Over a week ago I had quite a day. My support group for people who are separated or divorced held a fundraising bag bingo at a local Elks Lodge located in Severn near my original hometown of Glen Burnie. Since I had wanted to visit my two art pieces that are on display in the Station North Arts Cafe as part of the Station North Art District Salon Show and that cafe is only opened until 3 p.m. most days and Glen Burnie is located just south of Baltimore, I decided to make a long day out of being in the Baltimore area.
First, I traveled to Baltimore where I arrived in the area just an hour before the cafe closed for the day. The weather was warm with low humidity that day and it was incredibly sunny and beautiful. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the cloudy blue sky after I arrived in the area.
I walked past the Chicken Box where I saw this chalk window display showing the map of the ongoing Station North Arts District Salon Show.
I also took a photo of one of the many murals on display in the Station North Arts District.
I finally arrived at the Station North Arts Cafe. As I was taking the photo below, a man approached me, introduced himself as being the cafe’s owner, and invited me into his establishment while saying that his place is the best restaurant in Baltimore.
I walked inside and looked around at all the art on the walls until I finally found my two pieces located outside the door leading to the next room where the kitchen, counter, and cash register were located.
Here are my two pieces as they are currently on display at the Station North Arts Cafe. (You can click here for brighter and clearer versions of the pieces.)
The cafe has a very funky decor that I found charming, such as the area behind the counter.
I ordered my lunch then I went to the bathroom. I found the decor in the bathroom was so incredibly cool that I couldn’t resist photographing it.
The rest of the cafe had funky decorative touches everywhere that I found very charming.
I ordered the All-American Grilled Cheese & Tomato while paying a little extra for a couple of strips of smoked bacon with a bag of Utz potato chips and a Diet Pepsi. I found my lunch to be very tasty. The rest of the menu looks very interesting and I’d love to try the other items but I would definitely have to plan any future trips to that cafe since the place is only opened until 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
After I finished eating my late lunch, I decided to travel south so I could check out the place where I grew up from ages 5-19. I took Route 2 out of Baltimore and I drove through Brooklyn. I remember when I was a teenager, my family used to go out to a family-owned seafood restaurant in Brooklyn called Gunning’s Crab House on special occasions. The place looked run-down on the outside but when you entered through the doors you’d see brightly-painted rooms with wooden furniture and wall panelings. The food was excellent and I still have memories of eating that restaurant’s signature crab fluff dish. Sadly Gunning’s went out of business years ago. Otherwise, I would’ve planned on just ordering a drink at the Station North Arts Cafe and saving my appetite for Gunning’s. :-(
As I continued to drive, I decided to pull into this local Roses lot. I’m well familiar with Roses because there is a Roses in Ocean City and I remember when I used to go on vacation with my then-husband and sister-in-law, my sister-in-law used to insist on spending some time shopping at Roses because she’s pretty hooked on shopping for items at the cheapest prices. (She’s been known to shop in at least four or more stores if she’s looking for a certain item because she wants to but it at the cheapest price.) I haven’t been to Ocean City since 2011 (just five months before my husband abruptly walked out on me) so I’d thought it would be fun to visit the Roses in Brooklyn just for old time’s sake.
Roses is a discount store that’s similar to Big Lots in that it sells consumer items at cut-rate prices. There are basically two kinds of items sold at Roses. One is overstocked items, such as these toys based on that controversial reality show, Duck Dynasty.
The other kind of items that Roses sells are ones that are cheap Chinese-made knock-offs of more well-known products, such as these $5 articulated 1/6 scale big-eyed dolls available in a variety of funky skin colors that remind me of Mattel’s Monster High dolls.
As I parked in the Roses parking lot, I saw these two guys walking along Route 2 and they definitely caught my attention. One was a person that I initially thought was a topless woman until I realized that it was really an overweight man with long blonde hair and man-boobs. The other person had long blonde hair and was wearing a cowboy hat and a western-style shirt. I also wasn’t sure if the person was really a woman or a cross-dressing cowgirl. This cowgirl definitely stood out on the streets of Brooklyn. The cowgirl also shook her hips as she and her friend walked past Roses. I tried to get a picture of these unusually looking pair but they walked too fast for my camera and I didn’t feel like running down the street to catch up with them.
A day later or so after my trip, I was still on a mental high from my recent trip to the Baltimore area, I was checking out a few YouTube videos about my hometown of Glen Burnie when I found a video featuring that cowgirl I saw walking past Roses in Brooklyn.
It was through YouTube that I found out that the cowgirl I saw walking past Roses in Brooklyn was none other than Dale Crites, also known as Britney Girl Dale. Damn, I was close to a local celebrity who once tried out for America’s Got Talent and I didn’t realize it until later. Man, I now regret not running down the street so I could get a photo of Britney Girl Dale and Dale’s friend.
After my brief visit to Roses, I continued traveling south along Route 2 until I hit the northernmost border of Glen Burnie and Route 2 becomes known as Ritchie Highway. Here are a few things about my life. I was born in Baltimore and I lived there with my family for the first few years of my life. When I was five my family moved to Glen Burnie because my parents—especially my mother—had an ambition of living in the suburbs and the housing in Glen Burnie was cheap compared to other places they checked out.
The next photo shows the former location of a chain of chicken restaurants known as English’s Fried Chicken. That place used to be among my favorite restaurants growing up. Sadly the Glen Burnie location closed soon after I left for college but there are still a few English’s Fried Chicken places left on the Eastern Shore, especially in Ocean City. English’s former Glen Burnie location is now occupied by another chicken place known as Hip Hop Chicken. (No, I haven’t tried eating there. I was still full from that lunch I ate at the Station North Arts Cafe.)
Across the street from the shopping center where Hip Hop Chicken is located is the Motor Vehicles Administration (MVA). This was the building where I took my driver’s test when I was 16. I flunked the first time but I practiced my driving some more and I managed to get my driver’s license on the second try. Recently I saw the MVA’s Glen Burnie location mentioned on Roadside America’s site for one reason.
There is a giant Crash Test Dummy statue located in the front of the building. I don’t recall seeing this statue when I was growing up. I think someone installed it after I permanently moved away from Glen Burnie. I have to admit that it’s impressive looking.
Glen Burnie consists of two major highways that run parallel to each other—Ritchie Highway and Crain Highway. Both are full of car dealerships, shopping centers, shopping malls, and all kinds of fast food outlets. The next photo shows the dashboard view of Ritchie Highway.
The next three photos show why Glen Burnie has been dubbed “The Car Capital of Maryland.” There are all kinds of auto dealerships that are located throughout Ritchie Highway.
There are so many auto dealerships that are located next to each other that some of them have to resort to attention-getting gimmicks, such as this Ford dealership’s giant inflatable fox.
The next photo shows Crain Highway, which runs through downtown Glen Burnie. Yes, the next photo shows the main downtown hub of Glen Burnie. Now you know why Glen Burnie isn’t exactly a tourist destination.
Here’s further south along Crain Highway. Now you know why Glen Burnie is synonymous with the term “suburban sprawl.”
I decided to enter one of my favorite shopping malls from my teen years. When I was growing up, it was known as Glen Burnie Mall. Nowadays it’s known by the more pretentious-sounding The Centre at Glen Burnie.
In my time the mall had two large anchors—Toys R Us and Montgomery Ward—with a bunch of smaller stores that I loved. My favorites were the Record Bar, where I bought plenty of albums with my allowance money, and Walden Books, where I loved to check out the books and magazines on sale there. There were also trendy clothing stores like Merry-Go-Round and Chess King as well as this great video arcade where I spent plenty of quarters playing the classic video games of the era like Space Invaders and Pac-Man.
Montgomery Ward went out of business years ago but I noticed a Target in its place. I saw that Toys R Us was still there in its original place but it has been joined by an h.h. gregg. (It looked like the mall went through an expansion on one side in order to accommodate h.h. gregg’s arrival.)
I decided to enter the mall for old time’s sake just to see what’s still there. I saw that the old video arcade is long gone. The closest thing to an arcade video game that’s in the mall is this claw machine in the photo below, which is giving away Starbucks plastic cups with a gift card inside. (Judging from the sign, it looks like you have to spend the quarters and win one of the cups in order to learn what kind of gift cards are being given away.)
There’s a nice glass case display devoted to the Baltimore sports teams (Orioles and Ravens).
I saw that Lane Bryant’s was still there and the jewelry kiosks were also there in the center of the mall but the vast majority of stores I saw in that mall were ones that came along after I left Glen Burnie.
But most of the mall was empty with few shoppers.
There was a children’s play area that looked relatively new. (I don’t recall a play area like that when I was growing up.) I only saw one young girl in the play area when I was there but she left with her mother around the time that I walked by there.
There were also a few stores there that were running Going Out of Business sales, which means that this mall will become even more empty in a few weeks.
I felt so sad at seeing my once-favorite shopping mall turning into a dying shopping mall that I decided to briefly stop in Toys R Us for a brief pick-me-up. That store is one of the few original stores that’s still in the mall and it’s still standing even though other Toys R Us stores have been closed in recent years. (There were once three Toys R Us stores near my current home and they all eventually closed. These days if I have to go to Toys R Us for any reason, I have to drive at least a half-an-hour.)
Toys R Us sells the usual classic toys like Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars along with some technologically advanced stuff, such as this tablet for kids that was on sale the day I was at that store.
Toys R Us had a really cute Dumbo ride that’s patiently waiting for a child willing to ride his back.
I left that mall feeling sad that my one-time favorite mall has become one of those malls that get documented on sites like DeadMalls.com. At the fork that splits Crain Highway off from Ritchie Highway, I decided to drive down Crain. I kept on driving south until I ran into another place I recognized from my past—The Doll Motel.
The Doll Motel has long been a landmark in the southern part of Glen Burnie and this place looks exactly the same as I remembered it. Even the trimmed bushes and the decorations around the place are exactly the same.
The Doll Motel also played a big part in my wedding. My fiance and I decided to hold our wedding in the backyard of my parents’ home because we were into the idea of a spring garden wedding but we were also on a tight budget. We decided to hold our wedding on the first Saturday in June because we bought into the tradition of holding a June wedding and we also decided on a Saturday because my fiance invited his friends and relatives who were literally scattered all over the United States (in contrast, most of my friends and relatives lived in Maryland) and many of them preferred Saturday because they could fly in on Friday then leave on Sunday so they could return to their jobs on Monday. We encouraged our out-of-town wedding guests to stay at the Red Roof Inn that was located near BWI Airport (which is located near Glen Burnie—I still remember when the planes used to fly over our neighborhood flying to and from that airport). But there was a problem: my fiance’s Orthodox Jewish step-mother and his father, who converted to the Orthodox Jewish faith so he could marry his second wife. His father said that our Saturday wedding was the Sabbath and he asked us if we could hold the wedding on a Sunday instead but my husband told him that we were having guests flying as far away as California and we had to schedule our wedding around their work schedules so they could attend. (In contrast, my husband’s father and step-mother lived—and still continue to live—in New York City and they had recently became self-employed so they had more flexible work schedules.)
Staying at the Red Roof Inn by the airport was out of the question since Orthodox Jews are prohibited from driving on the Sabbath (among other prohibitions). We suggested that they stay with my parents since the wedding was going to be held in their backyard (and they were even willing to host them in their home) but they turned that idea down. We ultimately arranged to have them stay at The Doll Motel so they could make the long 1.5 mile walk along the very busy Crain Highway to my parents’ home to attend our wedding. We arranged to hold the wedding late enough in the afternoon so it would be past sunset by the time they were ready to return to their motel room and they could catch a ride from another wedding guest. My ex-husband’s father and step-mother never talked about their experiences with The Doll Motel so I have no idea if they liked the place or not.
After I finished taking the above photo of the house that serves as The Doll Motel’s office, I decided to keep driving south on Crain Highway. I decided to pull into the parking lot of another Glen Burnie business that still exists long after I moved away.
Crabtowne USA was the nearest seafood restaurant nearest to our home when I was a young child. (In later years there was another seafood place that opened ever closer to our neighborhood and there have been other nearby seafood restaurants that have opened since I moved away.) It also once had a reputation for attracting a rough redneck crowd and fights used to break out every now and then (especially on Friday and Saturday nights). I remember my parents decided to eat there on a rare date night out as a couple but they never went back. For years my parents would occasionally make a reference to Crabtowne USA as the place they vowed they would never go back to because they were pretty unnerved by the fellow diners they saw during the one time they ate there.
I had originally decided to just take a couple of photos of the exterior of Crabtowne USA for old time’s sake then move on.
But as I got closer to the sign so I could take a close-up shot of it, I noticed a smaller sign that’s underneath the large sign that promoted its Classic Arcade.
As someone who spent plenty of quarters playing video games when I was in both high school and college, I became intrigued enough by the sign to actually go inside the building. Off to the side of the main dining area is this large room full of video games.
There were a few rows of vintage 1970’s and 1980’s video games and most of them were ones that I played years ago.
Not only did this room have the most famous of the video games (such as Pac-Man) but it also carried some of the less famous video games that were popular back in the day but, for some reason, they are relatively obscure. And, yes, that’s a foosball table in the above photograph.
I felt like I had just stepped back in time and entered an old video arcade circa 1979-1985. Or I had entered one of the video arcades on Ocean City’s Boardwalk that have a row of the older vintage arcade machine.
Over the years I purchased some of these old arcade games for both the Playstation 2 and the Nintendo Wii and I still play some of these titles from time to time. However, it’s still not quite the same as standing at a real arcade cabinet, dropping a quarter in the slot, and pushing a joystick or pressing a button.
In addition, Crabtowne USA had a few video games that I’ve never seen released on any console, computer, or mobile platform, such as this Nintendo game in the above photo that’s based on the Popeye cartoons.
If all that weren’t enough, along the walls there were vintage pinball games from the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s.
There were all kinds of pinball games based on movies, TV shows, sporting events, and even one that was based on the rock band Kiss.
The best thing about Crabtowne USA’s retro arcade is the fact that all the games still cost one quarter to play. That was totally sweet!
For the young ones, there were also kiddie rides similar to what one used to frequently find at the shopping mall or inside some stores.
There were also some kitschy decor in that room such as the sign below.
The biggest irony about all this is that I don’t recall Crabtowne USA having anything like this when I was a teen. If I wanted to play pinball, I had to go to one of the many shopping malls and shopping centers that are located all along both Ritchie Highway and Crain Highway in Glen Burnie. (Back in the day it seemed like nearly every single shopping mall and shopping center had a video arcade.) I assumed that the restaurant had set up the video games and pinball machines after I moved out of the area because I previously known Crabtowne USA for the stories I’ve heard about drunken brawls from my parents and the other adults in my neighborhood. For all I know, the people who run the restaurant could’ve set up this vintage arcade in an effort to move away from its redneck reputation (as well as tap into the nostalgia market of people who grew up playing these vintage video games).
Like many video arcades there were change machines so people can get quarters to play the old games. I was in my total glory as I played a few video games and pinball machines. If I had more time, I would’ve ordered dinner and played these games until I ran out of extra cash. But I had to cut my time at Crabtowne USA short but I plan on returning one day in the future. (In a way, Crabtowne USA has given me a new reason to visit Glen Burnie on a more regular basis than once every two or three years. I haven’t visited the town as much since my widowed mother sold the original family home six years ago and moved to Odenton.)
After Crabtowne USA I decided to drive further south along Crain Highway where I decided to make a detour through my old neighborhood. The photo below is my childhood home. My parents bought this house and I moved there with my family from Baltimore when I was five. I lived there until I was 19 and I decided to transfer from Anne Arundel Community College (where I spent my freshman year) to the University of Maryland at College Park. After college graduation at 22 I moved back home for a year until I got married at 23. My husband and I were married in my parents’ backyard.
This house is a two floor, three bedroom house with one and a half bathrooms and a garage. It was a nice house even though I hated the neighborhood it was located in due mainly to the kids who made my life hell (such as the ones I had the misfortune of running into when I was at Artscape in Baltimore last month) and the fact that if you were someone without a driver’s license (like I was as a kid), you had to rely on someone else willing to give you a ride because there were very few places within easy and safe walking distance.
Both of my parents were avid gardeners. Over the years they purchased a lot of trees, plants, and bushes from Evergreen Gene’s (which I actually drove past during this trip but I didn’t stop there). After I got married and moved away my parents grew tired of mowing the lawn so they replaced the lawn in both the front and back yards with lots of trees, bushes, and shrubs. It’s nice to know that the current owners have kept the original plantings in the front yard even if some of the trees and bushes could use some pruning. I would’ve loved to have seen the back yard but it didn’t look like anyone was home at the time and I wasn’t about to break in to the back yard and risk arrest for the sake of a few photos and satisfying my curiosity.
Here’s a dashboard shot of the street where my old childhood home is located. As you can see it’s very sprawling with lots of homes (which were all built in the 1960’s and 1970’s). My neighborhood was located so far south in Glen Burnie that it was literally up against the border with the next town, Severn. When my family first moved there were no playgrounds. In fact it would be a few years before we got a playground that was at least a 15-20 minute walk from my home. When I was growing up there were no stores within safe walking distance except for the local High’s convenience store. In later years there was a shopping center that was built that had a Giant on one end and a Fortune Cookie on the other but you literally had to dodge traffic on Crain Highway if you wanted to walk there. The nearest bus stop was an hour’s walk along Crain Highway. (A closer bus stop was finally set up closer to the entrance of my neighborhood long after I permanently left Glen Burnie. One would still have to walk at least 15 minutes since this bus stop isn’t in the neighborhood but it still beats the old days of having to walk an hour.) The nearest library was also an hour’s walk. You needed a car to go anywhere.
Another dashboard view of the street where my childhood home is located. When my mother’s multiple sclerosis grew so bad that she could no longer drive, she was in the same boat as I was before I was able to legally drive except she couldn’t walk so she was totally housebound and relying on friends and family to bring food and do errands. Which was why she ultimately had to sell the house and move elsewhere.
I didn’t stay long in my old neighborhood because it was getting close to the time for my support group’s bingo event and I wanted to arrive in time to buy myself some dinner before the bingo began. So I went from my neighborhood and drove a mile down the road until Crain Highway became known as New Cut Road and I was in Severn. Ironically the bingo venue is located near the church my family took me to when I was a child, St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church. I briefly drove around in the church parking lot while getting a glance at the rectory next door but I didn’t have much time to explore so I just drove on down Stevenson Road until I reached the Elks Lodge.
The Elks Lodge has this small yet charming memorial garden.
Here are a couple of wide shots of the room where the bingo event was held.
It was a bag bingo that was a fundraiser for my support group, Changing Focus. The next photos showed some of the bags that were donated to this bingo and they included such designer names as Vera Wang and Coach. The bags looked lovely but I attended the bingo more for the chance at socializing with some of the people I’ve met through the support group. I had already decided that if I had won any of the bags I would’ve immediately sell it on eBay in order to raise some much-needed cash for myself.
You can tell that the Elks Club holds bingo events on a regular basis because it has some pretty fancy bingo equipment.
The decor of the Elks Club seemed like it was stuck in the 1970’s yet I found it quite cozy and charming.
I ate dinner at the Elks Club and it was quite good and affordable. The next photo shows my bingo pack before the event began. I was provided with a bunch of paper bingo cards in a variety of colors along with a schedule of which bingo games would be played, which bingo cards would be used, and what the prize would be. For a dollar extra I bought this special red bingo ink that could be used to mark off the numbers on the cards.
Bingo night turned out to be a long one and it ended around 11 p.m. As the evening went on I gradually went through and discarded the bingo cards. I ended up not winning anything that evening even though there was a couple of games when I was only one or two squares away from winning until someone else called out “BINGO!” I only took photos of the last two bingo rounds of the evening. The photo below shows a regular bingo game.
The final photo in this post shows a bingo variation called “Coverall” where you had to cover all the numbers on a card before you call out “BINGO!” As you can see, there was one card where I was three squares away from winning but someone else beat me to it.
When I attended my weekly support group meeting the following Thursday (August 21), I learned that this event raised over $2,000 for Changing Focus. Sweet! :-)
I was totally exhausted from such a long day. I got confused as to which way to turn out of the Elks Club parking lot and I soon realized that I made a wrong turn when I saw Stevenson Road turn into Quarterfield Road. I found a parking lot where I could make a quick turnaround and, when I entered, I saw a sign saying that the building was Quarterfield Elementary School. That was the first school I had ever attended and I was there from grades 1-5. (Anne Arundel County Public Schools didn’t even have kindergarten at the time I started school. I think the school system eventually got wise and added kindergarten classes when I was in the fourth or fifth grade.) If it weren’t for the fact that my the battery power was low on my smartphone and it was after 11 p.m. at night time, I would’ve walked around the school and taken a few photos. It was kind of neat to accidentally blunder across my old school.
In any case I eventually found my way back to the main roads so I was able to travel home without any incident. The next day I decided to do a Google search on both Glen Burnie and Crabtowne USA and I found this post on The Surfing Pizza blog that’s also about Glen Burnie and, like me, he also grew up in that town but he moved away as an adult. (He moved to Baltimore while I moved closer to DC.) That post covers similar ground to this one except he goes into two other malls from my childhood that have undergone radical changes—Harundale Mall and Jumper’s Hole Mall.