Carol Frank Rosenberg, 83, wrote poetry, songs about city landmarks

March 26, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Carol Frank Rosenberg, a Mount Washington muse who once gave a bravura performance in a Baltimore courtroom in an attempt to beat a traffic ticket, died Tuesday of heart failure at her home. She was 83.

She began writing as a young girl in Mount Washington, where she was born and raised. She spent the rest of her life writing songs, shows, parodies, poetry, anagrams and tributes to friends. She wrote songs that celebrated structures such as the Fort McHenry Tunnel, the Enoch Pratt Free Library and Center Stage.

In 1975, Mrs. Rosenberg had to appear in city District Court after being given a ticket for failing to make a required right turn at Eager Street and the Jones Falls Expressway.

Standing before Judge Aaron Baer in a crowded courtroom, Mrs. Rosenberg launched into "In the Court Where I Was Tried," an original poem she had written and sang to the memorable Broadway showstopper "On The Street Where You Live."

I had never been in that

Place before

With a broken arrow sign

Before my face before my face And I'm not the type who

Would ever gripe

If I thought I were guilty today

Explaining that she had never taken a singing lesson and played piano by ear, Mrs. Rosenberg concluded her appeal to the judge by singing, "Please don't make me pay, I'm no criminal. And the charges I incur should be quite minimal. With a record clear, I should have no fear That my case should go badly today."

Judge Baer gave the defendant probation without verdict for failing to make a required right turn.

"That's a tough act to follow," the attorney on the next case said to the judge.

The wife of an attorney, Mrs. Rosenberg explained to The Sun in 1975, "I just woke up, and it was just something that came to me. I thought it would be fun. I guess I have lots of nerve. But, I'm getting old, so the hell with it."

In 1977, she joined thousands at Memorial Stadium during "All America City Night" who all sang her multi-verse tribute that celebrated life in Baltimore sung to the tune of "Hey, Look Me Over."

Hey look aroun', folks we're on the map,

This is the town, folks, never take a nap,

So jump into action, come and explore

The Great All America city that is

Known as Baltimore

James H. Bready, retired Evening Sun editorial writer and book editor, said, "She was an absolute live wire."

He described her literary works as "upbeat stuff that was merry and expressive of a vibrant Baltimore. She often wove names into her poems and if you were mentioned by Carol, you were somebody."

Some of her poetry was reminiscent of the roadside doggerel once reserved for Burma Shave signs that entertained motorists until their demise decades ago.

To a Baltimore umbrella manufacturer, Mrs. Rosenberg wrote:

Blue skies, dammit to hell,

Larry's umbrellas just won't sell.

Clear skies shouldn't occur,

Larry, a cloudburst would prefer.

Her favorite venues for writing were bathtub and bed. Later, she would dutifully type on an ancient Underwood typewriter her longhand transcriptions into hard copy.

She wrote political campaign songs for Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and former U.S. Sen. Joseph Tydings. After graduating from Park School in 1933 and earning a bachelor's degree in English from Vassar College in 1937, she worked as a social worker for the Baltimore Department of Public Welfare.

An active woman, she played tennis one week before her death.

Involved with many civic organizations, she had been volunteering at the Keswick Multi-Care Center and Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital. She was an active member of the League of Women Voters and was a member of the Suburban Club and the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

In a poem about her death,"Remains To Be Seen," published in her book "Versed Edition," she wrote:

Will my hands be red

When I am dead?

Will my back be straight

When I am `the late'?

Will my wrinkles soften

When in my coffin?

Will my hair be curled

In another world?

Will I be well-groomed

When I'm entombed?

In this world I've done my duty,

Giving little thought to beauty.

When I'm finally laid to rest

I hope that I will look my best.

Good luck to the undertaker

Grooming me to meet my maker.

Her marriage to Hans E. Stein ended in divorce. She was married in 1950 to Morris "Moose" Rosenberg, who died in 1992.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

She is survived by three daughters, Susan S. Merrill of Annapolis, Kitty S. Boyan of Marriottsville and Ann R. Kampel of Berkeley, Calif.; a brother, Samuel Frank of Baltimore; a sister, Susan F. Stern of Philadelphia; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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