Mayor invites 'Hon Man' to a Bawlamer summit

March 18, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

With a mischievous twinkle in his eye and a million bucks on his mind, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke extended a personal invitation yesterday to meet with the man who has made Hon fun.

The morning after he was challenged by the state Senate to get a life, the mayor asked for a summit with the civic elf who has led a crusade to add the word "Hon" to the otherwise ordinary greeting sign on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

"I would really love to meet the 'Hon Man' and talk this matter out," the mayor said with a downright boyish grin.

"The 'Hon Man,' God bless him. I just hope he doesn't get hit in traffic."

State senators displayed an impish streak the night before by adopting an amendment to the proposed state budget that would hold hostage $1 million in city highway funds until the sign is changed to read "Welcome to Baltimore, Hon!"

The joke was not lost on the mayor. Amid chuckles from his staff and reporters gathered for a press briefing, Mr. Schmoke said he's eager to meet face-to-face with "Hon Man."

Mr. Schmoke also promised that if the council passes a proposed ordinance to make the folksy greeting permanent, he will sign it into law.

In recent years, first one prankster, then another, has altered the sign that greets commuters and visitors to the city by adding the word "Hon," Bawlamer's time-honored term of endearment.

Every time he staples one of his laminated calling cards to the road sign, however, some grinch from a roads crew removes it.

Once weary of restoring his sign on a daily basis, the "Hon Man" sounded elated yesterday.

He told Dan Rodricks, a Sun columnist who has chronicled his adventures, that he will meet as soon as possible with the mayor -- preferably at the Cafe Hon in Hampden.

"Hon Man" pledged to reveal his identity as soon as the city or state roads crew stops tearing down his placards. His handiwork was erased three times on Tuesday alone.

Baltimore Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman joked Wednesday night that it might be wise "to encumber some of the city's money until the mayor develops a sense of humor." Her staff believes that a city roads crew is responsible for removing the "Hon Man's' calling card.

However, state highway officials maintain that they've been scraping the Bawlamerism off the sign, which is located just outside the city line.

"We have a very strict anti-graffiti policy," said Liz Kalinowski, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration.

"We think that his intentions may be sometimes misplaced. Also there's a safety issue because we know 'Hon Man' is stopping on a busy highway to do this."

The mayor said that he even received a mysterious missive from the "Hon Man" one recent evening when he was giving a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. He was handed a cylinder, in which he discovered a poster with the word "Hon" and a simple admonishment -- "Remember."

Mr. Schmoke said he's conducted an informal poll and found many Baltimoreans are split on the endearment.

"In some ways, it's kind of light and funny," he said. "But there are some real strong views out there. Some people think it's patronizing."

Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, a 6th District Democrat who represents the South Baltimore neighborhoods surrounding the highway, drafted an ordinance to install a new "Welcome to Baltimore, Hon" sign that the city would maintain.

However, if the state goes along with it, the existing highway sign could simply be altered, he pointed out.

Several other city leaders dismissed the entire "Hon" flap.

"It's cute, but there are so many more important issues to trouble ourselves with," said Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, a 2nd District Democrat.

Snapped Councilman Melvin L. Stukes, D-6th District, "Believe me, no one is paying too much damn attention."

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