LONG BEFORE ANYONE heard of karaoke, patrons at Hamlen's Bar & Restaurant on Old B&A; Boulevard in Severna Park loved to gather round the piano after a good meal and, as the volume of singing old favorites increased, schmaltz would grow thicker than barnacles on a Severn River piling.
Relegated only to the memory of longtime Park residents and a few faded photos, the little wooden building - once located on a patch of ground just south of what is now the Community Center at Woods - was known as much for camaraderie as cuisine. A place to overhear more neighborhood news in one night than could be gleaned from a dozen trips through the grocery store checkout line, Hamlen's was the local watering hole for musical-star wannabes.
"The doors were tilted, the floors were uneven," recalls a former diner, musician Maynard Huddleston. "It looked like a place they wouldn't throw you out of, but rather a place they'd have to throw you into."
But, he says, it was always peaceful - no overindulgence or trouble - and they had good food. They were known, he says, for crab cakes, fried chicken and steak.
To resurrect the kind of music that its customers so fondly remember, and as a fund-raiser for the Community Center at Woods, a Hamlen-style sing-along will be held Saturday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at St. Martin's-in-the-Field Episcopal Church on Benfield Road.
St. Martin's is playing host to the musical get-together because of its large fellowship hall, and because it allows the kinds of beverages that encourage heartfelt musical performances. Along with snacks, beer, wine, coffee and soft drinks will be sold.
Providing the musical accompaniment will be Huddleston and Bill Krieger on guitar, Ed Collins on bass, saxophonist Bob Welton, Glenn Bell and Dave Mearman on the banjo and Ed Fogle on fiddle, along with vocalist John Robinson.
At the piano will be Doris Corddry, Stan Davis, Danny Marchetti, Charlie Nolte and Bill Van Dyke. "These piano players know about anything you can give 'em," says Huddleston.
"Some of the players have passed," he adds, describing himself and the others who will play at St. Martin's as "sort of a sunset group." In addition to the musicians, there will be about a dozen would-be singers taking turns at solo spots.
Master of ceremonies is Andy Borland, and the event chair is Susan Nolte, Charlie's wife.
Marcie Hamlen, the restaurant's former owner now living in Vermont, is expected to be at St. Martin's, ready to reminisce.
Bring along the $10 admission fee, but leave your inhibitions at home and join family and friends for an evening of music the way you like to sing it.
For tickets or to reserve a table, contact Woods Community Center director Pat Haun at 410-647-5843 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Garden club honors
Chartwell Garden Club recently presented honorary lifetime memberships in the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland to Ida May Ashford, Petie Evans, Donna Farrow, Martha Fiedler, Valerie Gardiner, Barbara Houck, Julie Jung, Marlis McCartney, Jennifer Quinn, and Jacquelyn Hawkins-McGrail, the club president.
The club's prestigious honor is often given to an outgoing president or to members who have made an outstanding contribution to the club, says Hawkins-McGrail. The honorary members receive black-eyed Susan pins and are given recognition at federated garden club meetings.
The $500 fee paid by Chartwell to the statewide group for the 10 honorary memberships goes to its college scholarship fund. Scholarships are available to students planning to study a plant-related science such as botany or horticulture.
Founded in 1963, the Chartwell club is involved in many communitywide projects. One of the club's most successful programs was conducted at the Severna Park Branch library to introduce children ages 3 to 6 to the world of beneficial garden insects.
Dressed as ladybugs and butterflies, members taught the children about these creatures' value in the garden.
One ingenious member illustrated the process of metamorphosis by dressing as a caterpillar about to shed her "skin." She wore a green, cloth-covered tube, her head covered in red jersey. When it came time for the butterfly to emerge, the tube dropped away to reveal the colorful wings of a monarch butterfly.
After examining real ladybugs that a member had captured in her garden, the children went home with tomato and marigold plants.
Another project is the maintenance of four flowerbeds along the B&A; Trail Park, three of which are at the ranger station at Earleigh Heights Road. One of the three is a xeriscape garden designed to require no water beyond rainfall.
Now being redesigned, the xeriscape garden will be dedicated to the late Pat Shaddeau, a former club president who was instrumental in involving the club in trail planting. A dedication marker will explain the xeriscape process. The renovated garden is expected to be completed by fall.
For garden club information, call 410-987-9145.