"I Love This
chapter of David Colburn's
life ended in 1987 it didn't take long for restlessness to overtake
"I think back then I remodeled everything in the house. I might
have taken the kitchen walls down to the two-by-fours. I re-tiled
the bathroom." He was not going to retire willingly. "Retirement
was driving me nuts."
He soon got guidance from someone he met in another chapter-the
late judge Warren Duckett, who suggested Colburn contact Gilbert
Painter, the Circuit Court's chief bailiff. He did, got a job
and has served there for 16 years, becoming chief bailiff five
Colburn, 79, comes from a generation that has a sense of service.
He is a fourth-generation Annapolitan, grandson and great grandson
of railroad engineers. His great-grandfather was killed in a train
wreck that took place in the run from Odenton to Annapolis. Colburn's
father took a decidedly different tack. As a youth he painted
horses on the carousel at Bay Ridge and hauled water at the Naval
Academy during construction of Bancroft Hall. He continued to
paint at the Academy, doing the gold-leaf work on the signs there.
"Signs at the Academy were a lot better looking back then than
they are now," says the son with pride.
Colburn says he inherited a little bit of his dad's painting genes
and likes to draw with pencils and hard crayons. "I do a lot of
drawing, wildlife scenes and cartoons. I enjoy doing it."
The family-he was seventh of eight children-lived at two addresses
on West Street, back in a time when Annapolis was a lot different
than it is today. At 227 he remembers living adjacent to "Brownie's
Garage, Mr. Sullivan's tombstone place, Mr. Alms Eliot's store.
He sold live chickens there." The family moved to Charles Street
and then King George Street across from No. 2 Gate at the Naval
went to St. Mary's where he was an altar boy. He was rushing there
early one morning when he was stopped by a police officer. "Colburn,
where are you going this time of night?"
"That's how small Annapolis was back then," he says.
He remembers taking the WB&A electric train to Baltimore. "We
used to call it the Wobble, Bump and Amble," he says. "It used
to sway this way and that." One boarded it at Bladen Street, and
it wobbled, bumped and ambled to West Annapolis, Wardour, Manresa,
Glen Burnie and ultimately Camden Yards in Baltimore. "Back then,
a lot of us used to take that train up to Baltimore to do our
He went to St. Mary's and Annapolis High School. He joined the
Navy early in the course of World War II but was eventually discharged
due to a pierced eardrum.
He was an usher at the age of 15 at the old Republic Theater on
Main Street. Cowboy movies were the specialty of the house back
in those days-Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Tom Mix. "We used
to say the manager had saddle sores and hoof-and-mouth disease,"
In fact, he worked for a succession of theaters most of his professional
life, all of them gone-the Circle on State Circle, the Capital
on West Street, the Colonial Drive-In in Parole (where the Outback
is). There was a fourth movie house downtown back in those days,
the Star on Calvert Street, which was for black people. Those
were days of segregation.
Colburn worked his way from the bottom up for F.H. Durkee Enterprises
of Baltimore-usher, projectionist, and into management. Single-screen
movie theaters, however, were doomed. Television, a moribund Main
Street in the 1960s, constantly rising film rentals, the demand
for multi-house cinemas and their many choices of movies, automation-all
combined to shutter downtown theaters. Their closure came slowly,
steadily. The Circle was the last, in 1987.
Through this period, Colburn had a parallel life in politics.
He served on the Anne Arundel State Democratic Central Committee
in the 1960s and was alderman from Ward 7 from 1973 to 1981. He
ran for mayor in '81, losing to John Astle in the Democratic primary.
"We became the best of friends after that," says Colburn of Astle,
who lost to Richard Hillman in the general election. Astle is
now a State Senator.
This political side of his life rescued him from his unwanted
retirement when Judge Duckett suggested he make inquiries at the
The bailiff's office is one of several that dovetail with others
to make the courthouse run. The juror's office is responsible
for supplying jurors. The role of the bailiff is to chaperone
jurors, making sure they show up on time, to maintain security
during deliberations and otherwise to serve the wishes of judges.
Sheriffs are responsible for security in the courtroom.
Colburn is accountable for 13 bailiffs, all of whom are part-time.
Most have prior experience in police, military or security work.
"They're all retired, here because they like what they do," says
Bailiffs have to be ready to aid the hearing- impaired, take on
an emergency (fire, bomb threat, medical problems), assist visiting
judges, oversee judges' mail-all the while being as unobtrusive
as possible. They have to learn that judges have their own way
of doing things and that they, bailiffs, have to make the necessary
Making adjustments seems to come easy to Colburn, a good-hearted,
unflappable sort (although he bangs his desk when talking about
things that are not quite right in his neighborhood, something
apparently left over from his political days). His concern is
simply based: "I love my town."
Colburn is almost 80. He and wife Margaret celebrated their 60th
wedding anniversary this past summer. Even son David Junior is
a retired paramedic with the city. Why not retirement for Senior?
"I can't stand not doing something," Colburn says with some ferocity.
"I'd like to work as long as I am able. It keeps your brain alive."
Getting the Call To Jury Duty
You tell a friend that you have just received a summons to serve
as a juror. He says he can't remember the last time he was similarly
called. What's going on?
Lois Rowe, jury commissioner for the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel
County, says this is how it works:
. The names of all County residents, lifted from voters' registration
lists and the Motor Vehicle Administration's file of drivers'
licenses, are pooled on one master computer list. (Duplicated
names are singled out.)
. A judge of the court randomly draws a number by hand. Let's
say he draws No. 200. Every 200th name on that master list is
pulled and summoned. This year some 30,000 names were drawn, and
about 20,000 of them can be expected to be called to serve at
. Because jurors are supposed to be selected randomly, people
who ask to volunteer for jury duty-and apparently there's a stream
of them-have to be turned away.
. Jurors, petit and grand, get $15 a day for expenses. Some courthouse
folks would like to see that figure increased. When the cost of
a ham sandwich and glass of iced tea downtown exceeds that amount,
then maybe 20,000 persons would insist on it.