Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

clark-fcnpI have one thing in common with Joan Hitt, matriarch of the construction company family (that’s their name on Virginia Hospital Center’s Family Center for Radiation Oncology): We both spent our childhoods in Cherrydale.

That deep-rooted but evolving Arlington neighborhood, she agreed with me, holds rich memories. Born in 1935 in a doctor’s office where Brown’s Honda stands, the former Betty Joan Davis reminisced about her 1947 tenure as Cherrydale May queen. A photograph shows her as a 12-year-old leading the parade on North Oakland Street.

That got me thinking. If I walked around my own Cherrydale boyhood haunts from the late 1950s, how vivid might my recollections be?

To be sure, I still visit this cozy corner of Arlington where century-old blue-collar Sears homes sit cheek-by-jowl with modern craftsman houses.

Last week I enjoyed a Christmas party in the decked-out Quebec Street home of Kathryn Holt, Scott and Dakota Springston, every inch of whose 1890 house is lined with historical artifacts, antiques or fun decorations. (She and I did first grade together at long-gone Cherrydale Elementary.)
But resurrecting ghosts from my formative years required more concentration.

My walk began with our old homestead on Monroe Street, which brought to mind an impromptu ice cream party I begged my mother to throw in the then-open yard that now contains a house.

The Stanton house next door was, in 1959, the site of a feud between current and previous owners over whether lumber stacked in the yard conveyed.
Across the street, I peeked inside the Cherrydale Bible Church, where we made lanyards in crafts class (even though it wasn’t our Episcopalian family’s church). I can still hear Rev. Hazlett on his adjacent front stoop singing “He’s Got the Whole Wide World In His Hands.”

Next door on Monroe stands the brown-shingled residence of the Holmes family – whose large brood of children required the mom to set up a Wonder Bread assembly line to make sandwiches.

Further east on 20th Street is a corner house in which I played toy soldiers with a kid who taught me to shout “Bombs over Tokyo!” only 15 years after World War II. Down nearby Kenmore Street was the home of a first-grade girlfriend of mine who introduced me to a Danny Kaye recording of “Hans Christian Andersen.” (I had misremembered her house as being on Lincoln, but verified it in a 1960 directory at Central Library.)

Also resurfaced was a memory of Saturday morning walks with my father all the way to the Clarendon Trust Bank. We had to clamber down the (pre-I-66) stairs to Kirkwood Rd.

Moving west, 1625 Quincy Street was the home of an older kid named “Conrad the magician.” He ripped me off by selling me a “magic wand” that was simply a pencil painted black and wrapped with adhesive tape.

The most intense memories reverberated on Nelson Street, across from the Newman family’s (long-paved over) cornfields. At sleepovers with my friend Dennis Field, I recall watching the cowboy show “Sugarfoot” and hanging out in the aging garage with scary tools owned by his father, a plumber.

On a recent afternoon I summoned the nerve to knock on the door, even though the Fields by now are probably several owners removed. Luckily, no one answered. Better to preserve my old Cherrydale as a private memory – intact.

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A holiday season’s congratulations to the staff of the One More Page bookstore, right at the Arlington-Falls Church line. Best-selling author James Patterson, who gives Christmas bonuses to booksellers nationwide, included a cool $2,500 to owner Eileen McGervey, book buyer Lelia Nebeker and the rest of the team on Westmoreland Street who’re in business more for love of literature than the bucks.

I stopped by last week, as a grateful non-best-selling author, to shake the collective hands of this dedicated cabal of bibliophiles in a digital age. The owner plans to use some of the Patterson funds to launch a book truck next year.