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Hagerstown memories

January 10, 2009|By JACK MUMMERT

I'm 77 years old. I suppose that's up there a little, but there are many people out there locally older than I, who will remember these three events that were held in this area. It may have depended on what area you lived in. Some of the younger folks probably won't believe my story.

If you lived west of Cearfoss in 1936 or '37 in the area of the Hicks farm now owned by Union Rescue Mission, you will recall that along the creek about a block upstream from the humpback stone bridge, the hill on the Cozytown side of the creek was clear of trees and shrubbery and on weekends people came with their own chairs or boxes to sit on the opposite side of the creek to watch motorcycle hill climbing by the locals who owned them.

Now in the same area (mid-'30s) airplanes were just being developed. U.S. 11 came straight by the front of the Airport Inn and down behind Tony's Pizza, which at that time wasn't even there. When first built, it was called the Piquant Pig - a very fancy and successful restaurant with a pig roasting in a glass-enclosed barbecue alongside the road; you could enjoy the aroma when you went by and usually turned around and went back.

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You drove by the end of the airport with just an American wire fence keeping you from driving on it. Weekends there would be a long line of cars, most of them square types, looking much like a box, with the front ends pulled up toward the fence. The families in the cars were watching a game of auto versus airplane - two guys in a car with probably no doors on it zig-zagging up and down the runway trying to avoid being hit by small bags of flour thrown by two guys in a bi-wing plane (open cockpits) flying about 75 to 100 feet high. If the guys hit the car they won. If the car avoided being hit they won.

Now this next event was held several years in a row along Virginia Avenue, I believe in the Tammany area to the north side of Virginia Avenue. I'm not quite as familiar with this, but there was a large tent, sometimes with the sides rolled up (depending on the weather). Inside was a large raised platform about the size of a roller rink, maybe larger. It was called a walk-a-thon contest. I'm not sure how long it stayed there before it would move to Frederick or some other large town. It required a male and female team to continuously walk around on this platform day and night. The last team still walking won.

I don't know about the rules of the contest. I was 6 years old. I only remember the funny parts like any little boy. There were three clowns. Their names were Itsy Backcrack, Cliff Reel and Mickey Finn. Itsy Backcrack wore a pair of trousers about five sizes too large with suspenders. If anybody had any trash applecore, banana peel, used paper cups etc., they would walk up to Itsy and toss it down his pants. They had intermissions so the contestants could use the bathroom or get a bite to eat.

The clowns would add a little humor at that time. One night Cliff Reel was at one end of the platform with Mickey Finn at the other, lobbing a white tennis ball high in the air toward Cliff who would circle under it and bounce it off his forehead. This they did about five times until Mickey replaced the ball with a white raw egg. This was the best part of the event for me.

There were different small orchestras that played each night. One of them was a fellow just getting started in the music business named Count Basie. If there is (and I'm sure there are) someone out there that still remembers this, will you please look up my number in the phone book and talk to me about it.

Jack Mummert is a resident of Maugansville.

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