It was an unusual career path.
Ellison W. "Bill" Ensor, 96, and his wife Mildred Cox "Mickey" Ensor, 94, who have been married 75 years, like to talk about his early days in the late 1930s as a milkman delivering bottles to doorsteps in Parkville.
His route for Cloverland Dairy was along Harford Road from Hamilton to Carney. It was no job for a slacker — he was competing with milkmen from two other dairies.
"It had to be on the doorstep by 7 o'clock in the morning, so you had to get up at 2 o'clock," he said.
He wanted something different and he knew some policemen.
"They said, 'It's not a bad job, but not like anything else you've ever done,' " he said.
So the young man who had delivered milk and worked on streetcars gave law enforcement a shot.
That's how he wound up, in 1967, as the police chief of Baltimore County.
Sitting recently in the living room of their independent living apartment at Brightview Avondell retirement center in Bel Air, they recalled that it might have turned out differently.
When World War II broke out, Ensor considered going to work in a defense industry, which paid well. His wife, he said, talked him out it and he stuck with the police.
"It was her decision and I abided by it and I've never regretted it," he said.
About 30 family and friends gathered at Liberatore's Ristorante in White Marsh on Aug. 10 for a surprise party to mark their 75th wedded year (in case you are wondering, it's the diamond anniversary). The couple was actually married on July 29, 1939, at St. Ursula's Catholic Church in Parkville.
The family's Parkville/Carney roots come from Mickey Ensor, who attended Parkville Elementary School and then graduated from Towson High School in 1937 (Parkville High had not been built yet). Bill Ensor, living in Towson, a classmate, had graduated from Towson High a year earlier and, while out driving, spotted her on a street corner.
"She was waiting for the bus to go home to Carney and I stopped and asked if she wanted a ride," he said.
She took that ride, and a courtship began.
They were married by the Rev. David Dorsch. It was the young priest's first wedding. He was still available a half century later to preside over their renewing of vows on their 50th anniversary.
Joining the force
Ensor joined the county police force in 1941, when it had about 100 officers. He rose through the ranks — sergeant in 1947, lieutenant in 1952 and chief inspector in 1961 — and became a captain in the Eastern District. In 1965, he spent 14 weeks at the FBI training facility in Quantico, Va.
"Back then, people respected the police a lot more than they do now. We were ambassadors to the public," he said.
He said he had his gun out on occasion, but never shot anyone. However, he was stabbed.
"I was arresting a drunk in a tavern in Towson. When I had him down on the ground, his wife came up and stabbed me with a fingernail file," he said.
Family members attending the party all said Bill Ensor was a father and grandfather who was "Wild Bill Hickock" in the police station, but "Sweet William" at home. The couple raised five children — Ellison "Bill" Ensor Jr., Kathleen Ensor, Dianne Fowler, Patricia Ensor and Vickie Bands. They also have eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
In the 1960s, Baltimore County had its share of unrest involving antiwar demonstators and civil rights protestors. Ensor had to gear up.
"I can remember not seeing him for days and then I saw him in his riot helmet and it scared me to death," said Vickie Bands, one of his daughters.
No macho man
Daughter Dianne Fowler said, "A lot of policemen have that bravado, but not my dad."
Once, he was watching TV with his daughters and he let them practice fingernail painting on his hands. He forgot about it and went to work wearing red nail polish, his daughters recalled.
Ensor had a feminist streak. While chief, he said, he went out of his way to hire women. It was while he was chief, he said, that the first females were promoted from patrol to officer status.
"I've always been a strong advocate of women. I say if you want a job done right, give it to a woman," he said.
During his tenure, he said, he cracked down on moonlighting after he learned officers were working privately at night and sleeping in their patrol cars during their shift.
He turned down the offer of an anti-riot tank. "That's what the National Guard is for," he said.
He left the police department in 1975 after 34 years on the force. One reason, he said, is that he and County Executive Ted Venetoulis "didn't see eye to eye."
He spent the next eight years working as a special investigator in the state insurance commissioner's office before retiring.
"Since then he's been coasting," deadpanned Mickey Ensor.
As a young woman Mickey Ensor worked as a keypunch operator and for a clothing manufacturer, but after her marriage her career was "raising five children," she said.
At the anniversary party, her granddaughter, Meredith Dyott, said she lived next door to her grandparents for 24 years in Phoenix and was constantly spending time with her grandmother.
"She taught me how to play bingo, how to clean, how to be a good wife," Dyott said.
Her husband Ross said he also picked up some pointers from Bill Ensor.