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Victor-Victrola.jpgWar can certainly be a time of danger, but there are other times when soldiers are in camp stateside or behind the lines when they can relax.

Camp Meade near Laurel was named for Maj. Gen. George Meade. It became an active army installation in 1917. During World War I, more than 400,000 soldiers would pass through the camp to be trained for the war. It was the training site for three infantry divisions, three training battalions, and one depot brigade.

During the course of the war, 704 Garrett Countians would serve in the military and most of them were sent to Camp Meade for training. The Garrett County boys in Camp Meade in October 1917 were part of a company of 250 men from Garrett and Allegany counties and Baltimore City. The traveling agent with the B&O Railroad who had charge of the Garrett County recruits when they were taken to Camp Meade, said of them, “The boys from Garrett county were the finest bunch I have so far taken to any camp.”

Once at camp, their training went well. “We arrived safely in camp, and most everyone is well and getting along fine with our drills, considering the time we have been here,” six of the recruits – Henry Byrn Hamill, Earl W. Alexander, Harry M. Setzer, Paul R. Liston, Robert R. Glotfelty, John W. Livengood – wrote in a letter to The Republican.

They were healthy and happy. The Republican described them as “the finest specimens of young manhood in the country.”

They were bored, though.

The six recruits, who were representing all of the Garrett County recruits, asked if a subscription fund could be started to buy them a Victrola “as the time when off duty would pass much faster if we had a Victrola to cheer up the boys from ‘Old Garrett,’ and serve to keep them from getting blue,” the letter read.

Although today, Victrola has become a generic term for old phonographs, back then a Victrola was a brand of phonographs with an internal horn that was manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine Company. They are not the older versions of phonographs that Victor used in its logo. This version had an external horn, and a dog sat in front of the horn to hear his master’s voice.

True Victrolas were first marketed in 1906 and quickly gained popularity. That popularity helped bring down the price to roughly $100 ($1,870 today) depending on where it was purchased.

The Republican staff jumped into action starting the subscription fund not only for a Victrola but also records that could be played on it. Not waiting for the next issue, staff began notifying people in town about the request.

Within an hour after the subscription efforts began, $46.50 in donations had come into the news room from 41 donors. E. H. Sincell pledged the most ($5) and some people pledged as little as 25 cents.

One minister gladly donated a dollar to the fund, telling the editor, “Never do you start anything for the boys again unless I am in on the ground floor. If this is insufficient for the purpose or if you want to raise another fund for anything else to come to me.”

The citizens of Friendsville took up a collection and raised $11 from 11 donors. The Girls Club of Gormania raised another $5 and mailed it to the newspaper office.

After a week, $83 had been raised from 74 donors. Within two weeks the $100 goal had been surpassed, and the boys from Garrett County had an enjoyable way to pass the time by the end of October.

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A road cleared of snow during the 1958 blizzard in Garrett County.

The call came in that Thomas J. Johnson needed an ambulance. He was seriously ill and needed to get to the hospital. Normally, it wouldn’t be a problem, but in early 1958, getting anywhere in Garrett County, Maryland, was to say the least difficult.

The ambulance attempted to reach him, but it couldn’t get through to Johnson’s Herrington Manor home. Help came in the form of bulldozers and snow plows that struggled to carve a path through drifting snow as high as 15 feet. It took six hours for the plows to reach the 67-year-old Johnson and rush him to Garrett Memorial.

During another incident that winter, Trooper First Class Robert Henline walked three miles through deep snow that vehicles couldn’t get through to deliver medicine to a desperate family near Gorman.

Other incidents occurred, some serious and some just major inconveniences, but there were a lot of them. In seven weeks in 1958, nearly 112 inches of snow fell on the county, beating out the previously bad winter of 1936. No other winter in the 20th century to that point even came close.

The Cumberland Sunday Times reported that the bad weather “practically isolated most of the county despite heroic efforts of State Roads and county roads crews, National Guardsmen and other volunteers.”

Although the first snows of the new year had fallen mid-January, the first big storm came at the end of the month. Ten inches of snow fell on January 24 followed by three more inches two days later. “For a short time on Friday afternoon there was snow, sleet and ice falling at the same time,” The Republican reported. A heavy fog also slowed things down.

The heavy snows led to the rare occurrence of closing Garrett County schools in the county for three days at the beginning of February.

“It was the first time in several years that there had been the loss of even one day of school,” The Republican noted.

School Superintendent Willard Hawkins said he “was afraid to put the buses on the roads because of poor visibility and icy conditions.” The Republican reported that Hawkins had intended to resume school on the third days until he found out that many children and teachers were still snowbound.

A week later nearly 10 inches of snow fell on three consecutive days. Pleasant Valley, Kempton, North Glade, Sanders Lane, and Herrington Manor were the worst hit, reporting snow drifts of 15 feet or more. With visibility near zero, the Maryland State Police issued an emergency travel only order.

The blizzard left about 40 percent of the county roads impassable for two days, according to Paul DeWitt, assistant county engineer. Garrett County had 140 men working 45 snow plows around the clock to try and open and clear the 740 miles of county roads.

State road crews were running 20 snow plows and a giant snow-blower over the 158 miles of state roads in the county. The only state road that was impassable was Route 495 between Bittinger and Grantsville.

With so much snow on the ground, the snow plows were only able to push it so far off the road before running into previous piles of snow that had been pushed off the road. “By that time there was no place to push it and consequently many of the highways drifted completely over,” The Republican reported.

In Oakland, snow and vehicles competed for space and the snow often won. “Parking space was at a premium and many of those who found places at the edges of the drifts found themselves unable to move when they returned to their cars,” The Republican noted.

All of the snow busted the county’s budget that year with rented equipment costing $1,000 a day and snow removal equipment using 2,000 gallons of gasoline a day.

Although the snow totals blew away previous snowfall records in the county, at least the temperature records still stood. In 1958, the temperature fell to -17 degrees, but the 1912 record was -40 degrees.

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Another newspaper – The Oakland Republican in Oakland, Maryland –  picked up my “Looking Back” column on a monthly basis last week. I’m pretty happy about that because I love researching the stories and writing about them.

For example, I found a story about a man who was called the “Champion Miner of the World” in the 1920’s because of how fast he was at mining coal. I wrote about his story for The Republican, but in researching it, I found out that this man’s son, was a frontline reporter in WWII who won a Pulitzer Prize. He also got his reporting start at another newspaper that carries my column so I had two columns from one idea.

Right now, four newspapers – The Catoctin Banner, The Gettysburg Times, The Cumberland Times-News, and The Oakland Republican – carry my column, though at one time it was four. Even though multiple papers carry the column, I write different columns for each paper. It’s sort of a hybrid between a local column and syndicated column.

It certainly would be easier if I could just publish the same column in multiple newspapers, but I don’t think it would be as fun.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind being able to get another couple newspapers to carry the column, hopefully, in places that I’m not too familiar with. Then I get the joy of discovering of the interesting people, stories, and places in that area.

Here are the links to the newspapers if you want to search them for my Looking Back articles:

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         It’s been said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Such fury cost Oakland, Md., its first doctor.

            When Dr. John Conn stepped off the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train in 1851, he was a pioneer. Oakland hadn’t yet been incorporated as a town and the region was still frontier for Maryland. The town only had a few hundred citizens and they needed a doctor. The next-closest doctor was Dr. John H. Patterson in Grantsville, Md. To get there and back to Oakland would have taken a full day.

            Conn set up his office at Second and Oak streets where it quickly flourished.

            “In the days before the convenience of a well-stocked pharmacy, it was said that the ‘young doctor’ either had on hand the correct medication, or could prescribe a suitable home remedy for any attack of ague or vapors, vague ailments which were popular at in that period,” according to Garrett County Historical Society book, Strange and Unusual True Stories of Garrett County.

            Besides the fact that Conn had a monopoly on the medical needs of the community, part of the reason that his practice was successful was because he was young, attractive and people liked him.

            Sometimes too much.

            Ann Johnson was a woman who believed that she deserved more from life than to work in a general store owned by her older husband, Cornelius, and live in a backwoods town. The general store was on Railroad Street, just 300 feet away from where the Dr. Conn had set up his office. Ann could watch him leaving and entering the building from either the general store or her apartment. Sometimes the young doctor would even come into the store for items.

            Ann began to think that Conn might be her way out of Oakland. He was younger than her husband and he could take her to a city where she could live the life she wanted. She began to find reasons to visit the doctor for treatments for various ailments that either she or her infant daughter, Ida Lucy Florence Jeanette Genevieve Jenny Lind Johnson, supposedly had. She would engage the doctor in conversation to show her sophistication and smile at the single man.

            “As time passed, and the visits continued, Mrs. Johnson was convinced that her personality and charm were making an impression on Dr. Conn,” according to the Garrett County Historical Society.

            And she was making an impression. Conn thought she was being quite out of line. He told one person that he thought Ann was a “butterfly fool.” When word of this got back to Ann, her dreams collapsed around her. How could this man call her foolish? He could not find a better woman in this town!

            Ann stewed on the issue and her affection for the doctor turned to hate. She said something to Cornelius, most likely accusing Dr. Conn of doing something inappropriate to her during one of her visits.

            Then one evening in the spring of 1854, Cornelius left the general store shortly before 7 p.m. and climbed the stairs to his apartment. There he loaded his muzzleloader and took up position at his window. He watched the doctor approach his office and raised the muzzleloader to his shoulder.

            As Cornelius took aim at the doctor’s back, Marquis Perry approached the doctor to talk about something.

            Cornelius waited for his target.

            “One shot was fired and the doctor crumbled at the step. The bullet passed through his head and lodged in the office door,” according to the Garrett County Historical Society.

            Marquis was so frightened at being next to a murdered man that he ran off. He was found later hiding in his closet. Others, alerted by the shot, came outside and saw the doctor on the ground. They carried him to Thayer’s saloon on Railroad Street where Constable Thomas Arnold pronounced Conn dead.

            Suspicion quickly fell on Cornelius and Arnold arrested him. However, the only witnesses against him were Marquis and Ann. Marquis said he was too shaken to know what happened and Ann wouldn’t testify against her husband.

            The jury failed to convict Cornelius.

            He left Oakland and his wife shortly thereafter.

            Ann, surprisingly, stayed on longer taking care of her daughter. Then one day, she left the young girl in the care of a neighbor, saying that she needed to run some errands. Instead, she boarded a train and never returned to Oakland.

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“Babe” Ruth was a baseball legend. You can find out why in When the Babe Came to Town. My new ebook shows how the Babe connected with the fans through his many exhibition and barnstorming games.When the Babe Came to Town is a collection of some of these stories highlighting games that Babe Ruth played in Emmitsburg, Maryland; York, Pennsylvania; Oakland, California and Cumberland, Maryland.

It was big news when Babe Ruth came to town. Many residents of these smaller towns unused to seeing Major League baseball games in the days before television. They had only read about Babe Ruth’s talent in the newspapers or heard about it on the radio. The Babe came to town and showed them what they were missing as he hit home runs out of the park.

There are a lot of these stories out there and I’m finding that how Ruth connects with the fans more interesting than the baseball games. These are exhibition games after all. When the powerhouse New York Yankees goes up against a Minor League, the winner isn’t in doubt, the margin of the win is.

When the Babe Comes to Town scratches the surface of these games. I hope to do more of them in the coming years. I just wrote another this week for my newspaper column in the Chambersburg Public Opinion.

You can find the book at Amazon and Smashwords.

 

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I thought I would let everyone have a peek at the cover art for my next book, which should be out just in time for the Heritage Days Festival in Cumberland in June. I think Stephanie E. J. Long did a great job with it. I definitely looks like it is part of the series.

This volume is 150 pages and 47 stories from Western Maryland along with 33 black-and-white photos. It contains stories of lost treasure, train wrecks and successful residents. You’ll also find out where Albert Einstein liked to get away in the summer and the story of Allegany County’s lost automobile manufacturing industry.

Looking Back II: More True Stories of Mountain Maryland will retail for $14.95.

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It’s been said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Such fury cost Oakland its first doctor.

When Dr. John Conn stepped off the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train in 1851, he was a pioneer. Oakland hadn’t yet been incorporated as a town and the region was still frontier for Maryland. The town only had a few hundred citizens and they needed a doctor. The next-closest doctor was Dr. John H. Patterson in Grantsville. To get there and back to Oakland would have taken a full day.

Conn set up his office at Second and Oak streets where it quickly flourished.

“In the days before the convenience of a well-stocked pharmacy, it was said that the ‘young doctor’ either had on hand the correct medication, or could prescribe a suitable home remedy for any attack of ague or vapors, vague ailments which were popular at in that period,” according to the Garrett County Historical Society book, “Strange and Unusual True Stories of Garrett County.”

Besides the fact that Conn had a monopoly on the medical needs of the community, part of the reason that his practice was successful was because he was young, attractive and people liked him.

Sometimes too much.

Ann Johnson was a woman who believed that she deserved more from life than to work in a general store owned by her older husband, Cornelius, and live in a backwoods town. The general store was on Railroad Street, just 300 feet away from where Dr. Conn had set up his office.

Ann could watch him leave and enter the building from either the general store or her apartment. Sometimes the young doctor would even come into the store for items.

Ann began to think that Conn might be her way out of Oakland. He was younger than her husband and he could take her to a city where she could live the life she wanted. She began to find reasons to visit the doctor for treatments for various ailments that either she or her infant daughter, Ida Lucy Florence Jeanette Genevieve Jenny Lind Johnson, supposedly had. She would engage the doctor in conversation to show her sophistication and smile at the single man.

“As time passed, and the visits continued, Mrs. Johnson was convinced that her personality and charm were making an impression on Dr. Conn,” according to the historical society book.

And she was making an impression. Conn thought she was being quite out of line. He told one person that he thought Ann was a “butterfly fool.” When word of this got back to Ann, her dreams collapsed around her. How could this man call her foolish? He could not find a better woman in this town!

Ann stewed on the issue and her affection for the doctor turned to hate. She said something to Cornelius, most likely accusing Dr. Conn of doing something inappropriate to her during one of her visits.

Then one evening in the spring of 1854, Cornelius left the general store shortly before 7 p.m. and climbed the stairs to his apartment. There he loaded his muzzleloader and took up position at his window. He watched the doctor approach his office and raised the muzzleloader to his shoulder.

As Cornelius took aim at the doctor’s back, Marquis Perry approached the doctor to talk about something.

Cornelius waited for his target.

“The doctor crumbled at the step. The bullet passed through his head and lodged in the office door,” according to the historical society book.

Marquis was so frightened at being next to a murdered man that he ran off. He was found later hiding in his closet. Others, alerted by the shot, came outside and saw the doctor on the ground. They carried him to Thayer’s saloon on Railroad Street where Constable Thomas Arnold pronounced Conn dead.

Suspicion quickly fell on Cornelius and Arnold arrested him. However, the only witnesses against him were Marquis and Ann. Marquis said he was too shaken to know what happened and Ann wouldn’t testify against her husband.

The jury failed to convict Cornelius.

He left Oakland and his wife shortly thereafter.

Ann, surprisingly, stayed on longer taking care of her daughter. Then one day, she left the young girl in the care of a neighbor, saying that she needed to run some errands. Instead, she boarded a train and never returned to Oakland.

 PICTURE CAPTION: This is Railroad Street in Oakland around the turn of the 20th Century. Though somewhat different than the Railroad Street that Dr. John Conn knew, the Johnsons’ general store and Thayer Saloon were both on this street in 1854. Courtesy of the Albert and Angela Feldstein Collection.

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