Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

You’ve known folks born in Arlington, and you’ve known some born in D.C. But have you known anyone born in between? That is to say, born on Key Bridge?

Paul Mclain, 65, recently retired as an academic assistant in the Duke University Slavic and Eurasian Studies Department, can claim such citizenship limbo. And it has caused him hassles as an adult.

According to what he learned from his parents and brother Robert, who was 11 on that fateful day Oct. 15, 1956, his mother, in their Arlington home at 4119 N. 3rd Rd., went into labor. A taxi was called. But Mclain’s father Robert, a 36-year-old World War Il marine vet then a manager at Drug Fair, got into an argument with the cabbie. This led to summons of an ambulance.

“Because of this delay,” Paul reports, “I was born in an ambulance on Key Bridge. Somehow, someone decided I was born on the D.C. side of the line.”

He showed me his birth certificate, as later re-released by the District of Columbia, showing information given by his then-35-year-old mother Edith Hope Hughes Mclain.

In the slot for “name of hospital,” the typescript reads: “in ambulance — on way to hospital — in D.C.” Oddly, when Paul in recent years contacted Social Security to apply for his late wife’s survivor’s benefits, he was told their records showed he was “a foreign national born in Colombia.”

“At that point I had to obtain the most recent copy of my birth certificate to correct this,” which cost him $250 and delayed benefits by weeks.

In 1963, the Mclains divorced and Paul left Arlington for North Carolina. His older brother swears there was news coverage of his straddled birth, but none has turned up.

“I’m particularly interested in others who may have been born on the bridge, as it’s hard to believe I was the first or only.”

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The Neighbors’ Club, a century-old set of Arlington women who favor zip code 22207, donated $5,000 to the public library’s Center for Local History. That’s the archive now preserving the papers produced during the luncheon group’s 10 decades of speakers, book discussions and charity.

At a June 1 banquet at Washington Golf and Country Club, some 140 members celebrated the (pandemic-delayed) centennial of its founding in 1920 (just as Arlington was transitioning from Alexandria County). After a vibrant video putting music to their greatest moments, they welcomed a speaker on Arlington history: this columnist.

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Gary Shulman, an advocate for special-needs youth with a national reputation for poetry, recently retired and moved here from Brooklyn. On his Facebook page “Arlington Through the Eyes of a Newbie,” he published: Arlington Warming Our Hearts and Souls©

“Humid Summers” — yes we know, we know!
So the throngs here have told us so
“We do get some snow!” — shared by the folks warningly
Nothing new for Brooklyn boys — let it snow with frigid glee!
Small prices to pay living in dear Arlington
In the depths of my psyche
It’s just Mayberry — with less sun
Now gullible I am not
Nor naïve nor filled with delusion
Perfection — it’s not
But a sure cure for seclusion
For so many kind people fell into our lives
All shapes, colors and sizes
Proving compassion still survives
From invites to brunches
To sharing needs, wants and wishes galore
With Arlington denizens who care
Helping our optimism beam brightly and soar!
Long walks that fill our senses
With new memories to cherish so dear
Sharing those newly fond memories
Brings responses so sincere
That we know it’s just the beginning
And we know glitches are yet to appear
But for now dear Arlington’s ours to bless
For now and many a year.