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.

Civic Center

Jun 11, 2020

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

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

WKC Signoff 2020-05-29

May 28, 2020

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!  

Odds Maker 2020-05-15

May 15, 2020

Rosemary 2020-05-08

May 7, 2020

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. 

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 (2020-04-24)

Apr 22, 2020

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...

The great flu that struck Baltimore was so deadly, contagious and debilitating that it pretty much shut down the city--schools, movies, department stories, even hospitals. But life went on for two determined and inventive young lovers who, each down with the flu and confined to their beds blocks apart, found a way to keep up their romance.

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.

On the afternoon of September 5, 1961, in the pavilion in Patterson Park the Baltimore City Department of Recreation was staging that year's great Baltimore World Series of Jump Rope. But this year's contest was going to be different: boys a be allowed to compete in the traditionally all-girls contest. The reason the boys wanted in the contest was that they've been watching on television all of those boxers in training by jumping rope. The outcome of the contest was surprising and Pearl Williams, director of it, provided a surprising explanation.

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!

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