xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Dayhoff: Parking meters in 1940s Westminster caused deep divisions in the community

A portion of Chapter 5 of “From Our Front Porch” is devoted to “The Great Westminster Parking Meter War” – which hardly anyone remembers today. Westminster Hardware on Main Street in Westminster in the late 1940s is shown. Notice the parking meters in front of the store. The building burned down in 1982.
A portion of Chapter 5 of “From Our Front Porch” is devoted to “The Great Westminster Parking Meter War” – which hardly anyone remembers today. Westminster Hardware on Main Street in Westminster in the late 1940s is shown. Notice the parking meters in front of the store. The building burned down in 1982. (Courtesy of the Historical Society of Carroll County)

Thankfully, memories of 2019 are quickly leaving, along with the dwindling pile of cookies that once dominated the dining room table. I swear that elves, which live under the basement steps, come out at night to eat them. Really.

According to the Democratic Advocate on Jan. 2, 1897, “Mr. Joseph D. Zepp, druggist, at the West End, Westminster” had some unwanted excitement to begin the new year. He “had one of his show windows ornamented with a Christmas scene, with cotton representing snow.” While “striking a parlor match the (match) head flew off and ignited the cotton…”

Advertisement

The paper reported that the fire caused a “considerable blaze and doing damage to the extent of $20. The property is insured in the North British and Northern Company, James E. Smith, agent. The property is owned by Mr. John L. Reifsnider.”

The Union Bridge Pilot reported on Jan. 13, 1922, “One of the worst snow storms for several years visited this section on Wednesday (January 11.) …” The article goes on to explain that reaching the electric lines that needed to be repaired could not be reached by using motor vehicles, so “Next they left in a sleigh drawn by a pair of mules.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

It was less than a month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 that the dawn of the New Year in 1942 witnessed Carroll County beginning the hard work of helping with the war effort.

According to “From Our Front Porch,” a history of Carroll County in the 1900s by Jim Lee: “As the new year arrived, Carroll stepped up its efforts to prepare for potential enemy invasions. … In Westminster, a blackout rehearsal (had taken place) on Dec. 12, at 9 p.m. As part of the efforts to protect Carroll County from the enemy, local members of the Civil Defense units would work shifts ‘at an air raid lookout post’ looking for enemy aircraft flying over the county. Another local defense initiative saw ‘more than 1,100 Carroll countians signed up as Minute Men,’ including 10 ministers…

“The men wore a determined expression that boded no good for any invaders in Carroll County … Crack riflemen” were among the accumulated defensemen. “One man is keeping his fox hounds in excellent condition (to help) lookout for parachutists…”

“From Our Front Porch” also reports: “In February (1942) the City of Westminster informed residents it would provide sand to homes that could be used to extinguish fires from incendiary bombs.”

Advertisement

As the New Year dawned in 1946, Westminster was paralyzed over the deep differences in the community over whether or not to allow parking meters to be installed — and where. Most of the city’s most powerful merchants were dead-set against the idea. The legal battles raged for years.

An article in the Democratic Advocate on March 8, 1946 reported, “The long awaited court action against the parking meters for our city will be heard in the Circuit Court for Carroll County with Associate Judge Clark, of Howard County, on the bench, on Thursday, March 21 at 10 a.m.

“The original bill of complaint was filed Sept. 19, 1941 by T. William Mather, Jr., George K. Mather, Frank W. Mather, Harry Rosenstock, Fred J. Schmitt, and Esra W. Harbaugh vs. the Mayor and Common Council of Westminster.

“The meters were not installed in the proposed sections of Westminster, and no hearing was had in the matter. On Feb. 1, 1946 a motion was filed for a hearing in the matter by Attorneys Francis Neal Parke and Ralph G. Hoffman, and the case has been re-opened. The complainants now are: Harry Rosenstock, Fred J. Schmitt, and Ezra Harbaugh. D. Eugene Walsh, counsel to the city, will represent the city.”

As late as the 1960s and 1970s there remained bitter feelings in the community over the parking meters. Entire political campaigns for the city council were based upon whether or not a particular candidate supported the meters.

A portion of Chapter 5 of “From Our Front Porch” is devoted to the controversy — which hardly anyone remembers today. It remains curious as to where the meters were eventually installed and not installed. As late as the 1950s, much of Westminster’s wealthier citizens lived on Pennsylvania Avenue and that section of town was the location of most of the prosperous businesses — and no parking meters were installed there.

We now focus on the challenges of 2020 — probably with a few extra pounds. The good news is that much of the holiday weight gain may very well go away as a result of the calories we burn up with the constant shivering, teeth chattering, and mumbling under our (frozen) breath about the weather. Think spring.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement