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Dayhoff: ‘Westminster and The Recreation Problem’ a recurring theme addressed by local newspapers

Dayhoff: ‘Westminster and The Recreation Problem’ a recurring theme addressed by local newspapers
Couples such as this enjoyed bicycling during the summers in the past in Westminster. This undated photo was taken in front of William Keefer’s grocery store at 86 East Main Street in Westminster. From the collection of the Historical Society of Carroll County. (Historical Society of Carroll County/Historical Society of Carroll County)

It was around this time of the year in the summer of 1950 that children invaded downtown Westminster. Back in the day, the playground was staffed during the summer. According to an article in The Times of Westminster on Thursday, June 29, 1950: Monday, June 26, 1950, “marked the opening date for the city’s playgrounds. The main playground will be open from 9 a.m., until 9 p.m., Monday through Friday and will be adequately staffed each hour of the day …”

“Westminster and The Recreation Problem” is a persistent theme in old Carroll County newspapers. As a matter of fact, that was the headline of an editorial in the April 7, 1922 edition of the Democratic Advocate.

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“Our fathers did not have recreational centers. Why should we have them now?” said the editorial. “We cannot do business as our fathers did. Can we take our recreation as they did?”

In January 1913, the same Democratic Advocate reported that the Woman’s Civic League was started, in part, to advocate for additional recreation opportunities:

“On January 20 nearly 200 women met in the Westminster Firemen's Hall and formed the Woman's Civic League … In addition to looking after the general needs of women, the League also sought to improve local living conditions.

“Standing committees were formed with the following purposes: a playground for children, prevention of certain kinds of moving pictures, sanitation of Westminster, prevention of cruelty to animals and the encouragement of growing flowers by young people. A year later, the organization had added committees for amusement, fly control, expectoration, old paper, social services and forestry.”

I’m afraid to ask for more particulars as to the task of the committee on “expectoration.”

On March 26, 1898 the American Sentinel, reported that in order to meet some of the recreational needs of the community “The Bicycle Club recently organized in this city, met in its new club room, in the Wantz building … The club now has 50 members and is in a flourishing condition.”

Later, on January 26, 1961, the Carroll County Times carried a front-page article, “County Recreation Needs Discussed by Social Agencies.”

“The need for organized recreation in Westminster and Carroll County was stressed by leaders of welfare agencies, civic organizations, Board of Education, and other groups at a recent meeting of the Carroll County Council of Social Agencies.” said the article.

“President Stanley Hamilton Jr. read a letter from City Clerk John Eckard, which pointed out that the City of Westminster maintains two parks and provides a seven-week recreation program for 500 children in the summer. The city has $8,462 in its 1961 budget for recreational purposes.”

In other news from past summers, bugs, hogs, parking meters, dust, flies, and manure have made historic appearances in the city and caused quite a ruckus.

On June 12, 1861 the minutes of the Westminster Common Council proceedings noted: “Moved and seconded that the Ordinance relating to Hogs running at large in the City of Westminster be enforced and that after the 1st of July 1861 all hogs or swine found in the streets will be taken up and disposed…”

More research is needed to determine if there was a spike in the number barbeque events in the city in July 1861 or if the events of 1861 are the untold story behind Hampstead’s “Outlaw BBQ.”

In the summer of 1946 another controversy erupted in downtown Westminster –— when parking meters invaded the Main Street of Westminster. It was on May 24, 1946, the Democratic Advocate reported that parking meters “from Charles Carroll Hotel to Anchor street, (became) a reality Tuesday morning when a force of men started drilling holes for the erection of the meters.”

The proposal by the city to install parking meters was quite controversial and the subject of litigation. However, the newspaper reported, “The injunction was denied by Judge Clarke, sometime last April, and an appeal was under way but later dropped by the opposers…

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“Charles Armacost, popular contractor of Finksburg, has charge of the placing the meters in position. The work is being done very rapidly.”

On June 27, 1895 the American Sentinel reported, “During the … first three days of this week this city [Westminster] suffered an invasion from myriads of insects of the beetle species, which night after night swarmed about the electric arc lights on the streets and were found in large numbers on the sidewalks and doorsteps, and even in the houses nearest the lights ... In several cases they came in contact with the electric current and took fire. Their burning occasioned a most offensive odor …”

Summer is the favorite time of the year for Times correspondent Kevin Dayhoff and the topic of many articles over the years. Portions of this discussion have been published before.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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