Sis and I were born and raised in New York City. We lived in a Jewish-Italian section of the Bronx, my best friend lived across the hall, there was alot to do and learn every day, life was busy and growing up there was fun. Then one day Mom announced that Dad had been transferred at his job, and we'd be moving to Arlington VA. The move from the Bronx to VA was made in the late summer, 1954. I was 8 years old. Sis was 7. We stayed until 1958, when we moved back to the Bronx, only to return again to Virginia in 1961. Although I will always be a New Yorker (it's genetic!!), here I am, living in Arlington - it's NOT arduous duty - I'm having fun.
To reach Washington DC in 1954, we took the Pennsylvania Railroad train from New York City the trip took at least 5 hours. The train had small rectangular windows above the picture windows - these small windows opened (I think they were slide-open windows). I remember it as being very hot and dusty and slow. We struck up a conversation with an elderly lady, who at the time seemed quite ancient to me. I remember Mom telling her that this was like being on a "Cattle Train". The train made all stops on the way from NYCity to Wash DC, including tiny hamlets in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Our household goods had already been shipped and Dad was waiting for us when we arrived at the Oakland Apartments -- 3714 Columbia Pike (Apartment 3, I believe). Our garden apartment unit had just been built, and the entire complex was far from being completed. My first memory of that place, standing on the brown paper that had been laid on the parquet floors so as not to damage them, was of the smell of the new wood floors. Mom and Dad were very surprised that management was still allowing people to walk thru our apartment, and Mom showed them the door. Our neighbors next door were Armenian, and their daughter was our age. We had a great big lawn outside to play in, just like we had in the Bronx, so that made us kids a little less homesick. We enjoyed looking at the pretty fountain in the parking lot, whose waters were illuminated at night with changing colors.
My first night in Arlington I was unable to sleep -- it was SO QUIET (Remember, this is 1954)!! I was used to being lulled to sleep in the Bronx by the traffic from Boston Post Road (Route 1), White Plains Road and Pelham Parkway every night. When I did finally fall asleep that first night in Arlington, I would wake up again, hoping to hear a car drive past. A few nights later I heard something scratching on my windowpane. "Ma!.... MONSTERS!!" I yelled. Mom reassured me back to sleep, and in the morning I looked out the window to see newly planted holly bushes, which now, 50 years later, are still there and are quite huge. My bedroom window faced a lush old forest, and, with the exception of the Warren Clardy gingerbread house and a much smaller white private house not far from it on South Oakland Street and Columbia Pike, that part of Columbia Pike was heavily forested.
In the mornings I could hear a rooster crowing in the forest across from my bedroom window (that area is now the site of Westmont Garden Apts), and I'd watch the crows rise from the huge fir trees as they raucously greeted the day. In between these trees, sis and I could see the gabled roof of the "spooky" green old Victorian house that, to all of us kids, was the house "where the witch lived". Many evenings a gorgeous, colorful sunset would blaze behind the silhouette of those trees. If we got close enough, we could see the front door of this old green house, and one day we saw a very pleasant young lady step out. She lived there with her elderly mother. So there WERE no witches there after all! But kids can dream.
The very next day after our arrival, wasting no time, Mom, who missed New York City very much, nevertheless dressed us kids up in our finery and took us downtown on the AB&W bus. The only bus stop was in front of a light grey-colored wooden clapboard building with a screen door, on the corner of Monroe Street and Columbia Pike I think it was a country-store (for some unknown reason I never went in) but I also think the owners and their kids lived in the back, since I remember once seeing a skinny little girl about 6 years of age, peeking through the venetians. **** UPDATE-- I found out, from a kind lady on the bus in December 2004, that this WAS a house; the Clabber (sp?) family lived there -- they had 8 kids! NOW -- I remember somebody (Swaim White? ) waaay back then, telling me about a family with 8 kids living there -- so it all comes together now -- I hope the Clabber family members will kindly email me if they'd like to add more to this information***** There was no sidewalk at the bus stop - Mom was aghast at the thought of bus riders (including the commuters all dressed up for work) standing in the mud to wait for the bus, and so we stood in the driest area of the bus stop - the concrete steps of that grey clapboard building. (Eventually Mom circulated a petition throughout our complex, and gathered signatures which she sent off to AB&W management and voila!! - a brand new bus stop in front of the Oakland Apartments and a sidewalk in front of the grey clapboard building! And who took this petition from door to door? Eight year old me, and seven year old sis!).
The AB&W buses were red with white trim and a white roof. The driver shifted gears, and the rear doors opened when you stepped on one of the rear steps to get off. The kiddie fare was 10 cents. I think adults paid 20 cents to go downtown. The ride to Washington, especially thru the curves and dips leading to the Pentagon, was a roller-coaster ride; in and out, we swung around and around the maze of curves that led to the Pentagon. "Ma, I think I'm gonna be sick!" Ma wisely made sure the bus window could be opened. The Pentagon bus depot was INSIDE the basement of the Pentagon - long sidewalks divided by chest-high walls, marking off the bus stops for each different route it reeked of exhaust fumes, but you could get off the bus during the week and run up the stairs to the Pentagon Concourse and buy pastries at their wonderful bake shop there were no guard desks at that time. You could even shop at the Walgreen Drug Store there and eat in the Pentagon employee's cafeteria.
I survived the bus trip even though my insides were churning, and the bus dropped us off at the end-of-the-line terminal at 12th and Pennsylvania Ave, NW. There we were, standing in front of what is now the historical and lovely Old Post Office Pavilion and Tower (12th and Penn NW), but what was in 1954 an exceedingly dark, neglected and dingy-looking old building. Eight years old and very much a New Yorker, I looked around me at the stately white government buildings and said "Ma, are these mausoleums?" "No", said Mom "these are government buildings people work in them." Mom, Sis and I walked around DC, stopping at Reeve's for a bite to eat (in future days we would also enjoy going to the coffee-shop in the Mayflower Hotel, and the basement restaurant in Woodward and Lothrop). The old trolley cars clanging down Pennsylvania Avenue were fun to watch -- the honky tonk bars and dingy old shops in Civil War-era buildings on 8th street, the local denizens leaning out of boarding house windows or walking on the sidewalks, including one lanky fellow in jeans and cowboy hat walking up 12th to G street carrying a kitten peering over his shoulder -- surely held fascinating stories to tell this wide-eyed kid.
(In fact, I remember seeing, walking on the corner of 13th and Pennsylvania -- Marilyn Monroe and a man who was probably her agent -- in 1955. She was in DC to do some publicity, I believe - Mom Sis and I were so thrilled to have seen her!!! After we all got home and watched the local news that evening, there she was on the tube, in Washington DC . When we saw her on the street we just barely recognized her. Without her makeup she looked plain, but still very nice.)
On our way back home on the AB&W bus, after passing Rolfe Street (which is now the Penrose/Nauck area), I saw a white draft horse grazing on the lawn behind an off-white house with fake stone-work (the house, with fake stonework, and the lawn are still there today, 2004) on the corner of South Scott Street and Columbia Pike. Wow! We were really in "the country"!!! Several days later the whole family took a ride on the Trolley to Glen Echo Park. Palisades Park it wasn't, but the bumper cars, the colorful lights and music, and the dizzying action were a lot of fun.
A passel of run-down looking stores fronted Columbia Pike one block from Orme street and the Navy Annex. One shop in particular, Sam's Dry Cleaning, stood out by virtue of the sign at its front door -- a man with a smile on his face wearing suspenders, and a wooden barrel -- obviously he was happily awaiting his clothes which would be dry cleaned in no time. That sign stayed up well into the 70's. I have a photo of it somewhere, I think. All those buildings are still there, with diffrent names, different owners.
Across from the Post Office, and on the opposite corner of Columbia Pike and Monroe Street, walking west on Columbia Pike from the grey clapboard building, our new neighborhood had some Mom and Pop stores - there was a small grocery store (I think it was first called "Jackson's", then later, "Thompson's") located where the Laundromat and chicken restaurant are now they had wonderful penny candies and the greatest Strawberry Sherbet and Peach Melba ice creams! Sis and I would splurge on "Lik-m-Aid", those chewy wax bottles with sickly sweet syrup inside, jawbreakers, bubble gum and various other types of tummy-killers. It was a true mom-and-pop store, a very friendly place, and their son who helped out at the counter was about the same age as me. He loved motorcycles. Closest to the Oakland Garden Apartment was a gas station, which remained there until the 1990's when it became an auto detailing shop.
Once, on a hot sultry summer day (1957?), I took a walk past the grey clapboard building on Monroe Street, and a kid sitting on the steps intoned a few bars of a popular song at that time "Skinny Minnie She ain't skinny she's just tall, that's all", to which I replied with an un-musical "get lost", as I continued on my way. My favorite outfit was a pair of black pedal pusher pants, a black jacket that could be reversed to a white jacket with huge black polka dots on it, and a slouch hat. Many a summer I could be seen walking down Columbia Pike happily wearing that outfit, black jacket lapels happily flying open in the breeze, to reveal big black polka dots glaring out at the viewer.
Next to Thompson's was a wonderful bicycle store where the 7-11 now stands. It was friendly, dark, smelled of grease and filled with shiny beautiful bikes of all types. I loved passing by that bicycle store and my wishes were granted about a year later when Mom took us into that hallowed place and bought us a shiny red Rollfast bicycle which Sis and I festooned with a big headlight, an electric horn, blue and red lights in between the wheel spokes, and streamers cascading from the handlebars. Mom tried to ride it once (this was WAY before adults riding bicycles were recreationally acceptable), and her wobbly efforts brought forth a lot of grins from the neighbors, who thought it very odd to see an adult riding a bicycle but nowadays, things are quite different!! I still have a scar on my knee from a spill -- the bike was heavy and its metal fenders were unforgiving, but what fun it was to ride, especially at dusk when I could turn on all the lights!!!!
In that first Arlington summer of 1954, Mom enrolled me in the Children's Summer Reading Program at the Columbia Pike Branch of the County Library which, back then was a little tiny library situated in Westmont Plaza, located on Glebe Road, just yards from the street, in the side of what was then Carrier Drug Store (then Rite Aid, and now, in 2004, Hollywood Video). And once a week, I cheerily walked to the Arlington Library, opening the green screen door, and entering its cool quiet presence (back then you had to whisper in the Library - I wish that was still the rule today!). It was a fun, cozy place. I'd look through the stacks of books, greet the librarian and my new reading friends, and dive into the latest reading assignment. The next week, I would dutifully give my book report, as all of us kids, standing or sitting at the long table, gathered around the librarian. A postcard inviting me to an end-of-the-summer party at the library came to me at the end of summer, and I still have it (somewhere!), as well as the little green button that came with it as an award for all the books I had read.
As for Carrier Drug Stores, they carried a great line of hard-cover children's books. I remember, at age 8, a horse-lover from my earliest days, saving my pennies until I had 50 cents -- enough to buy a book that I had been looking at for weeks -- Walter Farley''s Black Stallion. I was so proud of that book, and on the flyleaf I wrote "I bought this with money I had saved". Several allowances later, I bought other books in that series, as well as Black Beauty. Sis and I spent many happy days at Carrier's soda fountain, twirling around on the stools, drinking Cherry, or Vanilla or Chocolate Cokes, and trading banter with the regulars who were occupying their customary stools - Gus, who left Carrier's some years later, to open Mom's Pizza, which is still in its original location), right around the corner from Carrier's, in the same shopping center and Mr. Coco, from Coco's Casa Mia Italian Restaurant.
Casa Mia was a sparkling white clapboard house (in the same location as it has always been, although now it is the site of another restaurant) surrounded by a white picket fence, with seckel pear trees shading the outdoor patrons, and a big hand-painted sign standing near the front entrance, of a happy rotund colorful Italian chef holding a big dish of painted steel spaghetti. That restaurant was a big hit with mom Sylvia who was a native Italian she was so happy that there was someone in Virginia, Mr. Coco, who was able to talk to her in Italian! I remember sitting in Coco's outdoor courtyard one sunny day in May, 1958, celebrating my birthday with Sis's (2 days apart) where one of the guests, my friend Patti Parish, a big smile on her face, a pointed hat on her head, was gleefully opening packets of sugar and pouring them through a hole in the fence. (There was nothing in our soda glasses but soda!).
There was an Old Dominion bank (where the Hair Cuttery now stands) a few doors down from Coco's, and every 2 weeks or so, Sis and I would proudly bring our passbooks and deposit our dimes and nickels into a Savings Accounts. The manager, a friendly tall man with light hair and glasses, would write the amounts in our passbooks and give them back to us with a smile. Our family dentist, Dr. Peyton Brady had an office right next to the bank -- he was kind and competent. He remained at that location until the 1970's or early 80's.
Our family doctor was Dr. Ambury, whose house and office were located across the street from the old Arlington Library in Westmont Plaza. I eventually went to high school with his daughter. Next to Dr Ambury's house/office, near Glebe Rd and Columbia Pike, was a used car dealership I remember one day walking by and finding a beautiful and rare Elva Courier convertible for sale in that used car lot -- years later I ended up buying one, at Major Motors, just outside of Clarendon (vroom!! Elvira was lots of fun! She unfortunately grabbed the attention of Arlington's finest too many times -- mea culpa, mea culpa).
Sis and I started school at "Peyton Randolph Elementary School" in the autumn of 1954. After being used to the raucous play and cement playgrounds of the Bronx Schools, this was a little country school to us. Once we "strangers' established ourselves in the pecking order, it turned out to be a friendly little school, with a grassy play area surrounded by forest, and a cheery collection of classrooms, with some of the neighborhood dogs occasionally coming in for a drink of "toilet water". My 3rd grade teacher was Nina Birch -- what a kind and gentle lady she was! She was a very kind and sweet elderly lady who took a special interest in her students, and I really enjoyed being under her care. I remember learning some Christmas Carols from her (the mysterious "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" and "What Child is This" being my favorites) as we all stood around the piano while she played these wonderful songs. I loved her Texas drawl and kind mannerly way with us children. Unfortunately she retired the next year and she and her husband moved to Austin Texas - I kept in touch with her for many years.
Those were slow and easy days at Peyton Randolph. Kids recited the pledge of Allegiance every day and prayed before meals ("G-d is great, G-d is good, and we thank Him for our food." I was a lunch monitor and at one point was elected class president, giving out demerits (I gave myself two.....I deserved them.) and making class reports.
My 4th grade teacher at Peyton Randolph, Rosalyn Levin, was from NY City, much to Mom's delight, and my 5th and 6th grade teacher was Mrs. McCormick, whose son, Zach, also went to Peyton Randolph. I remember my very first day in 5th grade -- Mrs. McCormick introduced herself to the class and then held up a nicely lacquered, painted sign that she kept on her desk -- on the sign were painted the words: "Even a fish would stay out of trouble if it kept its mouth shut!" . OK..... In those days, there was also corporal punishment and more than once I'd see someone get paddled. Not me. Not Sis. Mom would have stormed over to school and raised holy heck if that had ever happened to me or sis. After so many years, school days at Peyton Randolph came to a close and in May 1958, we had our 6th grade picnic, held at Doctor's Run, which has changed very little since 1958. It was a nice sunny day, kids were running all over the picnic area, eating hamburgers, hot dogs toasted marshmallows and cake. My zany friend Patti Parish (whose beaming freckled face reminds me now of the Peanuts' character Peppermint Patty), supplemented the usual picnic fare with wild strawberries which grew there plentifully. Some of my friends and classmates at Peyton Randolph were -- Diana Van Landingham, who lived in a nice house across the street from the school and had a cute cocker spaniel, Swaim White and her brothers and sisters who lived not far from me, in a big rambling private house on the South side of Monroe Street just beyond and across from the old Columbia Pike post office, Patti Parish, who lived in the Quebec Garden apartments and who I believe moved to New Orleans in 1958, Carolee Veach and her glamorous mom, who lived across from us in 3814, as well as our arch-enemy, Quentin, who finally stopped bullying us little kids when we knocked him off his bicycle and ran him off ("Did you see the shocked look on his face?" said Sis, smiling).
From 1954 to 1958, Sis and I walked to school every day, and in order to get there we could either cut behind the Oakland apartments and walk through a very small forest with a brook (I think the brook was in some way connected with plumbing runoff. sometimes water would come rushing through it for a brief spell.. I fell in it one day), or we would take a different route, walking west on the shoulder of Columbia Pike (the traffic on the Pike was very slow, even during the day), passing the whole length of a very large forest, turning left at the Quebec Apartments and walking up the long hill lined with sumac, rhododendron and wild blueberry bushes, that led to the school. We really enjoyed walking past the forest. The forest on Columbia Pike was dense and lovely to look at, with, in some areas, a deep drop to the forest floor from where we stood. It had a deeply cut creek, tall trees which heavily populated this serene area, and we loved passing by it in all the seasons. The air here was so clean and fresh!!! And how beautiful everything was (the whole neighborhood, including the forest) in the autumn, when the leaves turned a riot of color, and in winter when it snowed!!
On our walks past the forest, sis and I would scratch the clay soil (which was totally unlike the mica-studded loam we knew so well in the Bronx) with sticks, and marvel at the gold color underneath. "There's a Giant living in this forest who guards the gold!" Sis would tell me. "There's a Dragon who lives in this forest and who fights with the Giant!" I said. This went on for many months, until one day Sis turned to me and said "There really isn't a Dragon, is there?" "No.." I said, adding, "There really isn't a Giant, is there?" Sis reassured me there wasn't. One afternoon on our way home from school, we heard a car stop behind us, on the shoulder of Columbia Pike. Sis and I turned, and to this day I don't know what expressions we had on our little faces, but remember, we were kids from the Bronx who were used to fighting our way out of situations. Perhaps this was reflected on our faces. The man and the woman inside the car looked at us and then turned back onto Columbia Pike. We never saw them again.
Back to more pleasant memories Halloween was such a treat to us little kids, especially since we had a "real" haunted house in our neighborhood!! Sis and I would walk (with Dad or our friends) the whole length of the Oakland complex on Halloween night we would be wearing costumes made by Mom the seamstress one year I was a cat, then a skeleton, then a ghost. Sis was usually a witch. Mr. Thayer (the very pleasant manager of the Oakland Apartments) and his wife were always pleased to see all of us. One woman always answered her door in costume, gave us treats, and never spoke a word! Another woman would always open her door and say confidingly, "Oh no I can't give anything this year." We always wondered why she even bothered to open her door. Returning home exhilarated and happily exhausted with our bulging bags of treats, we'd wait until Mom inspected them, and then we'd chow down. In those days, there was (not yet, anyway) no problem with sugar overload. Now I'd be committing suicide if I ate that much in one sitting.
On Sunday afternoons, the family would take leisurely walks through the neighborhood I remember on our first walk, we found a snake under the 395 Glebe Road overpass. I thought it was cool. Mom's reaction was to say - "OK, let's go home now!". We'd also walk thru our adjacent neighborhood, which to this day has not changed much. In later years we would walk to Parkington (now Ballston), a wonderful partially enclosed area with the Hecht Company predominant, and also an arcade of wonderful little shops, including Hecht's Pet Store, the Arcadian Gardens with its wonderful greenhouse smell and exotic plants, McCrory's with its sensible prices, friendly salespeople and wonderful tchotchkies, the fabric store (Danneman's), Radio Shack, assorted little stores, and the Polish Bakery.
Ballston Commons as we know it now was not in existence at that time -- back then, there was nothing much at the present site of the Ballston Metro Station except for the church with the graves of the Ball family (for which Ballston was named), a long low industrial building, raggedy-looking vacant lots, a building or two here and there, one or two Mexican restaurants, and some clapboard houses.
All around Parkington were private houses on tree lined streets, with neighbors' dogs who would come out of their yards to greet you. There was an auto repair shop that did "Bear" alignments directly across from Hecht's on Glebe Road, with a Medical Supply store next door, and I believe I beauty parlor as well. Walking from Parkington to Clarendon, we'd pass Pollard Gardens, a garden apt complex on Clarendon Blvd, with Osage Orange trees whose huge green wrinkled fruits would litter the sidewalks and fill the air with their citrus scent. Before St Charles' Catholic Church, on Wilson Blvd, was a good-sized shopping center, with the Lamplighter Restaurant and its outdoor seating facing the sidewalk, a Woolworth's 5&10 further into the center, and across from the Woolworth's was a Kann's Dept Store with 2 or 3 floors. I remember going to a fashion show there in the summer of 1958 - there was a band with upbeat background music as the models pranced, dipped and twirled on the runway. The main library at Clarendon was much smaller than it is today, and had a very slooow dyspeptic elevator (with a sign posted inside of it that said something like "Yes you really ARE moving -- be patient -- this is a slow elevator") that went from floor to floor (2 floors). In that same area was the old Giant food store with its dark and not too friendly-looking parking lot. Clarendon itself was a sleepy little place as well, with mom and pop shops, lots of little alleyways, and a wonderful McCrory's on Wilson Blvd. Down further, Rosslyn was a small sleepy little town of pawnshops, until one day in the late 60's, hi-rises began to haphazardly rise up from the ground, towering over the used-car lots, little restaurants and pawn shops.
Every evening, and on lazy Sunday afternoons, we heard the beautiful blend of church bells ringing in our Columbia Pike/Arlington area, including those at the Arlington Presbyterian Church. One night in the early 70's, around 2 am, someone got into that church and rang those bells for a very long time, and for many years afterwards, those bells were silenced. We could also hear, every night, the sound of Taps playing at Arlington Hall and/or Fort Myer. On rainy or cloudy mornings, we could hear the roar of the propellers as the planes started up at National Airport.
Another enjoyable sound was the haunting, melodious refrain of the train whistle that I'd hear late at night (around 8 pm, sometimes 10 pm), and also during the day this was the train that up until the late 60's or early 70's regularly passed through Four Mile Run on the W&OD tracks, winding past what are now the community gardens on Four Mile Run, and stopping traffic on Columbia Pike, sometimes even during Rush Hour. I would lie in bed at night and hear that haunting whistle from far off, straining my ears to hear the whistle for as long as I could, as the train rushed into the night breezes, and "disappeared around the bend", my imagination traveling with it. I believed I could almost hear the clackety clack of the wheels, long after the train whistle was out of earshot. What a nice way to go to sleep! One night I jumped out of bed and scrawled a poem in honor of that wonderful train -- CLICK HERE to go to my poem, "Freight Train Lullaby" -- I hope you like it!
In the summertime, we kids and our neighborhood friends would periodically walk to Four Mile Run, past the blackberry brambles and the pretty rosebushes which still bloom alongside the old garden apartment units there, and we'd talk, joke and tease each other as we casually walked on the train tracks and trestles - if our parents only knew what we were doing, we would have been in big trouble!!! Now the trestle is gone and the train tracks are the site of the asphalt-covered W&OD biking/hiking/jogging path.
Directly across from the Oakland Apartments was the Warren Clardy House - a wonderful piece of architecture set deep inside the forest with its tall trees, facing south on Columbia Pike. This sedate tan and brown gingerbread house was just beautiful, and one day (I think it was 1970), many years after I moved to that area, I walked down the peaceful winding dirt driveway to that beautiful house, knocked on the door and presented the elderly lady with a pastel sketch that I had made of her house. "Oh, it looks just like it did when my husband had it built for me!" she said softly. In 1966 I had the good fortune to move into a 3rd floor apartment that opverlooked Columbia Pike AND the Clardy house - 3814 Columbia Pike at the Oakland Apartments. I wasted no time taking out my camera and taking pictures, since my 3rd floor bedroom window now faced and overlooked the forest and the Clardy House - what a great view! In the spring and summer, the foliage was so thick you could barely see the house. In the Autumn, the Clardy House was a jewel in the midst of all that blazing foliage. And even on the bleakest of Winter days, the Clardy house was just beautiful, set there among the dormant trees; and when it snowed it was absolutely gorgeous!
I took many photos of that big beautiful old Clardy house in all seasons, including winter when it was covered in snow. I loved that old house.
On the viewer's right side of the house was an attached garage - Mrs. Clardy' s garage held a big dark blue Packard - possibly a 1956 model -- that one could see through the garage door windows -- the dust that had settled on it showed it had not been used in ages, and the old-fashioned Kleenex box on the rear window ledge also dated back to the 1950's -- it had a picture of Little Lulu on it, waving to the viewer <:-). It appeared that the car had been parked there in the 50's and just left to sit there.
During the holidays, I would see a man holding his children by the hand, slowly walking down that winding dirt road, visiting the Clardy house - perhaps it was her son and her grandchildren. Although I left that area in 1972, I always came back to look at the Clardy House again and again. In the late 70's, it was boarded up. I walked down that quiet driveway to pay my respects to that beautiful house
one last time and as I stood in front of it, gazing upward at its still, majestic beauty, I could sense the emptiness, the stillness, the sadness of lost memories. Sad to say, some time around 1980, after I had moved out of Oakland, I went by that area on the #16 bus, looked into the forest to see the house once again, and saw it.... in pieces, on the floor of the forest. What a shock. Mrs. Clardy had died, and so had that beautiful old house. I was so, so sad. Shortly thereafter, the forest itself was no longer standing. The whole forest had been bulldozed, every single tree - townhouses were built on that spot -- many many townhouses - dozens of townhouses now fill that area with not so much as a plaque to commemorate what once was. <:-(
The manager of our complex at Oakland was a sweet elderly rotund person with an old-fashioned Southern Drawl - his name was Mr. Thayer. He and his equally pleasant wife lived on the premises. I was always a skinny kid, and when I'd stop by the office he would say "You're so skinny! What have you been eating? Frog hops? Mosquito eyebrows?" In his later years he suffered a great deal from diabetes, lost a leg to it, and died shortly afterwards. He kept his good spirits to the end - we knew he was suffering, but we rarely saw him complain.
Shortly after we moved to Arlington, another new building went up on the corner of Glebe Road and Columbia Pike - Rosenthal Chevrolet! I remember seeing my first Ford Thunderbird there, parked near the showroom, its porthole window shining in the sun, and also the first Corvette, parked saucily in the same general area. Every September, I couldn't wait to go by and see the new model Chevies -- I thought the 1955 model was really good-looking. Just up from Rosenthal, on Glebe Road and Columbia Pike, at Westmont Plaza, in addition to the Arlington Library and Carrier's drug store, was a pastry store. Nonot Brenner's, but Clement's Pastry (now located on G street in Washington DC). Clement's had wonderful pastries that reminded my "Schrafft's-deprived" Mom of the wonderful bakeries she left behind in the Bronx and Manhattan, and she visited Clement's as often as she could. Brenner's Bakery was also located nearby but I don't remember where -- I do know that in the late 50's or early 60's Brenner's moved to where the Rosenthal Car Service Area is now and then once Rosenthal's Service Center was built , Brenner's moved into the Westmont Plaza. Sadly Brenner's Bakery, with its wonderful cakes, wonderful smells, smiling clerks and general-store friendly atmosphere -- is now history. I bought a good supply of cake there on Brenner's last day, and savored the cake and the memories for many days afterwards.
The Ben Franklin 5&10 was the source of many a new notebook for school or an unusual toy or a cheerful tchotchkie. It was a well-lit cozy store in the Westmont Shopping Center. The ladies behind the counters were all cheerful as well. It was so much fun to go into that 5&10 and see all the new merchandise, (especially the [now] old-fashioned Halloween and Christmas merchandise!), and decide on what candy to buy, or just talk to one of the salesladies and admire the new merchandise. Ben Franklin is now gone too -- I believe there may have been another Ben Franklin out near Annadale but I think that became an arts and crafts store using the Ben Franklin name. How sad that these places that gave so many kids so much cheer and joy -- are gone, and that most people today grow up knowing an impersonal mall, and not the friendly well-stocked neighborhood stores with the cheerful clerks, many of whom lived in the same neighborhood as you, and who were so much a part of your growing up.
Where the Rosenthal Parts Department now stands, there was also once a small restaurant and the beauty parlor where Helen the beautician gave Sis and me our first "professional" permanents when we were 8 and 9 years old, in 1955 (they looked so much better than Mom Sylvia's "Tonette" home permanent disasters).
On Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike, in addition to Arlington Hardware, was a cute and quaint little book store known as "The Book Nook". I believe Mom said that the person who owned it was from New York. It was located near or partially on the rear parking lot of Arlington Hardware. Across from Arlington Hardware, there was an old A&P located where the McDonald's now stands, and the Arlington Theatre was there "forever" Sis and I would go to see Jerry Lewis movies and other fun stuff, and then stop at Carrier's for our exotic Coca Cola mixtures afterwards, on the way home. I think the Hot Shoppes was also in existence back then (where the Eckerd's now stands).
After I graduated from High School (DJ O'Connell) and started attending the Corcoran School of Art, I worked part-time in that Hot Shoppes; it was almost like the Howard Johnson's I used to frequent, in my old Bronx neighborhood. I loved Hot Shoppe's generous breakfasts, their lunches - Teen Twists, Mighty Mo's, Fresh Strawberry Pie to die for, Hot Fudge sundaes and cake sundaes - and for $1.50 extra, the servers could get a wonderful steak dinner. One of those servers was Attila, who now owns the many restaurants that bear his name (and serve his wonderful gyros!). His cousin, a sweet young lady named Nazla, also worked with us at that Hot Shoppes, and one day she found a kitten in the parking lot and smuggled it home in a shopping bag. I still remember sitting at the "break table" with some of my fellow workers, watching Nazla standing at the bus stop in front of the Hot Shoppes turning to look at us with a sly gleeful smile, before she boarded the bus with a little frowzy kitten poking its head out of the shopping bag she was carrying!!! (PS - Nazla's kitty made it home alright!). Cynthia was the main cook, and her daughter, Cynue (sp?) worked with her at the hot grill - many times she or Cynue were heard to ask "Please pass me a glass of water!". Lots of friendly banter and sometimes frantic talk passed over the counter from server to cook, all during the day. Our uniforms at that time were made of nylon, and in the summer when it got too hot we'd take turns standing in the walk-in freezer until we were sufficiently cool.
Another Hot Shoppes server was a landmark figure - a legend in her day and I believe even now - Wanda. With her beehive hairdo, black hair, no nonsense, efficient but friendly personality, she was a mother figure to me. Long after I stopped working at Hot Shoppes, Mom and I used to visit Wanda's "station" (usually the counter) whenever we ate at Hot Shoppes, and would make small talk with her. When Mom passed away, Wanda and I cried there at the front counter of Hot Shoppes. I think kindly of Wanda to this day and hope that she's doing well in her retirement years.
In 1955, whenever we took the bus to DC we could see construction progressing on what would soon become the 14th Street Bridge Marriott hotel. A big sprawling hotel shaped a little like the air traffic control tower at the old National Airport, it held conferences, guests, a big swimming pool, and a great Hot Shoppes restaurant in a friendly informal setting. There was an AB&W bus stop very close to this motel, and we ate at the restaurant many times. In later years I attended seminars there. It was completely torn down some time in the middle or late 80's, leaving nothing but the empty lot from whence it once sprang. At that same time period -- in the grassy area between the two 14th street bridges, and not far from the Marriott hoetl at all (within walking distance via a tunnel) -- was ANOTHER Hot Shoppes restaurant, a free-standing one, with ample parking, also situated very close to that AB&W bus stop -- it was a rest haven for the weary traveler or commuter. Both Hot Shoppes restaurants, the one in the hotel and the one near the 14th Street Bridges, were well-patronized. The free-standing Hot Shoppes restaurant was torn down just a few years before the Marriott hotel complex was torn down.
Hot Shoppes on Columbia Pike changed its name to Big Boy's, but the old regulars kept coming and the "regular" servers and cooks were still there. I was a great fan of Big Boy comics and Edna or Mrs. Schroeder (the Hostesses) would always let me know when a new issue was out, so I could take some home with me). Big Boy closed some time in the early 90's. That was the end of a legend. Eckerd's and the Sunday Farmer's Market are now in its place.
Near Arlington Hardware, on the site of what is now the Cherry Blossom Motel, there was a big old rambling beat-up clapboard house with skinny little kids playing in the dirt yard and a hound dog or two sleeping nearby. One summer evening in 1958, one of those hounds ran into Columbia Pike, got hit by car and just lay there in the street, still very much alive but scared and hurt, until a service station attendant, his arm in a sling, ran into the road and coaxed the dog out of the street. Mom and I were impressed that out of all the people who passed by, only one person, with a broken arm -- came to help that poor dog. That gas station is still there, even though it has changed hands many times. Next door to this gas station today is the Baskin Robbins/Dunkin' Donuts store.
In addition to the A&P near South Highland Street and the Arlington Theatre (now the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse), down the road about a mile and a half was a Grand Union in the shopping area at the corner of George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike, and later, diagonally across from the Arlington Animal Hospital on Columbia Pike a Giant Food store was located in what became the Arlington Printers and Stationary and what is now CVS (just down from the present Giant Food store at Adams Square!). The A&P eventually relocated to where the present Giant Food now stands, and a Stidham Tire store took the place of the old A&P near Highland Street until McDonald's (which is still there today) took up residence there some time in the mid '70's. Arlington Stationery moved to a shopping plaza near the intersection of Pershing Drive and Route 50, and then went out of business.
There was a "Norton's Café" where the Ski Chalet now stands. Being "Jackie Gleason Show" fans, we were attracted by the name of that café. One very snowy day in 1957, Mom and Sis decided to catch the bus to go downtown. There were 2 bus stops one, for the #16, was in front of Hot Shoppes the other, for a #5 bus, was on the corner of Edgewood Street and Columbia Pike, right next to Norton's. They walked quite a distance down Columbia Pike, and stopped at Norton's to get some Hot Chocolate to-go (you could eat and drink on the bus in those days!), when Sis suddenly yelled "There's the bus!!" Mom and Sis ran for the door, and Sis's hot chocolate collided with Norton's door, sending brown froth all over it "Don't worry about it, yelled Norton, "I'll clean it up! Go catch the bus!" He did, and they did!
Down from Norton's on Columbia Pike, near Arlington Animal Hospital and not far from where "Birds 'N Things" now stands, was a pet store. Inside it was dark and quiet almost as if the animals did not enjoy being there.. In late 1961 (or early 62), it burned down what a sad sight in the Washington Post to see the photos of the blackened cages and little dead rabbits! From what I heard, it appeared that someone who worked there was charged with arson.........
On a brighter note, across from Arlington Animal Hospital, where Cecilia's Restaurant and nightclub now stands, was, in addition to a record store, a Handee's 5&10 what a bright happy place that store was!! I used to buy my flower seeds there - I was partial (and still am) to Portulacas, with their cheery colors (especially their pink peppermint stripes!) and their "melt-on-your-fingers" colors. In 1958, Sis used to buy those evil smelling incense cones and burn them on our kitchen range - all the windows flew open when she did that - eventually Mom banned the incense cones from ever darkening our threshold again. When Handee's closed, a Laundromat took its place up until the mid-to late 70's. There was also a shoe store that sold cowboy boots for everyone, including children. Mom paid the very high price (back in 1955) of $7.00 each for a pair of ornate beautiful cowboy boots for me and Sis -- with the stipulation that we would wear them every day to get the most use out of them. This we GLEEFULLY did. So much so, that our teachers called up Mom to ask her why we were wearing cowboy boots to school every day.
The site where Brown's Pontiac is now, used to be the site of Bauserman's Dodge/Plymouth dealership - I was in the same class at Peyton Randolph as the owner's son, George. There was an empty field next to the Plymouth dealership that was used as a lover's lane, and the big Exxon that is now there (Glebe Road and Columbia Pike) was built in the 60's. Down from the car dealer was a dry cleaner's with a marquee in its driveway, which had a new witty saying on it every week. The owner, a kindly woman, had a great sense of humor and we loved to talk to her. It closed down sometime in the late 60's or early 70's.
A large field of Quonset huts stood in a vast empty field where the Dorchester Garden Apts and Dominion Arms now stand (Columbia Pike near South Courthouse Road. Down further, on Rolfe Street, stood a white clapboard old church - St. John's Baptist Church, which was remodeled and covered with stucco in the 1980's and enlarged as well. Now, in 2005, it has been totally razed and a new church is being constructed on that site.To the west of St Johns', there had been several residential houses in the area between Rolfe and Scott Street up until the late 70's, when they were all torn down. On evening in September 1977, someone barricaded himself in one of those houses and started taking potshots with a 22 rifle - the police surrounded the area, traffic was stopped on that part of Columbia Pike, and in the early hours of the next morning, the shooter surrendered (with no injury to anyone). The plot of land on which these houses once stood was part of an old farmstead whose house was still inhabited. I remember once seeing the lady of the house run outside in a big panic, followed by grinning family members coming out to calm her down - there was a mouse running loose in the house. This house was torn down in 1982, but the farmland remained until the late 80's. On this farmstead was a field, a small forest and three HUGE horse-chestnut trees -- in the winter, the sun would rise behind these trees showing spectacular red and purple sunrises, and in the summer the trees were filled with THOUSANDS of fireflies -- what a sight for all seasons!!! Thousands of birds would greet the day, especially in the spring and summer there were woodpeckers, hummingbirds, rufous-sided towhees, grey fox, groundhogs, raccoon and rabbits, trees that flowered in the springtime, and the air smelled so good after a summer shower!!! There was also a grove of apple trees on that field, which I picked with my friend and neighbor, Captain York - the next time we saw each other, we both spontaneously said "I got SO SICK from those apples!!" In the late 1980's, all the trees were (sadly!) bulldozed down, the neighborhood wept, and new townhouses were built. The neighborhood air quality went downhill after that.
We actually moved back to the Bronx in the summer of 1958. For three years I lived the live of a happy quintissential Bronxite kid (catching up with what I missed out on since 1954 <;-). Then in 1961 we moved back to Arlington, back to the Oakland Apartments -- this little Bronx kid was devastated and missed the Bronx very much. And...... after 11 years of public schools, both in the Bronx and Arlington, Mom enrolled me and Sis in a Catholic school, Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School. It took us more than a few months to adjust to everything. But now I'm a dedicated alumnus of DJ O'Connell and am grateful for that experience, for the discipline and the character-building, and for the life-long friends I have made there (I just celebrated my 40th HS Reunion there - and it was GREAT!! I'll make a web page about DJ O'Connell soon, too!). Anyway, when I attended O'Connell it was also the first time I ever had to ride a school bus. During the school year, from Monday thru Friday. Sis and I would wait for our Arnold-Line charter bus (a big square wheezing tan bus with a 4 speed floor shifter) in front of Carrier's, at the #10S bus stop. The bus would arrive almost punctually at 8:05 am. Sometimes if we got to the stop early, to keep from getting bored, I would run into Carrier's and buy my pick of a 75 cent Matchbox Toy, usually a race car - the constantly-changing Matchbox display was at the register, near the glass front doors, and several times if I took too long deciding which new toy I wanted, I had to buy my new toy and race out of the store - "Oh no! There's the bus!!". Hollywood Video is now where Carrier's (and Dart Drug and then Rite Aid) once stood -- the front doors were located in the middle of the store back then -- now they've been moved over to the very end of the building.
Our school bus would rumble and roar down the streets of Arlington, passing a beautiful house (it's still there) on Washington Boulevard, where, it was rumored, Audrey (Jane? ) Meadows lived. It had spacious lawns and a stable and paddock -- in that paddock was a beautiful red mare. Imagine our delight several days later when we saw her again in that paddock, with a beautiful little foal! A big "Awwww!" went up from inside our bus!
Also on Washington Boulevard, was a steep high hill. When we had a "regular" bus driver, he always knew what to do....<;-) If the bus driver was new, we kids would tell him "Hit the gas before you reach the top of that hill!" And he would hit the gas -- sometimes going 60 mph when he got to the top -- and when he crested the top of that hill ALL four wheels of the bus would leave the ground at once -- the bus would FLY over that hill--- so would our stomachs! Luckily we never hit anything, but there WERE some serious accidents there on the top of that hill, so a stop light was installed and I think the hill was also graded to make the crest less steep.
In the early 60's my family would walk from the Oakland Apartments to Bailey's Crossroads. We passed a lot of construction many of the high-rise apartment buildings on Columbia Pike were just being built. In front of one of those buildings, there is a stand of fir trees on Columbia Pike, (across from the Barcroft Apartments entrance) that were newly planted in 1962 - I remember walking past those newly-planted scrawny little trees, wondering if they would survive at all. They're all around 60 feet high now. Just beyond Four Mile Run, on the corner of Columbia Pike and Columbus Street, behind what is not the 7-11 (and before then, a gas station), was Watson's (Watkins'?) Garage. There was always one race car or unusual car parked facing Columbia Pike. Around 1962, there was an old 1930's Ford or Chrysler Sedan, black with running boards, with bullet holes in all the windows (a movie prop? The real thing?) That same year, there was a sleek gold race car shaped like (but it was not) a Jaguar D Sports racer, and then a few months later, there was an extremely rare race car a 1954 Kieft open-cockpit race car with roll bar. At other times, there were more "mundane" cars parked there mostly VW Beetles. The garage is still there (under a different name now -- I think it's Danny's) and I hear that every so often an exotic still graces the environs.
In that same area, on the Saturday before Memorial Day in 1989, a Metrobus broke down and stopped (emptying itself of all passengers) at the bus stop across from my beloved Bruce's 5&10, whose proprietor would proudly tell me "Look what we have! You can't get this anywhere else!! (I loved shopping there they even had kitchen decals when no one else did, and Mom loved their fabrics). Anyway, that bus lost its brakes and went backwards down Columbia Pike, taking out 2 cars in the process, mowing down a number of trees on the hill above Four Mile Run and finally ending its journey by perching over the Four Mile Run biking/jogging path near the base of that hill. I wonder how many joggers suddenly had their reverie rudely interrupted by the huge crunching noises of trees getting mowed down, and the sight of the rear end of a Metrobus getting closer and closer. Luckily the trees at the base of the hill prevented the bus from taking a backward dip in Four Mile Run. Everyone in the neighborhood turned out to watch 2 tow trucks try to pull it out of there, and the place had the festive air of a block party. There is now a row of little bushes neatly planted where the bus mowed down those trees.
While we are on the subject of vehicles, let me say a few more words about Arlington Cars of distinction:
Right at the end of South Courthouse Road, near Washington Boulevard and Fort Myer, is a cul-de-sac of sorts. Back in the 1960's and early 70's there was a tawdry shopping center -- it would have been tawdry even without the Adult Movie Theatre there. The ONLY thing that REALLY redeemed this shopping center was the auto shop there -- Anyone remember it? I think it was called Ace Garage. No matter -- the cars that graced its little parking lot were exotic cars like -- an AC Cobra (BEFORE Carrol Shelby's creation) an Abarth, assorted Austin Healeys ..... and the "sparrows" of the sportscar world -- assorted MG's,an occasional Triumph TR2.
THEN... I know I'm repeating myself here, but this memory is so exciting. Down the road at Col Pike and South Columbus Street was, and still is (under different ownership and name) -- Watkins' garage -- one day Mom rushed us all there to see a 1930's Chrysler sedan riddled with bullet holes. Another time there was a very rare and well-raced race-car-red Kieft sports car there -- and then an exotic (I never found out what it was even though I was the kid "expert" on race cars and exotics back then) gold swoopy little race car, parked there in its corner.
Several years later, at Major Motors in Clarendon, I fell in love with Elvira the 1960 Elva Courier convertible -- ah what a beast!!! Elvira and I raced and roared thru Arlington and down swoopy hairpin curves near old Telegraph Road -- what a blast - I hated to part with her a year later (ran out of money, had to pay for tuition). .
There was another used car lot in Rosslyn in the late 60's, before that area was built up with high-rise office buildings -- I remember seeing there once a VERY rare hardtop Morgan with exceedingly beautiful enclosed coachwork. It was a mellow pumpkin orange -- I will never forget that beautiful car.
The NTW place which is located down the street from Whole Foods in Clarendon -- used to be a car dealership that sold (among other cars) Morgans, in the 1960's.
Then.... remember when the Mercedes dealership (American Motors) near Parkington used to sell Ferraris? Once I came from working on my car -- I was "a bit" bedraggled -- but there was a free BRUNCH at American Motors -- so, surrounded by Ferraris. I straightened out my sartorial mis-splendor as best as I could and had a great breakfast and some nice chats with my fellow breakfast-goers there.
Across the street from American Motors was an S&S Car Wash -- in 1961 when we had just moved back there was a gorgeous 1917??? Chevy or Ford -- totally restored in red and yellow accents. Alas, it was not for sale-- how I would have loved to drive to school in that!!!!
And, one more reflection -- Just beyond Rte 50, on Fillmore Street, going in the direction of Clarendon, there was once a 1929/30 Model A sedan with a For Sale sign on it parked in front of a house -- the car was $3,000. I had the money at that time but did nothing -- what a missed opportunity!!!
Cycles, Incorporated sold motorcycles across the street from Hecht's Parkington. My sister once tried to buy a motorcycle (in the 1960's) and got turned down for credit. She was EXTREMELY ticked off.
Well... while we are on the subject of Bruce's 5&10 cent store, let me just say a few more words about that place too! This store, situated in the shopping center at the intersection of Columbia Pike and South Columbus Street in Arlington was a kids' dream. Ben Franklin it wasn't -- but it didn't need to be -- cuz it was a
world unto itself.
It was really a shopper's dream -- Mom loved the fabrics, the old fashioned kitchen decals, and the kitchenware that bordered on antique (as well as practical items too). Many times she would come home and excitedly say "You should go to Bruce's and see what they have this week!!!" I loved it for their toys, neatly arrayed in little segmented bins on long counters -- and for the wide aisles with old fashioned linoleum floors where you could sit on the floor and play with the spinning tops. The proprietor, who I think was from India, would sit behind his register near the front door and with a sweep of his hand in the direction of the store's interior,
would proudly say "Look at all this....Where can you find anything else like this?!"
Alas, Bruce's closed in (I believe) 1993. The neighborhoods loss was duly recorded in a full color photo wit article, on the front page of -- the Arlington Journal? One of the local papers, anyway. What a loss!!!! I still think of Bruce's fondly as I go by that area -- I think a Popeye's Chicken and some other small stores now occupy the area where Bruce's once was.
Just before Bailey's Crossroads were three mysterious stone houses with a windmill in front of them - Mom called them the Three Witches from Macbeth. They looked very sinister and mysterious. I went there one evening with camera and tripod and took some sinister photos of them -- well, maybe not sinister, but intriguing anyway - photos will be posted soon. Just beyond the Crossroads Shopping center was Gifford's Ice Cream (I know, we're in Falls Church now, but....) and every autumn I loved to go there for their Pumpkin Ice Cream. Baskin Robbins (a few stores down from Bruces -- a double treat in that shopping center!) also had Pumpkin Ice Cream... AND...grey colored Licorice Ice cream which was SO tasty! I used to go there and gross out the folks sitting in the traditional Baskin-Robbins school-desk chairs enjoying their ice cream - I would order a Pumpkin and Licorice Hot Fudge Sundae, and eat it right there. Don't laugh until you've tried it....
Someone owned horses near Doctor's Run (near Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive) and on a few of our walks, we'd see people riding these horses nearby. Sis and I were sometimes treated to a pony ride out at Bailey's Crossroads (the pony stand was near the Animal Hospital that is still there), and once Mom and Sis went to the old shopping center at Bailey's Crossroads, to see a cowboy who had ridden all the way to DC on the back of a bull. Down where the Skyline Plaza now stands was an airport for private planes. Across from it was the Drive-In. During a sudden downpour one summer, we all got drenched while trying to find a place to take shelter near the drive-in - alas, everything was vertical nothing horizontal to stand under. That area (Leesburg Pike), up until the mid 70's or later, was a no-bus-land. No Routes #25's, no 16W's, no #25 or #28 buses, no nothing. Being totally bus-dependent back then was not fun.
As for Old Town Alexandria, which I enjoy visiting today -- other than to go to the Penney's in Alexandria, we never really went there much, "back then"-- I do remember going to the All-night Howard Johnson's once at 3 am ( I had to fight the roaches to protect my breakfast!!!) -- but I never really got to see Old Towne before it became "trendy". I DO remember fondly that HUGE rail switching yard that paralleled Rte 1, just before Old Town -- what a beautiful sight, with tracks going forever, and the Washington Monument waay back in the background! I also remember "Dockside" -- with its 2 or 3 buildings right near the Alexandria (Potomac River) waterfront -- they'd get all kinds of unusual home-decorating stuff "off the ships" (probably more like "off the planes") when they docked/landed.
Pentagon City was built in the late 1980's -- up until then that area was warehouses, arid land, and a marker between the Pentagon and Crystal City. After Pentagon City was built there still remained a large plot of grass and shrubs that housed an old softball field and nests of wild rabbits. It was right across from the high rises near South Lynn and South Joyce Street, and was a pleasant way to walk to the Pentagon City Metro, especially on a spring morning, and on snowy days I would take my snowshoes and ski poles and march across the vast expanse of snow like a prospector setting out for the Arctic Circle. Every year in late summer, a traveling circus would pitch their tents, corral, tether and cage the animals outside, and perform in a large tent right behind Pentagon city. The last circus was in 1997. I watched them set it up until 2 in the morning, and then watched them take it down at 9 pm, after the last performance. Along with a gathering crowd of locals, an elderly local resident "Roy" and I watched the circus workers take down the tents - modified fork-lifts pulling up 4 foot long tent stakes. That bucolic area was bulldozed in 1998 to create Pentagon Row.
Luckily, Arlington County has groups of individuals who do their part to keep Arlington green, but many of those quiet forested areas I loved when I was growing up have vanished, to be replaced by townhouses, LOTS of traffic, and....pollution. I still miss those good old days when, after a summer shower, the air on Columbia Pike smelled so good.
So, back then in the mid 50's and early 60's, Arlington was, to us New Yorkers, a friendly but sleepy little town that pulled in its sidewalks after 6 pm. On weekends, it was like living in the country -- there was very little traffic. Roosters crowing, gingerbread houses, the Giant and the Dragon guarding the gold in the deep silent forest, the haunted house that harbored a sweet lady and her mom, old Christmas carols evoking memories of ancient times, the kindness of a special teacher, the welcoming warmth of a small library, the silence of a snowy night. Sometimes, even now, when I walk down Columbia Pike and go by the Days Inn (formerly the "Cherry Blossom Motel") on Col Pike near Walter Reed Drive, I can still "see" in my mind's eye -- the ramshackle 2 story old wooden house that once stood there, with skinny kids playing in the yard and an old hound dog or two lolling nearby - or - the A&P across the street, where the MacDonald's now stands, or the quaint and tiny "Book Nook" in the old Arlington Hardware parking lot (why put a store in a parking lot?!<:-), the shoe store where Mom Sylvia bought me and sis our long-awaited and much-loved cowboy boots (the herbal store stands there now), and the sun shines just like it used to so many years ago, the breeze blows down the street, and the memories make me happy and a little nostalgic. I'm glad I have these memories and I hope you enjoyed reading about them -- perhaps some of these memories are yours too! <:-)
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PS -- So where am I now, in Arlington (January, 2005)?? Well, first of all, watch the WETA Documentary "Arlington - Heroes, History and Hamburgers" -- yes I'm featured on that documentary, and so are a great bunch of folks - long-time Arlington residents (some going back more that 70 years!) -- all of us. telling our stories and recounting our lives, the people and places in Arlington in those long-ago days gone by. I was so happy to be interviewed -- the folks at WETA were great to work with, and I learned alot by watching the documentary and also by talking to my fellow interviewees (one of whom "just happened" to be related to my 4th grade teacher at Peyton-Randolph!). Now when I go to the supermarket or ride the bus someone inevitably will say "I saw you on TV!". There was SO much material that I know WETA could probably make two more Documentaries on Arlington -- I hope one day that becomes a reality! In fact, there is a Community Bulletin board of sorts at WETA, where present and former Arlingtonians can share their memories and read about others' experiences -- CLICK here to go to it. Looking back on my activities in Arlington in the last year and a half, I have learned much more about Arlington as a Citizen by interacting with some of the great (free!) programs that the County holds periodically. In September of 2003 I was a participant and "student" of "Arlington Neighborhood College". I filled out a form at the Arlington County Fair and was selected along with about 2 dozen other Arlington residents. Every Monday evening for about 8 weeks, we met for three hours. The Hispanic and Ethiopian comunities were very well represented. An interpreter helped all of us bridge our language barriers and many good friendships were forged through those 8 weeks. Representatives from many of the County's Offices and Departments, in addition to the County Board and the Police Department, presented talks and interactive discussions concerning their responsibilities and services to Arlington County. We, as Arlington citizens, were encouraged to get involved -- this is OUR community, our input is needed and welcomed AND listened to, and we really DO play an important role in the day to day activities and needs of Arlington County! I recommend this 8 week course to anyone in Arlington who wants to participate more fully in their County's day-to-day activities. The individuals in charge of this program, as well as the presenters, did a terrific job, were easy to talk with, and instilled within us a greater knowledge of (and pride in) our community, a greater understanding of the different neighborhoods AND the Neighborhood Associations of Arlington. Those of us students who had attended the mandated amount of weeks at Arlington Neighborhood College were presented with a certificate at our graduation ceremony. Then in 2004 (based on information I received from one of the seminars at Arlington Neighborhood College) , I applied for and was accepted into the 12 week program of courses at the "Arlington Citizen's Police Academy". Here, officers of many ranks within the Arlington County Police force (including members of the Auxiliary Police Force and those officers who work with the students in Arlington's public schools) discussed with us, in depth, their roles and responsibilities as members of Arlington's Finest. Slides, videos, demonstrations and exhibits (including a great K-9 demonstration) were part of every evening's curriculum. This was a great course, attended by approximately 2 dozen students, including several of my classmates from Arlington Neighborhood College. We had the opportunity to volunteer for a Ride-On in a Squad Car, with a member of the Arlington County Police Force; I and several other students volunteered -- it was a real eye-opener, and I have much more appreciation and respect for the dedication, determination, responsibility and hard work that each officer of the County Police force does 24/7 to keep our streets safe. I recommend this course for EVERYONE who lives in Arlington. I am now applying for acceptance in the Arlington County CERT program. CERT stands for "Community Emergency Response Teams". This program consists of 8 weeks of highly detailed training to enable the attendee to function with others as part of an Arlington County Emergency Response Team. Teamwork, repsonsibility, accountability are all stressed, not only in order for this training to be effective, but to ensure the that the graduate of this course will be an effective Team member, who will apply the utmost attention, knowledge and discipline to performance, detail, procedure and response in the case of an emergency situation in Arlington County. The FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) also has a comprehensive on-line (free) course on their web site, which will familiiarize the student with CERT. Now after all this hard work, I also need time to relax. I now sing in a choir, at a church in Arlington that has a very old, and fascinating history, Trinity Episcopal Church at Columbia Pike, near the Original Bob and Edith's Diner. Omni-religious "church-hopper" that I am, although I live not far from Trinity, I never set foot inside this church in the 28 years that I have lived in this neighborhood, except once -- to go to their Strawberry Festival! Well, not going inside the church WAS my loss. Over the many years, I DID take numerous pictures of their unique steeple, but that was about it. However, after I joined their Columbia Pike Community Chorus, I got to know the pastor, the assistant pastor, the staff and some of the church members (who were also on the chorus) and I am very glad that I finally set foot inside this church! Rappahannock Coffee Shop, Bob and Edith's 24 hour Diner, the regulars at my bus stop, my good neighbors "the church ladies", my upstairs neighbor from the Bronx, Estelle (who loves Celeste Pizza), my other neighbors from the Bronx who met me when they helped me rescue a (sweet!) dog in our parking lot, my now-retired buddies Joe and Harold who used to ride the bus with me and (in Harold's case) who would stop and chat with me when we (ALWAYS!) ran into one another at the arlington County Fair, plus the long-time member of Trinity who regales me with wonderful tales of the "old days" -- well, Ace, here are some MORE Arlington Memories being made!!!
Ciao for now!
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