A Baltimorean, Bertha's bumper sticker really gets around

THIS JUST IN . . .

August 29, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

Has it been noted anywhere that Baltimore is birthplace to one of the most traveled bumper stickers in the world? I don't know if there's a way to accurately measure such a thing, but if Mr. Guinness had a category for ubiquity in bumper stickers, the record might go to "Eat Bertha's Mussels."

That eye-catching slogan, advertising the popular Fells Point restaurant and bar, has been in circulation for 20 years now and, during that time, it has been spotted from South Broadway to Brisbane. It was seen on the Kremlin Wall and near Lenin's tomb, on a ship passing through the Suez, on a safari truck in Africa, and on car and truck bumpers all over the continental United States. The green-and-white sticker even played a role in a Hawaiian wedding, says Laura Norris, the owner of Bertha's.

A few years ago, on one of the islands, a woman from Baltimore saw the familiar admonition to consume Berthavian bivalves on the rear of a parked Jeep. She decided to camp out until the owner of the Jeep returned, hunching she'd meet someone from home. "She met her future husband," Norris says. "They ended up getting married."

Norris' husband, Tony, and the late Richard Pratt get credit for coming up with the slogan in 1974, the year Bertha's started serving food. Over the years, academics and doctors from around the world, in town to visit the Hopkins medical institutions, have been directed to Bertha's for food, drink and music. (And you thought they all went to Hooters.) Same is true for foreign seamen and tourists calling on Baltimore. As they departed from Bertha's, many patrons -- we're talking thousands by now -- took a bumper sticker home with them. Later, some mailed photographs of the stickers' deployment, providing proof of its travels. Some patrons, including a fellow in England, wrote asking for new stickers to replace ones lost when cars were sold. "We have photographs of Russian people with big grins, holding up the sticker," says Laura Norris. "Someone traveling far from home, I think in Australia, saw 'Eat Bertha's Mussels' on the sun visor above the driver of a bus and, as homesick as they were, they knew then that life would be OK."

Noteworthy nakedness

Don't get the wrong idea now. This Just In is not one of those "people on the move" columns, the kind that highlights men and women who get promotions and advanced degrees. However, from time to time, we must pause to salute the achievements of fellow citizens. So, I'm here to tell you that the American Sunbathing Association has named William Pacer of Baltimore its Naked Person of the Year and the Pacer family its Clothesless Family of the Year. The Pacers did "Donahue" recently, and fully dressed.

'Scalping' update

Follow-up on the Highlandtown "scalping" mentioned in Friday's column: The victim of that attack, 63-year-old Daniel Mosley, is just about fully recovered, back to work at his roofing company, standing by to testify, if needed, in the trial of his assailant. The man charged with attacking Mosley, and removing part of his scalp in the process, was due for a hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court today. The defendant, who used an unidentified weapon to beat Mosley repeatedly about the head, is a former employee of Mosley's roofing company. He also is charged with robbery in the July 4 attack at Mosley's rowhouse. Mosley was in surgery for 12 hours as doctors treated him for multiple skull fractures and reattached muscle and skin tissue to the top of his head. "My dad would have bled to death had it not been for a man who was out walking his dog," says the victim's daughter, Vera. "His name is William Gum," says Daniel Mosley. "He lives on Fait Avenue. He's the one who called 911. His wife says he works all the time. I can't get hold of him. Tell him thanks for me."

Kmart phenomenon

It's not back-to-school time till the major retailers say so, pal. Call it the Kmart phenomenon. Dottie Mangle, head of elementary education in Carroll County, relies on it. She knows that no matter how hard she tries to get parents to register kids for school early in the summer, most of them just won't do it until the Kmart back-to-school ad runs in the Sunday paper, usually in the first or second week of August. That makes it difficult to plan, and to make sure each school has the right number of teachers. It happened again this year. "We put notices on the radio, in the newspapers, in our school newsletters," Dottie says. "All that has no effect. But the Kmart ad, the week after that comes out, that's what people pay attention to." (OK, but I'm a C-Mart man myself.)

Boergers watch

From media advisory of Mary Boergers, Montgomery County Democrat and candidate for governor:

3 p.m. -- Visibility, corner of Fayette Street and JFX, Baltimore

4:30 p.m. -- Visibility, corner of Gay and Lexington Streets, Baltimore

Signs say it all

So we're driving out U.S. 40, somewhere east of Turf Valley Road, when the person in the truck with me starts giggling at the road signs -- a bright yellow one marked "Dead End" directly beneath a green one marked "Cemetery Lane."

Standing corrected

In a recent column, I mistakenly referred to July 31 as the feast day of St. Ann in the Catholic church. In fact, that feast day is July 26.

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