Last week on September 11, the Fell’s Point community gave its annual 9-11 Selfless Community Service Award to Laura and Tony Norris, who started Bertha’s, a Broadway landmark, in 1972.
The brief ceremony served as both an appreciation of the Norrises and a remembrance of the events and tragedy of September 11, 2001.
“There is little doubt that there are those times and events that become so etched in our minds, so significant, that they will always be in our minds,” said Towne Crier Jack Trautwine, who hosted the Broadway Square event with Michael Lisicky, assistant towne crier.
“We can see the plane pierce the Twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. We can see, one by one, the towers collapsing, and with the collapse the horror of not knowing how may people would be buried under all that rubble.”
Then he spoke about the first responders entering the buildings.
“The most enduring lesson of that day,” Trautwine said, “is that we as a people value life, and will give of ourselves to save the lives of others.”
Lisicky presented the award to Laura and Tony Norris, who “have given this community its most famous eatery and most accessible meeting venue—Bertha’s.”
Lisicky noted their support during the 1970s “road fight” in which the citizenry foiled an attempt to turn Fell’s Point into a highway. Their purchase of the bar and restaurant was in fact partially made possible by the fact that the planned superhighway would have run up against the establishment—resulting in a lower price—according to a history on Bertha’s website, berthas.com.
Soon after purchasing the restaurant, the Norrises bought one of 97 homes and other structures that had been condemned to make way for the road, and they still live in the historic Thomas Landon house on Ann St.
They have also been known for their “quietly assisting individuals in need with help and kindness.” They supported the installation of the Thames Street Park, now frequented by children, parents and nannies.
Both are accomplished musicians; Tony plays guitar and Lynn plays the mandolin, sometimes for the patrons of Bertha’s.
“With Tony’s steamed-up slogan, ‘Eat Bertha’s Mussels,’ they drew the world to Broadway,” added Lisicky.
The slogan can be seen on bumper stickers across Baltimore and beyond.
Anyone in the Fell’s Point community may visit the Preservation Society, 1724 Thames St., to nominate someone for the 9-11 Selfless Community Service Award. Past winners choose the winner from the pool of nominees; winners are posted on a plaque at the Visitors Center and Preservation Society.
Lisicky said that when we sent out an email blast for the ceremony that noted the Norrises were the winners, several residents replied thinking that they had already won in the past.
“They hadn’t won,” Lisicky explained, “but their acknowledgment was long overdue.”
What is a Towne Crier?
In the old days, such a person would stand in the town square and shout, or cry, the news of the day. Trautwine became Fell’s Point’s Towne Crier 25 years ago.
Everyday from Aug. 17 through Sept. 18, at about 2 p.m. in Broadway Square, Trautwine cries news from 1814, the peak of the War of 1812 as far as Baltimore is concerned. He gets the news from the periodicals of the day, which he says are surprisingly accurate, if opinionated.
“Some of the stuff that was written—it would be considered treasonous today,” he said.
by Erik Zygmont