Seven area residents recall the days of dinner dances, wartime rationing and memorable encounters with celebrity.
Margaret Farquhar Adelfio, 83, Chevy Chase
I was born at Montgomery General Hospital, so I’m a real native of Montgomery County. My father had a mutual fire-insurance company in Sandy Spring and walked home for lunch. When there were only six high schools in the county, I went to Sherwood, Class of 1944. It was all white. There were 21 in my class, four boys and 17 girls. The boys were 4F; the others had all been drafted. Some farm boys enlisted for the money.
A parent would drive a bunch of us to Glen Echo in the 1930s and ’40s. There were bumper cars and a great big roller coaster. But as a child I was not allowed to go in the public swimming pool because everyone was scared of polio. Finally, the Manor [Country] Club opened its private pool at Norbeck [Road and Georgia Avenue in Rockville], and our parents thought that was clean.
In 1941, I inherited a 1939 Chevrolet, but then the war came and cramped everyone’s style. Living out in the country on 3 gallons of gas a month, you didn’t go far. There were ration cards with stamps on them, and you gave a stamp to buy butter, gas and sugar, I think. We lived on a 100-acre farm, so we had our own milk and vegetables, cattle and sheep. Harold Ickes was secretary of the interior and had a big house and farm in Olney. He had a chauffeur who came from D.C. We young people who wanted to go places, we’d see him drive by and felt like pelting him with stones!
In 1961, my husband started Bethesda Travel Center. Our son [Guido] runs it now. Back then, Wisconsin Avenue was all low-rise businesses. Brooks Photography, Peoples Drug, Perpetual Bank. Community Hardware—now United Bank—smelled of tar, and its wooden floor creaked. There was no Strosniders, so you went there for nails, pliers, hammers, everything. Where the Bethesda Theatre is now—formerly the Cinema ’N’ Drafthouse—was a movie theater, and Larry Adler had Adler’s, a men’s store on the west side of Wisconsin. Everyone went to the Hot Shoppe on the northeast corner of Wisconsin and East West Highway for milkshakes.
People didn’t really go out to eat. There wasn’t much in Bethesda, and certainly not in Chevy Chase. There were O’Donnell’s and Bish Thompson’s on Wisconsin. Brookville Farm became Brook Farm Inn of Magic, which became La Ferme more than 20 years ago. Twenty-five to 30 years ago, the whole family would go for family-style food and see magic tricks during dinner.
For grocery shopping, I went to the Giant at Wisconsin Circle. I grew up when you had to ask a woman behind the counter to hand you stuff, and we got a monthly bill, so it was fun in the ’50s to get my own stuff and put it in my own basket.
My husband and I bought this four-story house on three lots in 1968 for $85,000. Arch Campbell and Chris Matthews live next to each other; George Will and Mark Shields are nearby. It’s Media Alley. [Longtime news broadcaster] David Brinkley used to live two blocks over. It turns out he’d built this 10-foot dining table, which seats 14 if you squeeze. He and Ann got divorced, and I read in the Post that she’d taken everything downtown to sell to this antiques store. So I bought [the table]. I never said anything about it when I’d run into him at the gas station.