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.

On the Saturday afternoon of July 25, 1943, something unusual was going on in Baltimore’s Penn station on Charles Street just above Mt. Royal. In those wartime days, the station was a round-the-clock melee of soldiers and sailors and husbands and wives and lovers and loved ones embracing in hellos and goodbyes.  That is why on this wartime Saturday afternoon a couple chose to get married in Penn Station, in a hurry-- while they could still be together, only minutes before the groom was to depart for duty.  The priest who married the couple invited each of the servicemen to kiss the bride, who in a gracious act of patriotism, went along--one kiss per serviceman!

"Cut It Down"

Jul 29, 2016


McKeldin's Speech

Jul 15, 2016

Knothole Gang

Jul 1, 2016


Eli Hanover

Jun 24, 2016


Civic Center

Jun 17, 2016


Mt. Royal Station

Jun 10, 2016


WKC

Jun 3, 2016

Cass Elliot

May 27, 2016

Crowds were lined up on both sides three deep along Holiday Street leading to City Hall, on the afternoon of August 15, 1971, cheering, “We love you, Cass.” The Cass was Cass Elliott, The Momma Cass who popularized such hits as “Make your Own Kind of Music.” She was actually Ellen Naomi Cohen, grew up in Baltimore, attended Forest Park High School and dropped out two weeks before she was to graduate. She went to New York to try her luck as a pop vocalist. Her luck was very good. But Baltimore never took to her, and this welcoming parade was the City’s attempt to make up for that indiscretion. As does this story…  

Odds Maker

May 20, 2016

On the afternoon of October 22, 1933 something unusual was going on at the Pamlico Race track. It was a Sunday, not a racing day, and not a horse in sight, yet more than 7,000 fans had filled the stands. The crowd was there to see a ghost race, run by ghost horses. And the very first trial of the TOTALISATOR, later to be known as the Tote Board. The Tote Board modernized the way odds were displayed at the track between races, replacing manual displays with electronic displays, and because of it, the bettor was thought by many to have more of a chance at winning. Asked about that point of view, one of the officials said,”Absolutely not.” and gave a surprising explanation!

Oriole Cafeterias

May 13, 2016

It is 1960 and you are dining on a starched white linen table cloth with gleaming silverware, enjoying a choice of five appetizers, eight entrees, eleven vegetables, a dozen salads, seven  desserts. From the balcony comes the soft slow dinner music of Jack Lederer’s orchestra. You might think you are dining in one of Baltimore’s most expensive restaurants, but you are dining in a most modesty-priced Oriole cafeteria.  All six Oriole cafeterias closed by 1975 because management said, “the dining community preferred hamburgers and colas and eat and run.” Oriole cafeterias took pride in offering plenty of choice and their customers made one:  fast food over slow music.

First Day of TV

May 6, 2016

At exactly 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 30, 1947, about seven hundred Baltimoreans who owned television sets sat watching Baltimore's first television show telecast over its first television station, WMAR, then Channel 2, in black and white on six inch screens. The show being telecast was the sixth race at Pimlico. There were a lot of winners that day: seven hundred or so TV owners watching he race on their TV Screens, The techie gang that produced the show; a come-from-behind horse names Blue Yonder who would come in first, and mayor D'Alesandro - who told everybody that he would.

“Mimi” DiPietro

Apr 29, 2016

The weather on August 6, 1995, the day of the funeral of City Councilman Dominic “Mimi” DiPietro, was unseasonably pleasant—low humidity in the low 80s, and bright sunshine, and some among the mourners, noting the out-of-season weather, wondered whether there was a connection between Mimi’s reputation for “going to the top” to get things done for his constituents and the gloriously fair weather. Father Esposito, in his eulogy, wondered out loud about the question. The citizenry is left to decide.

Danny's

Apr 22, 2016

Motorists driving north on Charles Street in late March of 1989 were delighted and excited to see off to their right, high on the two story building at Charles and Biddle streets housing Danny’s Restaurant, a sign that read, simply, “The Run Is On.” Motorists saw that sign there every March since Danny’s Restaurant opened in 1961. It alerted them to when the shad season started in Maryland. But Danny’s closed in 1961 and the sign hanging on building is gone. So how do Baltimoreans know when the shad season has started in Maryland? They don’t. This is a lament for the days when Danny told them when it had...

Bill Haley

Apr 15, 2016

In the 1950s Baltimore’s downtown movies were suffering—so many of its patrons had moved to the suburbs. Among the movie theaters abandoned in the exodus was Keith’s, at Lexington and Liberty Streets... The management of Keith’s was at long last faced with a decision—try to keep the movie theater open by bringing in sure-fire live attractions, or close the place. It decided to do the former and so brought in super-rock star Bill Haley and His Comets. In a quirky Baltimore twist, Bill Haley, whom Keith management brought in to keep the place open, was the one who closed it down. This is the story of how.

Rosemary

Apr 8, 2016

It was on the cold morning of February 3, 1964 when the wrecker’s ball smashed into the south wall of Ford’s theater, between Eutaw and Howard streets, .where it had stood since 1871. A pile of rubble was all that was left of the grand store house of theater memories. Later that morning, two elderly ladies, could be seen sprinkling on the debris what was later reported to be rosemary. One of the ladies was heard to say, “As Ophelia said in Hamlet, ‘Here’s rosemary, for remembrance.’” The ladies remarked that it was a cold morning. For Baltimore theater goers it was a very cold day. 

Black Aggie

Apr 1, 2016

On a moonless night in 1938, a Hopkins undergrad was taken on a fraternity initiation—a teen-age ritual through the 1960s, a visit to see “Black Aggie.””Aggie” was a bronze statue, weather-darkened hence the “black” description, created to honor a well- known Baltimorean, Felix Angus. “Aggie” stood dark and mysterious in the Druid Ridge Cemetery at Stevenson Road and Park Heights Avenues. The sculptor was Augustus Saint Gaudin—who started out to create a beautiful statue, but through years of visits by teenagers to his dark statue on a dark nights in a darkened cemetery--wound up changing the pop culture of Baltimore.

Bowling In Baltimore

Mar 25, 2016

On a cold morning in 1904, two aging baseball players, Wilbert Robinson and John McGraw, sitting in a duck blind on the Eastern Shore, were waiting for the ducks to take flight. They got to talking about how their bowling business back in Baltimore was falling off because, the concluded, the and the pins then in use were too heavy. Suddenly, a flock of ducks took off and headed skywards, but the incident started a chain of events that would make Baltimore the world center for duckpin bowling, and produce a champion whose favorite bowling ball would wind up in the Smithsonian. Here is how all of that happened.

Baltimoreans opened the Sunpaper on the morning of October 1964 to read this modest announcement. Each city recreation center will be conducting a Yo Yo contest." (a Yo-Yo being a wooden disc you twirled, wound and unwound. The winner of the contest was promised a huge prize - a trip to Disneyland by Duncan Yo Yo - the manufacturer of the Yo Yo. The winner turned out to be a young 15 year old Carl Pund - who won the contest but in a quirky turn of events, lost the prize. This is Carl Pund's story.

Jump Rope

Mar 11, 2016

On the afternoon of September 5, 1961, in the pavilion in Patterson Park the Baltimore City Department of Recreation was staging that year's great Baltimore World Series of Jump Rope. But this year's contest was going to be different: boys a be allowed to compete in the traditionally all-girls contest. The reason the boys wanted in the contest was that they've been watching on television all of those boxers in training by jumping rope. The outcome of the contest was surprising and Pearl Williams, director of it, provided a surprising explanation.

Haussner's

Mar 4, 2016

On the afternoon of December 18, 1999, watched anxiously in auctioneering house in Timonium, as the auctioneer rattled off the artifacts for sale from the once and famous and now defunct Haussner's restaurant - weeks earlier a reigning queen at Eastern Avenue and Conkling streets. In the end the memories of thousands of lunches and dinners and of millions of dollars of artwork and 73 years of Baltimore times winds up in a ball of twine - on display in an antique shop on Fells Point.

Through the 1960s, the southeast corner of the tiny island, where Calvert street splits at Fayette, was where Abe Sherman’s famous but ancient newsstand—some called it a “shack”-- was located and very much a part of Baltimore downtown’s scene of bustle and grit. Hundreds of motorists would passing by would flip Abe a dollar or so and he would flip back a newspaper—he knew who got which. But civic forces wanted his old new stand removed and this is the story of the City Hall’s  and the local pigeons’ attack on his shack and how he beat them all!

Larry Adler

Feb 19, 2016

On the Saturday afternoon of June 2, 1928, about 40 boys and girls were on the stage of Baltimore City College high school, there to compete for the honor of being named the best harmonica player in Baltimore City. Among them was a young Lawrence Adler—who would go to win the contest and then to international fame on the world stage. On a return visit to his home town, in 1946 he made a confession about that earlier win in 1928 that would change the record book!

Harley Brinsfield

Feb 12, 2016

In the 1950s, long before there were carry out sub sandwiches at hundreds of places in Baltimore, there were Harley Sandwich Shops, maybe 40 of them, selling what Harley Brinsfeld claimed was the very first submarine sandwich ever. Almost around the clock people stood in line for a Harley Sub sandwich —except for one very popular singing star. This is the story of Harley’s famous sub sandwich, his sandwich carry-out shops, and one privileged guest who never had to stand line for her Harley sub.

Aquarium

Feb 5, 2016

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.

Number Writers

Jan 29, 2016

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…

It was on an afternoon in August 1914 when Dr. George Bunting stood at his worktable in his pharmacy 6 west North Avenue in midtown Baltimore mixing a container of equal parts camphor, menthol and eucalyptus. When the mix has reached the density of a cream Dr. Bunting began to pour the contents carefully into small blue jars labeled, 'Dr. Bunting's Sunburn Remedy". The cream sales were modest and largely unnoticed, until one day a customer came in and asked for it by describing its cure. And THAT is when this modest sunburn cream began its history to national prominence in the marketplace - under the name of NOXEMA - born in Baltimore . . .

Capone

Jan 15, 2016

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.

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