Charles McDuffie, 65, mixed unusual flavors for snowballs

December 12, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Each summer day for the past five years, Charles McDuffie rose before dawn and headed to his basement kitchen to blend his mixture for snowball flavors. He'd spend a couple of hours there each morning, making more than two dozen varieties.

His flavors -- about 50 homemade toppings that ranged from peanut butter to peppermint cherry to Christmas pine -- made Mac's snowball stand on Park Heights Avenue a popular warm- weather hangout.

Mr. McDuffie, 65, who died Monday of heart failure while visiting friends in Roanoke, Va., operated the snowball stand near his home in West Baltimore for nine years, friends said.

"He took so long to make them [flavors] because if something wasn't just right after he finished, he'd pour out that batch and start all over again," said Charlotte Ware, a longtime friend and taster for Mr. McDuffie's snowballs. "And sometimes a lot of what he made wasn't right."

A squat man who often wore a chef's hat and a once-white apron that bore proof of his many flavors, Mr. McDuffie sold snowballs at the stand for four years before he starting making his own flavors.

His business increased greatly when his blends began.

"He wanted to do something that wasn't normal. Everyone in Baltimore could go out and buy grape and orange and cherry and a bunch of flavors and sell snowballs, but his weren't the normal," said William J. Green, who often worked at the stand.

"Now I'm not saying that all of them flavors were good, but you could usually find one or two unusual ones to hook onto."

Friends said Mr. McDuffie's flavors developed after months of experimenting in the winter when he subjected many friends to testing.

"Most of what he made tasted OK, but some of them flavors you wouldn't want to even look at without getting sick," Ms. Ware said. "Usually the visual test was very important: If you couldn't stand to look at it, people wouldn't want to buy it. He believed that."

A native of Baltimore, Mr. McDuffie attended Frederick Douglass High School in the 1940s and served in the Army from 1949 to 1955 during the Korean War.

Upon his discharge, he worked as a welder at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant until he retired in the late 1980s. He also worked as a part-time auto mechanic at a West Baltimore shop while he was at Bethlehem Steel.

He married Barbara Harrington in 1956; she died in 1992.

Mr. McDuffie was a sports fan, especially of horse racing, and spent many days at Pimlico racetrack during the season.

"He studied the track sheet and fully expected to win each time he went to the track," Mr. Green said. "He put everything he had into everything he did."

No services are planned.

He is survived by a son, Bernard McDuffie of Baltimore; two daughters, Ginger Reed of Monkton and Jayla McDuffie-Smith of New Haven, Conn.; a brother, John McDuffie of Washington, D.C.; and two grandchildren.

Pub Date: 12/12/97

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