`Local yokels' reunite, reminisce

Gathering: About 160 Eldersburg and South Carroll natives share stories and photos from the past.

September 26, 2004|By Katie Martin | Katie Martin,SUN STAFF

Marguerite Ruch Knauff grew up on a 15-acre farm where she owned a menagerie of animals, including a pet llama. She remembers riding on hay wagons with the granddaughter of Herbert DeVires, who owned a nearby farm.

The DeVires farm on Ridge Road in Sykesville is now the location of Carrolltowne Elementary School, where Knauff, 80, of Sykesville has been teaching for the past 39 years.

Knauff was one of about 160 people who gathered last week to swap stories about the past at the "Return of the Eldersburg Natives." All of them grew up in Eldersburg and South Carroll in the 1930s, '40s and '50s.

"Everybody wanted to get together again," said Anna Rose Anderson, 79, of Ellicott City, who helped organize the second reunion of what she called "local yokels" at Bullock's Family Restaurant in Westminster. The first reunion was held in April last year.

The old-timers shared stories all Wednesday afternoon. The hot topic was how the area had grown and changed. "I hate to look at it now because it was all farms," Knauff said. She said her co-workers at Carrolltowne Elementary don't believe it when she tells them she played on a farm that sat where they work.

"It was all cornfields when I was growing up," said Pauline "Peanie" Harp Tracy. "Now it's all banks and shopping centers." Tracy, 75, lives in Eldersburg, 10 minutes away from where she was raised.

The main road in Eldersburg once had a single traffic light. Now it is a multilane highway that serves a population of nearly 30,000.

Conversation at the reunion stopped only long enough for a trip to the salad bar, or for a piece of fried chicken and a bite of baked potato. Black-and-white photographs lay on almost every table.

Family memories

Eddie Gardner, 66, of Eldersburg identified several pictures of the gas station his family owned for almost 40 years. He surmised that a picture of a Model T car parked in front of the station was from the 1920s.

His father, George Gardner, purchased the station in 1936 and then sold it to Eddie's brother, Richard, in 1956. The Gardners' Esso Station was sold again in 1969, but it still stands as an Exxon station at the busy intersection of Routes 32 and 26.

Eddie Gardner said there were a half-dozen men at the reunion who had worked at the station, including Andy Hobbs. He dubbed Hobbs a "second-generation part-timer" because Hobbs' father worked at the station before him.

Hobbs, 64, of Hanover, Pa., worked Saturdays and every other Sunday. He said he changed oil and tires, washed windshields and pumped gas.

"There's a big difference between a full-service station and the gas-and-go's that there are today," Eddie Gardner said.

He said that face-to-face encounters are how he got to know customers. He remembers helping a customer who wanted high-grade gasoline instead of regular.

"He told me, `That orange gas makes my tractor go putt ... putt ... putt, but with the red gas it goes putt, putt, putt, putt, putt,'" Eddie Gardner said.

The former Sarah Ann Wolf was also one of the station's customers.

"I pulled into the service station as a young nurse and Richard [Gardner] cleaned my windshield," she said.

That was March 29, 1954. They went on their first date in April, and she later became Sarah Ann Gardner, now 69, of Eldersburg.

Keeping entertained

Next to the station was Lyons Restaurant, owned by Dennis Lyons.

"It was the local hangout," said Frances Gardner Fadely, Eddie Gardner's sister.

Fadely, 81, of Westminster attended Baltimore Business College. Lyons drove Fadely and several other girls to Baltimore, where they worked or went to school.

Other natives recalled the fun they had in South Carroll.

"You made your own entertainment," Tracy said. She said everyone attended church events and the firemen's carnival in Sykesville in the summer.

"We played baseball and went to dances on Saturday nights," said Virginia "Ginnie" Lamb, 74, of Eldersburg. She said she and her friends used to sit on the side of the two-lane road and count the "very few" cars that passed.

"There were so few cars on Liberty Road, I could roller skate for hours and not be bothered," Knauff said.

She said she spent a lot of time outside because there was a pond and plenty of room to run on her farm. That is why she lacks sympathy when her pupils say they are bored.

"Don't ever say that word to me, you don't know what it means," Knauff tells them.

Recognition

Knauff has been married to her husband, Bruce, for 62 years, which won them an iron bucket of pansies at the reunion. Others were awarded for having the most great-grandchildren (nine) and traveling the longest distance (to California).

Lamb was recognized as the "one-woman Eldersburg historian."

"I keep track of who's married to who, and who's cousins, brothers and sisters," Lamb said.

Thirteen enlarged, framed photographs were displayed at the reunion, including one of Lamb's father in front of her grandmother's house. The Bob Evans Restaurant stands there now, Lamb said.

Lamb and the other natives said because of their memories, they share a bond.

"We have ties that are never broken," Anderson said.

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