Uncle Lee's mushrooms and assorted short subjects

December 15, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

When I was a young reporter and the photography staff wasn't as big as it is now, I was sometimes called on to take pictures of people who showed up at The Herald-Mail offices with various and sundry oddball objects.

These could include potatoes that grew in the shape of ducks, unusual insects/snakes and collections of morels, also known as mountain mushrooms. These photos were printed once, never to be seen again. Or so I thought.

When my wife and I began talking about marriage, she took me to see her grandmother, who lived in a small frame house on Waltz Road next to Elwood Grimm's junkyard.

Grandma Lottie Rohrer's one son, Ernie, sat at the dinner room table, too absorbed in reading the newspaper to say much to me. Then, she pointed to the wall and said, "This is my other son, Lee."


The photo, which showed him holding a pan of morels, had been cut out of the paper and placed in a frame. In one corner was my photo credit.

I have told that story many times to illustrate how newspapers can make people who are not ordinarily in the headlines feel like superstars for a day, and how they remember that good feeling long after most have forgotten it.

Lee Rohrer passed away Dec. 8 at age 69. I hope that in some far corner of heaven, there's a patch of mountain mushrooms just waiting for him to find them.

In 2002, Scott Nicewarner was co-chairman of Washington County school system's redistricting committee.

If you remember that fight, it was a doozy, with the School Board rejecting a number of the committee's recommendations.

Nicewarner wrote a testy letter to the editor afterward, but when he became chairman of the County Council of PTAs, he gave me an interview in which he said he understood the pressures the School Board faced and was ready for a fresh start.

For asking him whether bygones would really be bygones, I was criticized by the School Board, which said in its own letter they hoped my "... integrity as a journalist precludes his using concocted conflicts to sell papers."

Unsolicited by me, Nicewarner recently sent another letter, which ran Sunday. In it, he criticizes the school system for inaccurately forecasting student population growth.

Among other things, he recommends that instead of an $80,000-a-year planner, a committee made up of citizens more familiar with the county make recommendations for handling growth.

As one previously accused of being a troublemaker, let me play peacemaker this time. If the county's system of forecasting student population growth is adequate, the School Board needs to convince Nicewarner of that. If it can't, then it needs to listen to his ideas for improving it.

Today, there will be a memorial service for the late Eugene "Buddie" Morris at 1 p.m. at Grace United Methodist Church at Church and Winter streets in Hagerstown. If you knew him as a perennial candidate, you only knew one small part of the man.

He was also a dedicated volunteer with Scout troops, Little League baseball and regularly visited patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Though he never achieved public office, his positive effect on Hagerstown and the region may have been as great, or greater, than some of the office-holders we've seen.

The Washington Post recently reported that in mid-November, the Prince George's County Council put a moratorium on new housing construction until it could be determined whether police, fire and rescue services meet new performance standards.

The concern is that, as more rural areas of that county are developed, police and other public-safety services may not be able to keep pace. The new standards would require that police and emergency life-support providers be able to respond within 10 minutes of a call.

The story said that the county council also held up a $900 million residential and office development in Bowie until its developers committed to finding a building and renovating it into an additional school.

That follows the recent report that Frederick County developer Marvin Ausherman offered to fund a $7 million-plus addition to an overcrowded school to get approval for his new development.

The lesson for Washington County: Developers stand to make a great deal of money here in the next few years. Other counties' officials seem ready to ask developers to pay for a larger share of infrastructure and school costs.

With few exceptions, developers seem ready to pay up. I hope Washington County officials are as ready as their Prince George's County counterparts to ask for more.

Bob Maginnis is Opinion Page editor of The Herald-Mail.

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