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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Annandale memories: Columbia Pines' first residents

Linda Hollis at Annandale Elementary School in 1958.
This is the third article in the Annandale Oral History series. These stories, about what it was like growing up in Annandale when it was still a semi-rural community, are based on interviews conducted on Oct. 5 in the Pop-Up Park during the 2019 Taste of Annandale

Joanne Cooke Stevens and Linda Hollis grew up on Rose Lane in the Columbia Pines neighborhood in the 1950s when Annandale was largely undeveloped. They reconnected decades later when both joined a choir for older adults.


Joanne Stevens and Linda Hollis. 
Joanne was born in Washington, D.C., in 1936, and her family moved to Columbia Pines in 1948 when she was 12.

“We were one of the first families to move into Columbia Pines. It was a brand-new development and Rose Lane wasn’t even paved yet,” Joanne says.

When Linda’s parents bought their house on Rose Lane a few months later, “their friends said you’re going out to the country,” Linda recalls.

The development of subdivisions in the D.C. region was in large part driven by the expansion of the federal government after World War II, Linda notes. Linda’s family had moved from Utah to Arlington when her father got a job at the Department of the Interior in D.C. Joanne’s father worked for the Navy Department’s Bureau of Weapons.

Columbia Pines was built on land that had been part of the Webb family’s farm. Linda remembers the Webb’s white farmhouse on the corner of Gallows Road and Columbia Pike. [The tiny Webbmont development was built on the last remaining parcel of the Webb property in 1994.]

Linda has fond memories of cutting through the Webb farm and picking blackberries on the way home from Annandale Elementary School. That building, at 7200 Columbia Pike, is now the ACCA Child Development Center.

When Linda started at Annandale Elementary School, “it was one step up from a one-room schoolhouse. It had maybe six rooms,” plus an auditorium and a cafeteria, she says. By her last year there, there were two classes in the seventh grade.

When Joanne enrolled in Annandale Elementary School as a sixth-grader, “we walked to school along Columbia Pike in all kinds of weather,” she says.

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

During the Cold War, there were some scary moments for both of them, especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Joanne says.

Linda remembers air raid drills at school. “They made us go out in the hall and duck and cover,” she says. “Back in the 50s, they would say to us, okay, if they bomb Washington, we’re going to put you on a bus and take you out to Leesburg. And I’m like I would rather go home and die with my family. What sense does that make?”

In the eighth-grade Joanne rode a school bus from Annandale Elementary to Fairfax High School on Route 29/50 and graduated in 1954, the year Annandale High School opened.

For fun, Linda and Joanne played in the woods before the houses at Sleepy Hollow Woods were built. “We were free to wander,” Joanne says. “Our parents would say come back for dinner. They didn’t worry,” Linda adds.

In the winter, kids used to go sledding on a big hill where the Mormon church is now on Howard Street.

Linda remembers a big snowstorm in 1958 or 59, when “there was so much snow we could build a tunnel in our front yard.” School was closed for a week, they lost power for a few days, and her mom grilled burgers in the fireplace.

When they were in high school, Joanne and her friends would take a bus to D.C. and spend the whole day, and Linda remembers going to the big Uptown theater in D.C. to see first-run movies like “Cleopatra,” “Laurence of Arabia,” and “West Side Story.”

Joanne and her sister and mother often boarded a bus on Columbia Pike and got off at the old Post Office building on Pennsylvania. They spent the day shopping and often had lunch on the mezzanine at Lansburgh’s department store.

They also used to go to a neighborhood movie theater in Falls Church, the Hot Shoppes in Bailey’s Crossroads, the Annandale bowling alley, and the roller-skating rink in Alexandria.

“In high school, a girlfriend and I rode our bikes to Seven Corners. We thought that was a great adventure,” Linda recalls.

People were more engaged with high school sports back then, and Friday night football games were popular, she says. Her brother was an All-Northern Virginia quarterback at Annandale High School under coach Ed Henry in 1959, when the team came close to winning the state championship.

“We watched TV together as a family,” Linda says. Her dad repaired TVs and had several, so during football season, they had three TVs on at the same time showing different bowl games.

When her dad was out of town for business – he became an international consultant after retiring from the government – the family ate dinner on TV trays while watching programs like the musical variety show, “Your Hit Parade.”

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

Joanne’s family didn’t have a TV until she was 13 or 14, so they spent their evenings baking cookies and playing games.

In those early years, Little River Turnpike was a two-lane road, with the only traffic light at Columbia Pike, Joanne says. Even in college, in the late 1960s, Linda remembers driving on Braddock Road and still seeing horse farms.

When Joanne moved to Annandale, the only place to buy groceries was Kerlin’s Market at Little River Turnpike and Ravensworth Road, Joanne says. “It was very small. We used to walk over there after school to get candy.” Her mother would go to Arlington for grocery shopping.

The Safeway opened later, notes Linda, who remembers riding in the cart while her mom shopped. Her mom also used to drive to Arlington to go to the library, Brenner’s Bakery, and Hecht’s department store in Parkington, which is now Ballston. That was before the Seven Corners Shopping Center was built.

Linda remembers a shop called Annandale Variety at the end of Columbia Pike and Little River Turnpike. The small shopping center on Annandale Road had a library, post office, the Annandale Pharmacy, and Iva Trice’s dress shop.

After Linda graduated from Penn State, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, so she got a job at Jelleff’s, a small department store in the brand-new Tysons Corner mall. Later, she worked at the Fairfax County planning department on the plan to transform Tysons.

Joanne also worked for the county, starting in 1980 as a clerk typist for the Area Agency on Aging in the Department of Human Services. She worked for several different departments over the next 21 years, finishing her career as a management analyst in the Department of Human Resources.

Joanne moved out of Annandale after she got married in 1957. After being out of school for many years, she enrolled at George Mason University in an individualized study program, where she focused on women’s history.

They both recalled how Annandale began to diversify slowly in the 1970s and 80s, beginning with the refugees fleeing Vietnam. The influx of Korean businesses started in the 1990s.

Joanne’s parents sold their house on Rose Lane in the early 1970s and moved to Florida.

“The house on Rose Lane stayed in my family until 2012,” Linda says. When her parents moved into a nursing home, she and her husband moved back into her childhood home and lived there from 1993 to 2007.

2 comments:

  1. Man, it'd be so cool to hop in a time machine and see this area back then, so neat! Also, kudos to her dad for driving all the way to f-ing Pax river from Annandale in the 50s. Even without traffic, hell of a hike.

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  2. Love the memories. I experienced most of them- born in DC and moving to Annandale to start 1st grade in ‘49. My second grade year was at Weynoke (sp) Elementary while they expanded Annandale Elementary. The Cold War drills in the hall are still very vivid in my mind. Also buying stamps for savings bonds in the auditorium.
    The Friday night football games with Annandale High School were a big social night - especially when I got my drivers license!
    Thanks for sharing.

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