Luck reunites man with childhood hauntIt was...


Luck reunites man with childhood haunt

It was back before The Bomb and the Cold War, even before a gung-ho Cliff Miskimon enlisted in the Marines to fight in World War II, that he fell in love with a little piece of Howard County.

"It was part of a childhood that a lot of children will never have," said the retired purchasing agent and radio and television sportscaster of years ago.

Miskimon, 66, has asked Howard countians over the years if they remembered the place he and his friends from northeast Baltimore used to go for church picnics during the Great Depression.

"I always wondered about the place and always meant to go back just to look over the place," he said.

He wanted to see the old ruins, which he and his friends used to imagine was a haunted castle, the cave next to the swimming pond and the old pavilion that used to bring such joy to long summer days.

"It was so quiet and peaceful and beautiful. And intriguing, for a city kid," he remembered. "You could hardly sleep the night before knowing that tomorrow morning at 7 o'clock you were going to board the buses in front of the church and go to Brendel Manor Park."

But no one he asked seemed to know where the park was, or had been.

When he went for drives in the county with his wife, he would look for familiar landmarks, hoping to unlock a memory of a time he said truly was kinder and gentler.

He found out nothing until last week, when a county zoning decision and an oddity of newspaper circulation conspired to drop the answer right in his lap.

Miskimon now lives in Clinton in southern Prince George's County, but still subscribes to The Sun. For several years, he has received The Howard County Sun with his paper because outlying circulation areas sometimes get supplements intended for suburban counties.

On May 3 he read about a zoning change granted for Terra Maria, a 55-acre tract in western Ellicott City that included the ruins of the St. Charles Seminary. Miskimon noticed that it had a stone grotto and wondered whether that might be the cave he once played in as a child.

"This is the first clue that I've ever had, because I've talked to people all over Ellicott City and nobody's heard about it," he said. Now that he knows where it is, he's planning to ask the owner for permission to visit the site before it is developed.

Fortunately for Miskimon and others who enjoyed the grounds laid out for the seminary in the 1800s, the owners of the property plan to preserve those landmarks and incorporate them into the new community of about 90 homes.

Perhaps the sound of laughing children will echo through the grotto and ruins once again. Winning isn't everything, and at Oakland Mills High School, it's gotten to be a problem.

It seems that the school has won so many athletic accolades -- trophies, plaques and the like in just about every sport -- that it has run out of space to store them.

Last month's PTSA newsletter, sent home to all parents, asked for close to $10,000 to build 13 trophy cases to show off various prizes, including this year's regional victories for wrestling and cross country.

Athletic director Ken Klock said the school has won hundreds of trophies, which are scattered about in the media center, the front office and elsewhere. And with the school marking its 20th anniversary next year, the cases would come at an opportune time to show off the students' athletic prowess.

"We would like to put them in trophy cases in a hallway near the gym so the people who come to Oakland Mills can see them," said Klock.

Two companies -- the Oakland Mills Merchants Association and Poteet Bus Service -- have donated $750 each to make two customized trophy cases.

Lan Nguyen

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