Called the Johns' House because John Kerry and John Lindsay Lived There

Frances Hamby: Oral History Excerpts


Q - You are in Chevy Chase because of your husband?

FH –Yes


Q - Tell me about your husband.  How did you meet him?

 FH – I met him in 1947.


 Q - Tell us his name.

 FH – Louis Laval Hamby, Jr.


Q - How did you meet him?

 FH – It is a very strange story.   I was working at the Bethesda Theater holding the job for a very good friend of mine whose mother was very sick.  She couldn’t be away from her mother all day long and also in the evening.  She had full-time help for her mother during the day time, and she was at home with her at night. She had this job as a ticket seller at the Bethesda Theater.  But she did not want to lose it, because she expected to be able to go back to the job.   This was a friend that I met while I was working for the Public Health Service.  The manager of the theater happened to be my husband’s best friend.  The manager called my husband and said that he ought to come to the theater, because there was someone there who he thought he would like. That is how I met him.


Q- So you met your husband and when did you marry?

 FH – November 1948.

 FH –I moved in to where I live now.  My husband’s father had died about 9 months before we were married.  He was an only child, and his mother was a typical old-time southern lady who never learned to drive.  She never wrote a check.  She called the grocery store and ordered her groceries.  She just didn’t know how to live by herself.  So I moved in as a bride, and we lived together for 20 years.  


Q  - She was from South Carolina?

 FH – Yes.



Q - How long was that house in your husband’s family? 

 FH – They bought it in 1924.


Q - Was it a new house?

 FH – No.  They were the third owners


Q - Do you know the age of the house?

 FH – It was built in 1911.    So it is 100 years old now. 


Q - Do you know anything about the architect or the builder?

 FH – No. 


Q - Was it changed or remodeled since you lived there or your husband’s family lived there?

 FH – The only thing that I know that they did was to enclose two open porches – on the east side of the house.


Q - Can you describe the house to me architecturally?  What does it look like?

FH – It is pebbledash, and it has a beautiful entrance hall with a stairway that goes up and across.  The living room runs the full depth of the house on the left and a dining room on the right and a butler’s pantry behind the dining room and then a kitchen.  There are 4 bedrooms upstairs and one full bath.  There is another bathroom where there used to be a walk-through through 2 of the bedrooms.  My husband’s family put in a small bath.  It has no bathtub.  It has a toilet, washbasin and a shower.    I know my mother-in-law bought a new stove in 1925, and I am still using the stove.    It is up on legs.  It has a broiler and an oven above.  You don’t have to bend down to put food in the broiler or the oven.  It is a Detroit Jewel.


Q - Have you ever had the kitchen remodeled?

 FH – No.


Q - So it is the original kitchen from when your mother-in-law was there?

 FH – Yes.  I don’t have cabinets.  I have a Dutch cabinet on one wall and then some kind of a cabinet that is just table height, and it is on wheels.  It has a breadbox drawer and another drawer below where you can keep a lot of things.  And then a big cupboard on the other side with no shelves.




Q – When you moved in, what do you remember about the neighbors?

 FH – I knew a good number of them.  They were older people – the same age as my mother-in-law.   Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Philips lived across the street in the same house that John Kerry later lived in when he was a young boy.


Q –John Kerry, the senator?

FH – Yes.   He came after the Philips moved, and John Lindsay lived there also at one point – in the same house.  It is 3806 Jenifer Street.   It was called the “Johns’ House.”   Then next door to me was Dr. and Mrs. Katzman on the east side, and then on the west side of my house, it was Mr. and Mrs. Russell Barrett.  I went to high school with one of the Barrett children.  I went to Immaculata  Seminary with Mary Frances.   And then the house next to that was a rental house, and it belongs to the people just beyond that at 3815 – Captain Dessez, and the same family now owns it but the name is Miller now.  And on the south side of Jenifer Street there was a Captain and Mrs. Davis who lived at 3808 and then Mr. and Mrs. Vinal at 3810.  At 3818 was the Unitarian minister,  A.  Powell Davies.  And then as soon as I got pregnant all of these older families put their houses on the market.  I thought they were afraid that they were going to have a screaming baby next door.  


When Sally was 6 years, the younger Kerry brother, Cameron, was the same age as my Sally. And they used to play together. 


Q  - What was the senior Kerry’s occupation?

 FH – He was State Department.


Q – How long did they live there?

FH – I really don’t remember.  But they had an overseas assignment, and they rented the house and that was when John and Mary Lindsay moved in.  John Lindsay was the representative of the silk stocking district of New York City, and then he was mayor of New York City. 


Q – John Lindsay, the mayor moved in? 

 FH – When he moved into the house, he was working for Attorney General Brownell at that time.  Then he went back to New York, and he ran for Congress.  He was elected.  Then he was in Congress for several years.  They did not live across the street then.  They lived in a house in Cleveland Park. 


Q – What do you remember about John Kerry?


FH _ He was older than my children.  He was the oldest.  The second child was a girl named Peggy.  I think John first went to Blessed Sacrament to school, and then he went off to boarding school.  I really didn’t know him at all.  Although he says he remembers me.


Q – Have you met him in recent years?

FH – No.  But Howard Fineman, who is the political writer  -  that used to work for Newsweek before it folded –said that he was having dinner one night with John Kerry.  I don’t know exactly how this came about.    Maybe Howard said something about living on Jenifer Street, and John said, “Well, I used to live on Jenifer Street.”  When he found out where, Howard told me that John said “I know Mrs. Hamby, she lived right across the street.”


Q – How do you know Mr. Fineman?

 FH – He lives next door to the house that John Kerry lived in.


Q – Back then?

 FH – No.  Now.  Dr. and Mrs. Smith lived in that house back when the Kerry family was there.



 Q – What stores did you go to when you were a young bride?

FH – Well there were some grocery stores – DGS and Clover market.  The Clover Market was in the block south of Nebraska across from where Politics and Prose is today.   Higger’s drug store was where CVS is today, and a small liquor store was connected with the drug store.   There was a restaurant just north of the gas station.  Not the big gas station on the west side of Connecticut Avenue.  This was on the east side.    I can’t remember the name of the restaurant.  Up in this area, at McKinley Street going north on the west side of Connecticut Avenue, there was a lounge on the corner.  It was the Chevy Chase Lounge.   Next door to that was the Chevy Chase Novelty Shop, which sold toys and all sorts of things.  I got to be good friends with the owner of that store, because that is where I took my film to be developed.   Then next door to him was a jewelry store, and then next door was a catering business.  They had food catering, and they also had things to sell such as cakes.  And then there was the Avalon Theater.  And beyond Avalon, there was a little grocery store that you had to go up about 5 oval-type steps to go in.  It was one of those independent grocery stores.    Next to that was the post office, which is now on the corner.  Then next to the post office was the drug store that has moved to Northampton Street and 39th Street   - just past the shoe store


And across Connecticut Avenue was E.V.  Brown School and the library.   E.V. Brown School is where the community center is now.  Then coming down on the west side of Connecticut Avenue – going south – was People’s Drug Store.  And then I think the Chevy Chase Liquor Store, and then where Bread and Chocolate restaurant is now was Schupp’s Bakery.  Then there was the drycleaners and High’s ice cream store.  And then a ten cents store.  On the corner of Connecticut and Morrison was Riggs Bank.   Next to the bank was the Chevy Chase Arcade.  Next to the Chevy Chase Arcade was a dry cleaners and the Piccadilly Restaurant where the Greek Restaurant is now.  On the corner of Connecticut and Livingston was Circle Liquor Store, which later moved to the east side of Connecticut Avenue.  




Q -  Did you do most of your shopping locally like that?

 FH – Yes.  But  for shoes or clothes, you had to go downtown – F Street and G Street.   There was Hahn’s Shoe Store and Woodward and Lothrop’s.  Garfinckel’s was on 14th Street.  Jelleff’s was on F Street – around 12th Street.  It was an all-day excursion when I grew up in Rockville to get shoes and clothes for school.    We would have lunch at the tearoom at Woodward and Lothrop’s.  It was something that we looked forward to.  My mother would take me into Washington twice a year to get the different season’s clothes.


Woodward and Lothrop would decorate their windows for Christmas each year with themes.  One year it was The Night Before Christmas.  It was always a big treat to take the children down to see the windows at Woodward and Lothrop’s.  That was the only store that did that.  But there was a sidewalk photographer who walked up and down F Street and took your picture as you were walking along. 



Q -  Getting back to your husband,  I assume he grew up in your house.

FH – He moved in when he was 9 years old.


Q – Did he talk about what it was like growing up, what he did as a child?

 FH – He went to E.V. Brown School and they got out at 12 o’clock every day, and all of the children went home for lunch.  They didn’t have to be back until l o’clock.  Then after E.V. Brown, he went to Western High School, which is now the School for the Arts in Georgetown.  Wilson didn’t exist then.    He went to George Washington University.   Back in those days, you didn’t have to go to 4 years of college before you went to law school.  You could go to law school after 2 years.  So after GW, he went to what was the National Law School.  But it has now become a part of GW’s law school.  Then when he graduated from law school, he started working in his father’s law firm until World War II started.   He didn’t want to be drafted so he joined the Navy.  He retired from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander.  He was in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Honolulu.   


As far as what he did as a child, he used to talk about neighborhood baseball teams.  He used to go St. Albans to play basketball.   All Saints Church had a basketball team, but they didn’t have any place to play.  So I guess they used the school facilities at St.  Albans.    He just had a lot of neighborhood friends.  I don’t know very much about what they did.


Q -  He was born in 1914.   He would have been around in the prohibition era.

 FH – I heard his mother talk about prohibition when they would go down to South Carolina and stay at a boarding house at the beach.   People  there knew who could go get liquor for them, if they wanted it. 



 Q – I was going to ask you about the ambience of the neighborhood but in different ways.   We are interested in knowing how mixed the neighborhood was  - whether you saw people from different places, different races.

 FH – Well I can’t remember when it was, I guess it was around 1969, the next door neighbors – 3801 Jenifer – the house was sold to Channing Phillips who was black.  Some of the neighbors were very concerned about that.  Channing Phillips and his wife had 4 children, I think.   That was when Mayor Washington was Mayor.  A family on Jocelyn Street moved to England because of it.   They lived at 3806 Jocelyn Street – which is just diagonally across the alley from where we lived and he was next door.  The person who moved said that she could not stay in a place that had a black mayor and then a black neighbor.   Her father was one of the original commissioners in DC.  They didn’t have any children and her husband did everything that she wanted him to do.  So they moved to the Isle of Scilly – off the coast of England. 


Q – Was that an unusual response, as far as you know, at that time?

FH  -  None of the neighbors seemed to be upset by it, and I have to say that those children were some of the best-behaved children you would ever want to live next door to you.  They put up a basketball hoop in the alley, and they would shot hoops   - Channing, Jr. especially.   A lot of times the ball would come over in my yard, and he would ring my doorbell to ask if he could come into my yard.  I finally said, “Channing, if your ball comes in my yard,  you come and get it and don’t’ bother me.”  They were very nice children.


Q – What did Channing Phillips do ?   The name sounds familiar to me.

FH  - I don’t remember.


[Editor’s note from Wikipedia: “Channing E. Phillips (March 23, 1928 – November 11, 1987) was an American minister, civil rights leader and social activist, who made history as the first African American placed in nomination for President of the United States by a major political party. 


Born in Brooklyn to a Baptist minister, he was a founding member of Coalition of Conscience, a conglomeration of local organizations working to alleviate social problems in Washington DC.  In 1968 he headed Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in D. C.


He led the delegation from the District of Columbia to the 1968 Democratic National Convention.  Members of the District’s Delegation were originally pledged to Robert F. Kennedy.  Following Senator Kennedy’s death, the delegation opted to nominate Rev. Phillips as a favorite son instead.  He received 68 votes (behind Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern).   By some accounts, this makes Rev. Phillips the first black person ever so nominated at a major party convention.  He was without question the first African/American to receive votes for the presidential nomination at a Democratic National Convention.  Frederick Douglass received votes for President at the 1888 Republican National Convention, but it does not appear from the official record that his name was actually put into nomination.  At the time of his candidacy Phillips was a president of the Housing Development Corporation, a Government-backed housing venture in the federal capital. 


1971, he ran to become the first congressional delegate to the United States House of Representatives from DC, but lost the Democratic primary to Walter E Fauntroy. 


An advocate of full home-rule status for D C. Phillips later moved back to New York City, where he died at age 59.]


FH- I know when he left Washington, he went to work in the office of the college that he had gone to outside of Richmond.  It was a college for black people.  Then he died.  I don’t remember when he died.  I found out recently that Mrs. Phillips remarried, and she lives in an apartment building where Catherine - one of the girls that used to live on Jenifer Street   - works as a manager.   I have known Catherine since she was born.  Anyway, Catherine said that she overhead a woman talking to the person in charge of the building.   She heard her say that many years ago, she lived on Jenifer Street.  And so Catherine said,  “did you say Jenifer Street?”  And the woman said “yes.”   And Catherine said “where about on Jenifer Street?”  She told her 3801 Jenifer Street.  She said my name was Phillips, and Catherine said, “Well do you remember Mrs.  Hamby?”  She said “Oh yes, I remember her.  She always dressed up as a witch on Halloween.”   And I used to do that.  So she is still living.  I think young Channing is the attorney general for Washington, but I just don’t remember what his father did when they lived next door. 


Q – So there were very few African Americans in this part of Washington at that time.

 FH – They were the only ones that I know of





Q – Did you tell us how your husband’s family got to Washington? 

 FH  - My father-in-law came to Washington, and as a young man he got a job as a superintendent of the building of the old Naval Hospital down on 23rd Street near Constitution.    I don’t know what that building is now.  He went to law school at Georgetown at night.  Then he went back to South Carolina and married my mother-in-law, and they came to Washington.


Q – So he was from South Carolina?

 FH – Yes.  He used to carry her books to and from school.  They walked to school together in Georgetown, South Carolina.


Q – You mentioned that he had a law firm.  Where was that?

FH -  It was his law firm.  It was in the transportation building at 17th and H Street.

There is now a big, ugly building there.  Not the nice building where he used to be in. 


Q – Do you know what kind of law he practiced?

FH -  I know he handled property for Harvard University that was here in Washington.  So I don’t know if it was real estate law or what.


-- - - - - - - - - 


FH - My mother-in-law said she choose  [the house] because of the front hall.  When it was shown to her, she loved the stairway, because it was more like a typical southern house.  When my son got married in Palm Beach, Florida, some of the friends of the bride’s family was the son of the man that was the first owner of the house that I live in now.  His name was Mr. Conradis.  I do not know the exact spelling of his name.  But when we were introduced to these people, I said, “somebody with that same last name was the one that had the house that we live in built.”  This person said, “It was my father.”



FH - When I first came to Washington, there were gas stations on all 4 corners of Wisconsin and Jenifer.   I can’t remember the name of the gas station that was on the corner where the Savings and Loan came in later, and now there are stores there.   Then across the street  - where Filene Basement is - there was an Exxon gas station.  There was a Sinclair gas station where Chadwick’s Restaurant is now.    I don’t remember what gas station was where Booyey Monger is.


Q – Do you remember what gas cost?

FH – About 30 cents a gallon.  Two dollars filled up the tank.  I always went to P and K’s, which was a Sinclair station.  They had good mechanics, and we could leave the car there, and walk home.  Or we would drive up to the station, and they would drive me home.  It was a good number of years that we dealt there. 


But to do any kind of shopping, there was not much here.  I remember when Woodward and Lothrop came here.  The Silver Fox Restaurant was where Maza Galleria is now.   They had somebody that played the piano many nights of the week.  The Howard Johnson Restaurant was where the Metro Center is now.


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