For lack of players, the Galesville Athletic Association couldn't field a girl's softball team this summer. The Hot Sox baseball team, long the pride of the black community, is a shadow of its former self.
And the Woodfield Fish & Oyster Co., which once owned a fleet of oyster boats, survives largely by selling ice to marinas up and down the Western Shore. These days, sailboats far outnumber work boats in this old bayside town.
But it is the closing of the 24-year-old Carrie Weedon Elementary School more than anything that symbolizes the changes that have come to this Anne Arundel County community 35 miles from Washington.
Galesville has had at least one public school for its children every year since 1836, and Carrie Weedon had replaced two much older buildings. But in recent years it was the smallest school in the county, and had it opened this week, it would have enrolled only 19 students.
The school was a source of pride, especially to many oldtimers. But others felt the schooling was inferior, because the building lacked a gym and cafeteria and because there were only two teachers for six grades.
Thus the school closing divided this community of 700 as almost nothing else in recent years. In the aftermath, the town's children attend elementary schools in Deale and Lothian, a few miles away.
"It just seems we're not having enough baby boomers here to keep this place rolling," said parent Linda Archambo. "There just aren't enough children."
What exists here is a mix of professionals and blue-collar workers, few with school-age children and many of them commuters to the Washington area. Residents describe the population as largely middle-aged and older. Houses are rarely put up for sale, and there is no construction under way on this peninsula on Tenthouse and Lerch creeks and the West River. At land's end, nearly 1,000 sailboats are moored or docked at three marinas and a sailing club, and four restaurants serve seafood to sailors and others who drive here from the city. This, too, is Galesville, but sailboats don't support a school.
Archambo, whose husband coached the girls' softball team to a championship last year, lives in Galesville Estates, a decade-old subdivision of 15 houses behind the school she had hoped her children would attend. But as school population declined, she transferred her children to Lothian and joined with others in supporting the Weedon closing.
The legacy of the closing, according to Archambo and others, is that some who were formerly friendly no longer speak. The school issue had been simmering for a few years, since the county Board of Education first considered closure and allowed transfer of students to other schools. Since then, 15 children had gone to other schools, helping seal Weedon's fate.
Jim Clark, 48, with a flowing white beard and long hair tied in a pony tail, and his wife, Cecilia, were Weedon School supporters. Their 7-year-old son, Johnny, was whittling a stick last week and lamenting the closing.
"It wasn't all that big," the youngster observed. "It was awfully quiet sometimes. It had a good playground. . . .Nobody knew what was going to happen, and then they finally closed it down one day."
Carrie Weedon stood for another kind of change in Galesville. Built in 1961, it was the first school to be integrated in the rural south county. Like most Maryland towns, Galesville had been tightly segregated: Its black school was on West Benning Road, on the black side of town. There were, and are, a black church and a white church. There were separate baseball teams; they sometimes practiced together but never played each other.
The white team, which sent Sewell Dixon to the Orioles in the 1920s, disbanded in the 1960s. The Hot Sox, formed as the Galesville Tigers in 1920, sent several players to professional black teams before integration. It survives, but with only three or four of its 25 players from the town.
The Hot Sox play ball 16 Sundays a season. Their home field, with rickety wooden stands behind home plate, is next to a cemetery. James Proctor, who drives an ice truck for Woodfield, is gatekeeper, collecting the $2 for admission.
This summer, the team was in seventh place in the nine-team Chesapeake Independent League. But eight years ago, Proctor said, the Hot Sox were the champs.
Howard Leslie Makell, 77, hearkens back to the glory days of the team. Retired from the U.S. Naval Academy, where he worked as a laborer, he batted .332 in 1,687 at bats from 1924 to 1949. He had the best team batting average for six of those years. His brother Joseph Lee played from 1924 to 1940. Brother John Makell Sr. played from 1926 to 1957. Brother Frank, a truck driver for Woodfield who briefly played for the Baltimore Elite Giants, batted .330 in his years with the Galesville team, 1931 to 1955.
Howard Makell, who keeps the old records, recalled the time in 1946 when the Hot Sox twice played the Baltimore Elites of the old Negro League and won one out of two. The Hot Sox lost, however, to another pro team, the Home State Greys, 5-2. "Those men were so big, they looked like oxen," he said.
Makell lives on West Benning Road with his nephew, Russell Jones, 44, who has worked at Woodfield for 23 years. Years ago, he was among a large contingent of oyster shuckers there. Now he delivers ice to marinas from Annapolis south to Solomon's Island.
Woodfield once had 125 shuckers and its own fleet of a dozen oyster boats, said Billy Woodfield Jr., 39, whose father and grandfather operated the business before him. The company now has one work boat to harvest oysters on nearby bay bottom it leases from the state and only a dozen or so shuckers.
A few of the shuckers live on West Benning Road in cinderblock houses the Woodfield company built in 1961, to replace frame and tarpaper shacks. The cinderblock units, and their outhouses, have been a sensitive subject with the Woodfields. But the town's ability to treat its own sewage is limited by the high water table and lack of a central system.
A sewerage system, however, could lead to development and growth many residents say they don't want. The county master plan calls for a $650 million sewage connector pipe to be built under the West River to serve the community, but county planner Shep Tullier said the proposal may run afoul of environmentalist concerns.
And even if sewer lines are laid, he said, "It's a small area with not a lot of growth potential." That suits the folks here just fine.
"This town is halfway between the Peaceable Kingdom and Peyton Place," mused Clark, a writer and poet who owns a used-book shop in Annapolis, where he grew up. "Annapolis is sort of a carnival now. Here, it's very quiet."
School or no school, Cecelia Clark said, "I can walk around here on a Sunday morning and think, 'My God, it's paradise.' "