Gil Sandler's Baltimore Stories | WYPR

Gil Sandler's Baltimore Stories

Odds Maker

May 18, 2018

On the afternoon of October 22, 1933 something unusual was going on at the Pimlico 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 11, 2018

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.

"Mimi" DiPietro

Apr 27, 2018

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 20, 2018

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 13, 2018

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 5, 2018

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 2, 2018

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.

Black Aggie

Mar 30, 2018

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.

Black Aggie

Mar 29, 2018

Dr. Morgan Pritchett and his cemetery experience with "Black Aggie" as part of his fraternity initiation.

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 Sun paper on the morning of October 1964 to read this modest announcement. "Each city recreation center will be conducting a Yo Yo contest." 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 (Encore)

Mar 9, 2018
Steven Depolo/flickr

Haussner's

Mar 2, 2018

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!

Harley Brinsfield

Feb 16, 2018

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.

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.

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