Gil Sandler's Baltimore Stories | WYPR

Gil Sandler's Baltimore Stories

Friday 7:46 am and 9:38 am

Gilbert Sandler is one of Baltimore's most-read and well-known local historians. For more than thirty years, through his articles in the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Jewish Times, National Public Radio and his books and lectures, he has shown Baltimoreans, through anecdote and memory, who they are, where they have been and, perhaps, where they are going. He was educated in Baltimore's public schools and graduated from Baltimore City College; in World War II, he served in the United States Navy as a ship-board navigator in the Pacific. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and has a master's from Johns Hopkins.

Archive prior to December 2014.

Voting on the Aquarium

Feb 9, 2018

On the evening of November 2, 1976, Baltimoreans were glued to their TV and radios—following the election results of Question 3 on the ballot—whether or not the city should build and operate what would be known as the National Aquarium in the Inner Harbor. It was a controversial idea from the outset, with City Councilman Emerson Julian calling the proposed aquarium, derisively, “nothing but a fish tank.” This is the story of how that so-called “fish tank” became one of the most visited tourist attraction in the world.

McKeldin's Speech

Feb 1, 2018

On the summer night of July 11, 1962 at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, those in the hall and millions watching television saw and heard Theodore R. McKeldin, former Mayor of Baltimore and incumbent Governor of Maryland, nominate General Dwight David Eisenhower for president of the United States...

Number Writers

Jan 26, 2018
frankieleon/flickr

In the 1940s and 1950s, before the Maryland lottery and the casinos, the betting action on the street was “on the numbers” -- and illegal. It was the bookmakers who took the bets and who controlled the action that were the target of Captain Alexander Emerson’s raids on their “places of business.” His continuing raids, staged to get them to shut down their operations and send them to jail, made him a threat to and the nemesis of their livelihood. When he died there was a coffin-side eulogy for him by a former victim…

ANOMALOUS_A/FLICKR

On the night of January 16, 1967, the sidewalk under the marquee of the Mechanic Theatre at Charles and Baltimore streets was the scene of bright lights and cameras flashing and celebrities working the crowd. The occasion was the Grand Opening of the Mechanic—which would close after three years, stay dark for two years and reopen nine years later in n 1976. It closed for the last time in 2004—after 37 years, As they say in show biz, not a bad run.

Capone

Jan 12, 2018

On the night of Nov. 16, 1939, notorious gangster Al Capone was released from Lewisberg penitentiary - and headed for Baltimore. Capone was a sick man and planned to seek treatment at Johns Hopkins. He settles in the Oswego Avenue home of Manasha Katz, Captain of the Maryland State Police. But because he planned to stay in Baltimore a while, he though to arrange to have his favorite Italian food personally prepared for him at the then well-known restaurant, Maria's, in Little Italy. So he sent a lieutenant there to meet Maria and asked if he might inspect her kitchen. Very bad mistake. This is the story of why.

Twistin

Jan 5, 2018
Alli Kelly/flickr

On the night of December 7, 1961, Fire Prevention Chief Michael Horan was making a routine check in the Las Vegas nightclub on Harford Road when he discovered to his considerable discomfort that infractions of the city fire control were out of control. The dancers were dancing the Twist, a body shaking dance sweeping across the country - and on this night blocking the exit aisles of the Las Vegas club in Baltimore. He shut the club down only to see it re-open again - it's aisles jammed with dancers twisting again there was a reason for the way things were going for Chief Horan. This story explains . . . 

Dominick Guzzo/flickr

In and through the 1960s, the word was out that hostesses of New Year ’s Day parties were serving egg nog that was the talk of the circuit. The secret:  they had made their egg nog using Hendler’s egg-nog ice cream—the only egg nog ice  cream in America made with pure rum. Those were the days. 

Andrew Taylor/flickr

On Christmas Day, 1943, in the heart of World War II, there was an announcement on radio station WFBR—to the effect: Listen to a special broadcast from somewhere in England. Hear your loved ones wishing you a Merry Christmas from deep in the heart of war torn Europe. The broadcast happened exactly as it was advertised—bringing to all on both sides of the Ocean the merriest of Christmases.

Wrestling

Dec 15, 2017
Christopher Paquette/flickr

On the night of January 15, 1955, at the Coliseum on Monroe Street, thousands o fans had come to boo and cheer and look for blood—at the local wrestling matches. They saw what they had come for—phony and faked wrestling, featuring the curly-headed blond Gorgeous George. They also saw blood. Or was that blood? Here’s the story.

ryan/flickr

On an evening in 1935, in the living room in a house in Baltimore, a husband and wife are sitting at a small table, facing each other. On the table there is a flat, two-foot square of cardboard. The woman leans over close to the board, and, head down close to the board, whispers,” Mother, can you hear me?” The woman is talking to the Ouija Board. In its time in Baltimore it was the way Baltimoreans talked to the dead…Really? Really!

Larry Adler

Dec 1, 2017
Nicolas Buffler/flickr

On the Saturday afternoon of June 2, 1928, about 40 boys and girls were on the stage at Baltimore City College high school at 33rd and the Alameda, facing a standing room only crowd. They were here to compete for the title of Best Harmonica Player in Baltimore. The matter would soon be settled— the winner was Lawrence Larry Adler. His win would take him onto the world stage—and back to Baltimore, with a confession.

Joseph Meyerhoff

Nov 22, 2017
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

On the evening of September 16, 1982, the scene at 1212 Cathedral and Preston was all black ties and evening gowns. The occasion was the grand opening of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. When Mr. Meyerhoff was a boy he attended an accelerated middle school known as School 49, at 1211 Cathedral. A life’s journey from 1211 across the street to 1212, was a very long journey, but Mr. Meyerhoff  had made it.

Parade Commotion

Nov 17, 2017

In 1952, a seemingly sensible change in the starting time of the traditional Thanksgiving Day parade caused such a ruckus that it almost cost Police Commissioner his job. Thousands would protest, a newspaper would editorialize against it, clergymen denounce it. The problem—the Commissioner wanted to change the time of the City-Poly game back from 2:00 to 11:00. And came close to being arrested for starting a riot.

Oleg./flickr

This is about a traffic policeman named Bill and horse named Bob—who became median strip. When the intersection of Pratt and Light was one of the busiest in the world, Bill’s traffic control worked this way: While standing in the middle of traffic, his horse Bob would be by his side and on orders from Bill, shift positions to form a median strip and so shift traffic into the lane Bill wanted. The system worked. Here’s the story.

Rose Zetzer

Nov 3, 2017
dcJohn/flickr

On a day in 1918, a 16-year-old girl named Rose Zetzer was a student in high school, discussing the assignment 'Shall Women Have the Right to Work?'

Right then and there she said, “I am going to be a lawyer.” She not only became a lawyer, but in the process, she opened the profession to women. According to a male contemporary, “She got on our nerves.” She also changed the history of Baltimore.

Leona Gage

Oct 27, 2017
AP Photo/HF

In the evening of July 15, 1957, Veterans Stadium in Long Beach, California was awash in the lights and music and pageantry of the semi-finals of the Miss USA contest. Contestants from all over America walked down the runway. In that group was a Cinderella come-to-the-ball from Glen Burnie, Maryland, named Leona Gage. But neighbors from the area were not fooled. They told the real story of who Miss Gage really was! 

The Diplomats

Oct 20, 2017
JD Hancock

In the early afternoon of August 23, 1963, three African American diplomats, dressed in full and colorful diplomatic attire, entered Miller Brothers restaurant at Fayette and Hanover Streets—in those days, strictly segregated. They introduced themselves as representatives of the Republic of Gabon. But they were not. Who were they? They ordered lunch, enjoyed it, and left—and made history. The story…

Death of an Arabber

Oct 13, 2017
Andrew Hazlett/flickr

On July 23, 2017, four horse-and-wagons formed a funeral cortege at the entrance to the Wylie Funeral Home at 701 Mt. Street. Crowds had gathered to say goodbye to Eugene Allen, among the last of Baltimore’s street Arabbers, who with their memorable yells, sold fruits and vegetables off of their horse and wagons. We may have lost Mr. Allen but, cherishing horse and wagon selling in Baltimore, we have his yells.

Arabber calls (originally aired in 1989) provided by All Things Considered.

HK Elevators

Oct 6, 2017
Steve Snodgrass/flickr

Click on the image for the audio.   

On a Saturday afternoon in 1946, on an elevator in the popular downtown department store, Hochschild Kohn, a uniformed elevator operator was calling out to passengers, “Fourth  floor, Ladies dresses, special sale today!” An elevator operator selling merchandise while calling out floors? So beloved was this custom that when the store installed automatic elevators, they had to call the operators back. To call out floors and merchandise!

Weather at the Fair

Sep 30, 2017

Click on the image for the audio.  

Gil tells us about the people who made sure the Baltimore City Fair went on without a hitch. 

Palughi

Sep 22, 2017
Dano/flickr

On June 22, 1972, Tropical Storm Agnes hit. The Jones Falls overflowed. Standing at the interception of Northern Parkway and the Falls, watching with painful dismay, was Mayor William Donald Schaefer. With him was Marco “Buddy” Palughi. Well known for getting the mayor what he needed. What he needed at this moment were rowboats, to start a salvage operation. True to his reputation, in the middle of it all, Pelughi delivered the rowboats.

Ellis Lane Larkins

Sep 15, 2017

Thursday, December 12, 1935: In an auditorium of Frederick Douglass high school, then all African American, a crowd was gathered to celebrate the eleventh anniversary of the Baltimore Urban League. The keynote address was given by America's first lady, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who then introduced an 11 year-old boy named Ellis Lane Larkins, who then played a piano concert, a waltz by Moszkowski...

At the end of a long summer’s day in 2003, a young Shannon Mullaney was driving home along the Jones Falls Expressway, looking forward to dinner. When—Screech! Accident! She got out of her car to meet the driver of the other car. Minutes later they found themselves at the bar next to one another at a tavern off of Exit 10. They got married. And then divorced. She said she lost the guy but still had the story. So do we.

Blue Laws

Aug 31, 2017
Victor/flickr

On a Sunday afternoon in 1937, a policemen stationed outside of a Max’s Delicatessen on University Parkway stopped a customer and demanded to see the purchases. To the customer’s dismay, the officer found—contraband! A corned beef on rye with mustard. Max was arrested. He had violated Baltimore’s Blue Laws, which  effectively shut the town down on Sunday. The Laws are gone but the stories about them are not!

Poetry and Parkway

Aug 25, 2017
Alessandro Bonvini/flickr

Up into the 1970s, Baltimoreans could tune in on their radios to station WCAO at midnight and listen to—poetry! It was an hour of readings, to the accompaniment soft organ music, originating from the Parkway Theater on North Avenue.

“The last reading of the last night of the poetry hour read here comes a time to say the song is through.”

And for Baltimore’s first lat and only poetry hour it was.

Exodus and Johnny Pica

Aug 18, 2017

On the moonless night of February 9, 1947. A shadowy melodrama was being played out on the Lancaster street dock and aboard the ship moored to it. Boys were to be seen loading the ship and with munitions. They were boys from Little Italy and from the Jewish Community Center—recruited off the basketball court of the Jewish Community Center together, at work, not realizing it, founding a country.

Penn Station Wedding

Aug 11, 2017
Nick Kenrick/flickr

Something unusual was going on in Baltimore’s Penn station on the afternoon of July 25, 1943.  In the frenetic war years, the station was an around- the-clock scene of soldiers and sailors arriving and departing and loved ones greeting with hugs of welcome or farewell. But today was different—there was a wedding planned! In the station! A wedding like no other in the history of the armed forces of the United States….

Cat Rodeo

Aug 3, 2017
M&R Glasgow/flickr

On the evening of July 12, 1929, a small crowd was gathered at the entrance where Howard and Biddle streets and Linden Avenue meet. They stood staring at unexpected “Closed” signs on the door to the Market.— “due to a problem with mice.” And so began the Great Baltimore Cat Round Up. The scheme, to turn cats loose to do what cats do to mice, turned out to be an embarrassing failure. The Market management blamed the cats.

Dolly Flap

Jul 28, 2017

On the evening of January 6, 1967, the scene outside the Mechanic Theater at Baltimore and Charles streets was a busy one! It was opening night and the show was no less than the smash Broadway hit, "Hello, Dolly." Hollywood starlet Betty Grable was slated to play the part, although in the world of show biz, Carroll Channing owned the part. Behind the scenes, war broke out! So who played Dolly opening night of the Mechanic? Here's the story. 

Schaefer Reenactment

Jul 21, 2017
daveynin/flickr

In 2001 on the 20th anniversary of the Grand Opening of the National Aquarium and of Mayor Schaefer's promise at the time: "If that aquarium isn't finished by August 8, I will personally jump into the seal pool." The aquarium did not open on time and the mayor did jump in the seal pool, but the 20th anniversary of the event ran into unexpected problem. 

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