YESTERDAY would have been Moco Yardley's 100th birthday, and to commemorate the event, judges gathered in the North Baltimore house where the once-celebrated Sun cartoonist had lived to pick a winner in the "Closing Night at Moco's" essay contest. The prize: Yardley's club basement bar - a storied, knotty-pine drinking station its present owner, Ingmar Burger, needs to remove to make space for a cherished family heirloom.
Contestants were asked to state, in 250 words or fewer, why they deserved Moco Yardley's bar.
We received many interesting, amusing, nostalgic and bizarre answers.
Some writers used the contest to relate personal encounters with Yardley, and to share copies of cartoons he had scratched up in their presence decades ago. Others were eager to gain possession of the bar - and gave a variety of arguments.
A man from Crisfield, his signature impossible to decipher, said he deserved the bar because "I grew up on the outskirts of a small town called Yardley, Pa., and I enjoy a cocktail now and then." He also claimed to have been "in attendance when a Will Yardley threatened to shoot up a teen-age keg party when they wouldn't let him in."
The judges applauded 12-year-old Lindsay Maus of Eldersburg for her essay on behalf of her father, a man who has been talking about building a bar in his home for quite a while but apparently does not have the time for the project. Lindsay secretly entered the contest so that she could give the heavy, 7-foot-long bar to her father on his birthday March 5 as a surprise. (And what a surprise for Dad, had he learned he'd have to haul the thing out of Ingmar's basement!)
Scott Gostomski and Joseph Gutierrez wrote of Yardley's affection for Army veterans and his visits to the bar on the second floor of the 5th Regiment Armory, where hang 19 Yardley cartoons that, they said, "capture the `untold' history of the regiment and show us at many funny or embarrassing moments." Mr. Gostomski and Mr. Gutierrez promised to install the bar at the armory "in the same bar [where Yardley] spent so many years enjoying friendship and warmth." Which is a wonderful sentiment. But the judges feel that, in this great nation, no one should have two bars until everyone has one.
Tammy DiGennaro, of the Essex and Dundalk DiGennaros, wrote a sweet essay on behalf of her sister, Kelly, describing her "as Baltimore as a Baltimore Hon can get - right down to her big hair." The Yardley bar, Tammy wrote, would be treated as a genuine Baltimore treasure in Kelly's home, in York, Pa. As much as the judges appreciated the essay, they decided the bar should not leave the state.
Mr. Charles M. Williams of Oxon Hill sent a lengthy and detailed resume listing his qualifications: "I've been a professional custodian for 13 years and worked as a building superintendent and a public school head custodian." Mr. Williams seemed to think we were asking him to run (or clean) Moco Yardley's bar, not just haul it away.
We very much appreciated a letter from Lori Betch of Sparrows Point, who related fondly how her father had once given her a wooden bar for her house. She wanted Moco's because her dad's "wore out and I no longer have it." The judges did not award Ms. Betch a new bar, but saluted her for wearing out the old one.
Tom Chalkley, a gifted Baltimore cartoonist in his own right, asked for Yardley's bar so that it might serve "as an auspicious location for gatherings of Baltimore cartoonists, who comprise a loose network in need of tightening." The judges were almost persuaded to award Chalkley the bar until he tipped his hand and confessed that his basement was still unfinished and that Moco's bar would inspire him to get the job done. Yeah, Tom, right.
In the end, the judges voted to award the bar to Jim Kucher, who lives a short walk from Yardley's old house, in the neighborhood known to many as Alonsoville, along East Cold Spring Lane near Keswick Road. "The bar would be able to adjust to its new home with minimal harm to its psyche," Mr. Kucher wrote. He then threw in the convincer: He granted the judges of this contest "lifetime visitation rights," allowing us to stop by for a drink over Moco Yardley's bar any time we like. Mr. Kucher, the treasure is yours.