Mark N. Schatz and his wife, Ann, had been married two years in 1955 and were expecting their first child, a daughter. The couple also was looking for their first home and they found it -- a $9,250 three-bedroom rancher on Guildford Road in the Harundale section of Glen Burnie.
"It was convenient to work and stores and school and it was economical. The real estate prices were within reach of my particular pocketbook," said Mr. Schatz, 65. "It was an excellent starter neighborhood for people to start out. It still is."
Mr. Schatz, a tall, bespectacled man, has worked in the cemetery business and now tends Maryland Memorial, a grave marker business his parents started in 1959 on Crain Highway.
Motorists constantly pass his office on the tree-lined highway, a major thoroughfare that cuts through the heart of downtown Glen Burnie.
The northern Anne Arundel community of nearly 80,000 sits less than a half-hour south of Baltimore. The town's hub is around Crain Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard. The two corners are anchored by a movie theater complex, a district courthouse, senior citizens' housing and North Arundel Center, where free summer concerts are held on its plaza.
In the past five years, a row of antique and collectible shops have set up nearby.
Yet, when some people think of Glen Burnie, they are quicker to think of the state Motor Vehicle Administration on Ritchie Highway, which services about 5,000 people each day.
They also think of the jumble of strip shopping centers, car dealerships and fast-food restaurants, all seemingly stretching forever along Ritchie Highway. Residents and real estate agents say this can blind passers-by to the diversity of Glen Burnie.
For the adventurous, however, Sharon E. Martlock, an associate broker at the downtown Glen Burnie office of O'Conor Piper & Flynn Realtors, offers a bit of advice: "Get off of the main highway and go into some of the communities, they're fascinating."
Glen Burnie was founded in 1888. The town has developed into a mixture of subdivisions. Harundale, where the Schatzes live, developed shortly after World War II, as men returning home from the war sought homes to start families.
Mr. Schatz said he is fond of the town he has watched grow. "The development has been so explosive that sometimes it's a little hard to comprehend what's happened," said Mr. Schatz, who is editor of Anne Arundel County History Notes, a quarterly publication of the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society.
"The development has been just phenomenal. The beginning of the explosion I suppose was the creation of Ritchie Highway. The development of Ritchie Highway was delayed until after World War II. But that's when the explosion began."
Downtown Glen Burnie was once the bustling business hub of North County, with retail and other shops lining Crain Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard. The town lost that distinction with the arrival of nearby malls. Now it is fighting to regain some of its old flavor.
Many view the development of a 5.6-acre gravel parking lot downtown into a mixed-use development of retail shops, offices and residences in the town's urban renewal district as a key to accomplishing this.
The land is the last piece of undeveloped, county-owned land in the urban renewal district. Formerly known as Superblock, now it is called the Town Center. The land has been vacant for 15 years as developers failed to come up with a plan that won over residents and county officials.
Last year, an attempt to develop the site fell through because the only developer to submit a proposal on the project, George W. Stone of Pasadena, said he needed subsidies to make the project financially feasible.
But now county officials have pulled together $2 million in state and county money to assist a developer in getting the project off the ground.
Last month, county officials sent out a request for proposals, which tells developers what they need to do to win the project. Wednesday, a meeting for developers will be held at the Arundel Center North so they can ask questions about the project.
If the project is successful, residents say, it could be a big boon for the community. "I think what we're trying to do mostly is to try and retain our small town atmosphere while providing what the people feel they need in the community," said resident Deborah S. Brunetti.
Glen Burnie also must contend with a proposal by the Mass Transit Administration to extend the light rail south from the Cromwell Station to downtown Glen Burnie.
The town is primarily residential. The neighborhood bounded roughly by Central and 5th avenues and Dorsey Road and N Street, sometimes referred to as "old Glen Burnie" by locals, contains a mixture of two-story homes and Cape Cods, some 100 years old.
"I think in the beginning it was the influential, the powerful people who lived there. It's just kept that connotation that if you're going to live in Glen Burnie, that's the place to live," said Sherry Marion, manager of Don Gurney's Century 21 real estate office in downtown Glen Burnie.
Real estate agents said the average home in Glen Burnie costs $106,000 and homes in the section known as old Glen Burnie can go for $90,000 to $200,000. In Harundale, they can go for $79,000 to $114,000, agents said.
"I think most people who come into the community want a good buy for their dollars," said Ms. Martlock of O'Conor Piper & Flynn. "This is an area where people can come and be first-home buyers and have a lot of things available to them."
A 13.3-mile Baltimore-Annapolis hiker-biker trail, dotted by trees
and gardens, passes through the heart of town. The trail, completed in 1989, is considered a national model.
The B&A; trail starts in Arnold and is joined at its northern end at Dorsey Road and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard by another trail, 4.4-mile BWI trail that runs to Linthicum. Eventually, the BWI trail will stretch 14.5 miles, taking people from Annapolis to Patapsco Valley State Park.
Mr. Schatz's office on Crain Highway is not far from the B&A; trail that he likes for taking strolls. "It brings a little bit of tranquility," he said.
Glen Burnie has several active community associations. The largest is the Glen Burnie Improvement Association, which has a hall on Crain Highway and about 800 members.
Since 1908, the association has held summertime carnivals on its grounds and allows the community to use its hall for free.
"Most of the old-timers, people I'd say who graduated before and after the war, have stayed in the town to live," said Richard K. Wengert Sr., 73, a retired county police sergeant and president of the community association.
Like Mr. Schatz, Mr. Wengert has watched the town grow and change. But he said he's never considered living anywhere else. "I think Glen Burnie is a good place to live," Mr. Wengert said. "It's still a thriving community."
Population: 75,685 (Source: 1990 census)
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 25 minutes
Commuting time to Washington: 45 minutes
Public schools: Freetown Elementary School, Glendale Elementary School, Marley Elementary School, Oakwood Elementary School, Point Pleasant Elementary School, Quarterfield Elementary School, Richard Henry Lee Elementary School, Woodside Elementary School, Corkran Middle School, Marley Middle School, Glen Burnie High School
Shopping: Glen Burnie Mall, Harundale Mall, Marley Station Mall, Cromwell Field Shopping Center, Southgate Market Place. The area also has several small shopping plazas and strips
Nearest mall: Harundale Mall, 3 miles south
Points of interest: The Baltimore-Annapolis hiker-biker trail, Arundel Center North, District Court building, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration headquarters
Average price of single-family home: $106,000*
ZIP code: 21061
* Homes sold through STELLAR, the multiple listing service for Anne Arundel County, for the last 12 months. (SOURCE: Century 21-Don Gurney's office in Glen Burnie.)