November-December 2009 | Features

Remembering When

Seven area residents recall the days of dinner dances, wartime rationing and memorable encounters with celebrity.

Joe Long, 91, Bethesda

I’ve lived in Bethesda since 1955, when East West Highway was a two-lane street. The Metro Center area used to be Peoples Drug and a movie theater, Shorty’s hamburgers and a beer joint. Near Wisconsin and East West, at Hiser’s [theater], we’d pay 15 or 20 cents for a newsreel, a cartoon and a feature. I worked [in insurance] in D.C., like everyone did, and you could drive from Greentree Road in Bethesda to 2000 L St. in 25 minutes.

I was married in February 1946. Jack Miller and my brother owned Miller & Long, and Jack Miller had married the same day. My sister, too, had married the same day. For years we’d all get together for our anniversary at the naval officers’ club at the naval hospital there on Wisconsin. Someone had to have a naval ID, which Jack Miller did. Great lobster tail, they had.

After we joined Columbia Country Club in 1969, my wife and I went to dinner dances every Saturday night. Drinks were 85 cents, and you could eat cheaper there than you could downtown. Before 5 p.m. a sport coat was OK, but after 5 it was coat and tie or a cocktail dress. There were some colored people on the staff, but not as members.

Early on Sunday mornings, I’d wash the car and let the family sleep—went over to the Hot Shoppe at East West and Wisconsin for breakfast. They had cantaloupe with ice cream, milkshakes, A&W Root Beer, and good chocolate cakes at the bakery carryout. It was a very popular place. The waitresses had yellow uniforms, a blouse and skirt, and a hairnet or hat, I think.

When Metro came, the suburbs grew. We got high-tech and high-rises. Montgomery Mall was built on a cow field; that was the first chance people really had to shop around here. Merchants used to close on Sunday, so the delis did big business. When Giant and [other grocery stores] opened on Sunday, it killed business for these little mom-and-pop stores.