Birthdays, Defenders Day and Memories
I write this column on my birthday, 40 years of living, working, playing and just enjoying being in Frederick County. The first 40 years were great in Frederick County, and I’m really looking forward to the next 40 with my wonderful wife, Karen, and my kids.
My birth date of September 13 is shared with some famous people, such as Milton Hershey and John J. Pershing. Go ahead and google those names for an interesting history lesson.
And as my mother reminded me on the radio the other day, I was born on a state holiday. Defenders Day for years has been a legal holiday in Maryland. It commemorates the successful defense of the City of Baltimore on September 12, 1814, from an invading British force during the War of 1812. And, as we all know, that defense of Fort McHenry lead to the writing of the Star Spangled Banner as our national anthem, by Frederick County native son Francis Scott Key.
In 1814 following the burning of Washington, a British force commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert Ross landed north of Baltimore and began an advance on the city. He was met almost immediately by a detachment from the Baltimore Garrison lead by American Gen. John Stricker, commencing the Battle of North Point.
The resulting halt of the larger British force allowed Baltimore to organize its defenses against the later naval invasion. It was during this conflict, the Battle of Baltimore, that Fort McHenry was shelled by the British but refused to surrender, and inspired Lawyer Key, to compose the poem that later became our national anthem.
My mother reminded me of the significance of Defender’s Day (not just because it’s my birthday), and made me reflect on how we never hear it mentioned any more today.
I’m thinking about a number of other “highlights” of my first 40 years in Frederick County.
The first is watching the all-time winning public high school basketball coach, Tom Dickman of Thomas Johnson High School. He has moved on to now coach the men’s team at Hood College after many high school titles and some historic battles against DeMatha coach, Morgan Wootten. Today that is just a memory to some of us who wanted to pay for a banner to be hung in the TJ gymnasium to honor Coach Dickman, but our request was denied by the county school system.
I also remember growing up at a time when almost every local basketball court was filled on Sunday night with players of all ages. I also remember that you could find a pickup game pretty much whenever you wanted to. Today, various leagues have replaced this as many courts are now empty during the day and night. All of our children’s recreation today seems to be organized, and it has lost the spontaneity that many of us enjoyed during our formative years.
I’m also thinking about Scotty’s Bus, a local sandwich bus that served hot dogs and beef sandwiches with some incredible ice tea. Words of wisdom, a scolding or an insult would be included at no charge by Scotty, and that was part of the experience. If you didn’t like it, Scotty welcomed you to go somewhere else.
But few people took him up on his offer, as lines would form each day that trickled outside the bus and down the sidewalk. The blue bus on Route 355 has succeeded Scotty with good food, but without the running commentary. I think it would be a good business plan for the owners to pay Scotty to sit in a lawn chair out front and give the added flavor that we all enjoyed along with our hot dogs.
I will always miss the Snow White Grill’s mini hamburgers and the White Star hot dogs. Thirty years ago who would have known that “sliders” would be all the rage. Doc Geiser is doing his best to keep this part of Frederick lore alive. And Mike Tauraso has kept the Freeze King going up on North East Street in Frederick, and he is serving up great food. I will always miss my Aunt Lucy’s ham sandwiches.
I am also thinking today of Skate Haven and the Frederick Putt-Putt on Thomas Johnson Drive, which was a local hangout for many of us TJ kids.
These are just some of my memories growing up without cell phones or iPods or having to give my Mom an itinerary of where I would be every minute of every day. As long as I was home by the time the street lights came on, everything was cool.
Frederick was – and still is – a great place to live and I love to ride around today and share with my children and wife the many great memories I have had growing up here. Where has the 40 years gone?