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Cozy honors area's history

Megan Kuhns

(5/20) People gathered around, anxiously awaiting the much-talked about stunt. A man was going to jump from an airplane.

They saw the airplane, they saw him fall out of the plane, and they saw him bounce back up from the ground. Then they realized it was no Superman -- it was just a dummy and another way that Cozy Restaurant managers tried to attract new customers.

Old newspaper articles, advertisements and photographs of this 1940's stunt and other similar ones now line the wall of The Cozy Restaurant to tie in with The Cozy's new goal: to display community history for the public to enjoy.

As part of this effort, the restaurant opened a Camp David Museum Sunday to commemorate the history of the nearby presidential retreat at Catoctin Mountain Park.

The restaurant's history started in 1929, when Wilbur "Willy" Freeze opened Camp Cozy, a tourist camp including three cottages, a small building with showers, restrooms and a gas station. After he married Mary Gehr in 1934, they renamed it Camp Cozy Club.

Their son and current owner, Jerry Freeze, said that he grew up working at the luncheon counter, so it was only natural that he would eventually become the owner years after his father died in 1961. Freeze said that they named a room in the restaurant "Willy's," after his father. Freeze recalls many of the wild stunts that his father and the staff would pull to attract more customers. They had an alligator pen in the 1930s, and they even advertised to give away a free cuckoo clock to any customer who bought 100 gallons of gas. In the 1940s, which the restaurant labeled as the "Boom Boom Days," a band would play five nights a week. The restaurant also sponsored a ping-pong contest.

According to a newspaper article hanging on the wall, in 1937, a person was momentarily buried alive for two days to attract new customers.

"They did all kinds of crazy things just to attract people," Freeze said.

According to a press release, The Cozy is the oldest restaurant in Maryland owned and operated by the founding family. In 2000, it was inducted into the Maryland Restaurant Association Hall of Fame as well as the National Restaurant Association. It can hold 750 people, has a 21-room Country Inn, and includes on-premise banquet space and off-premise catering. The restaurant had small display windows full of community history, but Freeze came up with the idea to expand these historical displays into a museum.

The Camp David Museum has walls displaying memorabilia starting with President Hoover's period in office.

Freeze said his father knew Hoover's secretary, during a period that marked the first time The Cozy had been associated with The White House. The presidential retreat opened as Shangri-La and was later renamed Camp David. Many presidents and their family and friends stopped at The Cozy while retreating at Camp David, including Winston Churchill, who played the Jukebox at Cozy; Maureen Reagan, who was interviewed there; and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who dined there.

The museum displays memorabilia from various visits by politicians, athletes and actors, including a Christmas card from the Clinton family and an autographed Ronald Reagan photograph. A counter displays smaller items such as political buttons, commemorative wine bottles and White House press passes.

Freeze wanted to be sure he was giving back to the community, so he also displayed on bulletin boards historical information about Thurmont and Gettysburg. Freeze said that most of the museum's displays were objects given to The Cozy from the community over time.

Banquet coordinator Carole Davis said Freeze created the museum to serve the public.

"He wanted to give back to the community that gave The Cozy so much and display its history," she said.

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