by Lonnie Dawkins
Today many head home to Waldorf, MD and beyond on US 301 and have no idea of the history that they are driving past everyday. It was only this week while researching for a project for a client that I learned about this lively side of Waldorf and Southern Maryland's history. This post is not about the pros or cons of gambling. Instead it is an attempt to point out some of the relics of a time gone by that can still be seen.
US 301 from Waldorf to the Potomac River Bridge was known as "Little Vegas" or "Slot Machine Alley" during the 1950s. Las Vegas had nothing on Southern Maryland as far as the number of slot machines and the revenue from gambling at that time. US 301 was known as Sin Strip -- bright lights, lots of celebrities like Guy Lombardo, Paul Newman, Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton. They all performed on the Strip according to an article in the Baltimore City Paper. Waldorf was the Mecca of this Strip and was described in an article as a tiny little truck stop town along a major shipping route that hosted slot machines in every building and restroom along route 301. Casinos were legal in Charles County for about 20 years ending in 1968.
There are two icons that can still be seen today and though many of us pass them few have any idea what they are. One is the sign for Wall's Bakery with the Tepee on top and the other is the Waldorf Motel which is shown in the video above and one of the pictures below. Both are on the right side as you enter Waldorf from the north. Neither will probably be there much longer.