Saturday, February 27, 2010

Meetcha At Ameche's

The jingle for Ameche’s goes something like this:

“Meetcha at Ameche’s
Treatcha at Ameche’s
A powerhouse and
a chocolate shake!”

Baltimore Colts football player (1955-60) Alan Ameche owned this popular chain of four (or five) drive-in restaurants. There were locations in Dundalk, Glen Burnie, Pikesville and Towson. However some people swear to me that there was an additional one in Timonium. I remember that the Ameche’s in Towson (Loch Raven Boulevard actually) was rumored to have the hottest muscle cars in the area. As a satisfied Champs patron I never had the desire to drive to Ameche’s and ride around in their parking lot. Many people remember the Powerhouse hamburger sandwich with its special “No. 35 gourmet sauce.”

The previous description was written in 2004 when I first did the Ameche’s painting. Well a lot of black and white images have surfaced since then including this one which pictures the Ameche’s in Timonium. (photo courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library) It stood where the Nationwide Nissan car dealer is or was (not sure if it is still there) for years. I am surprised to see that the restaurant also sold Kentucky Fried chicken from the Colonel. But again as a west side gal we rarely left our quadrant to check out the competition in the north, south or east sides of Baltimore. It is just how it was in those days.

This little photo was taken at the Ameche's in Towson. Notice the goal post sign in the background?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Alpha Theatre, Susan Hayward and the Gas Chamber

Parents and children loved this art deco inspired movie house located at 725 Frederick Rd. in Catonsville, MD. It was truly a neighborhood theater which was within walking distance for many local residents. My best friend and I spent many Friday and Saturday nights there watching whatever fare was offered -- as long as it was approved by the Catholic Archdiocese. In those days the price for children’s admission was 25 cents. I remember a sign in the ticket booth window that said no babes in arms allowed. You can interpret that the way that you want. At the candy counter we loved to buy the Bonomo Turkish Taffy (vanilla flavor) which costs six cent more than anywhere else in town. After the movie started we would slam our Turkish Taffy on the arm rests of the old wooden seats to break it into bite-size pieces. Ah this was such an unpopular habit of ours with the grown-ups. They expressed their dismay by turning around in their seats and glaring. They probably preferred a quieter snack for us such as nonpareils. Now the previews they showed at the theatre often were not tailored to suit the audience. One day we went to see “South Pacific” and the “coming attractions” showed a very disturbing trailer for “I Want to Live” with Susan Hayward. I never, ever forgot the prison scene where, just after kissing her little baby boy good-bye, she went into the gas chamber--wearing high-heels. Even years later as an adult I had to spend many hours drawing and painting to come to terms with that image. I have included some of the drawings I did in the 1980’s while watching the movie on TV one morning. The Alpha closed in 1963 I think. It became a slot-car racing arcade for a while. It was a boys’ domain because according to code, “nice” girls never went inside this place. I did poke my head in one day. It was awful to see my beloved theatre so brightly lit and noisy. Today the building still stands without its artistic marquee.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gaslight Lounge - Route 40 West

Howard Johnson’s Motels usually included the famous HoJos Restaurant on their premises. However this one, located at 5701 Baltimore National Pike in Catonsville, MD, additionally offered a bar called The Gaslight Lounge. Most nights during the early 70’s it featured live music and dancing. The house band named The Cherry Smash, whose cute, blonde drummer often made the girls swoon, covered rock and soul music from the late 60’s and early 70’s. The patrons consisted of a funny and entertaining mix. On one hand there were the out-of-town businessmen in suits who might relax with a whiskey sour or Tom Collins after a day of meetings or sales calls. Of course there were a number of adult singles looking for a pick-up. And then there were the underage drinkers who carried false ID and breezed past the bouncer with great ease. We felt so grown up at the Gaslight Lounge as we sipped our Southern Comfort cocktails and dared each other to dance with the “older” men.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Catonsville Grocery Stores Remembered

All of this snow-panic food shopping has brought back some terrific grocery store memories for me. The old Catonsville, MD of my childhood boasted of four grocery stores on Frederick Road. They included the A & P by Newburg Avenue, the Acme near Egges Lane, the Food Fair next to the Midway Bar and Heidelbach’s which is now the Plymouth Wallpaper store. But the A & P was our favorite because they hired some of the cutest boys for baggers and cashiers. We loved to find an excuse to shop for our mothers just so we could legitimately see who was working that day. The other feature I remember about the A & P was the meat department. We always rang the bell at the meat counter and a lady would appear after sliding back the mirrored window. It was the only time I remember seeing ladies wearing pants at work in those days. The women, it was explained to me, did not wear skirts because the meat room was very cold. Heidelbach’s store was fabulous but shopping there was reserved for very special occasions. Their homemade mayonnaise was outrageously tasty among many other items. It was an authentic old-fashioned grocery store.The home of Mr. and Mrs. Heidelbach was located two doors down the street from us and on summer days they would often hand out treats to the children from their side door. The days of the neighborhood merchant are pretty much nonexistent, but now I treasure these thoughts especially during an unusually snowy winter.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Little Tavern - "Buy 'em by the Bag"

“Buy ‘em by the Bag” was the advertising slogan for this chain of hamburger joints. It is interesting how the mention of a bag of miniature hamburgers can stir up so many nostalgic memories in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. community. I hear stories with vivid details of the social rituals revolving around a bag of tasty burgers. A friend confessed to some juvenile high-jinx performed with the burgers in the 1970’s. He and his teenage friends occasionally drank beer late into the night and in their alcohol haze wandered into the LT and bought a “bag ‘o bombs” then promptly tossed them at passing cars. Last fall an elderly widower expressed his yearning for the return of the miniature burgers. To him they really hit the spot. When the Little Tavern on Holabird Avenue in Baltimore closed in 2008 it left a big void in his weekly dining-out adventures. He really misses the place. Others admit to consuming cup after cup of coffee as they whiled away the hours on a padded chrome stool at the tiny counter. In my memory the small buildings’ exteriors were a tudor style and yes the interiors were little as their name promised. However I have an assortment of some very early black and white photos, (thanks to a Baltimorean named Steve) which depict a suggestion of castle-style architecture. I have included one here. Don’t ask me about the location. Perhaps it was somewhere in the suburban D.C. area. According to legend the chain began to enjoy success around the late 1920s in the D.C. urban and suburban neighborhoods. It is impressive that they owned a fleet of delivery trucks which probably delivered, among other things, the linens for the drawers where the burgers were kept warm. To quell my craving for delivery trucks I chose to include one in my painting of the Little Tavern.