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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Annandale memories: Mom and pop shops, Topps, and donkey baseball

Eighth-graders at Annandale High School in 1954 or 55.
This is the second article about what it was like growing up in Annandale when it was still a semi-rural community. We invited people to share their stories for the Annandale Oral History Project, and the interviews were conducted on Oct. 5 in the Pop-Up Park during the Taste of Annandale

When Carolyn Neeb Chabo moved from Arlington to Annandale as a teenager in the early 1950s, it was still rural with farms dotting the area and woods where the Kmart would later be developed.

“This was the boonies,” she says.

John Neeb in front of his store in 1955.
Carolyn’s father, John Neeb, bought the Annandale Pharmacy in a small retail strip that’s still standing on Annandale Road. On one side of the shop was Iva Trice’s Dress Shop. On the other side was the post office and Bergman’s men and boys clothing store. Her father built an extension on the back of the building, which later housed the Annandale Beauty School. (It’s now the Springfield Beauty Academy.)

There was another drug store, Shirkey’s, nearby, on the corner of Little River Turnpike and Ravensworth Road. There’s a Korean restaurant on that space now.

Related story: Annandale memories: Unpaved roads, free-roaming kids, and the Jolly-ettes’

The only grocery store in Annandale for a while was a small Safeway on Columbia Pike, Carolyn says. For clothes shopping, people went to Kann’s department store in Arlington. Montgomery Ward in Seven Corners, now a Target, was the place for appliances.

The Annandale Pharmacy made deliveries.
Carolyn’s parents bought a house Daniels Avenue, built by the Oliver family, behind Annandale Elementary School, which connects to what is now Travis Parkway. “Back then it was Oliver Parkway, because all of that land was the Oliver farmland,” she says.

The Oliver’s main farmhouse is still standing, at 4011 Gallows Road. They kept horses to the right of the farmhouse, Carolyn says. They later sold the property across the street, which later became the Holly Hills neighborhood and a Nike missile site.

Carolyn says several members of the Oliver family lived in separate houses on their property, including brothers Tubby, Clyde, and Jimmy Oliver, and a sister. “They all played pinochle together. That was the big thing to do,” she says.

Annandale High School was built in 1954. Carolyn went there, starting in the eighth grade, and graduated in 1960, in the school’s second graduating class. “I remember the sock hops and, of course, the big thing was the drag races on a dirt road in Manassas,” she says.

Related story: Former Oliver farmhouse on Gallows Road on the market again

“We used to hang out at Topps. That was kind of the big hangout,” she says. It was where the Burger King is now. When it first opened, they brought food to people in their cars on roller skates. Teens also went to the drive-in theater on Lee Highway (where the Mosaic District is)

She also recalls seeing a “donkey baseball” game on a field behind Annandale Elementary School. Players rode donkeys around the bases. Carolyn doesn’t know where the donkeys came from but thinks people brought them in just for the games. 

This shopping strip used to house the Annandale Pharmacy, Ida Trice's, Bergman's, and a post office.
In the afternoons, she walked from her house to a job as a cashier in the Annandale Pharmacy, where teens gathered at the soda fountain. “I could even sell cigarettes in those days,” she says.

Her father sold the store when Drug Fair moved in. “We just couldn’t compete with the chain,” she says. Before he had the store, he was a plumber. After he sold it, he did remodeling work; he was a jack of all trades. “Why he bought this drugstore, I have no idea.”

Carolyn’s mother worked at the Annandale Florist for many years. Gary Sherfey owned that store for decades, and sold it in 2012. (That building now houses Thauma, a shop specializing in Korean fashion brands.)

The pharmacist, Dr. Phelps. 
Her parents were very busy with the pharmacy and florists’ shop but also took time to attend Shriners’ events, such as New Year’s Eve parties and fish fries, at their building on Arlington Boulevard. That building was torn down earlier this year to make way for a housing development

When Carolyn was a student at Annandale High School, she had Mr. Bugin for science. His son, Mark, later became a veterinarian at the Annandale Animal Hospital, which is now the VCA Animal Hospital on Little River Turnpike. Both Carolyn and Mark had Dobermans and got together to breed them.

When her family owned the pharmacy, they knew the town’s main doctors in the 1950s: Dr. Provenzano had his office over the florist shop, and Dr. Thorne had an office in a house nearby, Carolyn recalls. The main pediatricians in Annandale were Dr. Butts and Dr. Barsani, who shared an office in the basement of a house on the corner of Gallows Road and Columbia Pike.

The Galanis family was also one of the prominent families of Annandale. They owned an Esso gas station on Columbia Pike across from where the Annandale Shopping Center was later built, as well as a lot of property on Gallows Road.

Their big brick house is still there, Carolyn says, but part of their property was sold to the developer of the Galanis Woods subdivision.

John Neeb in the Annandale Pharmacy
After high school, she went to Falls Church Beauty School and worked at Cathy’s as a hairstylist in the little strip mall next to Kmart for many years.
Carolyn bought her house on Annandale Road near Roundtree Park from the Sherfey’s – for $22,500. She ran a beauty shop in her home for some 30 years. They built a big addition on the back, and now it’s the land that is the most valuable, she says.

“I’ve been there almost 50 years. So, I’ve seen so much change around here.”

“It was different times back then,” Carolyn says of her teen years in Annandale. Kids had a lot more free time; their days weren’t filled with soccer, Scouts, and swim team, like her grandchildren.

And while Annandale hasn’t grown as much as Falls Church and Arlington, the traffic has gotten much worse. When she moved to her house on Annandale Road there were three beautiful dogwood trees in the front yard, but “speeding cars took every one of those trees out.”


  1. Segregation did not get a mention in this re-telling of history.

    1. It's part of a series. I'm sure it will come up later and then we can all learn about this segregation that you speak of...

    2. If anyone wants to learn more about segregation in this area, check out this definitely "non sports" story on Deadspin:

      Make sure you read the comments as well.

    3. Nice article. The vacuum place had been there since zI moved to Annandale in 2000.

  2. Very nicely written informative piece !!! And Dr. Mark Bugin was a vet for one of our dogs before VCA bought Annandale Animal Hospital !

    1. Dr Mark took good care of my cats, and now its just another corporate animal farm. Although they do have some really good docs. These were the day when America was great when you could leave you doors unlocked. It wasn't great for everyone, however, but I do yearn for those simpler, less traffic congested times.

  3. Here was my favorite haunt--say, 1962-66: Annandale Sports & Hobbies! Sports & Hobbies.jpg
    There were two men, as I remember, who ran this shop next to High's in the building next to A&P/Drug Fair. Their shop was magical and the two men were always friendly and accommodating. I wish I could remember their names. I bought many Matchbox cars and Minitanks there (one at a time), models of planes and ships with each lawn mowed, chemistry set re-ups, and other stuff. Last purchase was a pair of Rydell football shoes which were a waste because I was a terrible football player. Miss that shop and shops like it.

    1. There is still a Sport and Hobby store in that shopping center or at least there was last tune I looked. The A and P has changed many times but there is still a grocery store in that spot.

  4. Another good article. Dr. Thorn was our family Doctor for years. Even after I was married and living in Springfield. Dr. Goode was our dentist - a few houses away and across the street. Living on Hillbrook, I remember a bad snow storm (we had many back then). Topps was offering 1/2 priced sandwiches on the radio so several of my friends and I walked there through the high snow to enjoy. That was a big thing back in the late 50’s. Cruising your car around Topps was the thing to do so you could check out who was there. Class of ‘61.

  5. I grew up in Annandale. I remember Topps, the butcher shop,the Bar and Grill.