'We Are Lost In The Fifties'

July 01, 1995|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Sun Staff Writer

To some outsiders, Dundalk represents an anachronism harboring residents with close-minded attitudes, bad hairdos and marathon Bingo games.

But to others, the community is a pleasant throwback to $H Smalltown, U.S.A., post-World War II, when the cornucopia of blue-collar industry spilled into the eastern Baltimore County village and fueled its prosperity with good-paying jobs.

Dundalk was and is a place where the family structure is important, the work ethic strong and they have two American Legion and two Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.

"We are lost in the '50s and we're happy with that," said lifelong Dundalk resident Bob Fogle.

Most of those jobs are gone now and the young adults move to newer housing in other counties. Some pockets of the eastern county are beginning to feel the pressures of urbanization with growing crime rates and related social problems.

Nonetheless, Dundalk clings to old-fashioned loyalties and a sense of community that will be celebrated at this weekend's 20th annual Dundalk Heritage Fair. There will be unabashed devotion to simple values like family and patriotism.

The bazaar at Heritage Park in Old Dundalk -- which began yesterday and continues through tomorrow evening -- features ethnic foods, arts and crafts and kiddie rides. The fair dovetails into Tuesday's Fourth of July celebration with a parade and fireworks. Amid the red-white-and-blue bunting and marching music this long weekend, there will not be a booth featuring political correctness.

This year, celebrants salute the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, and symbolizing the victory over Japan is the fair's program cover depicting the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima. Another cover scene is the famous victory photo of a jubilant sailor kissing a woman in New York's Times Square.

"Appreciating what the A-bomb did is important for us," said Thomas Toporovich, a veteran fair organizer.

"Historical revisionists who object were not in the holes of Europe and the Pacific with rifles and who came home after the bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered," Mr. Toporovich said. "They were not the Gold Star mothers. They manage to forget the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, the Bataan death march and other Japanese atrocities."

Also, a group called the Church of Satan has been bumped from a spot in Dundalk's Fourth of July parade, at 3 1/2 hours one of the the longest holiday processions in Maryland.

Deborah Cornely, managing editor of the weekly Dundalk Eagle, said the decision to exclude the Church of Satan was made because "the church -- if there is such an organization -- is the antithesis of what this community stands for.

"One of the newspaper's owners said we wouldn't be in the parade if Satanists were represented," she said. "Everybody first thought the Church of Satan was a rock group."

Parade organizers said they do not know how to contact representatives of the church.

"The Fourth of July is bigger here than Christmas," said H. Edward Parker, a lifelong Dundalk resident and principal at Southeastern Technical High School

"The people here are proud, down-to-earth," Mr. Parker said. "Norman Rockwell would have loved to come to Dundalk and done a series on American life. Dundalk is populated by very genuine people. If they like you, you know it. If they dislike you, you know that too."

Steve Tanner, chairman of the liberal arts division of Dundalk Community College and a professor of philosophy, said he was first put off by that attitude when he arrived in Dundalk 20 years ago.

"But I grew to appreciate it, being from Texas," he said. "I first thought people in Dundalk were parochial, crude, anti-intellectual. But I was simply picking up on the stereotype adopted by outlanders. It was a form of class discrimination.

"It is very interesting that, on the national level now, social commentators are saying what's wrong with America . . . we are too mobile, mass media-ized, very few people have a sense of community in order to sustain a healthy democracy."

But those are not the problems of Dundalk, Dr. Tanner said.

"Outlanders used to laugh at Dun- dalk," he said. "Now, perhaps people can see beneath the exterior of the place and see something substantially good that needs to be part of the fabric for all Americans."

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