Editor’s Note: The Winchester Hotel recently reopened as Jacob Marley’s. See our blog posts on the new establishment in Port Deposit by clicking here.
On the evening of June 30, 1976, a gloomy group of regulars gathered at the Winchester Hotel in Port Deposit to say goodbye to Chief Petty Officer Stephen Kowalski, the last staff member assigned to the Bainbridge Naval Training Center. “Chief Ski” had come to the base in January 1974 to serve as a first lieutenant in charge of maintenance. As such, he was the last member of the closure force to check out when the base was disestablished June 30. After seeing all his Navy friends off to bases in Orlando and New Orleans Kowlaski said he finished closing the base and headed for the bar at the Winchester Hotel. “I had to have a Bloody Mary. I couldn’t stand the pain,” he told the Cecil Whig.
As a 17-year-old from Schenectady, NY, the Navy officer had started his basic training in the winter of 1954 at Bainbridge and here he was 22 years later closing it down. Joking with the customers he knew so well, he said: It’s the softest duty I’ve ever had – two and half years of putting up with farmers,” he joked with the customers at the bar. Kowalski was not the only one who was going to miss the base. John Malloy, the owner of the Winchester, said losing the base has really knocked down the business.
Reflecting on the matter, Kowlaski noted that “being the only official naval personnel in the area presents problems for a man used to living on bases and ships. I feel like I’m lost. I’ve really got no place to go.