Saturday, December 04, 2010

What Have You Been Up To For The Past 33 Years, Eh?

In 1977, after graduating from college in Towson, I stayed on in the Baltimore area to take a job teaching photography at Garrison Forest School near Owings Mills.  Since it was strictly a part-time gig, I found a waitress job to supplement my income - I had worked each summer since high school at various Kent County restaurants, so it was a natural fit.  I landed a spot at the Valley Inn, in Brooklandville.  The Valley Inn was then, and remains today, a restaurant deeply entrenched in the past, and the regulars wouldn't have it any other way.  The owner, Bud Hatfield, seemed old to me then - he was probably in his late fifties - and he is still running it today.

One of my co-workers at my new job was another recent college graduate who was from the nearby Ruxton area of Baltimore County.  Seeing as most of the other servers seemed old enough to be our mothers, we began to hang out together.  Mary Kate Ratcliffe, as she was known then, took me under her wing and introduced me to the local Baltimore prep school society, of which she was a popular member.  She drew me into their circle, took me to bars and parties populated by the graduates of Calvert Hall and St. Paul's, Maryvale and Oldfields. Since I was teaching at Garrison, the crowd cautiously welcomed me, but Mary Kate was the only one I ever really was friends with.  I took off the summer of 1978, and upon my return, Mr. Hatfield would not re-hire me.  I went up the road to the Country Fare Inn and the rest is history - that is where I met Kevin.  Mary Kate and I continued our friendship for a while longer, but eventually I became more and more a part of the CFI restaurant life, and we drifted apart.

Until yesterday:
A three top walked in for lunch.  I took one look at this woman and said "Mary Kate?"  The person I had known 33 years ago had not changed a stitch.  After maybe one beat she recognized me, and we were both instantly taken back to our former lives at the Valley Inn.  Kate Ratcliffe Hoch is now the Director of Development at Gilman, one of those aforementioned prep-schools, located on Roland Avenue in Baltimore, and was in town visiting with a retired Gilman teacher who resides at Heron Point.  We spent the next several minutes - totally ignoring her guests, I'm afraid - reminiscing about those youthful times we had spent together for a few years in the long ago seventies. 

What a hoot!!

Post script:
The Valley Inn is rumored to be soon taken over by the people who own the Oregon Grille.  If true, it could mean another rising from the ashes for one of Baltimore's classic dining houses, many of which never got such an opportunity.  But that is someone else's story.


  1. This from Dining@Large yesterday (two different postings by readers):

    "suburb update: heard on the radio this morning that the Valley Inn has been sold and is closing soon. Another near centenarian Baltimore restaurant bites the dust."

    "Good news about the closing of the Valley Inn (the place died a while ago). Great building in a fine location with appaling canned food and somnolent service."

  2. I can't believe it's been 33 years!