Laurie Grahm (2)
Laurie continues to talk about the history of Dudder Florist. Her father started growing flowers in the backyard that turned into a successful flower business.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Good morning, I’m Cindy Hirshberg. And joining me today are Laurie Welsh Grahm, and her mom Eileen Dunner Gist. Uh, we’re talking today about some of, um, our history of growing up here in Carroll County. And Laurie has very kindly agreed to share some of her memories. So tell me Laurie, were you born here in Carroll County ?
LAURIE GRAHM: Actually, out of my other three– well, there’s three siblings. And I was the only one that was born at Carroll County Hospital. The other two were born in Baltimore, because Carroll County Hospital wasn’t open when my other sisters– they’re so much older than me– when my other sisters were born.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Um, And we talked about, um, the fact that your family is the uh, um, the family that– that, uh, began and now operates the, uh, the florist shop.
LAURIE GRAHM: Yes.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Um, did you grow up in the florist shop?
LAURIE GRAHM: I was raised in the back of the flower shop, and can remember playing in the greenhouses, and running and shattering the mums, and my grandfather telling me, “stop doing that girly.” You know, so we were all raised right there on Pennsylvania Avenue. And we had cousins that lived down the street. And then we had many friends, because that’s when Pennsylvania Avenue was all small families. So all of us kids would run up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.
And some days we would plan on one side of the street. And one day we’d play on the next side of the street. And– and all of us sort of took care of each other. You know, we all played a big group, and we, you know, all pretty much stayed there. And if anything went wrong, alls we had to do was yell, and one of the parents would come running.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: If you ever did anything wrong, how long did it take for the word to get out to your parents?
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, faster than the speed of light.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Before you could get home?
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh yeah.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Can you remember one such instance?
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, I can remember playing down at West End School, and West End School was where West End Place is now. And I had pushed my cousin off the swings, because she wouldn’t let me swing. And I never knew. I still to this day don’t know how they know that I pushed her off the swing before I got home, and she got home. Because we resolved it between us.
And she let me swing, and I was fine. But her mom definitely sat me down and had a talk with me, which was my aunt, about pushing her off the swings. And I still to this day don’t know how that ever got back to her. Yeah, somebody turned me in.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: And what schools were you attending?
LAURIE GRAHM: I went to West End School from first to fourth grade. And then, I went from fifth to eighth at West Middle School, and then went to the only high school in Westminster, Westminster High School, of course.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: So what were your favorite subjects?
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh my gosh, I had many. I loved the like social study kind of subjects, and the life subjects, and math– still to this day love math.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Good thing to have if you’re in a business, huh?
LAURIE GRAHM: And yeah, and I didn’t learn to love English and writing and all until I was an adult and was involved with the local area Jaycees. And they did this thing called Write Up and Speak Up, and they asked me if I would compete. And that’s when I really started to learn that, hey, you know, I have a writing skill if I try.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Nice.
LAURIE GRAHM: And to this day, I still write often.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Nice. Well, uh, growing up in, uh, a long time Carroll County family, are there any family traditions that you recall and, uh, make a point of bringing into your own home?
LAURIE GRAHM: We had very odd family traditions at my house. We– we always, you know, had the– the quiet holidays, or tried to make the holidays quiet afterwards, because of being so busy prior to the holidays. So that when we would play, we would play at a much quieter pace, and sometimes, you know, not always on the date. You know, my mom’s birthday the beginning of– of December. So we decided to surprise her with a birthday party, so we did it in October. So–
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Before life got busy.
LAURIE GRAHM: –before, right. Before we got busy, and– and we did things like that. And then, we always, um, would always do Easter at my mom’s house no matter what. And somehow or another an– an egg hunt always turned into an egg fight. And then, my mom would have problems with raccoons all over the yard for a week afterwards, because they would come and eat all the broken eggs all up out of the yard. It was like their own little smorgasbord after Thank– after Easter.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Well, wildlife has a place in life, yes.
LAURIE GRAHM: Right. And then we also rotate families, you know, where we do for Thanksgiving. I– when, uh, my husband and I had moved into the house on Pennsylvania Avenue, about three years after that, traditionally, Thanksgiving was sort of moved to our house. And it, you know, has been there up until recently, until I lost my husband. So.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Yeah. How big of a crowd would you have?
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, anywhere from 16 to 25 at times. Because–
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Did you do all the cooking?
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, we always shared. We always share. We still always share the cooking, because it is a crowd. But when I it was at my house, if I had friends that I knew didn’t have places to go, or were– had to work and all– they were always welcome at my house. So you never knew who was going to show up. And including my mom, you know, my mother-in-law. And you know, whoever was out and around was just included that day.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: What’s your specialty?
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, my speciality? Well, my speciality for cooking is actually– actually anywhere out. But I love to cook, but I always cook huge. I don’t cook anything little. I don’t cook anything small.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: [INAUDIBLE]
LAURIE GRAHM: No. But my mom would probably say that my specially would probably be like chicken cordon bleu, and– and Creole, and things like that.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Wow, where’d you learn those?
LAURIE GRAHM: Just trying.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Had you traveled and sample the– the cuisine?
LAURIE GRAHM: Uh, I– I’ve traveled a lot. When I worked for corporate FTD, of course, we traveled from five-star, six-star, 10-star hotels at times, it seemed, down to, you know, [INAUDIBLE] or Motel Six or whatever it is. So, you know, you got to try a lot of different things. And sure I would come home, and I would write things down. And I would say, I’m going to try that sometime. So I would try things that way, something that really impressed me, or something that I really liked.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Well, growing up in Carroll County, you’ve probably seen a lot of change. Does anything strike you as how things are changing?
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, it’s– it’s amazing to me how things have moved and changed. And even just sections of the town, how they’ve changed. And you have some people that, you know, stay in one core little area and pretty much don’t travel to the other end of town. And– and I think that’s part of the reason that, you know, I’ve become so involved in the downtown stuff, is because I know that the vitality of downtown will be the survival of Westminster.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: So that’s the focus of your interest, the– the–
LAURIE GRAHM: Absolutely. Sure.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Do you volunteer with organizations?
LAURIE GRAHM: Um, right now, I chair the downtown committee, which, um, organizes all of the events, and all of the vendor meetings, and all of the merchant meetings for downtown, as a volunteer. And then, I work collaboratively with the Parks & Rec, or with city manager, um, sit on the planning and zoning commission to just try to make downtown strong. Because those little businesses matter.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Yes. I understand you received and award. Would you tell me about it?
LAURIE GRAHM: Sure. The flower shop has gotten many, but probably the one that’s the– the big ringers, the gol– brass ring and the big crown, and all of that was we were nominated and, uh, um, chosen as the philanthropist business of the year last year.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: By whom?
LAURIE GRAHM: By the Carroll County, uh, Community Foundation of Carroll County.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Congratulations.
LAURIE GRAHM: It was amazing. We–
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Did you know you had been nominated.
LAURIE GRAHM: We know that we were nominated. And we– I really thought there were a lot of really great people that I sort of didn’t expect that to happen. And I knew who had won, you know, previously. And I thought, oh, they’ve done so much. You know, there’s no way that we’re going to be anywhere close.
I mean, you know, they’re the people I look up to. They’re the people that, you know, hey, I want to be that guy. You know, I want to be like that guy, or girl. And, yeah, it’s just, you know, it’s very, very humbling and– and wonderful to be nominated.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: How did you learn that you had won?
LAURIE GRAHM: Um, I actually got a phone call that said, just prepare something to say for a few minutes. And I said, does this mean– and– and Audrey sent a note from the community foundation, said, why yes, that’s exactly what it means. And come prepared.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: What did you do? Did you have to sit down a minute?
LAURIE GRAHM: I didn’t say a word. I didn’t tell anyone. I– I– it took me a day or two, because I thought, do I want to tell? Because she had told me, and I thought, boy wouldn’t it be fun to shock my sister and my mom? And then it was like, uh-oh, but she might want Mom to say something to. So I probably should share it, and [INAUDIBLE] too. So I told them, and they were all very, very excited. And– and I prepared something to say.
And then [INAUDIBLE], when I was done, [INAUDIBLE] couldn’t say a word. She was crying too hard. So. And mom was first. So she got her a few sentences out. And then, I did what I prepared to say, and– and just about how the community, you know, have supported our family, and– and it’s been, you know, wonderful to be in the community.
And Westminster has absolutely everything to give you if you’re willing to give to get, and to work for it, and to just, you know, take the chance and be involved and do things for the community you can do. And I think I’m sort of coming around full circle. I know my grandfather was very involved. And my mom, and my dad, and, you know, you have to be willing to do those things.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Well, these are– the are kind of confusing times in America. Is there any advice that you would, uh, give to people, something that you might’ve learned at home and learned from your family business experience?
LAURIE GRAHM: Um, I think the big thing is just that you always make sure that you treat people how you want to be treated. And that if you push and shove, then you’re going to be pushed and shoved.
And if you, you know, love and respect, then you’ll be loved and respected. And I think that’s probably the biggest thing. In that goes for all aspects of your life, not just business, not just, you know, your personal, but it all has to be together.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Yes. Any special experiences you– you would like to, uh, you’d like to share with– with the public? Uh, a prom, or some kind of a gathering in your– your younger years?
EILEEN DUNNER GIST: Turn it off a minute.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Thanks so much for, uh, uh, sharing with us the experience of receiving this most remarkable award, on behalf of everybody in the community who has benefited by your sometimes invisible, but always very hard, work. Thank you very, very much.
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, more than welcome it’s–
CINDY HIRSHBERG: I do–
LAURIE GRAHM: –the best part.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: –want to back up, though, um, and ask you to share with us some of your recollections of being a student growing up hear in Carroll County. Do you remember any special activities or special events that you, uh, um, that you might want to share with some people, funny things that happened.
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, sure. I can remember, you know, we were just going to middle school, and going to elementary school. And back then, when you went to elementary school, you went to middle school with the same people, then to high school with the same people. And you basically had 12 or more year relationships with these people. And I can remember being at– at West End School and do the maypole.
You know, where we would– where everyone would wrap, you know, get their little streamer. And they would, you know, do the little in and out thing to wrap the maypole. And I can remember that the year that my class did the maypole, we had it all done, and it was just gorgeous. And then they were like, OK, now you have to do the little dance to unwrap it. Well, as we started to unwrap it, the old maypole was going back and forth. And some were pulling harder than others.
And some got mixed up, and they couldn’t get it untangled. And finally, we stopped and the teacher was just about to come over to help us. And I can remember one of my classmates shoving the other one where he needed to go. And then it was all fixed, and then we could unwrap it. And just walking back and for to school, and, you know, going sledding at– at, you know, McDaniel College back when it was Western Maryland College then. It was a great sledding hill, and we would– we would go to the flower shop.
And you know, when it would start to get cold, we would save some of the waxed boxes, because they would make great sleds. You would– it was like waxing a surfboard. And down the hill you would got, and everybody would be like, come on, let’s jump on the waxed box. You know, and– and there’d be two or three people in a cardboard box, you know, going down the hill.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Very ingenious. Yeah, so after– after sledding where would people go to get warm.
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, we would all go back. We would either go to King’s Market, right there on the corner of Pennsylvania and Union Street, and you know, have hot chocolate, or at least walk in there to get warm. You know, with Mr. King yelling at us because we had, you know, snow all packed in our boots and on– on our genes. And– or we’d go to the flower shop and, you know, convince one of the ladies there that we really needed hot chocolate. Or we’d go to the greenhouse because the greenhouse was always warm.
So we’d run in there, and– and, you know, it was the community place. And, you know, my mom always let us bring everybody and anybody back to the house. That’s always been the rule that, you know, if you want to have a party, OK, it’s– it’s all right that it’s here. And it was always that way. And that was all the way through high school. So everyone was always like, oh, you know, hey, well we can always go to Laurie’s. Or, you know, we can always go to [INAUDIBLE], or you know, my sister’s. And– and it was always that way.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: What great fun.
LAURIE GRAHM: Yeah, it was great fun.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: And I presume you’re still in touch with most of those folks.
LAURIE GRAHM: Still see a lot of them around. And, you know, with the community, you run into people the strangest places. You know, you seem them at Lowe’s now, you seem them at, you know, some of them I have business dealings with. So it’s been interesting to see their business careers, as well as, you know, taking mind, you know, through it also. And, you know, we saw each other, you know, when we were throwing spit balls at each other. Now we see each other as we’re, you know, making deals. You know, who would’ve thought, you know.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: That you’re grown up to be responsible people.
LAURIE GRAHM: Right, yeah, that we would. We stood and went, you now, we can’t still do that, you know. We probably could, but it would be interesting now.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: I’d wait until after dark on that hill.
LAURIE GRAHM: Probably should. Yeah. I could just imagine getting arrested for sledding at, you know, McDaniel Hill now. Telling Dr. [INAUDIBLE], hello. You know.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: I know you.
LAURIE GRAHM: Yeah, as she stands there going, hmm, you know.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: I know that– I know that face. Um, do you think there’s a change in the school systems since you were through it?
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, a huge change. You know, when– I have friends that have children in Winter’s Mill. And for them to go, you know, to be organized in ninth grade on how their high school learning is going to go, you know, I dream of that. You know, that would’ve been amazing if we would have had that when I was in high school. And for them to be sort of helped in a direction for college, and helped in a direction for life skills.
Um, I think that it’s hard with the education system being bigger, and there’s definitely struggles. Everything from budget, to teachers, to finding, to you know, getting a good solid education. But I also think that there’s been some wonderful things that have adapted to that.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Taking– on the topic of life skills, if there was one thing that you know now that you wish you’d known back then–
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, jeez. One?
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Maybe two.
LAURIE GRAHM: Oh, my gosh, I can do 12. Um, um, I think it would just be probably to instill in more people the idea of community service. It concerns me that they’re forcing kids to do community service, because I know that when I was their age and I was forced to do something, it was pretty much turned off for life.
That’s probably why I don’t cook a whole lot today. But, you know, when you’re forced to do something like that, it has to be something that’s naturally within you. And I think that my generation, probably some of the generation before, and some of the generation after, has not relayed that education and that drive in young people.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Why do you think that’s so?
LAURIE GRAHM: Uh, I think it’s everything from economy to, probably, going through the generations. Like as– as they call it now, the me generation, or the them generation, or– and I think it’s also just assistance kinds of things. That, you know, there’s so many people that rely on different types of assistance. Whether it be financial assistance, or emotional assistance, or all of those types of things, that you know, I think the biggest thing is you have to be liable for you.
And I think sometimes we get away from that. And that’s a very unfortunate thing. And I hope that– you know, everything is– goes in a cycle. And I hope that that cycle, that’s one of the things in a cycle that comes back, is how people influence, and how people help, and commit to their community the live in.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: But that kind of, um, experience a was very rich part of your life.
LAURIE GRAHM: Absolutely. It was the only thing I– I ever knew. I didn’t know any different. I didn’t know not to be involved in a service organization. I didn’t know not to be involved in the florist in industry in a volunteer type of method. You know, I didn’t know not to do those things. I thought that it was a have to, you know, it was part of who I had to be as a– as an adult.
CINDY HIRSHBERG: Certainly a good less, good lesson. And on that note, let me thank you for taking time today to visit with us and make a contribution to our history project. This is Cindy Hirschberg. It is Saturday, April the 18th, and thank you very much Laurie.
LAURIE GRAHM: Thank you for having me.