Fruitcakes, Underpants, and Mayors – Our Excellent Schoolhouse Adventure

Greetings friends, what with all this hullabaloo about former county commissioner Robin Frazier getting everyone in a bad mood, I thought I’d change the subject to underwear to cheer people up. Well, not just underwear. Fruitcake, too, which isn’t really my area of expertise.

Rosie and Warren

You see, a couple weeks ago we packed Sykesville’s old schoolhouse, despite an annoying rain, and I thought I’d share a few pictures and videos and absurd insights about the aforementioned underwear, fruitcakes, politicians, and things of that nature.

So first here’s Warren Dorsey, the star of my book, and his sister, Rosie. They’re sort of a comedy team. Warren is the straight man. In this little bit, Rosie’s basically accusing Warren of being too, uh, kind of frugal, to stick to the traditional Dorsey family fruitcake recipe, which has been passed down for at least 80 years from Dorsey to Dorsey and Christmas to Christmas.

Now Warren definitely does not come lightly to his fruitcake frugality. I mean, come on, if you spent your first 17 years wearing underpants made of chickenfeed sacks, you’d probably grow up skimping on fruitcake ingredients, too. I’ve never eaten a fruitcake or worn a chickenfeed sack, and I’m too old to start now, but I imagine it might leave a permanent mark on your psyche, and maybe a rash, too.

Just imagine getting up for school in a freezing cold farmhouse with no heat every morning in 1927, and sliding into your feedbag. Well, actually, I suppose, he slept in the feedbag. But either way, when your underpants say, “Maryland Milling & Supply” or “Joe’s Chicken Chow” instead of “Fruit of the Loom,” there’s a good chance you’ll be clipping coupons someday.

Not to mention the bed Warren slept in wasn’t the most comfortable, what with the mattress made of something called ticking and stuffed with straw, and the two brothers and a very large family of bedbugs sharing the bed with him. Warren’s mom used to take the beds outside once a week and squirt them with gasoline to kills the bugs, which worked to some extent, but generally left the surviving bugs pissed off and flammable. You lit a match in Warren’s bed and 4000 bugs burst into flame.

So picture lying on your mashed straw, smelling gas, crammed between Emerson and Chester, both of them snoring, and a bunch of gas-drenched bugs crawling around your feed sack like miniature combustible Draculas.

But I guess you get used to anything. I’m just glad I had a nice warm bunk bed in Philly with my brother up top, my dog beside me, and my Daniel Boone club membership sticker pasted to the headboard. Sure my mattress was thick as a grilled cheese, sure one of the springs popped loose in 1966, and bored toward my ribs for eight years before eventually striking bone. But I’d rather share a warm bed in Fruit of the Looms with a snoring Spaniel, even if I did have to pry myself free in the morning, than with two brothers and a bunch of bed bugs while wearing a feed sack, any day.

From Underpants to Politicians

All kinds of interesting characters passed through the doors that Saturday. And some politicians, too. Here’s a shot full of mayors. It’s interesting, too, because I thought it was a shot of me and Warren and had no idea all these other folks had slipped in behind us.

Pat Greenwald, Jon Herman, Ian Shaw, Susan Krebs, Warren Dorsey, Jack White

That’s me in front with my arms folded, looking in the wrong direction. (There were a whole bunch of cameras snapping the historic moment at once.) That’s Warren next to me, Pat Greenwald, who does a great job running the schoolhouse, in the upper left, followed by former mayor Jonathan Herman, current Mayor Ian Shaw, and state delegate Susan Krebs. We invited Robin Frazier, but she got lost and ended up in Annapolis somehow. Weird, huh?

Bob Lord, who was recently elected to our school board, and once appeared at the bus stop to pick up his kids in a different disguise every single day for about 300 running, also stopped by. Bob’s been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king. Actually that’s Frank Sinatra, but Bob really did dress up as everything from a mime to a construction worker to embarrass his kids at the bus stop, and put all the pictures on Facebook. His most infamous costume might have been the one with the hula skirt and coconut bra, but I won’t mention that, and I definitely won’t post it here.

Dean Minnich also came by. Dean is a really good writer, who practices the art with great craft and talent and has a new book of his own, What Price Eden, out now. If you want to be unpopular in Carroll County, all you have to do is serve as a county commissioner or a columnist for the Carroll County Times. Dean’s done both!

If Bob and Dean had showed up in time for the picture, we might have had enough politicians to form a complete government. (Ah, I should also mention that former town councilman and nice guy Chris True was there, further rounding out the government.)

Here’s a shot of my mom, Anne White, posing with Warren’s sister, Rosie. Unfortunately mom left her beret in the car, but Rosie looked excellent in hers.

Anne White and Rosie Dorsey

And here she is with Warren, who sang one song so well, that when I looked out into the audience I saw several people crying and wiping at their eyes, which was very moving. I just wish my dad wasn’t one of them.

Jack's mom and Warren

Here’s a shot of me introducing Warren to Mayor Shaw. Either Ian just said something funny, or I’m laughing at his tie. It might have been both.

Ian Shaw speaking with Warren Dorsey and Jack White

Raised by Wolves

My cousin Pattie also came down from Philadelphia. The interesting thing about me and Pattie is our dads were brothers, and we were born within a couple days of each other in the same hospital in Philly, and at one point, there was a mix-up and we actually got exchanged. Eventually they got things straightened out.

Or so we think. It’s still possible mom went home with the wrong baby and I was actually raised by the wrong parents. Which is fine. It’s not like they were wolves.

Laundering the Money

I showed up at the event with a gym bag full of books, thinking that would be enough. I also had a box full in the car, just in case. The box was heavy, it was raining, and I didn’t carry it in at first, figuring we wouldn’t need them.

By the end of the event we were scrounging everywhere for books. I even stole a few from an old lady when her back was turned. She bought ten, and I figured she wouldn’t miss them. Plus my wife, Andrea, ran down to A Likely Story Book Store and raided their supply. I think we accidentally sold a few copies of the Hunger Games and a couple diet books to people who are probably wondering why I keep bringing up cholesterol. We also sold several copies of something called Fifty Shades of Grey, which I believe is about my hair and something to do with leather.

By the time it was over, the gym bag was filled with checks and cash and I felt like a drug dealer. We gave $300 to the schoolhouse. We’ll be keeping the rest and moving somewhere where rappers and movies stars live, as long as Justin Bieber’s not in the neighborhood.

Or at least that was the plan. Then I told my daughter, Anna, we had to launder the money.

Later I caught her pulling twenties out of the dryer. I said, “What the heck you doing?” She said, “I laundered the money.” I said, “What?” She said, “I think it shrank.” I said, “What?” She said, “Look, Thomas Jefferson’s head got really small.” I said, “That’s Andrew Jackson.” She said, “Whatever.”

So now we’re not talking, and I’m closing out her college fund, which gets us back $422.

Actually, you don’t make much selling books, unless you hook up with Oprah. So if you see me and Oprah yucking it up at The French Twist, I’ve probably hit the big time.

It’s called In Carrie’s Footprints. It’s available on Amazon or at A Likely Story on Main Street in Sykesville. It will not help you lose weight. Well, it might, but you have to run on a treadmill while you read it.

And here’s one more picture.

Grannie Carrie

That’s Warren’s mom, Carrie, at 16. Little did she know as the picture was snapped, that she was about to get married, have 12 kids, and show up on the cover of a book someday. Or that a couple mayors were standing behind her.

Special thanks to Richard Taylor, a very cool guy, for the video.

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  • Celebrating Warren Dorsey’s 95th Birthday, in Sykesville
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