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Memories of Fields of Pikesville not soon forgotten

There was a time when you couldn't find a space to park, much less get on the lot at Fields of Pikesville. Seating at their lunch counter also was impossible , as was a waiting area.

That was back in the day when Pikesville hummed with shops that were proud local proprietorships.

Pharmacist Norman Levin, fresh out of the service, and his wife, Ruth, with the couple's 6-month-old son, Jeffrey, still in arms, purchased Fields in 1946 from the Fields family.

The store was half the size it now is..The tiny cosmetics counter tucked in the corner offered a selection of product from Revlon, and Revlon only, with a few errant bottles of perfume inherited from the previous owners.

As Ruth Levin Hollander recalls, she was a neophyte in the cosmetics business. That was until she broke a bottle of Arpege. Looking back today, she says she "never smelled something so wonderful."

But in those days, small shops and certainly "drugstores" (a bygone piece of nomenclature) were denied the privilege of buying direct from the manufacturer of high-end makeup lines and fine fragrances. Hutzler's, Hochschild Kohn, Stewart's, and Hecht Co. were where you went to find Lancombe, Biolage, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Guerlain, Nina Ricci, Faberge and Norrell, Local drugstores relied upon a jobber/distributor for a limited and unreliable selection that they often came upon when the manufacturer was of a mind to rack up figures by "dumping" merchandise otherwise unavailable.

Ruth rose to the challenge of soliciting these companies proving to them that she had the space, the clientele and the staff needed to assess, apply and sell. She held events bringing in makeup artists from those companies. She offered "gift with purchase" and a private charge account to her customers and the opportunity to lunch following a "tough day" of buying. Fields became known as the place to go for the very latest in trends and products.Whether it was a line of Israeli Sea Salt products, the fishnet bath puff, or Chanel's entry into cosmetics, Fields had it.

In 1970, the Levins acquired the building next door allowing for a much-needed expansion of their soda fountain.Grandparents brought grandchildren as had their parents brought them for ice cream cones or sundaes and milkshakes — and something else no other fountain had: snowballs. This also allowed for the addition of an upscale line of stationery, greeting cards and an array of hard-to-find gifts. Fields had long offered boxed delights from local chocolatiers Keyes and Rebs, which could be wrapped at no charge.

Five years later, Norman Levin suffered a fatal heart attack and passed away on Nov. 23, 1975. Ruth persevered. Fields went on in spite of the opening of Owings Mills Mall in July of 1986, which was also when her son, Jeffrey, joined the business. A graduate of the Columbia School of Law, this turn of events was not what Ruth had expected. Nor was it expected that the Pikesville Giant would expand, or that a Rite-Aid, CVS or Walgreen's would appear on every corner.

Jeffrey said he began to see a downturn in business in 2008, just as many other businesses did. An even more definitive decline in business occurred 12 weeks ago, at which point Jeffrey decided it was no longer possible to remain open and announced a closing date of Labor Day weekend.

Wandering through the store that last weekend, the strains of Johnny Mathias' "Misty" ricocheted off walls now bereft of merchandise in a store now without customers. One could say that the Levins run of more than 60 years at Fields is a pretty good run. One also can also that the dignity for which Fields was known was maintained to the very end.

Temple Emanuel welcomes Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler as its featured speaker at the Sept. 30 Brotherhood/Sisterhood breakfast. To make a reservation call the temple office at 410-526-3676.

Mazel Tov to Temple Emanuel's Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda Silverman. She has received her PhD.

The Federation of Jewish Women's Organization of Maryland installed the following slate of officers at its annual President's Reception: President Harriet L. Meier, Vice President Sheila Derman, Vice President Hilda Yankelov, recording secretary Rochelle Borher, corresponding secretary Rae Shalowitz, corresponding secretary Sheila Stern, auditor Lynne Lichtig and Immediate Past President Lynda S. Weinstein.

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation announces Renee Stadd as its new director of the E.B. Hirsh Early Childhood Center. Renee is a former teacher and curriculum coordinator of the day school and assistant principal of the religious school.

A very special birthday wish to: Lillian Schimberg (87), Dorothy Diamond (100).

Congratulations on these milestone wedding anniversaries: Lorna and Richard Kane (50), Anna and Leonid Kalensky (55), Gerri and Larry Kobren (55), Elaine and Daniel Lowenthal Jr. (55), Celia and Stan Levinson (57), Roslyn and Norman Klein (55), Lucille and Stanley Sachs (65), Tina and Arnold Ehrenreich (60), Evie and John Hillman (52), Betty and Stephen Cooper (50), Tema and Marvin Rubin (60).

Mazel Tov on the Bat Mitzvah of: Allyson Heather Resnick.

Best wishes for wedded bliss on the marriage of Mary Ponders to Steve Gorn.

Here's to stars in your eyes on the engagement of Alison Hirsh to Jonathan Green, Shana Heller to Aaron Macks.

Wishing a complete and speedy recovery to Myra Lichter.

My condolences on the passing of Jeanne Monroe, Angelina Marie Zachman, Bernie Smith and Cyrile Goldman,

Look for my next column on Oct. 4.

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