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Dayhoff: Fond memories of summer trips over the Bay Bridge

Dayhoff: Fond memories of summer trips over the Bay Bridge
Md. 140 looking east from Monterey Drive toward the Md. 27 exchange at the bridge splitting the trees. This was taken right after the road opened in 1954. Md. 140 cost $2.7 million and took over two years to build. (Courtesy photo / MD Highway Administration)

This year I enjoyed the summer solstice, June 21, by doing a 2.25-mile run on the boardwalk in Ocean City.

According to the Washington Post, “The summer solstice is … our longest day and shortest night of the year, and the first day of astronomical summer in Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. … In Washington, the sun (was) up for 14 hours and 54 minutes on June 21, rising in the northeastern sky (at) 5:43 a.m. and setting in the northwest at 8:37 p.m. (For perspective, that’s about 5½ hours more daylight than seen on the winter solstice in December.)”

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I could not think of a better way to spend the longest day of the year than to spend it in Ocean City “down the ocean, hon.”

Some of my fondest childhood memories include leisurely vacations on the Chesapeake Bay, explorations throughout the Eastern Shore and walking on the boardwalk in Ocean City. For some reason french fries, pizza, and ice cream always taste better when it is mixed with an ocean salt breeze and walking the boardwalk while fighting off the seagulls.

Over the years, trips to Ocean City have been a favorite topic for me to write about — and portions of this discussion have been published before.

By the time my summer sojourns to Ocean City began, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge had already been built. However, I always enjoyed older folks telling tales of the trip to Ocean City — and what the Eastern Shore was like — before the first Bay Bridge was built.

Construction began on the first bridge on Nov. 3, 1949, and it opened with great fanfare on July 30, 1952. It cost $45 million to build.

Many of us remember the days before the second span of the Bay Bridge was built. Construction began in May 1969, and it was opened at a cost of $148 million on June 28, 1973.

To give this some perspective, Md. 140 was first proposed in the late 1930s to get the “big trucks” off Main Street in Westminster. The “new highway,” as it was often referred to in the 1950s and 60s, was opened on July 1, 1954. It cost $2.7 million and took over two years to build.

Of course, getting from Westminster to the Bay Bridge was a bit tricky in the days before “795” opened in the mid-1980s or the Baltimore Beltway was completed from Richie Highway to Pulaski Highway — in 1962.

Before the first Bay Bridge opened folks used to take the ferry from Baltimore to Claiborne to cross the Chesapeake Bay. According to a history of Claiborne written by historian Elizabeth Hughes in 1992, the first ferry traveled between Bay Ridge, “a summer resort on the western shore” and Claiborne around 1890.

Train service from Baltimore was also provided to Bay Ridge. For folks who made the trip from Westminster, up until 1960 there was regular passenger train service between Westminster and Baltimore.

The trip across the bay by ferry took 55 minutes. Of course, these days, if you reach the bridge during peak travel time, the ferry would have been quicker.

After a vacationer reached Claiborne, they traveled to Ocean City by train.

According to a history of the resort prepared by the Town of Ocean City, it “began its path towards becoming a resort in 1869 when Isaac Coffin built the first cottage on the beach to have paying guests. Before Coffin, the area was merely referred to as ‘The Ladies Resort to the Ocean.’ … The first luxury hotel was opened July 4, 1875. The Atlantic Hotel featured billiards and dancing, and boasted over 400 rooms.”

Some of my fonder memories of Ocean City in recent years were occasions in the years between 1999 and 2005, when I would attend the annual Maryland Municipal League summer conference.

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For those who may not be familiar with the Maryland Municipal League, it was founded in 1936. The original purpose of the MML was for our state’s municipalities to band together to advocate that Maryland municipalities obtain their fair share of the money made available from the Work Progress Administration under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

This year I had the pleasure of rejoining many old friends from across the state at the MML conference — and, a week earlier, at the 127th annual Maryland State Firemen’s Association Convention. Since 1893, the Westminster Municipal Band has played a prominent role at the MSFA convention.

The band participated in the first convention in 1893 in Frederick. In 1899 the MSFA Convention was held in Westminster.

I guess the french fries, pizza and ice cream would taste just as good in Westminster, but I would have missed the ocean salt breeze, walking the boardwalk, and fighting off the seagulls.

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