Contest gives readers something to chew on

June 29, 2000

Contest gives readers something to chew on

Since it's been a while since we held one of our letter-writing contests, I recently asked readers for suggestions about what they'd like to write about, to compete for a $25 cash prize. Judging by the response, an old reliable, the "My Favorite Sandwich" contest, is the people's choice.

For those who don't remember it, for several years we've asked readers to describe, in 100 words or less, their favorite sandwich, as prepared by a local restaurant.

The only provisions: It has to be available every day, to eat on the premises or to take out, and the shop has to be located in Washington County. That's because since the prize money comes out of my personal pocket, I want to actually be able to go get one of these things during my lunch hour.

I'll give everybody until July 20 to get their entries in, with the winner to be announced on July 27. Send them to Sandwich Contest, c/o Editorial Page, The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md., 21741.


And speaking of sandwiches, sandwiched inside a press release from one of Washington County's incorporated towns was the announcement that because of some recent unfavorable publicity, elected officials had agreed to put aside their egos for the good of the town.

Officials may disagree on specific issues, but have agreed that "individual agendas and decisive statements are to be a thing of the past."

Either ambiguity is about to become town policy, or what they mean to avoid is "divisive" statements.

One politician who was seldom ambiguous was the late Lem E. Kirk, who served as Washington County Commissioner in the late 1970s and who was profiled in the June 18 Sunday Herald-Mail.

Kirk, who headed the board at a time when some seriously equated land-use planning and zoning with communism, pushed them through nevertheless and was instrumental in jump-starting a serious economic development effort as well.

His fellow board members could be cantankerous, especially the late John Easterday, who could (and often did) deliver a speech at the drop of a hat. But the personal regard Easterday and others had for Kirk was such that after fulminating against something the chairman wanted to do for half an hour, they'd turn right around and vote with him anyway.

In those simpler days, when the commissioners had an hour to wrangle over the proper way to dig a drainage ditch, the board sometimes ran out of steam before completing its agenda.

At that point, Kirk and the others would pull on their coats, pull out fresh cigars for the ride home, only to be confronted by a couple of pip-squeak reporters asking them why they'd failed to vote on an important agenda item.

With no trace of embarrassment, Kirk would agree that yes, that matter needed taking care of. He then called the meeting back into session, held a vote, then led the group out the door into the Summit Avenue twilight. Oh for a few more who know that substance is more important than appearances.

Thanks to former Hagerstown mayor Steve Sager, for copies of the engineering reports concerning the physical condition of the Baldwin House, future home of the University Systems of Maryland campus.

Even those that recommend demolition do make the point that, yes, it can be renovated. My point was never that rehabilitation wasn't possible, but that based on those reports and a 1999 university study, it was going to be just as expensive (or even more costly) than new construction.

My next point is that now that they've gotten their wish, those city officials who wanted the campus downtown should not expect to do it on the cheap. The campus could transform the city, but not unless the amenities - parking, traffic control and the like' are done right.

In my column last Sunday, I recalled the proposal by former Hagerstown official Mike McGauhey to run the city fleet on methane gas vented from the sewer plant. In the June 25 Washington Post, a Washington, D. C., councilman and a member of the Arlington, Va. city board called for the next generation of Metro buses to be fueled with compressed natural gas. My reason for recalling McGauhey's plan was to promote saving gasoline, while theirs is to cut pollution. But if using alternate fuels can do both at once, why not?

Kerry Fraley's recent column about her wedding plans brought back memories of our own nuptials more than 20 years ago. With no money to speak of, we held the reception at the Chewsville Community Center and dined on my mother-in-law's homemade lime-pickle chicken salad, soda pop and cake.

We had just $500 to spend on the honeymoon, so we booked a week in a Ft. Lauderdale hotel that was less than luxurious. But just escaping from Hagerstown in January seemed like a grand indulgence.

I've forgotten plenty over the years, but it's funny what does stick in my memory: The preacher telling us that no matter what we believed about marriage, we were marrying the family, too, snow falling the night before the wedding and the sudden silence in our apartment when my wife left for work on her night-shift job. We are still together, and our ability to look at ourselves and laugh at what we see is a big part of that.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor for The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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