After listening to and seeing endless political advertising and chatter on TV and in newspapers, at age 85 I long for a return to the peace and quiet of the good “ol’” days when there was no television, radio talk show hosts were friendly, and printed media avoided controversy.
And yes, families had time to relax in their homes instead of grabbing a meal and hurrying to a meeting. In the days when there were fewer cars, family members walked to nearby places, or if they could afford it, took a bus on the Blue Ridge lines.
I can remember our first television with a screen of about 6 inches. The family would gather on chairs placed around it and strain to see the screen. Winston Churchill, a British statesman with that big cigar stuck in his mouth, blared out into the room with a cloud of smoke from his stogie hovering in the background.
Nor can I forget President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his wheelchair, his hat on his head and glasses in place. He seemed to always have a cigarette holder in his mouth, releasing another cloud of smoke.
In those days, the highways ran though town. To get to “Shangri-la,” the original name of what is now Camp David, the president and his guests rode through Frederick. On one trip, Roosevelt and Churchill traveled together in a limousine. The prime minister wanted to see the Barbara Fritchie House. At the Square Corner, a local police officer was directing traffic and was completely perplexed when the president’s motorcade left its planned route.
At the Barbara Fritchie house, Churchill with cigar in mouth, got out. The president edged out of the car as far as his legs allowed. Then to everyone’s surprise, Churchill began to repeat the “The Ballad of Barbara Fritchie,” all 60 lines as written by John Greenleaf Whittier. He had memorized every word.
Years later, the cop at the corner of Market and Patrick streets was a busy man directing a large flow of traffic in all directions. Sometimes he was not very discrete. One day, a large car approached from the south, and the policeman threw up his hand, blowing his whistle for the car to stop, but it continued slowly forward with Frederick’s finest motioning, shouting and whistling for the car to stop. Finally a voice from the limo told the driver to stop.
The policeman recognized the voice. It was President Truman on his way to Camp David. The frustrated man in blue knew he was in trouble, and so he jumped aside, motioning for the president’s car to quickly move through the intersection, giving a hand salute.
The story reached the ranks, and the policeman, who was just doing his job, received salutes from his fellow cops.
The kids of Frederick were rarely without entertainment. They had three movie theaters to go to, all located in our safe downtown. There were two drugstores serving sodas and sundaes.
Adults visited the city often, too, buying from a choice of stores. Sears and Montgomery Ward were near the Square with J.C. Penney a block away, as were Hendrickson and Bennetts.
There were lots of restaurants. In those days, the only national hamburger chain in town, The Little Tavern, was on East Patrick Street near the Square. Around the corner on Market Street was White Star Lunch. Sheeley’s, a confectionery and ice-cream shop, was one door from the Square on West Patrick Street and filled with customers. Mack’s on Market Street above 5th Street was usually filled with Hood College students and teenagers.
Yup, those were “the good ol’ days” when the pace of life was slower. Oh, for a return to those days.
Paul Gordon, a local historian, was mayor of Frederick from 1990 to 1994. Reach him at email@example.com.