Good-bye, Frock's Carroll County: Fire company raffles, smoky election nights graced old catering hall.

March 11, 1997

ONLY BRAND NEW Carroll countians or recluses are likely never to have danced, swum or eaten a chicken dinner at Frock's Sunnybrook Farm. The Westminster catering hall has been around since the 1930s and hosted thousands of personal milestones, community events and political powwows. Sooner or later, somebody's wedding, anniversary party, awards banquet or service club meeting was bound to draw you to Frock's.

A lot of memories were made there, so a lot of people will feel a tinge of regret and nostalgia when it closes next month. Frock's is a vestige of old Carroll County -- down-home, a little rustic. It is anomalous to the smoothness of suburbia, of which Carroll is now a part.

Inevitably, some long-time residents will be tempted to blame its demise on the changes that are transforming their county -- on newer caterers out along Route 140, or higher taxes caused by new residents clamoring for services, or too much government regulation. Owner Gene Frock has indeed had his frustrations with all of the above, but he is not being forced out by them. At age 67 and after 37 years of running the place, he's simply ready to retire. If his kids were interested in the business, they could do OK. But they're not, so Mr. Frock expects to sell the 20-acre property.

It is difficult to say when Frock's turned into a local institution. The place started in 1938 as a swimming pool, a weekend spot for the well-to-do. Gene Frock's father, Earl, built a dance hall in 1939, and his mother started serving Sunday dinners there in 1940.

In 1962, Gene Frock added a banquet hall that was the largest between Baltimore and Harrisburg, Pa. The knotty pine-paneled room was the site of countless fire company raffles in the days before the volunteer departments built their own halls. From 1965 into the early 1990s, Frock's became the place to be on Election Night in Carroll. Democrats and Republicans alike gathered there to await the results to be tacked up on poster board, to drink beer, eat Mr. Frock's hot dogs and puff on cigarettes until you couldn't see five feet in front of you.

For 60 years, Frock's was Carroll County, a distillation of a rural community: simple, a little rough around the edges, without pretense. Both are disappearing; both will be missed.

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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