Chevy Chase De-Segregates,
The Neighborhood Organizes Youth Services
Timothy Hannapel & Emily Swartz: Oral History
This interview focuses on Chevy Chase in the two decades following the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, and the social explosion that followed. They were years of white flight, but also marked a transition to home rule. Though Timothy Hannapel started school at Blessed Sacrament School as a second grader in 1966 when his family moved to Chevy Chase DC from Arizona, he and his siblings switched to the public schools (Lafayette Elementary School, Alice Deal Junior High School, and Wilson High School) three years later, just as they were desegregating. Tim’s aunt, Emily Swartz, joins the conversation later to provide the perspective of a parent and local activist committed to building community guided by an all-city vision of DC development. She reprises her experience as an elected member of the new Neighborhood Planning Councils established in 1969 and later as program director of Community for Careers, which created job opportunities for hundreds of Chevy Chase youth.
WHEN: 24 September 2016
WHERE: home of the interviewer
INTERVIEWER: Carl Lankowski
Q: Tim, let’s start with some basics and background. When are where were you born and how did your family come to Chevy Chase DC?
TH: Sure. I am 56 years old. I was born in November, 1959 in Berkeley, California. I am the third of six children. My mom and dad met and married in Arizona, where they were both undergraduates at the University of Arizona in Tucson. My mom’s family is from Arizona; my dad’s is from Chicago. My dad was the first one in his family to go to college. He was a football star; he went to the University of Arizona on a full football scholarship, quite the athlete. My mom was not the first in her family to attend college. Her mom and dad met at the University of Arizona. She is from a great family in Arizona. Her dad was a lawyer; her grandfather was a prominent physician in Phoenix. There is a local connection—he attended medical school at Georgetown University, graduating in 1908. His young wife was a nurse and she came down with a bad case of Tuberculosis in DC at Georgetown. Back in those days, the only way to recover from TB was to go sweat it out in the desert. And so it came to pass that the family relocated to Arizona. My maternal grandfather was an amateur historian. Years later, he wrote his memoirs. He wrote about going to the clerk at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and got a job on the Hopi Indian reservation in northern Arizona, in Tuba City…
Q: On Second Mesa?
TH: Yes. So, that’s how he got out to Arizona. He became a prominent physician in Phoenix. His son, my grandfather, was at the University of Arizona in 1930 and met and married my mother’s mother there. My mom attended to the University of Arizona in Tucson in the 1950s, where she met my dad. Subsequently, he did graduate work at UC-Berkeley, where I and my two older sisters were born. That was 1959. Then they moved back to Tucson, where he was on the faculty for five years.
Q: What was his field?
TH: He is a Chemist. A Biochemist. In 1966, he got this cool summer fellowship working for the AAAS—the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC, whose offices were in the vicinity of Dupont Circle. That was 50 years ago. The summer fellowship turned into a two-year appointment to the National Science Foundation. That precipitated the decision to move the family to Washington. It was to have been for two years, but here we are, 50 years later.
Q: The whole family moved in 1966? Did the family settle in Chevy Chase DC at that time?
TH: Yes. We moved to 3217 Northampton Street. The story about how we got there is kind of amazing. My dad had friends from graduate school at Berkeley who were living at that time up in Kensington, and worked at the old Bureau of Standards. He enlisted Mary Schooley’s help to find a house. And she—living in Kensington, Montgomery County—said: “you should live in Northwest DC and the reason you should live there is that the church, Blessed Sacrament, is wonderful. They have a great school.” I don’t know how it was decided they should live on the DC side rather than Maryland, but no one has ever regretted that. It’s a fantastic neighborhood. So, we moved in October 1966. All of the school-aged kids in the family started at Blessed Sacrament School. I entered second grade at Blessed Sacrament.
Q: Were there four Hannapels in school?
TH: Yes. But Blessed Sacrament did not have Kindergarten. The public schools, Lafayette and Murch, did. Here’s what people used to do. My brother, Teddy, went to Kindergarten at Lafayette and then the next year he started first grade at Blessed Sacrament. My former wife, Teresa, did the same thing. Her parents sent her to Lafayette for Kindergarten and then she went to Catholic school after that.
Q: What is it about Blessed Sacrament that draws people?
TH: Well, it’s a great school. It was a good school. It has always maintained a pretty fine program. Having gone to both, I can say this with some first-hand knowledge. When I started second grade in October 1966—there were two second grade classes and I was in one with a lay teacher—she was wonderful, very young, maybe in her mid-20s—and I was kid number 52 in that class. Student 51 was Mary Arrigo—we went through school together and became friends. We both started late, so we were the new kids. Fifty-two kids, no volunteer, no teacher’s aide, just one teach and 52 second graders. It was amazing that we learned anything…but we did. It’s interesting: the school just did not have the resources that the public schools did. There was no music program. There was a nun who taught choral music, but no instrumental music program. There was not a real science teacher. There was not a lot of elements we think of standard, that Lafayette offered.
Q: How long were you at Blessed Sacrament?
TH: I went there for second, third and fourth grades. At that moment, my older sister, Kate, was about to graduate from the 8th grade and it was time for my folks to decide, what do we do? Do we send Kate to an all-girls Catholic high school? By then, having lived in the neighborhood long enough, they had figured out that the public schools were fantastic. And so they switched all six of us to public schools.
Q: That would have been around 1970.
TH: The fall of 1969 to be exact. My older sisters went to Alice Deal Junior High School and I was in the 5th grade at Lafayette Elementary School. I remember my first day there as a new student, though I knew all my buddies from cub scouts and they welcomed me into the 5th grade class. I had a wonderful teacher named Doris Santamour. All of the sudden I had these great resources. We had a gym. We had a physical education teacher and fields we could play on. Blessed Sacrament didn’t have a field. We had an instrumental music program. I took up the trumpet. There was this incredible music teacher named Anna Choate. There was a real library. Blessed Sacrament at the time taught no foreign languages. There was a French teacher at Lafayette. So, I had this interesting experience of going to Blessed Sacrament, then to Lafayette and Deal.
Now, recall what was going on in 1969 with the public schools in DC. Our neighborhood has a racial segregation element to it. It was a nearly all white community. We have rediscovered that it was not always such. Lafayette and Alice Deal and Wilson were built on eradicated black settlements. This is a part of our history that we need to do a better job of knowing and understanding.
Q: Before we get there, let me be sure I understood the appeal of Blessed Sacrament for your parents when your family settled in this community. Was it for the school? Was it religious in inspiration?
TH: Both. They didn’t know anything about the public schools and our referral from Kensington praised the school. Both parents were Catholic. They had both gone to Catholic schools—well, I guess my dad had—I don’t remember if there was a Catholic school in the tiny town of Florence, Arizona. We had attended Catholic school in Tucson. And there was a very good Catholic school that was part of Blessed Sacrament. It was a very good school. But the public school was better.
Q: Let’s return to genealogy for a moment. Your father is from Chicago, your mother from somewhere around here originally.
TH: Southwest Virginia.
Q: Is there an immigration story on either side of the family?
TH: There is, a great immigration story. My dad is German and Irish. Hannapel is a German name. His German ancestors were refugees from German conscription. They emigrated from Germany in 1870 or 1871 to escape the draft. They settled in Pennsylvania; they were coal miners, but they eventually moved to Chicago. They had very good jobs. My dad’s father was a railroad engineer on the Illinois Central and then also on the Ashton-Topeka-Santa Fe line. He drove a locomotive.
Q: Where in Pennsylvania?
TH: Shenandoah, PA. My folks have done some genealogical work there. They went and found census records putting them there by 1880.
Q: Coal was such an important immigration magnet.
TH: Right, coal! And they came from Germany. I don’t know if they were coal miners in Germany. They came from Koblenz. So, the German Hannapels ended up in Chicago. And my mother’s family, the Sults, came from a town in Southwest Virginia--Wytheville. The ancestor was a Civil War soldier. He made good. After the war, he started a carriage shop. He was determined to make something of his children. It was his son that somehow ended up in Georgetown Medical School.
Q: What was the immigration story on that side of the family?
TH: I don’t really know. They were Irish and German. But the Sults may have been descended from French folks. My mother’s mother was Irish. They emigrated from Ireland in the 1850s and 60s to Kentucky.
Q: Nice. Back to 1969.
TH: All the kids are now in public school. The two oldest are going to Alice Deal. I’m going to Lafayette along with my brothers, Teddy and Andy. They all went to Lafayette, Deal, and Wilson. My sisters started at Alice Deal in 1969. I think my sister Kate would have been in 9th grade.
The year 1969 would have been the first or second year after the Skelly Wright court-ordered desegregation in DC.
Q: Before we talk about that, give us some impressions of your time at Lafayette.
TH: Lafayette was an amazing school. It was such a change from Blessed Sacrament. First of all, there was no religious aspect to it. You didn’t have to go to church. I remember in 4th grade at Blessed Sacrament the priest coming over and talking to the class. Then you would prepare for your First Holy Communion. It always reminds me of the George Carlin line, where the priest shows up and Carlin, the class clown, pipes up: “Hey Father! If God is all powerful, can He create a stone so large that He Himself can’t lift it?” There was none of that at Lafayette. It was a wonderful learning environment. We had French; we had a real science teacher; we had a student teacher. Great teachers and just two blocks from our house. Everything happened at Lafayette field—we played baseball, we sledded in the winter. The principal was Roberta Barnes. She had been there for many years. Wonderful, sweet, great educator. You felt like you were in a wonderful community dedicated to learning. And it was almost 100% white.
Q: Let’s go into that.
TH: I had one African-American young student in my class. Her name was Quay Wallace. I want to say that her parents were diplomats. She was the only one. It felt like it was 100% white. From there to go in 1971 to Alice Deal was a huge change. Deal is a junior high school, so it is a time of change for any 6th grader going on to 7th grade. You have a home room and you go from class to class, regulated by a system of bells. Hormones are raging. On top of that, the population of the school had undergone major changes in the previous couple of years. The population was predominantly African-American, around 50-60%. Whites were a minority of 30-40%. So, it felt different. I do remember that there was a racial aspect to being in school there, being a little white kid in a minority. But on balance, there was still a great education to be had there. There was a new principal—he was in his first of second year when I began at Deal. The parents had been involved in his recruitment. My dad was very active in the Home and School Association. He had served on the interview panel. They hired A. Lyman Warner. I believe he came from Long Island. He was white and pretty young, in his 30s. He sported side-burns, wore cool jackets and big ties. But he was really out of his depth. Deal’s demographic was totally wrong for him. He had no idea how to deal with black and white kids in a mix with all the hormones raging to boot. He thought the place was too rigid, so he eliminated the bells. When it was time to go to class, everyone would just know it was time. That wasn’t appropriate. You’re dealing with 7th graders. So, what I remember about Deal is that it sometimes felt chaotic. That wasn’t conducive to learning. When class sessions ended, the halls were teeming and fights were breaking out. The principal did not have an idea about how to impose school discipline. He was there the three years I attended Deal. Still, at the same time he was there, there were incredible teachers. Deal and Wilson were known to be the best junior high and high schools in Washington. They were then; they are now. They stayed that way, even in the 1970s through a fair amount of racial reshuffling. Kids from my neighborhood were assigned to Deal and Wilson, but some of the kids I went to Lafayette with did not go to Deal, because their parents didn’t want to send them to an environment that was so integrated, so some of my friends were shipped across the Maryland line, eventually to Bethesda Chevy Chase High School. Their parents paid tuition to get them away from Deal.
Q: Tell us about the court case and its impact.
TH: Sure. I’m a lawyer, so in advance of this interview I looked up the case and read a law review article. I attended Georgetown Law School and there is a professor there named Mike Seidman. He clerked for Judge Skelly Wright and then he went on to clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Brennan. Skelly Wright is himself an amazing story. He was born and raised in Louisiana in New Orleans and became a federal judge in the late 1940s or 50s. He was the judge who desegregated the New Orleans schools. He was very controversial, because he made no bones about it. He wrote very eloquently. There were death threats; he had to leave his home. He was very unpopular. And then Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. That’s referred to as the second highest court in the land. He was extremely liberal. As Seidman points out in his law review article, because of the unique character of the local-federal relationship, somehow Skelly Wright ended up being assigned as the trial judge to hear the case that was brought by Julius Hobson called Hobson vs. Hanson. Julius Hobson was an African-American activist who wanted to send his kids to the better schools. The fact is that it was more than ten full years since the Supreme Courted handed down the judgment in Brown vs. Board of Education; there was more white flight from the public schools, such that by then the white school population was down to something like 10%. And Hobson’s point was that though there was no de jure segregation, but we have defacto segregation that is manifesting itself in all kinds of unfair ways—lack of funding, overcrowding, the predominantly-black schools had little maintenance. Those schools were 50-80 years old, while the predominantly-white schools were newer. And by predominantly white, I mean that, despite no official segregation, the schools west of Rock Creek Park were almost all white and those east of the Park, downtown and in Anacostia were almost 100% black. And there was really no way to get from one school district to the other. What Skelly Wright did tested the limits of remedial judicial authority. He tried to equalize the funding. He did everything but order the schools between DC and Montgomery and PG County to be unified. He knew he couldn’t do that. So there was no way for him to find enough white students to really integrate the school system, but what he did do that really changed Deal and Wilson was to allow voluntary transfers from the predominantly black schools into Deal and Gordon Junior High Schools, and Wilson and Western High Schools. These schools were actually at only 70-80% of their capacities. He allowed voluntary bussing, but then ordered the system to pay for the bus fares.
Three years later, when I started at Deal, I saw the charter buses every day, all parked outside the school waiting to take the African-American students back home to the other side of the Park. So it felt different: some kids were there by virtue of bussing and others because it was the neighborhood school.
By and large, it worked pretty well. But that’s not the way Seidman saw it. He implies that Wright went too far, that DC schools failed to achieve quality improvement. My take is different. Judge Wright gave opportunity to black kids to transfer to white schools that had more resources and better teachers. The black schools had younger and mostly black teachers; the white schools had experienced faculties. What Skelly Wright did is give opportunity to tens of thousands of black kids. Yes, there was a little chaos, but so what? You were going to an integrated school. So many benefits flowed from that. I didn’t really care if I was a scared little white kid around black kids. I made black friends. We continued to live in our own respective neighborhoods and played with my neighborhood friends after school, but the opportunity was there during school to get to know people from different backgrounds. That’s a huge benefit.
Q: How did you experience that? How did it look from the ground up?
TH: Well, here we were in Alice Deal Junior High with a very diverse student body and some chaos caused by not very regimented school administrators. In class it was fine. We had good teachers. Sometimes there was tension around black/white issues. There is the story of my 7th grade Math teacher who was absent and we had a substitute teacher; there was some chaos in the class. Some black girls took great delight in poking white boys with pins, but I had a few friends among them that protected me. Those incidents were few and far between. Overall, there was a great education to be had there. As in all schools, some teachers were better than others. Like life more broadly, a variegated experience. That was part of what the Deal and Wilson experience taught. If you had a lousy teacher, you might have to learn on your own.
Q: Were you involved in extra-curricular activities?
TH: I was not very athletic. We had a great Glee club at Deal supervised by Jean Lauderdale. She put on a musical every year. I remember being in the chorus of “Oliver!” In 8th grade, I think I was in the chorus of “The King and I.” She put on big productions and everybody participated—black and white. They were fun. She was crazy, crazy good. She had incredible energy. I was a kind of gawky, chubby kid. As often happens, by the time I got to Wilson, things had changed. At Wilson, things were calmer. There was a real administration in place.
Before leaving Deal, let me say that eventually Deal’s constituencies came to the conclusion that Lyman Warner was not a good fit. I believe the principal after him was Tony Minus. He was African-American and brought discipline and regimentation. He only stayed for a couple of years, but he hired as assistant principal a guy whose name you have probably heard before, Reginald Moss. So, there was this transition period at both Deal and Wilson where they had to figure out the right approach and personnel.
To prepare for this interview, I pulled out my Wilson yearbook and I realized that another famous guy was brought in—Mike Durso. Have you heard of Mr. Durso?
Q: Can’t say that I have.
TH: Mike Durso is a DC original, one of the best people in the whole world. He grew up in this neighborhood and is probably in his 70s by now. He is currently a member of the Montgomery County School Board. He was an assistant principal at Lincoln Junior High before he came to Wilson in 1974 or 1975. He went on to become principal of Wilson, one of the famous ones, an incredible educator. And then he got fired. He was fired unjustly. He ejected a student who assaulted someone. From Wilson he went to another principalship in Fairfax County and another in Montgomery County. Years after my graduation from Wilson, after I married and moved into an apartment on Connecticut Avenue, Mike Durso’s mother lived in the same building, so I ran into Mike Durso often. He is a great guy. At Wilson he figured out early on that high school kids need rules, all the more so with the demographic mix there. Under Durso and Moss, the schools flourished.
Q: Were you involved in extra curriculars at Wilson?
TH: At Wilson, I was involved in the TV quiz show It’s Academic team. I was a member of the honors society. And, most of all, I got involved in NPC 2 and 3. Neighborhood Planning Councils (NPCs) had both a youth and adult component to them. I was the elected youth chair of NPC #2 starting in 1973 or ’74. So I did a lot of extracurricular stuff in that connection. I had a summer job when I was 13. It was through this wonderful guy, Tony Sarmiento. He worked for the city and did a lot of outreach and I guess Tony had grown up in this neighborhood. And Tony was the person who really inspired the neighborhood history project. You have seen ORIGINS and ORIGINS II, but there was a predecessor project. ORIGINS was in the summer of 1974. ORIGINS II was done in the summer of 1975. There was a predecessor project that would have been in the summer of 1973. My sister Maggie worked on it. It was called FOOTSTEPS. They produced a pamphlet of walking tours. So I spent a lot of time learning about neighborhood history in connection with ORIGINS and ORIGINS II.
Q: Before we focus more intensively on these projects, tell us more about the texture and tenor of your Wilson High School experience.
TH: It was the academic school in the system. By then you had School Without Walls. I don’t think Benjamin Banneker High School, a magnet school, had started yet. [Banneker opened its doors in 1981-CL] So Wilson was the academic high school in DC. There were fantastic teachers there. For example, Edna Jackson, one of my 10th grade teachers. She taught modern European history. She was African-American and quite a bit older. She had already retired by the time I graduated in 1977. She inspired so many students. Another was Joe Morgan—I had him for English my senior year. You learned literature. Reading Heart of Darkness in Mr. Morgan’s class—well, you really learned about Mr. Kurtz. It was a great education. Looking back at my (1977) yearbook, I see epigrams from white friends and a couple of black friends. There was a group of us…there’s Fred Lee…I haven’t seen him in years and years, but he was on It’s Academic with me, I think. I was not very highly ranked in my class, because I got an F in typing. It was my senior year. I took typing. In October or November I went away for about a week to visit colleges; when you miss a week of typing, that’s tough. After I returned I was only allowed one make-up day per week. So I was just way behind. It was all cumulative. So what did I do…the responsible and mature thing: I stopped going to class. And then I missed the deadline to drop the class, so I had to take the F on my transcript. Anyway, I had fulfilled my class quota. By my senior year, I was done with class by 11:00 a.m. I had two or three classes. Then I went to work. I worked at Booeymonger restaurant over on Wisconsin Avenue in Friendship Heights.
Q: I guess it turned out not to hurt you as far as college admissions was concerned...
TH: That’s right. There were four of us from the Wilson class of ’77 who went to Brown University.
Q: Where else were the graduates going?
TH: All over the place, really. It would be interesting to see what the college rates and graduation rates were. Some didn’t make it through and some graduated but then did not go on to post-secondary education. The bottom line for me? When I look at the pages of this yearbook, and you see mostly black faces, though a lot of white faces, these were kids who, had they been ten years older, would have been denied the opportunity to go to Wilson. And maybe many didn’t go off to college, but they had access to a pretty great high school education because of what that judge decided. If there was a little racial tension, who cares—it was worth it. And there’s an undeniable benefit to everybody for being around different people. That’s the way the world works. That’s the way the workplace works. I read your oral history interview with Alvin Brown and he had kind of the same take on it. He was just about the only black kid at Lafayette and then he went on to Deal where the environment was very different—he talks about how he still played with his neighborhood friends. Lawyers and courts can remedy state-sponsored segregation, but they can’t change the way people live and work and think. Those changes have to come from within. And of course what happened today at the dedication ceremony opening the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is testimony to that. You can get the state out of the business of enforcing Jim Crow—and we live in a neighborhood that has vestiges of that—the schools are certainly one.
Q: Thanks for mentioning that. Yes, Pam and I were present this morning at the NMAAHC dedication ceremony, an emotionally charged, thrilling event, with more than average relevance for DC. Indeed, Tom Lewis, author of the most recent general history of the District, Washington: A History of Our National City (2015), in describing the succession of racist Congressmen appointed to chair the committee overseeing DC government for many decades, cites Democratic representative John Lanneau McMillan of South Carolina, who called Washington “the last plantation” in the 1940s. It was not lost on any of the hundreds of invited guests sitting on the Mall in front of the NMAAHC’s “porch” this morning that although progress has been made—Barack Obama is nearing the conclusion of his second term as president—many news cycles recently have been dominated by appeals to racism and acts inspired by it, even in the current presidential election campaign. So it is worth remembering that the museum was conceived 100 years ago and the struggle is not by any means finished.
TH: It was 1916. The idea was conceived by a committee meeting at the 19th Street Baptist Church. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), who introduced the legislation in 2003 leading to the establishment of the NMAAHC, talked about it in his interview published yesterday by The Washington Post. I love the 19th Street Baptist Church for many reasons. One footnote: it is no longer on 19th Street; it moved to 16th Street. We know why they kept their name—because it was a prominent, huge, leading congregation, the incubator of what you witnessed this morning.
Q: Let’s circle back to ORIGINS. Tell us what you remember about how ORIGINS came about.
TH: It is just amazing that it happened to me. I was associated with the project for two years. I published articles in both. It started in 1973. ORIGINS and ORIGINS II are publications, they are magazines or journals. They contained articles published by high school students Participants were paid. It was part of a jobs program, funded by the Neighborhood Planning Councils #2/3, and also there was additional city money, which was connected with plans for the U.S. Bicentennial 1976 celebrations. Leading up to the bicentennial there was a lot of interest in history of the country in general and also in neighborhood history. The idea was: look around! Look into the history of the places where we lived and worked and saw every day. Tony Sarmiento worked for the mayor’s office in the Office for Bicentennial Programs. I am pretty sure that the concept was his brain child. The very first project was in the summer of 1973, a book of walking tours called FOOTSTEPS. My sister and some of her friends were on that project. I then got interested in it. The next year, the concept was refined. I don’t know what happened to FOOTSTEPS—maybe lost in the sands of time. But I do know what happened to ORIGINS and ORIGINS II, because we put out a magazine. The first year involved ten or eleven kids; I was 14 at the time. [Pointing to the cover picture] Look, there’s my friend Carl Hoffman. Carl was probably 14, too. The rest were older. We were hired, it was a summer job, we made the minimum wage. The first year, we worked with Jim Bridy. He was the project boss. I think he was a graduate student somewhere. The publication states that funding came through a project launched in 1974 by the Mayor’s Office of Youth Opportunity Services. We chose a topic. We were sent to do research. Much of the summer was spent at the Heurich mansion down just off Dupont Circle, which then housed what was then called the Columbia Historical Society—now morphed into the Historical Society of Washington DC, currently housed in the Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square. The librarian in the 1970s was Perry Fisher; he was wonderful, so encouraging. We also spent a lot of time in the Washingtoniana Room of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. That is where many of the photographs in ORIGINS and ORIGINS II were found. We worked with plat maps. I don’t know if we worked a lot with census records. We also benefitted from their newspaper collection. You would put them on a micro-fiche reader and scroll through, a very labor-intensive activity. Our articles took up various topics—from the Chevy Chase Land Company, the trolley line, I wrote the article, “The Churches of Chevy Chase Circle,” the schools, the Chevy Chase Citizens Association. Look at this picture of Reno School.
I did note with interest that in this copy that it has an errata page. That means we must have published a first edition. I noticed that most of the errata are in connection to my article on the churches of Chevy Chase Circle. (laughter) Look, I was 14 when I wrote this. I see that it’s not the most scholarly piece and a lot of it was just repeating who was the pastor, who was the priest. I spent time at the churches, who staff kindly provided pictures and information. But when they subsequently read what I had written, they offered corrections, which we incorporated. It was really fun to work on. Just imagine bopping around the neighborhood with your friends and getting paid to do it. That was ORIGINS, the summer of 1974.
I am much more proud of my work on ORIGINS II. By then, you know, I was an established historian, already published. (laughter) What I did for ORIGINS II was oral history. There had been some oral history in ORIGINS—Robert Truax is mentioned there as a source. I see on your HCCDC website that many of your pictures are credited to him. He was an incredible resource for us in the 1970s. He was not an assuming person—almost reticent, but a fount of information. That was especially the case for the trolley article by Steve Kuttner.
The article I wrote the second year for ORIGINS II was called “Memories of the Depression.” I don’t recall how I got onto this. Maybe from my father, who was born in 1932. He used to talk about being a Depression baby. I went on to college and became a history major; this project piqued my interest in history. In 9th or 10th grade I read The Glory and the Dream by William Manchester, a huge book dealing with the Great Depression. So that was a topic of interest to me. I must have realized—gee, it’s 1975—there are people who are still alive that lived through the Depression, like my dad’s family. My dad was very young, but what he did remember is that he lived in a household with seven adults in Chicago, only one of whom was working. His mother had a job with Western Union. All the other adults in the household were unemployed. So it occurred to me that I could research an article on how the Depression affected Chevy Chase. Now it kind of makes me laugh, because even then, DC was insulated from economic downturns. But still, there were undeniably effects, so I talked to people. I have a wonderful memory of this picture [indicating images in ORIGINS II] of Esther Cantrel and Alice Doolan sitting on the front porch of Mrs. Doolan’s house just across the District line in Chevy Chase, Maryland. So I did these oral histories. But the one that hit me—I am still floored to this day when I read this—was the one I did with Mr. and Mrs. Robert Williams. I can’t remember how I got on to them. Look at her wonderful smile. Robert Williams was probably in his 70s. He wanted to tell me all about the Bonus March [bringing WWI veterans to Washington to demand payments promised them for their service]. He told me it took place in May and June of 1932. It made an enduring impression on me that Mr. Williams was still angry about it, still passionate about it. Every time (General) MacArthur was mentioned, he would say “that God damned MacArthur!”
[The doorbell sounds and Mrs. Emily Swartz joins us. Emily is Tim’s aunt, his mother’s sister, and a key player in the early NPC experience in Chevy Chase. We invited her to participate in this interview, timed to allow a separate line of questions to her nephew.]
Hi Emmy! How nice to see you. Carl, Emmy is one of the most established realtors in Chevy Chase.
ES: Tim, when you told me one of the topics today would be your experience with the desegregation of the DC schools, I thought of the Ahmann family. They lived on Morrison Street for many years after moving here from Chicago. Matthew Ahmann helped organize the 1963 Mall demonstration at which Martin Luther King gave his famous speech. He was a representative of the Catholic Church to the Mall march, and gave a speech just before King spoke.
TH: To return for a moment to the local history projects. What I find fascinating is their evolution. FOOTSTEPS came first. A very nice piece of work. In year-2, 1974, we do ORIGINS with its various articles. In year-3, ORIGINS II, we are engaged in oral histories of people who lived through the Depression.
But in ORIGINS II there is also the picture of one of the houses razed to clear land for the building of Lafayette Elementary School. This picture on page 59 is likely connected to the George Pointer descendants. Their property, in the family for generations, was taken to build a school for the white kids. And then, the story repeats itself with the razing of the heavily African-American community of Reno City, built around the eponymous Civil War fort. Consider the footprint of Lafayette School; it is much smaller than the confiscated land. In the case of Lafayette, the Pointer-descendants (Harris) land was taken to build a park. Land nearer Northampton and Broad Branch was used to build the school. Of course, it’s nice to have a park. But the same thing happened with Deal and Wilson. You have an 8-block area that was taken—almost all of Reno City—with Deal on one side, Wilson on the other, with blocks of park land in the middle. They didn’t need to take all that land. Why did they do it? It certainly had as a result the eradication of those well-established black communities.
Q: Apropos Reno City and the summer jobs program for DC youth, tell us, Tim, how you rediscovered the article from the Washington Star of March 29, 1978 that you brought to this interview. The title is “Students make the history of Fort Reno Park their business.”
TH: In ORIGINS II we were driving toward some explanation of why these schools were sited where they were. So, three years after ORIGINS II, we have an article about students working on Reno City. By then, that year’s team was really diving into the past. These kids are into the racial past, which is what I find so interesting about the evolution of these projects. Serendipity explains the Reno City article in the Star. After our conversation last weekend, I was visiting with my mom and asked to see her ORIGINS II. The Reno City article fell out as I opened the pages. My mom made a photocopy in 1978 and stuck it in the volume.
Q: Emily, I think you had something to do with the project that was covered in the March 1978 Star article. What can you tell us about it?
ES: Let me start by talking about this particular project and then go back to the Neighborhood Planning Council. Actually, I brought with me this afternoon another article from 1984 [Washington Post, 3 August 1984—“Digging Up the Past: At Fort Reno Park, 10 Teens Spend Summer Excavating and Earning”] that deals some years later with the issues you raised, Tim. It was a project NPC #2 supported. And, by the way, you know who was in the office with me at that time was Jim Haley, who is the son of Col. George Haley, an active Chevy Chase resident and one of the WWII Tuskeegee Airmen. So this was one of our projects. The community wanted to build tennis courts at Fort Reno Park. But by that time, the National Park Service was mandated to certify that there was nothing of archaeological significance in any building site on NPS-administered land. My job as administrator for the Community Careers Program was to find jobs for about 300 kids every summer. It was up to me to dream of projects that were worthwhile. So, this was one of our projects. We decided we would do a dig there. A dig was already undertaken on another area of Fort Reno. Our project was therefore a natural outgrowth. I needed to find qualified supervisors. By then, we were getting funding from the Neighborhood Planning Councils #2 and #3 through the DC Department of Recreation and special projects under the mayor’s summer youth program, and then we got a grant under the DC arts and humanities program. That money funded the publication DEE CEE, produced by the students in 1984. One challenge was finding supervisors for all these projects. I just got on the phone and started calling people. DC is the best place in the world to do that. People were very forthcoming; they would help you if you asked them and gave them a structure to mentor kids. At that time it was forbidden to place young people in a for-profit business using government funding; it all had to be not-for-profit. DC happens to be well endowed in that area. I called the Smithsonian and they helped me get an Archaeologist to supervise this project. It was based in a sweltering office in the building at the NW corner Chesapeake and 42st Streets. We had so many kids coming in and out of that space; we had so many projects going on—Courtland Milloy’s Washington Post piece speaks of 160 youth employed by the program that summer. As for the dig, they were out there in the heat with their screens and boxes toiling away. The purpose of that was to prepare a report for the National Park Service, so that the building of the tennis courts could move forward on that parcel.
Q: Let’s back up for a moment. I want to ask you how you came into this position.
ES: The NPCs were established in response to the riots that erupted after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968. Parts of the city were burned out. People were fleeing the city. I arrived in DC the year before that, in 1967 to work for the Office of Education downtown. I met my husband there. We got married.
Q: Where did you come from?
ES: Florence, Arizona. My husband and I were living in a tiny basement apartment a few blocks from the Library of Congress. We could walk to work. Martin Luther King was actually assassinated on my birthday (April 4th). I will never forget the scene. I was in my office at the U.S. Office of Education. I looked out the window and saw smoke. It was hard to move around with the heavy presence of police and National Guard units in the streets. The city was devastated, and for years continued to be. When we had our first child, we moved to a larger apartment across town in Adams Morgan. Soon after that another baby was on the way and we decided we needed more space, so we started looking for a house to buy. At that time, it was not that hard to buy a house in DC, though they were still expensive on Capitol Hill. We found a small house in Chevy Chase and moved in 1971 to 3621 Jennifer Street.
TH: I used to baby-sit there all the time. I remember it well.
ES: And I used to baby-sit for you. Anyway, at that moment, the city really needed opportunities for kids. There was hardly anything for them. When Tim’s sister, Mary Kate Hannapel, a little bit older than Tim…what grade would she have been in 1972?
TH: 10th or 11th—she was at Wilson then…
ES: At that moment we were having city-wide elections—a real novelty in DC. You couldn’t vote for anything then.
TH: As a DC resident, you could vote for president, but that did not happen until 1964.
ES: Yes. 1968 was the first election I was eligible to vote in a presidential contest. I voted for Hubert Humphrey.
TH: I wanted to know that!
ES: So Mary Kate Hannapel asked me if I would run for an adult position on the new Neighborhood Planning Council, for NPC #2. The dividing line between NPC #2 and NPC #3 was Connecticut Avenue. NPC #4 was over in Palisades. NPC #6 went up to the National Cathedral and Georgetown. At that time, Tony Sarmiento was involved. He grew up on 30th Street in Chevy Chase. There was a program called the Roving Leaders, and he was one of them.
TH: I had forgotten. Tony was a Roving Leader, that’s right!
Q: What is that?
ES: They were to be the eyes and ears, throughout the city, to help provide services to youth, because there was so much tension in the wake of the riots. If you were to have lived in the city where so many young people lived, where everything was burned out, there was nothing to do. It was just horrible. If you drove from Capitol Hill via H Street, for example, which nowadays is one of the places to be, it was burned out, burned out until very recently, only within the last decade has it been redeveloped—that’s 40 years after the conflagration, two generations. Or take 14th and U Streets—if you drove there, which we often used to do at night, it was devastated, drugs were openly traded. And there were little kids all over. The schools were under funded. But there were people who were really committed to staying in the city, like Loretta Kiron, who you have also interviewed. So I was happy to be asked to run for a position on NPC #2. I like kids and I was used to teenagers, because I had a lot of teenaged nieces and nephews. So I actually ran for office. What was cool about it was that each NPC was composed of ten adults and ten youth, each member with an equal say.
Q: What year was that?
ES: It was 1972. By then, I had two kids.
TH: So you were the adult chair.
ES: No, I wasn’t, I was the vice-chair. I didn’t want that job. I always wanted to work on the program committee.
Q: Was the election timed with city-wide elections?
ES: No, the only other citywide election then was for President. Then, we had our NPC elections, which were also run city-wide, but on their own date. I still have the Curbstone newspaper, with all of the nominations and photos for all 20 NPCs in the city. The kids all seemed eager to run. Among the adults, there were some fabulous people like Dick Hage, who had his whole professional life in urban city planning.
TH: In 1974-75, I was the youth chair of NPC #2.
ES: So when we started out way back then, we had meetings with the kids and the adults. At first, we didn’t know what we were supposed to do. The general concept was to gather ideas about what the needs were. We had a tiny bit of money…
TH: A tiny bit…
ES: One of the things I liked about that, though, is that we understood that it was seed money. When I worked in the U.S. Office of Education, it happened to be in Elementary and Secondary Education. We were awash in funding for President Lyndon Johnson’s programs, going out to schools all over the country to help improve programs in poverty-ridden districts. They had nothing. Money went especially to Title I programs for children that didn’t have much at all. There was a program called “innovative projects.” People would come up with crazy ideas that would get funded. I got to visit one of them in Atlantic City (New Jersey). It was off-season for the hotels and all. They put together a program with kids from black schools and white schools in one of the hotels so they could meet each other. There were activities designed to facilitate the engagement that would encourage them to recognize each other as human beings.
TH: I remember that NPC #2 and #3 somehow got together.
ES: Here’s what happened. NPC #2 was centered at Blessed Sacrament Church. Blessed Sacrament provided space for us. The Blessed Sacrament priest, Mike Jennings, was a central figure in this story. He really took the kids’ interests to heart. Now, at that time, in order to get a paid job at the NPC, in addition to the seed money we had, you had to qualify income-wise. So, a lot of the kids who came to work there got no money at all. Just about everything was volunteer. But there would be a few who were paid to work in the office. We used to organize activities like bus trips to Rehoboth Beach…
TH: That bus was so antique. It used to break down all the time. Chris Kristofferson owned the bus and was the driver, I think.
ES: I used to chaperone those trips. The point is that there were very few programs for kids in those days. And there were a lot of big families—lots of kids. And nothing much to do. There weren’t swimming pools, really. I think they were not built because the authorities did not want to have to integrate them.
TH: The only pool I remember was Francis Pool—Francis Junior High School. That’s where we used to go. I remember when they built a pool at Wilson, the neighbors were opposed to it because they didn’t want black kids coming to swim there. That was in the 1970s.
ES: So there weren’t many opportunities for kids. Accordingly, we defined our role as an effort to try to build up and coordinate things to do in the summer months. One of the nice things that happened is that the National Symphony started coming out and playing in Rock Creek Park. There was a whole schedule of concerts, called “Summer in the Parks.” Then we coordinated with other NPCs--#s 3, 4 and 6—to create the “Pipeline Coffee House” at St. Alban’s. The NPC #3 office was at Wilson High School. The Rev. Mike Jennings teamed up with Mary Brown and Phil Stuart from Wilson High School, Father George Dennis, a Jesuit priest who made it his business to help kids. Fr. Dennis knew all the hang-outs. He rode his bicycle from place to place and mix it up with them. All of these folks would meet at my house, during my kids’ nap times, to do all this planning.
Q: Where was Fr. Dennis based?
ES: He was with the Jesuit California Province. He worked as a Byzantine scholar at Dumbarton Oaks. But he was living with other Jesuits in a house on Jennifer Street. It was right at the intersection of Jennifer and Connecticut Avenue. He was a huge support. It was because of him that the Fort Reno concerts got off the ground. So, we had the Fort Reno concerts going on; we had a start-up coffee house…
Q: Where was the coffee house?
ES: It was at St. Alban’s adjacent to the Washington National Cathedral. We had a space there.
TH: Of course, NPC #2/3 gave birth to the Fort Reno concert series—that continues to this day. When did that start, Emmy? I remember them from my time at Wilson in 1973, ’74, ’75. The Fort Reno concerts.
ES: My husband, Dick, took many pictures of the concerts. When I met him he was working as an artist for the federal government. He did photography, illustrations, layout and design, long before there was any digital stuff. He used photographs a lot. The job was to disseminate information on government programs—like Head Start, Infant and Child Care, Raising Your Children, Children Today magazine, American Education magazine, Aging magazine—a whole spectrum of engagement. Consequently, we have photographs of many things, but …
Q: NPC things?
ES: Some from Fort Reno concerts. It would be like an archaeological dig to locate photos about this period at our house. I do have a darling brochure of a project we did in 1973…I was trying to find it. And we had Mary Brown’s husband, who worked for the American Petroleum Institute, to fund the printing of that brochure. We used to produce a calendar. Dorothy Servatius was in charge of it. In meetings with all the kids, we would come up with ideas and set priorities. There were some who wanted the entire budget of about $20,000 for their program. There was no consensus for that.
TH: That was the combined budget of NPC #2 and #3?
ES: No, each of us had about $20,000. We got smart and started pooling our money.
TH: You also had the office at Chesapeake and 41st.
ES: That came later.
Q: What can you tell us about the ORIGINS project?
ES: Did FOOTSTEPS come before ORIGINS?
ES: Wasn’t there a FOOTSTEPS II?
TH: May be!
ES: I used to have a copy but don’t know where it is. Hmmmm. If I were able to get my kids’ stuff out of the attic, maybe I could find it. I didn’t start paid work for the NPC until 1980; before that I was strictly a volunteer. And that was just because Sandy Ripley came over to my house and asked me to apply for this new position at NPC. I had gone off the Council by then—I had too many kids and too many things going on. And I had already been a volunteer on the Council for a number of years.
TH: I think NPCs #2 and #3 got together to hire an administrator.
ES: That’s right, but then we consolidated it with Phil Stuart being the administrator.
TH: Then Julie Koczela came along; she was the administrator when ORIGINS and ORIGNS II were produced.
ES: She was great. But I remember talking to Tony Sarmiento when he first came up with the idea in the context of the Bicentennial commemoration. We were really proactive. The program committee would meet at my house. We put out a request for proposals. For example, Patty Wimsatt, now Patty Myler, at Lafayette would put forth a proposal. I think we got them a trampoline one year. They handled so many kids in the summer program. They needed help. There were many different groups that we gave something to, albeit within a set of priorities we agreed to. The program was aimed at serving kids between the ages of 13-21. Frequently, we would provide assistance to fund camp counselors to help younger kids, too. Kathy Bruner and her brother, who were teenagers, started their own summer day-care at their family’s house. That, too, was in the brochure. We tried to have something going on just about every day during the summer, also in the evenings. Things would be going on at Blessed Sacrament to which everyone was welcome. There were occasional noisy parties we had to defend from impacted neighbors. We learned how to compromise, and to be respectful of the neighbors, which was a good lesson.
Tony Sarmiento was always supportive. At that time the Office of Youth Opportunity was directly in the mayor’s office. Our first elected mayor in over 100 years was Walter Washington. At that time, he was still an appointed mayor. He had also been the appointed mayor during the riots of 1968. It was in large part due to his efforts that the looters were not shot. I was present and witnessed much of what was going on. It would have been horrible if those kids had been shot. And they weren’t. Thank God! And then, he became our first elected mayor. That would have been 1972. And our NPC elections might have been the very first carried out. We had the NPC elections and elections for the school board. Those were the only things we could vote for. We had a pretty darn good turnout for the NPC elections. They were not run by any DC board of elections. There was an actual election with designated voting stations.
Q: And this was for NPC #2?
ES: It was a city-wide set of elections. The NPC #2 district was marked by Connecticut Avenue on the west and Rock Creek Park as the eastern boundary. The NPCs typically developed cooperative relationships. We cooperated especially with NPCs #3, 4, and 6. They seemed to be happy to do it.
TH: But we were the best NPC in the city. We really were.
ES: We did go to some city-wide meetings. That was wonderful. You got to meet people from across the city.
TH: Tony Sarmiento’s boss, Jimmy Jones, was quite a charismatic person. He was really well turned-out, so smooth. And he was inspiring.
ES: He was a good guy. But eventually they turned it over to the DC Department of Recreation. After a while doing these programs, it started getting hard to get the kids paid. The budget was increased. Later, the program was deployed as a vehicle used by Marion Barry to advance his political career with the mayor’s summer jobs program.
Q: The summer jobs program morphed directly out of the NPC #2 program?
ES: I think it did. The push was to get jobs. The way I ran the program after I was appointed to run it was to provide young people with something meaningful to do. The 1970s had a special character. There were demonstrations. Hippie culture was in fashion. Hordes of kids congregated in Georgetown. Pot was everywhere, wherever you would go. Earth Day. Wherever. You could smell it. I didn’t smoke pot; I didn’t like it. There were many runaway kids. It was problematic. Kids were crashing all over the place. You had to have something to do. You wanted to provide something for all of the kids. So, that’s what we were trying to do. The knowledge of needing to do that was grass-roots knowledge drawn from your community, from your city. There were some really hard-working people who gave a whole lot of their time behind the scenes to plan and work, as well as to lobby for funds.
Q: What motivated you to become so involved?
ES: I just wanted to. I loved the kids. I have always been so lucky to have my nieces and nephews. Lots of others cared, too. When my husband and I got married, he wasn’t Catholic and he would take me to church—I didn’t have a driver’s license. I attended old St. Mary’s downtown, across from the Central Union Mission, which is no more, in the vicinity of Ford’s Theatre. They had the latest mass. They probably still have a Sunday night mass at 8:00pm. He would wait for me outside. Then he got tired of waiting and he would come in. We met some of the priests there. There was Father Joseph McCaffrey. He started a group there called The Willing Workers of St. Mary’s. So, we started meeting with people from that group. It was an inter-racial group. Fr. McCaffrey knew all the people that needed help. He’d go into all these God-forsaken places and find people who needed something. We would help do that. We developed a basketball program. We would organize food. All kinds of stuff.
Q: Was this when you were still living on the Hill?
ES: Yeah. Before we had our first child. We also did things like organize museum outings. There are some funny stories associated with that, involving the little kids. There were little kids loose in the neighborhoods that didn’t have anything to do. That really worried me. Not just during the daylight hours. At night, too. I guess you could just see that something needed to be done. I also felt acutely and realized about Washington DC that people couldn’t express themselves politically. They didn’t have the vote. They were governed for decades by Congress. The money paid by DC residents in taxes was controlled by Congress. They could decide if you were going to have a school, books, how many policemen, everything. I was brought up in a place where people voted. My father was an elected official. In Arizona I worked at the county courthouse starting when I was 14 years old.
TH: Your father was the county attorney.
ES: That’s right! Sadly, he died young. He was 49 and left nine kids. Five of us were still living at home. I remember getting a job in the courthouse.. Then I worked in Mary O’Brien’s office every summer during high school and college—she was the superintendent of schools for our county. I got a whole lot of exposure to a lot of interesting things there. I went on to college and just like Hillary Clinton I was a Goldwater Girl.
TH: You were!? In 1964?
ES: Yes. I had the sash and the cowgirl hat, and was quite active. I was on the student council in high school and he addressed a large gathering of us. He was a good guy, one of the few politicians who talked to kids. He actually told you what he thought and assumed you were smart enough to listen. I thought he was OK.
TH: You would have been 20 in 1964, so not yet old enough to vote. But you were old enough to be organized and participate in the campaign.
ES: So I just really cared about democracy and voting, and community, and reaching out, and that kids should have a chance. My mother was one of the first Head Start teachers.
Q: In Arizona?
ES: Yes, on an Indian reservation.
Q: The Hopi reservation?
ES: No, that’s our grandfather. It used to be called the Papago tribe, but now they are called the Tohono O’odham people.
TH: You remembered your first involvement after you moved to Chevy Chase on Jennifer Street. It involved my sister, Kate, who asked to you run for the newly established NPC.
ES: What was that guy’s name she used to date?
TH: Dennis Holland.
ES: Yes, he was involved in it, too. I am so glad I did, because I got to meet so many good people equally wanting to build community. Part of this desire came from the fact that a lot of people had fled DC. It is important to have good neighborhood schools and good neighborhoods, a place where people can build a life. I was very much struck with my experience with Martin Luther King. It was a vicarious television experience, but it inspired me to want to be a freedom rider. I also knew I did not have the wherewithal to do that.
Q: When did you arrive in DC?
Q: So did I. I was 18 and a Freshman at Georgetown University.
TH: And you were 22, Emmy.
Q: So, I experienced from the other end of town the events of 1967-68. One of our Jesuits, Father Richard McSorley, was my teacher in the course “War and Peace,” taught in the Theology department that year. Immediately after King’s assassination, he gathered us together for a march to the White House bearing candles and wearing black crepe armbands to honor the memory of the fallen leader.
TH: As we were talking I checked the web for the year the NPCs were launched. The decision was made by the DC Board of Commissioners in 1968. So you were right, Emmy—it was in reaction to the events surrounding Martin Luther King’s killing.
ES: It was absolutely a reaction to offer something to the youth of this city.
TH: The conception was quite interesting—the elections were structured to produce bodies that were half youth and half adults. The employment programs and history projects, the Fort Reno concerts. It was cool to send this money down and watch the uptake.
Q: Almost New Deal-like.
TH: Not a lot of money—a pittance, really. But it achieved a lot.
ES: I can only agree. It really did make a difference. It brought people together in a wonderful way. I remember when the ANCs came along. In fact, we shared an office with the ANC for a time. They were upstairs and we were downstairs.
ES: Exactly. Eventually, the NPCs were allowed to wither away as the funding just dried up.
TH: I think the decisive moment is when they were transferred to the Department of Recreation.
ES: I used to go down there. Oh my gosh! DC was pretty inefficient in paying the kids. But looking back, I can see how difficult it would be to do a payroll for 20,000 kids and get it all done and get it all right within a seven week period. All our money did not come from the Department of Recreation. That was only for the jobs we had for the NPC. Eventually, we did get some money to fund some jobs beyond those that were means-tested. I used to get grants by going to ANC meetings and requesting money. They were always good for $200-300, which enabled me to create a small pool. I can remember from around 1980 that TV Channel 9 sent a crew to do some commercials for them. I became a kind of casting director. As NPC #2’s jobs and careers person, my job was to expose the kids to every kind of job opportunity. So we got some TV coverage. At one point, the station called to ask us to deliver 500 people to the grounds of the Washington Monument the day after Thanksgiving. That proved to be a bridge too far. I couldn’t do it.
TH: How long were you the NPC administrator?
ES: I wasn’t the administrator. I was the director for a program called Community for Careers. I had to interview for that job. I accepted the offer because I could bring my kids with me on site for part of it. And they could benefit from the programs we did.
Have you ever heard of the band Fugazi?
TH: Ask Emmy about the DC punk rock scene…
ES: Everybody hung out in the back room at the NPC office, including some of the kids who later went on to become Fugazi. And many of them built our programs, and worked in them, too. This was at a time when a growing number of kids were skipping classes at Wilson. There were hordes of kids out there. The Park Service owned the land. Wilson had an interim principal. I knew many of those kids. I knew that their parents didn’t know they were not in school. Nobody seemed to care.
TH: They were skipping school.
ES: They were in Fort Reno Park all day long, and in increasing numbers. There was no way for me to miss them, since my office was right there. I used to go out and recruit kids for some of our projects. So I got to learn where people hung out. There were some interesting places…I finally paid a visit to the Wilson front office with a proposal: “how about I go out there one day and tell them they really have to return to school and aren’t allowed to be in the park during school hours; you go out one day and do the same; and I will also get the Park Service to deliver the same message.” I failed to convince them to take that step.
Then the new Wilson principal, Mike Durso, assumed his position. Overnight, he is everywhere—he’s in Fort Reno; he’s in my office; he’s down the street, everywhere. His message to the kids: “If I come back tomorrow and see any of you here, you will be suspended.” They just laughed at him. The next day he came back and began suspensions of something like 300 kids. Right away, they realized that he meant business.
TH: I was telling Carl that when I started Deal in 1971 we had this lousy principal, Mr. Warner. He was loosey goosey; it was chaotic; kids were skipping school. At Deal they then got administrators Tony Minus and Reggie Moss. They understood discipline and structure. Durso was the same way at Wilson. It wasn’t an easy road for him. We had heard reports that he was thrown out of a window by kids at Lincoln Junior High School.
ES: That experience toughened him up.
TH: You did not mess around with Mr. Durso.
ES: The NPC had a movement feel. Members fed off each other’s enthusiasm and commitment. I had kids coming to participate in our programs from all over the city. One of the uses for the ANC grants was to buy bus and Metro tokens for them. Many came from Wilson, of course, but they also came from Duke Ellington, Cardozo, Roosevelt, Coolidge, and even Ballou, and some kids who lived here but attended pretty exclusive private schools also took part. I brought some brochures with me made for some programs we did in the 1970s and 80s. Here’s one from a dance program.
We also organized a music workshop and had each musician show what he or she could do. The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) let us use their auditorium for the end-of-summer performance for everyone in each program, because they had a state of the art sound system, and lots of space for everyone to display their work product, and for parents to come, too. And for all of these programs, I insisted on a written agreement from each one of them and their parents that they could not miss practices and performances. They could not go on vacation during their job time. They had to commit. They had to, because that is what I considered part of job training. The fact is, most of these programs would not have been viable unless the kids came and did their work every day.
Let me introduce you to one of our groups—the Dynamic Rratz. They were really good.
What was so cool about DC is that we had no problems getting venues for performances. There were stages everywhere: the Washington Monument, the Sylvan Theater, the Old Post Office Pavillion (now the Trump Hotel). Part of the work consisted in promoting their shows. They would use the back room as a work space to make flyers. One kid, Chris Bald (his stage name) worked all summer on the SUMMERWORKS artwork logo.
TH: The flyers are a powerful reminder of the energy and talent mobilized by the Summerworks programs. I see Brendan Canty listed—was he in Fugazi?
ES: Yeah, of course!
TH: Carl, Fugazi was part of the DC punk scene. The DC punk scene is famous. Whole books have been written about it. Ian McKaye, right Emmy?
ES: He was one of the back room guys. There was also Guy Picciotto—he was my assistant, really wonderful. Some of the kids who performed went on to perform in big bands.
TH: Were you their incubator?
ES: No, not for them. I was not their incubator. They were already there. They did a lot and helped run the programs, especially the Modern Music Workshop. Brendan was only 14 when he first started. Guy was like 18 or 19. We needed someone to drive; we had something like 28 work sites. DC was breathing down my neck for paperwork. I had all these kids, but they had to sign their time-sheets. I sent Guy and one other kid around to every work site. He had to be able to drive. I paid him from two different pots, from the NPC and from Summer Youth Programs. It was challenging to find a way to compensate the kids. The kids managed programs. They had to. One of my other favorite programs was our landscaping program, and I remember Art Linde toiling away installing brick patioworks at Murch.
TH: Look at these programs! Everyone is listed with their project; there’s one from 1983 and another from 1984—all the kids, all the supervisors, all the work sites. “Historical research” with Leon Lebuffe, children’s camps, dance workshops, modern music, creative camp…
ES: That creative camp was at Wesley Church and my responsibilities extended to finding them places to do their performances, too. They did all kinds of kids shows. We staged concerts at the Chevy Chase Community Center, at Emory Park, and of course Fort Reno. We also put on a big party, a blast at Fort Reno with hot dogs. Then there were the T-shirts.
TH: We always used to save enough money for a high-profile band. I remember that The Nighthawks used to play once a year or so at Fort Reno.
ES: I had a system worked out for engaging the students and planning programs. I interviewed each one and each student filled out a two-page application form. I asked them about things they had done: did you ever baby-sit? Did you sing in your church choir? Did you have a paper route? Did you take your little sister to the playground? The point was to discover the experience each one had and could reformulate for a resume. You would be amazed at the things that the kids knew how to do or had done. It was good for them to see that those were important things. Then I would query them as to whether there was something they would like to do or learn. And they would come up with ideas. That’s how I came up with the programs. We had horticulture, landscaping, working with animals at the Zoo, and many other categories.
I put Chis_Bald to work on designing our logo. He spent the whole summer on it. We used it for programs and also for T-shirts. Our mentoring partners were all non-profits. We also had a job bank. The pollster, Peter Hart let us use a phone bank. We ran a whole separate enterprise to get jobs for kids in local businesses, even for those that did not sign up for the summer jobs program. We required each kid to do a workshop and generate a resume. They had to learn how to present themselves and dress appropriately. Appropriately could have meant a Mohawk hair-do, you understand. It all depended on the job. I also kept a fat binder containing information on places seeking volunteers. I tried to give them a lot of exposure. They kept pretty busy. I talked to a couple of animal keepers at the National Zoo about taking on a couple of kids. I also placed a good number of kids who did landscaping there. We were present at the Old Soldiers Home and at Friendship Terrace Retirement Community. Anything I could think of. The DC Cooperative and Extension Service was great, because they put the kids to good use creating VUEgraphs, which were subsequently used in CES programs. Some were put to work on CES landscaping projects. One was at Murch Elementary School, where a mud slide had occurred. The project team designed and laid a brick patio; that’s when I learned you have to call the utility companies. I also learned that there were certain kinds of equipment that kids can’t use, like large roto-tillers, depending on their age. I went further afield, too. I had a connection with Guest Services down on the Mall. They controlled food franchises there. Especially for holidays like the Fourth of July, they needed a lot of hands and they paid real well. I was able to funnel a lot of kids to them. The kids were really happy to make that money. Other things came up. There was Heywood Fleisig, an economist who was remodeling his house. I sent him kids and he taught them various skills, like crown molding, mitering, how to paint without a single brush stroke showing. He would leave them in the house to work and then come back in the evening, placing little stickers in places that would have to be done over again. One history project involved making a video describing neighborhood history in Chevy Chase.
TH: I just came across this newsletter and see this in it: “Thanks for the memories and the jobs-- Emily Swartz after four years of dedicated service to the youth of this community is leaving Community for Careers. She has provided and found a great many jobs in Washington for NPC #2 and #3. Last summer Emily found summer employment for over 150 area youth.” Thanks for the dedication, Emily.
ES: There was a lot of work to do in the DC schools. Before my kids started at Murch, we participated in the cooperative play program at the Chevy Chase Community Center. There was very little child care to be had anywhere. You had to volunteer yourself, with other parents, to make it happen. There were a lot of people willing to give a lot of time to build the schools, to build up the recreation centers, to build up the city generally, because it needed to be done. I know that your dad, Tim, and a whole lot of people spent endless time in a whole lot of meetings—not just for the pool, but also just for the quality of education at Wilson and Deal. At our school, Murch, when my son Sean started there in Kindergarten, they didn’t have many books. And the workbooks they had for the students; you couldn’t write in them. They let you look at them but you had to write on a separate piece of blank paper. That was not helping a little kid having trouble. Then there were the mimeographs with the signature blue ink. They were all blurry by the time you ran off a few. But you needed 30 or so for the classroom and so many were not legible. The ceilings were leaking. On rainy days they couldn’t use the whole classroom.
TH: What the city leadership allowed to happen was really quite disgusting. One of my first assignments when I was a young lawyer at Steptoe and Johnson in 1986 was dealing with Parents United For Full Funding.
ES: I can tell you how that started.
TH: It grew out of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and the goal was to try to bring a court case to remedy the horrible situation that the city let the physical plant get into. That was the case that was eventually filed before the DC judge who shut down the schools. We discovered that cities with any kind of physical plant have a capital improvement plan with maintenance and replacement schedules. There is a fight every year about how much to fund. Not only had DC not been funding maintenance, but the city didn’t even have a capital improvement plan of any kind.
ES: They had given up. Or they just didn’t think DC was worth it. The people who lived here didn’t have a vote and didn’t have rights.
TH: That has been a problem that persisted over decades. Not until recently, during the era of Tony Williams and the DC Control Board, when some controls were put in place…
ES: And they separated the physical plant from the education budget.
TH: So now, finally, investments in public education are being made that should have been forthcoming over decades. Thankfully, it’s not just in Ward 3, but all over the District. The leadership of Tony Williams and Adrian Fenty made a difference. They had a commitment to rebuild the physical plant and revitalize the schools. Our kids have gone through these schools. I attended DC public schools and am proud of it.
ES: Did yours attend DC schools?
Q: Our daughter attended Deal and Wilson, where she graduated in 2007.
ES: I remember being shaken by the situation there. It was and is a major challenge for most citizens who lack the wherewithal to send their children anywhere else. Lafayette parents started doing fundraising to make improvements. Murch took that example to heart and began its own fundraising efforts. We ran fairs and auctions. It was very time-consuming, full-time work, really. We were trying to raise enough money to bring more programs into the school. But the realization set in that parents cannot raise that kind of money. We did what we could. We replaced some of the dysfunctional play equipment, for example. We hired a school nurse. We had a science teacher. We didn’t have all of those all at once, but we did what we could.
TH: The same thing was happening to John Eaton Elementary and other schools west of the park. Parents would try to fill the gaps. But of course, this had invidious effects.
ES: That’s right! So we starting saying, well wait a minute, we have to do better than this. The problem cannot be effectively addressed at this level. So with the first school board elections, we looked to improving representation. I worked with others to help get Carol Schwartz elected to the school board. Marion Barry launched his DC political career in that election as well. Carol was a Murch mother. They lived on Cumberland Street then. She was also involved in the play program at the Community Center. In the city-wide program we staged we met some wonderful mothers. There was participation from fathers as well. It was a different era. A working mother was not prized. As a result, there were a lot more moms giving of their time.
TH: I hadn’t thought about that aspect, Emmy. And when you were working at NPC 2-3 starting in 1980, Sean was about 8, so your kids were little.
ES: My kids were little. I still couldn’t afford baby-sitters.
TH: How many hours did you work?
ES: Many, many hours. My unofficial hours far exceeded the paid ones. I got paid something, but it wasn’t very much. I was just glad to be able to devise a program that my kids could be in. I couldn’t afford day camps and all of that. There were no athletic programs for kids, to speak of. There were no fields to play in. There was a little soccer, but you had to know someone to get into that. There was hardly anything for the kids to do, and I had three sons and a daughter. There were a few classes at the Community Center, but you had to pay to take them. There wasn’t much available. So you just had to make it up, cope as best you could. I had a great opportunity to make up a lot of stuff to do. Kids really liked it.
TH: When you’re a parent and there is no science teacher and you need an aide in the classroom, what do you do? You get together and raise money. But then you’re not up in arms at the school board pressing for changes city-wide. If you can effect that change locally, you go do it. When my kids went through the Montgomery County school system, it was prohibited for parents or anyone else to pay a salary for someone working in a school, except for the school system. You can’t do it, and that’s why: it creates invidious effects. In DC the situation is difficult. Parent activism has kept schools from floundering all these years without adequate resources.
ES: But the other schools in the city couldn’t. Insult is added to injury when you are doing what you can and the city cuts the whole school budget by $10 million or so. I actually have some records of the stuff we did with Mayor Marion Barry when education cuts were announced. Parents were incensed and organized to lobby against the cuts. We sent a petition by telegram and then met with City Council member Arrington Dixon, who invited our activism, telling us that as constituents, articulating our position would make a difference. He went so far as to accede to our request to look at the proposed budget for suggestions on changes. I went down with Wanda Washburn and Mary Levy, and other parents…
TH: Mary Levy was a leading figure in Parents United For Full Funding.
ES: Our budget scrutiny was a breakthrough moment for us. When we realized we could do that, then we started getting together with parents from some of the other schools. We started meeting at Peggy Barry’s house. We were able to elect Wanda Washburn to the school board. This was reaching out across the city, not just in our neighborhood. And that’s what Carol Schwartz was good at, too. Carol one time said something to me that made me mad, until I realized she was right. Facing retrenchment, she said “I can’t just do something for this ward, I have to do something for the whole city.” She was right. She had the bigger picture.
TH: I do wonder, if Montgomery County’s “no private spending” rule had been in place in DC, what would have happened.
Q: Logic suggests two plausible reactions: (1) white flight would have increased; and/or (2) the problem would have been addressed at the city level.
TH: I think that is correct.
ES: There were some wonderful people from all over the city. The initiative fostered leadership. People came together and shared information. In my NPC work I met people from across the city and we would find ways to collaborate, like when I had to promote our programs. The music brought people together as well.
Q: The fact that you had lived in a different part of the city and then moved here must have helped as well.
ES: I had lived on Capitol Hill and in Adams Morgan and I had worked downtown. Attendance at St. Mary’s Church also provided perspective and a network. The Church-related work brought me into neighborhoods I otherwise would not have visited. And Fr. Mike Jennings had already started a number of programs for kids at Blessed Sacrament. My husband and I went with Fr. Jennings to a retreat in Mt. Airy to work with other adults on youth programs through the church, a brainstorming event to identify things we could do. I also remember meetings with Dick Hage to facilitate the articulation of new program ideas. That exercise also involved the kids. Dick was a great facilitator and the sessions were good training for all of us.
TH: An amazing concept: an elected council composed half of people 21 and under and half adults. Add a little bit of seed money, and look what it accomplished!
ES: There were some city-level meetings of NPC members and program directors. They were very helpful.
Q: When did you become a realtor?
ES: It was in 1987. The household needed the income. My youngest was still in Murch at that time. It will be 30 years next year!
Q: One way of summarizing our conversation today is to focus on women and paid work over the last 50 years. Thanks to salary/wage developments since the 1970s, households required two earners. But that step created a gap that impacted families, particularly the children.
ES: There was very little support. When I was at the Office of Education there was a special junior executive program. I wanted to be in it. I shared an office with this nice young man who was a little older than I. He had a wife and one child. When I indicated I wanted to participate in the program, the response was clear: “No, you are married. We are not going to invest in you.” The thought that I might have children was disqualifying.
Q: Broader questions are raised. All of the things you were able to accomplish for youth in the 1970s and 80s reflected the situation you described. Where is the store of energy for sustaining civil society?
TH: That is the big question. Look at this neighborhood thing that happened. People had time to volunteer; they had time to get involved, and they even had time to take a part-time job for not a lot of money, but were super-committed. Is that even an opportunity that is there anymore? We certainly don’t have anything like this in the neighborhood now.
The interviewer asked Emily to send some lines about her work in grappling with the issue of day-care for children, a topic that came up after the recording session ended.
ES: Our four children were born 1970-1976. I was fortunate to stay home with our little ones while my husband worked outside the home. And in those days that was more the norm but the times were definitely changing. Between our 2nd and 3rd babies I worked during tax season at night preparing tax returns for H & R Block, when my husband could be home with the children.
In those years there were few childcare options for mothers to earn a living, volunteer, go back to school, etc. There was a growing need and we had to be creative. Very few families had nannies.
For example Mary and Al Liepold, the best people on earth and parents of several children, lived on Northampton Street near Chevy Chase Circle. For several years Mary had her own business providing excellent daycare in her home enabling other moms to return to work. At night Mary, attended graduate school and earned her Ph.D., equipping herself for the next passion in her life, working for peace and social justice through various national and international organizations.
The Shoe, Inc., was a wonderful year round childcare and after school care program operated by another at home mom, Judy Heintz on McKinley Street. Judy sent a van around to collect the children from their schools bringing them to The Shoe, a practical accommodation for working parents-- innovative at the time.
For working moms with newborns there were almost zero options other than a grandmother or nanny. Around 1980 a non-profit group, Broadcasters Child Development Center, opened in a church facility near Tenley Circle to meet the childcare needs for young mothers working at the TV Stations clustered nearby--infants welcomed. That group is still in business.
There were two other moms who opened their homes for childcare in the neighborhood that I know about and I am certain there were others. Some moms working part time would trade off with another mom working part time on alternate schedules and care for each other’s children. To my knowledge there were no licensing requirements for in home child care services. Some moms working from home hired pre-teen or teen-age mother’s helper to play with the little children while the mom did her work.
Around 1970 some wise and probably desperate moms started a non-profit cooperative child care program at the Chevy Chase Baptist Church on Western Ave & 39th St. Toddlers from 18 months + could play safely for a couple of hours twice a week. It was affordable, fun and hey a mom could go on to the grocery store carrying only one or two babies rather than three.
For children 3-5 years old the DC Department of Recreation offered (still does) the Co-operative Play Program at recreation centers and playgrounds across the city. The cost was $20/semester, hours M-F 9:15-11:45 AM during the school year. Parents contributed one duty day per week, took turns providing snacks, and attended monthly meetings to plan the daily programs. DC Recreation provided the “Group Leader” or teacher for each program and our leaders at the Chevy Chase Community Center were terrific especially Cindy Walsh. All over the city there were dedicated hard-working leaders in these programs. The play programs were filled to capacity with children and the parents really put their hearts and efforts into these programs developing a great comradery together. Parents reached hands across the city to help one another make these programs a success through our citywide parents council. One activity we came up with was a citywide parent conference where we had experts in early childhood education teach us through workshops how best to plan programs for the children.
Then around 1975 DC Public Schools did something truly great and remarkable. They offered free Pre-Kindergarten programs for 4 year olds, with teachers trained specifically in the field of early childhood education. Tim Hannapel’s mother, my sister Ann Hannapel, mother of six children, returned to college while her children were in grade school, obtained her certification and became the first Pre-Kindergarten teacher at Eaton Elementary in Cleveland Park.
This little brochure entitled “Summer of 73” published by our Neighborhood Planning Councils 2 & 3 lists a number of childcare options and many other programs available for all age groups and interests. You may recognize some of the faces on the cover. Of course there was no internet, cable TV, google, etc. This brochure, our monthly calendars mailed to the community, articles in the Uptown Citizen newspaper and word of mouth spread the news of our neighborhood programs. We so earnestly wanted our community and our city to heal and come together and hoped this was a good way to start.
By the way, most of the brochures, the photos and printed materials I have given to you for this interview were designed by my husband Dick Swartz, long time graphic artist, photographer, artist and art teacher. Tolerant and unfailingly generous every time I asked him to make all our crazy ideas and projects look good.
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