Frozen Freedom

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I hope my last post didn't make it sound like there's no room for liberty here in Baltimore. For a more benign side of the city, turn to The Sun's Steve Kiehl, who included this vignette in a charming article about a pair of rival snowball sellers:

Snowballs really took off in the 1930s, when an electric ice shaver was invented, greatly reducing the time it took to make the treats. Before long, there were a thousand or more snowball stands in the city, as men out of work in the Depression set up stands to make a few bucks.

The concoction was also popular in Philadelphia, but its spread was halted there in 1949, when the health department moved to arrest snowball vendors under a city law prohibiting the sidewalk sale of uncovered foods. Baltimore authorities were smart enough to take the opposite stance, declaring no health threat was posed by snowballs. They haven't changed their tune since.

"We have no intention of shutting down snowball stands," said Baltimore's current health commissioner, Dr. Peter Beilenson. "They're good things. I eat out of them."

To this day, many a Philadelphian has taken I-95—some call it "the freedom highway"—to the city two hours to the south, where the iron hand of the state has not yet denied its citizens the simple pleasure of an icy treat. Give us your tired, your hungry, your sweet-toothed masses yearning to eat free, the wretched refuse from your Philly streets. Send them, the dessertless tempest-tossed, to Baltimore. We lift our syrupy spheres beside the golden harbor.

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