An Intimate Exchange With Dad – Part 1

Dad and I spend several days a week together–mostly tending to his daily needs, but often just sitting at the kitchen table (like he and mom used to do), while he eats, drinks, or reads his morning newspaper and then we meander on into the living room so he can raise his legs up in his recliner and watch television.

Before mom’s death 20 months ago, the two of us never truly got into deep discussions. In fact, we have grown closer than ever and I find that dad likes talking about and remembering instances from his past. So, on Thursday, November 7, 2019, just one month before his 91st birthday, I decided that there’s no better time to ask him some detailed questions about his earlier days and activities, lessons learned, happier times, and challenging times. It is my desire to help him share his answers as part of his legacy to his family.

I’ve come up with about 25 questions that I expect will take us some time to fully suss out. I expect dad’s answers and my probing within them will create a whole chapter of blogpost interviews with dad. We will begin with dad’s early days when he lived in the District of Columbia with his father, Jesse, and his two younger sisters, Delores and Barbara.

Question 1. What comes to mind when you think about growing up in Washington, DC?

“As a young boy dad moved us to Capitol Hill in the District of Columbia. We first lived on the first floor of 127 C Street, S.E. I lived with my father and my two younger sisters. Then we moved to the basement apartment next door at 129 C Street. These row houses were built in 1909.”

I followed up on dad’s answer to my first question by driving to Capitol Hill on Saturday morning, November 9, 2019, and then again on Monday, Veterans’ Day–just to get a feel for his old neighborhood and surroundings. About 80 years later, the addresses and row houses still stand. I then returned home and looked up the addresses on Google Earth and Zillow. 127 C Street Southeast is described as a 3 bedroom, 3-1/2 bath, 2,568 sq. ft. townhome valued at $1.8 million and this neighborhood’s houses are hot items in the real estate market. Politicos and other professionals admire “Capitol Hill” for its close proximity to government offices, including the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court, and also for the surrounding historic, walkable streets, shopping amenities, and filled restaurants.

In the image below, you can see the block on C Street Southeast, in which dad lived beginning around 1936. His unit was 127 and is the blue painted exterior, third unit from the left.

“Starting at about age 8, I began exploring on foot the city and beyond on my own. On the weekends, I walked to National Airport to watch the planes take off. Yet, at just shy of 91 years old, I’ve never flown in an airplane. My regular Capitol Hill excursions included sneaking into the Smithsonian Museums along the Mall (because unescorted children were not allowed in the museums).

 Penn Theatre, 650 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E, opened on December 27, 1935, with Errol Flynn in “Captain Blood”. It had 1 screen and seated 1,438 people. This picture was taken in 2012 (the building is no longer used as a movie theatre.

For lack of money, I also sneaked into the Penn and Avenue Grand movie theatres. I would grab hold of the theatre doors as people were exiting–that is, until the theatre crews caught on to me.”

This theater opened as the Avenue Grand Theatre in 1910, on Pennsylvania Avenue, near Seward Square and not far from Capitol Hill. It had 1 screen and seated 840 persons.

Another one of my activities as a younger boy included occasionally visiting the 1890-built St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. I would walk through the Rumsey Street Alley to get to the church located on 2nd street just up from us. The sisters got to know me, as I would open and close the gates to let them in and out.

A relatively new attraction in Capitol Hill includes the home of the 2019 National League Baseball Champions,’ the Washington Nationals Stadium. It’s at 1500 South Capitol Streets, just a short walk away from where dad lived. And, the completion of Phase 1 of the nearby District’s mile-long waterfront Wharf at 800 Maine Ave. SW at 7th St. and Independence Ave. SW is thriving as one of DC’s most popular neighborhoods to live, work, eat, shop, and visit. In fact, my husband, Bob and I visited the District Wharf and had a tasty lunch at Kiwan’s Irish Pub on an unseasonably warm and sunny Veterans’ Day.