Katherine Hecox


When I came out here there wasn't a whole lot going on. There wasn't a whole lot to even tell you about because there wasn't much here. The only thing a person did was get on a bus in Alexandria and go to Fort Belvoir where all the activity was.

The open air theater, had been very active until the war started and they closed it down. In January 1944 they opened it again. Everybody flocked to it. If you didn't get there real early you never got in, and cars would line up a mile back, trying to get in.

One of the places you could get something to eat was right across the road, called "Twin Barrels." Now that's exactly what they looked like-two huge barrels hooked together. One end of it was his kitchen and the other part was where he served. The theater didn't have popcorn and candy because there wasn't any. All that stuff was rationed. The man with the "Twin Barrels" had the closest to a little restaurant. They've got a big service station and car wash there now.

The Harmony House, trailer Court, was there at this time. They made all their money during the war when nobody had a place to live, and anybody that had extra room made premium rates. There was many service men that had to take their families with them because they had no place at home.

That was the beginning of some of this federal housing, and one was Fairhaven. The most expensive house there, the very nicest one, was only $3,000.

Along the Route 1 corridor there were about six green houses. In back of the open air theater was Ladson's, or Green Acres, and they raised flowers there in a field way. I lived back there for six months in a little tiny house.

In back of where the Shell station is built now, was a place called the Community House. They had rooms and you could rent one. It had a community kitchen and all kinds of kettles and dishes. You could stay there for $3 a night which was outrageously high. We stayed there two nights. To get into the kitchen to cook was strictly out of this world because you had to carry water in. There was no plumbing, no inside facilities. The lady that lived in the house was kind enough to let everybody have water from her outside faucet. But you had to use the little house behind the big house for anything else.

That's, I think, an original "commune" the way I understand it! Just one big room and all together. Most of the rooms had your bed, dresser, and chairs or a davenport, and a table.

You could find housing in Maryland, everybody always thought the Virginia side was swampy. There just wasn't a place where anybody could build. When the war ended people wanted to buy homes. They had money to put down. Finally, a man named Gosnell decided that it was profitable for everybody, including him, to begin to fill that ground or buy a hill. Jefferson Manor was the first to be built. If you've ever been over there you'll know how small they are, but at that time it was a godsend because people just didn't have a place to live.

When we first moved into our house (we live over in Bucknell Heights) we were what you call country. You never dreamed that anyone could build on it because it was very steep. The thing was terraced down and we got Bucknell Heights!

Belle Haven and New Alexandria was built for the VIP's. At that time there were a lot of "dollar a year" men. That is people that had factories and big farms, people that had a lot of money and could afford to take time off to work for a dollar a year for the government. A lot of senators and representatives and cabinet members lived there. The purpose of it was to give them a comparable home to what some of them in D.C. had, and also to give them a club they could have without having to go so many miles away. They were 031sO the first ones to get complete inside plumbing facilities.

When my boys went to school there was only eleven grades. When they were first getting ready to graduate, they put in a twelfth grade so he (my oldest son) had to go to school one year longer than he intended.

There wasn't much that wasn't rationed and that that wasn't rationed didn't matter. There was rationing on coffee, meat, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables - you had to have stamps for them. Sugar, gasoline, oil - you could buy so many quarts of oil to so many gallons of gasoline. And there was no way under the sun you could get extra stamps, unless you had somebody that was sick and had to make extra trips to the doctor. There had to be a good reason, let's put it that way. The stamps looked just like our green stamps today. Soap was in very limited supply, but it wasn't rationed. The store rationed it. I happened to work at Safeway during that time. The regular customers and the employees was allowed to have certain items.

In order to buy groceries you had to go into Alexandria. Chauncey's was in Alexandria and they had that store and also one that's a rug place now on Route 1. They stayed there quite a while and I don't know why they left.

All of the streets were originally carriage routes and all of them led into Alexandria like the spokes of a wheel. Route 1 was paved to transport missiles from Ft. Belvoir to the missile sites which ringed the whole D.C. area. I think there are still some of the sites around, if you just go looking. Burgundy Village has one.  The government sees to it that the D.C. area has got complete protection.

I'm not a southerner. I come from the west, Nebraska, and we have a philosophy - when it's no good get rid of it and build it new. The only thing you use the past for is to learn from.

We came to Virginia and found the Civil War was still fought here. The people were still arguing the Civil War. And if anybody said anything about it, the answer, was, "Well, you didn't have a grandmother or aunt or uncle or somebody in the family there." Well, that's true, I didn't. The schools opened, the restaurants were opened, the theaters were opened. Nobody ever said anything if "they" went into a store or restroom with you. "They" were people; we grew up that way. One of the best friends I had when I was in high school was a colored girl. We had three years together. Nicer person you never knew.

When you come here, the whole atmosphere was different. I had to learn to keep my mouth shut. My husband got up on the bus one day and let a woman (black) who was holding a baby have his seat. I thought they was going to kick us off the bus. Truly, people were as mad as hornets that he did that and then he held the baby. That made it doubly insulting!

Volume Two, Table of Contents
Snake Hill to Spring Bank Homepage

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