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As Long as We Remember...

October 15, 2003

Coffee Hour At The Village Restaurant

Joe Volz

O.K, I admit I am the new boy in town. I moved to Frederick a year ago.

So, when the gang at the Village Restaurant at the Square Corner welcomed me into the informal coffee group, which meets every morning promptly at 9:45, I was delighted.

I am still a bit wet behind the ears. I am only 68 and I suspect there are only a handful of coffee clubbers that young although we do have periodic visits from Blaine Young, ex-Mayor Ron Young's son, and he's a thirty something. Blaine runs a popular Saturday morning radio show at, is it WFMD, I get the call letters mixed up?

Another coffee clubber, Bob McCardell is just about three times Blaine's age and is probably the oldest member.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must say that the proprietor of this website, John Ashbury, the local renaissance man who writes history, news articles and manages properties, all with equal enthusiasm, is one of our club regulars. (I don't think I have any ethical problem writing about John because I do not stand to reap any financial rewards for extolling his virtues. John does not pay us writers and seems inordinately proud of that fact.

He lets you know exactly how he stands on every local issue. John is a regular on the "Pressing Issues" show broadcast Wednesday nights on Adelphia 10 and when he is not on it, he calls in to harass the other participants.

Once in a while, somebody in the coffee group gets particularly irked at some of John's views that consist of assaulting the Historic District Commission, which he calls the Hysterical District Commission, or Mayor Jennifer Dougherty whom he thinks is, well, a petty tyrant.

Then, the suggestion is made that we should re-locate the sessions from the Village, up West Patrick Street to Jennifer's Restaurant. John, on a matter of some principle or other, doesn't like to go to the place.

Well, Marvin Lohr wants to sell the Village so we may be looking for a new place soon. We have some pretty unique requirements, though. Jennifer would have to open up at 9:45 for 45 minutes and she cannot expect more than $1.35, including tip, from each of us. We just drink coffee. No food.

On the other hand, most places are not exactly overcrowded at that time of the morning and the way we figure it, any customers are better than no customers.

Jennifer is very business oriented and may not see it that way.

I find the coffee club a lot of fun, sort of like those old chats around the cracker barrel in small-town America a century ago. Or so I'm told.

The last time I participated in something like this was at a coffee shop in South Bend, Indiana, where the lads would meet regularly and some even brought their wives who sat their mutely, and no doubt wondered why they showed up, as the men rehashed World War II or yesterday's Chicago Cubs game.

We don't bar women in our group but they seem a little smarter, or a little less tolerant, than South Bend women and don't bother to come. Oh, there is one businesswoman, a gregarious effervescent person, who does arrive regularly on Saturdays, but I am not quite sure why.

Gerontologists tell us that men don't do as good a job at sharing their feelings as women do. And in later years, particularly if men are widowers, they seem to become more isolated, less likely to get together with their peers.

Well, those ivy-covered researchers ought to come to the coffee club. These gentlemen are very good at sharing their feelings, if not around the table, then later on, on a one-on- one basis. Some of the bonds of friendship extend over half a century.

It may take a few years before I am truly part of the group. They kid me that I will be on probation for the next 10 years or so. I know they don't mean it. I'll probably pass probation in no more than five years.

Having moved up from Washington, where everything is a power struggle and you only socialize with people who can help you move up the social ladder, I am amazed at the fact that this club, if you want to call it that, has no rules. Or agenda. Or even a name. And, of course, no officers.

The coffee sessions began almost half a century ago when then-Police Chief Charles Main and some downtown businessmen decided to take time out for a cup of coffee.

We talk about anything that comes to mind-relatives, businesses in town-maybe a little bit of politics if Mr. Ashbury is in attendance. There seems to be an abundance of misguided Ravens fans in the crowd, who don't recognize the existence of the Washington Redskins. Fortunately, I found a fellow Redskins fan, Bud Radcliffe, a retired banker.

Although most of the men were prominent in the city's affairs over the years-regular attendees include former mayor Ron Young --they don't pretend to have any political clout.

John Insley, who owned a shoe store in town, found that out a couple of decades back. He went to the coffee meeting because "I was running for alderman and figured I could get a few votes."

"He came to the wrong group," one coffee clubber recalls. "We weren't much help."

Mr. Insley lost the election a decade or two ago, but has been coming to the coffee club ever since.

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