Sunday, December 5, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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:
Thursday, October 28, 2010
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 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
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
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.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
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
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 Libération...you 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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
digitally altered photograph
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
(18" x 24")
Sunday, March 28, 2010
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?
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!
Sunday, March 21, 2010
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.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
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.