Tom Wagner

Tom is from Mount Airy, MD. His parents lived in Fredrick County, but back then he went to school in Mount Airy because county lines were just lines.


INTERVIEWER: We [AUDIO OUT] Mr. Tom Wagner here, from Mount Airy, who’s going to be talking to us about his memories of Mount Airy. So, um, thank you for being here, Mr. Wagner.

TOM WAGNER: OK, I’m here.

INTERVIEWER: [LAUGH] What we’d like to know is, um, where were you born? Or what brought you to Carroll County?

TOM WAGNER: My parents lived on, uh, Hill Street, in Frederick County.


TOM WAGNER: So that’s right– you know, it’s the west end of town.


TOM WAGNER: So I grew up there, in Frederick County. 500 Hill Street.

INTERVIEWER: Wow. And where did you go to school?

TOM WAGNER: Mount Airy. See, back then it wasn’t any regional schools. It was all open. Mount Airy had elementary and a high school– middle school– whatever.

INTERVIEWER: I see. So it didn’t matter if you were Frederick County or Carroll County.

TOM WAGNER: No, it didn’t matter then.

INTERVIEWER: Even though you–

TOM WAGNER: You just kind of point out– you know, you live in Frederick County, you know. But that’s the way it was.

INTERVIEWER: Oh. But other than that it made no difference. It was just a line.


INTERVIEWER: All right. Well, what was the– how was– what was the neighborhood like, back then?

TOM WAGNER: Everybody was good neighbors. And kids were kids. And there was a few ornery people around. But us kids agitated them at Halloween, so it don’t matter. We kind of evened it up a little bit.

INTERVIEWER: (LAUGHING) You got ’em back.


INTERVIEWER: And the– was Main Street itself pretty, uh– pretty different? Or–

TOM WAGNER: Well, there wasn’t the traffic like it is now. It was just nothing like that. I mean, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in Mount Airy. It was a farming community, mostly. And, uh, what went on– now, Friday night would be a little busy, because you used to have what they’d call the Friday night drawings.

INTERVIEWER: And what was that?

TOM WAGNER: Well, the merchants chipped in so much a week. And then they’d– people would register at the stores. At 8 o’clock on Friday night, Mr. Esler, who, uh, had the milling company–

INTERVIEWER: OK, and where was the milling company?

TOM WAGNER: The Mount Airy mill, that burned down.


TOM WAGNER: In, uh, ’69. He would go up in front of the, uh– well, it’s the V, there, at Park Avenue. On the sidewalk, there. And they would have a drawing. And you had to be there to win it.


TOM WAGNER: And the streets would be lined with local people– farming– you know, the people in agriculture or rural– wherever– and the townies. All would be there for the Friday night drawing.

INTERVIEWER: Was it like a– for– 50-50 raffle? Or–

TOM WAGNER: Well, I think it was the coupons in the store. Maybe it wasn’t a raffle. I’m not– Mrs. Betty Aiford could tell you. She could probably tell you something about that. I don’t know if you’re going to interview her, from the senior center. But she could tell you a little more. I forget what– but I think it was the coupons in the stores. I’m not sure. Maybe it was money. It could have been money.

INTERVIEWER: Oh! That sounds like a good way to get the town together.

TOM WAGNER: Oh, it was. It was a good way to– on Friday night, Mount Airy was a bustling little town. And of course you had the grocery stores. Uh, Browning’s and Topp’s and, uh, Acme Market and, uh, Browning– or, uh, Smith’s grocery. They all– you know–

INTERVIEWER: All along Main Street.

TOM WAGNER: Yeah. And you had Wilkins’s clothing store and the restaurant. It was a busy little town on a Friday night.


TOM WAGNER: And it was neat.

INTERVIEWER: And it was kids and adults. It sounds like it was–

TOM WAGNER: Oh, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: –quite a good thing for all of you to do.

TOM WAGNER: Yep. So everybody went to the Friday night drawing, downtown. That’s the way it was.

INTERVIEWER: Hmm! They should bring that back again. That sounds like fun.

TOM WAGNER: Ah, it was interesting.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. Did you grow up– was– was your family farmers?

TOM WAGNER: No, they were, uh– my dad was a little bit agriculture-related. Now, my mom’s family was dirt farmers. Uh, that’s what they called them, back then. They just– you know, they were a family that lived off the farm. But they– you know, rented it, or whatever– worked on the farm.

And, uh, she grew up in Unionville. And then Daddy’s family– they were farmers, to a point. But, uh, some of the– uh, his uncles were farmers, or whatever.


TOM WAGNER: But he grew up around Newmarket– my Dad did.


TOM WAGNER: But they ended up in Mount Airy.

INTERVIEWER: I see And what did– was it your father that started the Mount Airy Locker?

TOM WAGNER: No, it was built in World War II, by the WPA program. And, uh, Mr. Savington, up at Libertytown, built it. And, uh, he was quite a character. And then, in ’53, he got older and he got tired of it. And so Daddy bought it from him. And, uh, it was just a locker plant, back then. I mean, he had a freezer system. People rented lockers. And then– and we cut up some meat, too. But, uh–

INTERVIEWER: I see. But it was more a storage.

TOM WAGNER: Yeah. Right.

INTERVIEWER: Oh! See, I never knew that.

TOM WAGNER: Yeah. You could, uh– that was something new, at post-World War II that started those. There was a lot of locker plants, nationwide. Because it was a hot item. All of a sudden, everybody was starting to freeze things to–


TOM WAGNER: Vegetables in the gardens. And– and then people come in and rent a locker instead of buying a freezer.


TOM WAGNER: But then people started buying freezers, so the locker business got old– got bad. We finally took ’em out about, oh, I don’t know– 10, 12 years ago.


TOM WAGNER: Redone the– redone that part of it.

INTERVIEWER: Isn’t that something! And all these years I’ve lived here, I never thought about why it was–

TOM WAGNER: I spent many an hour in there, getting stuff out for people, putting stuff away.

INTERVIEWER: Huh! So it was almost like a, um– a mailbox–

TOM WAGNER: Oh, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: –at the post office, except you were renting your locker.

TOM WAGNER: They were six cubic foot.

INTERVIEWER: Isn’t that something!

TOM WAGNER: It was [INAUDIBLE] all right. They held a lot of meat, too.

INTERVIEWER: But did you do that when you were growing up? When you were younger, you just–

TOM WAGNER: Yeah, I was around–

INTERVIEWER: Have you had any other–


INTERVIEWER: –any other jobs, besides the–



TOM WAGNER: Air Force. United States Air Force. [LAUGH] For four years. But other than that–

INTERVIEWER: So you’ve just been in Mount Airy the whole time.



TOM WAGNER: I’m from Mount Airy. No doubt about that.

INTERVIEWER: Um, let’s see. I guess the school. We didn’t talk– we– we– we talked briefly about the school. But, uh, was it– what was the size–


INTERVIEWER: –in school? Was it–?

TOM WAGNER: Oh, I don’t know. I guess it was 20, 25 of us in a classroom, I guess. I don’t know. Does that sound right? I guess, for a– so it was– and– and certain grades, you–


TOM WAGNER: Yeah, I mean, when I graduated, in ’63, it was only 63 of us in the class.


TOM WAGNER: I said 63. It might not have been that many. 58, I think it was. Whatever it was. But, uh–

INTERVIEWER: And do you still see a lot of them around?

TOM WAGNER: Oh, I see ’em. They’re most of them around, within– [INAUDIBLE] most of them are.

INTERVIEWER: So that’s interesting, of Mount Airy. Because I know where I went to school, people seemed to scatter. But people–

TOM WAGNER: No, I have– it’s funny. We had the 20-year reunion. And I was surprised at how many was still around then.

INTERVIEWER: Mmm! There’s something about the town.

TOM WAGNER: Yeah. Well, I say “Mount Airy.” It’s– you know, back then you had Winfield and, uh, Woodbine, and– you know.


TOM WAGNER: And you went halfway to Westminster. So, you know, there’s kids a good ways away. And they’re still around that area, or wherever.



INTERVIEWER: Kind of this area.


INTERVIEWER: And, um– how about– are– are you married?

TOM WAGNER: Oh, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: OK. And how did– did your wife grow up in this area, also?

TOM WAGNER: Oh, yeah, we was, uh– we were neighborhood sweethearts, I guess.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, really!

TOM WAGNER: Yeah. She grew up– did– right– two houses down.


TOM WAGNER: I spent a lot of time with her, growing up.


TOM WAGNER: Her mother was a great person, and her dad was, too. And they always treated me like a king, and–


TOM WAGNER: So. She still does.


I’m lucky.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah! It sounds like it.


INTERVIEWER: So you just, um– were you in high school, or younger? Did it– how did that–

TOM WAGNER: Well, we just–

INTERVIEWER: How did it all come about?

TOM WAGNER: I don’t know. When I was old enough to know what was going on, I’d go down to the Grimm house, you know. That’s– that’s where she was. So.

INTERVIEWER: It reminds me of It’s a Wonderful Life. [LAUGH]

TOM WAGNER: She’d be up in a tree–

INTERVIEWER: (LAUGHING) They all get along–

TOM WAGNER: Playing in the tree. She was a tomboy type.

INTERVIEWER: Oh! Well, wasn’t that something!

TOM WAGNER: Not really, but–

INTERVIEWER: And then do you have– you have siblings in the area?

TOM WAGNER: Yeah, I have a son that lives over to New Windsor, we was just talking about. Uh, he lives over there. He has a nice place over there. And he works for a– a crane company down in Clarksburg. And then my daughter lives in northern New Mexico.




TOM WAGNER: Quite an artsy city, that is.




TOM WAGNER: So that’s a different world, out there.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah! Yeah, for sure.


INTERVIEWER: And then do you have siblings? You have a brother– sisters?

TOM WAGNER: Oh, yeah, I get, uh– a brother, Billy.


TOM WAGNER: Which we was in business together, till I bought him out. He retired. And he lives in Ocean City.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, does he!

TOM WAGNER: Yeah. And then he’s got a–

INTERVIEWER: Well, that’s nice.

TOM WAGNER: –part home here in Mount Airy, in the basement of, uh, his– one of his sons’ houses. And then, uh, Janice Jewell, my sister– she lives right off Hill street.


TOM WAGNER: Yeah. Her husband was in the Air Force for years, and then they retired here in Mount Airy. She had six children.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, really?

TOM WAGNER: Billy had three kids.

INTERVIEWER: Are they all pretty much in the area? Or the– the younger generation–

TOM WAGNER: Uh, Wendy is.

INTERVIEWER: –tends to scatter.

TOM WAGNER: Wendy’s a town councilman, of course.


TOM WAGNER: And then, uh–

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, I know Wendy.

TOM WAGNER: –Willy’s a– a former city policeman. And Mickey works for a, uh, company down around Washington– does construction, uh– sales, and things.

INTERVIEWER: So they still stayed pretty local–

TOM WAGNER: Yeah. Yep.

INTERVIEWER: –except for your daughter. Um– how about carnivals and things? I know we had the– the Lions carnival and the, um–

TOM WAGNER: Oh, that was a big– a big time, back then, in Mount Airy.

INTERVIEWER: So they still are. Things haven’t changed, as far as the carnivals go.

TOM WAGNER: Well, now the carnivals are so much bigger and– I can remember when the fireman’s– [LAUGH] we had– they had some problems, one year. They only had one ride there. Ferris wheel or something. You know– just– but we always got along. Made a few dollars, and–


TOM WAGNER: It wasn’t– you know, you wanted to make money, because that’s basically what the fire company lived off of, was the carnival, back then, so you– but people donated. And the agricultural– being an agricultural community, the farmers helped out. You know, with the money and whatever.


TOM WAGNER: And, of course, you always give a car away. And that was a big deal. You know, everybody waiting as the– waiting to see who won, you know?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, yeah!

TOM WAGNER: Some [INAUDIBLE] town went “Who’s that guy?” You know, “What’s he doing, cleaning up”–

INTERVIEWER: [LAUGH] Should be a local person.

TOM WAGNER: Right, right.

INTERVIEWER: So– that’s– so it sounds like–

TOM WAGNER: Carnivals was the– the farmers’ carnival was always the highlight. The Lions was a little less, but it was still interesting.

INTERVIEWER: And were they the same time–


INTERVIEWER: –like they are now?

TOM WAGNER: They was about, uh– Lions was always in June. And the firemens’ was always the last full week of July. And sometimes it was pretty hot.


TOM WAGNER: It was pretty hot.

INTERVIEWER: So, um, let’s see. Um– what– OK– what would you most like to change about this area?



TOM WAGNER: Oh, I don’t– I don’t– you know, it’s growed– uh– the change– I’d just like to see less traffic, but that’s not going to happen. And, you know.


TOM WAGNER: I like people, so I– you know, I have no qualms about it. I just, uh– just sometimes, you have to swallow. [LAUGH]


TOM WAGNER: But I– you know, I don’t know what you could change, really. I mean, it’s part of growth and everything, I guess.

INTERVIEWER: Right. And I guess the allure of the area– you know, if that’s a nice area, people are going to flock to it.

TOM WAGNER: Of course. Change obviously– you know, unless– you know, 15 years ago, they said “We don’t want anybody in Mount Airy” and locked the doors, I don’t know what else you could have done, you know.

INTERVIEWER: Right. Right. I guess–

TOM WAGNER: I mean, this library wouldn’t be here. Wouldn’t be anything around here, you know.


TOM WAGNER: Wouldn’t be the senior center or nothing else. I mean, that’s– and some communities probably have done that, over the years. And they’re probably sorry they’ve done it. But, you know. And I think Mount Airy’s done pretty good.

INTERVIEWER: Well, good! Glad to hear that from [LAUGH] someone who’s seen it evolve.

TOM WAGNER: Sometimes I’ll drive my truck down the road, and somebody pulls out in front of me, you won’t hear that tone. But–


INTERVIEWER: “Where are all these people from?” Do you have any specific memories of anything that, um– that you’d like to share? Either something craz–

TOM WAGNER: Well, I grew up with a– a boy that we called– ‘scuse me– Buzz, uh, Norris. And, uh, he had a– he was a mentally retarded– well, we called it back then “mentally retarded.” And he was my next-door neighbor. And we had a lot of memories together.

INTERVIEWER: Oh! Anything specific that was crazy or that–

TOM WAGNER: Oh, there was a lot of crazy things happened. Buzz and I went somewhere every night.


TOM WAGNER: And, uh, it was just a lot of things went on.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, that’s good!

TOM WAGNER: We even took him up to Francis Scott Key hotel, one night, to eat.


TOM WAGNER: Yeah, that was back then. That was a pretty big deal.

INTERVIEWER: Was that– is that the one in Frederick?

TOM WAGNER: Well, it’s not a hotel anymore. It’s a restaurant, I guess, or something. Across from the– what is it– the [INAUDIBLE] or the– what’s the– used to be the Tivoli theatre. Because we went up to the Tivoli. The movies would come out.

We was hungry. I said “Well, hell, we might as well go over here to– in the hotel.” We went in the high-class dining room, and people were staring at us, so we sat down and ate, Buzz and I.

INTERVIEWER: Couple of country boys!

TOM WAGNER: Yeah. But, uh–


TOM WAGNER: Had a lot of good memories.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, that’s great!


INTERVIEWER: That’s great. Um, let’s see if there’s anything– what was your favorite thing to do in the summer, as a child, here in Mount Airy?

TOM WAGNER: Play ball. Baseball.

INTERVIEWER: Ah! Was there– where– did you play there at the– at the baseball grounds?

TOM WAGNER: No, we played in backyards. Every backyard had their own system or bases. And mostly in our backyard, because we had a big backyard, where I lived. So everybody would come up to my house, and we played baseball.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. I guess there weren’t a lot of parents around–

TOM WAGNER: Oh, yeah. There was, uh, Miss Norris– uh– Buzz’s mother. She’d be around, because we used to break her basement window all the time.


INTERVIEWER: So they had to be around.


INTERVIEWER: Just to make sure.

TOM WAGNER: Of course, she had two girls living there, you know, that was older than Buzz, so they were still home. And, of course, Mom and Dad– they’d– Daddy’d be around, in the afternoon, because he’d always come home and take a nap and see what we’d be doing.

INTERVIEWER: Well, it sounds like it was good memories. Yeah. I guess that’s probably why we have that big baseball complex now, just to–

TOM WAGNER: Well, we, uh– we’d just play. And sometimes we’d venture in another part of town to play ball. But I used to go up on Park Avenue and play up there at the– well, it was my cousin’s house– Mike Wagner. And, uh, he had a little dog over there. And I was the only one he’d bite. He wouldn’t bite anybody else. But that little dog would chew on me every time he see–

INTERVIEWER: What did he know, huh? [LAUGH]

TOM WAGNER: He just– he wasn’t about that big. But he would bite– he wouldn’t bother anybody else but me. I never figured that out.

INTERVIEWER: Isn’t that something!

TOM WAGNER: We used to play ball up there.

INTERVIEWER: So you’d always run a little faster when you were playing in his yard.

TOM WAGNER: And our– back then, the [INAUDIBLE] games– it was up to the school– the elementary school.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, really!


INTERVIEWER: Did they have leagues?

TOM WAGNER: Yeah. Yeah. But you only played once a week. Whatever. That was a big deal, too, ’cause you’d put the uniform on. My lord, you thought you was King Tut.


TOM WAGNER: Everybody hooting and a-hollering and carrying on. It– it was interesting.

INTERVIEWER: Hmm! And then when you were a teenager, was there anything specific that– that, uh– that you remember just–

TOM WAGNER: Oh, just what teens do.

INTERVIEWER: They had– did we have a movie theater, back then?

TOM WAGNER: No, we had to go to Damascus.


TOM WAGNER: Over to the Druid Theatre.


TOM WAGNER: And we made many a trip there.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, so some things never change, then. I mean, that’s the complaint of the kids nowadays. “There no movies! There’s nothing to do!”

TOM WAGNER: No, I guess kids today have to go to Frederick, I guess, or wherever. That’s the closest place they’ve got. Or Westminster.

INTERVIEWER: Frederick, or– Eldersburg or Westminster.

TOM WAGNER: Yeah. But, uh, back then, we had to go to Damascus. Well, I’m telling a fib, here, ’cause [INAUDIBLE] [SIGH] Mr. Jones had a theatre down on Main Street.


TOM WAGNER: Where– well, it’s an auto-parts store there, now. I think Mr. Illiano bought the building.


TOM WAGNER: You can still see where the– the– where they used to– the roof come out, where they posted the movies.


TOM WAGNER: And, uh, when I was a kid– a small kid– that was still there. But then Mr. Jones– Mr. Jones had to close it up, because it wasn’t doing any business.

INTERVIEWER: Oh. Just not even–

TOM WAGNER: But I barely even remember going to the movies here. Yeah, I’m sure there’s– Bill Netherland– when he comes in, uh, he probably remembers more about that I do.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, I’ll have to–

TOM WAGNER: You’ll have to ask about–

INTERVIEWER: –test his memory. [LAUGH]



TOM WAGNER: But, uh–

INTERVIEWER: So did you graduate from high school, here in Mount Airy?

TOM WAGNER: Sure. ’63.

INTERVIEWER: OK, it was still here.

TOM WAGNER: Oh, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Was it– I know it wasn’t–

TOM WAGNER: ’66, I think, was the last year, wasn’t it?

INTERVIEWER: Oh, was that– yeah, I know it was sometime in the late ’60s that they moved to South Carroll.

TOM WAGNER: That’s one thing that’s bugged me a little bit, being a Mount Airyan, is when they took the high school out of town. I thought that was terrible.


TOM WAGNER: I don’t think, really and truly, Mount Airy’s been the same since. You know, in one part of it. ‘Cause we don’t have that rah-rah, Mount Airy spirit that I think we– that the town is missing, to me.

INTERVIEWER: True. You’re right.

TOM WAGNER: And it’s great to have these big schools. But I think kids get lost in the big schools. They– I don’t know. That’s just my opinion.

INTERVIEWER: I think you’re right. I think you’re right. Just as a– as a–


TOM WAGNER: I’d rather see a school here in Mount Airy and– you know. But that’s the way it goes. Nothing I can do about it.

INTERVIEWER: You never know. You know? We could– [LAUGH]

TOM WAGNER: I don’t think you’ll ever see it happen.

INTERVIEWER: –gotta knee some politics. We’ll get it going. [LAUGH]


INTERVIEWER: Um– but so we’ll close up with just having you describe what is the best thing about Carroll County that you would– if you– if you encounter someone who’s never visited. Say, someone from out of town came to the locker. What would you tell them?

TOM WAGNER: Oh, I think it’s– it’s back to what we was talking about, earlier. It’s the people. I mean, I know a lot of people in Carroll County. And most of them in agriculture or whatever. And they’re a good people.


TOM WAGNER: And, uh, yeah, I think they’d do most anything for you’ve, if you got in the middle or whatever. But I think it’s just the people.

INTERVIEWER: So that’s what would–


INTERVIEWER: –draws you most.

TOM WAGNER: How long it’ll last, I don’t know. But, you know.

INTERVIEWER: Well, I think with folks like yourself out there, you know, running the businesses–

TOM WAGNER: I’m getting old. That’s for sure. [LAUGH]

INTERVIEWER: Well, you know, you show us how it’s done.




INTERVIEWER: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Wagner.

TOM WAGNER: All right.

INTERVIEWER: I think we’re–

TOM WAGNER: Well, it’s been a pleasure.

INTERVIEWER: –gonna call it a wrap. Does that–?