Margaret 'Peggy' Perry, 91, owned Peggy's Diner

September 27, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

In the 1950s and 1960s Peggy's Diner was where young adults sought love, brought a love or cried to Miss Peggy about love gone wrong. The jukebox always played, and Margaret "Peggy" Perry seemed to always be there at the Grasonville hangout.

She spent more time in the diner than in the apartment upstairs where she lived with her family, relatives say.

"She was what made the place go," said her son, Lawrence Perry, who lives in nearby Cordova on the Eastern Shore. "She was everything behind the business."

Mrs. Perry, 91, who died Saturday at Johns Hopkins Hospital of hypertension, was the diner's cook, security guard, mop-up woman, waitress and soda jerk -- and she performed all with ease.

Perhaps it was her cooking -- her hot roast beef sandwich and french fries in gravy were famous -- that made Peggy's Diner the stomping grounds of a generation of youngsters in the area.

But the reason many patrons kept coming back was because Miss Peggy was "just a good listener."

"She'd sit there and listen to you for an hour and maybe not say a word unless you asked her," said Randy Matthews, a Baltimore resident who lived in Grasonville about 40 years ago.

"But when you asked her what she thought, you opened the floodgates, and she could go on for days about something you probably didn't want to hear. But you knew you could always get a good ear from her, and you could trust her with what you said."

Born Margaret Freedman in Baltimore, she grew up in Hamilton and attended the old Eastern High School on 33rd Street.

She married William W. Perry in the 1930s and was a seamstress in the Baltimore area before the couple moved to Grasonville in the early 1940s. Mr. Perry died in 1985.

In 1944, upon the insistence of friends who praised her cooking, Mrs. Perry converted a car showroom into Peggy's Diner, which soon became a landmark for the residents of Queen Anne's County.

Catherine P. Sylvester, Mrs. Perry's daughter, said the age of the diner crowd changed during the day.

"You'd have the older breakfast crowd before work, then the younger after-school-soda-fountain crowd, and then the ones at night that would say go out and do what you've got to do and I'll meet you later at Miss Peggy's," Ms. Sylvester said.

She remembered a customer who routinely used a ploy to get a second slice of banana cream pie.

"When he was almost finished, he'd put an eyelash in it and say his pie had hair in it," Ms. Sylvester said. "[Mrs. Perry] caught on to it and knew what was going on, but she always gave him another slice anyway."

Customers were also quite fond of sitting at the long counter and sipping ice cream sodas. Some customers liked the dessert for reasons other than it was a cool treat.

Mrs. Perry discovered this when she stopped using the long soda spoons because they slowly disappeared. A customer who questioned the decision said, " 'My God, you've discontinued the spoons and I only need one more for a set,' " Ms. Sylvester said.

Mrs. Perry closed the business in 1967 and retired. In 1953, she built and operated the Rod and Reel Motel, also in Grasonville.

Services were held Wednesday in Grasonville.

Other survivors include a brother, Peter L. Freedman of Pennsylvania; six grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandchild.

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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