, "I found out [that] if their parents liked hot roast beef, that's what they would order when they came in."

Not that time has stood entirely still at Howard's. In the post-war days, Howard Sensibaugh hired only male bartenders. "If a woman walked in by herself, she left by herself. My father didn't allow any pickups," Mr. Sensibaugh said. "If she got too friendly, she was asked to leave."

Female bartenders are now employed, but only if they wear a proper black and white uniform. Female patrons are not dealt with so harshly.

But Mr. Sensibaugh, who likes to tout his food as much as his liquor, says it is still a place where you "wouldn't be afraid to allow your mother."

To help patrons get in the mood for various holidays, the family never fails to decorate. If they delay the task, they face the wrath of longtime customers wanting to know why it wasn't done, he said.

In 1959, Ed "Lonesome" Loney started what he referred to as "The Lawyer Club" -- because the customers who joined were all "members of the same bar."

They met once a year, usually around the Christmas holidays. The club folded in 1978 as most of the members had moved or passed away. A plaque on the wall chronicles the years and past presidents of the group.

Mr. Loney, who served as the first and last president, still comes by.

Howard's Subway also is used by alumni from Andover High School to meet each year. "You can hardly get into the place when they meet," Mr. Sensibaugh said.

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