The Obligatory Willie Don Memory Post

Well here we are folks, the day has finally arrived in which we say farewell to Baltimore’s Weirdest Mayor, William Donald Schaefer. And since there’s nothing more to be said that wasn’t already put together months ago by the local media with their finger on the PUBLISH button, I’ll relay this little story of the two times I met Willie Don in person. 

The first time I met the man, I was a tiny child accompanying my parents for a Sunday meal at Connolly’s Seafood, a storied fish-and-crab shack that sat on the end of Pier 5 in the Inner Harbor. The Harbor was a vastly different place at that time; The National Aquarium (another Willie Don legacy) and Harborplace were barely minted, while McCormick Spice Co. was still operating its factory in the heart of Downtown and the whole area would reek of spice and molasses, courtesy of Domino Sugar. In essence it was still a very industrial place, and Connolly’s fit the gritty environment just fine.

Then Mayor Schaefer would dine at Connolly’s on a regular basis with his mother, and it was one such Sundee late afternoon that I was staring at the large, cranky parrot the ownership kept behind a thick plate glass window when my father turned me around and said “Hey Evvy, you wanna meet the mayor?”

And there he was, big giant bald forehead and all, he shook my teeny hand and said “Well hello der lil’ boi.” I didn’t even know what a mayor was at the time, but everyone at the joint was being really nice to him so I figured he was someone important.

Twenty three-or-four years later, after Schaefer had failed to get reelected as state comptroller (after having been the Mayor of Baltimore for a gajillion more years and the Governor of the state, for the love), I found myself very randomly out in Canton, where he had retired. I didn’t even know Private Citizen Schaefer still lived in the city, but he loved him some Baltimore City like no other, and stuck with it until he was literally extracted from his home kicking and screaming and sent to the Charlestown Retirement Community. At any rate there I was in Canton, when I spotted the man teetering along in his little hat, my jaw dropped a bit and I continued standing there, waiting for the light to change so I could cross the street.

Willie Don wound up doing the same thing (not so much with the jaw dropping but the waiting for the light to change), so there we were standing on a corner in Canton when he said to me “Nice day out,” to which I replied “Yup, uh, …, I miss Connolly’s.”

He laughed a little.

(photos of Willie Don at Connolly’s c/o Baltimore Sun)

5 thoughts on “The Obligatory Willie Don Memory Post

  1. The Parrot’s name was Polly and we kept him behind glass because, had he been human, he’d have been Jack the Ripper, but without the finesse.

      1. Thank you! I assure you it is 1000% accurate. He was like a psycho feathered pirhanna. He sat with my Grandad, Sterling Connolly, at the counter in the restaurant in the days when the public and the health dept weren’t so up tight. The parrot drank coffee out of my Grandad’s cup, ate spagetti, mac-n-cheese, and I guess as a true test of his character, chicken…. The parrot said “Hello” and yelled “Help!”. After we moved him into a side room, one day 2 police officers we knew jumped into the harbor, convinced someone was drowning. Turned out, they could hear that bird through the corrugated metal, yelling “Help!” at the top of it’s lungs. I think Dad fed them for free for about a decade.

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