Virginia and Lawrence Bennett and Lena Sherwood


MR. BENNETT: You know the little white building on Popkins Lane? That was a Fairfax County school house years ago. Her father went there.

MRS. BENNETT: He only went there one year.

MR. BENNETT: It was a Fairfax County School is what I'm trying to bring out.

MRS. BENNETT: He donated the land.

MR. BENNETT: It belongs to St. Louis Church now.

MRS. BENNETT: It used to be little St. Louis Church before we built the big one.

My father bought 43 acres from a J, C. Collard, December 9, 1909. It was called Groveton Farms. At that time there was a Clifton Road in the deed, so it must have been Clifton Road that it was on.

MR. BENNETT: That's where Popkins Lane is. I can't remember why they named it Popkins Lane.

MRS. SHERWOOD: It was supposed to be Popkins-Ayres Drive. There was two Popkins' and one Ayres so they just made it Popkins.

MRS. BENNETT: I was born there, she was born there, and another brother was born there. Then a new house was built there in 1921. Then my father sold the place because he was paralyzed. To whom, I can not think of now but I think it was a real estate man. Then St. Louis Church bought it from them. Then Groveton High School bought a part of it.  My mother had one section up there that she lived in.

Where the old Groveton football field is used to be my father's gravel pit.

MR. BENNETT: They took gravel out when they was building the road to Fort Belvoir.

MRS. SHERWOOD: All the gravel came out of our place and Cranford and Sons built the highway.

MR. BENNETT: A lot of the gravel came out of there went for National Airport. They took thousands and thousands of loads to cover that place.

MRS. SHERWOOD: Yeah, that was later on. He had to go out of the milk business because of it.

Fort Belvoir was Camp Humphreys during World War I. They took the gravel out of our place because they came down and they tested it all around and we had the best gravel. While that road was being built, they built another camp down the hill from us across from Cherry Arms apartments. That was called Camp Lonesome during World War I. They tore that down right after the war was over.

MRS. BENNETT: Where Cherry Arms is was my father's land too. It went right down to Nightingale's. They had a night club there.

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Nightingale bought that piece of land and put the club there.

MRS. SHERWOOD: That was the first club in this area.

MR. BENNETT: They had a beautiful dance floor.

MRS. SHERWOOD: They sure did.

MRS. BENNETT: They had bands, and a dance floor, eating.

MR. BENNETT: We were courting in those days.

MRS. SHERWOOD: That was the music of the 1920's.

MR. BENNETT: Watch it, watch it. We didn't get married 'till '36.

MRS. BENNETT: I was only sixteen then.

MR. BENNETT: Thirties, music of the thirties.

MRS. BENNETT: His great grandfather, Jeremiah Reagan, bought this land right here,  clear down to Spring Bank and clear down to Quander Road in the 1850's and it was called Johnson Hill. He came from Ireland.

MR. BENNETT: At least six generations branch out from this piece of land. That's six generations on this property.

MRS. BENNETT: He's buried at St. Mary's Church. He was born in 1809 and died in 1890. That was my husband's great, great grandfather.

They'd have what they called lawn parties in the daytime and they'd last up until night. Then they'd have the dancing and to-do at night time for whoever won the tournaments.

MRS. SHERWOOD: Up here at Pierce-Reid they used to have it.

MRS. BENNETT: I was crowned at Franconia. The tournaments were so much fun.

They'd have big lights strung sort of like Japanese lanterns. They used to have these paper cups, like bowls, and you'd get two dips of ice cream and a piece of homemade cake for a nickel. And people would make crocheted things and lace things. And a spinning wheel contest to see who could spin the fastest. They'd have different games like that.

Then during the day they'd have this tournament. It's really hard. My father was very good at it. You'd have to get on the horse a certain way, running, and hold it (the rod) so you could get them (the rings) on it. It was a long rod and it had a point on it.  The rings started out big, and gradually came down to just enough to fit onto the end. Whoever won, out of so many tries, crowned the queen that night.

It was really tricky. My mother and father had one back at the grapevine in the back and Bert used to practice and practice.

MRS. SHERWOOD: His horse was Starlight. It was all bay except one white spot on his forehead looked like a star.

QUESTION: Did he win a lot of the tournaments?

MRS. SHERWOOD: Yes, between him and an uncle of ours, Jack Ayres. He lived down by Gum Springs.

QUESTION: Were they both the "Knights of Groveton," or just your father?

MRS. SHERWOOD: Just my father.

MRS. BENNETT: When the church gave the lawn party where me and Lawrence had our picture taken, was that given by the Catholic church?

MRS. SHERWOOD: That was given by the Catholic church because the Presbyterian church was giving one the same night and Father Schmidt came down and wanted to know had we had our tickets printed. We told him, "No," and he said, "Well, we've already got our tickets printed, so let us have it and you all have it the following week. Otherwise neither one of us will make anything, and we'll help you out." So we all went over there that night and when the Presbyterian church gave their lawn party we had more Catholics there than we had Presbyterians. We made over $500.

There was no activities down here except the church, and Sunday school, and get togethers at people's homes. Now the Weiss' had quite a family of children, so on Friday and Saturday nights they'd give what we called a taffy party. This was when you'd pull taffy until it got hard and you'd eat that. Then she'd serve cookies and some sort of punch that she'd make. Anybody that had long hair, they'd be pulling taffy and bay, before you'd know it, they'd have it all around their head.

MRS. BENNETT: And then we had watermelons, too. And you'd finish eating the watermelon and the boys would wash your face with the watermelon rind.

MRS. SHERWOOD: That's if they could catch you.

The tournaments was only twice a year on 4th of July, and Labor Day; because they were the only holidays the farmers would take off.

MRS. BENNETT: They got rid of the horses you see, and it is a shame. Lots of the bad winters my father used to have to take the wheels off an old wagon and load his milk into it, put the horses to it and bring it across to where old Groveton High School is now, out to the highway so he could put it on the truck and get it to town. The snow was that deep. And they thought we had such an awful winter this year. Then the sleighs, too, with the horses was fun.
We used to have hayrides too, by golly, we forgot! Used to take a wagon and load it with hay and the horses pull it. A whole bunch of kids would get on and sing and just ride and ride.

MRS. SHERWOOD: It used to go down to Kirk Wilkinson's house and he'd have a bonfire built and there you'd toast marshmallows and have hot dogs on sticks. You didn't have bread with it, you just had hotdogs. Used to have sleighing parties too, when the snow was high. And sleigh ride over by Popkins Hill there, you could sleigh down right to Kirk Wilkinson's house and he'd have a bonfire for you.

MRS. BENNETT: We had wood stoves, that's what my mother cooked on. We had a wood stove in the living room and the sitting room. Then we had a huge fireplace. It was the length of the room, for the dining room. Upstairs we had no heat. It was cold. I used to make my bed before I got out of it.

MR. BENNETT: Ghost stories!

MRS. BENNETT: My mother's place you know, during the Civil War they had a fort and the soldiers came and took over the house, with the kids there.

MRS. SHERWOOD: That was all Hardbowers Hill.

MRS. BENNETT: The soldiers came in and took over the house.

MRS. SHERWOOD: That headless horse rode this strip of road here.

MRS. BENNETT: I thought it was over at Mt. Comfort, down through that dip. This old colored man that lived over there said that that horse went by him and you could see the horse but he had no head. You couldn't get him to come out of that house at nighttime to come across that field unless it was death. He would not 'cause he'd see that horse. It was white and it had no head.

MRS. BENNETT: Well, I thought going down in that dip to Mt. Comfort cemetery.  There was a headless man they said.

MRS. SHERWOOD: Headless man, yeah, but this was a headless horse.
The children of today don't have the fun that we had even though we had nothing.  We didn't know what it was to discriminate. We had blacks working for us that lived on the farm. After our day's work was done and supper was eaten we'd get out and play high-over. We'd get three or four on each side of the house and see who could throw a ball and who could catch it and bring it around to the other side. We'd play high-over or we'd play hide-and-go-seek.

MRS. BENNETT: Kick the can.

MRS. SHERWOOD: Or we'd have jumping rope or we'd play ball.

MRS. BENNETT: And that's the way we entertained ourselves and we didn't know what it was to get bored.

MRS. BENNETT: We rode horses too.

MRS. SHERWOOD: We rode horses and we disobeyed like children of today.

MRS. BENNETT: You might have.

MRS. SHERWOOD: Now after the horses had worked all day and they were fed, we had to take them down to the lower field and leave them to graze. We were not supposed to ride those horses down. We were supposed to get behind them and shoo 'em on down. We'd get on those horses and ride them down and see who could jump the branch.

MRS. BENNETT: One of the things the kids miss nowadays is not coming up on a farm and learning how to milk a cow. The children nowadays aren't brought up on a farm like we were and they don't have the work to do from morning to night. Then you was so tired you didn't have time to get in trouble. In the olden times by the time we finished our work and everything Mama had chickens we had to feed, we had to help her.

MR. BENNETT: There was conversation then, reading. There wasn't any T.V. You had a victrola.

MRS. SHERWOOD: Or you had a player piano. And you played dominoes or checkers. You can't compare it. There wasn't any automobiles that the kids could use.

MR. BENNETT: Horse and buggy.

MRS. SHERWOOD: Sometimes the children would take a horse and go out 'cause I know my brother took a horse and the horse threw him  and stepped on his leg. He didn't tell my parents 'cause he knew he was gonna get in trouble if he did. But my mother found out. They still did things then that they weren't supposed to do. We were forbidden to get up on the barns and things, but when we played hide-and-go-seek we'd get up on top of the barn and hide. I often think back if you slipped and fell where would you be now.

MR. BENNETT: Only time you got in trouble was on Saturday night. Only time you went to town was on Saturday night. You worked all week and on Saturday night you quit earl y around 1 or 2 o'clock.

MRS. SHERWOOD: Not on our farm you didn't. You quit at 3 or 4 o'clock.

MR. BENNETT: You go down to town on Saturday night and everybody'd gather on King Street.

MRS. SHERWOOD: You'd get into Alexandria and if you had a girl friend, you'd get in around a quarter to nine. Our father'd say, "OK, you can go to the movies, but be back here at 9:30." Who in the dickens could go to the movies?

MR. BENNETT: Give you a quarter and say bring me the l5¢ change.

MRS. SHERWOOD: That's right.

MR. BENNETT: See there wasn't any bus line here. They used to have a street car went from Washington down to New Alexandria. Say I wanted to come from up here to see my grandmother Regan, (we's living in Washington) we'd have to get off at New Alexandria and we'd have to walk all the way up to the farm. Weren't any buses.

MRS. BENNETT: Well, I rode with Daddy on the milk truck because he delivered milk in Alexandria and served door to door, you see, retail.

MRS. SHERWOOD: We went in on the milk truck, my brother and sister and I, and we'd get in to St. Mary's Academy at 7:30 in the morning and we had to wait 'till they had breakfast and then started school. Then we'd have to walk home from Alexandria which was 4 1/2 miles right from St. Mary's Academy on Prince Street to our door. We walked rain or shine, hail or blow.

MR. BENNETT: Didn't wear shoes either, had to take your shoes off. Didn't want them shoes walkin' back and forth to school.

MRS. BENNETT: I didn't walk, buses was running when I went.

MRS. SHERWOOD: Buses, right. But Daddy didn't let us ride the buses, my dear girl. He wouldn't let us ride the bus. He said, "God made our feet."

MR. BENNETT: Were you allowed to wear your shoes in between? Used to have to carry your shoes over your shoulder so you wouldn't ruin them.

MRS. SHERWOOD: Summertime we didn't have shoes. My mother said you didn't need shoes to work out in the field. But I still say that the children of today have missed a lot. That's the reason when they grow up and they have to go to work they're bored with life.

Volume Two, Table of Contents
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