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.

“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.

Twistin

Jan 8, 2016

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 . . . 

Eggnog

Jan 1, 2016

New Year's Day is, typically, the day Baltimoreans make the round of parties, where they are invited to partake of generous servings of eggnog. Some will remark that the eggnog one enjoys these days is not as good as the eggnog they used to enjoy here in Baltimore, they are right. From the 1930's through the 1950's the traditional eggnog most Baltimoreans partook on New Year's day was Hendler's - made with pure rum. This is the story of that Baltimore tradition.

White Christmas

Dec 25, 2015

  Baltimore has not seen an Irving Berlin "White Christmas" since 1966. Since, the city has had a lot of teasing snows on Christmas Day - snows of sorts but none a White Christmas snow. But in 1966 the city saw nine inches of snow - none since. So if you were hoping to wake up this morning, Christmas Day 2015 to a White Christmas you were disappointed. Maybe next year! Merry Christmas.

Baltimore Red

Dec 18, 2015

During WWII Volunteers stationed in the watch towers through the area peered through field glasses day and night looking for enemy aircraft, But day after day and night after night no aircraft was spotted - until one dawn late in 1943 a spotter thought he saw "a squadron of German Messerschmitt's flying due south at 2 o'clock." What the spotters really saw were not Messerschmitt's at all. What did they see?

Last Ride on the No. 8

Dec 11, 2015

Streetcars had been running on the streets of Baltimore for 104 years, when the decision was made by the city fathers to replace them with busses. The last streetcar run was the 4:40 a.m. on the morning of November 4, 1963 - the Number Eight, Towson to Catonsville. Souvenir hunters crowded aboard for the last ride, and at the end of the line, at 5:25 a.m., all disembarked - and all took souvenirs of the car with them - signal cords, window frames, light fixtures. This is the story of the last souvenir of the last ride of the last run of the last streetcar to run in Baltimore.

Anne Wiggins Brown

Dec 4, 2015

A gifted African American young lady from Baltimore, while studying voice at Julliard in New York, is fortunate enough to earn a part in George Gershwin's operetta - "Porgy" - as it was in rehearsal. After he audition , George Gershwin renames the operetta "Porgy and Bess," in recognition of her talent. When the show opened Ms. Brown not only was given the lead role as Bess, when the show opened on Broadway she sang the immortal "Summertime" and changed the history of American music.

Limplighters Ball

Nov 27, 2015

On the night of September 1, 1978, in the darkened ballroom of the Belvedere Hotel, a capacity crowd was watching a lone couple dancing in the dark. The male of the couple was Walt Lindeman, in his late 80's, and his dancing partner, his daughter. Mr. Lindeman was the last of the hundreds of former lamplighters, who in their era, before the 1950s when they were electrified, went neighborhood to neighborhood, climbing up the lampposts and lighting and extinguishing the gas lamps. When the gas lamps went out so did the era. This was the last dance in remembrance of the last gas-lit lamp in Baltimore.

Parade Commotion

Nov 20, 2015

In 1932 the city's traffic commissioner Bevery Ober did what he should never had done in Baltimore - he announced a change. He said that the start of the Annual Thanksgiving Day parade would be moved back from 2:30 to 11:30 - citing the congestion when at 2:30 the traffic from the City-Poly game was causing wild traffic jams his staff could not handle. But Baltimoreans were furious at the change and police commissioner Beverly Ober was close to being the only Police Commissioner ever to start a riot.

In the heart of the Great Depression, Baltimoreans looked to escape from its harsh realities by going to the movies, in particular the Century Theatre. There, an organist named Harvey Hammond, seated at the huge Wurlitzer organ, conducted sing-a-longs. The audience "followed the bouncing ball" on the silver screen, singing their cares away. But the sing-a-long came to an end and life in the real world began anew.

Ellis Lane Larkins

Nov 6, 2015

Thursday, December 12, 1935: In an auditorium of Douglas 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 eleven year old boy named Ellis Lane Larkins, who then played a piano concert, a waltz by Moszkowski . At the same time across town at the Lyric, the great Rachmaninoff was also giving his own performance. A Sun review next morning held that Rachmaninoff was not at his best that night. The review failed to notice that across town in the auditorium of Douglas high school, Ellis Lane Larkins was... The story...

Ain't the Beer Cold

Oct 30, 2015

On a night when Chuck Thompson was broadcasting Oriole baseball, he single handedly changed the history of baseball broadcasting. For years leading up to this one night whenever the Orioles would find themselves in a favored position --bases loaded with one out and cleanup hitter coming to bat---at such heady moments Chuck would send, with unbridled joy through WBAL’s 50, 000 watt coverage, from Pennsylvania through the Carolinas, his signature comment for such moments, “Ain’t the beer cold!” But broadcasting on a night in 1970 he came to such a moment—and didn’t use the line. Ever again.   This the story of why.

In 1939, Baltimore was known is show-biz circles as a "tryout town." One of the shows trying out, on the stage of the Hippodrome Theater, was called , Hollywood Stars in Review," MC'd by Louella Parsons, the famous Hollywood gossip columnist. In the review, trying out in Baltimore was a petite brunette named Jane Wyman - an a handsome, All-American type named Ronald Reagan. As things would work out, Ronald Reagan would go on to Hollywood and political stardom - not withstanding that in his try-out in Baltimore, he bombed.

Wrestling

Oct 16, 2015

In the 1950's wrestling was very big in Baltimore - and not just for the little bit of actual wrestling that went on but because of all the show-biz that accompanied it. At one of the matches a wrestler names Gorgeous George was wrestling Wild Red Berry, when it appeared that the referee was suddenly splattered with blood. Or was it blood? What is was, was surprising - but the promoters claimed that they were giving the fans what they wanted. Whatever that red stuff was  

Jimmy Wu

Oct 9, 2015

In 1946, a 25 year old James Fong Wu who has arrived in Baltimore at age four from Canton China, opened a Chinese restaurant at 2430 N. Charles Street, the New China Inn but which would come to be know as Jimmy Wu's. The going was hard, but one day after he had closed the restaurant for the long day, he sat down to eat his own Chinese dinner - complete with a fortune cookie. The fortune cookie read, he told friends, "you will have a long and successful life in the restaurant business." Which he did - all predicted by a fortune cookie.

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