Don’t Eat the Turd Tomatoes in Baltimore!

Sewage Overflows Feed a Garden of Troubles

By Tom Pelton (WYPR, 9/30/2014)

Killer_tomatoesOn a road in Baltimore, from a gap in the pavement near a manhole cover, grows a tomato plant. Green roma tomatoes dangle like Christmas tree bulbs strangely out of place beside a steel guard rail. Nearby, just west of Falls Road near the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, several more unruly tomatoes and a squash plant rise and twist amid sewage smells beside an eroded section of the Jones Falls bike trail. David Flores, the Baltimore Harborkeeper, has a theory about the origin of this well-fertilized garden flourishing on the banks of the Jones Falls. It grows out of sewage.

“It’s not guerrilla gardening. It’s not some intrepid city dweller who is planting tomatoes and squash plants in open spaces here and there,” Flores said. “These are actually seeds that entered into sanitary sewer system. And because of these sewer overflows, just a couple of feet away, the seeds have come up out of the sewer system and deposited here in this grassy area next to river and germinated and grew tomatoes that I wouldn’t touch let alone eat.”

Read more and listen at WYPR.

Visit us at

Tags: baltimore

Highlandtown Pissed Off Over Mattress Saturation

Not another mattress store, say residents

(The Baltimore Guide, 9/24/2014)

“We are super tired north of Eastern.”

This was one online explanation offered for the proliferation of mattress stores in the Highlandtown and Baltimore Highlands neighborhoods.


Message-board wisecracks aside, some residents feel that there are enough mattress vendors, and the area doesn’t need one more. Yesterday, after press time, Ronald Rinehart was scheduled to appeal to the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals to use a portion (unit 1B) of the property at 3243-49 Noble St. as a bedding and furniture store.

Rachel Timmins, president of the Baltimore Highlands Community Association, says that the majority of the officers in BHCA are opposed to the use of that property as a store that sells mattresses.

“I am personally opposed because, for one, we have a major mattress dumping issue,” Timmins said.

… Data from Americorps National Civilian Community Corps members, who surveyed alley dumping in Highlandtown and Baltimore Highlands in May and June, shows that discarded mattresses were indeed found in alleys, particularly in Baltimore Highlands in alleys near Esther Pl. and Baltimore St.

Timmins said that she recently had an “enormous pile,” including four mattresses and two sofas, picked up from behind her own residence.

Continue reading at The Baltimore Guide.

Visit us at

Tags: baltimore

True Detective Stories from the Annals of the Maryland Police

28 Articles by Alexander Gifford in the “Baltimore News-Post” and “Baltimore American” from April 13-June 3, 1936

In the spring of 1936, legendary reporter-broadcaster Alexander Gifford selected 28 of the most sensational turn-of-the-century crime stories culled from Baltimore and Maryland police files, and published them as part of a true crime series in the now defunct News-Post and Baltimore American newspapers.


Crime doesn’t pay, but it stays – at Pratt Library

Only one copy of a book made from the original clippings that comprised Gifford’s series exists and that reference-only title, True Detective Stories from the Annals of the Maryland Police, resides at the Enoch Pratt Free Library/State Library Resource Center. It was compiled in 1938 by members of the Enoch Pratt Free Library staff but remained largely unknown and virtually untouched in the stacks of the library’s Maryland Department for decades.

Almost 70 years later, the Maryland Department staff dusted off the book, researched old and worn microfilm, and reformatted the articles to recreate copies of what the staff called “the stories that must have thrilled Baltimore readers during the era of the Great Depression.” The new edition’s preface adds, “Pieced together much as a kidnapper’s ransom note, the stories have been painstakingly laid out in the order the crime series appeared in the News-Post.”

On October 8, 2007, the library presented a copy of Gifford’s series to “our friend and supporter” John Waters, when Baltimore’s famous filmmaker-author-and-true crime aficionada was the featured guest speaker at Enoch Pratt’s Staff Day. From the looks of the custom-made copy currently available in the Maryland Department, Waters may have returned the book to Pratt for safekeeping – and for the reading pleasure of future generations of true crime fans.


If It Bleeds, He Reads: John Waters gets carded at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Though he made his name as a political writer covering Governor Huey Long’s administration for the New Orleans Times-Picayune before coming to Baltimore, Alexander Gifford proved himself to be a great story-teller when it came to recounting sensational crimes, and his series covered everything from elaborate bank robberies and arsons-at-sea to gruesome hangings and ax murders. His prose is at once elegant and engaging, as in this opening to the story of the “Torch Murder On the Bay”:


“The hand of Fate, that goddess who snips the thread of life, seems to destroy just at the moment when the sister god, Fortune, is smiling most brightly.

Captain Oliver Caulk, of St. Michael’s bought at fine cargo of oysters to Baltimore, added $200 to his “roll” and smiled delightedly as he put out on the bay again with a full cargo of shingles.

“Luck is with us,” he cried to his mate, the Negro, Frank Collier.

And suddenly, Snip! went the shears of the goddess Fate – and Caulk and Collier never returned from that voyage.”

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words and the illustrations (artist unknown) accompanying Gifford’s penny-dreadful tales are great come-ons encouraging readers to turn the page.

Following are some samples from the series:


Through snow he silently moves with his ghastly load.


Thee killer who dreamed too much.

Killer slew two women with an ax.


The last voyage of the “Dream” was a nightmare.


Old chisel handle betrays murderer.


Patricide makes elaborate efforts to conceal crime.


“Black Charlie” describes the candy store murder of Caroline Link.

If you’re a fan of true crime stories, especially Victorian-era murder cases from the mid-1800s to the turn of the 19th century, Gifford’s series is essential reading in the library’s Maryland Department. Just don’t be tempted to purloin this rare and valuable treasure – that would be a true crime!

Related Links:

Gifford, Alexander. True detective stories from the annals of the Maryland police. Maryland Dept. (HV6533.M3 65). Enoch Pratt Free Library. Baltimore, Maryland. 1938.

Baltimore City Newspapers on Microfilm, Listed by Title (Periodicals Department, Enoch Pratt Free Library)

Visit us at

Tags: baltimore

(Source: suckmyculo)

Joan Rivers visited Luskin’s for autograph and photo session



Jack Luskin — who for three decades was better known as “The Cheapest Guy in Town” — recently recalled when the late Joan Rivers made a guest appearance at his Towson appliance store in the 1960s.

Read More

John Waters on hitchhiking adventures and his long-ago arrest at Johns Hopkins

By Bret McCabe (Johns Hopkins University “Hub,” 9/22/2014)

carsick_cover“…In the prologue of the book you write that your parents expected you to hitchhike to school.

When my parents wanted me to hitchhike—I went to Calvert Hall—and in private schools and Catholic schools, everybody hitchhiked. It wasn’t thought of as an eyebrow-raising thing to tell your children to do then. It should have been. The same perverts were out there that are out there now.

That’s what I was wondering. What has changed? I don’t spend much time driving on the interstate, but when I did in the 1990s I don’t recall seeing many hitchhikers.

I never saw any the whole way to San Francisco—well, I saw one hitchhiker. The last time I saw one in Baltimore, I picked him up. It was the daytime on Eastern Avenue, and I was there innocently—Eastern Avenue didn’t used to be an innocent place to pick up hitchhikers, believe me. And he got in the car and immediately started huffing glue. And I said, “Just make yourself comfortable.” He offered me some. I said no—it wasn’t a Friday night, it was a Tuesday morning or something. If I’m going to huff glue in my 60s, it ain’t going to be on a weekday morning. It would have to be a really bad night, late.

What do you think happened to all the hitchhikers? Did more people get cars? Did other forms of transportation become more affordable? Or did we just get more fearful of each other, worried that hitchhikers or the people who pick them up are serial killers?”

Continue reading at JHU Hub.

Visit us at

Tags: baltimore

H. L. Mencken rips Gum-shoe Steiner & sour old maids at Pratt Library

The following excerpt was published in yesterday’s Baltimore Sun (“Sage Words” by Mary Carole McCauley, September 21, 2014). It’s taken from H.L. Mencken, “The Days Trilogy, Expanded Edition,” edited by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers (Copyright 2014 by The Library of America, New York, N.Y. With the permission of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. All Rights Reserved.). As a contemporary Pratt librarian, I find it highly amusing. – Tom Warner (Baltimore Or Less)

Newspaperman on the job, and Gum-shoe Steiner
by H.L. Mencken


Enoch Pratt Free Library: “The main building…was a morgue, and getting a book out was a tedious process.”

When I became a newspaper reporter in 1899 the Central Y.M.C.A. was one of my regular assignments, and I often dropped in to look through the magazines in its reading-room. Now and then I had to cover one of its Sunday afternoon religious meetings. They were always dull and gloomy.

Once, I recall, the speaker was Dr. Bernard C. Steiner, librarian of the Enoch Pratt Library — a solemn, humorless, intensely pious fellow who, because of his shambling way of walking, was known to the reporters of the time as Gum-shoe Steiner. He delivered an harangue so inconceivably stupid and uninteresting that I remember it clearly to this day.

Until he died in 1926 the main building of the Pratt Library, then in Mulberry street, west of Cathedral, was a morgue, and getting out a book was a tedious process. There was no card-index, but only a series of printed books with typewritten addenda, and the female attendants, mainly sour old maids, were far from helpful. Nevertheless, I patronized it assiduously, and whatever education I may be said to have came out of it. I used Branch No. 2, at Hollins and Calhoun streets, until 1894 or thereabout, but by that time I had pretty well exhausted its somewhat meagre stock of books, and after that I resorted to the main library. I had two cards — one a regular card, and the other what was called a student’s card — and I kept both of them working steadily. In addition, I dropped into the reading-room at least twice a week.


“The female attendants, mainly sour old maids, were far from helpful.”

In 1903 or thereabout, after I had become dramatic editor of the Herald, I went to the central library one day to draw out one of the plays of Pinero. I found that it was starred in the catalogue, which meant that it seemed lewd and lascivious to Gum-shoe Steiner and could be issued only with the express permission of a member of the staff. I applied for that permission, and was directed to one of the younger members. In fact, she was a girl who seemed to be no more than eighteen or nineteen years old.

There was I, a grown man and a professional dramatic critic, and there, across the desk, was that preposterous flapper, eyeing me critically and giving me a sharp examination. In the end she decided that I could be trusted to read the book without being seduced to sin, and it was accordingly handed to me, and I took it home. It turned out, when I read it, to be completely innocuous. Gum-shoe, I suppose, had picked up the notion, at the time of the uproar over The Second Mrs. Tanqueray in the nineties, that Pinero was an indecent dramatist, and so starred all of his plays. Gum-shoe himself never went to the theatre. His only recreation was Christian Endeavor.

Visit us at

Tags: baltimore

“Route 66″ gets its kicks in Baltimore, Maryland

And Buz Murdock does geneology research at Pratt Library!

The Mud Nest
Route 66: Season 2, Episode 7
November 10, 1961


Maharis and Milner cruise through Mount Vernon Place

An encounter with a rural Maryland family bearing a striking resemblance to him leads Buz (George Maharis) to Baltimore where, with the help of a police detective, he searches for the woman who might be his mother.

Marty Milner and George Maharis get their kicks on "Route 66"

Marty Milner and George Maharis get their kicks on “Route 66″

By Tom Warner (Baltimore Or Less)

Yesterday, a patron stopped in the Sights & Sounds Department to admire the “sights and sounds” of the Enoch Pratt Central Library. Looking around, he commented, “Yep, the guys from Route 66 were in here, they were right over there.” Confused by his reference to a television show that aired some 50 plus years ago as if it was just yesterday, I responded with typical aplomb, “Huh???”

“You know that show that had the Adam-12 guy, Route 66?” he continued. “Oh, Marty Milner?” I replied. “Yeah, that’s him. And the other guy with the dark hair, Buz,” he added. “They were here, right in the library, because Buz was looking for his birth mother.” (Mental note: major props to Enoch Pratt’s geneological resources from Classic TV Land!)

Ah yes, that would be Tod Stiles and Buzz Murdock, played by Marty Milner and George Maharis, respectively. From 1960-1964, these two young, restless road warriors traveled across America (though rarely on Route 66)  in their sporty Chevrolet Corvette on CBS’ popular Friday night drama series. One of the most appealing aspects of the show – besides its outstanding writing, groovy Nelson Riddle theme song, and a stellar cast of guest stars (many of whom – like William Shatner, Ed Asner, Julie Newmar, Lee Marvin, and future Adam-12 co-star Kent McCord – would go on to later fame and acclaim) -  was that it was filmed entirely on location, serving as a sort of dramatic travelogue throughout the U.S. at a time when the nation was much more provincial than today’s homogenized landscape with a Starbucks or Denny’s in every town.

Hess, MD served as the fictional town of Hester in "Route 66"

Hess, MD served as the fictional town of Hester in “Route 66″

Apparently, Me TV had recently aired “The Mud Nest” episode of Route 66, which opens in the fictional “nowhere bend in the road” hicktown “Hester” (based on the very real town of Hess, MD) and the nearby Sunnybrook Farms (where Milner and Maharis run out of gas a block south of the intersection of Jarretsville Pike and Merryman’s Mill Road) before heading to Charm City.


Lon Chaney, Jr. as Colby

While in the sticks, orphan Buz learns that he’s related to the Colby clan (with George Maharais’s real-life siblings – brothers Mark and Hank and sister Cleopatra – making cameo appearances), and meets a cantakerous relation, Grandpa Colby, who’s played by Lon Chaney, Jr. Colby gives Buz a picture of his alleged birth mother, Dorothea, whom Buz never knew.

In Baltimore, the boys drive past the Washington Monument, the Baltimore Sun building (featuring a scene with Evening Sun reporter Phil Evans), The Block (including the Circus Bar, where the boys take in a show and Buz gets some vital info from a bar floozie)…


The stage show at the Circus Bar on Baltimore’s Block


Buz helps a Circus Bar floozie pay the rent in exchange for geneological research

…up N. Charles Street (where Buz meets Lt. Tagelar, a Missing Persons detective played by Ed Asner, at the old Pine Street police station)…

A young Ed Asner played a Baltimore detective who tracks down missing persons

…and then on to the Enoch Pratt Central Library.


The Enoch Pratt Central Library, 400 Cathedral Street, Mount Vernon

Buz and Tod enter the Pratt Library's Main Hall

Buz and Tod enter the Pratt Library’s Main Hall

At the library, Tod and Buzz seek evidence that Buz’s mom existed by checking City Directories in the mezzanine of what is now the Sights & Sounds Department.


Buz and Tod ascend the Sights & Sounds Dept.’s mezzanine


Polk’s Baltimore City Directories


Buz and Tod flip through Baltimore City Directories


Buz finds Dorothea Colby of Ensor Street in the Baltimore City Directory

After concluding their library research, Buz and Tod head to the last known address of Buz’s alleged mother Dorothea Colby, a vacant lot on Ensor Street…


…then head over to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where Buz has an emotional encounter with nurse Dorothea Colby, aka “Mom.” Interestingly, Dorothea Colby is played by veteran actress Betty Field, whose most acclaimed film role was as Mae in Of Mice and Men (1939), where she played opposite none other than Grandpa Colby, Lon Chaney, Jr.!


The Mother and Child Reunion: George Maharis with Betty Field

For a guide to all the Baltimore pitstops in this episode, check out Doug Dawson’s excellent photos and commentary at, as well as Frederick N. Rasmussen’s “Heading back down Route 66” Baltimore Sun article (June 3, 2012).

You can watch the entire “Mud Nest” episode (and all Route 66 episodes, for that matter) at (which requires Flash Player or higher) and It’s also available on the Route 66: Season 2 DVD released by Shout! Factory in 2012.

Related Links: (“Route 66″ filming locations web site)
Heading back down Route 66” (Baltimore Sun)
Me TV: “Route 66″

Visit us at

Tags: baltimore

Beatles in Baltimore Photos: A Magical Mystery Tour

By Carl Schoettler (Baltimore Sun, September 13, 2004)

Beatlemania was sweeping America on Sept. 13, 1964, when photographer Morton Tadder strode into the Baltimore Civic Center, climbed onto his little magnesium ladder in the middle of the sea of screaming fans and began shooting the band playing onstage.

Tadder, on assignment for the London Express, shot two rolls of film before he realized the band wasn’t the Beatles, but a warm-up act.

“I had no idea,” he says. “Once you got past Frank Sinatra, I was lost.”

But when the Beatles finally came on, he shot about 10 more rolls of film. He sent two rolls to England and never saw the pictures that were used. The rest of the film he took home, processed and put away in his files, where most remained unseen – until now.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ only appearance in Baltimore, the Maryland Historical Society has opened an exhibit of about two dozen of Tadder’s images. His 1964 photos documenting that appearance, along with the rest of his more than 44 years of work, have become part of the society’s collection.

“These pictures were printed just recently for this show,” Tadder says.

Continue reading “Beatles Photos” at


The Beatles Invade Baltimore

Photos below are from The Beatles historic Baltimore visit.

Visit us at

Tags: baltimore

Beatles at The Baltimore Civic Center, Sept. 13, 1964

2:30 & 6 p.m., Sunday, September 13, 1964

The Beatles’ only visit to Baltimore was on Sunday, September 13, 1964. They performed two shows at the Civic Center, to a total of 28,000 fans. The best seat in the house cost a mere $3.75. The support acts were The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and Jackie DeShannon.


Baltimore was “one of the few fortunate cities” to host The Beatles.

According to the Beatles Bible (, “During the day, two girls attempted to have themselves delivered to the venue in a large box labelled ‘Beatles fan mail’. Their efforts were thwarted by a guard in charge of checking all deliveries.

The Beatles stayed at the Holiday Inn after the second show. Police officers on horseback restrained the fans from storming the building.”

The next day, the Beatles headed north to play at Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena.


Underbelly: The Beatles Invade Baltimore

All of the photos below are from The Beatles historic Baltimore visit.

Visit us at

Tags: baltimore