`Goose' ends Wishing Well migrations, flying south and taking glad times along


SIXTEEN SUMMERS ago, the first time I laid eyes on Tom "Goose" Kaiser, he danced out of his Wishing Well Bar and hopped onto a bus he'd chartered to Cooperstown, N.Y., for Brooks Robinson's Hall of Fame induction.

It was not yet 6 in the morning, and Goose hadn't been to sleep since maybe the previous decade. A big television screen inside the Wishing Well was showing a stock car race. I thought: Who can watch cars crashing before dawn?

As the bus pulled onto Interstate 83 toward Pennsylvania, Goose stood at the front and faced everybody like some cheerleader who'd taken a bad turn. Most of us had been up since about 4, and many were dropping back to sleep. Goose had a cigar in one hand, and a Bloody Mary in the other. Gimme an O, he hollered happily.

Lord, I thought, the constitution on this man.

Sixteen years later, only this has changed: The Goose is flying south. Thirty years after he first opened his Wishing Well, just off Perring Parkway in northeast Baltimore County, he's calling it an era. He's 63 years old, and maybe it's time to start running only one place instead of two.

So, for one last, joyous, open party, he's brought in much of the old gang this weekend -- including pals like the old college basketball coach Jim Casey, politicians Tommy Bromwell and John Arnick, Joe Beeps, Johnny Dee, Jim Henneman, former Bullet Bob Ferry, Hugh Elliott, the great sax player Al "Madman" Baitch, the legendary Admirals, and Phil Burke, who'll offer a formal Wishing Well eulogy tonight -- and then they'll close up the old place.

Goose is heading south to Canton, where he'll devote his energy to his Bay Cafe, the waterfront restaurant and bar on Boston Street he opened 10 years ago and which has helped fuel the continuing, marvelous rejuvenation of that east-side community.

"Yeah, I've been out there on Boston Street dodging trucks like dodge ball all morning," Goose was saying at week's end, as he simultaneously stocked the Bay Cafe and readied for this weekend's Wishing Well farewell. "It's my normal Friday routine. Just trying to load up for the weekend."

But it's the last weekend he'll do it for the Wishing Well.

"Yeah, the Well," he said a little wistfully. "I always called it the Sweeney's of the North," meaning the old Greenmount Avenue joint that drew some of the same collection of blithe spirits, sporting types and loose cannons.

"It's just time to go," he said. "It's been 30 years, and I'm gettin' a little older. It was 30 years of great people. You know, Al Pecora, Spider McCann, Stanley Hare, Eddie Perkins, Tommy Harrison and Rick Payne. The old Colts who'd come in, like Bobby Boyd and Jimmy Orr and John Unitas. Plus all the great ladies."

The Wishing Well was this kind of a place. If you walked in at 3 in the afternoon, you might see a spontaneous jam session involving Tommy Vann, Madman Baitch, Jake Needleman, and who knows how many other longtime fixtures on the local music scene. If you showed up at night, and you didn't have a date, there were the twin coat-check girls from Hampden always happy to be sociable. And always, laughter and noise and retreat from reality for a few hours.

"It was a different time," Goose was saying last week. "A great time. But, you know, time to move on."

The essence of Goose is the glad time. He'd charter 14 buses to Oriole opening days. He'd charter planes to go to Colts' Super Bowl appearances. When the Colts left town for Indianapolis, he chartered buses to Philadelphia for Eagles-Colts games, just so everybody could boo Robert Irsay. He chartered multiple buses to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame inductions of Robinson, Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, Luis Aparicio and Chuck Thompson.

"And we'll do it when Eddie gets in, too," he said. Meaning Murray. But all future buses will embark from the Bay Cafe.

"We just signed a new 10-year lease down here," Goose said. It's become a Canton landmark in the last 10 years, with its man-made beach setting, its palm trees, its back-porch setting looking across the water to Fort McHenry.

"When we got down here," Goose said, "there wasn't much here along the water. Nobody saw what was gonna happen in Canton. Now, of course, you got $40,000 rowhouses going for $140,000. You got houses selling for $200,000 now. And all the commercial development, and the marinas. Canton is unbelievable."

It's the sound of an old Bawlamer boy still marveling at the change of things. For 30 years, the Wishing Well laughter seemed as if it might last forever. And it still might. Only, after this weekend, a lot of it will simply fly south to Canton.

Pub Date: 5/02/99

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