48 years later, man recalls `the power of a good deed'

This Just In...

January 17, 2003|By DAN RODRICKS

A MR. DON PRICE of Malvern, Pa., a native of Baltimore, decided a couple of weeks ago to finish some unfinished business - to send a thank-you note to the Baltimore Police Department overdue almost a half-century. He read an article in a magazine about Americans and their beloved automobiles, and that's what got him thinking about finally doing the right thing. So he sat down and wrote a letter to the police commissioner.

"This story happened in the fall of 1955, but it's just as vivid and meaningful for me today as it was almost 48 years ago. It proves that the power of a good deed has lasting effects," Price wrote.

He was a Korean War-era veteran of the Army attending the University of Maryland on the G.I. Bill.

"I lived in the dorms during the week and traveled home to my family in Northeast Baltimore every Friday night," Price wrote. "My transportation was a 1941 Chevrolet that had many a mile on it. I had bought it used. It had taken me from Baltimore to Fort Bliss, Texas, and back to Baltimore when I was discharged from the Army. My allowance under the G.I. Bill was just enough to get by on, most times, but sometimes it was a struggle."

So it was November 1955, a Friday night, and Price was driving home to his parents' house.

"I had to take old Route 40 from the university to get to Baltimore and then get off Route 40 in downtown. Since I was traveling late in the month I was flat broke, but my route incurred no bridge or tunnel tolls, and the good old Chevrolet was very good with gas mileage. I was running low on gas, but I was sure I could make it home."

Wrong.

"I ran out of gas in downtown Baltimore in the middle of a major intersection."

He thinks he was on Pratt Street.

"In 1955, police officers helped direct traffic during rush hour and I was fortunate to find a kindly old policeman to help me push my car over to the side of the intersection where he was directing traffic. I was impeding traffic and he was not completely happy. The officer explained to me that there was a gas pump inside a parking garage about a block away and that I could get gas there.

"He saw the look on my face and asked if I had any money, but he already knew the answer. He took $2 out of his wallet and gave it to me.

"Doesn't seem like a lot of money, does it? But to put this kind act into some perspective, $2 in 1955 is like $20 in 2003. That makes it a whole lot of money to me and not a casual offer. Anyway, I was able to buy about 10 gallons of gas and get back on my way to my family, about 15 miles away."

Price thanked the officer for his kindness.

"But he never asked for my address, nor any explanation. He just smiled as he reached into his wallet to give me money to get me on my way and - I'm sure - out of his hair. His smile seemed to be a very understanding smile."

Price never got the officer's name.

"I often thought about writing a thank-you note to the Baltimore police commissioner or writing to The Baltimore Sun, hoping they would print the story. I never did and I have always felt guilty about not doing something to let people know this police officer's kindness."

So here it is - 48 years later.

"I suspect that this officer is probably not alive today, but if by chance he is, I hope this long overdue `Thank You' letter gets in his hands. If not, this `Thank You' is long overdue to the Baltimore Police Department."

I spoke to Don Price yesterday, and I think a contribution will be coming from Malvern, Pa., for the Baltimore police memorial. It will be at least $20, if not more.

Gov. Prom King

Perhaps it's true that power is an aphrodisiac, or maybe it was just the wine talking (except our new governor doesn't drink). In his on-stage remarks at the inaugural gala at the Baltimore Convention Center - a stand-up in which he came across as more prom king than chief executive - Bob Ehrlich told a crowd of thousands that he and first lady Kendel Ehrlich got to stay in the Maryland governor's mansion in Annapolis for the first time Tuesday night. "It was a good night, if you know what I mean," Ehrlich said to guffaws.

Gee, thanks for that little Gilman-Princeton locker room moment, governor. I can see a whole new era of class dawning at Government House.

Fitting observance

"Let us march on poverty until no starved man walks the streets of our cities and towns in search of jobs that do not exist," Martin Luther King Jr. said in Montgomery, Ala., in 1965. Monday, the St. Frances Academy Community Center in East Baltimore will observe King Day with perhaps the perfect event - a large afternoon job fair for unemployed Baltimore men. A dozen businesses have agreed to conduct job interviews during the three-hour fair, at 501 E. Chase St.

"It's going to be a great day," says Ralph Moore, who runs the community center and expects more than 700 men to drop in for something to eat and to apply for a job. "With so many able-bodied men without work, with so many unable to contribute to the support of their own self-sufficiency or to the well-being of their families, we will never be able to have the better society so many of us want. We must put people to work in meaningful jobs that pay enough for it to be worthwhile and that encourage men to work as opposed to sit around or to deal drugs."

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