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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Down Memory Lane: The Baltimore Times and Rambling Rose’s Journey for 34 years

Hello everyone, this is a special column taking a trip down memory lane with one of the best things that happened to me in my life, thanks to Joy Bramble and her husband Father Peter Bramble, the publishers and owners of the wonderful community newspaper— The Baltimore Times, which prints positive stories about positive people and all the positive things that are happening in our community. This story should make you laugh until you cry. Okay, where should I start? How about the beginning?

One evening sitting in the Sphinx Club on Pennsylvania Avenue in the summer of 1989, minding my own business, having my favorite cocktail at the time— 151 proof rum with ginger ale— waiting for my band at the time: Sir Thomas Hurley on organ; Andy Ennis on sax; Bobby Ward on drums; and my vocalist, was Nikki Cooper, to come back on stage after a break. Suddenly, I heard someone calling my name over the recorded music and when I looked up I saw a friend of mine, Dr. Louise Johnson. As she walked towards to me she said excitedly, “I have been looking for you!” 

She told me that a lady she knows who just started a community newspaper in Baltimore wanted to get in touch with me. She explained that it was a monthly newspaper called The Baltimore Times, which had only been out for about six or seven months and she wanted to start an entertainment section and wants to talk to me. The next day, I met Dr. Johnson, who by the way is the widow of Rick Johnson, a drummer I have worked with many times. We got to Mrs. Bramble’s home, a beautiful form stone building in West Baltimore and rang the doorbell. When she opened the door, Dr. Johnson introduced us and we were invited into her home. 

Still not understanding what this woman wanted with me but she was very excited to meet me so, I thought maybe she wants some information on the night clubs, bars and the musicians so she can add to her newspaper. Well HONEY CHILD! How wrong was I. As Mrs. Bramble spoke to me as we walked through her living room, dining room and kitchen, there were folding tables dining room tables and chalk boards full of layers of newspapers and notes laid out all over the place, but in order. Mrs. Bramble explained to me this was where she started her newspaper and was looking forward to working with me. To make a long story short, she told me that she wanted me to write a entertainment column for her paper. I knew then that someone gave her the wrong information because I don’t write— I promote. 

I explained, “I can’t write! I have terrible English, awful grammar and there was no way I could do that.” Well after an hour or more of trying to convince me, she told me she was a retired English teacher and all I have to do is to take notes about who, what, when and where in the entertainment scene and they would take care of the rest. She said she was excited to have me and be a part of her family newspaper. 

Now get ready for this, in my exploration of why she wanted me in her heavy Caribbean accent, I found out she and her husband were as from a little island in the Eastern Caribbean called Montserrat, they had two small, Father Bramble was the pastor of Saint Katherine of Alexandria Episcopal Church who also was a gifted writer, and they both wanted me to write a monthly column about entertainment life in Baltimore, including the night clubs and the bars scene, barmaids, the musicians, the club owners, etc. I thought they were out of their minds that this had to be a joke, because I had no formal training as a journalist for this type of writing. I only knew how to write out contracts and proposals for my band gigs, I had no idea how to write a column. 

Mrs. Bramble said to me, “Rosa you have 21 days before my deadline to get this back to me,” and she had confidence in me. Well, girlfriend, I am good at following directions and I always love a challenge. So, I left her home very excited with a positive attitude, I started taking a pad and pen with me everywhere and took notes on everything that was going on in the night clubs. I wrote down everything in detail including what the barmaid was wearing behind the bar and how the customer treated everyone to a drink; all about the shows and events with live entertainment that I was a part of. I hooked up with my dear friend, Walter Carr the owner and publisher of “Nightlifer Magazine,” and we started hanging out more and more. He was a great help to me.

Close to my deadline, I took my note pad to Mrs. Bramble’s house to present her with my masterpiece, so I thought. I handed her about a twenty-one legal pages of writing and as she began to read it, she started laughing. She loved it, except they would have to reduce 21 legal pages of words into a half a tabloid page for her newspaper. That began my foray into the world journalism— the birth of the “Rambling Rose” column for The Baltimore Times.

Within one year, Mrs. Bramble taught me how to layout a newspaper from the beginning to the end. When she went to publishing weekly, Thursday was our deadline to get the paper to the press. I stayed with her until we drove the paper (the printed pages) to the printer in Washington, D.C. Many times, it was daylight when we returned. Then, when the thousands of newspapers were dropped off to us on pallets, we distributed them. Joy had a halfway decent van and I had an old Oldsmobile, don’t remember the year except that it was older than me. I named her my “Rosemobile.” 

So there we were, Joy and I loading up my trunk, my back seat to the celling and the passenger side of my car to deliver the bundles of newspapers hot off the press to all my clients who advertised with me which was just about every bar, night club, restaurant in Baltimore. Because my “Rosemobile” broke down often, I became an amateur mechanic, meaning when the “Rosemobile” was full of papers and it broke down, I found a way to fix it and keep moving. Joy delivered papers to most of the local churches and the senior citizens home and businesses that advertised with her including all the local hospitals and to boxes on downtown street corners. a

Then, my column and my name became popular all over. I know this because in 1997, I received call from Bridgetown on the Caribbean island of Barbados asking me to come to the island to cover the Barbados World Gospel Event. Then every year after there were more requests to cover gospel festivals, music festivals and their jazz festivals— all expenses paid for a week each time. 

Great Balls of Kitty-Kat! This was going to be another problem, I had never flown before— I had never been on an airplane— terrible situation! Well ladies and gentlemen, I took my first plane trip heading to Barbados, I thought it was going to be the last. This is what happened… When I arrived at BWI Airport taken there by Joy and Peter Bramble who for the two weeks prior tried to convince me that flying was wonderful and I would never know I was in the air. I said to them, “are you kidding, what fool wants to know that they are up in the sky, no longer on the flat ground.” 

I was scared from the entrance of the airport until I tried to get on the plane. “OH gosh! Oh my goodness! Oh Hell No! “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Our Father, who art in heaven.” “Take my Hand Precious Lord, lead me on, let me stand on the ground and get to Barbados”! Honey Child! I prayed, I moaned, I hummed and prayed some more as I wanted to scream and kick as the flight attendant helped me walk on that plane but I thought that would only get me a straightjacket. Through the whole flight, I screamed out loud for every bump I felt, kept my head down in my lap with my eyes closed until the flight attendant came over and tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that we were in Barbados. I was afraid to move, I had no idea how I was going to be able to walk off that plane. The stewardess was very attentive and kept checking on me throughout the flight. I have no idea what happened to the woman or man who were sitting beside me. I could not move when we landed, they had to bring a wheelchair on to the plane for me. They helped me into the chair and rolled my ass off. 

After going through the same trauma each time I had to travel to or from the islands, I tried taking medication to put me to sleep or drinking a fifth of alcohol, but neither helped; after having to be taken in a wheelchair from the car to check-in to my seat on the plane and I still screamed and yelled for the whole flight, I realized it was time for me to stop flying on an airplane and find other means of transportation to get to the islands. So up to now many years later, I still don’t fly, but I am able to get around by driving and traveling in luxury on a cruise ship.

So my dear friends and fans the rest is history, I have covered many of your events, some have passed away and I gave them their flowers while they still could an smell them. I will continue to do that with you for you as long as I can. Thanks to you, my readers and fans, I have been proud to serve you by writing about you in the entertainment world for the past 34 years.  

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