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Board of Education Votes for More Time

Deb Abraham Spalding

Applause and cheers concluded a meeting on Wednesday, February 27, 2020, at the Frederick County Public School’s (FCPS) Central Office in Frederick, when Frederick County Board of Education (BOE) members listened to the voices of residents in Northern Frederick County by voting to take more time—through December 31, 2020—to explore and weigh all factors involved in the consideration of shutting down Sabillasville Elementary School. 

At a January 22, 2020, Board of Education meeting, FCPS staff presented an enrollment update to the Board that sparked concern about low enrollment at the Sabillasville Elementary School. In response, BOE members asked FCPS staff to investigate.

The topic was routed on a seemingly high-speed path, surprising and shaking up the Northern Frederick County school’s staff, students, and residents. The report, that was released the morning after an informal February 20 informational community meeting led by FCPS Superintendent Theresa Alban and BOE President Brad Young at the school, supports the closure of the school and the re-assignment of its students to Thurmont schools.

Dr. Theresa Alban commenced the February 20 informational meeting with a public apology. She explained that she had talked to a reporter with the Frederick News-Post about the report before communicating with the school, staff, or community. People read the news article and thought the decision to close the school had been made without community input. She assured the community that was not the case.

She went on to explain the process of considering shutting down a school under Board Policy 200. She outlined the schedule of opportunity for public comment with meetings planned in March, leading up to a Board vote at the end of March.

Alban said, “We are not looking at this lightly and easily. When you look at the factors that a Board has to consider when a Board is determining whether they need to close or consolidate schools, you’ll see that it’s pretty comprehensive.”

Alban referenced the “Consideration of Sabillasville Elementary School Closing Superintendent’s Report” that would be released the following morning and reviewed the factors being considered in the report: student enrollment trends in relation to state rated capacity; age and/or condition of school buildings; transportation; educational programs; racial composition and levels of poverty of student body; financial considerations; student relocation; impact on community in geographic attendance area for both the proposed closing school and schools impacted by relocating students; and any other factors the Board deems relevant to rendering its decision.

Though this meeting was intended to be informational, Dr. Alban and Young invited questions and promised to answer truthfully and to the best of their knowledge.

Many people in the audience asked questions or raised points of consideration.

Marty Burns, former mayor of Thurmont and current Thurmont Town Commissioner, received a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of his thoughtful and passionate delivery about the potential closure. He said, “We feel [the residents of Northern Frederick County]…that we’re not being represented appropriately…It doesn’t make any sense…when we’re [Thurmont] doing this Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that we can’t develop when we have over-crowded schools. We chose not to develop Northern Frederick County, and we’re being punished by closing our school. We feel like you don’t care. I’m asking you to reconsider… It shouldn’t happen.”

A couple of hundred people attended this meeting, and several citizens took the opportunity to ask questions or deliver concern or statistics, including George Kuhn, president of the Northwestern Civic Association; SES parent, Colt Black; resident, Jim Bittner; community supporter, David Harman; resident, Mark Harman; resident, Steven Firme; supporter, Walt Ellenburg; a man from Wolfsville who was concerned about his school being next; SES parent Penny Rice, and several others.

The community was invited to the February 26 Board of Education regular meeting to make comment and learn about the report. At this meeting, public comment was heard, including SES Staff representative Barb Doney, who read a letter from the staff; Thurmont Town Commissioner Marty Burns, who asked the Board to, “…reject the report.”; SES third grade student Hope Rice, who read a letter, addressing the wishes of the students; SES PTO representative Drew McGinness; neighbor, Rich Calimer; Military Family Transition Specialist Tashina Adris; and, most notably, Northwestern Civic Association President George Kuhn. Kuhn implored collaboration and said, “We want the BOE to exhaust every option and possibility that is available to you before you consider closing this school. We want you to find out if there’s any way that we can be in complete compliance with the State and Federal regulations. We want you to seek a waiver, both from the State and Federal government. We would like, as a community, to have input into the formation of that waiver. We want to make sure that that waiver gives you the accurate facts.”

It was Board member, Liz Barrett, who inspired a change in the course of the implied shutdown of Sabillasville Elementary when she stated, “I like the idea to use the space and provide a more equitable experience for all the kids in north county…We haven’t had to close a school in many years. I don’t feel comfortable not considering all the options… not promising [a change in the result]…but feeling artificially constrained by this deadline that we set for ourselves.”

She made a motion to keep the school open and explore collaboration. That motion was approved.

Board President Young addressed the time constraint. He made a motion to extend the decision to December 31, 2020, while evaluating all the options. This motion passed unanimously.

The March 11 meeting was canceled.

These votes bought time and allowed for another year of school at SES. These decisions mark the beginning of collaborative research and work by several entities: FCPS, Frederick County Government, Frederick County BOE, SES students, SES staff, Northern Frederick County residents, and other interested parties.

Banner writer James Rada, Jr. was formerly a school staff reporter in Allegheny County and reported the closure of three schools there. About this situation, he said, “You can rush it and be wrong. In most cases, you regret it.”

“Don’t close our school!” is the sentiment SES students express, as parents back them up at a recent gathering organized by parents at the school.

Third-grade SES student, Hope Rice, adjourned the meeting.

Former Thurmont Mayor and current Thurmont Town Commissioner, Marty Burns, spoke passionately about Northern Frederick County on February 26.

Retired FCPS teacher and Northwestern Civic Association president, George Kuhn, spoke at the February 20 community meeting.

James Rada, Jr.

This year marks 50 years of celebrating the area’s maple-syrup-making heritage at the Cunningham Falls Maple Syrup Festival.

“A lot of families produced maple syrup on their farms and homesteads, and we wanted to preserve that heritage and teach people about something not well known about this area,” said Ranger Travis Watts at Cunningham Falls State Park.

This year’s festival will be held on March 14, 15, 21, and 22 at the Houck Lake Area of the Park. Open from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., you can purchase breakfast and maple syrup products. Also offered for the first time this year, you can buy Maple Festival souvenirs. Children can enjoy games, and a maple-syrup-making demonstration will be held every hour. Local bands will provide live music.

“We will also have some new things this year, such as an antique tractor display, and we will be demonstrating new tapping equipment,” Watts said.

About 3,000 to 5,000 people are expected to attend over the four days.

Admission is a $3 donation in lieu of the park entry fee. All of the money collected goes to the Friends of Cunningham Falls State Park and Gambrill State Park, a non-profit group that supports the park.

Maryland Park Service rangers and volunteers demonstrate the traditional way to make maple syrup.

1.   It takes a tree about 40 years before it is large enough to tap.

2.   Quebec produces two-thirds of the world’s maple syrup.

3.   Many producers uses sap pumps rather than taps and buckets to gather sap.

4.   Thieves stole $18 million worth of maple syrup from Quebec in 2012.

5.   Quebec maintains a huge syrup reserve that can be distributed to members during lean years.

6.   You can’t tell the difference between maple sap and water by looking at it.

7.   A tablespoon of maple syrup has 52 calories.

8.   IHOP has only one restaurant among its 1,400 that serves real maple syrup.

9.   It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.

10. Maple trees yield 5 to 15 gallons of sap per season so it takes around three trees to produce a gallon of syrup.

James Rada, Jr.

Most people in the country will receive a card in the mail by the middle of March, inviting them to participate in the 24th decennial census. Many people consider the decennial census merely a count of all the people in the United States—which is what the U.S. Constitution calls for as a minimum—but for each of the 23 U.S. Censuses taken, additional information has also been collected.

“The demographic information is very important. It gives us an idea of what type of life is going on in Thurmont,” said Jim Humerick, Thurmont’s chief administrative officer.

The U.S. Constitution requires the census to be taken every 10 years, and, by law, you must participate. The nine questions take just minutes to answer. The census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790, but this is the first time that census has offered an online response option.

It is not information collected simply to collect data on U.S. residents. The information is used for a variety of purposes, as governments determine legislative boundaries and school districts and decide where needs are for spending money from various programs. Non-profit organizations often use census data to support their needs when writing grants. Corporations use the data to determine where to locate new businesses. The federal government uses census data to determine where approximately $675 billion in federal program spending will go.

Locally, census information is used for planning and zoning and economic development decisions.

“The main thing I use it for is grants,” Humerick said. This is because grants often want demographic information about the community seeking the grant. The source for much of this information comes from the U.S. Census. It has been estimated that Frederick County and local municipalities lose $2,000 a year for each person not counted in the census.

“It’s extremely important that we get some of that massive amount of money that depends on census data back here,” said Emmitsburg Planner Zach Gulden.

The Town of Emmitsburg received an $8,500 grant that it will be using to make people aware of the census and encourage them to fill it out.

The Town of Thurmont will receive materials from the Census Bureau that it intends to send out with the water bills.    

Just as the law requires all U.S. residents, whether citizens or not, to participate in the census, the law also protects the information collected. According to the U.S. Census Bureau website, “Your answers can only be used to produce statistics—they cannot be used against you in any way. By law, all responses to U.S. Census Bureau household and business surveys are kept completely confidential.” This means that no government agency or court can use your information. It won’t be used by the sheriff’s department to locate a felon or ICE to find illegal immigrants. Income you list won’t be used in a divorce case, or your name won’t be used to track down a deadbeat parent.

The online census form goes live on March 12, but the official Census Day is April 1. If you haven’t submitted your census form by May, you can expect a census taker to show up at your door. The president will receive the official counts by the end of this year. By March of 2021, the states will receive the numbers that they will use to redraw their legislative districts.

You don’t have to go far to find a great atmosphere with great people.

Social gatherings bring out the best in us, and can often help attendees branch out and meet new people. There may be no better way to get out and experience town living to the fullest than an annual St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl.

Pub Crawls are a staple of the Americanized version of St. Patrick’s Day, one of this country’s most fun-centered and party-filled holidays. Cities across the nation light up green in honor of the Irish St. Patrick, and it’s not uncommon to find a bit of green in just about everything come March 17.

Even non-Irish pubs often serve shamrock green beers all day long, offering pub goers a refreshing and festive accent to a day full of celebration.

Nearly every major city in the United States has its own take on St. Patrick’s Day, and you don’t have to cross the pond to Dublin to get what feels like an authentic Irish celebration. Baltimore, Washington D.C., and plenty of other modern metropolises have various events and crawls where you can get discounted drinks and a driver to shuttle your group to and from each location. 

Pub Crawls typically feature a set of designated locations, where patrons have a limited amount of time to drink up until hitting the road for the next stop. The name comes from the slow pace of pushing from bar to bar at the crawl, with drinkers spending short amounts of time at each bar before heading to the next. Or, perhaps it derives from a bar crawl’s most rowdy participants, who may end up partying too hard and actually crawling to the final bars on the list.

Check out a few of the local and not-so-local options perfectly suited for your green-themed St. Patty’s Day fun.

Westminster’s Celtic Canter Pub Crawl/5K

The Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day (March 14) features a plethora of holiday events. Westminster’s Celtic Canter Pub Crawl draws crowds looking for some mid-day St. Patrick’s Day fun with some familiar locations, featuring stops at Maggie’s, Conah’s Bar and Grille, O’Lordans Irish Pub, RockSalt Grille, and many more. The crawl begins at noon, and features 10 bars with specials along the way. The crawl kicks off at the Westminster City Department of Recreation.

Crawlers are given a passport to have punched at each bar, with participants who complete the passport entered to win gift cards at the restaurants featured in the crawl. A free trolley is available for guests to safely tour the bars, shuttling passengers until 5 p.m.

Drinking and exercise is a seemingly strange pairing that has gained popularity in recent years, and Westminster also offers a 5K run the morning before the pub crawl.

A morning run may be the perfect way to prepare and compensate for the carb blowout that comes with St. Patty’s Day beers and food, so it’s worth checking out for those go-getters looking to celebrate the holiday from start to finish.

The race runs through historic downtown Westminster and has enough activities for kids and live music to keep the whole family entertained. Plus, finishers get a free T-shirt, and that is something everyone can get behind. 

St. Patty’s Day Margarita Crawl

Bar Crawl Unlimited is well-known for hosting outrageously fun pub crawls, packed with good bars and better beers.

The margarita crawl is a unique take on a traditionally beer-focused holiday. Margaritas aren’t just the perfect summer drink, and with the unusually warm winter, it may just be your first taste of Spring.

Rain or shine, the plan does not change for this pub crawl, so if a fun and concrete plan for a great St. Patrick’s Day is on your radar, a margarita crawl may be the perfect trip to start your Spring right.

This Baltimore-based Pub Crawl kicks off from popular downtown spot Power Plant, with six hours of drinking throughout scenic downtown Baltimore. There are plenty of giveaways, live music, and discounted drinks to keep the party going all day long.

Registration at Power Plant begins at 2:00 p.m. on March 7.

Chase The Green Bar Crawl

Washington D.C. is full of historic monuments, beautiful museums, and some of the most fun city tours in America.

It also has a great nightlife, and pub crawl promoters capitalize on the bar scene every St. Patrick’s Day with some of the best pub crawls on the east coast.

D.C. has plenty of crawls to offer the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, and Chase The Green pub crawl features six great bars all with a unique spin. Each bar plays different music, so no matter the taste or mood, you are sure to find a few that bring out your Irish side.

Food and drink specials keep the party going all night long, so patrons are free to contour their St. Patty’s Day experience well after the pub crawl is over.

The event expects more than 1,000 participants, so get your tickets early before they sell out for good.

Outside of Ireland, nobody does St. Patrick’s Day bigger and better than right here in the United States. Whether you choose to stick with one of the local parades, or head to your nearest Irish pub, you can’t go wrong tossing on a green shirt and some face paint to go see what towns near you have to offer.

Keep your eyes open for early-bird offers on tickets, because nobody wants to miss out on a great time with great people, and your perfect day trip is right around the corner.

Please note that, locally, Emmitsburg’s Vigilant Hose Company hosts a St. Patty’s Day Pub Crawl, but it was sold out at the time of this publishing.

Blair Garrett

Dedication is something that often takes a long time to cultivate.

For Thurmont native James “Jim” Wisotzkey, 95, bowling is something that has been an integral part of his life for a long, long time.

Wisotzkey’s roots in bowling run deep, as his passion for the sport began when he was just a teenager.

“I ran a bowling alley in Thurmont when I was 14,” Wisotzkey said. “It’s old and run down now with water damage, but that’s where it began.”

Wisotzkey has been an expert bowler for over half a century, but his passion for the game and a push from his doctor has kept the bowler throwing strikes for decades longer than your average senior leaguer.

“The doctor doesn’t want me to quit,” Wisotzkey said. “He says it’s the best I can do to keep me going.”

It isn’t just the longevity of Wisotzkey’s bowling career that has people singing his praises. As a Marine Veteran and a staple of the Frederick County bowling scene, Wisotzkey has built a bit of a legacy at Terrace Lanes in Frederick.

“I’ve been in this league for 30 years,” he said. “I started it back in 1990, and I’m the only one left of the originals.”

The league routinely packs the bowling alley every Tuesday, giving Frederick County seniors a physical outlet and a chance to get out and have some fun.  

Bowling competitively has kept the skills sharp for Wisotzkey, whose 2020 high score nearly breaks 200. While he may not throw the ball with the same power as he used to, the fundamental technique is as solid as ever for Wisotzkey, who continues to push the limits and wow his teammates and competitors.

Wisotzkey’s team, the Silent Bowlers, is comprised of four members, including Wisotzkey, John McBride, Mary Ann Anderson, and Jeff Dunefsky, who all recognize Wisotzkey’s efforts and dedication to the team and the league. The unit fully supports Wisotzkey and, like the rest of the league members, is astonished at his consistency and love for the game.

The future is bright for Wisotzkey, the Silent Bowlers, and the rest of Terrace Lanes Senior League, as Wisotzkey has no plans to slow down.

“I have a pacemaker, and they checked that about three months ago,” Wisotzkey said. “The lady turned to me and said, ‘I’ve got good news for you. Your battery is good for 12 more years.’”

Wisotzkey turns 96 on June 2, and while he certainly holds the title of the league’s eldest bowler, there’s one title he’s still chasing. “My all-time highest score was a 289,” Wisotzkey said. “I just missed out on the perfect game in the last frame.”

At the pace Wisotzkey is going, the perfect game is not out of the question. In addition to his regularly scheduled league games on Tuesdays, he also takes his talents to duckpin lanes each week to keep active.

With the senior league going strong, a cast of teammates behind him, and an iron will to keep knocking down pins, it’s clear Wisotzkey has a knack for defying expectations.

The Silent Bowlers prepare for its league game: (from left) James “Jim” Wisotzkey, John McBride, Mary Ann Anderson, and Jeff Dunefsky.


FEBRUARY 2020 Meeting

by James Rada, Jr.

Baseball will be Played in Town this Summer

The Thurmont Little League will play games in Emmitsburg on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Emmitsburg Commissioner Frank Davis has been working to ensure Emmitsburg baseball players will have opportunities to play locally. He said CYA has been trying to do more in Emmitsburg. “We’re starting to come together as one, which I always hoped we could,” Davis said during a town meeting.

Town May Annex Daughters of Charity Property

The Town of Emmitsburg may consider annexing the Daughters of Charity property to help the town comply with mandated MS4 regulations to aid Chesapeake Bay restoration. MS4 requires an area equal to 20 percent of the town’s impervious land to be used for runoff control measures by 2023.

Town Planner Zach Gulden told the commissioners during a town meeting that one way the town can meet the regulations is to increase tree plantings, but they need more open space to have the room to do this. A combination of annexation and conservation easements of the Daughters of Charity can accomplish most of the need.

Another action that will help meet the MS4 mandate is Silo Hill Stormwater Management Basin retrofit. This could cost as much as $250,000, but it will fix the failing basin while also making it attractive for residents and useful in meeting MS4.

The town is also considering annexing the town-owned land where the wastewater treatment plant is located.

Town Receives a Clean Audit

The Emmitsburg Mayor and Commissioners recently received the results of the annual review done of its finances by an independent auditor. The town received a clean and unmodified audit, which means the town presented its financial information statements fairly.

Waysides Get Approved

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved changes to one of four new historical waysides that will become part of the town’s historical walking tour. The commissioners had delayed their approval because of a couple factual changes that needed to be made to the wayside about the Chronicle Press building. The cost of the waysides is paid for with an FY2020 Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grant of $12,032. The other waysides will explain the history of the Great Fire of 1863, Vigilant Hose Company, and Carriage House Inn building.

Defensive Driving Course Added to Employee Handbook

The Emmitsburg Commissioners approved the addition of policies offering a defensive driving course, preventative maintenance for vehicles, and hand-held cell phones to the employee handbook. Much of what was added was already being done, but the formalization of the policies should allow the town to receive credits on its insurance costs, which could save the town a few thousand dollars.

The defensive driving course policy requires all employees who operate town-owned vehicles to take a four-hour-long online course when they are hired and every four years. The cell phone policy follows Maryland law regarding the use of cell phones while driving.


FEBRUARY 2020 Meeting

Town Considers Options for New Press Box

Members of Thurmont’s CYA organization presented revised plans for a new press box at Eyler Field. The new 30-foot by 80-foot building would serve as a storage facility and press box. The field and building are used for CYA soccer, cheerleading, lacrosse, and football teams that serve hundreds of local children. Estimates of the proposed building will cost around $200,000, and CYA only has $10,000 set aside for building. The CYA organization is hoping to get help from the town, and the Thurmont Town Commissioners are considering how they might be able to help.

Special Activities Committee Donates to the Thurmont Food Bank

The Thurmont Special Events Committee presented Rev. Sally Joyner Giffin with a check for $2,585.04. This is the amount collected during the town’s Halloween in the Park event for the food bank.

Help Needed

The Town of Thurmont is forming a new Internet Commission. If you are interested in volunteering to serve on this commission, please contact Elliot Jones at 240-831-7749.

The town is also seeking volunteers to serve on the Special Events Committee, Board of Appeals, and Police Commission. If interested, please contact the town office.

Yard Waste Drop-Off Permit Needed

Anyone using the Moser Road yard waste drop-off site must have a Yard Waste Permit issued by the town. Permits were mailed out with the last town electric/water/sewer bill. If you do not have the permit when you go to the site, you will be asked to show your driver’s license to verify town residency.

New Sewer Lateral Inspection Policy Being Enacted

The Town of Thurmont is implementing a new sewer lateral inspection policy. The policy allows town staff or its contractors to inspect lateral sewer lines on private property. It also requires property owners to make required repairs within a set amount of time. The policy protects the integrity of the town sewage system, as well as helping the property owner avoid paying for sewage leakage.

James Rada, Jr.

Imagine having your own personal farmer who grows nutritious fruits and vegetables and harvests them the day you pick them up. This farmer deals with the dirt and bad weather to make sure you have food that is fresher and more nutritious than what you can buy in a grocery store.

That is mostly what happens when you participate in Good Soil Farm’s community-supported agriculture (CSA). It is a win-win farming concept for both the farmer and consumer.

Stephen and Casey-Mae McGinley own Good Soil Farm in Emmitsburg. They practice regenerative agriculture “to glorify God by cultivating fruitful soil, happy souls, and healthy communities,” according to the mission statement.

Both the McGinleys are graduates of Mount St. Mary’s University and both had wanted to farm for years before being able to purchase 25 acres on Keysville Road from the Daughters of Charity in 2017. Stephen said that health issues and Casey’s pregnancies “made us more interested in healthy food and how to grow healthy food.”

The idea behind the way they farm is to grow foods that like the soil. For instance, the McGinleys tried growing green beans, but beans don’t like the soil on the farm, so they never grew to their potential or tasted as good as other vegetables suited to the soil.

The McGinleys also try to grow complementary crops. “Certain plants grow well together, such as tomatoes and basil,” Casey-Mae said.

They grew their first crop in 2018 and offered shares to 10 families using the CSA model. A CSA farm sells shares of the crops that the farmer grows.

“Members pay at the beginning of the season, and each week, they can pick up their share of what we’ve grown,” said Casey-Mae.

The concept has been around for about 30 years and continues to grow in popularity because of the benefits it offers to both farmer and consumer. It has become a popular way for smaller farms to maintain their viability at a time when it is becoming harder for small and medium-size farms to make ends meet.

Last year, Good Soil Farm had around 40 members, and they would like to continue to grow. Stephen estimates that they could serve about 50 members on their current farm.

The farm grows a variety of vegetables, including lettuce, eggplant, squash, peppers, beets, and a lot more. The McGinleys sell eggs separately and are growing a sheep herd to eventually be able to offer lamb.

“The value you’re getting is pretty remarkable, and the quality makes it difficult to beat,” Stephen said.

Because people might be unfamiliar with how to prepare some of the items the McGinleys grow, they often have recipes you can use to cook up a delicious meal.

Because part of the McGinley’s goal is to build a community, they hold special events throughout the season at the farm. The parties bring together the members and feature dishes prepared with the food from the farm.

“It’s not just raising vegetables,” Stephen said. “We think the Lord made the world in such a way that if we work with it, instead of making it conform to our designs, it flourishes and we flourish.”

You can learn more about Good Soil Farm or sign up for a share at

Good Soil Farm’s regenerative agriculture cultivates “fruitful soil, happy souls, and healthy communities.”

James Rada, Jr.

Note: Portions of this article are pulled from a series of articles The Catoctin Banner ran in 2014 about the history of newspapers in Northern Frederick County.

William R. “Bo” Cadle, Jr., died January 21, 2020, at the SpiriTrust Lutheran Village in Gettysburg with his wife, Jean, by his side. Although no longer living in Emmitsburg, the Cadles left their mark on how northern Frederick County receives its news.

The Cadles started the monthly Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch in 1993. You can still read old copies of the newspaper at

“Volunteers helped us do all sorts of things. An unexpected and greatly appreciated alliance between people in the community (readers and merchants and the worker-bees) over the following months helped the paper to gain firmer footing,” Bo Cadle wrote in a 2002 editorial.

Bo was born October 10, 1931, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  He graduated from Frederick High School, received a degree in science from the University of Maryland, served two years in the Air Force and then earned his Master’s in Education. Although not a trained newspaper man, Bo had a desire to contribute to his town by keeping its residents informed of local news.

A couple years later, after he started his own paper, Bo encouraged Lori Zentz to get into the newspaper business. Chronicle Press had started the Catoctin Banner in 1994, but by 1995, Art Elder was looking to sell the paper. The Cadles already had the Regional Dispatch running, so they contacted Zentz about taking it over.

Zentz saw a need for local news in Thurmont. WTHU in Thurmont was publishing the Thurmont Times, but this was seen more as a coupon supplement than a newspaper. The Gazette published a Thurmont/Walkersville edition, but it, like the Frederick News Post focused more on happenings around Frederick. Meanwhile, the Regional Dispatch was primarily focused on Emmitsburg. The Catoctin Banner was eight pages when Zentz took over, and it grew steadily, at one point reaching 32 pages. Her goal was to create a paper that was about Thurmont.

Both the Banner and Dispatch continued operating independently, focusing mainly on their respective areas.

Cadle nicely described a community newspaper when he wrote in 2002, “As far as we know, there were few, if any national conversations, ever held, but the Dispatch chatted on. Writers, of less than national stature, but with their unique voice, kept us informed of what was going on in our churches, clubs, service organizations, and homes across the greater community. Local merchants and groups were willing to bend their bottom-line thinking and underwrote the Dispatch by placing ads or making donations to insure that the Dispatch was able to pay its way. Small-town journalism was taking root, not spectacularly but the entire community, the Dispatch’s extended family, was contributing and the paper became a household word.”

In 2002, the Cadles decided to pass on the Disptach to Raymond and Jennifer Buchheister. They changed the name to The Emmitsburg Dispatch, and eventually started publishing a sister publication, The Thurmont Dispatch. The Buchheisters published each newspaper twice a month. The Dispatch newspapers ceased publication in November 2008. Just a year before, Deb Abraham Spalding had taken over publishing The Catoctin Banner and also received helpful advise from the Cadles.

The Catoctin Banner continues publishing and living up to its name. It combines the news and events of the Catoctin region in much the same way some elements of both Emmitsburg and Thurmont have combined.

Although Bo is gone, we at The Catoctin Banner still remember his positive impact on our history, the history of our local newspapers, and the history of the greater Emmitsburg area.

On Saturday, March 21, 2020, Trinity United Church of Christ and the Thurmont Lions Club will be partnering together to provide a benefit breakfast for Luke Bradley (pictured right) to help the family with his medical expenses. Luke is the 10-year-old son of Tracey and Dan Bradley, and the grandson of Rick and Judy May of Thurmont and Edward and Shirley Bradley of Taneytown. The family has lived in the community for many years. Luke is a fifth-grader at Thurmont Elementary School.

Luke has been a fighting underdog from the start. He was born six weeks premature due to his mother suffering from pre-eclampsia late in her pregnancy.  He was delivered by emergency C-section and spent two months in the NICU at Frederick Memorial Hospital. During that time, he contracted an infection that delayed him from coming home.

During his first two years of life, Luke’s development was slow, and his parents started noticing that he was not reaching the normal milestones for a two-year-old.  After being examined by doctors, it was determined that Luke had Cerebral Palsy, which was likely caused by brain trauma at birth.  Cerebral Palsy can present itself in many different ways, depending on the part of the brain affected. In Luke’s case, the muscles in his legs contract, which makes it difficult and painful to walk. He wears leg braces to keep his feet flexed, and he also uses a walker to get around.  As he grows, these things need to be updated to accommodate his size. 

The condition has also manifested itself in the way of nerve damage to his eyes. Luke has undergone surgery to help improve this, be he still suffers from low vision and requires glasses to help improve his vision. A few years ago, he also began having seizures while sleeping, so he is on daily medication to help prevent this from happening.

Luke has had numerous surgeries over the years. He’s had several rounds of Botox injections into his leg muscles to help relax them, and he now has a Baclofen pump installed subcutaneously in his abdomen with a catheter that delivers medicine directly to his spine. 

In May of 2019, he had major surgery performed at Johns Hopkins in an attempt to straighten out his hips, knees, and ankles.  The tension from his muscles contracting tends to cause his legs to twist, so during the seven-hour surgery, they inserted many plates and screws to straighten his legs and make walking easier. After two weeks at Johns Hopkins, Luke was transferred to Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital for six weeks of extensive therapy.  In the beginning, with casts and knee immobilizers on both legs, he was confined to his bed and a wheelchair. As therapy progressed, he eventually regained his mobility and was able to return home in July. During the rest of the summer, he worked to build up his stamina, in hopes of joining his fifth-grade class in September. This coming summer, he will be facing another surgery to remove the hardware they inserted, but recovery from this should be much easier.

Despite all of the challenges Luke faces in his life, he continues to be a very happy and upbeat 10-year-old. He has an overwhelming love of sports, especially football. He has great intuition for the game and has helped out with coaching and announcing for the local CYA football team. The coach loves having him on the sideline, and he is a great inspiration for the team. When he can’t be on the field, he hones his coaching skills by playing sports video games and watching plenty of games on TV.  He also enjoys woodworking, and his dad has set up a workbench in the basement just for Luke.  He especially enjoys building the prefab kits from Lowes.

Luke’s daily schedule is complicated, and often includes physical therapy and doctors’ visits. His parents and grandparents work together to provide for his needs while also including stimulating activities. Luke will live with these—and many more—challenges his entire life. It would be great if we, as a community, could come together to provide support for him and his family. 

So, please come out on Saturday, March 21, 2020, from 6:00-11:00 a.m., to Trinity UCC, located at 101 East Main Street in Thurmont. Enjoy an all-you-can-eat breakfast, sponsored by Trinity UCC and the Thurmont Lions Club. There will be an abundance of good food and community fellowship.                              

James Rada, Jr.

For anyone watching President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address on February 4, a face seen in the gallery might have easily been mistaken for Santa Claus. It was Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird. He attended the event as a guest of Congressman Jamie Raskin.

“It was the chance of a lifetime to do something I never thought I would do,” Kinnaird said.

Rankin called Kinnaird a week before the event and asked him, “What are you doing next Tuesday?”

When Kinnaird found out that he was being invited to the State of the Union, he was surprised, to say the least. For one thing, Kinnaird is a Republican, and Raskin is a Democrat. “I thought there’s got to be lots of other people more deserving than me,” Kinnaird said.

Kinnaird arrived at Raskin’s office in the Cannon House Office Building around 5;00 p.m. From there, he and Raskin went to a reception in the Rayburn Office Building, hosted by Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland. He had the opportunity to speak with several other U.S. representatives while there. He then traveled on the Congressional subway from the office building to the Capitol Building. He and Raskin visited the Rotunda and Statuary Hall. They then attended a reception at Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office. “It was jam-packed,” Kinnaird said. “I saw the speaker, but it was only from a distance.”

He also had the opportunity to speak with Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser about issues both municipalities deal with.

He also saw several of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One even remarked on the Scotland pin that Kinnaird was wearing on his sports coat. It led to a conversation with the man for several minutes. “It was exciting to be in the company of all these people and talk with some of them,” Kinnaird said.

He also wore his Maryland tie, which many people remarked upon.

From his gallery seat, he had an excellent view of the podium. He was speaking with someone when he turned to see First Lady Melania Trump entering the gallery. She sat about a half a dozen seats away from him.

He had the chance to speak briefly with Brig. Gen. Charles McGee and his great-grandson for a few minutes before the address.

While the gallery guests were mixed somewhat between supporters and non-supporters of the President, Kinnaird said it was very obvious on the floor who was a Democrat and who was Republican.

“It was electric being in that room,” Kinnaird said.

Because of his nearness to the First Lady, Kinnaird can be seen on some of the pictures and video of the gallery when guests were announced.

He said the entire experience was humbling, and he was glad he was able to be there to represent Thurmont.

Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird and Congressman Jamie Raskin at the U.S. Capitol.

James Rada, Jr.

Although Emmitsburg has not been receiving complaints about brown water lately, town staff is looking for ways to fix known problems with the water system, so they don’t cause future problems. However, the fixes could cost $5.3 million, so the town needs to find a way to pay for these fixes.

Emmitsburg Town Manager Cathy Willets updated the town commissioners on the work staff has been doing on the water system.

Water samples were taken from various homes and locations around town that had reported brown water. The samples were sent to the Maryland Department of the Environment to be tested for iron, manganese, lead and copper, bacteria, turbidity, and pH and chlorine levels. Willets hadn’t been sent the results by the February meeting.

New parts had been ordered to replace failing parts on the water line, and the pressure-reducing valve was adjusted to run smoother. This could help reduce brown water in the line. The town also purchased a new clarifier for the water treatment plant that would better deal with the raw water coming into the plant.

“Our treatment process is doing its job,” Willets said. “It’s treating the water, but the water, unfortunately, hasn’t changed over the last couple of months.”

The commissioners also approved replacing a portion of the town water line that runs under Waynesboro Pike. It will require boring and the installation of a new 6-inch HDPE line under the road. The cost for this work is $23,800.

When the weather warms up, a line break on Tract Road will be repaired for $6,800.

Town staff has also met with the Middletown Town Manager to discuss how Middletown handled a brown water problem in 2013. Middletown did pay for water filters for some residents who met certain criteria; to fix their problem, they used funding from the Department of Community Housing and Development.

The town’s short-term plan is to increase pH levels of the water by adding ortho-phosphate. This will reduce tuberculation (flaking) in the water lines. The pressure-reducing valves will be replaced, and an automatic chemical feed will be added.

It is in the long-term where things get expensive. The water lines with tuberculation need to be replaced. These include lines on North Seton Avenue ($1.1 million, not including engineering fees), Waynesboro Pike ($750,000, not including engineering fees), and DePaul Street ($1.1 million, not including engineering fees). Future infrastructure projects include a Creamery Road Pump Station (estimated $2.5 million), and a clarifier at the wastewater treatment plant (estimated $800,000).

The total for these projects is $5.3 million, and the water fund only has $439,000 in cash in it. Money can be borrowed from other town funds but would have to be paid back. However, if too large an amount is used from the town reserves, it could make the town ineligible for certain loans because of the town’s change in finances.

Emmitsburg could get a 30-year loan currently at 3.15 percent from DCHD to pay for the work. If approved, the town could have the funding in the spring. Another option is funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This would be a 40-year loan at 2.25 percent, currently. Also, if eligible, the town could qualify for up to a 75-percent grant with a rate as low as 1.625 percent.

The Maryland Department of the Environment might also be able to provide some grant relief. However, Willets said MDE told the town that because there is “no health concern,” no immediate action has been taken. This is because previous water tests have shown that despite the discoloration, tests are within acceptable levels.

Eugene and Julianne LaCroce have long, solid ties to the Catholic community in Emmitsburg.

After moving to the area from Pennsylvania in 1964, Gene and Judy—as they are known to friends and family—enrolled their three oldest children in Mother Seton School (MSS). By 1977, all five of their children were students at MSS, and Judy began work there as a Middle School Language Arts teacher. Gene, who was employed at Mount St. Mary’s University and later at Fort Ritchie, volunteered his time to assist the Daughters of Charity at the school with finances and budgeting. Even after their children graduated and moved on to different areas of the country, the LaCroce family remained champions of Mother Seton School. This commitment to Catholic education was honored on January 31, 2020, with the dedication of the renamed Seton-LaCroce Learning Center at Mother Seton School.

“The LaCroce family’s lifelong dedication to Catholic education mirrors Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s educational mission and vision,” Mother Seton School Principal Kathleen J. Kilty, PhD said. “Our foundress was very sensitive to individual differences among students and impressed upon the sisters the importance of considering each child’s unique talents and abilities. Thanks to the LaCroce family’s generosity and commitment to Mother Seton School students, the Seton-LaCroce Learning Center will honor this vision of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s.”

The Seton-LaCroce Learning Center, or SLLC, originally opened in 2012 as the Mother Seton Learning Center. Its mission is to provide academic support, direct intervention, and guidance for MSS students in pre-K through grade 8. This past year, the SLLC expanded its services to include teacher training in Orton-Gillingham for reading intervention, a sensory path in its hallway to help with behavior and focus, and reading enrichment for students performing above grade level. Currently, the SLLC serves 36 students with documented disabilities, 16 of whom need reading and/or math support, and 15 for reading enrichment. A full-time, experienced special education teacher was also hired to help provide more comprehensive intervention, as well as professional development for the faculty with a focus on teaching students with disabilities.

“We also serve students in all grades who need additional time for a test, or suffer from anxiety and do better outside of the classroom to do a test,” adds SLLC Director Ann Beirne. “In addition, we are able to offer support for students’ emotional needs.”

Mrs. LaCroce was truly touched by the re-dedication. “It is a blessing to have this Learning Center renamed in our honor. We hope that it will enrich the lives of all the students who benefit from the resources offered so that the legacy of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton will continue to flourish in this holy valley.”

Pictured from left: (back row) Brian Stitely; Nathan Stitely; Julia Stitely; Ann Beirne, Director Seton-LaCroce Learning Center; Alexis Burns, MSS Special Education Teacher; Rev. John Lesnick, Pastor of St. Joseph’s, Taneytown; Dan Hallinan, MSS Board President; Jennifer Buchheister, MSS Director of Advancement; (frornt row) Maria Vershel; Julianne LaCroce; Eugene LaCroce; Kathy Stitely; Kathleen Kilty, PhD, MSS Principal

Pictured left to right:  Delaney Hench, Griffin Hench, Joanna Genemans, Cooper DeLauter, Tala Mott, Wyatt Ferson, Wayne Ferson, Michael Metz, Tegan Mott, Will Kimbark, Mike Sanders, and Ben Kimbark. On the team and not represented in the picture: Annalise Abruzzese, Evan Stream, Nora Dugan, and Ethan Williams. 

The Thurmont Middle School team placed third overall (behind both of Urbana’s teams) in the Frederick County Science Olympiad Tournament on January 25, 2020. Susan Mize coached the team with the help of assistant coaches, Jesse Love, Melissa Carter, Bill and Donna Kimbark, Jan Gennemans, and Patty Ferson. The team earned the following awards: 1st Place—Circuit Lab, Mousetrap Vehicle; 2nd Place—Write it Do it; 3rd Place—Disease Detectives, Elastic Launched Glider, Food Science, Reach for the Stars, Road Scholar; 4th Place—Anatomy, Boomilever, Crime Busters, Ornithology, Ping Pong Parachute, Water Quality; 5th Place—Density Lab, Dynamic Planet; 6th Place—Experimental Design, Fossils.

The Vai script is a unique indigenous writing system found in Sierra Leone and what country to its southeast? Sixth-grader Maryn Rajaski could tell you. (The answer is Liberia!) The Mother Seton School student placed first in the school-wide Geography Bee held on January 17, 2020. Maryn is no stranger to the finals; last year, she was the runner-up. Maryn will now have the opportunity to take an online test to be submitted to the National Geography Bee. The top 100 finalists in Maryland as determined by the test will move on to the state-level competition in March. The final competition is the National Geography Bee, which will be held in May. The National winner receives a $50,000 college scholarship. The National Geography Bee is in its 32nd year and is sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

Elizabeth Vines, Middle School teacher and Geography Bee coordinator, says participation in the Bee is a fun way to promote the value of understanding the world around us. “I tell the students they are global citizens,” she said. “The Bee is one of the ways in which we try to broaden their minds.”

Maryn competed against other classmates who were selected after the initial classroom screening, including: Robert Mongelluzzo and Dylan Slusher (Gr. 4); Elizabeth Iferd and Vivian Lewis (Gr. 5); Grace Hewitt (Gr. 6); Brady Koenig and Aidan Shranatan (Gr. 7); Elizabeth Goodwin and Tim McCarthy (Gr. 8).

Lewistown Elementary School held its annual Family Night on February 13, 2020. The Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Committee and the School Improvement Team hosted the night to inform families on topics in education and to provide fun activities for students. The PTA generously provided dinner for all.

Parent sessions were held on technology, behavior, and home routines, math and literacy resources, and cyberbullying.  Student rotations included making calming jars and stress balls, science fair prep, and book shopping for free books. Frederick County Public Library, Girls on the Run, and Boy Scouts shared community information for attendees.

It was a great night for staff to share their knowledge and promote connections with families and community members!

Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) is accepting nominations for the 2020 Charles E. Tressler Distinguished Teacher Award. Named for a former Hood College faculty member who encouraged young people to enter the teaching profession, this award recognizes an FCPS teacher who has had a significant positive impact on young people.

FCPS has posted eligibility and nomination criteria, nomination process, and selection guidelines at The school system welcomes nominations from current or former students, teachers and support staff, parents, community members, administrators, and supervisors.

Nomination packets are due to the FCPS Public Affairs Department, 191 S. East Street, Frederick, MD 21701, by Friday, March 20, 2020.

Blair Garrett

This Mount team has been through rough stretches before.

Head Coach Dan Engelstad preaches a defense-first game to his Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball team. The defense feeds the offense, and for large portions of the season, the Mount has thrived on that mentality.

For as solid as the defense has been, the challenge for every quality team is playing and closing out full games with a shutdown defense and turning those stops into counterattacks.

The Mount’s game on February 15 against St. Francis epitomized that struggle for consistency.

The first half for Mount St. Mary’s was as clinical and efficient as they have looked all season. The defense was suffocating, and it played perfectly into the team’s stellar transition game.

St. Francis is one of the top teams in the Northeast Conference (NEC), and the Mount held them to just 20 points in the first half. Forward Nana Opoku’s tenacity in the paint shut down opportunities for St. Francis’ top scorers, and that energy fueled the offense in the first frame.

Mount St. Mary’s held a 15-point lead and looked as dominant as Engelstad strives for his team to be.

“We had a really good effort in the first half,” Engelstad said. “I thought our defense was in a good place once we started sprinting back and getting stops. We did a really good job of holding a good offensive team to 20 points.”

The momentum quickly shifted at halftime, though, and the scope of the game changed rapidly over the next 15 minutes.

St. Francis’ offense exploded, and the second and third chance opportunities that were shut down in the first half were suddenly available in the second frame.

“The second half was the tale of two teams,” Engelstad said. “We got comfortable, and they hurt us inside and outside. We’ve got to look inward. There are a lot of things we need to do better, that I need to do better.”

St. Francis outscored and out-rebounded the Mount drastically over the second half, pulling out a 15-point lead and closing out the game with a 70-55 victory over Mount St. Mary’s.

“We have to find a way to get stops,” Jalen Gibbs said. “It’s not going to be easy, and we know that. We just have to keep pushing.”

There is no easy fix for consistency, outside of putting the hours in practice day in and day out, but it’s not for lack of effort on the basketball court.

“We’ve been through tough stretches and come out with four wins in a row on the road,” Gibbs said. “We just need to lock into the details.”

With just a handful of games left in the season, it’s now or never for this Mount team. The talent is there, the effort is there, and the right attitude emanates through the locker room.

“This is the biggest part of our season. We still have a lot to play for,” Engelstad said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we still have a lot more basketball ahead of us.”

The Mount control their own fate, and despite the struggles as of late, the team’s in-conference record has them in the thick of it in competing for a long postseason. This team has faltered on its path before and come out stronger than ever, and there’s no reason they can’t replicate that to close out the regular season.

With its most important games still left to play, this Mount team now has the chance to execute to its potential and prove to everyone that this team isn’t going down without a fight.

Jalen Gibbs takes it to the hoop on the counterattack.

Blair Garrett

Coaching sports is as difficult as it is rewarding.

Managing different personalities, encouraging athletes to be their best on and off the court, and putting together game plans that emphasize your team’s strengths can be taxing on even the most dedicated coaches.

In addition to all the film and research that goes into putting together a winning strategy, coaches provide another source of team support that is often over-looked.

“It takes a lot of hours as a coach,” JV Coach and Assistant Varsity Coach Jim Weddle said. “A lot of times, you have to go to events to raise money for the team, and a lot of people don’t want to put in that time.”

Fortunately for the Catoctin High School (CHS) boys basketball team, a foundation of youth basketball has been put in place.

Weddle has been around the game for a long, long time, and he knows the ins and outs of what it takes to build a great team.

Youth support and encouraging kids to be active and try basketball from a young age fuels good teams for the future, and the Catoctin area was missing that for quite some time.

“The Catoctin Youth Association (CYA) has really done a great job as far as getting kids involved in basketball at a young age,” Weddle said. “Jason Smith has done a heck of a job with CYA. He puts in a heck of a lot of time into it.”

Weddle recognizes the youth support and has seen that culture shift from a school that did not win a lot of games just a few years ago, to a school that now competes with the top schools in the region for a top playoff seed.

“In the three years before Brian [Burdette] and I came on as coaches, the basketball teams did not win a lot of games,” Weddle said. “It was hard to bring coaches in because they see that history.”

Weddle, along with Head Coach Brian Burdette, has shifted the mindset from a team that just participates in games to a team that goes out and takes games.

That success may be in part to Weddle and Burdette’s history before taking over the reins at Catoctin.

“Coach Burdette played for me when I was the head coach at Linganore High School,” Weddle said. “We went on and coached some Mid-Maryland teams a few years ago and won championships the last two years.”

That chemistry and familiarity provide a full bank of knowledge for both coaches to draw upon in molding the CHS boys teams to live up to their potential. So far, it has paid off tremendously.

The Catoctin boys team now sits as one of the top seeds battling for a playoff position in the region, due in part to the work and dedication of the players and from the extensive support and instruction from the team’s coaching staff.

Students at Catoctin have taken notice, too, and the home crowd has been noticeably louder and wilder than it has in years past.

“We’ve done really well, and the kids at the school have really started to support the team,” Weddle said. “We play an up-tempo kind of basketball, and most people like it because it’s exciting.”

That home-court advantage has been monumentally important in giving the Cougars the shot of energy they need to win games, leading to a stellar home record.

From the region’s first youth leagues all the way to varsity basketball, there are signs of promise that the successes built over the past few seasons are here to stay. With dedicated members of CYA introducing kids to the game of basketball, it eventually allows the high school coaches to watch and see the growth and progress kids make as they move through youth sports.

“We try to go to the Mid-Maryland games, so we can get to know these kids as they’re growing up,” Weddle said. “I think that’s important.”

It is clear that the impact from whose who are willing to put the time in from top to bottom has affected youth sports in a tremendous way. One thing is certain: the future of Catoctin basketball is in good hands.

The groundhog failed to see his shadow, meaning Spring is just around the corner! With that, Thurmont Little League (TLL) is busy making preparations for the start of the 2020 season. On February 4, a very successful fundraiser was held at Roy Roger’s restaurant. Many families came out to enjoy a great meal to benefit the league and to register their children in person for the upcoming season. An overwhelming response to spiritwear and discount card sales led to a hugely successful evening.

Over 50 TLL players from across all ages attended the Winter Baseball Clinic at Mount Saint Mary’s University. This three-part session, led by college athletes and coaches, was a tremendous opportunity for the players to get some practice in before the upcoming season. Everyone involved seemed to really enjoy this opportunity, and the league hopes to return to campus later this year for TLL Day during one of the Mount’s home baseball games.

Player evaluations were held for the minor and major divisions on February 15 and February 23. There was an excellent turnout, and the players seemed excited to get back into baseball mode after a long winter. Team selections will occur on March 1 and, weather permitting, practices will begin the week of March 9.

TLL offers many volunteer opportunities for families to get more involved. Outside of coaching, there is always a need for concession help and volunteer umpires. TLL will hold an Umpire Clinic on March 21 for any interested parties to see what is involved or to brush up on their skills. The league is in need of adult umpires ages 18-plus, but there are also youth umpiring spots available for ages 13-17. This is a great way to earn community service hours. Umpiring spots are available for a few, or several, games if desired.

For more information, please visit the umpire section of the TLL website. Please pass the word to anyone who may be interested!

The Thurmont Little League Board has been hard at work making plans for opening day, which is scheduled for Saturday, April 4. Along with a full slate of games, the day will also include an introduction of all players and coaches, as well as a special ceremony hosted by WFRE’s own Brian Mo. The first pitch will be thrown out by head Catoctin baseball coach Michael Franklin, who is the reigning Frederick County Teacher of the Year. There will be fun for all ages, with animals on display by the National Park Service, ice cream from Antietam Dairy, face painting, basket raffles, and more. You won’t want to miss out on the fun, so please mark this date on your calendar.

TLL players attend the Winter Baseball Clinic at Mount Saint Mary’s University.

James Rada, Jr.

2: The skeleton

“An ill wind blows no good.”

That old saying rang in Bruce Nelson’s head when he and the men of his work crew opened the large metal box they had unearthed digging into Raven Rock Mountain on a government project. The wind that had burst outward when the seal on the box lid broke had chilled him to his core.

Bruce hesitated to look inside the box. It suddenly seemed ominous or at least worrisome to him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to see what could generate such a wind.

Bruce switched on his flashlight and shone it inside the metal box. Bones gleamed under the light.

It was a skeleton. So the box was a coffin. That had been his first thought when he found it, but it hadn’t been the right size for a coffin or made from the right material. For that matter, being located hundreds of feet underground wasn’t the right place for a coffin.

Yet, he was staring at bones. At least he thought they were bones. As Bruce moved the flashlight beam up and down along the bones, he realized this was no typical skeleton.

“Is it a time capsule?” Harv Worthington asked from behind him.

“I hope it’s a treasure,” Joe Jeffries countered.

Without taking his eyes off the skeleton, Bruce said, “It’s bones.”

“Bones? No, that means we’ll be delayed while the eggheads come in here to study them,” Harv said.

Bruce turned off the flashlight. “Help me pull the lid all the way off. There’s something wrong with these bones.”

The half dozen men on the crew struggled to lift the lid. It felt like it weighed more than lead. The effort left them all sweating and breathing hard.

“Careful,” Bruce cautioned. “If we damage this, the higher-ups will have our heads.”

He thought it was more likely the lid would damage one of his work crew by smashing a finger or dropping on someone’s foot.

With the lid off, more light from the klieg lights could shine in the box. The skeleton was at least seven-feet tall. The arms were long, reaching down to the knees, which were reversed like many birds. The chest was broad, nearly as wide as the four-foot-wide coffin. The skull had a pronounced jaw filled with jagged teeth that seemed longer than they should be. It wasn’t smooth along the top either. It had a series of small, horn-like growths all over the skull.

“What the hell is that?” Patrick O’Hearn said.

Bruce shook his head. “It’s not human.”

“You think?” Joe said. “Nothing human or animal has ever looked like that.”

“Something did. There’s its skeleton,” Harv said, stabbing his finger toward the skeleton.

Bruce rubbed his face. He would definitely have to call this in.

He kept trying to imagine what a creature with this skeleton would look like. It would be something out of a horror movie like Boris Karloff in Frankenstein. He could almost understand why someone would want to bury it deep in the ground, even if he couldn’t figure out how it was done.

“It has to be a fake like something for Halloween,” Patrick said. “It doesn’t even have skin.”

Bruce stared at the skeleton again. Patrick was right. When Bruce was younger, he had worked at a cemetery helping dig the graves. One summer, the maintenance crew had needed to exhume a body for a police investigation. When the casket had been opened, teenage Bruce had seen the body. It had been desiccated with some spots where he could see bone, but there had been flesh and clothing. This skeleton had none of that. It was just bones that were clean and white as if they had never held flesh.

He shined the flashlight in the box. He saw nothing indicating anything but bones had ever been inside.

Fake or not, this was above his pay grade.

Bruce told his men to take lunch, even though it was only 10 a.m. Then he went to the construction office at the entrance to the mountain to make a call.

The small caravan of cars arrived around noon. One held a general and colonel. Bruce’s  supervisor, Paul McNeill, was in the second car, and Dr. Howard Buchanan was in the third.

As the men climbed out of their cars, Paul hurried over to Bruce.

“Are you sure about this?” Paul asked.

Bruce nodded. “I wasn’t the only one who saw the box or the bones. Who would have buried something so deep?”

“I don’t really care. My butt is not on the line over the who. We just need to make sure whatever you found is not damaged.”

Bruce looked over at Dr. Buchanan. The man was middle-aged with a receding hairline. He had the look of a former military man, and Bruce would have bet he was also a vet of the war. He was also the person in trouble over all this because he had verified the site as not being claimed as a religious site or graveyard by any Native American or pioneer group.

“I don’t think what we found is something anyone can blame the doc for,” Bruce said.

Paul rolled his eyes. “It’s the government. They’ll want to blame someone, especially if the news gets out we unearthed some Indian’s great-great-great-grandpa.”

“That’s what I mean,” Bruce said. “It’s not Indian. I don’t even think it’s human.”

The military men and Dr. Buchanan stopped talking and walked over to Bruce. He loaded them into a truck and drove to the rubble pile in the cavern. He walked them over to the box and shined his flashlight on the skeleton.

The colonel laughed. When everyone looked at him, he said, “Well, it’s obviously a hoax.”

“I thought that at first, too,” Bruce said. “But then I thought about the box. I’m not sure what that metal is, but it wasn’t scratched even with tons of rubble falling on it. It’s also so heavy it would have taken a heavy-duty truck to bring it here, and that would have been noticed.”

Dr. Buchanan reached into the box and ran his hand along a bone. “They feel real enough, although they look bleached rather than aged.”

He walked around the box, stopping only when he saw the scratching on the box.

“Not that I know every language, but I don’t recognize these characters, although my gut says it is a language of some sort.”

“We had an Indian on our crew. When he saw those scratches, he just turned around and left,” Bruce said.

Dr. Buchanan stood up. “I want to get some photos of those marks. Then I’ll get the members of the language department at the university to look at them. Maybe one of them will recognize the language.”

“What about the bones?” The general asked.

“Leave them alone for now until we know if a group will claim them. We have already disturbed them enough.”

Bruce was happy enough to leave the bones alone for now, but he doubted any group would want to claim them.

 Bruce drove onto the job site the next day, hoping that he could get back to work. The best outcome would be that the higher-ups determined the skeleton was a fake. Then it could be thrown in the trash and work could resume.

He drove down the long tunnel and parked his truck. He made sure the windows were rolled up. This was to make sure no dust and dirt got inside the truck, although it always seemed to find a way in.

No one else was at the site yet. He walked over to the box carrying his morning coffee in a Thermos. He took a swig of coffee to help clear his head, and he looked in the box.

He spit out his coffee and dropped the Thermos.

The skeleton was still in the box, but now it had flesh on it, at least on some of it.

“This is not good,” Bruce muttered to himself. “This is not good.”

Bruce grabbed his flashlight and shined the beam on the skeleton. The left foot now was covered across the top with gray fur. A red muscle had attached itself to the knee and upper right thigh. Leathery skin covered a hip and some new tissue beneath it. Black fur with white stripes covered part of the chest. More leathery skin covered the skull, which made the bone protuberances look even more like horns. A strip of scales ran along one arm.

Bruce started to turn away, but he stopped and stared at the new additions to the skeleton. He recognized the fur. It came from a skunk and a gray squirrel, and the white-striped fur was skunk. The scales appeared to have come from a snake. He couldn’t place the leathery skin, although it might have been from a bat. Where the skin and tissue touched, it seemed fused together.

Bruce took his pocketknife from his pocket and used it to move the skins. Not only were they connected to each other, but they were also connected to the skeleton.

He spun away and ran back to his truck. To be continued next month

In Spring
Have you ever
had the time?
taken the time?
found the time?
to look, to see, to watch
the greening of the hills,
the dales, the vales,
the just plain
ups and downs
of rolling hills
and open fields,
of soaring movements
that touch the sky
and tickle
low flying clouds?
Well, do
look, see, watch
the greening of the spring.
Just a peek will do
and I promise you
a great reward;
thanks to Our Lord!

By Ida Belle Everett

August 5, 1922

It was nearly two hundred years ago
from Switzerland’s valleys begirt with snow
to Maryland came the Harbaugh clan
to till the soil and homes to plan.

The plucky men and stalwart boys
     felled mighty oaks with a crashing noise.

They hewed the timbers for houses and barns
    and quarried stones for chimneys warm.

The children carried buckets of stones
    till they groaned at night with aching bones.

The women toiled till set of sun
     in harvest fields to get work done
    ere the Blue Ridge winter should set in
    every animal housed and filled each bin.
They put up pickles and dried sweet corn
while the children scurried off each morn
with pails for berries that grew wild
and nodded at each happy child.

The strawberry, huckle, and the black
for jam and wine, and ‘serves.  Flack
the time to tell in words that please
how everybody worked like bees
to cook a feast ere butchering time
arrived, to kill the hogs so prime.
And see whose hog had fattened best
whose scale dropped lower than the rest.
The cows soon calved, and the horses foaled
while the cackling hens their story told.

The knitting needles at night ne’er stopped
though in glowing embers the chestnuts popped
while the family munched on apples red
and cider quaffed ere they went to bed.
The good wife skimmed all her churn could hold
to turn out butter like shining gold.

In the springhouse cool, where a sparkling stream
filled a big ice pond for ducks to dream
the silent moonlit hours away
or quack and splash the livelong day.
They raised the flax and spun the thread
for household linen and every bed.
The sheep throve well on the mountain side
to furnish wool for groom and bride.

Then it was spun into good strong yarn
for mitts and stockings bright and warm.
And fuller every hope chest grew
with homespun counterpane, red and blue.
A log cabin quilt, and a braided rug
with new rag carpet looked quite snug.
The geese soon furnished a feather bed
with downy pillows for each head.
Before you knew it, the young folks wed
and started in life a new homestead.
The mothers baked good pies and bread
in old Dutch ovens glowing red
for quilting party and husking bee
which brought the neighbors in merry glee.
While every lad and blushing miss
kept a sly lookout for stolen kiss.

Oh the good old days of the simple life
when a man rode a horse to church with his wife
when a suit of jeans and a big straw hat
meant a stomach filled and a purse that’s fat.
When the plump bare feet of lad and lass
were kissed by clover and dewy grass.
When a sweetheart, riding behind her beau
was a queen enthroned in calico.
They paid as they went; so the good name grew
to stand for honor and virtue true.
Each farm blossomed full in fruit and tree
to furnish sweets for the honey bee
till its fame soon spread to the world outside
and the railroad came with rapid stride.

Two Outings

by Valerie Nusbaum

When the letter arrived in the mail, my first thought was, “Oh, no.” My second thought was, “There’s probably a column in this.”

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) wrote to me and told me that I would need to round up five documents, proving that I am who I say I am, that I am a United States citizen and a resident of Maryland. Randy received one of those letters, too; in addition, he got a notice that he needed to renew his driver’s license as well.

My letter from the MDOT urged me to go online and schedule an appointment to make my visit there faster and more efficient.  What the heck? It was worth a try.  I told Randy that I’d schedule an appointment for him as well, and we could go in together. It took a while for me to figure out how to navigate the website, but I soon got it done. Strangely, I did this on a Sunday morning, and Randy and I were able to get appointments for the very next afternoon. We scurried around finding a birth certificate and passport, marriage license (because my name is different now), Social Security cards, old bills, and so on. We each had a folder full of papers.

The next day, I hurried to Frederick to meet up with Randy.  I’d been to my mom’s and to an appointment in Brunswick, and Randy was at home working.  We met and he drove us to the MVA office in Frederick. Our appointments started at 3:15 p.m., but we arrived at 2:45 p.m.  The line was very long. Randy then discovered that the line for people with appointments was in another spot, and there was only one person in front of us. After a quick check-in, we took our seats and settled in to wait for hours.  My number was called within two minutes, and as I was heading to my station, I heard Randy’s number being called. I gave the very pleasant clerk my documents, and we chatted about the weather, husbands working from home, and she told me that green is definitely my color. I was finished in five minutes. Randy’s visit took a little longer because he needed to renew his license, have his photo taken, and read the vision test. After another couple of minutes, he paid for his license and we walked out of there and climbed into the truck. The clock read 2:59 p.m. I kid you not. It was as though we were in an alternate reality.

I apologize, dear readers, that there wasn’t really anything column-worthy in that ordeal. It wasn’t even an ordeal. My only reason for writing about it at all is to let you know that it is possible to go to the MVA and come out smiling. I whole-heartedly urge every one of you to make an appointment any time you need to go there.

Our second recent outing was to Way Off Broadway dinner theatre, also in Frederick. We don’t venture far from home these days. Mom had given us two tickets to the theatre for a show of our choice. The tickets were a gift for our wedding anniversary, and we’d been looking forward to using them. We decided to skip going to the Christmas show last year, and we scheduled our “date” for the first show of 2020, which happened to be Little Women (the musical).

I had, of course, read Louisa May Alcott’s book when I was a young girl, and I’d seen at least one version of the book on film.  The film version I remember starred June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Peter Lawford, among others. Randy hadn’t read the book or seen the movie, so I felt obliged to fill him in on some of the key parts so that he wouldn’t be shocked. Frankly, I had a hard time imagining how a musical could be made from such sad material, but I was curious to see it. I told Randy about the four March sisters and their Marmee living in relative poverty during the Civil War. He was hooked when I mentioned the War. I explained that Jo was a girl and Laurie was a boy. And I told him that Beth died halfway through the story. Randy said that he felt sure that the musical would have been rewritten, and that Beth likely recovered because, after all, who could stand on stage and sing a song about something that sad?

Randy was wrong. Beth died.  Not only that, but the young actress who portrayed Beth in the show was also our server for the night. The poor thing passed away right after she brought us dessert.  I cried a little, and I think I heard Randy sniffle. It was scarlet fever, you know. Randy swore it was scurvy because he said he didn’t see a single piece of citrus in the March house. It was war-time and they were poor.

As if losing Beth wasn’t hard enough, Laurie had to go and fall in love with Amy after Jo rebuffed his advances. Randy was angry that poor Jo was left with only one option, the awkward Professor Bhaer.

Randy’s complaints aside, it was a nice evening out. So what if the theatre was so cold that we all had to wear our coats through dinner and the performance? Adversity builds character. Ask Marmee.

by James Rada, Jr.

March 1920, 100 Years Ago

Fire At E. C. Creeger’s Garage

On Saturday, March 13th, at 7 P. M., I am going to have a large fire in the rear of my Garage for the purpose of demonstrating the ANTI-PYRO FIRE EXTINGUISHER. Be sure to see this test of the WORLD’S GREATEST FIRE KILLER and you will be convinced that it will pay you to protect your Home, Store, Automobile or Garage against your worst enemy, FIRE, with this absolute Fire Protection.

                                          – Catoctin Clarion, March 11, 1920

Pen-Mar To Have Big Hotel

A dispatch from Waynesboro says: Plans have been drawn for a large modern hotel at Pen-Mar to contain 100 rooms and to have all the appointments of an up-to-date summer resort. A large lot has been secured at Pen-Mar road and Monterey avenue.

The syndicate back of the proposition is composed of leading capitalists at Hagerstown, Waynesboro and Baltimore. The money has all been subscribed. It is intended to proceed with the building operation this season if the lumber can be secured. The plans and specifications are now in the hands of William Wingert, Hagerstown, president of the Pen-Mar Improvement Association.

                                          – Catoctin Clarion, March 11, 1920

March 1945, 75 Years Ago

Local Youth Hostel Receives Charter

“Crow’s Nest,” Youth Hostel, here, today received the official AYH Charter for the current year from the National Headquarters of American Youth Hostels at Northfield, Massachusetts.

The charter was received by Mr. and Mrs. Albert Gernand who will present it for the 6th time to the hostel. The houseparents are Mrs. J. E. Well and her brother, Joseph Gernand.

Open the year round, the hostel has accommodations for 6 girls and 6 boys in separate bunk rooms. Cooking is provided for with an ample supply of pots and pans as well as a cook stove. Hostelers come by bike or on foot and travel for fun, for health, and for a knowledge of the country–its people, its agriculture and its industries.

                                          – Catoctin Enterprise, March 16, 1945

Board of Education Urges New School Bond Issue

Thurmont must have a new school building at the earliest possible moment, according to a decision by the Frederick County Board of Education, which this week sent representatives before the Board of Frederick County Commissioners urging them to request State Senator John B. Funk to introduce into the current session of the Maryland Legislature an enabling act, authorizing the County to issue bonds for the purpose as soon as construction becomes practical.

The situation at the local school, under which teachers have been laboring, has now become critical. Prospects are that inauguration of the new, enlarged school program in the Fall, which will create automatically the need for more teachers and more class rooms, and which will greatly increase attendance because of the extra class to be added, will create an overflow which simply cannot be cared for with existing facilities.

                                          – Catoctin Enterprise, March 16, 1945

March 1970, 50 Years Ago

Eclipse Due Here Tomorrow

Serious damage to vision can result for any person who looks directly at the March 7 eclipse of the sun, cautioned the Maryland State Dept. of Health this week.

The danger of this particular eclipse is multiplied because it we (sic) on a Saturday and more people will likely watch it.

                                          – Emmitsburg Chronicle, March 6, 1970

Community Egg Hunt Set For Sunday

The annual Easter Egg Hunt, sponsored by Memorial Post 6658, Veterans of Foreign Wars, will take place this Sunday afternoon. Commander Thomas F. Sayler says the hunt will be held at Community Field as usual, and that children will be divided into age groups in an effort to give all an equal opportunity to find their share.

                          – Emmitsburg Chronicle, March 27, 1970

March 1995, 25 Years Ago

Don Byard Humanitarian Award Created

Jack Hoke, president of the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company, announced at their annual award banquet in February the creation of a new President’s Award. The award is named in honor of Donald B. Byard who, Hoke said, “has unselfishingly served this community for many, many years.”

In presenting the award Hoke said, “Don Byard, for your many acts of charity and humanitarian ways to your community, it is with great pride and honor and a lasting friendship that I present you with the Donald B. Byard Humanitarian Award. It is a tribute to you and the work you have done. Thank you for all you have accomplished.”

                          – The Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch, March 1995

Hall Of Fame

Marcus, the only Olympic Gold Medal winner in these parts, now resides quietly in the Emmitsburg area as he has done for the past six years. He spends his golden years meandering in the meadows and although he doesn’t talk about it, as most of us probably would, he thinks back on his glory days as an Olympic athlete.

Marcus Aurelius is his given name—a noble name for a noble destiny. Despite his small stature Marcus possessed amazing strength and stamina that let him run and jump with the best, even better than most. His feisty and independent spirit coupled with his physical abilities carried him and owner Mary Anne Tauskey to a team gold medal in the Three Day Event as part of the United States Equestrian Team competing at Bromont, Canada, during the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

                          – The Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch, March 1995

The Year is…1896

An English Dutchess Born at Blue Ridge Summit

by James Rada, Jr.

When Alice Montague and Teakle Wallis Warfield were married in 1895, Alice was already pregnant, and Teakle was dying. He had tuberculosis, which is probably why they traveled to Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1896. Besides being a popular summer resort, it was also believed the fresh air was good for a person’s health.

The Warfields stayed in Square Cottage at the Monterey Inn in Blue Ridge Summit. It was the town’s largest hotel at the time, and featured not only a central building but also wooden cottages.

While staying there, Alice went into labor, and Bessie Wallis Warfield was born on June 19, 1896, seven months after her parents had been married in Baltimore.

Wallis would never remember her father, though. He died on November 15 of that year, before she was even five months old.

Wallis and her mother were taken in by Wallis’ uncle, Solomon Davies Warfield. He was the postmaster of Baltimore and a wealthy bachelor. They lived in a four-story row home on Preston Street.

Alice Warfield married John Freeman Rasin in 1908. Wallis was confirmed in 1910 at the Christ Episcopal Church.

Between 1912 and 1914, Wallis attended the most-expensive school in Maryland: Oldfields School. According to Charles Higham in his book, Mrs. Simpson, this is where she became friends with Renée du Pont, a member of the DuPont Family, and Mary Kirk, whose family founded Kirk Silverware.

Wallis married Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., a Navy aviator, in 1916. The marriage was marked by long periods apart, as Spencer was stationed at different postings. She began traveling in Europe and China during the 1920s. She also began a number of affairs with men she met during her travels.

Higham wrote that an Italian diplomat said of Wallis, “Her conversation was brilliant, and she had the habit of bringing up the right subject of conversation with anyone she came in contact with and entertaining them on that subject.”

Not surprisingly, Wallis and Spencer divorced at the end of 1927. She was already having an affair with a shipping executive named Ernest Aldrich Simpson. He divorced his wife, Dorothea, to marry Wallis on July 21, 1928. They lived in England, which is where Wallis came to meet Edward, Prince of Wales, at different house parties hosted by members of the upper class.

It is believed that Wallis and Prince Edward began an affair in 1934, while his current mistress was traveling abroad. By the end of the year, he was deeply in love with Wallis, and she with him.

However, his family was against the pairing, primarily because of Wallis’ marital history. Things became even more complicated when George V died on January 20, 1936. Edward became Edward VIII, the king of England. He watched the proclamation of his accession with Wallis from a window in St. James’s Palace, which was a break from royal protocol.

Heavier attention now fell on his relationship with Wallis. Most of British royalty seemed against the relationship.

When it became apparent that Edward wanted to marry Wallis, it became a legal issue because the Church of England, which the British monarch headed, did not permit the remarriage of divorced people with living spouses.

To make matters worse, Wallis would be a two-time divorcee, since she had filed for divorce from her second husband on October 27, 1936.

As the English public became more aware of the affair, it became a scandal. Under pressure from the British government, Wallis announced that she was willing to give up her newest love, but Edward was not ready.   

He abdicated the throne on December 10, 1936, and his brother, the Duke of York, became King George VI the next day.

Edward addressed his country via radio and said, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.”

He and Wallis stayed apart until her divorce was finalized in May 1937. She took on her maiden name and the couple reunited. They married on June 3, 1937, and the child born at Blue Ridge Summit became the Dutchess of Windsor.