Local Heros by Jamie Kirkpatrick



Chestertown is in the World Series! Well, sort of. Bill “Swish” Nicholson, born and raised down on Water Street, played for the Chicago Cubs, those most lovable of losers, from 1939-1948 and appeared in the 1945 World Series, the last time—until this year—the Cubs played in the fall classic. (The Cubs lost to the Detroit Tigers in seven games that year; Swish had 6 hits, batted .214, and knocked in 8 runs, more than any other Cub.) He earned his nickname from the sound his swing made, although it’s not all together clear if it included the smack of horsehide on ash or just air. My money is on the former because in the recorded history of baseball, Swish is one of only six major league players ever intentionally walked with the bases loaded, surest sign I know of an opposing team’s respect for a pure hitter.

Chestertown has had its fair share of local heroes. In addition to Swish, we count Tallulah Bankhead and Mary Martin among our own, not bad for a small town a continent away from Hollywood. But with all due respect to those past local heroes—maybe celebrities is a better word—I hereby want to accord honorary local hero status to some more modern and modest Chestertonians. They may go unsung in the annals of baseball or history, but not by me. (I’ll withhold their names to prolong their reputations, but I bet you know each and every one.) Here’s my list:
The g
rinning bartender, part one: he knows what I want to drink before I do. Why waste precious happy hour (past)time?
The grinning bartender, part two: he sees me coming, dusts off the bar, and serves my favorite drink with a good book and a side of trivia.
The thespian baker: she rises before the sun so my bacon cheddar scone is waiting for me when I arrive when the day is half done.
The quiet philanthropist: doing good work behind the scenes.
The sandwich-maker: back at it and doing well, thank you, hon!
The used bookseller: if browsing is a fine art, then you-know-who is Michelangelo.
The lawyer: Walmart never had a chance.
Teachers: to whom we entrust the future. (Especially a certain Teacher of the Year.)
The housepainter: artiste on a ladder.
The piano player: any tune, any tempo.
The Captain and the Caterer: Hail to the Packet!
The Cheesemonger and the Oenophile: the best of all possible neighbors.
Chefs and Restauranteurs: the violins of the orchestra—I can’t imagine the symphony that is our town without them.
The Framer: touched, finished, and looking great, as always.
The gallery owner: upstairs/downstairs, all manner of art to go with plenty of style.
Artists: painters, sketchers, coloring bookers, potters, glass-blowers, woodworkers, photographers, jewelers, and more.
Writers: novels, history, and Pulitzers..oh my!
The Spy: our up-to-date and online town crier.
Saturday morning marketers: fresh, savory, sweet, and healthy.
The Hospital: there when you need it.
Leaders: a gigging mayor, a golfing town manager, and a drum majoring town clerk. Where else but here?
Watermen: keepers of traditions and living legends of our rivers and the bay.
Handymen: Repairers of homes, appliances, sewer lines, and swings.
The White Swan: hospitality, charm, and tea in the heart of the Historic District.
The Goose Nation: they keep us young, they make us smarter.
Small business owners: open doors, smiling faces, and almost everything under the sun.
Police, Volunteer Firefighters, EMT personnel: they keep us alive, safe, and well—literally.
DCA & CA&ED: alphabets with lots of heart, always looking to enhance the 21620 brand.
Sultana: our flying signature schooner.
Echo Hill: adventure disguised as outdoor education, or is it the other way ‘round?
CRYCC: my home away from home where everybody knows my name.

I could go on (and on) but you get the gist. But for now, in honor of the Cubs’ first appearance in the World Series since 1945, let’s toast our boy Swish and all the other local heroes who make living in Chestertown a world championship experience.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

Letters to Editor

  1. Marjorie Fick says:

    Yet another great musing by our very own Jamie. Thank you.

  2. John Hudson says:

    WOW!!! What an articulate fitting tribute to all the historical Chestertownian’s. Jamie…you truly are a gifted writer. Thank you! You eloquently captured all that makes up the fabric of Chestertown with a literary twist. “Superb”! I tip my hat to you. And I tip my ballcap to ‘Swish’ and The Cubs.

  3. Marge Fallaw says:

    Actually, Bill Nicholson was born on a family farm (“Fancy Farm”) relatively near Chestertown, not on Water St. in C’town. He bought the river-side house between High and Maple on Water St. when he was a professional ballplayer, and I guess it was where his children were raised. See Bob Greenberg’s biography on Nicholson entitled “Swish,” published about 8-9 years ago. Bob is a WC grad, now a Montgomery Co. circuit court judge.

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