INTERVIEW: Dallas Dean
WHEN: March 11, 2011
WHERE: home of Joan Janshego
INTERVIEWERS: Joan Janshego and Carl Lankowski
HOW: transcribed from recorder
TRANSCRIBER: Joan Janshego
Q – Tell us your birth date.
D – March 8, 1941. I just turned 70 years old on Tuesday
Q – You were born where?
A – I was born in Columbia Hospital in DC
Q – Let’s talk about your family first. I know that you are an only child.
A – Yes
Q - Where was your family from?
A – My father was a Washingtonian and was born in 1899. So was his father, who was born in 1864 in Washington. The family name was Plugge. My great grandparents on my father’s side came to Washington in the 1850’s or early 1860’s from Germany. The story I heard was that my great grandparents knew each other in Germany, and my great grandmother came first and my great grandfather followed. I don’t know if the spelling is right, but I have been told that they came from Rheda/Stauew Warendorf.
And my mother came from Minnesota. She came in 1923 for something that was supposed to be temporary, and she was here until she died on August 4, 1993. The family name was Moehring.
Q – Did she live on a farm in Minnesota?
A – No she lived in a small town. She had no desire to stay there, because they had all of the chores of a farm even though they lived on the edge of town – which was in LeSueur, Minnesota. That is the original home of Green Giant and the LeSueur peas.
Q - Do you still have relatives there?.
A – I have a first cousin that lived there but he has moved to Minneapolis. He called me Wednesday. He is the only one and there are some second and third cousins. I have a long-time friend that still lives in LeSueur.
Q – What was your mother’s background?
A – My mother was from a large family – 7 children. She was the 3rd oldest, and she went to school in LeSueur. Then she went to business school for a year after she finished high school. Then she worked temporarily for government agencies - on Indian reservations. She worked at Red Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. I think she also worked at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She worked in the office. Someone came up with the idea as to whether she would like to come to Washington. As I said, that was in 1923, and so she worked at temporary jobs – mostly government. She did not go back to work after I was born.
Q – Did she work for Indian Affairs?.
A – It might have been Indian Affairs.
Q – Was she a secretary?
A – Yeah
Q – What was her ethnic background?
A – German
Q – Did she speak German?
A – She did when she was a young girl. She went to church where there was a German-speaking pastor. I have some pictures of the old days. She came to Washington and then one of her brothers came. Then two of her sisters followed. She was the first one here, but the others followed and spent most of their adult lives in Washington.
Q – And then she met your father?
A – Right
Q – Did she say how she meet him?
A – I think they lived around the corner from each other. My father lived at 1310 13th Street, and my mother and her sisters and probably others had an apartment together around the corner. I don’t know if it was N Street or O Street, but in that general area.
They went together for 11 years before they married, and so that may be part of the reason why I am an only child.
Q - Did your father live in his father’s home?
A – Yes at that time.
Q – Was it near Luther Place?
A – Yes. My paternal grandfather had 7 sons. My grandmother died in 1916. She was from Brunswick, Maryland, originally. Her father worked for the railroad and had come to the Washington area for employment. Campbell was the oldest of the 7 boys and was named after his mother’s maiden name. My father was the second youngest. In later years, 4 of the 7 brothers lived in Chevy Chase - all within walking distance of each other.
Q – Tell me who the other brothers were.
A – My cousin, Fritz’ father was Canpbell. He lived on McKinley Street – 3209. Then there was another brother, Wilbur. They sometimes called him Pete. He lived on Northampton Street on the other side of Lafayette. I think it was 3316. There was another brother, Gordon, who lived on 2812 Military Road. My father lived at Nebraska and Rittenhouse where I have lived all of my life.
Q – What was your father’s name?
A – Norman
Q - What brought your father to Chevy Chase?
A – My grandfather – so the story goes – purchased 40 acres of land in the Chevy Chase area. This had to be – I am guessing – at the beginning of the 1900‘s, because my father used to say that he would often times take a streetcar out and get off at Chevy Chase Circle or go to Chevy Chase Lake. And then they would walk down to here to the property. In those days, it was all woods. There were no houses. And then when my father got married, my grandfather offered him a piece of the property so he could build the house. It [the property] had been in the family for a while by that time. My parents were married in 1936. It has been in the family for a few years before that. A lot of the other brothers were already settled on McKinley and Northampton Street, and so he choose the property where we are now. As I said, at the time it was all woods. My grandmother did not want to move to this area, because she said it was too country. She died in 1916. I meant to bring a map along. You may have seen some of those maps of the old neighborhood.. We had one of the lots that my grandfather had. He divided them up and gave each one of his sons 2 lots. My father had another lot beside where we have the house. but he exchanged it with another brother . So that we had the lot right behind us that we still own.
Q - The other brothers did not build on this property as I understand?
A – No. They had already had their houses or bought houses already built.
Q - What happened to all that property?
A – My grandfather died in 1945 and that property was sold, I heard, to pay the inheritance taxes. Now whether that was so or not, I don’t know, but that was what was said. The houses along Rittenhouse Street were built in the early 1950’s - 2700 block and down along Nebraska. I think there were a few houses that were there before Stephenson Lane was cut through, but that was before or during that time. Mr. Bill Montgomery owned what is now Knollwood, and that was his home. Then after he died and his widow died, she had given that property to the Army Distaff Hall. At first it was called Distaff, then later they let the men come in. They have since added wings and buildings.
Q – So there were buildings there?
A – It was a mansion. It still stands. It is part of Knollwood. It is that stone house structure. I think it is a clubroom now for Knollwood. I knew that people have social functions there. It used to be a big house sitting on top of this knoll and hill so to speak and that is how it got the name Knollwood. At first it was called Blythe Knoll in the old days, and then when the government took it over - the distaff took it over - then it became Knollwood.
Q – When about would that be? When did Bill Montgomery die?
A – I don’t know when he died. I think this wasn’t done until his widow died, and she was a little bit younger than him. I am pretty sure it was after my grandfather died. I think Knollwood wasn’t built until I am guessing the 60’s,. I don’t know the exact date. There used to be just the house there and mostly a wooded area.
Q – Did Mamie Eisenhower live at Knollwood?
A – She donated her beauty salon at the White House or wherever she had it to Knollwood. I don’t know if she actually lived there.
Then talking about the neighborhood, Mr. Montgomery had some [help]. Maybe originally they were slaves, but of course this was way after slavery time. But they must have been slave descendents that used to live up on 27th Street. When I was real young you know - 3, 4, or 5 – somewhere along there, I remember this little cabin there. It sat just halfway up on the left hand side on 27th Street where these black people lived. They didn’t have plumbing. They didn’t have electricity. I remember the oil lamp, because we could see it from our front yard.. We could look up there. Evidently, they had a lot of kids, and they used to work for Mr. Montgomery. Maybe they were descendents of some of the early free blacks who lived there for many, many years. And then that house was torn down when the house that is there now was built. So that was probably in the late 1940’s.
Then if you go down Nebraska and make a left on Oregon, you go up past Knollwood on the corner where Chatsworth is today, that property used to be an estate. There was a low white farmhouse low to the ground - sprawled out. I can just barely remember that. Then at one time there was talk about whether the Russian Embassy was going to be built there. There was a lot of opposition from the people in the neighborhood about traffic, too much congestion. That was true of Knollwood, too. In any event, that house was torn down and that was the area where Chatsworth is now. The estate was called Bonnie Brae. Bonnie Brae had acreage. But the other houses that people owned there, they were just homes with maybe 3 or 4 acres or maybe not that much. It was a lot of land for a house.
Going further up Oregon Avenue, there used to be a family that lived there. I don’t know what their name was right now, but they had the same house number that we had. They were 6040 Oregon and we were 6040 Nebraska, and I can remember that when I was just a young kid sometimes the mail would get mixed up. Sometimes they came up and brought some mail, and sometimes we went down there and brought them some. Maybe we had a new mailman or something. I don’t know what happened to that house. I think it was right around or a little bit further out on Oregon from where that street that is cut over now. I don’t’ know the name of it. Not Beech but the one that is between Tennyson and Beach right past Chatsworth. I don’t know whether it was cut through all the way to Western, but it used to be just woods there, and then they put in that development. That has been fairly recent in comparison with some of the other houses..
A Do you recall if people had animals there? Was it almost like a farm or farmette?
Q - I don’t remember that. The only animals that I can remember around here - besides household pets - were the horses over in the horse stable in Rock Creek Park. We used to walk over there lots of times. The victory gardens over in that area also and then it became a CCC camp over in that area.
Q – Is that where the victory gardens were?
A – Yeah – a little bit further back than that. The gardens were back further towards the park and towards the woods.
Q – In the nature center?
A - Yes
Q – Is that also where the current stable are today?
A – No. I think the current stables are on the other side of Military Road. I haven’t been back there for years though
Q – Do you know of a CCC camp at Lafayette? Someone who lived across the street from Lafayette told me that there was one.
A – No. I do not know. But there could have been one.
Q – Did you ever go to the CCC camp as a small child?
A – No. I think I remember my parents talking about that. I guess that was right after the war – maybe even during. I don’t know.
Q – Concerning your cousins, you mentioned that you spoke to one of your cousins in the last few days
A – Yes – Gordon’s son, Gordon, Jr. He grew up here. He was like a brother to me. But he is younger. His sister was also like a sister to me, because I didn’t have any brothers or sisters. They were close to my age, and we used to get together a lot to go down to St. Mary’s county together.
Q – St. Mary’s County is where you grandfather had a summer home?
A – Yes, We were able to go down there as kids until 1965. Gordon’s parents brought the property and moved down there. They were not down there very long, because my uncle had taken sick and he died. The his wife moved back up here to the city to Leisure World, and the house was sold.
Q – Gordon, Jr. – the son – now lives in Florida?
A – Yes. He lived in southern Maryland in Charlotte Hall for a long time, and then he retired recently and moved to Florida 4 or 5 years ago.
Q – And he was telling you some things that he remembered?
A – Yeah. He was telling me about his neighborhood. He lived on Military between
28th Street and 29th. He said that there is a place over there across from the other side of Military that is called Little Forest. I think that you can go there the back way. They had a nursing home that used to be there on the corner of Utah and Military. I think by that time it changes to 27th Street, but that is going to be taken over by the Methodist Home, as I understand, and it will be an Alzheimer’s facility. I think they will be moving into it any time now, because there was a recent meeting about that.
Q - What does he remember about the Little Forest?
A – He didn’t say too much about it. I think he called it by a different name. He said that Pat Buchanan lived over in that area. I think he lived up the street on Utah – near St. John’s. And there was another guy who lived over there - Red Auerbach – who was the couch of the Celtics. I think he lived on 32nd Street one block from Military. I didn’t know that before. St. Johns at that time when he lived there was not the present structure. It was just a small farmhouse that housed the freshmen that went to St. Johns. because the others were downtown on Vermont Avenue I believe . Then when they built the new facility, they moved - maybe each year – I don’t know for sure – maybe the sophomores in as the freshmen became sophomores. I don’t know too much about that. I remember it being there. But it wasn’t anywhere near what the facility is now. .
Q – Did your cousin say anything else?
A – Not too much. I was trying to get him to see if he remembered what some of that property was behind – you know if you went from Military Road to 27th Street – I don’t think 28th was cut through at the time. If you went behind that down to the park, there was a beautiful old house down there. It had the softest grass. It looked wonderful. My cousin and his sister lived there from the time they were born until she got married and he went into the service. It was in the mid 1960’s. And then they did not come back to live there after that.
Q – Then you have other cousins?
A – Fritz [Frederick] of course, who just died. His oldest sister passed away over 30 years ago – 1977.
Q – And Gordon’s sister is she still alive?
A – On yes. She lives down at Solomon’s, Maryland. They just moved from Charles County in Bryantown where they lived for about 30 years. Her name is Peggy.
Q – Then you had other cousins?
A – Well Fritz, as I said, over on McKinley. He had the older sister who died in 1977. The both of them grew up in the neighborhood. They both went to Lafayette, Deal and Wilson, and she moved home for a while to take care of her mother when her father died. and then she died. So they both died within a period of about 3 years. She had cancer.
Q – What about the other brothers?
A – There was another brother who lived on Northampton Street – Wilbur. He had one daughter, but by the time they moved here the daughter was already married or soon after that was married. She moved to the Philadelphia area, and then she moved to New Hampshire and she passed away a few years ago. She would be almost as old as my parents were. She was born in 1917, and she has been gone 10 years perhaps. Her name was Dorothy. She was the oldest of our generation, but she didn’t go to Wilson or even Lafayette or Deal. She went to Central.
Q –Do you have other living cousins?
A – Yes I do. But they didn’t live in the Chevy Chase area. I have a cousin who lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey – one of the older cousins. Her father went to dentistry school at the University of Pennsylvania. Then he stayed around the Philadelphia area. He had two daughter – one that lives in Cherry Hill - and the other recently moved to Texas. She lived in Rhode Island. She is 89, but they are not familiar with anything in the Chevy Chase area. They came to visit and that was when my grandfather was living and he lived in town. By that time, they were married and on their own and so they did not return to Washington very often.
Q - Fritz told us about your going to your grandfather’s house particularly during holidays. Do you have recollections of that?
A – Yes. He lived at 13th Street during those years and it was a good neighborhood. I mean it didn’t change until much later than that. He lived in a row house. None of us knew our grandmother because she died in 1916. I remember going to his house as young child. I was only about 4 when he passed away, but he would have Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s in this row house. It was a beautiful old home. You only had light coming in on at the front and the back of the house. There was a long living room, a beautiful stairway going up on the side of the hall. My parents were married there at his home. That was in October of 1936, and then they moved out to here in Chevy Chase in 1938 – in October.
Q – Though you were very young, you do remember the family gatherings there?
A – Yeah – parts of it. I remember the interior because it was impressive. The living room had 3 nine by twelve rugs in it. It had two marble fireplaces in it. Of course, they had heat, but maybe before that, they had the fireplaces. And it was three stories high. It had several bedrooms but only one bathroom on the second floor. My grandfather had a library and an office on the second floor adjacent to his bedroom. This is sort of getting off the beaten track, but it is amazing to remember how that neighborhood has changed.
Q – Do you remember what he did for a living?
A Yes to start with, he was in the liquor business. He had a store around O Street – 7th and O - in that area. So when prohibition came, of course, he had to close down. So he became president of the 7th Street Savings Bank that evolved into Hamilton Bank and then from there it went to National Bank of Washington and then to Riggs and now to PNC.
Q – Was he involved in banking for quite a while?
A - Yes. I would say from the end of prohibition until when he died in 1945. He was also on the Board of Directors of another bank which I think was Second National and then his parents had been in the tobacco business down at E Street – 917 E. It was around where Weschler’s Auction is today. Ginn rented that building for a long time from the family but it has been sold
Q – What do you mean by the tobacco business?
A – The making and selling of cigars – mostly and snuff products. They didn’t manufacture cigarettes in those days. They didn’t use cigarettes too much. It was cigars, pipes and tobacco.
Q – What did your father do?
A – He worked for the government – originally in the Quartermaster Corps. He was a transportation supervisor. He worked in later years at Cameron Station in Alexandria, and he managed the shipping of household goods and materials for army officers.
He worked for the government for 34 some years. He retired in 1954. He died in 1961.
Q – Your mother lived to a ripe old age.
A – Yes she was almost 92. She missed it by a couple months.
Q – The house where you lived in, did you parents build that house?
A – Yeah. They moved in October 1938.
Q – Do you know who the builder was?
A - No - I should look that up, because I think I have some of the plans.
Q – It is a stone house?
A – Yes. Most of the later houses are brick.
Q - So you lived there all of your life?
A – Yes.
Q – Can you remember who else lived on your street?
A – Well in the beginning it was all woods until early 1950. There were a few people who lived there originally after the houses were built. One was named Marie Thomas. She lived there for a long time. She died a few years ago. Her husband was I believe a captain in the police force. There was another family who lived there - Joseph Orlove. He had a meat business - the O Street market. That was before and after World War II. Most of the other people who were there have moved even though some of them lived there quite a long time. But there are none of the original people left.
Q - As far as occupations are concerned, you mentioned two occupations. Can you think of what some of the others father did for a living?
A – Not offhand, because, as I said, a lot of those people who were original owners died or moved away and the kids didn’t stay there. One of them was Carl Rowan’s son who lived there for a while.. He lived on Rittenhouse Street – across from our house. He would only be about sixty years old now.
Q – So there were a lot of woods around your house. Did that mean that you played a lot in the woods?
A – I remember as a young child that my father and some of his brothers would cut wood on Rittenhouse Street for our fireplace. In those days oil was rationed and things were kind of tough for heating. But they didn’t have power tools, and it was done with a two- man saw. I can remember my father going over there at least a couple weekends a year. It would be him and one of his brothers who would come up and help.
My mother and I used to walk over in the woods lots of times. Many times we would gather wild flowers. There used to be an old foundation of a springhouse that was in the woods behind Rittenhouse Street before Stephenson Lane was cut through. You could see the foundation, but there was no building on the top. How long that had been there, I don’t know. We used to walk through there and there used to be a large white rock. It was at least as big as this table and maybe bigger, and it was partly out of the ground. It was kind of a goal to try to find it. We would sit there for a while and then come back. Probably it wasn’t that big of a space, but you think of it as being big when you are little.
Q –Who were your playmates? Were they in the neighborhood?
A – No. I didn’t have too many kids who lived right in our area. There were some that I went to school with that I was friends with. One lived on 32nd Street. One lived on 33rd up near Morrison. Another girl lived over on Tennyson. But there wasn’t anyone really close, and even the kids that used to go to church with and Sunday school, many of them lived in Montgomery County
Q – Are these playmates still around?
A – I think they are still living, but they are not in the area.
Q – Are you in touch with them?
A - No. But I see their name in the reunion book – Wilson’s reunion book
Q – What are their names? Do you remember?
A - One is named Nadine Eisenberg. She lived on 33rd Street. Her father used to own Pearson’s Liquor on Wisconsin Avenue. Diane Koonin lived behind where Dr. Havell lived – 32nd between Morrison and McKinley. And Carol Peterson, on Tennyson Street.
In one way we were playmates, but then in another way, we weren’t. But we were in the same class at Lafayette . They were trying to even out the grades so that everyone would graduate in June and so the four of us that year - there may have been some others too – were pushed ahead. We didn’t go the first year. They pushed some ahead - it was in 4th grade the year we went. And so we skipped the second half of 4th grad so everyone would graduate in June.
Q - So the neighborhood was a lot different than it is now. You had a rural, wooded area and then as you got older, houses were started to be built. I guess the woods gradually were gone. How old would you have been?
A - I would have been 9 or 10 as more and more houses were being built.
Q – Do you remember watching the house being built?
A – Yes it was fantastic for us to see. My father and I would often go to see how much they had done during the day. These houses were going up in our backyard so to speak and across the street.
Q - Did you like that - that there were more people around?
A – It didn’t bother me – people were closer
Q – Let’s move over to Connecticut Avenue. What was Connecticut Avenue like when you were young?
A – Between McKinley and Morrison, where the CVS is now, it used to be a People’s Drug Store and before that a Dart Drug Store in the middle of that block. Then were was Schupp’s Bakery, Edward’s Shoe Store, and a 5 and dime store. There was a gas station on the corner and Riggs Bank for many years where PNC is today. In the Arcade, there was the Peking Restaurant and a beauty shop.
Between McKinley and Northampton, there used to be a Safeway Store – right about where Magruders is today. And then there was also another little grocery or some kind of a store where Washington Permanent is today. You went up a few steps to the door. I don’t know if we ever shopped there. But I remember going to the Safeway with my mother. Chevy Chase Pharmacy used to be where the post office is now, also Brentano’s Book Store. And I took dancing and piano on Connecticut Avenue for 12 years when I was in elementary and up to senior high.
Q – In what building?
A - That was above the Avalon Theatre. It was called the Dimetrif Studio. Tamara Dimetrif was Russian by nationality. I remember that she had an accent. We used to go up the stairs to the studio - on the right hand side facing the street. Now I think you go up the other side for some reason. Anyway, there used to be some stairs there – a wide stairway. And there was a large room over top of the Avalon where they had the dance studio. I took ballet there, as I said, for 12 years under Kathryn Mulloney, and then there were smaller rooms where they taught piano in that building. That was before it was taken over by the theater. The theater was but there but they didn’t take over the theater upstairs at that time.
Q – They didn’t have a theater up there at that time?
A – I think it was Avalon II. That didn’t take place until probably the 60’s or more because in 1958, and a few years later, it was still a dance and piano studio.
Q – So the years you took dance were about when?
A - I took it until 1958 and figure 12 years before that – 1946 probably.
Q – Did you do it once a week?
A – Piano once a week and dance at least twice and sometimes three times a week.
Q – And did you have performances?
A – Yes we had recitals.
Q – At that place?
A - We usually had them in later years at Wilson High School. Before that, I think it was at the elementary school in Bethesda right off of Old Georgetown Road – it might have been Wilson Elementary on Wilson Lane. I can see it but I don’t know what the names of those streets were. Then Kathryn Mulloney, who was the dance instructor, moved the production to Wilson High School. Mulloney’s father was a judge in the District. The family lived on Chevy Chase Circle. I think she used to dance with the Metropolitan Opera before she came back to DC and started teaching dancing.
Q – Did you also have piano recitals?
A - Yes. Piano was not my forte. I just loved to dance and later taught it – not ballet. I taught ballroom dancing as a part-time job when I was in high school – senior in high school and then came back in the 3rd and 4th year when I came back from college.
Q – Where did you teach?
A – At the Jewish Community Center over there at Meadowbrook. I started with Lou Tupler, and he wanted me to take it over rather than just be his assistant. It was good – a couple hours a week.
Q – Anything else you remember about the Connecticut Avenue corridor?
A – Across where the community center is of course that was the old Brown School and that turned into the community center and it seemed like they had an old community center there before they built the new one. The library too before they built the new place.
Q – Did you go there at the child – the old community center?
A – Not as much perhaps as some people because we did not leave nearby, and when I went up to the Avenue it was always for music or dance.
Q – Anything else you remember about the Avenue?
A– You know people make fun of me today when I say I’m going up to the Avenue – “Oh the Avenue, what is the Avenue?” [Connecticut Avenue] they say.
Q – That is what you called it back then?
A – Yeah. People who were closer I guess like Fritz and his sister [cousins] would go up there for shopping, but they were half the distance that I was.
Q – How did you get there – did you walk?
A – No my mother would take me and pick me up; too especially pick me up because it was after dark when I finished.
Q – Did you ride a bicycle?
A - Yeah. But I didn’t learn to ride a bicycle until I was pretty old – in comparison to other kids.
Q - What kinds of things did you like to do as a child?
A – We used to jump rope, play jacks. I wasn’t into sports stuff. I never liked those child games that we had over at Lafayette. That just was not my bag and a lot of things like we mentioned about playmates and etc., my parents were older than many parents at that time. I had a lot of aunts and uncles that were always around – and some cousins. But as far as girlfriends my age, there weren’t too many of them.
Q – That reminds me – this may be a little off the subject – but I remember that you told me some time ago that there was some sort of a speakeasy house on Rittenhouse Street,
A – You are talking about the Purple Iris.
Q – Tell us about that.
A - It was right up here at 32nd and Rittenhouse. Just within the past year, somebody from Wilson alumni , I think he was in my class, had written into the Alumni Beacon about wanting to know if anyone had any information about the Purple Iris. Well, a lot of information was written in over the past few years - about what they heard it was. Somebody had looked up some old newspaper clippings that said there was a teahouse there. Al Zaner, who used to belong to St. Paul’s [Lutheran Church], lived on Military Road. (I think he lives in Florida now.) He had written that his mother had warned him not to go around there - that it was kind of taboo. Of course, he lived quite a ways from there – being on Military – but in those years people on Military Road went to Lafayette. Later they changed those people who lived on Military and sent them to Murch School. I always thought of the Purple Iris as a Road House. It sat – as I said – at the corner of 32nd Street and Rittenhouse. Three houses are in that corner now. But it sat back in the lot. I think the name intrigued me because I like purple My mother used to say – I don’t know if this is hearsay or true – but army officers would take their extra marital affairs to the Purple Iris, and it was kind of a speakeasy kind of thing. I don’t know if that was true or not.
Q – So this discussion that you said has been going on concerning the Purple Iris - was this on email?
A –Not really email. Wilson has an alumni association for anyone that wants to be a member no matter what year they graduated. They have a bulletin that they edit and bring up every quarter, and if you have questions or want to remember about something about Wilson or the neighborhood, this is where people had written about the Purple Iris.
Q – Was this there in Prohibition days?
A – No I don’t think so. This would have been in the late 30’s and 40’s. I don’t know where that business came that about girlfriends of army officers. I think maybe it was when my father was in service that we heard that. It would be interesting to know if was true.
Q - I wonder when it was razed and houses built there?
A – Probably in the early 50’s. Somebody I think wrote in and said that they had a fire and it did not get rebuilt. It was a kitchen fire.
Q – Previously you mentioned about some prominent people who may have lived here like Ray Auerbach, Do you know anybody else - maybe someone from the government?
A – I think there was some DC government officials that lived in the neighborhood. Years ago one of the 3 commissioners lived there. His name was Walter Tobriner. He lived on the corner of Rittenhouse and 33rd Street.
Q – What are some of your memories of Lafayette?
A – I think I put it in the Lafayette book that often times we don’t realize how good we had it until it is over with. I think we had a good education in those days – the foundation for our continuing – not just Deal and Wilson but also college and then your life. But you don’t realize it when you are a kid and going through it.
Q – Tell me about your teachers. Did one stand out?
A – Well I think my first grade teacher – Ms. Younkin – she was always wonderful I thought. But they all were good. And the majority of them– or at least they appeared to us – older. They were not just out of college, but maybe they were, but it seemed to us they were older because we were so young.
Q – I think I read that you did a Maypole Celebration every year at Lafayette.
A – Yeah, they had May Day every year. You know I had several pictures that I sent for the Lafayette book. Jay Guerber’s kids were at Lafayette at the time and they were doing this oral history project. He suggested a few of us that he knew had lived in the area for a long time and had gone to Lafayette. So this one picture that I submitted that my mother had taken – it was of a partner of mine – Eddie Wye. After that book came out, Eddie called me up one day. His sister is still in the area – over in the Janney area - over on the other side of Wisconsin. He introduced himself and told me who he was. I said I remember that he was always in trouble, fighting and carrying on. He said his mother was always writing notes and apologizing for his behavior. His father finally got fed up and pulled him out of Lafayette, and he went to some other school. But now – he is probably retired – I believe that he was an English professor at I think it was the University of Washington. I was thinking he was such a problem. I think the teacher paired me up with him, because I was always quiet and I didn’t say much and this kid was always picking a fight. He was like a Dennis the Menace type. But it was amazing to me that he called and gotten the book. I’m not sure about the spelling of his name Wiel, Wihl or Wye – I don’t know. It sounds like Why.
Q – Your family belonged to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church?
A - Yes they used to belong to Luther Place first. I was baptized at Luther Place. You know it was a problem to go downtown, and by that time the neighborhood was changing in that 13th/15th Street corridor. So when I was quite young, my parents transferred to St. Paul’s [Lutheran Church].
Q – So you went to Sunday school at St. Paul’s and got confirmed there?
A – Yeah. I as confirmed in 1953 at St. Paul’s – in March I think. That was when St. Paul’s was a basement congregation. The bottom part of it - which is now the lower auditorium – was what you could see above ground on the Connecticut Avenue side. The main church was put up – around 1958.
Q – What was the reason that it took so long for the church to be put up?
A - The Depression had come and then the War. The price had gone up and it just took longer to put out that much money for a new church.
Q – So when you went there as a child, the church service was in the basement?
A – Yeah. The whole time. Schaeffer Hall was there, but the rest is where the lower auditorium is today.
Q – Let’s talk about your home life. Did your mother require you to do any household chores that you can recall?
A – Not that she required me. But I helped to do a lot of thing’s - some cooking – preparation maybe. She taught me to iron and do laundering. I helped my father with the grass and yard, and then when he died in 1961, I had it to do all myself.
Q – Any kind of handiwork, needlework?
A – Yeah. She instilled that in me. I don’t know that she taught me. She wanted to teach me crocheting. But I never could pick it up with thread. But I picked it up on my own with yarn which was much easier. Later I went back to the thread. One thing that I wish I had her to teach me was to tat. A lot of those old things are coming back in now – that younger people are interested in;
Q – Did she do a lot of handiwork like that?
A – Yes. Mostly crocheting and tatting. She did not do as much stitchery as I like to do.
Q – As a child did you like to read?
A – Not very much and I still don’t today. I do it because you have to, but it is not one of my favorite pastimes. I would much rather be doing stitching, because I feel that I am accomplishing something. I like using my hands to show a finished project .
Q – I know that you taught school. What did you teach?
A – I had 5th grade. I taught at Rogers Heights Elementary School in Prince George’s County for 30 years.
Q – Where is that?
A – It is in Bladensburg. It is behind Bladensburg High School. It is across the street from Elizabeth Seton Catholic High School for Girls.
Q – Did you always teach 5th grade?
A – Well I had 4th/5th sometimes and sometimes 5th/6th But mostly 5th.
Q – Where did you go to college?
A – I went to St Mary’s College of Maryland first for the first two years, because it was only a two-year school at that time. It was called St. Mary’s Female Seminary Junior College. And then after I graduated from there, it became a four-year college. Now it is St. Mary’s College of Maryland and is a Public Honors College. When I finished at St. Mary’s, I transferred to American University the last two years. My father was sick at the time and so I lived at home. I have stayed connected with St. Mary’s through the Alumni Association for many years.
Q – Did you always want to be a teacher?
A – I don’t know if I always wanted to be, but I had decided to go along those lines the first year or so at college.
I think that if you think of the history and environment and changes over the years, that this is fantastic project that you people are undertaking, I am sure that you get to talk to other people – in different sections of the Chevy Chase area – I think it is just great. This was my major in college - history. So I think anything that deals with the historical viewpoint is great.
Q – You have a history degree?
A – Well it is in history and education. It is in secondary education. I didn’t get a job right away. There was an overload in the social studies area, and so they offered me 5th grade where emphasis on U. S. Social Studies was taught. I was glad that I changed. But I had to go back to get all the elementary courses to teach math, science and everything else.
Q – This is an open-ended question, but what are some of your most happy memories living in Chevy Chase?
A – Well I love to go by the Chevy Chase Circle when the fountain is going . The flowers and plantings that some of the Historical Society has put in there over the past few years - still sort of instills in me a feeling of “gee this is a nice place to live.” In the old days when we were kids there used to be some devils who would put some soap suds in the Chevy Chase fountain and the soap suds would bubble up and over the Chevy Chase Circle, and the cars would come in not knowing which way to go.
Q – It almost sounds like a Halloween trick. Do you remember some of the holidays, such as Halloween?
A – I never did like Halloween to be frank with you. Kids like it when they get dressed up, but I really got turned off of Halloween when I was teaching. The kids would ask “when is Halloween?” and I thought this is the last Halloween I will ever do.
Q – You didn’t do trick or treating when you were a child?
A – Yeah – a little bit – but not too much. We always had parties at school and dressed up. That was always fun to do that.
Q – Did they have a parade with costumes around the school?
A – I think they did.
Q – How about 4th of July, was there something special then – or Memorial Day -
any parades? Do you recall?
A – I don’t remember that too much. I remember Memorial Day. It was a family tradition when my father came home from work, my mother and I would gather up some flowers in the yard. Most of the time we had something blooming in the yard. We would go to Rock Creek Cemetery where my grandparents were buried – and some of my great aunts and uncles – and we would decorate the graves.
Q – On the 4th of July – did you go to fireworks – either in town or in the neighborhood?
A – I don’t believe that there were any in the neighborhood. There may have been some. We went down a few times to the Monument to see them as people do today.
Q – What are your memories of Christmas?
A – Well we had a family celebration among my father’s brothers families, and we would often times get together for dinner or an exchange of gifts, We had a glass of eggnog. We would visit in the homes for a snack.
Q – Were winters difficult? Did you have lots of snow?
A – Lots of snow. We used to do some sledding down Rittenhouse Street.
Q – How about ice-skating?
A – No
Q – In summers you probably didn’t have air conditioning?
A – No.
Q – How did you get through summers? Did you have a sleeping porch?
A – Yes we did, but I don’t think we used it too much.. We had fans maybe. It didn’t seem to bother me too much then. Neither did the cold, but I think it did bother my parents. And often times my mother and I and my father when he could get off of work would go to Southern Maryland on the Patuxent River. At least if it wasn’t cooler, you could go swimming and get cool
Q – Did you spent quite a bit of time down there?
A – When I was younger, yes.
Q – You would go for several days or a week?
A – Yeah during the summer.
Q – And your other cousins would be there?
A - Yeah, Usually
Q - Is the house still there?
A – Yes it is. My father had gone down to St. Mary’s County when he was a young boy. I would say when he was 10 – 12 years old when his parents used to go to Europe or something they used to board – or I say “farm” these kids out. My father always went down to southern Maryland, and he would stay with some schoolteachers on Summer Seat Farm. You people probably don’t know about that. But I have met several people who went there. It was a farm that was owned at one time by the Costigan sisters who were schoolteachers, and they would accept these kids and board them for a time in the summer. I don’t know if it was for a week or a month. My father used to tell tales. They would have to do farm chores. They would drive the oxen, pulling the ox cart down to the water. He was a young boy. I would like to look that up in the old records, but I don’t know if there are any records available. A couple of my friends worked there to try to revitalize this place along with historic St. Mary’s City and Sotterley and a couple of the main historic places down there.
Q – You said that you get a Lafayette alumni newsletter?
A – No Wilson
Q – Is there a way to get a copy? I would like to get in touch with that group.
A – One of the guys who is in that group is older than I am. I have talked to him on the phone – Damon Cordom – and he lives off Utah Avenue on Van Hazen Street. I can look it up for you because I get the copies, and I have talked to him personally after Christmas. Wilson is planning a reunion or celebration in the fall – October 15 - 16 some time around there – when they hopefully will be reopening the school after the renovation. Another person to talk to is– Kay Cartright from St. Paul’s [Lutheran Church]. She went to Wilson and Deal but she did not go to Lafayette. She went to Murch probably. She lives in her family home on Reno Road. I don’t know if that is Chevy Chase. I think her parents were away for a while in Florida, but she was back there for high school and still lives there today.
Q – Let’s talk about Dr. Havell. You said he made house calls.
A – Yes
Q – Refresh our memory, where did he live?
A – Dr. Robert Havell lived on Nebraska Avenue, but the back of his property was at the triangle – where 32nd Street came in there at Morrison, I believe - the white house right there on that triangle. His mother and father lived there. He had two sisters. The oldest sister died of breast cancer. She was around the class of 57 because she was a little older than I was. Then Tom – we used to call him Cotton – was in the class of 59 so he grew up there until he went to college.
Q – So he is the one who is a doctor now?
A – Yes. He might be ready to retire. He is about 70. His office is down on Cathedral Avenue. He is Dr. Thomas Havell.
Q – Can you tell me about the father? What was he like?
A – Well he was sort of cold – a New England type person. He was not very warm. He was a good doctor, but he didn’t have a whole lot of bedside manners.
Q - But his office was in his home?
A – Yes on the side of his home.
Q – Were there other people who had professional offices in that neighborhood?
A - Not that I can remember. He was there for a long time in practice, and then he developed I believe Parkinson Disease so he and his wife moved to the Methodist Home. He died and then she died, but she had that house for quite a while after Dr. Havell died.
Q – Do you have photographs?
A – I brought a couple is to show you the woods on Rittenhouse Street.
Q – Was it paved?
A – Rough payment. It wasn’t smooth. It wasn’t gravel.
This picture shows my father, grandfather and me. I brought these because you asked about the neighborhood. I know that we must have some others. It might give a feeling of what the woods was like. You are used to seeing houses on the blocks. The closest house on Rittenhouse was the street that runs from Nebraska to Rittenhouse – 28th Street. Those houses were put in later than the ones on Rittenhouse.
Q – This is you in a car?
A – It is an old Plymouth in 1944 or 1945.
Q – I would like to look to see if there are any others. I know there is one of our front yard, and it shows the cars coming up Nebraska and coming out of the park. If they were coming, they were coming to your house. Now the traffic goes by like crazy- especially in rush hour.
Q – Anything that we didn’t ask you? What was it like during the war?
A – I can remember some things during the war – like the air raid drills and even when we were in school and the drills that we had to get under our desks. I remember that my mother had blankets over the windows so that the light didn’t show during World War II.
Q – Do you remember when the war was over?
A – I remember I was with my mother and one of her sisters in Atlantic City, and they declared that the war was over and everyplace shut down. It was like you couldn’t even get any milk. Everyone was out on the street yelling and screaming and celebrating.
Q – Anything else that you would like to say about Chevy Chase?
A – There are probably many more things that I could say about Chevy Chase as I remember them. Chevy Chase is a great place to live, and I feel very fortunate to have had - and still have – the opportunity and experience of this area. May we always remember the historical background and heritage of Chevy Chase, DC.
© Copyright Historic Chevy Chase DC
Oral history interviews may be copied for personal, research and/or educational purposes only under the fair use provisions of US Copyright Law. Oral histories accessed through this web site are the property of Historic Chevy Chase DC. the copyright owner.
Use of these interviews is subject to the following terms and conditions:
- Material may not be used for commercial purposes. Short quotes and references are permitted for instructional and publication purposes.
- Users must provide complete citation referencing the speaker, the interviewer, the date and website with URL address.
- Users may not re-post or link the oral history site or any parts of it to another program or listing without permission.
Questions about the use of these oral history materials and requests for permission should be directed to email@example.com or HCCDC, PO Box 6292, Washington, D.C. 20015-0292.