In the middle of all the suburban sprawl of Silver Spring, at 15721 New Hampshir Ave., is a small roadside sign that says HONEY, $1 UP. It marks the entrance to Bauer Beehives, on the eight-acre estate of Charles J. Bauer. Drive up the driveway and you drive over a metal rod set in the drift that somehow or other makes a big old fashioned farm bell ring. That brings Mr. Bauer out of his kitchen, and he will usher you back in again, to show you the small shelf where he keeps honey for sale. I got a 2 1/2-pound jar of dark honey with its comb, taken from the hives under the fruit trees out back, for $3.50 - a lot less than it would cost in a supermarket, even if a supermarket had stuff like this. I also got a small jar (10 ounces) of what Mr. Bauer calls cappings - "Before I take his honey from the comb," he instructs, "take the electric knife and cut off the cap that the bees close the cell with. It's rich in pollen, so you shouldn't each it if you are troubled with allergies - but it's very good for you." It's also delicious, like the big jar of comb honey, and buying it gives you a chance to talk to Mr. Bauer, who has had a long life (he is 72, though he looks a trim 55) and what seems to have been a very happy one. He is a poet who is eager to recite his own poetry - and did for my fondest friend and me. When I mentioned that I work for a newspaper, he said he had also worked for papers in Dayton, Ohio.
"I had a membership card in the Newspaper Guild signed by Heywood Broun - had a card, I should say. I keep it still, upstairs. In fact I was a sort of organizer for the Guild myself, and I was on the committee that negotiated the first union contract on the Dayton Journal-Herald, and," he says with a laugh, "got fired six weeks later. I imagine newspapers have changed a bit since then. But I didn't go back. I went and was a business agent.
"Now I have to tell you a little story about that since you seem to be strong for unions yourself. You probably know that one of the problems unions have is supporting themselves and one way to do it is have a dues checkoff. Which the employers hate to agree to. It legitimizes you, you see. Well, 1941 was when we went in to negotiate a dues checkoff. At that time the city didn't pay employes only twice a month - once on the first and once on the 15th. And then it was only $20 a week. But we went in to the board, and I said, 'Gentlemen, the city workers are all patriotic, we are so patriotic that what we would like to have you do, pursuant to the agreement of the workers, is take a dollar out of salaries the first of every month to buy bonds, and another dollar on the 15th to pay our union dues. Well, before anybody else could speak up, the Mayor, who was sitting there with the board though not on it, said, 'Why, I think that's wonderful!' And we got the checkoff just like that. Now I kept on working with unions till 1945, and we fought a lot of flights, and won some really important ones. But that one - maybe you remember the little ones - that's the kind of victory you probably remember on your deathbed."
People who like good natural honey, unions, rhymed poetry, Abraham Lincoln, cars and bright talk will get their money's worth from Mr. Bauer.