White Coffee Pot Memories ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

June 18, 1993

Barry Levinson showed in "Diner" that "greasy spoon" restaurants not only define neighborhoods but individual lives and changing times as well. That's why the closing of Brooklyn Park's White Coffee Pot Sunday will rob the northern Anne Arundel County neighborhood not only of a relic of the 1950s but also of some of its lovable characters.

What, for example, will become of Pat Carraway? She was 16 when she joined the White Coffee Pot chain 30 years ago. Will she ever again be asking, "More coffee, babe?"

White Coffee Pots have been a Maryland tradition since 1932. They once numbered 33 and could be found around the state. The chain also used to sponsor a softball team that was so good it played in the Amateur Softball Association World Series in the '50s.

Most of this legacy has withered, however. When the Brooklyn Park eatery closes, only two branches will remain -- in Randallstown and at the Erdman Shopping Center in Baltimore City.

This is a sad but familiar story of changing tastes and preferences. As nationwide hamburger, pizza and taco chains have taken over as middle-America's chefs, once-popular regional eateries are disappearing.

White Tower, a 1920s precursor of McDonald's, is another example. It once boasted 230 outlets between Manhattan and Milwaukee. Now, only one remains -- a 17-seat restaurant at Erdman Avenue and Belair Road in Baltimore. "We don't get much of a young crowd," its owner lamented to a visitor recently.

While the White Towers and White Coffee Pots may never return, they are unlikely to be completely forgotten, either.

When the Baltimore City Life Museum begins its long-awaited expansion shortly, the famous White Tower No. 8, which used to stand at Howard and Centre streets, will be reconstructed inside. It was "a focus of urban life 24 hours a day, seven days a week for four decades. It can be an artifact, an architectural relic, but it also can be a time capsule," museum director Nancy Brennan explained.

As for stainless-steel diners, they are making a comeback. Catonsville's landmark Double T Diner is an example; it plans to open a clone in Pasadena. Anne Arundel thus is gaining one piece of restaurant Americana, while it loses another.

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