I've read so much about people visiting Glen Echo that I felt it was time for me (a native of Glen Echo) to tell my story about growing up there.
My family moved to Glen Echo in 1935 when I was just a year and a half old and stayed until 1949 when I was a junior in high school. Fourteen years of my childhood really does make me an original Glen Echo person. Glen Echo was, I guess still is, an incorporated town. We had our own mayor (at lady, at that) named Mrs. McCuen. We had a Post Office with an adjoining bar (my father's favorite place), a DGS Grocery store, a firehouse and several churches. Little Flower, the Catholic church, was located on Wellesley Circle across from the firehouse. There was a little white frame church on University Ave, our main street, and the Episcopal church was across the road in Fairway Hills. The historic reference was, of course, Clara Barton House.
But, the town was known because of the park. Everyone from far and wide came to Glen Echo Park. The Coaster Dip, the Spanish Ballroom, the Whip, the Bumper cars, the Midway and the Crystal pool, what a wonderful place to grow up. It was like having your own private playground. As you have heard from others in those days you could go anyplace and parents didn't need to worry. I did get one warning though, more on that later. To go swimming every day was a treat for some, but for us it was an everyday thing. Later on my big brother managed the pool while he was in college. We got to ride most things for free because we knew everyone and on slow days we would just hop on a ride if it was going our way. One day my cousin and I rode the coaster dip 17 consecutive times. We must have been green when we got home, but I'm sure it set some kind of a record. What Fun!
In the winter we skated on the canal, the big kids would go to the river sometimes, if the ice was strong enough. How lucky we were that their were never any serious mishaps.
Today everything seems to carry the Glen Echo name. Originally though the town ran from Wellesley Circle to Oxford Road, which borders the park and then two streets after the park Tulane and Oberlin. The top side was MacArthur boulevard (before WW11 it was Conduit Road) and the canal and river on the south. There was no Clara Barton Parkway (that was the canal). There used to be a horse drawn barge that would go up the canal on Sundays and my mother loved watching them from our kitchen window. She had grown up in Camden, NJ and loved the wooded view from our house. All of the streets were named after Ivy league schools, I lived on Princeton Avenue.
The only way out (so to speak) was the street car. We would take it to Kahn's on 9th and PA ave and then walk up to Lansburg's and Woodies. We also went to the movies at the Calvert, Circle and of course downtown at the Palace and Capitol. Whenever we took the street car downtown we were warned never to speak to anyone while transfering cars in Georgetown. Not a good place to be.
I attended Clara Barton Elementary, Leland Junior High and BCC. In my junior year my family moved to Silver Spring and I had to transfer to Montgomery Blair. In 1949 the rivalry between BCC and Blair was like the Redskins and Cowboys of the 70's. I must say the kids at Blair were really nice to someone from the enemy camp. I graduated from Blair, went to MJC (in Takoma Park) and married a guy from Coolidge who was playing pro ball at the time. While at Blair we used to go to the Hot Shoppe on Georgia ave and of course the BCC kids had theirs on Wisconsin ave. It was really great having gone to both school to know kids from both areas, also kids from the Mass ave area where we hung out while in Glen Echo.
My grandparents always lived in SS and who remembers when Georgia avenue was a two lane road that ended way before Wheaton. Wheaton wasn't! Neither was White Oak, Burtonsville, or Columbia. Potomac was a place to forget, just old farms; Rockville we heard about because it was the county seat, but I don't think I ever went there; Gaithersburg was somehwere far, far, away; and Germantown was in Germany (wasn't it?).
My husband was born and raised in DC and after graduating from Coolidge played pro baseball, was in the Air Force and then went on to MD. He died very young in 1974 and after that I went to work and continued to raise our kids. They are all married now and doing great. It is amazing the changes that have taken place in the intervening years. People new to the area can't possible imagine how nice this area used to be. This is not just idle reminiscing, I'm sure everyone remembers their home town as being a lot different from what it is today, the difference is that this is our capitol and it's reputation has been badly tarnished.
I just loved growing up in Glen Echo, and looking back I think it was the best of both worlds. We were small town, rather isolated, and yet most of our activities were in the city. Someone wrote of how everyone could dance, -- you bet, we really could. I remember at Blair you could not join a sorority -- they were banned, but we really didn't care there was so much else to do and you still got to go to all the sorority tea's etc. Uck. The kids were great though.
It's a snowy day and I could go on forever, but enough of this. Glen Echo was a great place to grow up and if anyone reading this, from that time and place, remembers a big German Shepherd, just like Rin-Tin-Tin, well he was ours. He lived for 15 years and was the Head Dog of all he surveyed. I supposed he may have scared a few people (that's probably what my Dad had in mind and why I felt so protected) but he had the heart of "teddy bear". Come to think of it, he may be my best memory of all.
Silver Spring, Md.
My father bought our home on Gist Avenue in Silver Spring, before I was born. Dad said the only things developed in Silver Spring, at the time, was the railroad station and a general store. (unfortunately he did not buy other real estate at that time...probably did not believe anything would ever come of this little town!)
Memories for me started in 1936...I was born the only child and only girl to my mother & father, together. I was somewhat spoiled, or so they say.....
One of the most wonderful memories is the fact that even sheltered little girls or 9 or 10 could walk or ride bikes about anywhere and never feel danger. We would walk to the district line, 10-12 blks from our home and take the bus at Georgia & Alaska and go downtown to the Capitol Theater, have lunch at the Blue Mirror (next to the Capitol Theater), shop in the department stores, when time allowed, and then see the show and the stage show. We would sing along with the "bouncing ball" with Milt (the organist) and be entertained by many famous stars like Jane Powell, Mel Torme, Dick Cantino, Horice Hites Talent Shows, Esther Williams, Roy Rogers and more! Then we would go "back stage" - down the long dark alley beside the theater and under it and up to the stage door where we had gotten to know the guard. He would get the stars to come out and give us autographs and talk with us. It was so exciting and very special. Then = bus back home- usually after dark....our parents never had to worry about our safety....my children have never known that kind of life and it is sad!
Movies were so exciting then...hardly anyone had even heard of T.V. We listened to the radio,,,Sunday at 5 p.m.-THE SHADOW....Sat. AM - Let's Pretend....and every chance we got - Saturdays meant going to the SECO for the serials and westerns. The scary pictures came there, too, but the big extravaganza were at the SILVER THEATER on Colesville Rd. Holidays when dinner was being prepared, or when the "older folks" needed some peace & quiet, we would be trucked off to the Silver and see the shows and when we came home it was just in time for the Holiday Feast!
Drive-In movies were a great place to enjoy a warm summer evening. Birthday parties meant "party dresses" usually taffeta or something very glamorous...we were all dreaming of being a movie star someday and poured over Movie Magazines with our eyes full of stars. Dressing up for church, especially Easter Sunday, at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension on Sligo ave, with white gloves and a new outfit w/shiny patent leather Mary Jane shoes; stopping at the neighborhood DGS for last minute Sunday dinner items....I was even allowed to go pick up things for my mother...alone...how grown up I felt. Summers with the family at Beverly Beach & Selby On The Bay- Mom playing Bingo while we all tried to be like Esther Williams in the surf. Oh, and houses had SIDEWALKS and we would roller skate everyday...the biggest problem we had then was keeping track of our skate key!
My father was an Elk at the club house at 9th & H st. N.W. (where the convention center is now.) My mother was a Bingo fanatic and never missed a Friday night Bingo if she could help it. Many times one of my friends and I would ride down to the Elks and leave mom to play Bingo and we would WALK over to F Street to the movies and back to the Elks in the dark - safely - imagine children able to "walk the streets of D.C" at night!
I remember the Mistriel shows that they had at the Elks club every year and loved every minute of them. My friends always wanted to be the one to go with us each year.
Silver Spring is so full of memories. I remember being pulled on a sled by my mother to East Silver Spring Elementary school (ESS) when it snowed - which it seemed to do much more then, then now. The crunch of the snow under foot and the rattle of chains from the few cars that ventured out. Sleding when we got home down hills that looked large to little kids and today appear only as "sloped lawns". E.S.S. & Mrs. Coletti - my kindergarden teacher...my dad thought she was almost as beautful as "Joan Leslie"! The principal was Ms. Monrad...a stern looking lady with a heart of GOLD.
Every summer there would be a Carnival on Georgia Ave. next to the Hot Shoppe and we just couldn't wait to go, as many nights as we could con our parents into it. I learned to love the Ferris Wheel there - don't now, but I sure did then...am I showing my age?
Summer Time also brought the biggest treats like the nightly ride of the Goood Humor ice cream truck with his "ting-a-ling" bell. I would nearly break my neck to get outside before we missed him. Did ice cream ever taste that good...between the Good Humor truck and Giffords - It was special. One time a friend of our family worked with the Good Humor co. and gave my neice a card for FREE GOOD HUMORS whenever she wanted one, it didn't last long because she bought them for the whole neighborhood...share the wealth and all that!
On rainy days all the neighborhood kids would gather on my front porch and play games like jacks or Monopoly and listen to the rain drops on the awnings around the big porch. When it rained real hard it was fun to get our bathing suits on and go our "in the rain".....with all the other kids.
Another special memory of Summer were the street vendors who would come around early on a summer morning calling, "Strawberries, fresh strawberries." Because no one had central air conditioning, then, windows were open amd it would wake me up....my Mom would be sure we got fresh strawberries for breakfast and they were wonderful. Even a scissor sharpener used to come around to the neighborhood. Talk about "curb service"!
Special, too, was the Gifford's Ice Cream Parlor. I must have taken a dozen "tours" of how the ice cream was made...why not, they were free and they always gave us kids samples. As the years went by - Giffords on the corner of Sligo and Georgia Ave. was an oft-visited place for wonderful ice cream sundaes and meeting friends.
Speaking of friends, in High School - Montgomery Blair - once we had our drivers license -everyone who was anyone or knew anyone, would meet at the Drive-In and "cruise" around to see who was there and who was out with who. My favorite foods there was the "orange freeze" and the "Teen Twist". As young teenagers, too young to date but learning our social skills, we all went over to the Y-Teens club in back of the library on Georgia Ave. We would cut across the railroad tracks for a short cut and when we got to the little cottage where the teens met, we would dance, and have a ball. A couple of the guys had taken dance (ballroom) lessons and taught us all the dances of the day....Another fun thing most of us did, was to get the bus and go down to 16th & Kalorama and the Roller Skating Rink. At least once a week and skate the day or night away. I don't even know if it is there anymore, so many of those special things have gone - what a loss...the world was so different then.
How about GLEN ECHO? What fun to take the trolley and how my heart would race when I saw that tower at the entrance and knew that the "flying airplanes and the COASTER DIP" where waiting for me. To make it even more fun, some of my family lived just the other side of the big parking lot and my cousin could get us on FREE for most everything or for swimming in the Crystal Pool. One time some friends and I actually walked home from Glen Echo to Silver Spring....I had blisters on my feet after that one. Heaven knows why we did it...I guess it was to see if we could.
The more I write - the more I remember. Thanks for the idea of "Memories Page" and that it makes us all stop and think about moments long ago in a different time and place that we always keep close to our hearts.
Perhaps I will write more - as I remember....
Do YOU have any memories of
D.C.? If so, please e-mail me and I
will add them to this page.
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