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Second jail break try is foiled [History Matters]

Toe-ing the line

Uncovering history means research, but for this particular column it also involves a big toe.

Past copies of county newspapers, from which information for this column are taken, are stored on hundreds of rolls of microfilm neatly labeled and stacked at the Howard County Historical Society. But the microfilm machine used to bring this information to life is a study in obsolescence.

A couple of years ago there were still a few researchers who would try to extract history from this monster, but it became more and more stubborn in its old age. The chair in front of it was the machine was the site of much wailing and gnashing of teeth. People would  insert film into this haughty chunk of metal and subject it to a series of manipulations, sometimes even directing naughty words at it, with only limited results.

Eventually researchers gave up, but for a time I did find a trick to extract copy from it. With my hands holding the focus button and the lateral button some fuzzy copy could be seen on the screen which, once printed, would be more legible.

The problem was, I had no hand remaining with which to touch the print button. So, I removed my shoe and hit the print button with my big toe and, voila, good copy. The historical society director Sean Gladden thought this a good feat, or maybe feet.

"You are the only one who can get anything out of it," he'd tell me.

But alas, now it is totally dead. (Maybe the primitive foot work used upon it was just too much) So, the society is looking to technology to rescue the history locked in film. They are hoping to have it all digitized in the next few months.

In the interim, other material is available. The society does hold actual newspapers from 50 years ago, and some random other years including a few in the 1920s, both eras are good fodder for look-back columns.

In addition to the roaring 20s and the soaring 60s, there will be some late 19th century articles and briefs providing a glimpse of Howard County life on the cusp of the modern age.   

50 Years Ago

Second jail break try is foiled

 "An attempted break at the Howard county jail was thwarted this week when a member of the central alarm staff recognized the sound of a saw biting into metal. About 4:18 am on Thursday, John  Fleming heard a sound 'resembling the sawing of metal' coming from the Howard county jail. He immediately alerted the police and the sheriff's office. All cars were sent to the jail and the officers blocked the kitchen and front exits, awaiting the arrival of sheriff Norman Howard and chief police Jack Larrimore.

A search lead by the sheriff and chief disclosed that inmates had sawed and removed two bars in the window leading to the dining area from the cell corridor and a bar in the opening leading to the kitchen.

The bars which had been removed were found wrapped in a towel, under a shower curtain on the floor of a cell. Each inmate was then searched and a three-inch hacksaw blade was found on one. He was placed in security.

This is the second break from the Howard county jail within a week. Of the five who escaped last week, also by sawing bars, four have been re-captured."

The Roaring 20s

Society notes from 1927

From the Howard County Times briefs and social items column: "Caleb D. Rogers, Realtor, reports the sale of the J. M. Denton property on the Columbia avenue to Mr. Curtiss Wagner. Mr. Wagner, who is connected with the Continental Milling Co., will make it his future home.

"Miss Rose Broseene of Catonsville spent the past week end at the home of her brother, Mr. Edward Broseene and family at Pine Orchard."

Note to readers: The Howard County Historical Society is offering free Howard County prints for new and renewing members. Check them out on line or call 410-480-3250.

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