Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day in Bowie, 1936

How are you spending your Thanksgiving day?  In 1936, there were no football games on television, but there was horse racing in Bowie.  This picture was taken at the Bowie Race Course on Thanksgiving day, 1936.

This picture was also taken on Thanksgiving day, 1936 at the Bowie Race Course.  Apprentice jockey Ira Hanford is sitting on Piccolo after winning the Thanksgiving Handicap.  The 18 year-old Hanford made history earlier that year by becoming the first apprentice jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby.  Hanford won the "Run for the Roses" while riding a 20-1 long shot - Bold Venture.  Handford's Kentucky Derby win came one year after Belair Stable's Omaha won the Derby and the other two legs of the Triple Crown.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Popular Bowie Politician Dies

August 9, 2014:  Mary Conroy, who represented the Bowie area as a Maryland State Senator and as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, died Saturday at the age of 82.

Conroy was appointed to the Maryland Senate to fill the remaining term of her late husband, Senator Ed Conroy, upon his death in 1982.  Conroy was later appointed to the Maryland House of Delegates to fill the remaining term of Gerard Devlin after he became a Prince George's County District Court Judge.  Conroy served as a delegate for more than twenty years, and she had the distinction of being the Deputy Majority Leader for four of those years.

Conroy's time in Bowie dates back to the time when Levitt & Sons first started selling houses in the community.  Conroy and her husband were one of the first homebuyers in the Belair at Bowie development.  They purchased a Colonial on the corner of Stonybrook Drive and Shawmont Lane in a section of town that was once referred to as a "professional row," according to Conroy.  There was no office space in Bowie in the early 1960s, so it was common for doctors, dentists and other professionals to buy houses along Stonybrook Drive to serve as homes and offices.  Ed Conroy had a law office in the Conroy home on Shawmont Lane.

The Conroys called themselves Belair at Bowie's first residents.  They signed the development's very first property title on the morning of October 17, 1961, according to the Washington Star.

Mary Conroy on Wikipedia
Mary Controy's House of Delegates Profile

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Nixon Leaves the White House. What's the Bowie Connection?

August 9, 1974 (40 years ago today): Facing the possibility of impeachment, President Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  So what's the Bowie connection?

During the Watergate burglaries in 1972, two phones were bugged in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) offices.  Only one of those listening devices worked.  That bug was in the phone of R. Spencer Oliver.  At that time, Oliver lived in a Cape on Felter Lane in Bowie with his wife and family.

After the bugs were discovered, Oliver was investigated by the FBI.  The FBI hadn't found the bugs in a previous sweep of the office, so there was some suspicion that someone in the DNC had planted the bugs themselves.  In an interview given by journalist Robert Parry years later, Oliver said, "they tried to tie me to radical groups and asked questions of my neighbors and my friends about whether I had ever done anything wrong, whether I drank too much, whether I was an alcoholic, whether I had a broken marriage, whether I had had any affairs.  It was a very intrusive and obnoxious assault on my private life."

Oliver also faced scrutiny from some of his colleagues who didn't feel that he was important enough to have his phone bugged.  There was jealousy.  "Everybody wanted to be the celebrity victim," Oliver told Parry.

After a civil lawsuit was filed, lawyers for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) deposed Oliver.  In an effort to discredit Oliver, they asked him if he was a member of the Communist Party or the Weather Underground.  They asked him if he had ever been arrested.

Oliver soon found himself at odds with DNC leadership.  The DNC wanted to put the Watergate break-in behind them, and they wanted to settle the civil suit.  Oliver felt it was important to continue the lawsuit because the related depositions provided the only opportunity to force the Republicans to answer questions about Watergate.  This was before the Senate Watergate Committee was formed.

Read more about R. Spencer Oliver's role in Watergate in the "Enduring Secrets of Watergate" special report by Robert Parry.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Gallant Fox wins the Triple Crown

June 7, 1930 (84 years ago today):  Gallant Fox from the Belair Stud Farm won the Triple Crown.  The Fox of Belair, as he was known, later fathered Omaha, the second horse from Belair to win the Triple Crown.  To this date, Gallant Fox and Omaha represent the only father/son pair Triple Crown winners.  Both horses were a product of the team of William Woodward, Belair Stud's owner, and trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Grand Opening Ceremony Held at Bowie's Market Place

April 6, 1983 (31 years ago today): A Grand Opening ceremony was held at the Market Place, a redesigned Bowie shopping destination that was formerly known as the Belair Shopping Center.  The Market Place was anchored by a new and modern Safeway grocery store.  The store was equipped with price scanners, and it was the third largest Safeway on the East Coast at the time.

Click here to see a set of newspaper advertisements that appeared in the Bowie Blade-News prior to the Grand Opening.  Special thanks to Megan Reilly who shared the advertisements with Bowie Living after discovering them in her shed when she moved into her Bowie home.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tree Planted at Bowie City Hall to Honor Dr. King

April 4, 1977 (37 years ago today):  A tree was planted at Bowie City Hall in honor and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the ninth anniversary of his death.  Dr. King was killed in Memphis forty-six years ago today.

In 1977, Bowie City Hall was located in the Belair Mansion.  The King tree is located on the west side of the property - near the right corner of the mansion when facing the building from the driveway.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

City Considers New Fireworks "Venue"

After mixed reactions to the 2013 Fourth of July celebration at Prince George's Stadium, the city is considering a bold change to this year's event in order to reduce traffic congestion and to bring the fireworks display to more residents.

A Colorado company, Creative Fireworks, LLC, has submitted a proposal to launch the fireworks over the city from drones.  "By using larger shells, and launching the shells higher in the sky, we are able to increase the viewing area ten-fold," said Earl F. Cracker, the CEO of Creative Fireworks.  According to Cracker, Bowie is one of a dozen cities that is considering drone technology to improve municipal firework displays.  At this point, the City of Topeka in Kansas has signed on, and Cracker is hoping that Bowie is next.

According to City Hall, a plan has been designed that centers the fireworks in a triangle formed by Allen Pond Park, Prince George's Stadium and the Belair Mansion.  Each of those sites was identified as favorable viewing areas by city residents. According to Creative Fireworks, the  launching area would be high in the sky above Route 50 between the Route 197 and Route 3 exits.

The Creative Fireworks proposal includes a low powered FM broadcast to provide audio for the event.  "It's not the Boston Pops, but residents will be able to hear favorites like the 1812 Overture and Stars and Stripes Forever over their radios or streamed on-line to their smart phones," said city spokesperson, Ashley Buckingham.  The fireworks will be synchronized to the music.

Residents' reactions to the proposal have been favorable.

"I would be able to see fireworks from my backyard," said Ken L. Worthe.  "No more sitting in traffic for two hours for me!"

"I think I would watch the fireworks from Foxhill Park, "said nineteen-year-old resident Summer Sett.  "I think the reflection of the fireworks off the lake would be awesome!"

According to Buckingham, the city will make a decision by the middle of April.  "At this point, the only two options being considered are a return to Prince George's Stadium and the Creative Fireworks proposal," she said.

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