The Corner Forum
Saturday, Dec. 14, 2002
Issue #10

It Was a Wonderful Time to Be Alive

By Delores Holly

Now: 10510 Livingston Rd., Fort Washington, MD
Formerly: 1234 E. St. NE

Mrs. Holly, 59, Mrs. Minnie M. Evans's daughter, spoke to us in her home in Fort Washington, Md., where she lives with her daughter and two grandsons. When she was 9, in 1952, she moved from Martinsville to 1234 E. St. NE with her mother. Mrs. Holly now works as a housing specialist for the military, at Bolling Air Force Base. She shared some memories with us about growing up on E Street.

You lived on E Street until you were how old, about?

Until I was 17. I got married at 17. I married a marine from around the corner, on Emerald Street.

And this was during Vietnam. And I stayed there [on Emerald Street] for a year, and went to school, to the University of the District of Columbia, which used to be called D.C. Teachers.

And he did his marine duty down in Norfolk. And then he went to Vietnam, and a year later he came back, and I moved with him to North Carolina, and then to California, and I lived in California from '67 on, until about '97.

And then you came —

Here.

To this house?

No. I lived with my mother [on E Street]. I was working up at Fort Meade, and then a job came open at Bolling, so that I could be closer to her.

And then I moved from her house to here, when my daughter decided to come. She decided to come here to be with her grandmother, and have the kids grow up with their great-grandma.

Your husband is still in California?

No. One ex-husband — the one that was on Emerald Street — unfortunately, he died this June — and then the other ex-husband, he's in California.

Do you remember what address the Emerald Street husband was —

1353. No, 1351!

What was his name?

That was Wilbur Watson. We were married 10 years.

[Your mother] mentioned that she had two jobs for a while, and that basically you had the run of the house. Do you remember anything about that?

Only that when I got home, I was required to start dinner. And this would mean putting something in the oven, because I really couldn't cook anything, so that when she got back, we would have dinner. But I watched a lot of television — I spent a lot of time in the basement, playing records and painting. I thought I was an artist at the time. But I mainly read, painted and listened to music.

She told me that you went to Lovejoy. You're the first person I talked to that went there. What was that like?

Oh, Lovejoy! Miss Simms was the fifth-grade teacher, and we had a whole circle of friends that we went from Lovejoy to Eliott — then most of them went to Eastern, but I went to McKinley.

But what about Lovejoy? Well, we had May Day — facing Lovejoy, on the big side where the cement is, the basketball courts — there were not basketball courts then. But we used to have May Day out there. You know May Day?

No. Tell me about it.

Oh. May Day is the first day of May, and it's from some culture — and we have ribbons, and maybe there might be 12 ribbons coming from the pole. And the kids dance around the flagpole, and they wrap the ribbons until they intertwine, and it was to welcome spring.

Were you one of the dancers, dancing around the pole?

No I don't think I ever did, but I did something else — everybody participated in it. What else is there to remember about Lovejoy? I was in love with George Linden (laughs)!

Who's George Linden?

I dunno — some little boy that I grew up with. But let me see. We had George Linden, Robert Crouch — they were cousins. And all the kids — they either went to Lovejoy or to Kingsman. So half of my friends were at Kingsman — Carolyn Gullatt, Carolyn Dunlap.

On Emerald Street, there was Opal Lewis and there was Sue Boddie, and there was Bernice Tuell, and then on F Street, there was Myrtle Lewis and Carol Smith and myself, and we would meet in the summertime, at my house or somebody's house, and we would always eat chicken and macaroni, and then we would dance and teach each other the latest dances.

As a matter of fact, we used to go to Bolling Air Force Base on Wednesday nights to Twist Night. And Opal, she's still on Emerald Street — she's at 1363 Emerald. And Sue Body — she's out in Maryland someplace. And Bernice has died — and she died of AIDS from a blood transfusion. She was a nurse, and then she was a travel agent. And she used to do tours for black ski, and all of the black groups, going down to the islands.

Your mom mentioned a family across the street — the Butlers. Were those kids you went to school with?

Some of them — we were different ages. There are about seven of them.

Do you remember what house number they were at?

1225.

So right next to the one [that Mr. Eric Bernard had written about in the Corner Forum.]

Yeah. That's why I called you — because of him. I knew one of the people that he mentioned who lived there.

Which one?

It was the guy who worked for the fire department. James Gibson. When I knew him, he was a Reverend Gibson. And then later, he got a limousine service, and they moved away.

They didn't have kids, I guess.

Yes, they had a girl named Carol, and I think they had another girl who was much younger.

In your school, were there any white kids?

If there was, there might have been one or two.

It wasn't by law —

Oh no, they could've gone there. But, when I moved there, the white flight had begun. So that there were no white kids on my block. Quite a few families, but no young children at school.

The white flight — do you remember that?

All the white people left. The only people who stayed were Jewish store owners. On the corners of 13th and E, where that new building is — that was a store — that was Isador Bindes.

And across the street from him was another family. They owned a store, and they also owned a store on the corner entering Emerald Street — that house that has the steps and the little front porch in it. If you're entering Emerald, on the right side — that used to be a store. Her name was Cookie — the girl my age. And they were the only people who stayed, really.

Someone had told me that some of the stores — that, basically, they were doing fine — or they were open, at least, until the riots, in '68. Is that how you remember it?

That's what closed it. The riots. The two stores that were owned by the same family — they left. And Bindes stayed a few years, but it wasn't the same.

We used to go to the store and get things, and say, "Charge it." Or the kids would come by and try to look all big and say, "Charge it" and get three cents worth of candy, and things like that.

She remembered you playing with the kids outside a lot. Do you remember that at all, playing in the street, I guess?

Yeah, that's where we played. We had more boys, there. We had a group of guys who were about four years or more older than I, and so I'd be the little gopher — I'd go up to the store to get a soda, or go here and go there.

Do you remember any of the games, or what you guys would do out there?

Well, we jumped double-dutch. And we played hopscotch. What else? We played a lot in the alley. There's an alley by her, and the next house after the alley was owned by Harris Electric Company — this was a black electrical contractor. And he had maybe about 20 trucks. And he owned all of the garages on that house and around, you know? The alleys were clean and you could play there, and you wouldn't worry about it — it was really nice.

And my mother had a grapevine in the backyard. So kids used to come in and steal the grapes. As a matter of fact, momma took a cab someplace — this was a few years ago. And he brought her back home.

And he said, "Is that the house you live in?" And she says, "Yes." He says, "Did you have a grapevine in your yard?" She said, "I used to." He says, "When I was a little boy, I used to steal your grapes all the time!" (Laughs.) We used to play a lot in the alley.

Is there anything else you remember that's different now, or remember from those days?

The people aren't as friendly. Although they seem to be friendly — but they're not. You know, we used to know everybody by name. Maybe because there were — well, I guess there are almost as many kids there — but there were more children, so the families did more with them.

Even the kids of the storekeepers — they played with us. Beverly Bindes. And then she had an older sister. And the other girl across the street was Cookie. I don't remember her name. We were all just one big group there. Nobody was different.

Do you have any memories of your mom that you could share with us?

She would work — when she'd come home, she'd work in the basement until 11, 12 o'clock at night. When we moved into that house, we had two beds, a kitchen table and two chairs — [and for the first few months, people kind of turned their noses up at us].

This [neighborhood] was a little upper middle class. See Mr. Harrison, he owned his business. And next to him I don't know who he was, and next to him was Mr. Barber, he taught music. And then next to him — God, I don't remember her name, but this lady had five daughters. And they dated the Redskins — they were all pretty — and one of them, Rose, married Lee Elder. And next to them was a lady who owned a beauty shop — you know, everybody was up and doing, and we were sort of like the poor people in the block. But after a few months it was all right.

We used to go down to H Street. At the end of E Street [where Tennessee hits 15th Street], there used to be the Beverly Theatre, and then down at 13th and H, it was the Atlas Theater. I used to go down there on Saturday mornings, and just spend my whole morning in the theater, throwing popcorn, eating and looking at the serials on the movie screen.

There used to be a theater on D Street, between 12th and 13th [NE].

There used to be a big Safeway on 13th Street — 13th and D, where the 1300 block starts. And all of the [houses by the southeast corner of 13th and E] — when you'd go in the alley, in the back of the houses, they had these bushes, and they used to cut out animal shapes — I mean big animals! — so you had all these different kind of animals in the back yard, so you could just ride through there. This was before they got a park there — a field or something.

[How did you meet your boyfriend?]

We went to the same church. He was a Boy Scout, I was a Girl Scout. He played the piano and the organ, and I sang in the choir, and that's how we got together.

What church was it?

Israel Baptist. It used to be at 632 11th St. NE. But then they expanded and bought a new home, so it's up on Saratoga Avenue now. It was a good church for the kids in the community. They had a lot of activities and things — as a matter of fact, the churches really did that then. Kept us busy.

When you were done with high school, in terms of your professional life, where did things take you?

Well, I'm in government — my first job was at the five-and-dime down on H Street — Green's five-and-dime [on the 1100 block of H]. And then when I was in high school, I went to work as a counselor for handicapped children at Sharpe Elementary School — this is a school for the handicapped. And I did that for three years. And then I married Wilbur.

And I was at Kay Jeweler's on the corner of 12th and H. We had a Lerners down there. H Street was a busy, busy mini-downtown. And we didn't even have to go downtown — we had stores, not just the little cheapo stores.

And a People's Drug Store, on H Street. We used to go down there, Saturday mornings, and get tea and English muffins.

Really! You and your mother?

Mmm hmm. Especially sometimes when we didn't have any money, we'd go down there, go for a walk, through H Street.

You could sit down, there.

Yeah. It had a counter. You had counters, and the soda jerk, you know? You can order hot dogs, and everything — it was really nice.

Do you remember any of that '68 stuff?

I was in Cherry Point, North Carolina, at the time, but my mother was on the phone, and she was saying, "Delores! They have tanks going by here!"

See, it's different now, because then, all the young people were involved. If you weren't involved with something, politically, you were just really — I don't know what you were, because everybody was involved.

You either wore big naturals and said, "Power to the People!" Or you were with some group. The thing was to be anti-establishment, you know? And it was fun! It really was.

What group were you with?

Well, I couldn't, because I was married to a marine, you see! So all I could do was just wear the natural. (Laughs). When I married my husband, they used to have "America. Love it, or leave it."

That was the bumper sticker. I had a bumper sticker that said, "America. Change it, or lose it."

I marry my husband, drive the car down to the base — within two days, the commanding officer had seen this and told me to take it off the car. And I didn't want to take it off. My husband — he was a sergeant or something — he took it. But can you imagine that?

If somebody said, "Don't walk down that street on the left side," here comes a group of people, "Why can't we walk down the street on the left side?" It was just anti-everything, you know? Kids, I don't know, I guess they have other priorities. Whatever.

But it was a wonderful time to be alive.§