More than a quarter of a million people come to Ocean City in the summertime and thousands of them walk the 27 blocks of the Boardwalk each day. In “What Are You Doing Here?” we stop a few of them and find out what brought them to our corner of the Eastern Shore.
Mary O. walked slowly down the boards, walker in hand, before sitting gingerly down on a bench in front of the clacking Zipper in Trimper’s. She’s hard to miss, wearing a neon yellow “TRUMP ‘16” shirt and a red “Make America Great Again” trucker hat on her head, despite the hot, August day.
“I don’t want to get hit crossing the street,” Mary said seriously. “I got eight variations of this shirt. I’m a independent and vote with my conscious. I’m not afraid of nothing and nobody.”
She seems to own up to that promise, considering she’s letting a total stranger shove a microphone in her face while wearing clothing that is blinding and takes a clear political stance. Mary is confident and not afraid to speak her own mind or blaze her own path, as she decided to come to Ocean City 59 years ago in the spirit of adventure. The Boardwalk is a long walk from her hometown Louisville, Kentucky.
“When I was 15, a lady sat next to me on a airplane and said, ‘If you ever get to Maryland, make sure you go to Ocean City.’ So when I was 16, I got together with a few of my friends, got on a bus and ended up here,” Mary said.
That was the beginning of a long, steady love of Ocean City.
“I hope I get to heaven. But if I don’t, I’ll know I spent many a day here, which is as close as it can get,” she said. “It’s close to nature, it’s safe, and it’s a place you can feel good about.”
Mary taught school in Hartford County for 20 years, specializing in biology, health and physical education, settled down and raised three boys. But every year, she’d make a trip back to good ‘ol Ocean City, eventually becoming a property owner herself.
“We’d come down so they’d continue with their summer jobs. Matter of fact, they ran these rides back when Mr. Trimper was alive,” she said, pointing to the yard of amusement rides. “They’d make up the little ditties and songs. There’s a lot of hardworking kids that come here from all other countries and work to put themselves through college.”
Now at 75, Mary said in her years watching sunsets over the water and thousands of people walk past on the Boardwalk, Ocean City has stayed the same. It’s the culture that’s changing, buying into high-brow intellectuals telling them they know all the answers.
Mary grew up with President Harry Truman, who she names as a down-to-earth model president that America needs to get back to. She sees a lot of parallels with Truman and her man Trump.
“The new generation’s getting a little confused. Look at Truman – that was a man who wasn’t intellectual or hollywood. He was the son of a man who owned a hardware store. When Roosevelt died and he became president, no one there had respect for him,” she said. “They had their nose in the air and jealous he was in the position they wish they had. We had the doctor from Kentucky [Senator Rand Paul] and Texas [Ted Cruz]… and look at the Congress and Senate. They don’t want him to succeed. It’s a darn shame.”
“I love the fact they’re trying so hard, but they’re jealous. I watch the TV and think they should be ashamed. I can’t believe they’re not giving a voted republican or human being a chance. What’s he got on his agenda will help us, taxes, new jobs, roads… Trump’s trying to make things sensible again.”
Mary’s in good company in Ocean City, as liberals/Democrats are outnumbered in red county. But as with a beach town that draws thousands of people a day, there’s always someone that she’s not going to get along with.
“I had a lady come to me the other day and put a finger in my face and said ‘don’t you start!’ I looked at her and I thought, ‘oh, hold back, lady,’ Mary said. “I don’t want to talk about religion, sex or politics.”
Despite the culture clash from our divided country, Mary seems to like her view of the world on a bench in a place a little closer to heaven,
“What’s wonderful about this place, is I can sit on a bench like this one and talk with people all over the world. . We consider our tourists so much, spend whatever money they spend here back on them. That’s Ocean City.”