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Elger J. Huber Sr., stationary engineer

Roman CatholicismChristianityBaltimore and Ohio RailroadWorld War II (1939-1945)

Elger Joseph Huber Sr., a retired stationary engineer who helped produce the distinctive blue Noxzema and Bromo-Seltzer glass containers and was later a school bus driver, died of respiratory failure Monday at Howard County General Hospital. The North Laurel resident was 87.

Born in Baltimore, he grew up on the grounds of Lake Roland, where his father worked for the city's Division of Water Supply. The family of 13 lived in a house in what is now Robert E. Lee Park. He attended city public schools.

Family members said he accompanied his father, Harry R. Huber, when he operated controls to change the water level at Lake Roland. He also assisted his father in rescuing swimmers who had jumped off Fox's Rock, but then could not make the shore at the city reservoir.

He recalled learning to swim in the lake. As his father stood on the shore, he learned by trying. He also recalled walking across the top of the dam as a shortcut as he carried pails of milk from nearby cows and tended the goats his family kept there.

He also remembered the day he met his future wife, Lillian Jones, who lived nearby in the Lake Falls community. She sold snowballs at a concession stand at the lake.

Mr. Huber later moved to the High Ridge section of North Laurel, where his father had 17 acres and established an extended family compound.

During World War II, Mr. Huber served in the Navy.

He became a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad mechanic, checking rail cars for problems and repairing brakes. His fiancee was then working in the office at the line's old Mount Royal Station.

Mr. Huber became a stationary engineer at the old Maryland Glass Corp. plant in Morrell Park. Among other duties, he fired and tended boilers used in the manufacture of a type of cobalt-blue glass called "Maryland Blue."

The glass was used in the production of Bromo-Seltzer bottles and Noxzema skin cream and Vicks VapoRub jars, as well as for containers of the patent medicine Phillip's Milk of Magnesia. Mr. Huber also assisted in the industry that made specialty blue bottles for perfume manufacturers. He was part of the workforce that made clear glass, called flint, and amber, or brown, glass.

"He was proud of the ashtrays they made in the shape of top hats," said a daughter, Robin E. Marton of Laurel. "During the [U.S.] bicentennial, they made bottles with the faces of Washington and Jefferson. There were also blue flower vases shaped like violins."

After the glass company closed, Mr. Huber became a Howard County public schools bus operator and drove a route in the county's southern section.

His father gave Mr. Huber land on the family tract, where he and his wife built their own four-bedroom home out of cinder blocks. He laid out a large vegetable garden and supplied family and friends with tomatoes, green beans, squash and cucumbers. Family members said he enjoyed watching Westerns and shared his enthusiasm with his eight grandchildren who lived nearby. He also helped care for them.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Mary of the Mills Roman Catholic Church, 114 St. Mary's Place in Laurel, where he was a member.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include a son, Elger J. "El" Huber Jr. of Glenelg; another daughter, Dawn Bancroft of Laurel; four sisters, Margaret Cole of Laurel, Nancy Salzman of Eldersburg, Merle Phillips of Laurel and Elizabeth Huber White of Baltimore; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. His wife of 63 years died in 2007.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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