|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.|
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.
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.”