James Rada, Jr.

It might be Rube’s Crab Shack now, but in the 1930s, the building that sat on that piece of property was a chicken house…literally.

“My father got a tractor and dragged a chicken house down the road to there,” says Mike Fitzgerald.

Two gas pumps were added and the site became a gas station for travelers going north to Pennsylvania and Gettysburg. Mike remembers that the station sold Atlantic gasoline and that a person could buy five gallons for just 90 cents. That same amount costs about $16.00 nowadays.

“When Prohibition ended in 1932, my dad replaced the chicken house with an inexpensive six-sided building,” says Fitzgerald.

The business also started offering food that Naomi Fitzgerald, Mike’s mom, prepared. Advertisements proclaimed that Fitz’s had “Maryland’s Finest Hamburgers.” Diners could also get steamed crabs and soft-shell crab sandwiches there, which is something many Emmitsburg residents had never eaten before.

Before long, Mike’s father, Allen, was expanding that business to include a dining room and bandstand. He also added slot machines in the bar area.

“People on the road would stop in to play the slot machines in the bar and buy a hamburger for 10 cents and a beer for 15 cents,” Fitzgerald says.

Fitz’s soon became a popular off-campus place for Mount students to go and have fun.

“In 1963, a guy came in who knew Dad,” Mike says. “He was an attorney in New York. He said that when he went to the Mount and would run out of money, my dad would give him credit.”

That surprised him a bit, but it also answered a question that Fitzgerald and his mother had been wondering about.

“When Dad died in 1940, we found a cigar box filled with class rings,” says Mike.

While Allen was willing to extend credit to the Mount students, he would hold their class rings as collateral. Judging by the number of class rings in the box, a number of students never paid off their bar tabs.

Naomi took the rings and gave them to someone at the college in the hopes that they might be reunited with the owners. The Catoctin Banner inquired at the Mount about what happened to the rings. We were told that someone would check and get back to us about it, but that didn’t happen. So, once again, those rings are “out of sight, out of mind.”

Editor’s note: This is a new feature that The Catoctin Banner is introducing, where we tell the stories of the Northern Frederick County communities through the eyes of the older generation. If you have an interesting story that you would like to tell, contact us at news@thecatoctinbanner.com.

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