Gil Sandler's Baltimore Stories | WYPR

Gil Sandler's Baltimore Stories

Friday 7:46 am and 9:38 am

Gilbert Sandler was one of Baltimore's most-read and well-known local historians. For more than thirty years, through his articles in the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Jewish Times, National Public Radio and his books and lectures, he showed Baltimoreans, through anecdote and memory, who they are, where they have been and, perhaps, where they are going. He was educated in Baltimore's public schools and graduated from Baltimore City College; in World War II, he served in the United States Navy as a ship-board navigator in the Pacific. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and received a master's from Johns Hopkins.

WYPR was pleased to present Gil Sandler's Baltimore Stories for almost 17 years. Baltimore Stories will air every Friday for the foreseeable future, and with this online archive, the show can continue to delight listeners for many years to come. 

Archive prior to December 2014.

Joe Howard 2021-02-19

Feb 19, 2021

On December 2, 1968, in the Baltimore City Courthouse, Joseph Howard, the very first African-American ever to be elected to a 15-year-term as a judge serving on the Supreme Bench of Baltimore, was being sworn in. But before the afternoon was over, the newly appointed judge would have an experience that as a Judge he did not expect.

On the afternoon of July 11, 1953, the Chairman of the Maryland Board of Movie Censors emerged from the viewing room, the fifth floor of the Equitable Building on Calvert Street, and made an announcement that shook the town: the Board would not allow the movie “The Moon Is Blue” to be shown. What happened next was historic.

At precisely five minutes to 5:00 on December 31, 1959 at Walters’ Public Bath House No. 2 at 900 Washington Boulevard, a man was taking the very last shower in the very last public bath house in Baltimore. It was 5:00 exactly when he shut down his shower he shut down, too, the era of public baths in Baltimore.

Ethel Ennis, the Baltimore vocalist with the buttery-soft voice, was born in Baltimore but enjoyed international renown performing in London and Paris and cities around the world—and received many tempting invites to live in any one of them. Yet she chose to come home to live and work in Baltimore. She explained, “You don’t have to move up by moving on. You can bloom where you were planted.” And so she did.

Twistin 2021-01-15

Jan 15, 2021

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 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 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.

Gil tells us about Louie Goldstein, who spent more than a decade advocating for his beloved Calvert County to be the home of a third Bay Bridge span.

On today's Baltimore Stories, Gil tells us about a transportation option that allowed riders to take in the "charms of Charm City" from a high perch.

Dyer's Deceit

Dec 4, 2020

Gil on the (Minor League) Orioles' play-by-play announcer Bill Dyer and his so-called "lucky chair."

December 6, 1943--The audience at The Hippodrome waited to see the Benny Goodman band with drummer Gene Krupa take the stage. But it wasn't Krupa behind the kit. Gil tells us how a Baltimore boy stood in for the famous drummer, without anyone knowing. 

Gil tells us how the seasoning staple began.

Number, Please!

Nov 13, 2020

Gil recalls a time in Baltimore before 10 digit phone numbers, when "Idlewild" and "Tuxedo" helped the telephone operator find who you were looking for.

Tulkoff's 2020-11-06

Nov 6, 2020

On a morning in 1932, a woman customer walks into Tulkoff fruit and vegetable store at 1018 East Lombard Street. She could not know it and neither can Harry Tulkoff, the stores' woebegone owner, but she would soon open a spectacular chapter in the history of Baltimore and the world.

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 Thursday, March 9, 1933, in the heart of the Great Depression, the popular department store Hochschild Kohn's and the teachers of Baltimore City Public Schools were facing a crisis. To deal with a severe economic depression President Franklin Roosevelt had closed the banks taken out of the marketplace all available cash.

Gil tells us about a plan to pay the teachers that involved Hochschild Kohn's, City Hall, Walter Sondheim, and a Brinks truck.

December 7, 1962: 

Baltimore's City Hall was flag-draped. Outside bands are playing. Inside in the ceremonial room, officials busied themselves. TV cameras hovered. A new mayor was being sworn in though he had not been elected.

His name was Philip Goodman and he took the oath of office as mayor because the elected mayor, J. Harold Grady, had resigned to accept the position as a judge on the Baltimore City Circuit Court. So Goodman, then president of the City Council, automatically became mayor and the history that led him to this moment and the time he would serve in office make up not just a Baltimore story, but an American saga. 

Gil tells us about the last dinners to be served at Marconi's restaurant, a Baltimore institution that was in operation for 85 years. 

Clockwork 2020-09-25

Sep 25, 2020

On July 7, 2007, Baltimoreans whose habit it was to look up nine stories to the top of the Bromo Seltzer tower to check the time on one of its four clocks --  facing east,  west, north, south—were bewildered. The clocks were out of sync, one with the other, and showing different times. The story--when Baltimoreans didn’t know the time of day!

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

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 2020-08-28

Aug 28, 2020

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.

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... 

Nobska 2020-08-07

Aug 7, 2020

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.

Cat Rodeo 2020-07-31

Jul 30, 2020

On the evening of July 12, 1929, a small crowd was gathered at the entrance of the Richmond Market. They stood staring at unexpected “Closed” signs on the door to the Market “due to a problem with mice.” And so began 'The Great Baltimore Cat Round Up.' The scheme, to turn cats loose to do what cats do to mice, turned out to be an embarrassing failure. The market management blamed the cats.

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

Pages