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April 25, 2012

Seems Like Old Times Well, Almost

Norman M. Covert

I suppose I have fond memories looking back on street riots, demonstrations and other mayhem which have been a part of my career in journalism and public affairs. Looking ahead three weeks to the International G-8 conference scheduled at Camp David, one might decide against going to Thurmont for dinner May 18-20.


From a law and order perspective, the change of venue for the annual financial summit to Camp David in lieu of Chicago made that city’s mayor happy. Conversely, Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns is in the eye of the security storm, pondering the aftermath of expected mayhem.


A reprise of the lawlessness at previous G-8 conferences must be expected. Thurmont is in for a raucous time if the anarchists, communists, old hippies, outlaws and naïve college students show up. There aren’t enough outhouses and portable toilets to provide relief, so we know what that means.


Camp David’s location thwarts these mostly street-wise people, who don’t understand the fishing term “catch and release,” unless it refers to being arrested. Winding MD Route 77 represents a hazard for anyone crowding the two-lane roadway west. Rocky confines of Owens Creek lurk behind any daring souls.


Access will be denied on circuitous Park Central Road beyond the Catoctin Mountain Park Visitor Center, the usual precaution when the presidential party is in residence at Camp No. 3. Visitors beware that marines are humorless toward anyone who trips one of the motion sensors. The marines are always “locked and loaded.”


The “Daily Blather” did its bit last weekend to help recruit ‘Occupy Frederick’ activists for the Thurmont doin’s. “Our movement” had a nice inaugural wine fest in its shelters along Carroll Creek last October. Accepted dress was probably faded bell bottom jeans, beads and bling engraved with peace signs.


These old hippies mean well, being a little too long in the tooth for mayhem. A good Australian merlot from “Ye Old Spirit Shop™” appears the secret to a good protest.


Thurmont has been “here” before. Former President Jimmy Carter brought Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to Camp David in September 1978. All security hands and available venues were mobilized. Helicopters took off and landed at the elementary school parking lot, the American Legion became the press center and the Cozy enjoyed the crush of customers.


It turned out fine except that history has a way of reminding us that Carter’s triumph (the signed Peace Accord) is in tatters today, an “aw shucks!” postscript to the strained Middle East rapprochement.


Frederick County has had its share of presidential events. You have to go back to 1943 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt discovered the magic of Shangri-La as a retreat from the strains of World War II. The camp emerged from recovery efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It put men to work restoring Catoctin Mountain from the environmental devastation wrought by years of harvesting hardwood trees for charcoal production. It became FDR’s “Garden of Eden.”


British Bull Dog Prime Minister Winston Churchill was among the first state guests at Shangri-La, which became Camp David, so named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandson.


The City of Frederick saw President George H. W. Bush attend a couple Frederick Keys games and First Lady Barbara Bush did some shopping; Yes, and First Lady Michelle Obama also did some shopping here while the president was playing golf or something like that.


And who could forget President Richard Nixon came here in November 1969 to stop the offensive biological weapon research at Fort Detrick. Forgiveness is hard, but Frederick landed on its feet, and we are where we are today.


Who could forget the late one-of-a-kind Frederick News-Post photographer Skip Lawrence? He caused his own presidential mayhem with his Leica camera in May 1994. He photographed White House staffers and their chopper at Holly Hills Country Club. It didn’t have a good outcome for fired Clinton Aide David Watkins.


They were upstaged by President Abraham Lincoln, however, who spoke to a crowd of locals Oct. 4, 1862, from the rear of his Washington-bound train. I can’t avoid saying he got in his two cents worth (you see he’s on the penny as long as it lasts). The train was taking on passengers at the terminal on All Saints and South Market streets. Today it is the Community Action Agency and Soup Kitchen.


One would surmise concern for Mr. Lincoln’s safety was genuine. Frederick was a city of divided allegiance during that “late unpleasantness” and Confederate anarchists were lurking, “they” said. There were no incidents.


I cannot imagine anarchy in the streets of Thurmont, unless it was last fall’s Catoctin Colorfest. What a hoot. Hundreds of food and specialty vendors took part in the All-American party and cleaned up after themselves. The “Occupiers” stayed away.


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