It is a common misconception that “no one is really from DC” – and, by extension, that no one is from Montgomery County. Yes, the area is home to many newcomers . . . but ask around, and you* might be surprised by the number of people you meet who grew up here, whose parents are from here, and who can claim a few (or many) ancestral generations with ties to the DC area. I admit, even I am sometimes pleasantly surprised when I meet a fellow County native. Recently we had a minor electrical problem in the office; the technician who came out was more than happy to tell us historians about growing up in Glenmont in the 1960s.

This brings us, in a somewhat roundabout way, to today’s artifact: a wooden desk chair, believed to have been used in the Glenmont Elementary School. It was donated in 2006 by Robert Faber, who said it had been purchased by a friend when Glenmont E.S. closed, and later given to him because he’d attended the school himself.

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The chair is made of wood (pine?), with metal screws and a brass-colored metal brace where the arm of the desk meets the back. The back is 32″ tall; the little attached desk surface is 11.5″ by 12″. There is a stencil on the underside, ending in 17, but it’s not terribly legible; I can’t tell if it represents a manufacturer, or was simply an inventory number (and, sadly, it does not appear to read “Glenmont E.S.”). Based on the number of similar examples to be found online, this was a fairly standard, common school chair design in the early-mid 20th century.

F2006.21.01 underside

Ours has been refinished, sometime between the school’s close-out sale and the Historical Society donation, and it looks great – but, delightfully, the refinisher left the underside of the desk alone. Though there are no helpful names or dates carved in, there’s still evidence of the chair’s original use: scratches, pencil scribbles, and even a few faint vestiges of dried-up gum.  This was definitely a used piece of furniture, not something that sat idly in a supply closet.

F2006.21.01 desk detail

The Glenmont school was located at what is now the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road, just north of Wheaton. (On the map below, from 1948, Randolph Road hasn’t yet been extended to Georgia.) It opened in 1926, with 125 students from Aspen Hill, Glenmont, Layhill, and Wheaton in attendance. Enrollment rose over the next few decades, and the school was enlarged several times – including a 1946 addition, designed by local architect V.T.H. Bien in a modern style. By the late 1970s, however, demographic changes meant enrollment was dropping at once-bustling suburban schools. Many Montgomery County public schools closed their doors in the 1970s-80s; Glenmont was one of them, closing in 1977.

The Glenmont area, including the school (in pink, just below the "GlenmontT" name). From the 1948 Klinge Atlas of Montgomery County, MCHS Library collections.

The Glenmont area, including the school (in pink, just below the “Glenmont” name). From the 1948 Klinge Atlas of Montgomery County, MCHS Library collections.

By the 1990s some of the school had been torn down, but pieces remained; Bien’s addition, for example, was used as a commercial fitness center for many years. (Photos of the school’s various buildings, including the Bien addition, can be found in this architectural survey – although, note that the first page includes an inaccurate opening date for the school.) Construction of the Glenmont Metro Station, begun in 1993 and finished in 1998, negatively impacted the site; in the early 2000s, historic designation for the remaining buildings was denied. Today, nothing of the school physically remains – although, in development plans for the area, the corner is still sometimes called the “old Glenmont School site.”

The buildings are gone, but thanks to a devoted PTA, much of Glenmont E.S.’s history can be found here at the Historical Society. In addition to our little chair, the artifact collections include 1960s-70s trophies, awards, and plaques, likely displayed in the lobby until the school’s closure. In our archives we have PTA scrapbooks and albums, from 1926 through 1977, filled with photos, programs, handbooks, meeting minutes, dance tickets, and more – all of it giving us information on faculty, students, facilities, curricula, and student activities. What I have not yet found in this great resource is anything that shows or references our chair and its friends. One 1942 photo (detail below) from the PTA scrapbook shows similar chairs in use, but they have metal legs; perhaps that means the all-wood chairs dated from earlier in the school’s history. Do any Glenmont alumni remember sitting in wooden chair/desk combos in their youth?

Glenmont Elementary School students, 1942. From the G.E.S. PTA scrapbook, MCHS Library collections.

Glenmont Elementary School students, 1942. From the G.E.S. PTA scrapbook, MCHS Library collections.

*Unless “you” are already aware of the high number of natives, of course.

We base many of our memories on food; not just what we ate (and how it tasted), but also where, and with whom.   Restaurants are often an important part of our memory banks, and when an old favorite closes its doors, it can trigger reminscences both good and bad.  We recently had a call from a woman who just could not remember the name of “the restaurant on Rockville Pike with the giant salad bar,” and it was driving her and her friends crazy.  (Staff memories, rather than our collections, solved that one: it was Phineas.)  Online, there are many forums and blogs dedicated to “do you remember” this restaurant, or that neighborhood cafe.  Next time you need to start a  conversation with a long-time county resident, ask if he or she remembers, say, Farrell’s, or Rickshaw, or the Anchor Inn.

How do museums reflect those memories?  Thankfully, restaurants contain more than just food.  (Although we do have a few once-edible items in our collections.)  Here are some of the material remnants that we use to help preserve, and bring back, memories of restaurants past.
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Photographs.  Late 1960s interior and exterior views of Mr. T’s On the Pike, located on N. Washington Street in Rockville.  George W. Johnson (seated) opened his general store in 1918; over the years it evolved into a well-known tavern and restaurant, which he operated until his death in 1971.  The office building at right, in the street view, is still standing, but Mr. T’s was eventually torn down and is now the site of Hickman’s Exxon (another long-time Rockville establishment, but we’re talking about restaurants today, not service stations).  Photo of Mr. T’s donated by Charles Brewer.

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Postcards and advertisements.  This circa 1940 postcard advertises Sunnyside View, a roadside all-in-one convenience stop on Route 240 (now Route 355) near Clarksburg.  The illustration includes a helpful sign, “LUNCH,” on the cheerful yellow building, and the text on the back informs us that Sunnyside offered travelers “Rooms – Cabins – Chicken Dinners – Steak – Ham – Lunch – Home Cooking.”  Postcard donated by Tim Parker.

064280aHere’s a more recent postcard, circa 1980, advertising Emperor Ming Cuisine & Cocktails in Rockville.  The images on the front show the interior and exterior of the restaurant; the text on the reverse does not provide details on the menu, but it does tell us that it opened in 1972, and was owned and managed by Irene K.Y. Wong.  Postcard donated by Carol Cummings.

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Servingware.  The Cabin John Bridge Hotel, on what’s now MacArthur Boulevard in Cabin John, was Montgomery County’s ‘destination dining’ experience at the turn of the last century.  Started in the late 19th century by German immigrants Joseph and Rosa Bobinger, and eventually taken over by their sons, the Hotel boasted well-appointed dining rooms, and had its own china pattern featuring an image of the namesake Bridge.  (In fact there were two similar patterns; pieces marked simply “Cabin John Bridge Hotel” are earlier, and pieces featuring an entwined “BB” are later.)  Patrons came from far (thanks to the trolley) and near to enjoy fine dining in Cabin John. All things come to an end, however; the Hotel closed in 1926, and burned to the ground in the early 1930s.  Many surviving examples of the Hotel’s china, including the broken serving dish above, have been found in the yards of homes built in the area after the Hotel’s demise.  We have several different pieces – some whole, some not – in our collections, but as an almost-archaeologist I rather enjoy the broken dishes dug up while gardening, and chose this option for today’s post.  Serving dish donated by Carolyn Bryant.

 

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Souvenirs and promotional items.  Here’s a small ceramic coffee mug, given to Boy Scout leaders from the National Capital Area Council who attended the 1974 Round-Up.  The front features the BSA logo and the motto “Prepare for Life ’74;” the back includes the sponsor’s logo: Gino’s, a restaurant chain started in Baltimore in the late 1950s.  This particular mug belonged to Jim Douglas, Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 782 in Wheaton Woods.  I’ve seen references to a Gino’s restaurant on Georgia Avenue in Wheaton, near present-day Glenmont Metro Station; can any blog readers confirm or deny that this was the same chain?  Mug donated by Patricia Douglas.

 

Menus.  All the items above are well and good, but what about the food that was served at these restaurants?  Menus are one of the clearest ways to get at the actual dining experiences of the past, short of cranking up your time machine.  We have a few menus in the artifact and archival collections; for example, here’s the “Junior Dinner” (“for children under 12 years”) on offer at Hot Shoppes* on Sunday, September 26, 1943:

Hot Shoppes childrens menu 1943Chicken Noodle Soup or Chilled Papaya Juice.  ~  Chopped Sirloin Steak, Hot Shoppes Style, 55 cents. Old Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie, Toast Cube Crust, 55 cents. Baked Swordfish Steak, Mushroom Sauce, 55 cents. ~  Yellow Squash; Celery Cabbage with Russian Dressing; Tomato and Eggplant; Garden Salad Bowl; Potatoes Hashed in Cream; Green Snap Beans. Rolls and Butter. ~ DESSERTS: Orange Layer Cake; Fresh Fruit Sherbet; Hot Fudge Cake Square with Whipped Cream; Fresh Apple Sauce with Whipped Cream and Cake Fingers.  ~  A&W Root Beer, Milk or Lemonade.

*Unfortunately the menu does not indicate a specific Hot Shoppes restaurant, but it may have come from the Bethesda restaurant.  Menu donor unknown.

…And now it’s your turn, blog readers.  I’ve no doubt left out your favorite local restaurant (not on purpose, I promise!) and the memories therein. So, help out the Historical Society and fill our comment section with restaurant reminiscences!

P.S. Fans of menus and historic meals – don’t miss the New York Public Library’s crowdsourced menu transcription project.

 

I ask for your indulgence, dear readers, as I invent my own theme for today’s post. After all, it’s not every year that April 18th* is on a Wednesday.

Memory (at least mine) is all about associations. Unless you’re one of those people who remember everything that ever happened to you, some dates stay with you while others are lost in the fog of time. When major events are associated with the date on which they occurred, they become part of the cultural consciousness – think of July 4, December 7, or September 11. Most of the time, however, those associations are personal: birthdays, anniversaries, &c. Familiar dates tend to leap out of the text; if you’re reading about, say, 9th century France,  the thing you notice is that [something important in 9th century France**] happened on what will, some centuries later, be your parents’ anniversary. Thus, when it comes to the many people who lived in the Beall-Dawson House, I can tell you the different years each person was born and died but the only specific date I know without looking is April 18, 1901, the day Margaret Johns Beall died.  (Her side of the family obelisk, in Rockville cemetery, shown above.)

Here are some other (happier) instances of this date, from our collections!

This small (2″ diameter at base) oil lamp wick holder, acquired by a previous curator as an example of lighting technology, has several patent dates inscribed on its small surface.  One of them is April 18, 1871, leading us to this patent for an improved wick raiser – overcoming the difficulties of raising a flat wick into a cylinder, “to produce an Argand flame” – granted to L.J. Atwood. 

Here is an extremely compact table-clamp sewing machine, donated to us in the 1980s by an MCHS member.   The first of three U.S. patent dates marked on the side is another April 18, 1871 patent, this time for “certain novel combinations and arrangements of parts, [with] its object to make a cheap and effective single-thread sewing machine,” granted to William G. Beckwith.

Jumping forward 91 years, we have in the collections three small trophies awarded to (and donated by) Glenmont Elementary School.  On April 18, 1962, the Wheaton Optimist Club held a “Bike Safety Rodeo,” won by Glenmont’s fourth, fifth and sixth grades.  (Or at least, that’s as much as we can glean from the plaques on the trophies; if anyone reading this is a veteran of this or other bike rodeos, please let us know!)

And last but not least, here is Edith Stonestreet Lamar’s wedding gown, donated by her granddaughter Charlotte Garedo.  Edith Stonestreet, youngest daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Stonestreet of Rockville, married George Holt Lamar on April 18, 1894.  Her gown, though relatively simple, is nonetheless in high style, with the voluminous shoulders popular in the mid 1890s.  The two-piece dress is made of white (now darkened with age) silk faille, with silk charmeuse and lace accents.  (The photo shows it minus several petticoats, which is why the skirt is a little limp; apologies to the bride.)  According to the Washington Post, “the bride was attired in white silk trimmed with lace and carried Victoria roses;” the reporter described the event as “one of the most notable social events of the season.”  (April 19, 1894)

* April 18 is your blogger’s birthday. 

** This is a completely made up scenario, though I suppose something must have happened in 9th century France on that date.