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How a legend was created

Though now in her 90s, Vera Freeman still drops by the establishment she turned into a local icon.

The improbable saga of Vera Williams began in Wyola, Mont., where her mother was an innkeeper and her father a railroad telegraph man. She went to college in Salt Lake City, Utah, and decided to seek stardom in Hollywood.

Read the other story in this package: Cruisers’ watering hole gets 2nd chance

A beautiful brunette who soon turned blonde, she got a job as a telephone operator and, on a blind date, met Effrus “Doc” Freeman, a Hollywood optometrist and successful real estate investor.

They married, cruised about in their 58-foot Hatteras motoryacht (The White Sands) with a captain and crew. They also traveled the world on cruise ships and began collecting exotica in faraway ports of call. This started “The Freeman Collection” that went on permanent display under the White Sands’ thatched roof with a bamboo-and-reed ceiling, banana trees and strolling peacocks in full plumage.

Developing thousands of acres in Virginia brought them east. Looking for other investment property, they came across the late Louis Goldstein, who later became the popular state comptroller and sold them 800 acres of wilderness that dead-ended on St. Leonard Creek.

That dirt road became White Sands Drive off Route 4, marked by a larger-than-life billboard cutout of a white-haired Vera holding a martini glass and pointing the way to “The Legendary Vera’s White Sands” (and) “romantic waterfront dinning (sic).” The garish sign has since been replaced by a more subtle one at the highway intersection.

Both sides of the little, winding road to nowhere were eventually sold off in small lots and are packed tight for several miles with working-class families.

It was here, in Calvert County, that Vera’s dream of becoming a celebrity living in a fairytale “castle” blossomed. The restaurant resembled a movie set where she presided every evening in Indian saris and long gowns, looking seductive on a faux leopard-skin barstool near her piano player.

Vera still lives next door in “Vera’s Villa,” a domed, white Moroccan-style fantasy filled with antiques and a swimming pool that dominates a large, marble-floored living room.

She makes occasional appearances at the restaurant, usually in the early evening. Stanley keeps a table reserved for Vera and her “manager and chauffeur,” Selvin Kumar, a native of South India who looks after her needs.