The 'Quiz of Two Cities'

Baltimore Glimpses

May 04, 1993|By GILBERT SANDLER

That's no city you got there, just a bunch of paper-pushers.

-- Baltimorean to Washingtonian

Row houses, clothes lines in dirty back yards -- that's Baltimore.

-- Washingtonian to Baltimorean (both circa 1950)

WASHINGTON and Baltimore have become one city, at least so TTC far as the Census Bureau and marketers are concerned. It's referred to as "Washington-Baltimore," and although some Baltimoreans resent that (there's still Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the Baltimore Orioles), the new appellation seems to have been accepted with good grace by both communities.

On the record, at least, there has been no rushing to man the barricades at either end of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, and citizens of each city are free to enter the other sans passport.

This love-in would have come as quite a shock to the partisan crowds of Baltimoreans who jammed the studios of WFBR in Baltimore, and of Washingtonians who did likewise in the studios of WMAL, Washington, on Tuesday nights at 7:30 a half-century ago. They were there to cheer their own city and boo the enemy on the radio show "Quiz of Two Cities."

The show was designed, unabashedly, to play civic prejudices of one city against those of the other. Its format was simple: Four Baltimoreans selected from the audience here were paired with four Washingtonians. Each pair was then asked the same question, the reply in one city "blacked out" in the other.

The real fun of the show, according to Bryson Rash, MC in Washington (Henry Hickman was MC in Baltimore), was the good-natured putting down of Baltimore by the Washingtonians and vice versa. "The two cities," Mr. Rash recalls, "were terrible rivals in every way. We just played to it. We'd hear Washingtonians call Baltimoreans beer-drinking crab-eaters and Baltimoreans call Washingtonians hogs feeding at the government trough and getting fat off taxpayers' money. The quiz was the format, but the audience, the one in the studio and the one listening in, really enjoyed most the open warfare we let break out between the two cities."

The show, sponsored by Gunther Beer, finally went off the air in 1950, having set a record for audience popularity during its time. Forty-three years later, it seems clear that Baltimore and Washington have buried the hatchet. Well, maybe only an inch.

Have Baltimoreans' and Washingtonians' provincial loyalties to their cities given way to larger loyalties to their region -- in the best interest of marketing?

One way to find out. Restage a 1993 version of "Quiz of Two Cities."

And watch what happens.

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