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Monday, December 23, 2019

Annandale memories: Unpaved roads, free-roaming kids, and the 'Jolly-ettes'

Schoolchildren walking home from school on Hillbrook Drive, Annandale, in 1952 before it was paved. From the left: Nancy Hoffman’s brother, Peter McAdams; Nancy McAdams Hoffman; Donna Jean Rittenhouse; and Joanne Beury. 
This is the first in a series of articles 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 by DJ Neace and Matthew Ashford in the Pop-Up Park during the Taste of Annandale.

Nancy Hoffman’s family moved to a house her father built on Hillbrook Drive in Annandale in 1950, when she was about 5 years old.

“My dad, probably in the late 40s got together with a friend, and came out to Annandale and bought up the section called Hillbrook and sold it off in acre lots,” she recalls. “Dad had know-how for property and buying land, and the friend had the money.”

At that time, there were many people in the military and federal workers moving to the area, so there was a big demand for housing.

Her father, who worked for the Department of Agriculture for 26 years, sold a couple of lots to a Mr. Bonner, then Fairfax County approached her father about purchasing more land close to Little River Turnpike, and that’s where George Mason Regional Library was built.

Nancy Hoffman
Like many other women at that time, Nancy’s mother was a stay-at-home mom “like June Cleaver,” she says, referring to the then-popular sitcom, “Leave it to Beaver.”

Kids used to play outside all day. “You went out and didn’t come home until you heard the bell ring or your parents screaming and hollering for you,” Nancy says. “I feel so badly for young kids nowadays that just can’t be that way.”

“We played hopscotch, and 10 or 12 of us would play hide and seek and capture the flag,” she says. They also used to play in the woods, now known as Poe Terrace Park, where there was a little creek and big stone blocks left over from a never-completed section of the Manassas Gap Railroad. “We weren’t allowed to go down there. But, of course, a bunch of us would go.”

Nancy went to the old Annandale Elementary School on Columbia Pike, which back then had grades 1-7. That building now houses the ACCA Child Development Center.

There was a lot more open space around the elementary school in those days. There was a big playground where the firehouse is now, with swings and a jungle gym. There were ball fields behind the school and woods further back toward Daniels Avenue.

In one vivid memory, she recalls waiting for the school bus on Little River Turnpike one winter day when one of the neighborhood boys threw a snowball at a tractor trailer coming down the road. “That guy wasn’t very happy. He pulled off by the side of the road and came over and he lit that kid up. He didn’t hit him or anything but he let him have it.”

Starting in the fifth-grade, there was an optional class called the “Jolly-ettes.”  It was on a Friday evening once a month.

“A lady came to teach us etiquette, like the boy is supposed to hold the chair for the girl and how to ask a girl if she’d like to dance,” she says. “And after you danced, the girl is supposed to thank him. And even if he steps on your toes, you’re supposed to say ‘excuse me.’ There were mostly girls in that class, but there were some boys, too.”

In the seventh grade, there was a dinner dance at Annandale Elementary School with dance cards. “It was like a booklet listing different dances, like the foxtrot, waltz, and jitterbug, and you wrote down the person’s name who you were supposed to dance with,” she says. “Probably at that age, you had to round up the guy who said he would dance with you.”

Nancy was a safety patrol in the fifth or sixth grades. “I had to guard one of the turn-offs in one of the shopping areas. Because of that, we got free movie pass once a month and sometimes a free pass to the roller rink in Alexandria.”

High school started in the eighth grade. Being at so young at Annandale High School along with much older teens “was never intimidating to me,” Nancy says. She was in the band the whole five years.

The high school was overcrowded even then, and she remembers there were one or two Quonset huts – semicircular metal buildings – outside the main building for overflow classes.

During her family’s early years in Annandale, they shopped at Tony’s Market, at the intersection of Little River Turnpike and Columbia Pike, where Nancy remembers an old red Coke machine. Later, there was an A&P grocery store.

Related story: Share your memories with the Annandale Oral History Project at the Taste of Annandale

For clothes shopping, there was Ida Trice’s dress shop next door to the Annandale Pharmacy, “where there were big round stools and you could get an ice cream soda.” Later on, they shopped at the malls in Seven Corners and Springfield.

“We never went to D.C., except if some relative came from out of town and we’d take them there,” she says.

They went to movies at the Jefferson Theater on Route 50, which was subsequently torn down, and the drive-in on Lee Highway in Merrifield, which later became an indoor multiplex, then was replaced by the Mosaic District.

Mostly, “we just played outside a lot,” she says, when she wasn’t busy with ballet class, Girl Scouts, and private flute lessons.

A big event was the carnival at the firehouse. Nancy wasn’t allowed to go, but one night she sneaked out and went there with a high school girlfriend. “We were on the Ferris wheel, and, of course, it stopped right when we were at the top. We looked down, and here comes my father up the parking lot. Seems like everything I ever did I got caught. I wasn’t really that bad of a kid.”

Another time, when Nancy was in the ninth or 10th grade, she and a friend were planning to meet her parents at the Villa Maria restaurant, which was on Columbia Pike next to Drug Fair, where Silverado is now.

They rode their bikes there and ordered drinks. Her parents never showed up, and when Nancy got the bill, it was 5 cents more than what her mother gave her. “We were just mortified, because we’re grown up now. We’re young ladies.”

Nancy’s brother, who was five years older, was working at a gas station across the street. “I jumped on my bike and rode down there. I’m telling him what’s going on and he’s laughing his butt off. He gave me 5 cents and I rode back and paid the bill.”

“And the owner of the restaurant said, ‘you didn’t have enough money, did you?’ That mortified us even more. She knew what was going on.”

The older teens used to hang out and show off their cars at Topp’s Drive-In, and Nancy recalls her brother taking her there one night when she was in the seventh or eighth grade. “He’s out there talking to some of his buddies. I’m walking around and this guy comes up to me. He walks over to his Corvette, and he thinks I should be drooling over it. I didn’t even know what a Corvette was. He was like ‘you wanna go for a ride? ’I was like No.’”

The boys used to go drag racing on Friday and Saturday nights on Braddock Road by Port Royal Road on a flat area where it was exactly a quarter-mile between two bridges. All the boys would talk about, “Let’s go down between the bridges.”

One big development that brought a lot of change to Annandale was the construction of the beltway in around 1960, Nancy says, noting it was originally called the “circumferential highway.”

25 comments:

  1. Whoever thought back then that we would be invaded by illegals from 1000s of miles away. Seemed like a much simpler time for good or for worse.

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    1. Please save your vitriol against immigrants until after the holiday season (if ever). Imagine that you yourself had had to travel far from home, against the wishes of the government, and that you then had to spend the holiday season away from your family. I would hope that the people whom you had invaded would have at least recognized your shared humanity.

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    2. Whoever thought back then their kids would turn into such crabby jerkwads.

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    3. Mexico is zero miles away, by the way.

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    4. Not from Annandale.

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    5. I see why Anonymous chose to be anonymous. People know when they're saying stupid stuff they don't want to come back to them.

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  2. Always find local history fascinating. Great idea for a series, and thanks to all for putting it together!

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    1. Yes, me too! Great story & pic!

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    2. I'd have enjoyed living here in those days. Driving down LRT in my Studebaker pickup, with a 25 cent pack of Lucky Strikes in my shirt pocket and listening to Fats Domino on the radio. It's also pleasant to be reminded that children once dressed properly for school. - Sparky

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    3. Wouldn't that pack of Luckies be rolled up into your left sleeve?

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    4. Hey! I'm no greaser. When I went crusin', I always wore an ironed shirt with a button down collar. - Sparky

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  3. What a nice piece of history. Keep them coming !!! And for the 'trolls', we are all immigrants here in America, unless you are a Native American (Indian). Celebrate all the peoples and cultures that have contributed to our great nation.

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  4. Right On neighbor!!♡
    Wishing Peace & Joy to all of us during the holidays & always!

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  5. Fun to read stories of the Annandale of yesteryear.

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  6. Merry Christmas to the immigrants, boomers, trolls, millenials, just regular tax paying folks to all that live and thrive in our area! Have a good night!!

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  7. When my family emigrated to the States they did so LEGALLY . Big difference.

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    1. There is a difference. Your family respected the laws of their destined country. I realize that many people who emigrate here are coming from terrible conditions. But many are coming in because they are taking advantage of the US open door policy which puts the security of the US at risk until something terrible happens. And then we will have a repeat of attitudes that existed in the 1930-40s and that would be unfortunate. The is not vitriol put practical and historical theory.

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    2. Which is exactly what tons of asylum seekers are trying to do at the border right now and are getting turned away.

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  8. Whoever thought back then that we would be invaded by illegals from 1000s of miles away. Seemed like a much simpler time for good or for worse. The land was pristine...you could take a dip in Accotink creek...but then Columbus came in 1492...now Accotink creek is unswimable our area is full of man made lakes, pollution is everywhere...golly gee bonkers eye wish eye could go back to Pre-Columbian times

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    1. Yea, while we aim nukes at each other, what a place: illegals running from criminal and crooked governments, politicians filling their fat bellies with graft while they kill off the planet and leaving nothing for our children. Damn that Christopher Columbus.

      Pick up your trash, stop cutting down your trees, stop your inexcusable excess consumption and respect the greatest gift of all, mother nature. Make the earth great again! That is what Christ would have said.

      And a Merry Christmas too.

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  9. This thread is my real Christmas present

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  10. Sounds nice in some ways, but I'll take paved roads and not having to do the foxtrot at school dances.

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  11. Nancy, thanks for sharing your memories. We grew up at a very innocent time. I did go to DC. I remember our Mom’s taking us to Haynes Point for swimming lessons at the pool. This was before we got the pool membership in Annandale.
    Also went to DC for the new movies from Disney.

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  12. I grew up on Village Drive behind the Drug Fair and went to Annandale Elementary and E.A Poe. Lived there from 1960 to 1971.It was great having the Topps Drive-Inn just a block from my house. It was a great place to be a kid overall, the Slot car track close to the Giant and Columbia Pizza.There was a Highs there and a Hobby shop, Bakery etc....

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