Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Portions of 1954 Holly Tree Broadcast Online

As Cecil County prepares to ring in the holiday season with the lighting of the Jackson Station Holly Tree, we are pleased to post a virtual exhibit containing clips of sounds from the 1954 ceremony, as well as photos.
Please click here to go to view the virtual exhibit and see our comments in the post below this one about the Holly Tree.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Travelers' Christmas Tree

One tradition for kicking off the Christmas Season in Cecil County is the annual lighting of the “Holly Tree by-the-tracks.” The Baltimore & Ohio held the first public ceremony in 1948 when thousands of people gathered to ring in the season as lights from thousands of bulbs on the evergreen softly illuminated the Jackson, MD hillside. For many years the company dispatched a special train from Mount Royal Station to Jackson for the occassion. After 1971, the tree was dark for a time until a group of volunteers started making sure the tree festively blazed for the holiday season.

The Society has an old 33 1/3 long playing record that captures the magic of the 1954 lighting ceremony, including carols by the B & O Glee Club and the B & O Women’s Music Choir. That old vinyl, a long unheard broadcast, has sat silently on a shelf, but we recently digitized the audio. We then enjoyed the snap, crackle and pop of the vinyl recording, as another lost Cecil County sound poured from the speakers. Musical selections directed by Dr. James Allan Dash, a narration by the master of ceremonies Walter Linthicum, gasps of delight and loud applause, and much more poured from our speakers. We’re going to post a special vidcast containing portions of that broadcast this week so you too may enjoy the special festive occassion that took place over a half-century-ago.

To illustrate the audio, we have a selection of photos from Jim Cheeseman, old postcards and B & O railroad materials of past evenings along the tracks. But we needed some current shots for the vidcast so on an unseasonably cold Saturday, about the time dusk was settling on the head of the bay, we drove down Holly Tree Lane. On this early winter evening, we found three members of the Holly Tree Committee getting things in order for the festive evening on Dec 1st. Mike Morgan, President of the group, along with Ed Slicer, former Cecil County Director of Parks and Recreation, and John Gallaher were there working through the cold approaching darkness to make sure everything worked. So we talked with the volunteers, took a few photos, and then drove down to Port Deposit to enjoy a fine evening meal at CM Tuggs, in the heart of another old county town, Port Deposit that is ready for the Christmas season.

Be sure to check back later this week for the vidcast and come to the opening ceremony on Dec. 1 from 4 to 6 p.m.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ernest Howard Fact File Digitized

A fast facts file on Cecil County History was created by Ernest A. Howard in the 1960s or 1970s. Based on years of research, he outlined basic data pertaining to the area's towns, villages, companies, geography, churches, organizations, and much more on 3 X 5 cards. Although it was created nearly half-a-century ago, the cards are a source our volunteer staff consults when helping patrons with an initial investigation for they contains a basic framework for initiating a project. Since our library staff finds valuable insights on those old 3 X 5 cards, the Society’s editor, Milt Diggins, digitized the material so our Internet patrons would have access.

Click here to access the Howard Files, including his almanac.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Diggins Title Coming Soon

We are pleased to announce that Milt Diggins, the editor of the Society’s Journal, has a new Cecil County history title coming out in a few months. Part of the Images of America series by Arcadia Publishing, Milt spent the summer examining thousands of Cecil County photos and he has selected over 200 of these for his volume. Many of these images have been unseen for decades, some are from glass-plate negatives from the 19th century, and, since he also worked with private collections, some of picture have never been published. We eagerly look forward to hosting a reception for Milt and Images of America – Cecil County in a few months at the Society. Watch our blog and keep an eye on our calendar for an update. We’re sure you will enjoy this title.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Clifford Jones & Fletcher White Recall George Washington Carver High School

Each year hundreds of graduating seniors receive high school diplomas in Cecil County. But in June 1964, when nine students at the George Washington Carver in Elkton stepped forward to receive degrees, it was a particularly historic moment for it marked the end of segregated high schools in Cecil County. At the commencement five boys and four girls walked proudly across the stage to receive well-deserved diplomas from Principal Charles Caldwell. The final graduating class was made up of Edward Townley, Genevieve Jones, Bryant Wilson, Carolyn Clark, Robert Henson, Barbara Banks, William Calm, Dorothy Waters and Robert Owens. After all these years students at that school still glowingly recall experiences and some of the people who helped them meet the challenges.

While the old high school is long gone, 66-year-old Clifford Jones’ memories are as indelible as the ink on his diploma. For the class of 1960 graduate, there was the feeling of accomplishment at getting his diploma, but the friendships developed during those times in a tight-knitt school are important too. “We didn’t have a football team, but we competed in track and basketball. Our team was in the regional playoffs and we went to Hyattsville to play there. On the track we were good and we got to compete in Chestertown and other places.” Despite being out of school for almost a half-century, Cliff remembers the teachers who influenced his life and the lessons they instilled in him. “Mrs. Bessicks, my first grade teacher, I can never forget for she was a pillar in the community and her husband taught music. Mrs. Fitzgerald taught English. Our teachers were dedicated and set high standards. All of them lived right here in Elkton and we saw them in church on Sunday and wherever else we want. Mr. Caldwell, the principal, was fantastic but he was strict. If I got in trouble in school, he would spank me and then call my mommy”. Cliff went on to say that when he got home his mother, Margaret Coursey, would be waiting and he’d get another spanking. He also recalled that Mr. Caldwell helped him get his first job at Merrey’s Candy Store at the corner of High Street and North Street.

Fletcher White graduated in 1953 and he brought his yearbook to show us. He too echoes Cliff's observations as we recently walked around the property, while the two men recalled many good times. Fletcher's father built houses too and we had a chance to see some of his work and Fletcher recalled working on the school building.

Though it’s been over 40 years since students filled the classrooms and wandered the halls of the Board of Education’s Booth Street Center (the former high school), many pleasant memories are still alive after the passage of decades for that quick fleeting journey through the halls of George Washington Carver brought many valuable experiences, lessons, and knowledge to young scholars, as well as life-long recollections and friendships. We enjoyed spend a pleasant couple of hours with Cliff and Fletcher as they shared memories from decades ago.

Fletcher & Cliff stand outside the Board of Education maintenance building, recalling that this facility served as the high school until a newer building opened.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Truman Appears in Elkton

The past came back back to life last night when President Harry Truman walked on stage to perform for a Historical Society audience as part of our season of living history performances. The thirty-third President of the United States, Harry Truman, dispensed his Missouri straight talk in a one-man show called “Give ‘em, Hell Harry!” Of course, the real Truman died in 1972, but the nation’s leader was played on this special evening by Gerald Riley of Wheatfield Theatre Company. Two Mount Aviat Academy students, William & Rielly Graham, who also happen to be two of our youngest members, greet the important visitor after the show. Check out the Society event blog for additional upcoming performances during our winter living history series.

Death & Burial Records Added to Web Site

Evelyn Wekke and Billie Todd, two of our volunteers, have digitized some of the death and burial records in our collection. (Evelyn is shown at right working in the library.) Their products can be accessed by clicking on the link here. Maryland law required a burial permit in order for a body to be interred and a sexton or other person could not permit a burial unless it was accompanied with a certificate. Locally the burial permits were issued by coroners and the burial spreadsheet contains abstracted data data from 1912 to 1955. The death certificates came from the file copies kept in the local corners office. These records are important sources of genealogical information and Evelyn and Billie are working on more of these valuable projects, including additional death records. Billie, our most experienced genealogist and the person we turn to with our complex family history research questions, is also working on digitizing (with images) some of our naturalization records. We thank them for this valuable contribution for we're sure researchers will find insights here. Please check back occasionally as we add more of the content they've created to the web site.