Gil Sandler | WYPR

Gil Sandler

Host, Baltimore Stories

Gil Sandler was born and raised in Baltimore -- a circumstance he considers fortunate and one he does not want you to forget. He attended public school (P.S. #59, Garrison Junior High, Baltimore City College, Class of 1941) and then served in the United States Navy.
Returning, he completed his college education at the University of Pennsylvania (Class of 1949). In 1967 he earned his Master's Degree in Liberal Arts from the Johns Hopkins University. He began to write features for the Sunday Sun and a weekly column ("Baltimore Glimpses") for The Evening Sun. "Baltimore Glimpses" would continue for 31 years. He is the author of six books (Johns Hopkins University Press): The Neighborhood, Baltimore Glimpses Revisited, Jewish Baltimore, Small Town Baltimore, Wartime Baltimore, Glimpses of Jewish Baltimore.
He has received numerous awards for his writing and lecturing, including the Emmert Award for Feature Writing for The Sunday Sun and election to Hall of Fame of his alma mater, Baltimore City College.
Asked how long he thinks, he can continue telling “Baltimore Stories,” he replies, "I'm just getting started." Gil Sandler's Baltimore Stories is made possible in part by

Pumpkin Papers

Oct 5, 2018
Sean Loyless/flickr

How a December 1948 trip to a pumpkin patch broke a spy case wide open. 

Dorothy Lamour

Sep 30, 2018

Famed movie star Dorothy Lamour married no less than a descendant of John Eager Howard and took her place among the city's elite in 1944. Baltimore high society may have laughed, but it was she who had the last laugh: she was perhaps the only former elevator operator ever to make the pages of the Baltimore Society's famed "Blue Book."

Poetry and Parkway

Sep 14, 2018
Alessandro Bonvini/flickr

Up into the 1970s, Baltimoreans could tune in on their radios to station WCAO at midnight and listen to—poetry! It was an hour of readings, to the accompaniment soft organ music, originating from the Parkway Theater on North Avenue.

“The last reading of the last night of the poetry hour read here comes a time to say the song is through.”

And for Baltimore’s first lat and only poetry hour it was.

Tommy's Wedding

Sep 7, 2018

When Congressman Tommy D'Alesandro, Jr. married Nancy Lombardi, Little Italy - where they were both born and raised - became one vast, day long party of wining and dining.  A little too much of it caused Tommy and Nancy to change their honeymoon plans!  

Henry Barnes

Aug 31, 2018

August 12, 1955: There's traffic and chaos outside of Gordons, a popular crab carryout at Orleans Street and Patterson Park Ave. It's a typical summer scene. Gil tells us about the time Traffic Commissioner Henry Barnes put himself and his reputation smack dab in the middle of the craziness. 

Eddie Rosenfeld

Aug 24, 2018

On an afternoon in 1946, a small crowd of spectators were gathered in front of a broken down, boarded up row house on tiny Tyson street, between Park and Read. Looking up they saw a strange sight: several men working on scaffolding set against the exterior wall of a house were panting the front exterior wall yellow...  The owner of the house was Eddie Rosenfeld, whom people called crazy to rehab the house and then to pint it yellow—on the street of broken- down houses. Time would show that in Baltimore, when you speak of people making lifestyle choices, you need to be careful who you call crazy. 

Nobska

Aug 17, 2018

The Inner Harbor along the Light Street quay on the soft spring evening of April 12, 1976, was alive with crowds and music. More than 500 of Baltimore’s beautiful people were milling about, shaking hands, congratulating one another.  The center of the festivities was the Grand Opening aboard the three-decker excursion steamer “Nobska,” majestic in white, sparkling in the late afternoon sun. It was presented as  Baltimore’s first floating—appropriately glamrous--restaurant. But the Nobska could not open because it was closed. Here’s the story.

On the Saturday afternoon of July 25, 1943, something unusual was going on in Baltimore’s Penn station on Charles Street just above Mt. Royal. In those wartime days, the station was a round-the-clock melee of soldiers and sailors and husbands and wives and lovers and loved ones embracing in hellos and goodbyes. That is why on this wartime Saturday afternoon a couple chose to get married in Penn Station, in a hurry--while they could still be together, only minutes before the groom was to depart for duty. The priest who married the couple invited each of the servicemen to kiss the bride, who in a gracious act of patriotism, went along--one kiss per serviceman!

"Cut it Down"

Jul 27, 2018

A story about how Rivers Chambers and his band changed a country western lament to keep the party going. 

Gil tells us about what led up to the 'opening' of the Orleans Street Viaduct in 1935. 

McKeldin's Speech

Jul 13, 2018

On the summer night of July 11, 1962 at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, those in the hall and millions watching television saw and heard Theodore R. McKeldin, former Mayor of Baltimore and incumbent Governor of Maryland, nominate General Dwight David Eisenhower for president of the United States...

Gil tells us how our beloved crab could've been second fiddle to another civic symbol: the banana.

The "Knothole Gang"

Jun 30, 2018

Gil remembers a complete surrender of the Orioles management to the neighborhood boys of Baltimore.

Eli Hanover (Encore)

Jun 19, 2018

Baltimore, 1940: In the gym of the Jewel Box Girly Club on 'The Block,' a 'trainer' worked at his dream: teaching contenders how to box and making Baltimore a world-renowned center for boxing. 

Civic Center

Jun 15, 2018

Gil remembers the conflicts that laid the foundation for the Civic Center.

Mt. Royal Station

Jun 8, 2018

Gil remembers the end of the line at Mt. Royal Station.  

WKC Signoff

Jun 1, 2018

The story of the very first radio station to broadcast in Baltimore is lost in the dustbin of Baltimore history - never to realize the full recognition it deserved.  That's because the father of the young builder of the station threw the station out - his son's most promising and historic creation!  

Cass Elliot

May 25, 2018

Crowds were lined up on both sides three deep along Holiday Street leading to City Hall, on the afternoon of August 15, 1971, cheering, “We love you, Cass.” The Cass was Cass Elliott, The Momma Cass who popularized such hits as “Make your Own Kind of Music.” She was actually Ellen Naomi Cohen, grew up in Baltimore, attended Forest Park High School and dropped out two weeks before she was to graduate. She went to New York to try her luck as a pop vocalist. Her luck was very good. But Baltimore never took to her, and this welcoming parade was the City’s attempt to make up for that indiscretion. As does this story…  

Odds Maker

May 18, 2018

On the afternoon of October 22, 1933 something unusual was going on at the Pimlico Race track. It was a Sunday, not a racing day, and not a horse in sight, yet more than 7,000 fans had filled the stands. The crowd was there to see a ghost race, run by ghost horses. And the very first trial of the TOTALISATOR, later to be known as the Tote Board. The Tote Board modernized the way odds were displayed at the track between races, replacing manual displays with electronic displays, and because of it, the bettor was thought by many to have more of a chance at winning. Asked about that point of view, one of the officials said, ”Absolutely not” and gave a surprising explanation!

Oriole Cafeterias

May 11, 2018

It is 1960 and you are dining on a starched white linen table cloth with gleaming silverware, enjoying a choice of five appetizers, eight entrees, eleven vegetables, a dozen salads, seven  desserts. From the balcony comes the soft slow dinner music of Jack Lederer’s orchestra. You might think you are dining in one of Baltimore’s most expensive restaurants, but you are dining in a most modesty-priced Oriole cafeteria.  All six Oriole cafeterias closed by 1975 because management said, “the dining community preferred hamburgers and colas and eat and run.” Oriole cafeterias took pride in offering plenty of choice and their customers made one:  fast food over slow music.

"Mimi" DiPietro

Apr 27, 2018

The weather on August 6,1995, the day of the funeral of City Councilman Dominic “Mimi” DiPietro, was unseasonably pleasant—low humidity in the low 80s, and bright sunshine, and some among the mourners, noting the out-of-season weather, wondered whether there was a connection between Mimi’s reputation for “going to the top” to get things done for his constituents and the gloriously fair weather. Father Esposito, in his eulogy, wondered out loud about the question. The citizenry is left to decide.

Danny's

Apr 20, 2018

Motorists driving north on Charles Street in late March of 1989 were delighted and excited to see off to their right, high on the two story building at Charles and Biddle streets housing Danny’s Restaurant, a sign that read, simply, “The Run Is On.” Motorists saw that sign there every March since Danny’s Restaurant opened in 1961. It alerted them to when the shad season started in Maryland. But Danny’s closed in 1961 and the sign hanging on building is gone. So how do Baltimoreans know when the shad season has started in Maryland? They don’t. This is a lament for the days when Danny told them when it had...

Bill Haley

Apr 13, 2018

In the 1950s Baltimore’s downtown movies were suffering—so many of its patrons had moved to the suburbs. Among the movie theaters abandoned in the exodus was Keith’s, at Lexington and Liberty Streets... The management of Keith’s was at long last faced with a decision—try to keep the movie theater open by bringing in sure-fire live attractions, or close the place. It decided to do the former and so brought in super-rock star Bill Haley and His Comets. In a quirky Baltimore twist, Bill Haley, whom Keith management brought in to keep the place open, was the one who closed it down. This is the story of how.

Rosemary

Apr 5, 2018

It was on the cold morning of February 3, 1964 when the wrecker’s ball smashed into the south wall of Ford’s theater, between Eutaw and Howard streets, where it had stood since 1871. A pile of rubble was all that was left of the grand store house of theater memories. Later that morning, two elderly ladies, could be seen sprinkling on the debris what was later reported to be rosemary. One of the ladies was heard to say, “As Ophelia said in Hamlet, ‘Here’s rosemary, for remembrance.’” The ladies remarked that it was a cold morning. For Baltimore theater goers it was a very cold day. 

Black Aggie

Apr 2, 2018

On a moonless night in 1938, a Hopkins undergrad was taken on a fraternity initiation—a teen-age ritual through the 1960s, a visit to see “Black Aggie.””Aggie” was a bronze statue, weather-darkened hence the “black” description, created to honor a well- known Baltimorean, Felix Angus. “Aggie” stood dark and mysterious in the Druid Ridge Cemetery at Stevenson Road and Park Heights Avenues. The sculptor was Augustus Saint Gaudin—who started out to create a beautiful statue, but through years of visits by teenagers to his dark statue on a dark nights in a darkened cemetery--wound up changing the pop culture of Baltimore.

Black Aggie

Mar 30, 2018

On a moonless night in 1938, a Hopkins undergrad was taken on a fraternity initiation—a teen-age ritual through the 1960s, a visit to see “Black Aggie.””Aggie” was a bronze statue, weather-darkened hence the “black” description, created to honor a well- known Baltimorean, Felix Angus. “Aggie” stood dark and mysterious in the Druid Ridge Cemetery at Stevenson Road and Park Heights Avenues. The sculptor was Augustus Saint Gaudin—who started out to create a beautiful statue, but through years of visits by teenagers to his dark statue on a dark nights in a darkened cemetery--wound up changing the pop culture of Baltimore.

Black Aggie

Mar 29, 2018

Dr. Morgan Pritchett and his cemetery experience with "Black Aggie" as part of his fraternity initiation.

On a cold morning in 1904, two aging baseball players, Wilbert Robinson and John McGraw, sitting in a duck blind on the Eastern Shore, were waiting for the ducks to take flight. They got to talking about how their bowling business back in Baltimore was falling off because, the concluded, the and the pins then in use were too heavy. Suddenly, a flock of ducks took off and headed skywards, but the incident started a chain of events that would make Baltimore the world center for duckpin bowling, and produce a champion whose favorite bowling ball would wind up in the Smithsonian. Here is how all of that happened.

Baltimoreans opened The Sun paper on the morning of October 1964 to read this modest announcement. "Each city recreation center will be conducting a Yo Yo contest." The winner of the contest was promised a huge prize - a trip to Disneyland by Duncan Yo Yo - the manufacturer of the Yo Yo. The winner turned out to be a young 15 year old Carl Pund - who won the contest but in a quirky turn of events, lost the prize. This is Carl Pund's story.

Jump Rope (Encore)

Mar 9, 2018
Steven Depolo/flickr

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