JEFF BRUCE, proprietor of Bruce's Supply Co. on Camp Meade Road, had just finished his volunteer duties at the concession stand, preparing food for a football game at Apache Field in Linthicum last weekend.
It was Saturday, and son Robert Bruce went to the stand and told his father he had a Christmas present for him -- it was early, but the only day it could be delivered. He also said he really wanted it to be a surprise, so he asked his dad to wear a blindfold.
With help from Judy Bisesi, Jeff's friend and manager of the concession stand, Robert drove to his father's house, where the blindfold was removed and the surprise revealed.
Jeff Bruce said he stood in shock when he saw 40 family members and friends there. Quickly, he said, he tried to assess what was going on -- obviously not a Christmas present, and not a birthday party, since his birthday -- he'll be turning 52 -- is in January.
It took him a few minutes, but then he realized that everyone had gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his family's hardware store, Bruce's Supply Co., a Linthicum landmark.
Jeff said he was overwhelmed when he was presented with certificates of recognition and plaques for service to the community -- from members of Congress, the governor, the archbishop of Baltimore, the County Council, state legislators, a U.S. senator, even President Clinton. (The citations, along with old photos, are on display in the store.)
Jeff was fund-raising chairman for Boy Scout Troop 447 for 10 years, and has been a source of support for the community whenever a need arose.
Robert, 22, a bank employee and part-time college student, said he spent about three months preparing for the party. His sister, Kelly Bruce, 19, a dental office employee, helped with the planning and was responsible for getting 50th anniversary T-shirts for her father and store employees, and an embroidered jacket for dad.
Looking back on the party, and his gullibility in allowing himself to be blindfolded, Jeff laughed, "To get a Christmas present, I'll do almost anything."
Bruce's hardware store, as locals call it, was acquired by Jeff's father, the late James Willis Bruce, in 1950.
His wife, Gay Bruce, who worked with him and continues to help in the store, said they had moved to Maryland in 1947. Her husband worked in construction, building houses in Harundale.
Her husband and his friend, Lou Sands, a painting contractor, noticed on drives through Linthicum that there was no hardware store. It was a growing community and, with Friendship Airport (now Baltimore-Washington International) under construction, it looked like a good place for one.
Sands started the hardware store, calling it Home Development, and ran it for two years until he sold it to James Bruce in the fall of 1950.
Bruce's Supply Co. was in the Shipley-Linthicum Shopping Center for eight years until the Bruces built its current home, next to and slightly behind the shopping center. The only change since then has been the addition of a floor of apartments in 1962.
When his father died in 1983, Jeff took over the business.
Jeff pretty much grew up with the store, and the community it serves. After he moved with his parents and older brother, Randy, into a house they built next to the store, the shopping center became his playground. He learned to roller skate and ride his bike on its sidewalk.
He attended the first kindergarten in the community -- held at the time in the Woman's Club of Linthicum Heights building on Hammonds Ferry Road -- and Linthicum Elementary and a then-new Andover High School, becoming a member of its first graduating class.
Youth leadership workshop
The Woman's Club of Linthicum Heights, in cooperation with the Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation (HOBY), is sponsoring its third one-day community leadership workshop for local high school sophomores Saturday at its Hammonds Ferry Road clubhouse.
The workshop, from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., will include leadership activities and programs on entrepreneurship and volunteerism.
Students participating were chosen for their leadership potential by the principals at area high schools. It is being coordinated by Carole Applegate, who heads the workshop program in Maryland, and club member Anne Yakaitis, HOBY chair for the Maryland Federation of Women's Clubs.
HOBY was established more than 40 years ago by actor Hugh O'Brian to develop youth leadership programs for high school sophomores, and now reaches all 50 states, Canada and Mexico.
Among the participants Saturday will be Ian McCormack of Pasadena, a senior at Annapolis Area Christian School, who attended a previous workshop and a four-day HOBY seminar. Now, he is a HOBY ambassador and volunteer, telling other young people about the leadership program.
Information on HOBY: Applegate, 410-426-8287.
PAAL presenting `Nunsense'