Baltimore Glimpses: Marylanders with eyes on the White House @

February 20, 1996|By Gilbert Sandler

SIGNS OF THE TIMES: The purple neon rabbit (''Harvey'') that identified the Harvey House (920 N. Charles St.) was gone before the restaurant was. ''It was damaged in a windstorm,'' says Lou Baumel, who owned the place, and who, alive and well, remains one of our favorite story tellers.

He says, ''It was too expensive to replace.'' (''Harvey,'' the character in the Broadway play, was only an illusion, anyway, right?)

The sign on the old China Clipper restaurant (1000 block N. Charles St.) survives at the Smithsonian. Passed into history: the chorus girl kicking in neon atop the Gayety (on The Block); the Century/Valencia sign that hung over Lexington Street; the M. Shaivitz ''clock in the middle of the block'' sign on South Charles Street.

Sign outlived restaurant

The Chesapeake Restaurant sign is still up at Charles and Lanvale, although the place has been closed twice. But the old Arrow beer sign that was on the rooftop across the street has gone where old Baltimore signs go to die.

There was no memorable sign in front of Hopper McGaw's, the prestige specialty food shop, from 1880 to 1957 at Charles and Mulberry, but there was a wooden Indian, called Pocahantas. She wore a green dress, a yellow medallion at her forehead, a hat of red feathers.

We asked a number of old Baltimoreans if they could recall other signs of their day.

Few could.

What's that a sign of?

* * *

By now, thanks to the view of the Bromo Seltzer Tower from Camden Yards that is televised country-wide during baseball games, most everybody knows something about that famed headache powder's Baltimore connection.

A revolving replica of the Bromo bottle, four stories high. 20 feet wide and weighing 20 tons, was for many years mounted at the very top of the tower, it came down in 1936.

The rest of the story

But what happened to it? The bottle was brought down in 3-foot-by-6-foot sections on the building's elevator. They were sent to Sparrows Point steel mills for recycling. From there they found their way into the manufacture of that year's automobiles.

So the next time you see a 1936 Buick, or Cadillac, or Huppmobile, remember it's really a 1936 Bromo.

* * * *

Some may think Alan Keyes is the first Marylander to go after the presidency. Not so.

One Marylander who appeared close to being a candidate; another was led to believe he would be a candidate, and a third said he was expecting to be a candidate, but was only kidding (maybe).

The first was Gov. Albert C. Ritchie, who served four terms, beginning in 1919; on his retirement from office one newspaper called him ''the greatest governor Maryland ever had.''

Floor demonstration

In 1924 he was nominated for president (by Marylander Howard Bruce) at the 1924 Democratic National Convention in New York. A wild floor demonstration in his support lasted half an hour. But the convention nominated John W. Davis.

Ritchie was nominated again in 1932 by his fellow Marylander, Sen. Millard Tydings. This time the demonstration at the Chicago convention lasted 40 minutes. Delegates were reported to have been astounded at the unexpectedly strong show of support for Ritchie. But in the end they nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt. As Bradford Jacobs tells it in his book ''Thimbleriggers'' (Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1984), ''A Ritchie drive for the presidential nomination foundered only upon collision with the steely machinery that was to lift Franklin D. Roosevelt to the stars.''

The Marylander who was led to believe he could be a presidential candidate was Spiro T. Agnew.

While still governor of Maryland Agnew came to the attention of presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon, who was looking for a conservative running mate. Agnew had broken into the news for a harsh confrontation with Baltimore's black leaders after the riots of 1968. He accused them of failing to speak out against the rioters and to take control of the situation. Nixon liked that kind of talk.

Designated attacker

Nixon and Agnew were elected and Agnew was given the role of attacking the press and the liberals. He did so well that over the years he developed a strong and growing constituency of his own. Many began to think of him as the party's candidate for president in 1976. They talked of starting an organization calculated to take Agnew to the Oval Office. But then he got caught in kickback scandals and had to resign the vice presidency in 1973.

The Marylander who was not expecting to be the candidate but said he was, was Theodore R. McKeldin.

At the 1952 Republican National Convention, Dwight D. Eisenhower was contesting with Robert Taft to become the party's nominee. He knew he needed a rousing nomination speech. He chose a superb orator from a border state, aligned with the liberal wing of the party -- Governor McKeldin.

As recalled by the late Judge Simon E. Sobeloff, friend and adviser to Baltimore's mayors and Maryland's governors, Ike reached McKeldin at the latter's hotel room. He personally invited him to do the honors.

According to Sobeloff, McKeldin responded deliberately, as if he had thought about the answer for a long time. He said to Ike with as straight a face and as serious a voice as he could manage, ''Why, general, I was thinking of running for president myself . . .''

B6 Gilbert Sandler writes from, and about, Baltimore.

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