Sunday, December 5, 2010


“Snowy December for Peter Witt”
oil on gessobord™ (24” x 12”)
Today when we saw some snow flurries while Christmas shopping, I immediately thought about streetcars carrying an over-abundance of riders at the height of the holiday season. I for one really miss the hustle and bustle of the crowds jammed into the buses and streetcars. During the month of December the regular riders were competing for seats with the package-laden shoppers who had spent their day buying gifts in all the stores and shops downtown. The big four department stores, Hutzler’s, Hochschild’s, Stewart’s and Hecht’s anchored the mobbed intersection of Howard and Lexington Streets. A white-gloved policeman was there to keep the pedestrians, cars and streetcars from colliding into each other. But at the end of the day which was perhaps punctuated by a lunch in Hutzler’s Quixie or the counter at Read’s Drugstore, weary men, women and children boarded their homeward bound streetcar hoping for a seat to rest their tired feet. It was a long ride with many stops but at this time of year there was always a view of holiday decorations and lights.
Some readers here may be wondering who the heck is Peter Witt? Well according to my fellow members at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum he was a Cleveland citizen who designed this forward thinking streetcar which was named after him. Its original purpose was to keep the streetcars running on time by using the center door as an exit only. An additional conductor sat near the center door until the depression came and that position was eliminated. But nevertheless these gorgeous cars kept on carrying passengers in all kinds of weather around Baltimore. But I think that the Peter Witt looks its best in the snow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


"Old Bay with Crab Wallpaper" 2010
oil on board ( 11" x 14")

Oh boy are we Baltimoreans possessive of our Old Bay seasoning! As far back as I can remember, it was coveted by just about everyone I knew. After all most of my friends and family loved to steam and eat the bountiful blue crabs of the Chesapeake Bay region. Gosh we were so proud to have the spice manufactured right here and equally delighted to share our secret with outsiders. Many families shipped the cheerful yellow tins to the less fortunate who lived outside the area where Old Bay was nowhere to be found. I seem to remember an air of mystery about the ingredients. My best, childhood-friend Charlotte, who still loves food, and I studied the box and considered duplicating the spicy seasoning. Somehow we never attempted this in either of our mothers' kitchens.

"Old Bay with Cherries" 2010
oil on canvas ( 16" x 20")

The original recipe was invented by a German immigrant named Gustav Brunn. According to the Old Bay web site, the original name was "Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning." It was wisely renamed "Old Bay" which was the name of the steamship line that had a huge building located on Light Street -- approximately where the Harborplace pavilion now sits.

"McCormick Seafood Seasoning" 2010
oil on board (8" x 8")

Of course in my personal collection of old spice tins, which are mainly the McCormick and Bee Brand products, I have an assortment of Old Bay and related tins. Here is an interesting observation assisted by memory. The 1950 container of " Old Bay Seafood Seasoning" features a crab, a shrimp and a lobster on the cardboard package. The lid is a gold colored tin. Baltimore Spice Company is given credit as the manufacturer. I remember that McCormick at the time had their brand of Seafood seasoning which was supposed to mirror the flavor of Old Bay. It was not popular around these parts for obvious reasons. The packaging was colorful and had a nice illustration of a red crab and some shrimp on the label. But to loyal Old Bay lovers it felt unreliable and uncool.

"Old Bay" 2010
oil on canvas (8" x 10")

Not sure when Old Bay decided to change the label from "Seafood Seasoning" to "Seasoning for Seafood, Poultry, Salads and Meats" but it is there on the shelf with its red plastic lid. (see it for yourself on your own pantry shelf - I rarely paint objects that are still available) I have read that in 1990 the Baltimore Spice Company let go of their precious Old Bay and laid it in the responsible hands of our McCormick and Company now located in Hunt Valley, MD. Thank goodness we still make this precious commodity right here on the outskirts of Crabtown. I shudder to imagine the uproar if ever the manufacturing of"our" beloved spice was relocated.

And here is a sample of one of my other spice tin paintings:

"Ginger, Allspice, Cream of Tartar" 2009
oil on canvas (11" x 14")

Thursday, October 28, 2010


"McCormick Factory" 2010
oil on canvas (22" x 32")

Most Baltimoreans reminisce about the 1989 exodus of the McCormick spice factory from Baltimore,Maryland's inner harbor. It was an olfactory overload to be in the neighborhood of the Light Street building and inhale the aroma of whatever spice they were making that day. During the Sunday drives of my childhood I often requested to include a pass-by of the giant white building with the huge spice tins on the roof top. It still gives me a thrill to remember the cheerfulness it added to the harbor with its jumble of sagging buildings, steaming ships and hulking boxcars. Today you can often get a whiff of the spices but in a different location. Just drive towards Hunt Valley, MD on I 83, roll down your window and breathe in the fragrance!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Old Commander Hotel - Ocean City, MD

“The Commander Hotel” 2008

oil on canvas (12” x 24”)

The long-gone, original Commander Hotel at 14th St. & Boardwalk was the scene of the first and last time I had to wear starched crinolines underneath my organdy dress while vacationing in Ocean City, MD. One day at the age of five I decided to leave our family’s apartment which we rented for half a season that summer. I wanted to join my grandmother at her elegant retreat on the boardwalk. There we took an afternoon nap prior to dining in the formal restaurant. In the days before air-conditioning we relied on sea breezes to cool us. The guests’ rooms had a latching louvered door for privacy so that air could flow freely throughout the hotel. The two foot gap at the bottom allowed me to eavesdrop on the activity in the hallway while pretending to nap before eating dinner in my best Sunday dress. Nana loved to live properly in public and so later we dined sitting up straight while using the correct flatware. After dinner we sat on the porch and rocked in the wicker chairs while watching all the families "walk the boards." The next morning I was glad to return to the chaotic apartment where I could wear my bathing suit and matching beach jacket as I had my lunch at the kitchen table. More than likely I was barefoot as well.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


"Ferris Wheel at Dusk" oil on board (18" x 24") 2005

At least five or more generations of the Trimper family have kept the amusement rides and arcades operating at the end of the boardwalk near the inlet in Ocean City, MD. Until recent times, the late Mr. Granville Trimper's antique ferris wheel was located next to the boardwalk across from the Life-Saving Station Museum. This gorgeous ferris wheel might be a much milder ride than the Zipper perhaps but it was hard to beat the view of the resort when perched on top while waiting for the operator to load another passenger below. It was fun to rock it back and forth ever so slightly as you circled around and around high above the din of the thousands of vacationers. I loved to hear the whirring sound of the mechanical gears as we swooped close to the ground and then up and away.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


"Viaduct Hotel - Relay, MD" oil on linen (18" x 24") 2006

How I wish I could have spent the night in this scary hotel in Relay, MD. This location first had a railroad terminal and in 1872-3 the hotel, built of Patapsco granite and trimmed in red seneca stone, was added. The two-story porch on the Patapsco river side gave guests a splendid view of the valley and the world famous Thomas Viaduct which is celebrating its 175th Birthday this year. The viaduct was designed by Baltimorean Benjamin Latrobe and named after the first president of the B & O Railroad Phillip Thomas. Engineers remark today that the viaduct stayed firmly in place during Hurricane Agnes in 1972 as well as in previous devastating storms. The hotel in my painting here was closed in 1938 when train travel began to decline. This marked a total of 108 years of uninterrupted service for this terminal. Sadly in 1950 the hotel was demolished. In 1964 the Thomas Viaduct was declared a National Historical Landmark. Today you can stand on the tracks by the viaduct and stare at the empty grassy space where this magnificent hotel once existed.
The Thomas Viaduct is being honored this year with many exhibits and celebrations. On July 5 of this year I attended the Friends of the Patapsco Valley's celebration commemorating the completion of the Viaduct on July 4, 1835. Although it was a very hot day in the Patapsco State Park, an abundance of people showed up for the wonderful exhibition with Civil War re-enactors, model railroad displays, and a wonderful performance by the men's chorus who sang Irish Railroad songs.

Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Morse at the Celebration on July 5, 2010.
The Men's Chorus singing Irish Railroad worker songs, July 5, 2010

A well built model showing the construction of the Thomas Viaduct.

Lots of model railroad displays during the day long celebration in Patapsco State Park, MD.

And the best is saved for last - one of several terrific models of my beloved Viaduct Hotel.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Baltimore's Block - Midway Bar

Baltimore’s “Block” was much larger in 1987 when this painting was completed. In those days I could walk and sketch up and down Baltimore Street at night for about 30 minutes before I knew it was time to leave. While the first floor of each building was brimming with activity I always wondered what the upstairs rooms were like. For example what would that pizza taste like if one had climbed the steps next to Charlie’s Tattoo parlor and asked for a slice? In all my visits to the Block I never entered any of the bars or clubs. I preferred to imagine the activities from the street.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

D-Day June 6, 1944

Utah beach at sunset, November 2009. Many of the booby traps set by the German army remain on display.

It is humbling at the very least to visit the Norman coast of France and stand on the beaches where the allies landed on June 6, 1944. The beaches are more often than not referred to by their wartime code names that include Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold and Sword. We call it the invasion, the French call it La Libé see they had already been invaded by Germany and now the allies from the United States, England, Canada and many countries arrived to stop the enemy. They were successful but at a great price. Over 100,000 soldiers and many innocent citizens lost their lives as this allied foothold in Europe was established. I doubt anyone has stood on these gorgeous, peaceful beaches and not imagined the horror that occurred in our parents' and grandparents' lifetime. The sacrifice was immense and is recognized daily by the towns such as St. Lo, Caen, Bayeux, Arromanches and many more. It is moving to see how many businesses and private french homes display not only the French bleu, blanc, rouge flag but they also fly the American red white and blue Flag. Visiting Normandie has forever changed the way I see life and death. When you tour the landmarks and museums you wonder over and over and over why make a war? No one wins it. Peace is the answer.

The Cemetery and Museum are on American soil within Normandy.

We were fortunate enough to be in Bayeux on Veterans's Day where the cardinal said a mass in honor of le Débarquement et Bataille de Normandie. Many countries were represented by the veterans holding flags in the ceremony.

Friday, May 28, 2010

9th Street Hangout - O.C., MD

So the car radio reports that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge traffic is backed-up today. This is normal for the start of the Memorial Holiday weekend. After all, our families in the greater Baltimore area have been going there for almost one-hundred years. I imagine this scene of 9th Street at the boardwalk in Ocean City, MD taking place around 1964. We were coming of age and it was our first summer to act cool playing the pinball machines. The Beach Club had its live “jam sessions” every weekend afternoon and that was the only time that summer when we did not hear “House of the Rising Sun” drifting into the salty air from the jukebox. Hess Apparel was on the corner though we were not yet appreciative of their tasteful fashions. However we did love the Alaska stand with its milk shakes and hot dogs for lunch when we were allowed that special treat. The big old George Washington Hotel was always a welcome sight because it marked our 9th Street hang-out at least for a few more summers.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Our relationship with the Charles Chips man began one day when he spontaneously pulled into our drive-way in his cheerful yellow truck and offered our family some samples of his wares. Who could resist those large yellow tins with the potato chips and pretzels painted on the labels? And these snacks were so exotic as to have been made in Pennsylvania! So we paid the deposit on the tins and about every two weeks our Charles Chip man kept us well stocked in chips and pretzels. We would trade him the old tin back for a new one with fresh chips and pretzels. What a tasty way to recycle.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Saying Good-bye to Vince

Our biggest contributor to this modest blog is no longer behind his keyboard. We lost Baltimore native Vince Spence, 61, in early May. He was a very generous and thoughtful man. And if you have read his posts you know he was naturally funny. A friend recently referred to him as a spark plug and I agree. I am going to miss him and his entertaining posts very much. Many knew Vince as the One-Eyed Golfer from his blog which he maintained with great professionalism and attention to detail. Not being a golfer myself I knew Vince as a Baltimorean with whom I shared memories of our bygone city. He loved to reminisce from a slightly quirky angle. He could usually add a "bad boy" observation to most of the roadside paintings presented. Beyond everything, the man knew how to use his precious gift for bringing comedy into peoples' lives. He usually made me laugh into my computer screen with his clever posts and e mails. The previous entry here about the Hilton Dairy Cottage was in direct response to a request from Vince. I hope he was able to read it. I know he remains with all of us in spirit. My sincere condolences to his loving family for whom he cared very, very deeply. Rest in Peace, dear man. You did it right.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The Hilton Dairy Cottage located on South Rolling Road in Catonsville, MD is one of the roadside stands that served the varying needs of locals in every age group. As a very young child I recall our family stopping by this wonderful stone cottage on our way home from Sunday drives in the city. They sold Delvale ice cream which in my father’s estimation was the best ice cream in Baltimore. Rocky Fudge was his favorite flavor and so it became my favorite, too. Later on as eleven-year-old youngsters out on our own, my best friend and I took badminton lessons on Sunday afternoons at the local public high school. We hurried through our lessons so we could visit the cottage to get ice cream cones as our reward. Ice cream seemed to be the major draw for us up to that point.

However, older students from the neighboring Catonsville Senior High used this place as their beloved hangout. Recently some former students bragged to me that they dined on coke, cigarettes and donuts for breakfast until 1969 when it closed. Others reported to me that the truant officer Mr. T would hide in the driver’s education car by lying down in the back seat and force the student and driver's ed teacher to turn into the cottage driveway while school was in session. When the driver's ed car pulled up to the “cottage” door, class cutting teenagers ran outside to give a cheery hello but Mr. T the truant officer popped up from the back seat and took names. It was a clever trick for him but the students had quite a different name for it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Chubby elves obsessively ate popcorn and licked ice-cream cones on the big screen during intermission at the Edmondson Drive-In on Route 40 West, Catonsville, MD. Watching the cartoon characters gorge themselves between films in the open-air prompted patrons to get in line for all kinds of fun snacks at the concession stand. Hot dogs, hamburgers, french-fries and big soft-drinks were purchased cafeteria style and carried back to the cars for consumption. After a night of fabulous food and flicks sometimes drivers would forget to detach the theatre’s speaker from their car window. It was always a big embarrassment when your date yanked the speaker from its post.
Another source of embarrassment for this blogger occurred when I was paged in the middle of the Steve McQueen thriller, "Bullitt." There was no proper way for the theatre manager to find someone other than to interrupt the film on the sound system and announce your name for all the movie watchers to hear. It never occurred to me that some trouble had happened at home. After all, who tells their parents they are going to the drive in on a date? I had a hunch that my girl friend was on the other end of the line. This friend would often track me down in public places. This time she was bored at home and wanted to know how my date was going. The pay off for this embarrassment was that I was instructed by the concession stand clerk to go into the projection booth to accept the call on the wall mounted telephone. The room itself was spare and modest. I think the floor was concrete but I am not sure. It was manned only by one projectionist. The experience was thrilling--seeing the huge flickering projectors and hearing the clicking of the gigantic 70mm reels. So I have to say thank you to my old friend for obsessing over my Saturday night date at the Edmondson Drive-In Movie.

Here's Steve performing his own stunt driving in "Bullitt."
vrroooommm vrrroooommmmm

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


'Elkridge Drive-In Movie Theatre - 1984"
digitally altered photograph


A serious “passion pit” is how this drive-in movie theatre on Route 1 in Elkridge, MD is remembered. A group of high-school girls from a neighboring Catholic prep school patronized the theatre on a semi-regular basis. The young women made a pact that if any of them happened to be there with their date on a Saturday night they should always make an appearance at 9 p.m. in the ladies’ room. Once assembled they would catch up on the latest gossip about each other's boyfriends and take inventory of their outfits for the night. Being out of their dreadful gray uniforms for the weekend was such a thrill that their social outing clothing included plenty of colorful Lady Bug mini-skirts, Villager sweaters, Bandolino flats, beehive handbags and whatever the Casual Corner and Hutzler Brothers stores were promoting that season. They really dressed more for each other than their dates, I think.
The men have different memories of the old Elkridge. I will ask now. How many boys did you pack inside the trunk of your father’s car while passing through the admission booth of a drive-in movie? I know the theatre received its share of these non-paying customers until it closed for good in the early 1980s. I have received numerous confessions from grown men who relish in the recounting of how they “got in for free” while sharing a dark, cramped space with other dare-devil boys from surrounding public schools such as Catonsville, Woodlawn and Glen Burnie. The Catholic school boys from schools such as Mount St. Joe, Cardinal Gibbons, Loyola, Calvert Hall and Archbishop Curley participated in this unlawful past time as well. I have never heard from any women who as girls, were asked to behave in such an unladylike manner.
My last check on the visual status of the theatre occurred in 1999. A sorry looking hole on the side of the road was all that remained of the behemoth drive-in. Conflicting stories of the Elkridge’s demise still survive. Some have said it was a bankrupt contractor’s deed while others blame nature’s fury. I tend to believe the couple who told me that a tornado ripped through in the late 1980s and tore a down the giant screen. Presently I have heard it is being developed but have not seen it myself.

"Elkridge Drive-In Admission Booth-1984"
digitally altered photo
"Elkridge Drive-In Concession Stand-1984"
digitally altered photo

Monday, April 5, 2010


"Koester's Bread Truck" oil on canvas
(18" x 24")
Will the real Koester’s Twin please stand up? Until this painting was completed in 2007 I had no idea how many people claimed to be the baby on the side of the truck. It is possible that many children auditioned for this job but it appears that only one or two really got the assignment, In my youth I assumed that these babies were girls. However to date no women have stepped forward in my presence to proclaim that they were the model. Only men of a certain age have sincerely declared to me their past claim to fame . What ever the motive or ad campaign was behind the logo I have to say it was a clever one. Not too many Baltimoreans raised in the 1950’s have no memory of these adorable, cherubic bread eaters.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Esskay Meat holds quite a bit of significance for many Baltimore families. Their meat plant covered a sizable portion of the east Baltimore landscape. ESSKAY - The S stands for William Schluderberg who started the company in 1858 and the K stands for T.J. Kurdle who in 1919 merged with the Schluderberg part to make S K...or ESSKAY. In addition to providing quality products, the company made meat an amusing commodity. They sponsored “Sam and Friends,” a children’s show on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.—that’s channel 4 for those who were lucky enough to get good tv reception in Baltimore. This was Jim Henson’s first TV show. It was five minutes long and loaded with his very early puppet characters. We watched regularly thanks to a good roof top antenna.

Esskay also used the illustration of the portly butcher on the Ocean City Clocks in the 1950’s and 60’s. Who did not meet their friends on the boardwalk under his watchful eye?

"Esskay Clock, Ocean City Boardwalk" oil on board (24" x 12")

Let’s not forget all the baseball hot dogs they have sold to the Oriole fans for many, many years. And I am looking here at their packaging in this layout. The color combinations are outrageous and work very well. I never knew they sold eggs or Hollywood lunch meat. But I did love their bacon and still do. We usually had our Esskay ham on Easter Sunday and the sausage links were served for breakfast regularly at our house. However I always preferred their bacon. There are also forgotten products like Skeat and Esko pictured here. And when is the last time you saw a can of lard in the regular grocery store? I have news for you. Lard makes cookies and pastries and all kinds of meat dishes delicious so don’t turn up your nose just dig in!

from the author's collection

Here's a recipe for German Potato Salad served with Franfurts that I found in their handbook dedicated to homemakers. It looks to me like the authentic version that my German grandmother made . After all Mr. Schluderberg and Mr. Kurdle were from the country that made German potato salad famous here in Baltimore. As we say en français - bon appetit!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


"Edmondson Village at Christmastime" oil on board

Edmondson Village Shopping Center in west Baltimore, MD was our destination when the ride downtown to Howard and Lexington was not necessary. It was a grand complex built in the architectural style of Williamsburg. In fact my grandfather’s company, Sorensen Construction Corporation, laid most of the bricks for the entire plaza which opened in 1947.

The shopping center at night.
It had a tone of fun and amusement but there was also an air of elegance to the stores and so we had to dress up to shop there. Not quite wearing our crinolines, but no shorts or pants were permitted. We always parked in the rear of Hochschild’s because it was shady in the summertime and rarely congested like the front lots were. The escalator ride to the second floor toy department was a joyful ascent. They had the Tiny Tears doll that I coveted in 1957 and I would often visit her and dream of being her nurse. The Tommy Tucker Five and Dime was another favorite spot for children. They had all kinds of toys and novelties that were affordable for just about everyone. I wonder how many paddle-ball sets they sold in one year? Near Tommy Tucker there was a snazzy French restaurant called Mischanton’s where my school classmates would meet for Saturday lunch when we were old enough to dine without our parents. It had the hustle - bustle atmosphere of a Parisian Brasserie.
Mischanton's Restaurant in Edmondson Village
Mishanton's kitchen seen from the outside window

At the other end of the stretch, in front of Hess Shoe Store, were the mechanical horses one could ride for five cents. If you yanked back on the reins, the horse would go faster. Of course just about everyone remembers Hess Monkey Town. I have written about it here before and so will include a link to on the painting of "Hess Monkey Town" to read more

And of course the gorgeous movie theatre was where we saw so many first run Disney films among others. There were many merchants displaying their wares and clothing. Some of them included Gammerman’s, Whalen’s, Food Fair, Reamer’s and many more that I need help remembering.
Edmondson Village at Christmas (source unknown)
Christmastime at Edmondson Village was almost indescribably special. Every year on Thanksgiving night they would throw the switch to power lights strung across the rooftops and over the trees that grew near the brick wall by the busy Edmondson Avenue. Santa, as I recall, was driving his reindeer on the roof of Hochschild’s. What a splendid sight for everyone to see. It brought gawkers from everywhere in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The shopping center changed with the times. There was unbridled blockbusting which undermined the area beginning in the 1950’s. W. Edward Orser has written an excellent account of the history of the area his book “Blockbusting in Baltimore: The Edmondson Village Story."

Saturday, March 13, 2010


"Hot Shoppes" oil on canvas, ( 24" x 18") 2005

Ah! the Hot Shoppes at Edmondson Village next to the Hecht Company was a “treat” destination for many west Baltimore families with children. It was strictly a cafeteria in my memory. There was no drive-in window as many of the ads and postcards proclaim. But it was different! Many have expressed to me that they loved the self-serve style of the cafeteria and the cheerful, social clatter of the patrons. A good friend confided to me that the reason she never ate there with her parents was because the Hot Shoppes did not have a liquor license. Her father enjoyed his glass of bourbon before an evening meal too much to make the sacrifice. Another woman told me that the reason the Hot Shoppes did not have a liquor license was because it was owned by members of the Morman church and they did not believe in such pastimes. I do not know about this at all but I have heard from many people that the man who eventually opened the Hot Shoppes started with some A & W Root Beer stands around the Washington, D.C. area. This man’s last name was Marriott. Now we all have been guests of his for a night or two at some point. Some of us may have consumed cocktails or gambled in his hotels perhaps.

People still rave about the “Mighty Mo” hamburger served at the Hot Shoppes restaurants. Recently someone gave me the recipe for the much revered sauce. I cannot say if this is the authentic version but it sure looks good to me. Bon appetit!
•1/2 cup ketchup
•1/4 cup chili sauce
•1-1/2 teaspoons A-1 Sauce
•1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
•2 drops Tabasco Sauce
•1/2 cup chopped sweet pickle
•1-1/4 cups mayonnaise

Combine ketchup, chili sauce, A1,Worcestershire and Tabasco . Add pickle to sauce mixture. Combine the sauce-pickle mixture with mayonnaise until well-blended. Store in a tightly covered container in refrigerator.

Postcard of drive-in restaurant from author's collection.

Back of postcard describing a "beautiful dining room" et cetera.

The kitchen at the Hot Shoppes at Edmondson Village.