Out and About (Sort Of): Just 70 by Howard Freedlander

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“They told me my services were no longer desired because they want to put in a youth program as an advance way of keeping the club going. I’ll never make the mistake of being seventy again,” Casey Stengel, the famed, successful and witty manager of the New York Yankees and New York Mets from 1949 to 1965, once said.

I turned 70 yesterday, one of the last of my closest friends to do so. I understand Mr. Stengel’s humorous take on achieving seven decades of life. Fortunately no one needs or wants my services, at least not urgently so.

So, how does it feel be 70? Okay, I guess. Some thoughts readily come to mind.

Years of good health are limited. Increasing age can be constraining in terms of physical capability and stamina, as well as cognitive ability. Health problems will become more frequent and persistent. What is always present for me, however, is a strong, lifelong sense of optimism; I can’t live without it.

What bothers me the most, however, is the stark realization that perhaps I will see my grandchildren, specifically the toddlers, reach adolescence and that’s all. I probably won’t see–or at least may not understand–their growth as young adults. I wish this were not true.

If I sound morose, I beg forgiveness. Mixed with my innate optimism and natural love of, and fascination with life is a strong grasp of reality, a distaste for denial of life’s trials and tribulations. Sometimes reality can be bittersweet; you try to manage the personal challenges and expectations and move on.

Trite as it might sound, close, well-cultivated connections to family and friends provide a constant and uplifting injection of good health, at least mentally and emotionally. You traffic in happiness and cheer, not gloom and bitterness. As you fill your car with fuel to avoid being empty, you do the same with the energy you feel in family relations and sincere friendship.

Again, at the risk of repeating the words of healthy, accomplished people through the years, another source of sustenance is the art of giving, of donating your personal goodness, be it to friends or strangers. I’m speaking of small things we might do for someone in stress, for someone who is suffering a setback, for someone who might benefit from a simple act of kindness. No credit due or sought.

At age 70, I dearly want to stay vibrant, alert and attentive. I want to contribute to my community in ways that are beneficial for today and tomorrow. I want to help family members confront and overcome challenges. I want to help friends when asked and maybe on my own volition. I want to give something back to the community in which I have lived for nearly 39 years.

We rent our space on earth. We pay back with our sense of responsibility. We hope that selflessness outscores selfishness in the game of life. We hope our objective is doing good work, not personal gain.

Since my retirement 51 months ago, I have observed many friends in their late 70s-to- mid-80s and note how they carry their advanced age with class, style–and youthfulness. They scarcely complain about their ailments, their loss of mobility in some cases and their diminished hearing. They approach life positively, enthusiastically and determinedly.

These friends may not know I’m watching and learning. I admire their mental toughness and emotional stability. I wish I could tell them how much I like and respect them. I’m afraid I would embarrass them.

So, readers, lest you think this newly-minted 70-year-old is long-winded and insensitive to the danger of verbosity, I will close this column. Will write again when I’m older.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Angels Drive Junk Cars by George Merrill

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I’d always thought angels were frequent flyers, winging to the jobs to which God assigns them. In January some years ago, I discovered they also work from junk cars.

Because I had a six o’clock meeting in Washington, I was on the D. C. Beltway on Friday evening at five-thirty. It had been snowing. Traffic was a nightmare. Drivers were frantic. They would zigzag, feint and dart like fish in a feeding frenzy. Even at fifty-five miles an hour I seemed to be standing still as cars shot past me on either side. I was in the middle lane, trying to remain calm. One driver would speed up and ride almost on top of my rear bumper and then back down. I think he was signaling his contempt for my conservative driving. Trying to leave a safe distance in the front and in the rear was impossible. As I slowed to make space, a car darted into the slot as if I were making the space for that driver. Motorists were predatory. If I could get out of the middle lane and into the right, I thought I’d be safe.

I sped the car up trying to position myself. The motor raced, but the car did not accelerate. The motor had disengaged from the drive. I had no power. Something was broken. My car rolled freely, but was inexorably destined to stop in the middle lane. Horns honked, cars jockeyed furiously to pass me on either side. Besieged by outraged motorists demanding that I move right, left, back, forwards – just move and get out of the way – I felt under attack. I was frightened.

My car decelerated. There was a break in the traffic. I looked for a place to pull over, but high snow banks from the recent plowing had covered the safety lanes. An opening appeared in the right lane, about two cars in length just short of the Georgia Avenue exit and I pulled over. My car, its one side pressed to the snow bank, had about three feet on the driver’s side where traffic hurtled around the beltway like the blade of a buzz saw.

I didn’t think I was in any serious danger but I did have one anxious thought. “What if I were having a heart attack? Nobody would stop to help and I would die alone.” I felt cold, angry and powerless.

A car pulled up in front of me. It looked junky as if it had been abused a lot, not like my comparatively new Taurus. My first reaction was that this was not the Good Samaritan; this was the robber. He’s stopped to rip me off. The driver got out. I watched him warily as he approached my car. I opened my window half way. “Can I do anything to help?” he asked. I can’t remember what I said, but it was something evasive and dumb. He took a friendly initiative in the conversation. “Look. If you have AAA, I could give them a call and get them to come. Give me your AAA number and I will go over to Georgia Avenue and let them know you are here. There’s a CITGO station there.” I remember giving him the number hesitantly, passively assenting and somehow feeling safer for being noncommittal. He asked if I needed anything. Thanking him, I said “No.” He returned to his car and headed toward the Georgia Avenue Exit.

Humiliated by my own suspicion and guardedness with this stranger, I also had a surge of gratitude for what had happened. The two feelings collided. I felt mean spirited. Treat the stranger with hospitality; the old biblical exhortation goes, because you may be entertaining angels unawares. As I handed him my AAA card through the half closed window of my locked door I was still thinking he might be a crook.

An hour later he appeared and pulled up. He got out and came over to my window. I rolled it all the way down. “AAA is on the way. Need anything else?” I thanked him, said no and asked his name. “Steve” he said. He went to his car and it roared away into the omnivorous traffic. Riding in the wrecker later, I thought how my car was brand new and had been serviced only recently while Steve’s looked well worn. It’s the way things work: those who have less to give offer more of themselves. I guess that’s why angels drive junk cars and stop to help strangers.

Delmarva Review: Dining in Rome by Sarah Barnett

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Editor’s Note. “Dining in Rome,” by Sarah Barnett, is reprinted from the current edition of The Delmarva Review and earned a Pushcart Prize nomination for 2015. The Delmarva Review is pleased to present this and other literary writing to readers in partnership with The Spy. The author, Sarah Barnett, retired to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, from a career in public affairs. She writes essays and short fiction, serves as vice president of the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild, teaches classes in short story writing and leads a weekly “Free Write” for writers, aspiring writers and anyone with a story to tell. Her work has appeared in Delaware Beach Life, Delmarva Review and other publications. Wilson Wyatt, The Delmarva Review

April Gray opened her new spiral notebook to its clean first page and clicked her ball point. Marlee Winters looked too young to be a teacher and a published poet, she wrote. Her asymmetrically cut hair and bright blue eye shadow gave her the look of a Picasso portrait. She felt like a writer already.

Up front Marlee addressed the group: “This class is unlike other writing workshops. When you write quickly without thinking, you can often surprise yourself by uncovering lost memories or gaining new insights. You may find yourself thinking, ‘I didn’t know I knew that.’”

Finding your Voice as a Writer was held in a classroom belonging to a high school English teacher by day. Paperback covers and quotes from novels—The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye—papered a bulletin board at one side of the room. The dozen participants had rearranged the desks in a circle for better “writing karma.”

While Marlee talked, April shifted into soul-mate searching mode, scanning the room for men in the right age range (her own 34 years plus or minus five). They had to meet other intangible requirements, which could be filed under the heading “spark,” a quality she’d recognize when she spotted it. The guy across from her in jeans and white dress shirt, for instance—Ben. When their eyes met briefly, she thought a writer might describe them as “thoughtful” but that “soulful” would not be overdoing it.

When April and her philandering husband divorced two years ago, she had made the mistake of thinking she could replace Rick as easily as you bought a new battery for your car. After ten years of marriage, the newer rituals of dating were as mysterious to her as the principles of quantum physics.Rather than flounder in a strange world, April resolved to write a novel about a romantic relationship instead. She knew this was tantamount to pretending you were dining in Rome when actually you were eating an Italiano Burger at Olive Garden. Still, April believed that by creating a successful relationship, even a fictional one, she’d learn something useful.

Each night before falling asleep, she visualized page 117 of the manuscript of It Might As Well Be You, hoping the morning would bring a breakthrough. Her characters, Wendy and Sam, were supposed to recognize their love in typical romantic comedy fashion, but somehow anger crept into each scene, tension escalating until explosion was inevitable. A door would slam, a dish would be hurled.

“Free writing,” Marlee was saying, “puts you in touch with the artistic right side of your brains. Have you done this before?” April was mystified, but half the class was nodding and smiling.

“Let’s get started. Keep writing. Don’t stop to think or go back to edit. Let yourself go on a journey.” Marlee drew an old-fashioned egg timer from a roomy red satchel, and read the prompt from her notebook: It was a fine morning until…

If someone had described free writing to her before class, April would have asked for a refund. She felt as clueless as an English student asked to compare Holden Caulfield with Hamlet. She thought of her characters unable to move on the playing field she’d created. The words that flowed from her pen surprised her. Soon she’d fashioned a scene in which Sam and Wendy assemble a bookcase. Sam wants to count the pieces and read the directions, but Wendy rips open the bags of screws and bolts and starts building. As she read her piece aloud, a satisfying amount of laughter told April that she might find her writer’s voice after all.

Two hours passed quickly as they wrote and took turns reading. They worked their way through He opened the wedding gifts by himself, and In my opinion, the best color in the Crayola box is….
We are lonely visitors to a small planet prompted April to write: We bump into each other and stick together for a while. Breaking apart is simple physics, the natural result of the original jolt. Did she mean that?

Ben, she noted, described places that made him feel lonely—empty beaches, crowded bars. A twinge of recognition at the phrase, “strolling the boardwalk empty-handed,” caused her to look at him more carefully.

The following week April again sat opposite Ben. His rimless eyeglasses made him look as if he’d be at home in a laboratory, although the khakis and black polo spoke of lounging in a recliner with a good book.

When she heard the first prompt—No one is who they appear to be—April thought of her blunder at a singles dance. I always tried too hard, smiling too brightly, laughing too easily, she wrote. I covered my nervousness by pretending I knew my way around. Then I blew my cover by introducing Paul, a man I’d just met, to Bonnie, his ex live-girlfriend. April was pleased by the laughter but more pleased at the subtle message she’d sent Ben—she was available.

As the next person read, April glanced at Ben. Was it her imagination or was he staring at her? Yes. He was studying her with dreamy fascination, the kind of look that made her face flush. She pretended to rummage in her purse for her water bottle, took a drink, then kept her head down while everyone read their pieces.

April found herself enjoying Ben’s low key humor, nodding in appreciation when he compared his early attempts at poetry to “painting a circus using only the color blue.” As he read, he’d glance up at her as if to check her reaction. Was he reading to her?

Ben’s writing hinted at a woman in his life: Serena, a taller-than-he-was blonde with a quick temper, and a gift for sarcastic put-downs. April couldn’t know if this were fact or fiction but allowed herself to muse, I would be so much better for him.

With Marlee’s encouragement, she began to use the class prompts to learn more about the characters in her novel. Dinner ended with ice cream and a loud argument inspired her to dramatize the spat Wendy and Sam have in a Chinese Restaurant.

On her way out of class Ben fell in alongside her. “Will Wendy and Sam will make it to Valentine’s Day?” He’d remembered April’s rendering of Wendy’s feverish search for a card that was amorous but “not too mushy.”

“Tune in tomorrow,” April said. “I can’t make Wendy behave. Sam wants to be the hero in her fairy tale and she’s…” Was she babbling?

“Nice line,” he said. When they reached her car he held her notebook while she dug keys out of her pocket.

Driving home, she couldn’t remember if she’d even said “good-bye” or “see you next week.” The unexpected compliment flustered her. I do fine at free writing, but I flunk talking, she thought.
By the third or fourth class April felt she’d stumbled into a version of You’ve Got Mail. She and Ben were writing to each other, for each other. She was sure of it and not sure of it at the same time. And she’d caught him staring at her again. She’d met his eyes for a half-second, then lost courage and looked away.
Then came: It was that strange hour belonging to no one. When it was Ben’s turn, he read a wistful description of a lovely sunset, wishing he had someone to share it with. Was that a message? What about Serena?

Two prompts later, she’d written back, or rather, Wendy left a note on the kitchen table for Sam. Let’s go to the park on Sunday. I’ll make those cookies you like. Bring sandwiches, no white bread.
By week five, April had learned that Ben taught high school biology, but that his goal was to write a mystery series. He and Serena, a patent attorney, had been in an on-and-off relationship since college.

April had let Ben know that she was divorced with no kids and that she edited a trade association newsletter, but there was so much more she wanted to say. Let’s go for a walk; spend a rainy afternoon watching old movies; I’ll cook you dinner. Was she imagining things or were they growing closer through their writing?
What would Wendy do? April had given Wendy her own olive green eyes and unmanageable reddish brown hair. Now she could use some of her character’s feistiness. She could write the lines: Why are you looking at me like that? Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking? She just couldn’t deliver them.

April looked up from the pages of It Might As Well Be You. Why had she never seen the messages between the lines? Wendy always testing Sam, challenging him to demonstrate his devotion despite her peevishness. “This isn’t a novel. It’s my life,” she said aloud. “And Ben? He’s just another fiction that exists only in my head.”
The flash of recognition was so unexpected that she almost shouted “Aha,” like a detective in the next to the last chapter of the murder mystery. Of course she wanted Ben. Wanted him with the soulful desperation of a character in a chic-lit novel. She wanted him precisely because she could not have him. He was as unavailable to her as the fine jewelry in the locked cases at Macy’s. It was safe to yearn for him, to daydream about him. It was never going to happen. She was never going to worry about what to cook for their first romantic dinner, the right moment for them to have sex. She was never going to have to wonder if she was losing him.

With this recognition came another insight—Wendy and Sam. What did each of them want that they were afraid to admit to themselves? To each other?
The messy pages of her manuscript now seemed like a shopping list for a party that would never happen. Leaving her characters struggling with whether they were ready to vacation together, April secured the pages with a rubber band and placed the bundle in the bottom drawer of her desk with odds and ends that had no other home.
Forget romance. She was going to be a writer.

Not a bad plan, April would think five years later. Flunking romance had allowed her writing career to blossom. Wendy and sam—for better and worse, a series of stories depicting the ups and downs of a modern relationship, had a large following on Love and Other Mysteries, an online women’s magazine. She had a blog, 10,000 fans liked her Facebook page, and an agent was pitching a story collection to publishers.

April and Marlee conducted Free Writing workshops in bookstores, schools and senior centers around the city. They’d written articles for aspiring authors on using free writing to generate story ideas and to jump-start stalled projects. Marlee had published her first novel, much of which she’d written during her workshops and followed up with “How to write your book one Free Write at a time,” a newsletter article that morphed into a popular blog.

April’s friends still tried to fix her up with men, but she’d stuck to writing about relationships. Occasionally, her thoughts turned to Ben and that first writing class. How had she been so naïve as to concoct a romance out of a glance and a few scraps of writing?

“Remember that first class I took with you?” she asked Marlee over lunch one day. Marlee nodded as she chewed a mouthful of burger.

“You’re going to think this is crazy-weird, but I had a crush on Ben, the schoolteacher who wanted to write mysteries. I thought he was writing to me. I mean, I thought he was sending me messages.”

Marlee’s eyes opened wider, an expression that managed to signal both tell me more and you’re kidding right?

April rummaged through her salad, spearing a shrimp with her fork. “He’d write about being lonely, and I’d write something hinting that I was single. Then I’d get Wendy to say something romantic to Sam, hoping Ben would get the hint. Now that I’m saying this out loud, I hear how childish it was.”

Marlee covered Wendy’s hand with her own. “Not childish, just…Okay, childish, but…”

“But what? I’m 39 years old with no idea how a real relationship works, still writing about Wendy and Sam, who by the way, postponed the wedding again.”

Marlee rolled her eyes. “April, they’re fictional characters. Those two are getting tiresome. I’m more interested in this Ben thing.”

“It was nothing,” April said. “I hadn’t been single very long. I needed a fantasy to keep me going.”

“But what if it was real?”

“You think so?”

“Hard to know. It was your fantasy.” Marlee pointed a French fry at April. “Still, I think it would make a great story.”

“Really?”

“Sure. Change everyone’s names, especially mine. And give it a happy ending. Your followers will love it.”

That night April sketched out a scene that took place at Marlee’s apartment, a party to celebrate the last class. I’ll change the names later, she thought, and began at the end.

Arriving at Marlee’s, April decided that her all black outfit blended perfectly with the condo’s “aspiring poet” décor—paisley shawls draped over the lampshades, framed poetry on the walls. She spotted Ben pouring a glass of wine, laughing as he waved her over.

“What’s so funny?”

“Didn’t Wendy and Sam do this?” he said.

“Drink wine?”

“Show up at a party in the same clothes.”

Her eyes traveled from his shoulders to his shoes. Black turtleneck sweater, jeans, boots. Her outfit almost exactly. Except he looks better in it than I do, she thought.
“They did—white shirts, blue jeans, black leather vests. Sam thought it was a sign; Wendy called it a coincidence.”

Ben took April’s arm and guided her to a corner behind a Shoji screen that hid a small writing desk. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.” She looked up, not quite meeting his eyes.

“All that writing we did. Were we…you know…writing at each other or something?”

April’s first impulse was to deny it, but when she found her voice, she said, “I thought so. You too?”

“Yeah.”

“Um, can I ask you something?”

Ben nodded.

“Aren’t you…seeing somebody?”

“I was, but…well, we were like Wendy and Sam, bickering, and when I started getting serious about writing, Serena didn’t get it. Said I’d never make any money at it. Then…”

April held up her hand. “I don’t need to hear any more.”

“What now?”

She looked down at their black boots, almost touching. April could see the next line as if she were typing it on her laptop. “Marlee’s teaching another class next semester. We could keep writing to each other. It could be a book, a movie, but who’d watch it? We’d need…”

“An ending?”

“No, a beginning.”

Ben smiled. The back of his hand grazed her cheek. “Meet me in the park on Sunday?”

“I’ll bring the cookies.”

Unity’s Michael Jensen on the Shoreline

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Unity Landscape Design’s business mantra is “Designing and constructing ecologically sensitive and functional outdoor living spaces.”

While that sounds appealing to the ecology minded-landscaper or gardener, especially as we live on the ecologically sensitive Eastern Shore, you have to see their work and visit their office and nursery on Church Hill Road (Rt. 213) to appreciate the scope and quality of their mission and plans for the future.

Michael Edward Jensen, founder and president of Unity, spearheads that mission and it’s breathtakingly multi-faceted.

Along with day to day operations providing commercial and residential services for a wide array of services from shoreline erosion control, wetland restoration, and invasive species management to planting and transplanting trees, shrubs and perennials designing irrigation systems and offering property maintenance to name only a few, Jensen is creating an interactive learning environment for the public.

Not only is he offering workshops to the public—there’s one this Saturday on living shorelines—Jensen and his crew, along with the help of some international participants attending his ongoing learning “workshops,” are creating a large central garden modeled on “sacred geometry” which will lead visitors through a spiral of flowers, trees, vegetables and shrubs representing the cardinal cycles of life and our ever-transitioning seasons.

Eventually, Jensen will be inviting the public to use the new garden space for artistic events; music, poetry readings, perhaps even some small outdoor theatre. It’s more grand than a short interview can describe, but if you are interested in gardening, sustainable living and the aesthetics of metaphysical (and, as he says, “atomic”) design, you should be in stop by Unity’s nursery and garden outlet at 3621 Church Hill Rd. and find out for yourself what this extraordinary place is about.

And it’s not too late to sign up for Saturday’s class about Living Shorelines 101 Seminar. If you have a house near a body of water and have been watching it disappear, this is the event for you.

The seminar will take place from 10 AM-Noon, at Unity Church Hill Nursery, 3621 Church Hill Road, Church Hill, MD. Following a presentation by Jennifer Dindinger and Eric Buehl, Regional Watershed Restoration Specialists, attendees will visit nearby Camp Pecometh to view an example of a Living Shoreline Project. Michael Jensen of Unity Landscape Design/Build, a partner in the implementation of the project, will be available at the site to talk about the design and construction process and to answer questions. The event is free and open to the public, but please call 410-556-6010 to reserve your space.

In the meantime, Michael Jensens talks a bit in this video  about the vision he has for Unity Landscape Design

The Riverkeepers: Isabel Junkin Hardesty and the Chester

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We’re 60 years from the original Riverkeeper concept born out of citizen concern for the polluted Hudson River—a main source for NYC drinking water—where bacteria levels were 170 times more than safe limits and, along with Lake Erie, were considered near dead. Several dramatic lawsuits filed by citizen organizations against Con Ed and Penn Central resulted in an emboldened movement to challenge the status quo.

Now there are more than 150 Riverkeepers worldwide under the umbrella Waterkeepers Alliance and Chester River Association and they are tasked with testing the quality of their respective rivers while advocating for new strategies to combat degrading elements like phosphorus and nitrogen.

The Chester River Riverkeeper, Isabel Junkin Hardesty, has been the “voice of the River,” for the past two years, and although water testing might be the most recognized activity performed by the Riverkeeper, Hardesty describes the spectrum of environmental issues the Alliance addresses. The quality of the Chester River impacts all of our lives, economically,  environmentally and recreationally. Hardesty and the Chester River Association work hard to make it, and its tributaries healthier.

Find out more about the Chester River Association here.

Out and About (Sort Of): Vietnam Vets Honored By Howard Freedlander

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Our Vietnam War veterans deserved a better homecoming. Their time has come, albeit more than 40 years late.

As part of a Maryland Public Television (MPT) documentary honoring Vietnam veterans, to be aired in May 2016, and a two-day salute at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium in June 2016, MPT has organized a statewide traveling exhibit, which I saw last week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Easton. It was well worth the visit.

Though I never served in Vietnam, fulfilling my military obligation during that time in the U.S. Army Reserve, I was painfully aware of how those who served during this wildly unpopular war were treated when they returned home. Some citizens considered them baby-killers unworthy of respect. Some veterans were spat upon. Many veterans when they returned from Southeast Asia to the San Francisco airport quickly removed their uniforms and changed into civilian clothes for fear of being publicly chastised.

This ill treatment on the part of some of their fellow citizens still resonates in the quotes featured in the traveling exhibit.

Vietnam veterans deserved better. They still do.

The American public, disappointed and disillusioned about the conduct and purpose of the war, blamed the soldiers (a term I’m using to encompass members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force), instead of the policymakers. Soldiers fought and followed orders; they didn’t decide why it was considered necessary to engage in combat in a small Southeast Asian country riven by civil war, nor did they develop military strategy.

As in all American wars and conflicts, our Vietnam-era soldiers served well, often sacrificing their lives, if not suffering injuries that maimed them and scarred their psyches. Our nation failed to appreciate and applaud the valor and dedication of our Vietnam veterans. Their re-entry into post-combat life was far more difficult and complicated than it should have been. Our veterans often felt they had to hide their pride of service, inhibited in discussing their experiences.

Due primarily to the Vietnam War and roiling undercurrents of dissent disrupting our country, our veterans returned home to a country marked by sit-ins at colleges and universities, civil rights protest marches and an anti-establishment attitude permeating communities throughout the United States. Sexual and social taboos were questioned and flaunted. The decade of the 1960s was marked by three assassinations—President John F. Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy—and a beleaguered President. Lyndon Baines Johnson, forsaking a reelection campaign in light of serious opposition in his party and the nation.

As I read about the eight veterans pictured and quoted in the MPT exhibit at the VFW Post, I felt drawn back to the late 1960s and early 1970s and many wrenching memories. Perhaps because of my age, perhaps because of Vietnam veterans with whom I served as an officer in the Maryland National Guard, I understood even more clearly the injustices and insults faced by our returning soldiers.

As I have learned, the Vietnam War generated some good. The American public realized that wartime veteran deserve commendation, not condemnation; they deserve to be treated as returning heroes, not pariahs chastised for policies for which they had no responsibility. From a military standpoint, civilian and uniformed leaders learned that participation in combat requires a robust force to achieve victory; half steps are dangerous and unsustainable.

I applaud Maryland Public Television for producing a documentary about Vietnam-era veterans (with many of their voices included), organizing a major weekend event to honor those who serve in a much-maligned war and assembling a statewide traveling exhibit.

Our Maryland veterans of combat in Southeast Asia finally are receiving favorable attention and long-overdue gratitude—from all of us.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Diogenes and Unnatural Acts by George Merrill

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When I was a schoolboy I stole a fountain pen. The teacher recognized the pen and asked where I’d found it. I don’t recall what I said but I remember vividly how my face became red hot while I insisted resolutely that the pen was mine. The teacher didn’t buy it, the pen was returned and justice done.

Lying disturbs our natural biological functions, writes essayist and physician, Lewis Thomas. Electric discharges on the surface of our skin change, and our heart and breathing rhythms fluctuate. A flushed face may occur, as was my case in school. The lie detector documents these aberrations providing convincing evidence that for human beings our default position is set for truth telling. The lie detector exposes lying because our bodies spill the beans. We’re hardwired for truth. For us, lying is an unnatural act.

We hold truth as our highest virtue, so why did the ancient Greeks believe everyone was a liar. In their famous myth, the philosopher Diogenes, lantern held high, searches for an honest man but finds none? Was Diogenes looking for a man who tells the truth all the time or did he exclude women from the search. Either might explain his discouraging results.

Since human bodies react negatively to lying, dishonesty debilitates us, not only physically but also psychologically and spiritually as well. I know people living in dysfunctional families for whom the effects of lies can imprison its members in a hopeless world. Some undiagnosed complaints plaguing many people are often traced to living with lies that produce symptoms like lower back pain, headaches, listlessness, bad moods, and some forms of depression. Our own lies victimize others and ourselves as well.

In popular thinking, we arrange lies hierarchically, the way priests categorize venal and mortal sins; dirty lies top the list, then whoppers, next white lies and finally fibs.
There are times when lying can be a virtue. For marriages, strategic equivocations are absolutely necessary for keeping couples happy: I think of a husband whose wife asks him if he’s noticed she’s lost twenty pounds. He says yes but he really hasn’t. Or the wife who assures her husband she’s fine with him watching Monday night football and drinking beer with his buddies. Truth is she hates Monday nights and his boorish friends.

A child shows the picture she drew of you; your face is red, hair green, legs like sticks, your nose like a cucumber and your ears like Dumbo’s. She asks if you think it’s nice. “Oh sweetheart, it’s beautiful.” To say otherwise would be worse than any dirty lie you might ever tell.

Princeton moral philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt discusses the subject of truth in his scholarly book called, On Bullshit. Frankfurt draws fine distinctions in this business of truth telling. A liar, he tells us, utters statements that he knows aren’t true. ‘BS’ on the other hand is a statement someone may utter with authority although he’s wholly unaware that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. People most inclined to ‘BS’ are those from whom the public expects authoritative statements like clergy and politicians. Under pressure some may come to believe as truth what they have unwittingly made up.

A Bishop of my own denomination in 1654, stated definitively: “God created heaven and earth . . . beginning the night of the 23rd of October in the year 710 of Julian.” Before reading Frankfurt’s book I would have considered the Bishop’s statement a whopper. It may well be that it was simply ‘BS’, that is, the Bishop sincerely believed he knew what he was talking about. I might add Donald Trump as a contemporary example of the consummate BS’r.

Popular opinion holds that politicians ‘BS’ most of the time. It’s hard to tell. Some you know right away are really shoveling it while others you can’t quite tell whether they’re lying or just BS-ing. A fair number of political promises fit easily into the ‘dirty lies’ category.

For all the fine points of what truth is, I’ve found that some moments of truth are profoundly moving. They are beautiful and rarely forgotten. Whenever I recall the ravages caused to South Africa’s people in the wake of apartheid, I think of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His inspired vision of truth and reconciliation, unprecedented in this day when reprisals are a way of life, saved the nation from a bloodbath of vengeance. The truth that he helped the nation speak, also set it free.

Once I personally experienced one man’s truth and I was profoundly moved by it. I was a parish priest then in New York City. I often drove from my church on the West Side across town to visit shut in’s. One day, when I returned to my car, it had been rear-ended. I found a slip of paper tucked under the windshield wiper on which a man had written an apology for the damages, left his name and phone number asking that I call him so that he could cover the costs.

The man could have easily have disappeared and remained anonymous. I found his gesture extraordinary because it was not driven by expediency but by his heart. Truth, when we find it, is lovely.

Some might think that finding an honest man in New York City is a dead end. Not so. I discovered one after being rear-ended. You never know when or where an honest person will show up. And when one does, it can make your day.

Here on the Chester: Washington College after the Fires by Amy Elizabeth Uebel

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Editor’s Note: Perhaps one of the most terrifying sentences one can utter in the greater Chestertown community is the simple phrase, “there’s a fire up at Washington College.” Just hearing those words a few days ago in reference to WC’s most recent fire at their finance and IT building brought back memories of the liberal arts college’s sad history with fire. It also reminded us of this informative essay by Amy Elizabeth Uebel which first appeared in “Here on the Chester” edited by John Lang in 2006. DW

“Thy deeds and this with Grecian’s Homer fly”:
The self-perception of Washington College after the fires

What happens when fire strikes a college and leaves it devastated? What happens when the fire destroys not only a few important books, but the entire collection of the college’s historical documents and all the housing on campus? Washington College has faced this issue several times, first in 1827 when the original college building burnt and again in 1916 when the heating plant caught fire in William Smith. Each time the fires destroyed the most important building on campus.[1] Priceless records were lost, and the libraries were reduced to kindling for the fire; yet, the college rebuilt itself each time disaster struck. How the college perceived and presented itself to the public in the intervening months (or in the case of the 1827 fire, years) played an enormous role in the rebuilding process. This self-perception provides the missing link in how the college functioned and developed in the years following the fire. If one only views the rebuilding process through monetary eyes, much of the college’s character is lost. Money was vital only because without it, no building could be constructed. It is the self-perception and presentation of Washington College that explains the personality and motivations of the college, which is something that mathematical figures cannot explain.

Given the age of Washington College and its connection to George Washington and William Smith, one might assume that its image is the last thing the institution would have to worry about. After all, Harvard University and Princeton University seem to have their reputations and images quite secure. All the ivy and limestone buildings effervescently scream at visitors and students alike, “We were here before you, and we will be here after.” Why is it that Washington College, who is roughly the same age as the Ivy League Schools, seems to have such an identity crisis? For 225 years, no one at Washington has been able to agree on how to present or even PERCEIVE their own institution. Some have seen it as the champion of Southern morals. Others see the institution as the quintessential Eastern Shore school. There have been times when the college has been compared to the great Roman and Greek institutions, and there were times when it was not compared with anything at all. The only thing that seems to be agreed upon by everyone connected to the college is the fact that George Washington gave his name to the College at Chester. This image, or more appropriately, the search for an image has defined Washington College’s history, but this search was never more apparent than in the aftermath of the two fires on campus.

The aftermath of the 1827 fire can be summed up into four words: complete and utter chaos. The January Tenth fire destroyed the only building on Washington College’s campus. Along with the destruction of the building, the fire had managed to destroy most of the President, Dr. Clowes, and the Vice-President, Joseph Duncan’s belongings, and much of the furniture in the west wing that was being used as a boarding house for the students.[2] The loss of the entirety of the college’s belongings sent the Board of Visitors and Governors reeling. They held an emergency meeting the day after to find accommodations for the President and his family and a place to hold classes, but it is clear from the board minutes that most of the administration was in shock and had no idea where to start the rebuilding process. The minutes from the meeting are little more than their attempt to understand what had happened. They resolved to find suitable buildings to continue the college and to write a proposal asking the Maryland legislature for financial assistance in rebuilding, but did little else that first meeting outside delegating the board members, Major Matthew Tilghman and Joseph Wickes, 4th Esq., the job of collecting the property that was pillaged immediately after the fire.[3] Housing for the faculty members was found for Dr. Clowes and Duncan, and the college was moved into town, but the board encountered yet another roadblock when they were informed that they could not receive any more financial aid (in the form of a lottery) from the State Legislature. Due to another contract of a previous lottery with Palmer Canfield, in 1824, “neither they, their successors or assigns should apply for or obtain any other grant for a lottery or lotteries from the General Assembly.”[4] Without Mr. Canfield’s permission the board could do nothing to receive more aid, and for reasons unspecified, his permission was never given to the college.

Given that few students were actually paying to attend Washington and there was no lottery available, there were insufficient funds to build a new college edifice. Many of the students were there on scholarships, called Charity Scholars, and did not pay for their tuition, their books, or their boarding fees. Without assistance from the state, the board could do very little except attempt to continue life as normal in rented houses in town. They asked Dr. Clowes to follow in the footsteps of William Smith, who successfully roamed the Eastern Shore during the college’s infancy and convinced its citizens to donate money, and solicit aid from anyone who would donate.[5] Unlike William Smith, Dr. Clowes did not seem to be successful in his appeal. Nothing was ever said of his success at fundraising.[6]

His plea mirrored that of Smith’s ideals in the beginning. Learning was the battle cry of choice. An education was the reason for supporting Washington College. The Telegraph published his plea saying that,

The Rev. Dr. Clowes, Professor of Washington College, lately burnt at Chestertown, Eastern Shore Maryland, has been commissioned by the trustees of that institution to request and from the liberal citizens of the U. States towards rebuilding the edifice. It is the cause of learning.[7]

It was this ideal, that the college existed simply because it gave people the opportunity to learn and become educated, that governed the college. It also was the reason for keeping the college open for the next twenty-two years, until Middle Hall was constructed, when there were few students and just one faculty member for several years in the 1830s. The idea of education was about all the college had. There was so little money that for six years, until 1833, no mention was made about building a new structure for the college, and a year later, the administration finally decided to “sell the rubbish” that was the ruins of the building.[8] It would take them ten more years to begin building the new edifice.

The board may have been struggling to find a way to continue the school, but they were doing a good job at keeping up pretenses of normalcy in the everyday running of classes. Lessons were only suspended for twelve days after the fire and began promptly on the 22nd of January under the supervision of the vice-principal, Mr. Duncan.[9] Dr. Clowes was already on his way to the capitol to ask for assistance. Despite the recommencement of classes in town, and the return to every day life, it appears that the community was still in shock of the college burning. For Chestertown and the college community in 1827, this was destruction of everything they held dear—the chance to learn and have said institution in their own town. One of the two poems written about the fire compares the burning of Washington College to the destruction of the Roman Empire. It said,

Why should the goddess Vesta wield her sway / O’er thee, O Virgil, brightest of thy day? / The train of heroes in the Roman line, / All share the same destructive fate as thine; / Thy deed and theirs with Grecian Homer’s fly, / In trembling ashes ‘neath the clouded sky; / No more within thy walls shall be entwined / The Wreath of knowledge round the youthful mind.[10]
This comparison is a fairly lofty statement for a school that was only fifty-five years old at the time, especially when this school was receiving little state aid and was being pushed to the backburner of state politics in favor of supporting Washington’s Western Shore sister, St. John’s College.

It was this argument, whether or not to support both schools, or just one that dominated the state legislature in March of 1827. They were debating on whether or not to give Washington the $10,000 dollars it asked for in order to rebuild. Several legislators argued that “one college well endowed, would be of much more utility to the state, than an attempt to sustain more than one without giving any one means to enable them to afford a complete education.”[11] In their attempt to save stress and money by endowing a single college in the state, the legislators seem to have forgotten William Smith’s ideal of having two colleges that make up an open university system in Maryland on both shores of Maryland. It simply did not seem to be a feasible option for the legislators of both the western and eastern shore. There seemed to be little pride among the people on the Eastern Shore that this was a college from their homeland. It was simply a college where one could go and become educated, and why endow one that was struggling even before the fire?

Despite the seeming negligence of the rest of the country as well as the Eastern Shore, the college still seemed to see itself as a beacon of education during this time. When the college was mourned, it was mourned because now students would have no place to go to learn if the college foundered and died out.[12] Even Joseph Duncan, who lost every belonging he possessed (outside that of his wife and children), mourned in his poem more for the loss of a home for learning than for his belongings. He wrote, “There are those who mourn for thee, lonely pile; / Who with thee, have hail’d the Sun’s first smile– / Who have sought, in thy shelter, the feast of mind, / When that orb grew pale in the northern wind.”[13] It seems that the college did have reason to fear for the demise of their precious institution. It is probable that the school stopped admitting students for two years while they were sorting through the debris and determining how to continue the college. The Telegraph published in October 1829 that Washington was once again opening for admissions under the new reign of Peter Clark. The Board of Visitors and Governors advertised that, “The Course of Studies will include all the parts of thorough English and Classical education.”[14] They also appealed to the “liberal patronage of an enlightened community” that they generously support the college.[15]

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William Smith Hall after the 1916 fire

Somewhat ironically, the 1916 fire that struck Washington College has many similarities to the fire that destroyed the original college building. William Smith Hall was designed to loosely resemble the original building, and the fires happened had such a striking resemblance to each other that it would make any conspiracy theorist daydream. In terms of the reaction on campus immediately following the fire, the burning of William Smith Hall in 1916 is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum.[16] The Cain administration’s reaction was nothing like that of the Clowes administration in the nineteenth century. William Smith Hall was rebuilt within two years, and the plans for rebuilding were in place before end of the 1916 academic year. Furthermore, the burning of William Smith is barely more than a blip on the radar of Dr. Cain’s administration. The February issue of the Collegian reports on the burning of Smith as does the 1917 issue for the one-year anniversary of the fire, but there exists few records in the Cain papers and when the fire is indeed mentioned, it only speaks of it as “the burning of William Smith Hall in 1916.”[17] The 1827 fire remained an issue for weeks, months, and years after it happened. Board meetings were consumed by finding a way to make the college continue; yet, Washington College had no problems moving on in 1916. How is it possible that Washington College went from being crippled and almost completely destroyed by fire, and then somehow, eighty-nine years later, the college could suffer just as devastating of a fire and not even be bothered by it, outside of a few articles in the county and school newspaper and board minutes?

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Rear of William Smith Hall after the 1916 fire

The main reason for the difference in reactions is that Washington had finally come out of its “dark years” as Fred Dumschott has termed the years during the early 1800s. The early twentieth century was one of extreme growth for the college and the college administration was justifiably proud of it. When the fire did strike in 1916, the school body was not fazed by the outcome. The central heating plant on campus was completely destroyed, as were many of the professors’ belongings and research. Four thousand volumes were apparently lost in the library, as was a paper of George Washington’s LL.D that he received from Washington, several ledgers from early donors, and a few notebooks kept by students in 1792. In fact, the only thing that was apparently saved from the fire was the portrait of William Smith that hangs in Bunting today and a “few chairs.”[18] With such a loss, it could easily be assumed that the college would find it hard to continue; however, it seems that the administration under the “efficient, aggressive manner” of Dr. Cain had a plan to rebuild the very next day that (once again) involved asking the state legislature for financial aid.[19] It was only when the administration realized the college could not transfer everything to Normal Hall (Reid) that they gave students a one-week vacation.[20] After all, it was January and the college could not function without some heat in the dorms and gymnasium. Once back, the college did not seem to skip a step. The students fully backed the college administration’s asking of money saying in an editorial of the February 1916 Collegian that,

It must be rebuilt. The State must give us an appropriation. Because the State may be hesitant to be liberal, it is an appropriate time for all the men believing and hoping in the future of Washington College to exert their political influence in favor of this institution and not stopping there, by individual subscription make up a sum which will build a still larger William Smith Hall. This is a crisis in the history of the college, and let all good and true men rally to the cause.[21]

This was not the cry of a college that desperately needed help. Unlike the Washington of 1827 that desperately needed a new lottery in order to rebuild and continue the college, this was a college that claimed it deserved the money from the state because of who they were, Washington College. Advancing higher education is indeed a glorious cause, but any institution can claim help under the guise of education. The 1916 Washington campus may not have been the Harvard or Yale of Maryland but they felt that the institution was equally as important as St. John’s College (if not more important) and that the state should recognize them and felt that they deserved the help simply because of who they were. The students did stress some anxiety about actually receiving aid in February of 1916 because the students added another plea in their editorial saying that,

The present administration has threatened to cut out its appropriation to Washington College. When that happens it is going to be hard sleding for the old Eastern Shore school. It is a difficult thing for us to understand their motive. Of course the slogan of Harrington and his men has been economy and efficiency, but it seems to us that it would be a foolish public to allow themselves to be beguiled into believing that economy lay in ruining the finest college in the state…The men of the Eastern Shore would have lost just that much by losing Washington.[22]

Money aside, as Washington did receive the much needed aid, it seems that most students chalked the entire fire and burning of the administration building of the college to an “experience.” They ended the piece describing the losses by saying that, “In keeping with that thought the students look upon the loss and inconvenience as a gain in experience. And look forward with confidence in the future of our college.”[23] The students mourned the loss of the books and documents, but they did not lament it like they did in 1827.

When it came to the rebuilding process of the college, it is easy to see the college’s motives, ideals, and aspirations by the architectural style of the buildings themselves. For example, Middle Hall, when it was built in 1845, was purposefully designed as being modest, and yet substantial, but with a “tasteful copula and belfry.”[24] The college had grown incredibly from the years immediately preceding the fire to 1845. There were now four faculty members, Richard Ringgold, the principal and professor of Greek and Latin, Franklin Green, professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, the Reverend Clement Jones, professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy, and Peregrine Wroth, professor of law, instead of just one faculty member as it had been for several years under Ringgold’s early leadership.[25] Furthermore, the college claimed that, “the terms of entrance to the freshman class and the entire curriculum of studies were as high as those prescribed for the best colleges in the United States.”[26] It must be noted that the new college building was not even attempting to redo the grandeur and glory of the first college building. It was to be,

A two story brickhouse, sixty feet by forty, a cellar under the whole house to be eight feet high in the clear, four feet of it below and four feet above the ground. The first story to be twelve feet high in the clear, to have an entry passage through the center of the building twelve feet wide, and two rooms of equal size on each side of the entry, the adjoining rooms to be connected by a large folding or sliding door, and a fireplace in each room. The second story to be ten feet in the clear and in all respects the same as in the first story. A stairway from the cellar to the garret. In the first and second stories the stairways to be in the entry.[27]

Considering that the original building was roughly twice the size as this new building, it would be absurd to think the Board of Visitors and Governors was trying to re-establish Washington to its former glory sixty-three years earlier. What is now Middle Hall was meant to be modest, sufficient, and practical. The only extravagant part of the new building, a cupola and lighting rod with a gold point, was added only six months, in June 1844, before the college took possession of the new building.[28]

The college does begin to show some of its future pride in its history once it occupied the new building. The students, in order to celebrate Washington’s Birthday, put on a light show in the windows of the new building. They arranged candles in the shape of 1732 in the cupola, a ring of lights in the garret (now the third floor), the word Clio was formed in the windows of the second story, and mathematical figures were arranged on the first floor. It was reported that the “scene was one of surpassing beauty.[29]” In the nineteenth century, the building would have more than likely been highly visible from town when lit up, and it is probably the excitement of the new building and pride in being once again on College Hill that inspired them to create such a light show.[30]

The pride the new students showed when celebrating Washington’s birthday in its inaugural year continued to grow thorough the years. The school was finally becoming proud of who they were and not simply seeing themselves as a means to an end. When 1918 arrived, the college wanted to rebuild itself in the exact same way it was before the fire struck the first William Smith Hall. Smith was rebuilt in the exact same way as before with a few minor changes. With the $50,000 received from the insurance company, and another $3,000 paid to the Board of Visitors and Governors, the college was already well on its way to rebuilding much faster than it took the Washington College of the nineteenth century.[31] In April, the state granted Washington $48,500 to help rebuild, $28,500 to go to maintenance of the standing heating plant and the rest to help rebuild the Hall.[32] With all the money aside, it is most striking that the college decided to rebuild William Smith exactly the way it was at its best with three exceptions: the heating plant was now moved away from the important buildings on campus, another cupola was to be built on William Smith (more closely modeling the original building), and two vaults were added for the safe keeping of valuable documents.[33] The administration and students alike felt that William Smith Hall was a perfect manifestation of their pride in the college. It reflected what they needed and how they wanted to look to passersby.

It’s hard to imagine such an important part of ones school catching on fire and destroying much of the college’s present and history, and it’s even harder to imagine how the administration would react to the catastrophe. Would they panic? Would they see it as time perfect timing to revamp the college and give it a new image? Would they flounder as Washington did in 1827? Or, would they be more like Dr. Cain’s administration in 1916 and simply rebuild exactly the way the college was and continue as if nothing was amiss? It’s impossible to tell what would happen today, but what is certain is that, when looking back at the following days, weeks, months, and years after the fires, the college’s hopes, ideals, and ambitions come out in how they go about rebuilding. Washington College in 1827 was overlooked and under funded. When disaster struck, they almost folded (but not quite). The 1916 Washington saw their fire and the destruction of their library as unfortunate and somewhat annoying, but in the end another experience to chalk up and prove to the world that they were a force to be reckoned with and NOT be overlooked like they had in the past. In the eighty-nine years that passed between the two fires the college changed: it went from being small and on the verge of meltdown to being well known and confident. Most importantly though, Washington College found it’s identity in the ashes of its fires.

Amy Elizabeth Uebel earned her baccalaureate degree at Washington College and a Master of Science degree in Historic Preservation from the Clemson University/College of Charleston Graduate Program in Historic Preservation. She has worked at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT and is she is now involved with the National Park Service work on the treatment and stabilization architectural elements from Civil War Era. Additionally, Amy Elizabeth serves as an adjunct faculty for the American College of the Building Arts.

Bibliography

Board Minutes, May 26, 1916, Miller Library Archives, .Folder: Cain Administration Notes.

Cain, James, M. “James W. Cain: A Memoir.” Nov. 1943. Miller Library Archives (folder: Cain, James M.-writing), 4.

Dumschott, Fred W. Washington College. Chestertown: Washington College, 1980.

“Fire Insurance Paid” The Enterprise, Wednesday, February 23, 1916.

“In an Editorial Way.” Washington Collegian, February 1916, Miller Library Archives, 14.

Kent County News February 19, 1916, Miller Library Archives, .Folder: Cain Administration Notes.

Kent County News April 8, 1916, Miller Library Archives, .Folder: Cain Administration Notes.

Steiner, Bernard C., History of Education in Maryland. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1894.

“The Burning of William Smith Hall.” Washington Collegian February 1916. Miller Library Archives, 6.

The Chestertown Telegraph, 1827-1829.

FIRE! The Chestertown Telegraph, January 12, 1827.

The Chestertown Telegraph, February 2, 1827.

“On the Burning of Washington College, January 11, 1827.” The Chestertown Telegraph, February 9, 1827.

“Washington College” The Chestertown Telegraph, January 22, 1827.

“Washington College” The Chestertown Telegraph. March 16, 1827.

Duncan, Joseph M. “The Burning College.” The Chestertown Telegraph, April 20, 1827.

“Washington College.” The Chestertown Telegraph, October 23, 1829.

Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors minutes. 1827-1849. Miller Library Archives.

[1] Well, in 1827 it was the only building, but that only makes it more substantial of a catastrophe.

[2] FIRE! The Chestertown Telegraph, January 12, 1827.

[3] Board Minutes, Friday, January 12, 1827.

[4] Board Minutes, Saturday, January 13, 1827.

[5] Board Minutes, Monday, January 15, 1827.

[6] Dumschott, Fred W. Washington College. (Chestertown: Washington College, 1980), 50.

[7] The Chestertown Telegraph, February 2, 1827.

[8] Board Minutes, Tuesday, February 4, 1834.

[9] “Washington College” The Chestertown Telegraph, January 22, 1827.

[10] “On the Burning of Washington College, January 11, 1827.” The Chestertown Telegraph, February 9, 1827.

[11] “Washington College” The Chestertown Telegraph. March 16, 1827.

[12] A shocking thought for those of us who came to college under the idea that college is more than simply learning to understand Homer or Herodotus.

[13] Duncan, Joseph M. “The Burning College.” The Chestertown Telegraph, April 20, 1827.

[14] “Washington College.” The Chestertown Telegrah, October 23, 1829.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Interestingly enough, William Smith burnt down almost 89 years to the day of the original fire, and in both caught fire in the cellars.

[17] Cain, James, M. “James W. Cain: A Memoir.” Nov. 1943. Miller Library Archives (folder: Cain, James M.-writing), 4.

[18] “The Burning of William Smith Hall.” Washington Collegian February 1916. Miller Library Archives, 6.

[19] “Burning of William Smith” Washington Collegian, 6.

[20] The students didn’t seem to mind too much, having the extra break.

[21] “In an Editorial Way.” Washington Collegian, February 1916, Miller Library Archives, 14.

[22] “In an Editorial Way” Washington Collegian, 15.

[23] “Burning of William Smith” Washington Collegian, 9.

[24] Steiner, Bernard C., History of Education in Maryland. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1894), 88.

[25] History of Education, 90

[26] Ibid.

[27] Board Minutes, February 12, 1834.

[28] Board Minutes, June, 17, 1844.

[29] I also imagine that the faculty was extremely proud of the students for using intellectual figures to decorate the windows. It’s doubtful that the students, no matter how geeky they are, would decorate their windows with mathematical figures. History of Education in Maryland, 90.

[30] The picture of Stepney farm in the entry of Bunting shows the visibility of the college, it is quite probable that Middle would have been just as visible in 1845.

[31] Although I must admit, I’m not entirely sure why the board received the additional $3,000 a few weeks later. No place seems to specify the reason for the additional money. Kent County News February 19, 1916, Miller Library Archives, .Folder: Cain Administration Notes.; “Fire Insurance Paid” The Enterprise, Wednesday, February 23, 1916.

[32] Kent County News April 8, 1916, Miller Library Archives, .Folder: Cain Administration Notes

[33] There is something about this college and their love of adding cupolas on top of buildings. Board Minutes, May 26, 1916, Miller Library Archives, Folder: Cain Administration Notes.; Dumschott, Washington College, 162.

Out and About (Sort of): Maine by Howard Freedlander

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A former camp for boys in central Maine, now containing privately owned cabins–gussied up, of course–facing Lovejoy Pond (looked like a lake to me) provided a serenely
peaceful and pleasant vacation spot for three days.

My wife Liz’s friend of 47 years, an educational consultant in St.Louis, MO,was our gracious host. Conversation was easy and comfortable.

IMG_1212At first I was concerned about being bored. That feeling quickly vanished, with side trips to a famous ramshackle restaurant known for its unparalleled lobster rolls, to the Farnsworth Museum with its incredible Wyeth paintings in Rockland and to the Colby College museum in Waterville, with its impressive display of American art.

I’m afraid I can make no connection to Talbot County. I ate lobster instead of crabs. I marveled at rocky beaches and lovely lakes, instead of well-traveled rivers, sandy beaches and the incomparable Chesapeake Bay.

And, by the way, we ran into Easton friends who recommended the Colby museum. Word of mouth is effective.

And I almost forgot to mention Camp Menatoma’s loons, which sound nothing
nothing like our noisey, honking Canada geese.

Life is good and relaxed. Reading, talking, eating, walking and playing Scrabble are major activities. Evenings are cool. Sleep is easy.Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 4.50.31 PM

We left a tranquil setting for tourist-infested Kennebunk Beach, which typifies Maine’s rocky coastline. As I learned from Farnsworth Museum, Maine’s rugged coastline and fishing industry, particularly its lobster harvest, have inspired artists and authors to capture the rareness of Maine. Not unlike the literary and artistic lore of our own Chesapeake Bay and its enticing tributaries.

I mentioned the infestation of tourists. I too am one of those wide-eyed enthusiasts trying to enjoy and learn. Maine is a wonderful place to visit, savor its seafood and marvel at its landscape. I can understand why friends from home find themselves drawn to Maine, especially to escape hot and humid weather so common to Maryland.

Lingering becomes a favorite pastime in a snippet of life unburdened by deadlines. Reading becomes the top priority. Catching the sun in moderation becomes another passive activity. Doing nothing seems worthwhile, with the Atlantic Ocean feet away.

New England accents are distinctive, a bit jarring at first but gradually accommodating. I now wonder what visitors think when they visit the Eastern Shore and hear native dialects. Accents define the place–and a different experience.

It’s always nice to go home and taste familiarity. Respite is invaluable, away from daily concerns and chores. And, the lobsters remind you of Maine’s culinary goodness.

Steamed crabs will soften my acclimation to Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.