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

Voting On The Aquarium

Feb 28, 2020

On the evening of November 2, 1976, Baltimoreans were glued to their TV and radios—following the election results of Question 3 on the ballot—whether or not the city should build and operate what would be known as the National Aquarium in the Inner Harbor. It was a controversial idea from the outset, with City Councilman Emerson Julian calling the proposed aquarium, derisively, “nothing but a fish tank.” This is the story of how that so-called “fish tank” became one of the most visited tourist attraction in the world.

Through the 1960s, the southeast corner of the tiny island, where Calvert street splits at Fayette, was where Abe Sherman’s famous but ancient newsstand—some called it a “shack”-- was located and very much a part of Baltimore downtown’s scene of bustle and grit. Hundreds of motorists would passing by would flip Abe a dollar or so and he would flip back a newspaper—he knew who got which. But civic forces wanted his old new stand removed and this is the story of the City Hall’s  and the local pigeons’ attack on his shack and how he beat them all!

Harley Brinsfield

Feb 14, 2020

In the 1950s, long before there were carry out sub sandwiches at hundreds of places in Baltimore, there were Harley Sandwich Shops, maybe 40 of them, selling what Harley Brinsfeld claimed was the very first submarine sandwich ever. Almost around the clock people stood in line for a Harley Sub sandwich —except for one very popular singing star. This is the story of Harley’s famous sub sandwich, his sandwich carry-out shops, and one privileged guest who never had to stand line for her Harley sub.

On the afternoon of December 18, 1999, watched anxiously in auctioneering house in Timonium, as the auctioneer rattled off the artifacts for sale from the once and famous and now defunct Haussner's restaurant - weeks earlier a reigning queen at Eastern Avenue and Conkling streets. In the end the memories of thousands of lunches and dinners and of millions of dollars of artwork and 73 years of Baltimore times winds up in a ball of twine - on display in an antique shop on Fells Point.

In 1939, Baltimore was known is show-biz circles as a "tryout town."

One of the shows trying out, on the stage of the Hippodrome Theater, was called, Hollywood Stars in Review, MC'd by Louella Parsons, the famous Hollywood gossip columnist.

In the review, trying out in Baltimore was a petite brunette named Jane Wyman - an a handsome, All-American type named Ronald Reagan. As things would work out, Ronald Reagan would go on to Hollywood and political stardom - not withstanding that in his try-out in Baltimore, he bombed.

In the 1940s and 1950s, before the Maryland lottery and the casinos, the betting action on the street was “on the numbers” -- and illegal. It was the bookmakers who took the bets and who controlled the action that were the target of Captain Alexander Emerson’s raids on their “places of business.” His continuing raids, staged to get them to shut down their operations and send them to jail, made him a threat to and the nemesis of their livelihood. When he died there was a coffin-side eulogy for him by a former victim…

On the night of January 16, 1967, the sidewalk under the marquee of the Mechanic Theatre at Charles and Baltimore streets was the scene of bright lights and cameras flashing and celebrities working the crowd. The occasion was the Grand Opening of the Mechanic—which would close after three years, stay dark for two years and reopen nine years later in n 1976. It closed for the last time in 2004—after 37 years, As they say in show biz, not a bad run.

Capone (01-10-20)

Jan 10, 2020

On the night of Nov. 16, 1939, notorious gangster Al Capone was released from Lewisberg penitentiary - and headed for Baltimore. Capone was a sick man and planned to seek treatment at Johns Hopkins. He settles in the Oswego Avenue home of Manasha Katz, Captain of the Maryland State Police. But because he planned to stay in Baltimore a while, he though to arrange to have his favorite Italian food personally prepared for him at the then well-known restaurant, Maria's, in Little Italy. So he sent a lieutenant there to meet Maria and asked if he might inspect her kitchen. Very bad mistake. This is the story of why.

Twistin (01-03-20)

Jan 3, 2020

On the night of December 7, 1961, Fire Prevention Chief Michael Horan was making a routine check in the Las Vegas nightclub on Harford Road when he discovered to his considerable discomfort that infractions of the city fire control were out of control. The dancers were dancing the Twist, a body shaking dance sweeping across the country - and on this night blocking the exit aisles of the Las Vegas club in Baltimore. He shut the club down only to see it re-open again - it's aisles jammed with dancers twisting again there was a reason for the way things were going for Chief Horan. This story explains . . . 

In and through the 1960s, the word was out that hostesses of New Year ’s Day parties were serving egg nog that was the talk of the circuit. The secret:  they had made their egg nog using Hendler’s egg-nog ice cream—the only egg nog ice  cream in America made with pure rum. Those were the days. 

On Christmas Day, 1943, in the heart of World War II, there was an announcement on radio station WFBR—to the effect: Listen to a special broadcast from somewhere in England. Hear your loved ones wishing you a Merry Christmas from deep in the heart of war torn Europe. The broadcast happened exactly as it was advertised—bringing to all on both sides of the Ocean the merriest of Christmases.

Wrestling (12-13-19)

Dec 13, 2019

On the night of January 15, 1955, at the Coliseum on Monroe Street, thousands o fans had come to boo and cheer and look for blood—at the local wrestling matches. They saw what they had come for—phony and faked wrestling, featuring the curly-headed blond Gorgeous George. They also saw blood. Or was that blood? Here’s the story.

On the Saturday afternoon of June 2, 1928, about 40 boys and girls were on the stage at Baltimore City College high school at 33rd and the Alameda, facing a standing room only crowd. They were here to compete for the title of Best Harmonica Player in Baltimore. The matter would soon be settled— the winner was Lawrence Larry Adler. His win would take him onto the world stage—and back to Baltimore, with a confession.

On the evening of September 16, 1982, the scene at 1212 Cathedral and Preston was all black ties and evening gowns. The occasion was the grand opening of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. When Mr. Meyerhoff was a boy he attended an accelerated middle school known as School 49, at 1211 Cathedral. A life’s journey from 1211 across the street to 1212, was a very long journey, but Mr. Meyerhoff  had made it.

This is about a traffic policeman named Bill and horse named Bob—who became median strip. When the intersection of Pratt and Light was one of the busiest in the world, Bill’s traffic control worked this way: While standing in the middle of traffic, his horse Bob would be by his side and on orders from Bill, shift positions to form a median strip and so shift traffic into the lane Bill wanted. The system worked. Here’s the story.

On a day in 1918, a 16-year-old girl named Rose Zetzer was a student in high school, discussing the assignment 'Shall Women Have the Right to Work?'

Right then and there she said, “I am going to be a lawyer.” She not only became a lawyer, but in the process, she opened the profession to women. According to a male contemporary, “She got on our nerves.” She also changed the history of Baltimore.

Leona Gage (11-1-19)

Nov 1, 2019
AP PHOTO/HF

In the evening of July 15, 1957, Veterans Stadium in Long Beach, California was awash in the lights and music and pageantry of the semi-finals of the Miss USA contest. Contestants from all over America walked down the runway. In that group was a Cinderella come-to-the-ball from Glen Burnie, Maryland, named Leona Gage. But neighbors from the area were not fooled. They told the real story of who Miss Gage really was! 

On an evening in 1935, in the living room of a house in Baltimore, a husband and wife are sitting at a small table, facing each other. On the table there is a flat, two-foot square of cardboard. The woman leans over close to the board, and whispers,” Mother, can you hear me?” The woman is talking to the Ouija Board. In its time, it was the way Baltimoreans talked to the dead…Really? Really!

In the early afternoon of August 23, 1963, three African American diplomats, dressed in full and colorful diplomatic attire, entered Miller Brothers restaurant at Fayette and Hanover Streets—in those days, strictly segregated. They introduced themselves as representatives of the Republic of Gabon. But they were not. Who were they? They ordered lunch, enjoyed it, and left—and made history. 

On July 23, 2017, four horse-and-wagons formed a funeral cortege at the entrance to the Wylie Funeral Home at 701 Mt. Street. Crowds had gathered to say goodbye to Eugene Allen, among the last of Baltimore’s street Arabbers, who with their memorable yells, sold fruits and vegetables off of their horse and wagons. We may have lost Mr. Allen but, cherishing horse and wagon selling in Baltimore, we have his yells.

On a Saturday afternoon in 1946, on an elevator in the popular downtown department store, Hochschild Kohn, a uniformed elevator operator was calling out to passengers, “Fourth  floor, Ladies dresses, special sale today!” An elevator operator selling merchandise while calling out floors? So beloved was this custom that when the store installed automatic elevators, they had to call the operators back. To call out floors and merchandise!

Gil tells us about the people who made sure the Baltimore City Fair went on without a hitch. 

Palughi (9-20-19)

Sep 20, 2019

On June 22, 1972, Tropical Storm Agnes hit. The Jones Falls overflowed. Standing at the interception of Northern Parkway and the Falls, watching with painful dismay, was Mayor William Donald Schaefer. With him was Marco “Buddy” Palughi. Well known for getting the mayor what he needed. What he needed at this moment were rowboats, to start a salvage operation. True to his reputation, in the middle of it all, Pelughi delivered the rowboats.

 

Thursday, December 12, 1935: In an auditorium of Frederick Douglass high school, then all African American, a crowd was gathered to celebrate the eleventh anniversary of the Baltimore Urban League. The keynote address was given by America's first lady, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who then introduced an 11 year-old boy named Ellis Lane Larkins, who then played a piano concert, a waltz by Moszkowski...

At the end of a long summer’s day in 2003, a young Shannon Mullaney was driving home along the Jones Falls Expressway, looking forward to dinner. When—Screech! Accident! She got out of her car to meet the driver of the other car. Minutes later they found themselves at the bar next to one another at a tavern off of Exit 10. They got married. And then divorced. She said she lost the guy but still had the story. So do we.

Blue Laws (8-30-19)

Aug 29, 2019

On a Sunday afternoon in 1937, a policemen stationed outside of a Max’s Delicatessen on University Parkway stopped a customer and demanded to see the purchases. To the customer’s dismay, the officer found—contraband! A corned beef on rye with mustard. Max was arrested. He had violated Baltimore’s Blue Laws, which  effectively shut the town down on Sunday. The laws are gone but the stories are not!

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.

On the moonless night of February 9, 1947. A shadowy melodrama was being played out on the Lancaster street dock and aboard the ship moored to it. Boys were to be seen loading the ship and with munitions. They were boys from Little Italy and from the Jewish Community Center—recruited off the basketball court of the Jewish Community Center together, at work, not realizing it, founding a country.

Something unusual was going on in Baltimore’s Penn station on the afternoon of July 25, 1943.  In the frenetic war years, the station was an around- the-clock scene of soldiers and sailors arriving and departing and loved ones greeting with hugs of welcome or farewell. But today was different—there was a wedding planned! In the station! A wedding like no other in the history of the armed forces of the United States….

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