Jackie Nickel interviews Essex residents at Baltimore County Waterfront Festival (5/13/2006)

Festival will highlight the county’s waterfront
Event will help raise money for aviation museum

By Kristi Funderburk (Baltimore Sun, May 12, 2006)

When a dozen seaplanes touch down on Martin’s Lagoon, the festival will begin.

The second Baltimore County Community Waterfront Festival, set for tomorrow in Middle River, includes music, food and crafts – and, naturally, a boat show.

It also offers a chance to learn about an aviation pioneer, meet an astronaut and climb into the cockpit of a fighter jet.

Some of the proceeds from the festival, which is designed to highlight the county’s 175 miles of waterfront, will go to the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum.


Throughout the day, visitors can tour the museum’s new exhibits and get a close look at a small squadron of aircraft.

About 20,000 people are expected to attend, and $40,000 to $45,000 is expected to be raised, said John Markley, deputy director of the county’s Department of Recreation and Parks, which organized the festival.

John Tipton, the aviation museum’s marketing communications director, said money from the event will go toward building an education center for engineering and, later, a larger museum.

“We’re a small museum, a little unknown and out of the way,” he said, “but we want to become a cultural destination point for the community.”

Continue reading at The Baltimore Sun.

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Essex Motto: Never Forget Where You Came From!

By Jackie Nickel (5/2/2007)

What a weekend! My house did not get cleaned, my grass did not get cut, my refrigerator is nearly empty, and laundry is piled high in the hamper. But I met dozens of wonderful Essex folks and sold lots of my new Essex history book. But this is not about me or the books, it’s about the people I’ve met while promoting the history.

First one comes to mind was the most awesome encounter of all so far. I was sitting at the doorway of Borders during a signing, thinking that mall shoppers are not much into book buying, especially Essex history, when a lady stopped and picked up the book and before she even opened it, she told me her great grandfather was a lighthouse keeper at Pooles Island. Ohmagosh, I was stunned. As I turned to two pics of Pooles Island (courtesy Dan Hubers), I admitted that while they probably didn’t belong in an Essex book, I just couldn’t resist. After all, I live on the Essex waterfront and look across the water each day at the island discovered by Capt. John Smith that later became a federal munitions target and now is strictly off limits for civilians. I’ll write more in a future article about Pooles, but as if that weren’t enough, she then told me her grandfather was the Postmaster of the old Middle River P.O. near the railroad station that stood across the tracks from Harrison Ave. in “old” Middle River. So we’ve been exchanging E-mails ever since, I sent her copies of my previous book and soon will meet her mom. Wow.

Soon thereafter, another lady stopped by to look at books and mentioned she was a descendant of the Walters family who owned the first general store at what later became known as Josenhans Corner. I feel like I’m meeting celebrities when folks with such long ancestral roots introduce themselves. My family came to the waterfront in 1916 as summer dwellers but that doesn’t hold a candle to these pioneers who actually settled the land. I also met one of the Schluderbergs that day and pointed to the old photo of the Somogyi farm on Back River Neck where the Schluderberg Kurdle (Esskay) meat company fattened up pigs and cattle in the early 1900s. He told me the animals were shipped up to Conkling St. where the slaughterhouse was located. I also mentioned to him that our families are neighbors at Oak Lawn cemetery. Doesn’t everyone know who their neighbors are at the cemetery? We have beautiful monuments at Oak Lawn and I’ve strolled among them for years, noting names, dates and unique designs.

This past weekend in Essex well over 75 people stopped by, eager to talk Essex history, tour the Heritage Society Museum, check out old photos and, of course, buy books. Several folks recognized their ancestors in old pictures in the museum’s collection, which was quite a thrill for the younger generation. Three folks to date have found deceased relatives who were members of the Vigilant Volunteers pictured on the cover of my book. Three different families commented on the memoir of Slava Matejka we recently published and related that they were her neighbors on Old Eastern Ave. and so enjoyed her story. Another lady traced her roots to the Hughes and Carback families, pioneers of Back River Neck. I’ll be gathering more information from them in the future.

Then at last, I got to meet my E-mail friend and Civil War buff Howard Smith. He and I have been going back and forth for months on his efforts to document a Civil War encampment at the railroad bridge over Back River. I haven’t been able to contribute much other than acting as a cheerleader but Howard has come up with loads of info, even reading the daily reports of various groups stationed there, noting the capture of a schooner transporting troops and goods to the Confederacy! We’ve all heard the stories of big boats traveling up river in what now is muck and mud – hard to believe, but true. Remember when remnants of a wooden ship were discovered during the construction of Route 702 in 1978? I sure would like to find the newspaper article describing that incident. Folks from Upperlanding and adjacent streets in Essex recall boats cruising right into their neighborhoods to sell fruit and produce from Baltimore. What great stories!

A few “Mystery Photos” drew lots of attention. One is of a milkshake and ice cream shop, a detached building with a large parking area with cars ca. early 50s. Bill and Bill from Catherine’s Florist dropped by and ID’d that one as the old location of the flower shop which later became a pest control office. The awning pictured was still on the building when it became a florist shop. And as if that weren’t enough detail, another visitor identified herself as a former carhop at the dairy bar and said the owner was a Georgie Sauers, whose family also owned a grocery store near S. Marlyn.

Another picture was of Willy’s Appliance housed in a familiar looking concrete block building, which we learned was on Riverside Drive not far from the Moose hall. We have lots of pics of the Moose too, and wonderful “new” old photos of the Hiway movie, inside and out, provided by Shirley and Herb Weimer, owners of the now-closed Squirrels Nest Antiques. A big thank you to them for sharing about 20 previously “lost” photos of businesses in Essex.

Another expression of gratitude goes out to Vigilant Federal Savings Bank, our first real corporate supporter, for purchasing a quantity of books for distribution to board members and employees. Thank you!

And of course sincere appreciation to the Heritage Society for opening their doors to me. I hope we brought in enough new visitors to spur on new support and volunteers for their efforts and a portion of my book sale proceeds from Sunday is being donated to them. Next Saturday, May 5, I’ll be at CnS Trading Co., Country Ridge, from noon-1 p.m. Stop by and chat – I’m writing it all down for the next edition!

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March is Women’s History Month

By Jackie Nickel (The Avenue News, 3/22/2006)

March is Women’s History Month — the perfect time to write about the strong and caring women who have influenced the way we live our lives. It was just 85 years ago that women were given the right to vote and hold office through the 19th Amendment, and have we ever come a long way, baby!

While my Mom and three aunts definitely were role models as strong women through my early 30s, it wasn’t until I began work as a journalist that I got to meet women who had far more widespread influence.


Alberta Pugh’s 1978 County Council candidate photo. (Walter M. McCardell, Baltimore Sun )

Two weeks ago as I was going through The Avenue archive photos for a new book on Essex history two faces seemed to jump from the box and jar my memory. Alberta Pugh and Helen Delich Bentley. “Now here are two women who really influenced me,” I told Jean who was sitting behind her desk. As I continued sifting through old photos, the memories came pouring back of all the events I’ve covered and the strong women I’ve met since my first freelance Avenue article in 1979. It was an unexpected flood of emotions that I felt then and reflected on all day long.

Alberta Pugh was one of the earliest and longest serving presidents of the Essex-Middle River Council (EMRCC) and was she ever a pistol, stirring things up and getting the government moving! Before I ever got to meet Mrs. Pugh, I was used to getting late night phone calls from her discussing pressing community issues, some like the Holly Neck development, still in the news today. Alberta wasn’t actually calling for me but for my husband who was an EMRCC member and union activist. But he was either working the night shift, at a union meeting or in bed, so l took the call.

As a stay-at-home mom with three little kids, those 11 p.m. rings added some excitement to my Mommyhood and I think Alberta knew that and decided to broaden my world. She would fill me in on all the political scoops and scandals while I listened in astonishment — blind until then to controversial issues beyond nosebleeds and broken toys in my back yard.

A few years went by and my marriage broke up, my kids were older and I went to work at The Avenue. I had met Alberta at a few fundraisers but didn’t get to know her until my reporting took me to EMRCC meetings at Victory Villa Community Center. Alberta was already sick with the cancer that took her and the VP was filling in as president, but Alberta still kept in touch by phone. I think it was she who asked me to do an interview with her, but it could be the other way around. There were things she needed to say before she died, of that I’m certain.

We met at the home of Alberta’s best friend, Olga Zubris, in Foxridge off Back River Neck Road. Olga was another great lady and I’ve since become friends with her daughter Connie. Alberta shared her life story, telling how she became such a well-known activist, even having run for a seat on the County Council, educating me as well on the nuances of local government. The story was quite a coup for the paper since everyone knew she was not well and it proved to be her final interview. I never forgot the things she told me about fairness and fighting for what’s right — “because somebody has to do it.”

Time passed and I continued covering civic council, meetings and even signed up as a member. One night around 10 or 11 the phone rang and it was Olga Zubris. “Jackie, there’s something Alberta asked me to tell you. She wanted you to be on the Board of Governors of the civic council.” I was honored that she thought I had the potential to help lead and guide. So when it was election time, I ran and was elected and I’ve been there ever since, once as president, other times in various offices, but always an active member – or should I say activist member.

So in this month of celebrating Women’s History, I thank Alberta for broadening and enlightening my world, showing me and others in the civic arena how to choose our battles and fight the good fight.

Also, I must acknowledge Helen Delich Bentley whom I met while covering a Back River Neck Peninsula Community Association meeting in the early 80s. A former journalist and host of the Sunday tv program “The Port that Built a City,” Helen was well known before she entered the U.S. Congress. I was somewhat intimidated by her gruff voice but proceeded to ask questions and eventually shared with her my fledgling efforts at covering community news and some pressure I was getting regarding a development issue. “You just gotta keep going after the story and tell truth,” was her advice, which has served me well over the years.

Both Mrs. Bentley and Alberta Pugh have influenced and enriched my life and earned their place in the pages of women’s history.

March 22, 2006

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