Exhibit features portraits of seniors

Display on mill towns in the Patapsco Valley

May 07, 2001|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The way Carl Taylor remembered it, he thought he would never sleep again.

Taylor moved across the street from the W. J. Dickey & Sons textile mill in Oella more than 50 years ago, where the loud sound of machines slapping together became part of living in the tiny Baltimore County village.

"You could hear it clean over in your house," Taylor recalled. "You never even noticed it after four or five weeks. It just blended in with the noise."

Taylor is one of 56 "voices" from area mill towns captured in an exhibit on display at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The 70 photographs and accompanying stories are part of a three-year collaborative effort titled "Portraits of the Patapsco."

Commercial photographer Peggy Fox said the idea to capture mostly seniors who lived through the region's Industrial Revolution came from the Maryland Historical Trust and Friends of the Patapsco. In 1997, Fox and writer Alison Kahn began documenting four area towns - Oella, Relay, Elkridge and Ellicott City - to capture local history by interviewing its oldest residents, Fox said.

"The more I photographed, the more I learned," Fox said. "I had an opportunity to go after a sense of place."

Throughout the 20th century, the Patapsco Valley served as a hub of both industry and farming as remembered in the exhibit by John "Jack" Wade of Relay. "Right up on the hill, there was Ruby's farm," he recalled. "He had a right big farm - cattle, peaches and cherries."

Kahn, a folklorist, has done similar projects in North Carolina, Virginia and Maine but found the Patapsco Valley project unique. "I didn't know a lot about the area," Kahn said. "It was discovering a gem of a valley."

The Kuhn Library Gallery exhibit runs through May 23. Gallery hours are from noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

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