Michael A. Manning, the retired president of the Mrs. Manning’s cannery, the last of Baltimore’s old-line Canton packing houses, died of sepsis Dec. 2 at York Hospital in York, Pennsylvania. He was 96 and had lived in Hunting Ridge and Mays Chapel.
Born in Baltimore at the family home on South Port Street, he was the son of Christian Manning, a canner, and his wife, Clara Bangert. As a boy he began sweeping floors and helping out at the family’s South Clinton Street food processing operation. Its corporate name, Mrs. M. Manning’s foods, stood for Margaret, his grandmother.
“He knew that operation inside and out. He knew its every nook and cranny,” said his daughter, Betsy Manning Treadway.
Family members said he was the middle child of seven and the oldest boy. His father died when was 12 and his mother when was 14. He attended Patterson Park High School and enlisted in the Navy during World War II. He was trained as a boatswain’s mate and served aboard an LST in Africa and the Mediterranean. On one of his runs, he had as a passenger Gen. George Patton and his staff, his family said.
“He left home a boy and returned to Baltimore very much a man,” his daughter said. “World War II was a defining time for him.”
After leaving military service, he returned to the cannery at 803 S. Clinton St.
He met his future wife through his sister, who arranged a meeting. They had met almost by chance on a Linwood Avenue bus. He was going off for a duckpin bowling league event. His future wife, the former Betty Fairbanks Mussington, was stepping off the vehicle. He later made a formal date with her.
Because his wartime service interrupted his education, Mr. Manning spent years attending night courses at the Johns Hopkins University until he earned a degree from what is now the Carey School of Business.
A 1994 Sun article described the pearl hominy, the product associated with the Manning name. “Pearl hominy is dried whole white corn kernels which have been cooked in water for long hours until they soften and form a pudding-like consistency. Its fans savor the dish for breakfast or as a dinner vegetable.”
The Manning family once made other products, a line that included baked beans, sauerkraut, plum pudding and date-and-nut bread.
"My grandmother went to her own neighborhood grocers and asked them to carry her products. They did, " said Mr. Manning in 1994.
The Sun’s account said Mr. Manning was a constant presence at his operation, “checking the steam boilers and label machines, and listening for the ping-ping sound of inspected corn kernels dropping through a pipe.”
He said of his operation: "The secret of our product is the quality. I have employees who inspect every kernel of corn that goes into a can of our hominy."
Family members said that while he was the president of the company, he often swept the cannery’s floors. He worked around steam kettles in a hot and humid setting. As a precaution, he took several changes of clothing to work each morning.
“Pearl hominy is one of those quirky Baltimore food items championed by a few and ignored by the rest,” the 1994 article said. “It rarely, if ever, turns up on restaurant menus, yet Manning’s has trouble keeping up with the demand, especially in the winter and early spring.”
"I personally like it with broiled scrapple that has a hard crust on the top. To me, that’s a breakfast, " Mr. Manning said.
After running the plant for decades, Mr. Manning retired several months after his 70th birthday. He sold the label and the hominy recipe to a Lottsburg, Virginia, firm. It is still produced under the Manning name.
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“My dad was the last old-fashioned canner in Baltimore,” his daughter said. “There was no wiggle room with my dad about cleanliness. He was serious about his business and the legacy that he carried on.”
Mr. Manning lived in Hunting Ridge and later lived in Mays Chapel Village.
After years of not taking much vacation, he traveled in retirement. He visited 49 states and took a cruise on the Queen Elizabeth II with his wife. He also spent time at Ocean City, and because of his fair complexion, sat fully clothed under an umbrella on the sand. He read Westerns.
A life celebration will be held at noon Saturday at the Lemmon Funeral Home of Dulaney Valley, 10 W. Padonia Road. He will be buried with full military honors.
In addition to his daughter, a York, Pennsylvania, resident, survivors include a sister, Mary Goyen of Upper Marlboro; a brother, John Manning of Baltimore ; and a granddaughter. His wife of nearly 60 years, a teacher, died in 2010.