Memories burn vividly 92 years after Great Fire

THIS JUST IN ...

February 02, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

Even now, in the 98th year of her life, Martha Dernoga vividly remembers the evacuation of East Baltimore during the Great Fire of February 1904. There should be no surprise in that. A 5-year-old girl would tend to remember the day the sky turned red.

"It wasn't black, it was red," Mrs. Dernoga says. "It was red. How frightened we all were."

She lived with her parents, Stanislava and Valenty Stasiak, at Aliceanna and Ann in Fells Point. Though the fire never spread beyond the eastern edge of downtown, thousands of residents in the neighborhoods beyond were warned to leave their homes. At least that's how Martha Dernoga remembers it -- police officers knocking on doors, men and women and children leaving their houses and migrating east, toward Patterson Park. Some carried food and furniture with them. "I remember this one man walking up the street with a nice, pretty couch," she says. "He got as far as the corner."

Martha Dernoga's father -- "He was high, wide and handsome" -- and mother shuffled the Stasiak kids to a friend's house, farther east on Aliceanna, on the night of Feb. 7. "My mother put my two sisters, Helen and Mary, in a go-cart, like a big baby cart, and pushed it. I had to walk. The streets were full of people, walking like in a parade toward Patterson Park." And when they looked behind them, to the west, they saw that red sky.

FOR THE RECORD - The spelling of C. William Struever has been corrected for the archive database. See microfilm for original story.

Henry and Jeff on the move

This Just In: Henry and Jeff, ousted abruptly by their partners in the popular Charles Street deli that bears their names, have turned up in Northwest Baltimore, at the Miller's Deli on Reisterstown Road. It's now called the New Pikesville Deli and stars Henry Pertman and Jeff Pressman as owners.

H&J are trying to dissociate themselves from the Charles Street establishment, which they founded six years ago. (It will still be called Henry & Jeff's, though H&J won't have anything to do with its operation.)

"We've actually received some sympathy cards since we left Charles Street," Pertman says. "But I'll tell you, things are going well out here [at New Pikesville Deli]; our business has actually doubled in just a short time."

Pertman and Pressman are also on schedule to take over the old Fiori's in Owings Mills. Busy mensches, these two.

Two Bills brainstorm

Baltimore developer Bill Struever was among a small group of Democrats who took part in a brainstorming session with President Clinton at the White House the other night. About a dozen guests, mostly from the business community, heard the president's take on the state of the union and offered him suggestions.

Clinton "is such an impressive guy, well-versed in a broad range of topics. We talked about a lot of different things," Struever said. "The president brought up the positives of the economy -- the low unemployment rate and low interest rates -- but noted how, at the same time, a lot of people are nervous about the economy. He mentioned the need to convince the unpersuaded voter of the potential of government to make things better, that it can be an effective problem solver.

"I brought up the need to keep the mechanics of government working, so that it has credibility with people. And I mentioned a couple of areas where I felt there was a need for sustained energy. The federal empowerment zones, for instance; here's a big Clinton initiative, but without a sustained effort it would be tough to make it work. I also mentioned the [American Civil Liberties Union] housing settlement. That has great potential to make government look really good, or have people get really mad at it."

Want to eat those words?

A guest at the Stouffer Renaissance Harborplace Hotel asked concierge Paula Hnasko for a restaurant recommendation. "What kind of cuisine do you have in mind?" Hnasko ased. "Italian? Seafood? Steak? Maybe Indian or Thai?"

"Oh no," the woman answered. "None of those ethical restaurants. I don't like ethical food."

Yeah, right. Moral fiber gives some people indigestion.

Sports and courts

This week's remarkable story out of Baltimore County Circuit Court -- "Woman injured in softball game sues opposing player" -- sparked a lot of talk, most of it angry, in my circles. Someone identified only as "a Harford County sports coach" dashed off a letter to TJI:

"This is unbelievable. This woman [the plaintiff] knew that by participating in the game she would be exposed to any number of risks of injury. Now she contends the other player didn't slide when he was supposed to and she got hurt. OK, maybe he broke a rule, but rules are broken all the time in all sports. That's why there are things in the rule book known as penalties.

"As a result of this specific case, some coaches will decide not to continue. Some officials will stop officiating. You won't be able to count them, but they won't be back."

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, coach. I'm betting -- if the rules allow that -- the judge will throw this case out. Stay tuned.

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