Now that the Maryland Historical Society has acquired the Baltimore City Life Museums' formidable collection, many of the things that have made Baltimore great - from Formstone to "hon" hair paraphernalia such as mega-hair dryers and curlers - are going on display in an exhibit that opens Thursday.
Also among these treasures, though, are a few artifacts that might surprise even the most avid Baltimore kitsch expert.
* A Really Big Mouse: The Wild Mouse Ride was a main attraction at the Gwynn Oak Park on Liberty Road at the end of trolley line 32. Although the amusement park, which closed in the early 1970s, had been around since the 1890s, the Wild Mouse Ride didn't show up until the 1960s. The new exhibit features the ride's mascot, a red-and-blue-clad mouse waving a white-gloved hand. He would be as tall as a human - if he didn't end at the torso.
* Buxom Babes: Yes, Ricki Lake had a certain voluptuous appeal in "Hairspray," but she's nothing compared with the rosy, plaintive, nearly topless ladies painted on plates that adorned volunteer fire-company trucks from 1830 to 1850. Framed by three-dimensional dolphins whose lips meet at the bottom, these plates may have been precursors to the curvy silhouettes displayed on the mud flaps of pickups and semis across America.
* Marble Marvel: Baltimore has a rich history of accomplished athletes: Cal Ripken, Johnny Unitas and Frank "Bud" McQuaid. In 1922, the 12-year-old McQuaid won a Baltimore "Hoodling" contest. Hoodling is competitive marble playing. Frank's original marbles lie proudly beside his tarnished silver cup. Legend has it that Frank, an iron man among Hoodlers, never missed a tournament.
Pub Date: 5/03/98