Commentary, Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Herewith a grown man’s update on his childhood neighborhood of Cherrydale.


Following an astonishing coincidence after mutual friends set us up for a book project, I was pleased to get acquainted with the couple who since the 1980s have owned the house on N. Monroe St. that my family occupied 1955-61. They treated my brother and me to a Proustian tour of the two-toned three-bedroom across from the Cherrydale Bible Church.


Heading south on Monroe, I knocked on the door of what may be Arlington’s smallest house. Owner Barbara Sigler gave me a tour of the cute-as-a-storybook, shotgun-style home with fresh red trim on white gingerbread lattices, complete with picket fence. Amid Christmas decor, she explained how she acquired the jewel box at 1802 N. Monroe in 1972 following the death of her husband in a car accident.


Built in 1900 on a 3250-square-foot lot, the home was flagged to Sigler by realtor Hubert Burner, who, despite competition from a Georgetown dentist, knew she was low-income and renting on N. Taylor Street. Agreeing to “put up with a small house,” she would raise five children there. They attended Washington-Lee (now Liberty) High. Before even qualifying for a mortgage, Sigler, a teacher’s aide at Arlington Public Schools, moved the family into “my shanty” on Oct. 2, 1972.


With two bedrooms and one bathroom, she packed supplies into a pantry, and her boys slept in the basement (now used for storage). In the living room is a framed painting of the home. In the narrow backyard sits a stone step—possibly from old slave quarters, Sigler says.


Not surprisingly, she gets regular inquiries from builders who want to buy the place (read: the lot). “You know what would happen,” she confides. Even neighbors are interested. But Sigler will bequeath the asset to her children.


Backup Monroe, I passed the power substation I can recall being constructed circa 1960. On Langston Blvd., I popped in the Philippine Oriental Market & Deli. It was the “Penny Candy Store” in my youth, and I blew enough allowance on atomic fireballs, Lik-M-Aid and Nehi orange pop for many a bellyache.


Filipino proprietors Evelyn Bunoan and Oscar Bunoan have run the deli for 46 years. I sampled the coconut pie, my friend an exotic squash side dish. The lady sells a cookbook titled “Cooking With Master Chef Evelyn S. Bunoan.”


Perhaps the biggest change is afoot next door. Phil Evans, who has run Rod & Reel Repair there since 1993, is retiring. He’s put his entire stock of fishing rod-building components (a half a million dollars’ worth) on the market. Current price $2,000. An 88-year-old widower from Scranton, Pa., Evans plans to read classic books in the apartment upstairs. His for-sale ads consist of a home-made sign in the window and a notice in the “Woods and Water” newsletter.


Evans is profiled in the current Virginia Wildlife under the title “The Shop Time Forgot.” He has been written up in Washingtonian and Field and Stream as “Northern Virginia’s go-to” fishing gear guy. He still tracks repairs with pen and paper. (Minimum charge: $7.50).


The specialist is reluctant to endorse fishing sites. (No live bait, just lures, fake worms.) But Evans favors Windy Run and Potomac Overlook Park. He likes Roaches Run and Gravelly Point for perch, catfish and carp, mentioning a recent surge in largemouth bass. Those are fish I recall from childhood.


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Democratic Rep. Don Beyer wasted no time highlighting federal funding for local projects in the $1.7 trillion spending bill President Biden signed Dec. 29.


Arlingtonians get: $750,000 for Integrated Gray/Green Infrastructure projects for the Gulf Branch watershed downstream of Military Rd., and in the Lower Long Branch Watershed on S. Walter Reed Dr. Corridor; $750,000 via Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing for the Oakwood Senior Residences; $750,000 for the Sanitary Sewer Interceptor Pipe Rehabilitation at the Columbia Pike/ Sparrow Pond section of the Four Mile Run Interceptor; and $750,000 for the Sanitary Sewer Interceptor Pipe Rehabilitation in the Rosslyn Area of Potomac Interceptor.