SOLUTION OFFERED BY COMMISSIONER JOHN O’CONNOR
THE LOSS OF LINDA’S CAFÉ IS A BIPARTISAN FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP
BY KEN ROSSIGNOL
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
NEWS AND COMMENTARY ON THE VARMINT CLASS
LEXINGTON PARK, MD. –
One of the few family-operated small businesses in the boomtown of Lexington Park will soon tough out a difficult move or close forever. Linda’s Café had existed for over thirty-four years in a town that was built in 1943 during the ravages of war when the evil alliances of Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan threatened the very existence of America.
The first carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and truck drivers needed to build runways, aircraft hangers, offices, a hospital and barracks, and housing for families of personnel arrived over small, winding country roads from Rt. 301 in Waldorf.
While the Navy extended a one-track railroad line that ended in Mechanicsville south to the new Naval Air Station being built on eight thousand acres of pasture, farmland, and woods on land at the mouth of the Patuxent River, the families who formerly lived and farmed the new air station quickly packed up and moved from the base.
One of those who loaded trucks and bought land outside the new base at the main gate was a storekeeper named Hiram Millison. Millison hired workers and built a bus station, a restaurant, and a row of shops and stores. Soon merchants moved to the new crossroads of Lexington Park and began to open more stores, bars, and diners on Great Mills Road, Tulagi Place, and Coral Drive.
Along with Jack Fruchtman, who operated the Lexington Park Hotel and The Plaza movie theatre, a row of stores included a jewelry store, a liquor store, the Park Stationers, and the Club Tropics – all where the Lexington Park Post Office is now located.
A shoe store, an A & P, the Rexall Drugs, and a second movie theatre were all packed in together and formed the downtown of blossoming Lexington, a virtual shopping mecca for the hundreds of families living in the new “Flat Top” community and the trailer camp where Millison Plaza is now located or used to be, as Rachelle Millison sold the shopping center in January of 2022. The Millison Plaza signs have been taken down at the request of Millison to facilitate the direction of inquiries away from her company and to the new owners.
The new Patuxent homes were spread out on the north side of Great Mills Road, with one of the modest homes purchased by Amelia Bridges, the owner of the Club Tropics. Amelia, or “Millie,” was the mother of Linda Palchinsky and her brother Ronnie, raising them both and later, after selling the tavern, assisting her daughter when she opened Linda’s Café. Linda’s is located on Tulagi Place, just down from the former McKay’s Foodland, where the A & P used to be before moving to a brand spanking new store, where the Big Lots is now located. One of Mary and Manning McKay’s daughters opened a small eatery known as the MyDell Foodette, and it didn’t seem to take off.
Linda Palchinsky was working in the District of Columbia and anxious to get out of the city and back home. When she saw the small restaurant was available, she did what everyone in Lexington Park did – she went to see Jack Daugherty. Daugherty always was able to spot potential in one of the ‘children’ of Lexington Park, as he himself was a transplant that came to town with the Navy, and his wife Kay was a teacher in the little Great Mills Elementary School.
In no time at all, Linda’s staff were putting on aprons and serving up the beautiful aromas of sizzling bacon, scrapple, and eggs for the morning crowd and then serving up the daily specials of meatloaf, liver and onions, crabcakes, fried flounder filets, burgers, homemade soups and at that special time of year – stuffed ham sandwiches.
Each and every day since Pete’s Galley closed, the power table of the Daugherty, Kinsey Burke, Jack Rue, Harry Leonard, George Hopkins, J. Frank Raley, Red Hewitt, Francis Taylor, Ed Cole, George Aud, Gabe Gabrelcik, Jimmy Finnacom, Ralph Chesser, Harold Satisky, Jim Kenney, John Briscoe, Elmer Duff, Louie Aldridge, and at least a dozen more from time to time, rotated around the big table near the counter. Whether at Pete’s Galley and then in the late eighties at Linda’s, the mornings started in Linda’s Café with the breakfast crowd, and after eleven, tables full of uniformed sailors arrived at lunchtime on weekdays.
Big family groups, like Myra and Sal Raspa’s clan, packed the place on weekends for breakfast to give working moms a break and treat.
By no means was Linda’s Café exclusive to the Base crowd or the business owners, as the reasonable prices made eating out possible for working folks, retirees, and hardworking farmers. As a social hall and town square, Linda’s Café indeed functioned as the center of Lexington Park.
News crews from ABC interviewed Linda about my newspaper when the liberal Democrats, drug dealers and bar owners were attempting to create a boycott of ST. MARY’S TODAY and pressure her to stop selling the famous weekly paper in her restaurant. She said she would keep selling it.
“If someone doesn’t want to read it, they don’t have to buy it,” and cautioned them to not try to sneak in any free peeks.
Her refusal to be intimidated by those who wished to censor the news in 1991 was mirrored by the Early Bird owner Joe St. Clair. The group called themselves SMART – “St. Mary’s Alliance for Rightful Thinking”- tried their luck at intimidating St. Clair, and he told them to get out of his store, that his customers wanted the newspaper, and he would keep on selling it.
At the public hearing on April 25, 2022, regarding the controversial Royal Farms Concept Plan for the block where Linda’s Café is located, Joe St. Clair was one of the seven members of the Planning Commission. The panel is tasked with the decision that will likely doom the existence of the dining spot, at least at the present location and perhaps forever.
The big city newspaper reporters who have been at Linda’s with me for lunch include Arthur Hirsch of the Baltimore Sun. Hirsch joined me for an interview with moonshiner Mitchell Morgan in Oraville and Eugene Meyer of the Washington Post when he was doing a story about the creation of ST. MARY’S TODAY, which appeared on the front page of his newspaper in April of 1991.
Washington Post reporters Annie Gowen, Todd Shields, and Jackie Spinner have all munched, sipped, and gobbled their way through Linda’s menu. Spinner even wrote a feature article about Linda’s stuffed ham.
ABC News World News Tonight Anchor Walter C. Rodgers interviewed Linda when his crew was here for a week to do a special report on our DWI coverage. Historic St. Mary’s City Chairman and former Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee joined me for lunch at Linda’s when it was my turn to treat him in return for his hosting me in DC.
ABC 20/20 producers and Anchor Chris Wallace interviewed Linda again in 1999 following the raid on newsstands by St. Mary’s Sheriff Dick Voorhaar, States Attorney Fritz, and six deputies.
The Sheriff, Fritz, and the deputies even raided the news vending machine in front of Linda’s Café to prevent voters from reading critical articles about them before voting that Election Day in 1998.
When I sold ST. MARY’S TODAY in 2010, Comptroller and Maryland’s likely next Governor, Peter Franchot, joined me for lunch at Linda’s to say farewell to me and meet Terry Clarke, who bought the paper.
Three weeks ago, Maryland’s current governor and First Lady rolled in with their daughter and her family to have breakfast on a Saturday morning to kick off a day of campaigning. Jaymi Sterling worked the crowd while her dad did the same, going table to table and checking to see if coffees needed to be refiled.
Linda attended the fundraiser for Jaymi in her bid to become St. Mary’s County States Attorney by defeating Richard Fritz, a fellow classmate of Linda’s alma mater at Great Mills High School. At the reception, Governor Hogan said he was shocked to hear that Linda’s would soon be out of a home in order for Royal Farms to be selling chicken and gas. “The Governor told me he was going to have someone look into it,” Linda said in an interview for this article. When Rachelle Millison learned of the plight of Linda, she said she thought there might be a location she owned that would interest her for a possible relocation.
The full video of the public hearing is included in this article. In the hearing video, one can see a former Planning Commission Chairman Frank Taylor, a customer of Linda’s for 34 years, giving his comments and recommending against the approval of the plan that will result in the ejection of Linda’s restaurant from the site.
Dozens of the customers, friends, employees, and the public gave intense and well-spoken presentations. “I had a petition with over a thousand names,” said Linda.
Chris Longmore, the lawyer, hired by Royal Farms to make a case for their new Lexington Park facility, was competent and only slightly arrogant when he requested before anyone gave him cause, to not have anyone be disrespectful to him as he gave his pitch. Maybe someone jeered him outside before the hearing began.
The Planning Commission voted on a 4-3 margin to approve the concept plan.
The panel had to follow the law and not the hearts of the lovers of Linda’s Café. Ironically, the attorney for Royal Farms is the son-in-law of former St. Mary’s Commissioner Dan Raley, who represented Linda’s and Lexington Park for three terms – twelve years. Raley, a Democrat, was followed by Republican Todd Morgan in the last year of his third term. Neither politician was present, and both were small business owners.
Linda Palchinsky was asked if either of them ever worked to find a plan, a program, an alternative, another way to save the row of shops and a church from being taken over by an out-of-town chain store, and she said no, she never heard from them.
Ironically, the Community Development folks asked Linda to their office for a meeting on April 28, and she said in an interview for this article that Todd Morgan was there and didn’t speak to her. Hence, she went over and gave him a hello. At least Morgan is consistently benign. But he is one of the Board of Commissioners that failed to have any public input or hearing before the Pot Factory was allowed to be built in the Critical Area in Abell, Md.
The Community development folks can point to the success of painting a mural on the back of the old Bank Square Building wall that Gabe Gabrelcik gave them before he died. The mural faces the rear service bays of Mr. Tire, which is the location of the old Cato’s Texaco on Great Mills Road.
The group created this mural of Lexington Park and made themselves famous in an alley which could be useful to warn crackheads not to smoke crack.
The second Lexington Park mural could have included Rose Tippett, Vince Curtis, Jack Daugherty, Gabe, Jack Rue, Kay Daugherty, Millie, Linda, Bill Raley, Jean and Alan Brylawski, Hiram Millison, Betty and Larry Millison, Rev. Chuck Daugherty, Virginia and Ted Newkirk, Great Mills graduate and famous basketball coach Tubby Smith, and many more – but the artists seem to be self-indulgent. Maybe it would help if one of them severed an ear.
THE AICUZ ZONE
The crux of the problem is the AICUZ ZONE, the protective layer of zoning that has been developed, stretched, massaged, and curated for the last four decades to prevent activity outside the air station from causing the Navy to curtail its operations. Therefore, intensive activities with a crowd are allowed to remain in place, but new ones cannot be established where such a church, restaurant, or other activity wasn’t already functioning.
When Commissioner Dan Raley and his fellow Democrats were calling the shots between 1998 and 2002, they set up a new honcho in Economic Development, and she decided that erecting Christmas decorations along Great Mills Road would be just the ticket to make Sin City more festive.
The County got a grant through Steny Hoyer to build a median strip on the road, plant trees, and create a barrier for the hookers to get to customers when soliciting when traffic came to a halt. Soon a community planning group was formed, and the benevolence of Gabrelcik provided the group with his office building, which gave them a revenue stream. The most impressive function of the group was to give the director a salary of over a hundred thousand annually.
Since that time, the number of car dealers on Great Mills Road has shrunk from what used to be a Toyota, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge, Lincoln, Mercury, and Ford to nothing. Not even a used car lot. Zip. Louie Aldridge’s Hillbilly Hill is no more.
The low-income housing complexes provide paths of violence and murder as Lexington Park slides more and more into a desolate town devolving into crime and decline that God has forgotten instead of the front doorstep of the U. S. Navy’s premier test and evaluation center.
The St. Mary’s Commissioners granted Sheriff Tim Cameron six million bucks to build a sheriff’s station on Great Mills Road, where the old rescue squad was located next to the Church of Ascension. The Sheriff had free space in St. Mary’s Square shopping center, but every longtime lingering bureaucrat likes to have buildings that can be named for him and call it his legacy.
As the various boards of commissioners, particularly Commissioners Raley and Morgan, correctly catered to the needs of the Navy by protecting the mission of the base from any further encroachment in fear of a DoD BRAC decision to close the base, they never did a thing to find ways to move the small businesses to a place they could afford and prosper. Instead, it has been a war of attrition, a combination of increasing crime and benign neglect by Sheriff Cameron since 2006 – and Morgan representing the interest of defense contractors and failing to do anything about the town of Lexington Park. Now, Todd Morgan wants to get a job as a Delegate from St. Mary’s when he can do less at a greater distance.
The current delegate from the Lexington Park area is Brian Crosby.
Crosby recently introduced a bond bill to provide $100,000 to the owners of the St. James Deli as a boondoggle paid for by the taxpayers. Crosby’s bond bill stated that the money for the owners was to pay them for having restrooms in their store, which has always had toilets in the past, and since they have some inside counter seating at present, they are required to have toilets. Crosby falsely stated in the bond bill that there is a dearth of places to relieve oneself south of Lexington Park.
Crosby’s other major piece of legislation was to change daylight savings time to fight crime in Lexington Park, which within weeks of his sponsoring his cuckoo bill, was marked by a murder taking place before four o’clock in the afternoon at the intersection of Westbury Blvd and Pegg Road (The Ghetto Bypass) in Lexington Park. Scumbags were shooting at each other from cars when the murder took place.
Delegate Crosby appeared at the Planning Commission meeting and read a heartfelt statement that must have been written by Mary Bohanan as Crosby only moved to Lexington Park eight years ago and was the revenge candidate against Deb Rey put up by Mary to spite the voters for dumping her husband former Delegate John Bohanan out of office in 2014 as Democrats, including her brother Senator Roy Dyson, were booted out of office.
Republican Deb Rey is no charmer either. Her four years in office as a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly showed her to be a one-trick pony interested only in constitutional issues such as the second amendment, of which she could do nothing but jawbone.
The crowd of Linda’s Café supporters at the meeting appreciated Crosby appearing and reading a prepared statement – something that only the Democrat candidates did.
The truly heartfelt supporters of Linda’s didn’t need anyone to write a speech for them. They have lived at Linda’s, raised their families with regular visits to Linda’s, picked up their stuffed ham for holidays, and gone there for a bowl of soup and comfort food after attending funeral services, celebrated birthdays, and found friends. It was just as well that Dan Raley and Todd Morgan didn’t bother to participate in the hearing, as Linda’s supporters would only have recognized them from seeing the photos on the county website or a campaign ad.
The St. Mary’s County Government Land Use and Growth Management Office is currently in the crosshairs as they are the agency where approval has been given for an industrial Pot Factory in Abell. They are also the agency responsible for enforcing the building and housing code. The intersection of Great Mills Road and Chancellors Run Road is a perfect example of the benign neglect of large companies and the St. Mary’s County politicians.
The late Tommy Waring owned the Indian Bridge Apartments and the Lord Calvert trailer park at that intersection. Waring’s company, Cherry Cove, maintained its properties and invested in a new medical center. The corner owned by Besche Oil Company with a convenience store shuttered for twenty years was allowed to stand, barely, with blight, decay, and decline. Only when Verdad Inc. recently purchased the property, a Texas developer erecting a new Great Mills Road 7-Eleven did the blight evaporate.
On the opposite side of the intersection is the blighted property that once was another convenience store operated by Dash In. Its owners abandoned it due to the failure of the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Department to control crime.
One of the former Sheriff’s said that the convenience stores shouldn’t be so convenient and should close when the crowds leaving the black bars go on their weekly rampages. The Dash In leased the property and sold it in 1998 to Great Mills Inc, who sold it in 2004 to the present owner, LandDevCo, a corporation with an address at a small building at 9860 Southern Maryland Blvd. (Rt. 4) in Dunkirk, Md.
The crime, robberies, and shootings at the Wawa on Great Mills Road, just about five hundred feet from the same intersection, caused the company to close its store and sell out to Besche, who found an operator who leased it for ten years. That operator got out at the end of his lease and cited the crime and shootings as the reason. The 7-Eleven on Great Mills Road that existed until the late 1990s closed down after crowds from the black bars ran wild, stormed inside, and grabbed merchandise. The Savon gas station clerk, Thomas Tippett, was working the night shift to pay for college when two Lexington Park heathens murdered him. One of them is now dead, and the other is in prison, where some nutcase liberals will try to spring him from incarceration.
Tippetts’s grief-stricken parents established the St. Mary’s Youth Memorial on Rt. 5 in Great Mills.
Motorists can view the Youth Memorial when stuck on Rt. 5 each day in the Great Mills Road Gridlock. The Gridlock is another gem in the legacy of the inaction of the Lexington Park politicians, sleepy John Lancaster, Francy Eagan, Dan Raley, Roy Dyson, John Bohanan, Todd Morgan, Deb Rey, and the silly Cuckoo Brian Crosby.
Senator Jack Bailey deserves to be held accountable for failing in his first term to be effective at anything to do with crime in Lexington Park, the Gridlock at Great Mills, or the Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge besides stuffing developers’ money in his campaign bank account.
Steny Hoyer’s days as a hunter-gatherer for Pax River are in his past, and despite his geezer ways and forty years in Congress, the Democrat will win once more at the age of eighty-three.
The operators of the convenience stores along Great Mills Road found the actions of Sheriff Voorhaar to be worthless and hired off-duty cops to be their doorkeepers. Soon there was a small squad of such security in Lexington Park, one in the old Millison Plaza, one in St. Mary’s Square, and another at the now-closed down IHOP. The IHOP was overrun by the weekend crowd of criminals leaving the black nightclubs who brought their guns and knives to devour pancakes with such regularity that the place shut down.
BURGER KING BLIGHT
Let’s count the politicians that have failed to rail against the blight, but before doing that, take a look at this photo taken two days after the Planning Commission hearing where Delegate Crosby read his heartfelt statement about why Linda’s Café should remain. Dozens of people said Royal Farms should be told that the town has enough gas stations and chicken joints.
The people supporting Linda’s Café that gave that advice might be the only accurate advice being given to Royal Farms as they sure wouldn’t hear the truth from their attorney Longmore.
You can bet your bottom dollar that Dan Raley’s son-in-law didn’t tell his client about the long list of convenience stores that have had armed robberies, murders, wildings of blacks and drug dealers that arrived after functions at Monks Inn, the Happyland Club, Callaway Club, Butlers, Brass Rail and proceeded to rip, tear, shoot and kill.
The Sheriffs of St. Mary’s County have been a clown show on wheels for decades, and Sheriff Cameron’s designated survivor, Steve Hall, will continue the nightmare.
Linda Palchinsky doesn’t know where she will go. Cheap rent kept her from moving on before now. The planning commission followed the law as two-beady-eyed county attorneys in the front row of the audience kept them in line with how the law must be followed and not their hearts.
The two St. Mary’s county attorneys, John Houser and Deputy County Attorney Neil Murphy knew that Royal Farms would simply take their case to court if the Planning Commission didn’t follow the law.
Four commission members did their jobs, and three did not.
The public, the customers, and the supporters of Linda’s all won’t know or understand the complexities of the AICUZ protection area around the base.
The issue is government by a sect of “stakeholders” who have conferences, panels, meetings, and other places where wheelers and dealers meet on the base or the Walled City of Leonardtown to discuss such things and come up with the deals that let Lexington Park banker and developer Tom Watts take over the final days of the Flat Tops to wring out a profit left on the table by the AICUZ decisions of the county and federal government.
The public now is thrilled to have a “passive park” in the area which once was the home to thousands of folks who came to Pax River and established the base, contributed to the vital work of the testing center, and helped advance Pax River to be far from the days when it might close up if another patrol squadron were moved to another base.
Brian Crosby will move on with his feckless career, comfortable in the likelihood that he is only marginally less silly than Deb Rey and confidant that his opponent in the Democratic Primary won’t get any significant number of votes.
Todd Morgan will become a Delegate as who remembers the last time voters in St. Mary’s County elected a lead-bottom Navy Captain or a General to public office. The next ten weeks will determine which Republican vying to be the commissioner from the Lexington Park area is the best. At the same time, the Democrat in the race will explore his feelings about current issues at any available public hearing, such as he did at the Pot Factory Farm on April 12.
The criminals will do their best to continue the need for emergency services to respond to shootings such as the one on April 27, 2022, in the Southampton neighborhood where Sheriff Cameron recently abandoned his Sheriff’s station in the old Carver Elementary School.
When will the local heathens and hooligans strike the new Great Mills Road 7-Eleven? Will there be an advance security detail to erect metal detectors for the heathens to pass through to detect guns and knives?
The Royal Farms folks can see how it goes, and they can back out of the Main Gate location, and then Linda’s Café can stay put. Longmore will still get his attorney’s fees, and everyone will be happy.