Friday, January 29, 2010

I Sure Wish I Were in This Dog House

This building shaped like a dog really was the home of One-Spot Flea Killer located on Washington Blvd. in Elkridge, MD. People have more ideas about what they remember regarding this manufacturing plant. One or two people said that the dog's eye was a window and it winked at them. Perhaps they were referring to the 655 feet of neon lights that once outlined the letters on our itchy pooch. I remember the windows in the front and how they appeared to hang over the road. One man actually told me that there was a twin dog that faced this one from across the street. To date no one else has come forward with that thought. I do love hearing what imagery people believe that they saw. The building holds significance for me because a car ride past the “dog building” was offered as a reward for good behavior at home. In the days before interstate 95, all Baltimore teens who attended University of MD College Park had to drive past it on their way back and forth to their dorms. The grandson of the owner, Mr. Simpson, told me that a photo of the building appeared in Life Magazine. That clipping has not crossed my path. But I keep up the hunt. I did find a tin of the flea powder and did a small painting of it earlier this year. You have to love the sense of humor of Mr. Simpson. First of all he built this unusual building and then he printed advertising such as this postcard I found.
R U in the dog house? Yes? No?
My answer is I sure wish that were possible.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mr. G's Route 40 West

When the wind direction was right, the distinct odor of Mr. G’s fried onion rings wafted up your nostrils from his roadside stand miles away. On the corner of Route 40 West and Johnnycake Road in Baltimore, MD this modest building served its share of the billions and billions. On hot summer nights a long line formed with families who had piled the kids into the car for an ice-cream cone, hot dog or a slice of pizza. As I recall there was no place to sit down inside but there were picnic tables outside.. A variety of old-fashioned red and green neon signs directed the traffic flow on the parking lot. For a while Mr. G, who obviously loved signage, put a marvelous foot long hot dog painting on the side of his restaurant. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to get an impression of it in the 1980's. Within the last five years I read with great sadness about a fire that destroyed part of the current version of Mr. G's. But since then apparently it has been rebuilt and continues to serve its hungry customers.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


This little painting probably evokes, more than any other piece that I have done in my nostalgia series, responses from people of all ages. It's funny -- one night in 1988 I was sitting around trying to remember what that Hess Monkey Town window looked like and so I started to paint what was inside my head. I thought it would be a private painting just for me. I did not realize at the time how many people would need to see it, too. The painting and memory are based on a true story. The two little girls are myself and best friend Charlotte. We are wearing our school uniforms from Trinity Prep in Ilchester, MD where we spent our formative years side-by-side laughing at everything.

Crazy live monkeys provided the distraction barbers required to buzz the locks of junior while mother and daughter shopped in the adjoining Hess Shoes store. Located in Edmondson Village on Route 40 West in Baltimore, MD this store and barbershop made even buying saddle shoes for school entertaining. Children ascended carpeted steps to a ramp where salesman and parent observed at eye-level the little darling’s feet in motion. There was an X-ray machine (later rumored to cause poisonous radiation leakage) where you could view medical-like images of your feet inside new shoes.
One night after seeing “A Ticklish Affair” at the Edmondson Movie Theatre my girlfriend and I were waiting for one of our parents to pick us up and so we walked down to visit the monkeys in the window. We quickly realized that the monkeys were very interested in us and we began to taunt them. Before long we had them so stirred up that a lady, flashing a badge, warned us to move on. I will never forget the terror she instilled in us as she waved her wallet in our faces and promised to have us arrested if we persisted in laughing out loud and provoking the monkeys to hurl themselves at us. We meekly apologized walked back to stand in front of the theatre hoping that she would not pop out and and tell our parents about our bad behavior. I realized years later that she more than likely was not a detective or policewoman, but merely an animal lover who wanted the crazy monkeys to be calm. But from what I understand from the residents of the neighborhood, those monkeys were rarely peaceful.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Royal Dunloggin Farms at Bel-Loc Diner

Some days I am in awe of my good fortune. Last week I met my friend Nancy for breakfast at the Bel-Loc Diner in Parkville, MD. Since I love all things dairy in Maryland - imagine how elated I was to find this vintage milk machine sitting there behind their counter AND still in use! Talk about time travel. The diner opened in 1964 in an era when Royal Dunloggin was still in business and before it became part of the Royal Farm Store family. Well the experience sat so well with me that I had to share it here with some of my Royal Dunloggin paintings and stories, too.
The cows for the Royal Dunloggin Dairy used to graze in Howard County, MD. Sometime in the early 1960s a housing development sprung up on the land. It is not hard to find because it is still called Dunloggin today. However before the moo cows roamed the farm it was a forest that was cleared for lumber and when the owner was finished with that business he said he was “dunloggin’” and the land became a farm. Some of the early Royal Dunloggin Farms pint-size milk bottles are embossed with images of tree logs. This logo gives credibility to the story as it was told to me. The particular herd of dairy cows that gave their milk everyday for Royal Dunloggin was a very unusual, well-bred group. Our family had Royal Dunloggin delivered several days a week. And our milkman Mr. Ross was kind enough to get my cat out of the tree once, too.
The painting of the truck is really a tribute to Mr. Ross who so patiently tried to please my mother’s particular rules about how milk was to be handled. Another part of his route was to deliver milk to St. Mark’s parochial school in Catonsville. Everyone loved to see and hear him pull up in his Divco truck and bring in the white and chocolate milk for the students.
I collect Maryland dairy milk bottles and use them for inspiration while painting my milk trucks. This painting of the bottle here is from my collection. Instead of putting milk inside I mostly use the tiny Styrofoam pellets to simulate the white milk that I still drink every day from the current wax-paperboard containers. The clear plastic bottles are just not the same and honestly it affects the flavor of the milk.

oil on canvas and painted from my memory of Mr Ross our milkman

Sunday, January 17, 2010


During the 1960’s GTOs, MoPars, Vettes, Mustangs and even a talking VW Van paraded non-stop around Champ’s parking lot on Route 40 West in Catonsville, MD. Behind the wheel of these mostly muscle cars were characters with names like Tommy Torino, Cat Man, Lemonhead, Oil Can, Skins, Ida, Flash and Hands. (There were plenty more people who I forgot to mention and perhaps I will get some help with this.)
Occasionally sleek European models like Austin Healy or Ford Cobra made an appearance but American cars ruled during this era. The generous 55 cent burger rightfully named the Big Champ was ordered from the driver’s seat through a speaker mounted on a tray in each parking space. Night after night the same dedicated waitress with chipped red nail-polish delivered your meal often with a side order of cigarettes. It could be bitter cold and she would still tromp out to the cars and set the food on the metal tray. She kept the change in her tired, saggy apron and she also kept an amazingly good attitude. Recently a friend brought to my attention the Long Champ. As I recall it was on a sub shaped roll layered with warm ham and some sort of special dressing. I think it was around 70 cents. So for those who tired of burgers they could always order a Long Champ instead.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Vernon's Roller Rink - Catonsville

My strongest memory of Vernon’s Roller Rink located on the outskirts of Catonsville, MD is going there at the age of ten with my first boyfriend from St. Timothy’s dancing class. We met at St. Tim's as Mr. Pinkerton, our ballroom dancing teacher, played his Guy Lombardo records and shouted-out the foot movements above our heads.
"Back on the Left
Back on the Right
Side Step
Feet Together"
On our first date to Vernon's I wore a short, red corduroy skating skirt with a white satin lining. I felt like a movie star that day. It was the only time I saw Charlie not wearing his McDonough Military School uniform. We rented our skates which had wooden wheels and laced above our shins. Charlie and I had had plenty of practice being a couple on the dance floor so this was just another venue for us to be partners as we glided around and around in circles on the wooden roller rink. We took several breaks so that we could visit the snack bar and have a treat or two. When the date was over his mother picked us up in her powder blue Buick and took us home.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Scary Summer Thoughts on a Cold Winter's Day

All the cold weather here in Crabtown has forced my mind to turn to summer. While trying to recall the more unusual sights and smells of those gorgeous days in June my thoughts clicked-over to the sound and smell of the cicadas. The “17 Year Locusts” is our affectionate name for them. In 2004 they crawled from underground again to invade every garden and playground for several weeks. Thousands of bullet-like holes pierced through the soil making us wonder how many more were dwelling beneath our feet. Beady, red eyes stared at us from every tree, shrub and plant. Their persistent hum gradually became a loud buzzing chorus as they matured, mated and died while their offspring bored back into the soil and plotted a return invasion. They left us crunchy carcasses which clung to everything outdoors including our children and pets. And then there was that pungent odor they left in the air. I attributed it to death and sex.

Too young to remember them in 1953, their visit during the summer of 1970 almost did permanent damage to my emotional state. My summer job at that time was for Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company at 5711 York Rd. Everyday at 5 p.m., as I headed west towards home on Northern Parkway, I prayed they would not attack me. My little Ford Maverick had no air conditioning and so I drove with the windows wide open even though I believed that the locusts swarmed around my little car. I just knew they were waiting to get me. One evening while waiting for the red light at the intersection of N. Parkway and Reisterstown Road my nightmare became reality. A locust flew into my car, clipping my face, sending me scrambling and screaming out the car door in a panic. The rush hour traffic had no patience for my dramatics and so I shamefully got back into my car and finished the sweaty drive home with all the windows rolled up. Mercifully the next time our locusts visited in 1987 I was half way around the world in Tahiti. And in 2004 I was finally grown-up enough to tolerate and even enjoy their short presence.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hey, It Snowed

So beautiful snow covered the ground while we slept last night. It brings a feeling of peace to me. I don't believe the people who say they hate snow. I think they dislike the inconvenience that the white stuff brings...the shoveling, clearing off the car, closing of schools and panicking at the grocery store. People fear being shut away in their houses perhaps. Prior to 1963 I think the streetcars probably kept things moving in Baltimore. They had the sweepers to clear the tracks and no salt was poured on our roads and consequently washed into the Chesapeake Bay. I will bet there were fewer school closings when students rode the the streetcar to school. It was fun to stand and wait in the snow. There was plenty of fluffy, white scenery to enjoy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gino's Planning a Comeback

This news just came my way... Apparently the Gino's chain of hamburger restaurants is making a comeback this year. Now this is good news for so many people who have stopped by my booth at shows to tell me about their wonderful memories of working, eating or just hanging there. Everyone's taste buds are aching for the Gino Giant...that's what they tell me. Now we might be able to dine on it again.
Read about it for yourself

Monday, January 4, 2010

Delivery of Baltimore Truck

"Delivery of Baltimore Truck" oil on canvas (12" x 16")

The phrase “charge and send” used by Baltimore shoppers in Hochschild-Kohn, Stewart & Co., Hutzler Brothers and Hecht’s department stores was the first step toward getting free home delivery. I think Hess Shoe store and perhaps Hahn’s used this service as well. The packages always arrived the next day and sometimes the same day to the delight of both urban and suburban families. The most exciting times of the year for me to see the green truck were during the months of October after a shopping spree at Hutzler’s “Occasion Extraordinaire” sale and of course December. The driver practically wore a rut in our driveway during those days. These pleasant delivery men never had time to chat or dawdle. In order to maintain their efficiency they kept on the move knowing where to leave the packages when the customers were not at home.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hutzler's Parking Garage

The Hutzler's book by Michael J. Lisicky has to be one of my most treasured gifts left under the Christmas tree. I feel like it was written just for me. I was carried back to a splendid part of my youth as I poured over the text and photos. Mr. Lisicky does an excellent job telling the stories about this family-owned department store rooted in Baltimore. I adore the contributions by Jacques Kelly, too. The book made me remember how our trips to the Howard Street Palace started and finished in the Hutzler's Parking Garage on W. Mulberry Street. I recall having to wear my organdy dress, crinolines and patent leather shoes before we piled into the green Studebaker for a day of downtown shopping. The garage entrance on Mulberry St. was where my excitement interspersed with a bit of boredom started. Sometimes the line of cars approaching the garage was so long that we were backed-up down Mulberry. Finally when it became our turn to pull inside, a man waved for us to drive up the circular concrete ramp so that we could hand-off the car to another attendant and begin our shopping. The first stop was the toy department but strictly for browsing.

The return to the garage at the end of the day brought lots of waiting. Children stood outside the glass enclosed office while weary mothers queued up behind the wooden counter to pay for parking and retrieve their purchases. (One of Hutzler's many thoughtful services included the salespersons sending your purchases to the garage.) While wishing there was a place to sit down, there was lots of time to ponder the mysteries of this dark echoing cavern which seemed to have a nonstop stream of cars being returned to customers. The valets paraded the cars down the ramp and then disappeared before reappearing with another car. Where did they go? Well I found out eventually that the attendants rode a continuously moving lift which was described to me as a big vertical chain with large bolts for steps on which the men grabbed a footing and then rode up to get your car. At final departure, as we were seated in the car, my mother was instructed to blow her horn as she rounded a blind curve to exit the garage. Of course I always wanted to press the horn for her. HONK HONK !

If you want to buy the book Greetings and Readings has it here.