Seven area residents recall the days of dinner dances, wartime rationing and memorable encounters with celebrity.
Sallie Toney, 94, Bethesda
When George and I moved here in the early ’50s, men wore hats on the street. My husband came here because he got a job with the weather bureau, where he made about $5,000 a year. We lived on Willard Avenue [in Friendship Heights] in a house across from the Woodies loading platform.
I rarely got into Bethesda or Potomac—no reason to. Around Wisconsin Circle there was a fabric shop, banks, a hairdresser, restaurants, a post office, a dress shop, a men’s store, a shoe store. A lot of that is now Saks and Barneys. I’d walk to everything.
The Giant had opened across from Hecht’s. I’d shopped at a country store in Massachusetts, so this was the first supermarket I’d seen. Streetcars left from where the buses are now, in front of the Giant.
I worked in the Woodies jewelry department for about nine months, through Christmas 1953. The manager wanted me to train to be a manager, but I was just doing it for a little extra money. My kids, who were 7 and 10, would come see me there after school. They’d walk down Willard Avenue, which had trees on both sides—now it’s all built up with apartments. The schools were not good in Montgomery County, so we put the kids in private schools until they were in junior high and high school at [Bethesda-Chevy Chase].
Woodies was fairly new when we arrived. It had clothing, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, furs, a dry-cleaning deposit, a beauty parlor, purses, radios, TVs, socks, stockings, luggage, dishes. There were Christmas displays in the windows, and the whole second floor was decorated. It had a hardware department in the basement—paints, hammers, you could get a dustpan and brush, also fabrics and notions. I made 85 cents an hour, but got a 20-percent discount on merchandise. We workers would pick the good stuff and put it in a drawer till we could buy it.
[In 1958, we moved to Bethesda.] In the 1960s, I was in an office [doing secretarial work and accounting for a company that did electronics work for the military] on River Road and made $100 a week, the most I’d ever made. Some people from this office moved to Vega Precision Laboratories in Vienna, Va. Interstate 495 had just opened across the river—there was hardly any traffic; you were practically alone on the road. George and I never had more than one car. We had a green Chevy from Chevy Chase Cars. Starting in the ’60s we had an Opel, a Datsun, two Toyotas and a Saab, but before that, people didn’t believe in foreign cars.