Interview with Judith and Arnold Baker
Conducted by Sue Kovach Schuman for the Providence District History Project Providence Perspective
It is January 18, 2008 and we are interviewing Judith and Arnold Baker of Rosemary Lane, Falls Church and I am Sue Kovach Schuman and this is Linda Byrne. I would like to talk to you a little bit about this area and your experiences here as part of the Providence District History Project. First of all how long have you lived in this area? Are you native to the area?
Arnold Baker: We returned to the area in 1967.
Sue: From where?
Arnold: We were in Uruguay, Montevideo, Uruguay; I served as the Deputy Director to the Peace Corps there at that time. We are both originally from the south in Georgia and South Carolina respectively. But we came back after I was a volunteer in Guatemala a couple of years a bit prior to that we decided at that time that we could have remained overseas in the Foreign Service and that kind of thing but we decided that it was at that time but we decided to come back and raise our family in the U.S. and to get involved in social issues here instead of the foreign arena. So, we retired in 1967.
Judy: Yes, and we moved to Fall Church City because we had some dear friends who lived in the city and we stayed in their house while Arnold did a job search and he ended up being part of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty working with the office of economic opportunity and later the Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker branch. I think because of our friends Sally and Bill Carter we started out in the Falls Church area and then when Arnold got a job we rented an apartment in the city, the Mayoral House and after a couple of years we were ready to buy a house and started looking and we really couldn't afford anything in the city. The same little Cape Cod home in the city limits of Falls Church was a couple of thousand more, or maybe more then that five thousand more than the same little Cape Cod in Fairfax County so we bought our first house on Marshall Street (Arnold: Just two blocks over) very close and that was in about 1970 I think. So that's when we moved to Fairfax County was in 1970. We had just had our first child Paul and so I was at home with him and almost immediately got involved in politics and I can't remember who recruited me but I did some work for the Fairfax County Democratic Committee because I remember that was the McGovern Election in 1970 and that was my sort of my introduction to Fairfax County Politics. I didn't do that very long because then I went to graduate school and I had to give up almost everything else in order to do graduate school and take care of our house and Paul. Then we moved here.
Arnold: We were there two years, (I don't know how much detail you want) we were looking for a place where I could have a garden, and I grew up on a farm and need to get my hands back in the soil. So, we found this place with the back yard. At that time there was an ole orchard back there this had been a huge orchard area here at that time.
Judy: It seemed to run from Lee Highway down through several of the lots.
Sue: What kind of orchard?
Arnold: It was apples, and a few pear trees but they were all diseased so in the next few years I took them down.
Linda: How much land do you have here? Arnold: It is about an acre that is all. There are normally two house on most of these lots here with the exception of a couple over here that that still have just one house but it's zoned for two houses.
Judy: And some of them do the one next door to us does and it creates serious issues for the homeowners because, what do they call those keyhole driveways? Stem driveways, so sharing a single driveway is an issue and I am not sure if the county permits that anymore. There is your tea water; I'll go get that. Arnold: So, we came back here, got settled in and I got my garden going.
Arnold: Wow that's a pretty loud tea maker. (Judy is making tea for all.)
Linda: Arnold, Judy said she went back to school for was it a Doctorate?
Arnold: It was a Master's.
Linda: Master's in what field?
Arnold: Counseling and Psychology I guess, I am not sure exactly what she got but she went to George Mason. In the meantime I was working in the anti-poverty program, and was traveling a lot at that time; it was kind of good for her that she had this other activity too. I managed the Migrant Farmers programs in the South that were based in Florida, Texas and Southern California. You know they go up the streams and farm labor activities during the season, of course that's kind of changing now but it was a big issue back then. The people were just exploited and almost in bondage to the crew leaders and that kind of thing and it was very difficult to change. We did things like that we had attorneys; we had people traveling with the migrant industry stream who tried to document the abuses and that type of thing. So that was pretty exciting; I really enjoyed that.
Sue: What is your educational background?
Arnold: I only have a Master's.
Sue: Only in Washington do you say that.
Arnold: So anyway - then I had a conflict, I am not sure if you want to talk about this, but I had a conflict - Nixon was in at the time and I was managing one of the farmer worker program in South Carolina and that had become very active and was becoming influential in community and it was really getting at the Government of South Carolina the Governor's Office a Republican at the time and so they complained to OEO (Office of Economic Opportunity), and they said look, we don't want you to fund that program any more we want you to fund this program that we are going to create out of the Governor's office. So I refused to do that - I refused to take that order and so they took me and sat me in an office without any responsibility, so I was there about 6 months in that situation. Then I went to work for the Governor of Puerto Rico representing the United States. But anyway, I diverse here.
Sue: But it is interesting Linda: to know your background.
Arnold: Well it's been socially oriented ever since and then tried to get some of the benefits to the Puerto Rican people that we share here have here. Then I went to work, he lost the election after four years, then I went to work for Reading is Fundamental have you ever heard of that Literacy Program? It's where they provide books to primarily elementary and middle schools I guess and I was Deputy Director there for a few years. And then
Judy: Robert McNamara's wife headed that up I think.
Arnold: And Linda Robb was on the Board and then Regan came in see and I was getting ready to leave there because I wanted to get back in the Federal Government so I had already gotten a job with the Department of Education and was ready to go there in three weeks after the election and the first thing that Regan did - he froze filling all positions so I was kind of left out in the dark again. I couldn't take that job and I had written my notice and they had already recruited someone to replace me.
Sue: So what did you do?
Arnold: Well then I continue the effort to get back in the Federal Government and I went to work with US AID State Department and for most of the time there I worked with Peace Corps related activities. I created a relationship with the Peace Corps whereby aid would provide Peace Corps volunteers with money in the field so that if they needed a thousand or two thousand dollars to help provide or put health clinic up or add a school room, that would make it possible and I guess the last year that I was there we were doing about 600 a year so around the world so that is my history in a nutshell. And then we retired in 2000 and it was my idea to retire and I want to put this on record. Of course Judy's a little younger than I am and so she said I think that's a good idea. I think I'll retire too so we retired the same day in August of 2000.
Sue: What have you been doing since then?
Judy: Well we became precinct captains because I had after I got my Master's Degree in Health and Psychology I took a job at Trinity College in D.C., coordinating their psychological services and did that for seven years and then moved across the river to Mary Mount University, where I was Associate Dean of Students for 13 years. I had taught English and Social Studies before we married and when we first moved here I taught in the Falls Church City school system until our first son was born. But when I was ready to go back to work I did that and because I was in administrative positions working at a Catholic College I really couldn't wear my politics on my sleeve, because of the sensitivity of the abortion and pro-life positions of the Catholic Church. They are right on all the social issues but for many the litmus test is abortion and so I really couldn't be directly active so when we retired and Arnold having been a Federal Employee, he was I think the Hatch Act rules changed somewhat over the time that he was there but still we both felt free then to - okay we can be out there and can be out front with the supporting publicly what we supported privately all along. So we have done that together and we are quite active at our church. We go to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, which is a neighborhood church.
Sue: I guess that is where I have seen you.
Judy: Maybe could be. So, I sing in the choir; Arnold is in charge of all the ushers and I lead a Bible Study Group, mainly for really elderly ladies as a way to keep them active and engaged. I am a Steven Minister and I have a care receiver.
Sue: Through the church are you active in the community with other volunteer things?
Sue: How does that change in the time?
Judy: Early on when we first moved here I encouraged Holy Trinity to get involved in a group called Operation Breakthrough. This was during and right after the riots in D.C., and as you know there's a historic black community around Annandale Road where the new community center is. Before that was redeveloped that was the James Lee School which in the days before Virginia integrated their schools, that was the segregated elementary school and maybe middle school, I am not sure, for the black community and there is a very active group within the African American community there promoting civic involvement, pre-school programs, all kinds of things and so I encouraged Holy Trinity to be a part of that group called Operation Breakthrough and I was the representative in that group for many years and that's where I met Harolyn Smith who she was on that Board as well.
Linda: Could you tell us a little about Harolyn?
Judy: I just know her to be a charming person who lives in the community there and has children and was interested in finding a peaceful way for the black and white communities in this area to interact and to get to know each other.
Linda: She is still quite a force within the black community.
Judy: I am sure she is. I am sure she is and I enjoyed getting to know John Bolling, who everyone called Mr. John and Miss Leona who I think was one of the black matriarchs of the community and we met and strategized about how to get county funding for pre-school centers and social services basically.
Sue: When was operation breakthrough formed?
Judy: It would have been in the late 60's early 70's.
Sue: So 68' was when the riots were.
Judy: Yes, so it really kind of came in the aftermath of those riots.
Arnold: I don't know if it is still in existence.
Judy: I don't know if Operation Breakthrough is working anymore because again when I went to graduate school I sort of had to put aside my civic involvement at the time.
Sue: Tell me a little specifically what Operation Breakthrough would do, how neighbors were brought together or what kind of specific things were done.
Arnold: You were on the Board.
Judy: I was a representative from Holy Trinity so I am thinking and I'm having to dredge my memory here that there were representatives from the two - I think there were two primary churches here within the African American community, possibly three but there were representatives from those churches and a representative from Holy Trinity. I don't recall that there were representatives from any other predominately Caucasian church groups. And I don't know if one of the Pastor's at Holy Trinity tapped me on the shoulder and said we need someone would do that; I suspect that's what happened and so I went, I went to their Board meetings and the African American leaders were the leaders of that group and I was really there just to provide encouragement and support and to bring news back to Holy Trinity of what was happening and to encourage our people to be involved in some tutoring programs that were going on there physically within the James Lee School.
Arnold: There is
Judy: And a day care center so we were trying to help provide some support for them.
Sue: Was it financial as well as volunteer?
Arnold: I believe it was.
Judy: There was, there was. Yeah, it was a line item in the church budget for a while.
Arnold: You remember we are going back 35 or 40 years. Another historical connection here that might be of interest, you know where the old Chili's Restaurant is over in Annandale on Rt. 50?
Judy: Well it was burned sometime this last year.
Arnold: Yeah you know where James Lee you know where the new center is there if you go toward Rt. 50 - it is down a couple of blocks on the right, right on the side of the bank there is a bank there. Wachovia Bank, right next to that, well it use to be a large like an auditorium.
Judy: It was a movie theater.
Arnold: Movie Theatre, Movie Theatre okay.
Judy: It was a local move theater and that's where the congregation of the Holy Trinity began before they had a building on Woodlawn they met in that movie theater.
Arnold: So there's some interest way back then in the early mid 50's I would say and they were there for a number of years before they started to build a church.
Judy: And then they got the property on the corner of Woodlawn on Rt. 50 and built the first little building and then a sanctuary there.
Sue: Can you tell me a little bit about what kind of things people spoke about, what the racial tension must have been very high but at these meetings what was it like?
Judy: Well I think all of the representatives were Christian at the group and so meetings would start with prayer and we would talk about ways to bridge the fears, the anger, and the resentment; ways to talk to people within our own churches about seeing people as individuals rather than as members of a racial group.
Sue: So would the churches get together, besides Board members but members themselves?
Judy: I don't recall that happening but I recall that there were joint programs between the churches. That should have happened but I don't recall that it did.
Sue: Was Holy Trinity segregated, integrated what was the make up at the time?
Judy: Well, I mean because it's a Lutheran congregation, you know, the historical antecedents or roots of that are Germany and Norwegian countries so it is really not a part of the Baptist, Methodist sort of the stream that fuels the most African American experiences in churches. We have some African American members today, but we did not then. I think they would have been welcomed but it didn't happen. I recall growing up in Augusta, Georgia where I did in a little town where there was Fort Gordon now a large Army Fort it was Camp Gordon in the 40's and 50's and my dad was on the church council of a Lutheran Church and they wanted to allow soldiers from then Camp Gordon to worship and the board the Council said no and it split that little Lutheran Church wide apart and the Pastor left because he thought this was Un-Christian and yet this was in the early 50's or the late 40's and it didn't happen. So you know I mean there was a population of African Americans there who wanted to worship at that little Lutheran Church. Here we've to my knowledge never turned away any it's just that there has not been maybe because of their experience. You ask about other community involvement Holy Trinity does now and I think it is about the fifth year we are into a program of providing tutors at the Graham Road School two days a week on Tuesday and Wednesday's and the church did receive and award from the county last year for it's participation in this program. There must be 12 to 15 members of the congregation who go up there one or two days a week and tutor from 3:00 to 4:30.
Sue: Let me ask you a little bit about this neighborhood and how it has changed. You told us what attracted you the large lot and you could have a garden and such, but how has this changed we noticed on the way in that there were a lot of new developments and houses have changed and people putting additions on. Tell us about what this neighborhood was like when you first built this house.
Arnold: Oh well there have been some changes, not nearly as many changes as in other areas. You see a couple or 3 houses here on this end that are new. A couple of them are placed on existing structures so they are in a term "rehabs" so there is a different code requirements and I think the county has recently resolved that and changed that requirement. But for example, three lots over that way are still there's only one house on each lot like this one, which is kind of amazing with all that land. They tried to develop that land, maybe 6 or 7 years ago or maybe longer, maybe 10 years ago, the owner wanted to
Judy: The owner owned three houses.
Arnold: At that point he owned almost three acres and there were only three houses, a couple of them very small houses and we fought that here in the community, they were going to put like I think 7 or 8 houses
Arnold: and were seeking permits and other revisions in the code. And they were going to take down all the trees and
Judy: And put in a cul-de-sac.
Arnold: Yes, put in a cul-de-sac and maybe even a light, it was going to require another light up at
Judy: At Rosemary.
Arnold: Yes, at Rosemary and Rt. 211.
Sue: So when you say we fought that, there's a Homeowners Association?
Arnold: There is a Homeowners Association here but it is not that active now well it is inactive. It was just a group of people that mostly adjoined property. There were people in the back, people in the front, that cul-de-sac was going to come right into the front door of someone across the street and the lights and all so there was a lot of conflict. We're not really sure what happened but the county they approved the first phase and then subsequently after that something happened and they never got their permit. So it's still the way it is - so that hasn't changed.
Sue: What year would that have been? Arnold: I think it was about 10 years ago, but I would really have to think about that, it's been a while a while.
Judy: Right, the owner of the house next door is a Judge in D.C., and his sister lives in this house and he owned the two neighboring houses and so he was trying to do it and for some reason it never got through and we were delighted about that because we would have had you know a three story a couple of three story houses overlooking our vineyard. And we are use to having a quiet sort of wooded backyard so we are happy. The other difference of course that we have seen is that clearly more minorities are moving into our community. More people from Latin America and more people from South East Asia and for the most part they are good neighbors.
Sue: But when you first moved here?
Judy: There were none. I think there were none.
Arnold: Yes mostly on that end of Rosemary if you go down there are a few houses, in fact this house over here
Judy: The one in the back
Arnold: the one in the back
Judy: that joins us.
Arnold: Has been owned by a man from Bolivia for 15 years or more. And we've had a couple of problems over there. He moved to another place 5 years ago and has rented it out since then.
Sue: So the problems you allude to are from a renter?
Judy: Well it's carved up it's like a boarding house.
Arnold: It is a boarding house.
Judy: Actually it is a boarding house and we have complained to our Supervisor and have not had any action or response.
Arnold: No action.
Judy: No action or response.
Linda: I just read in an internal memo within the County that there are something like 20 (COUGHING) Task Force or Strike Force that deals with that. I think are 19 strong only and are keeping them working 7 days a week and they are trying to give them time off and rotate people in but there are over 2,360 complaints like you are talking about and they have only been able at this point to deal with about 150 - since this has been in operation - I guess it has just been this recent year so…
Judy: it's difficult. Judy and Arnold: We understand that issue.
Arnold: We have a real strong bond with the people from Latin American; and what I try to do is befriend them Judy and
Arnold: Get to know them.
Arnold: speak their language and so
Judy: And then in their own language we can tell them what it is about their behavior that troubles us and would they please change that
Arnold: Well what the problem is
Judy: and they are generally responsive.
Arnold: was that one group that moved in and they were associated with a landscaping company so they had 2 or 3 of the landscaping trucks that were always parked there
Sue: Was that a zoning thing?
Arnold: I don't know, that wasn't our complaint basically, but then they had a trailer where they had 4 or 5 different lawnmowers, those big lawnmowers on it and they were kind of stage every morning. Before they would go out they would kind of switch things around and crank them all up and I couldn't enjoy coffee on the back porch. So one day I just went out and spoke to them and told them that we were simpatico, we were in sympathy with them and (Judy was talking over him) but they had to realize that they were disturbing not only us but our neighbors and that whatever they could do to alleviate that noise we would really appreciated. You know they did.
Judy: We never heard them again.
Arnold: So they responded and we never heard a lawnmower cranked up, they would push it out or park it up the street so they responded so we did not pursue this that was the main problem that we had.
Judy: Now the neighbor in front has many other issues because her property line literally goes back to this tree here so the people in back have not much space that is legally theirs onto which they can put their cars. So she and her husband, who's now dead, took a very hard nose approach and if there was a car in the driveway past the property line, they had it towed. So there were several instances of tow trucks and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth next door and I have to say some of the people have abused her car port you know, and blocked her car port, and blocked the drive way and speeding up and down the driveway.
Arnold: But that's pretty much been resolved. I think the house has been sold. There is a new group in there as of last month and we're told it has been sold to another Bolivian family but they also maintain because (Judy talking too) there were couple of guys coming down the street the other day and they were working out and doing something in the front yard and I knew they were Hispanic and so I just talked to them in Spanish. I said hey guys where are you going? We're going back here to check out a room to rent.
Sue: So this house was built first?
Arnold: I don't know they were both built when we came
Judy: They were both here when we moved in
Arnold: This one was built first I think but
Judy: We assume (both spoke at same time) they were both here when we moved here.
Linda: So the one closer to the road was built first?
Judy: We assume but at any rate.
Sue: Are most of the houses on this street owner occupied?
Judy: I think so. There are a couple of rentals.
Arnold: There are two houses n the other side of this one that are rentals, there is another one down the street that is a rental but mostly are long term owners.
Linda: One thing that I might mention that the county is also doing now with this problem of renting and they haven't even been able to even get the Strike Force into the apartment buildings where this is going on. What has happened in the past is if someone is cited for this and they come in and find them and do whatever is done, then the house is sold and the next person is a new person and the citing or the illegal activity is not passed onto the new owner. They are gong to do that in the future. If something has happened there, they are will keep track of it - the person who buys the house is responsible for whatever has happened there.
Judy: Yes, we know that they have done some restructuring work in there, putting in a kitchen downstairs
Arnold: Oh we're talking about 12 to 15 people. The fortunate thing is that for a long time it was a mix thing like there were a couple of younger couples there with small children. So that was good for us - it wasn't 12 to 15 young men, so it wasn't that bad.
Judy: It could have been worse.
Arnold: It could have been a lot worse. And they all rode bicycles, man there were three of them coming down Rosemary Lane choom -- all the way to the back, it was funny.
Judy: For the most part they were not objectionable, the noise is an issue and if I were Peggy Morrissey in the front house with the vehicular traffic in the driveway I'd be concerned. At any rate we - You know Holy Trinity has tried to reach out to people in the neighborhood and because most of the Hispanics are Catholic by their upbringing or now Pentecostal we haven't really been successful in reaching to many of them.
Arnold: There is a change, it's not for the immediate area but adjacent to the church.
Judy: Santa Maria Iglasia the Spanish Church. Arnold: there is a new Hispanic Church
Sue: Yes, I know on Sunday's that is very busy.
Arnold and Judy: Yes it is very busy.
Arnold: Well, we always regret that our church was not able to say bring on a Hispanic Pastor to maybe start something like - we do hope the Vietnamese Church they use our facilities so we missed out on that opportunity. Predominately the Hispanic in the group right next to the church
Judy: Well we have done some cooperative things with them. Pastor Jesus is the Pastor there and that is an Episcopal effort of all the Episcopalian churches in this region and I think that's what it takes.
Arnold and Judy: I think it's a magnet they have a large attendance there. Yes its three years old and it's great.
Arnold: It's interesting because from what we understand it is not Central Americans it's more like your Bolivians, Chileans, your Argentineans and people say it is two classes here but it is a different level of Hispanic of people from non Central America.
Judy: Well for example I did a tour with 20 North American Lutheran Women to the Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 2005 because our senate is in companionship with the Central American Lutheran Church. So when we came back I planned a big Central American celebration and we were going to have a big Nicaraguan meal and we were going to have music from Nicaragua at the church and I thought well Pastor Jesus I think some of the people from his church would enjoy coming so I went to meet him and he said oh our parishioners won't come because they look down their noses at these people who are from Guatemala, and El Salvador and Mexico. And they are Bolivians and Peruvians and they have been here longer, they are better educated, they own property, they have their houses and it is like these Johnny-come-latelys are messing up our name, because we look Hispanic but we are legal and some of these folks maybe are not legal and so he said that we have had people come to visit us who are Honduran's and they leave because they feel unwelcome. So that was a news flash to me, I didn't realize their was so much allegiance to country and maybe to status and to time in the U.S., that it would cause those kind of divisions.
Arnold: We just got back from a trip to Guatemala I know this maybe's not pertinent to here, but our sons have never been to Guatemala. That's where I lived for two years in the Peace Corps and so we took our eldest son
Sue: How old are your sons?
Arnold: One is 36 and one is 31, yeah 31 and he was just married last year so we took them down for a week near Christmas to visit Guatemala.
Judy: Yes, similar to your trip (speaking to Linda) I wanted Arnold to speak to you about your time in Ecuador.
Arnold: So we went back to the places where I served as a volunteer. We'll have to show them not for this but I get excited when I start talking about things in Central America; but we had a great time and spent 8 days there.
Sue: There are Guatemalans here that you visit?
Arnold: Really No, not the people that have been over here no, I don't really know any Guatemalans here but I've stayed in contact with people in this little village there. In fact they have phones now and I can call them up and talk to them, and it's just amazing. When I was there, there were no phones.
Sue: And when was that? Arnold: 63' to 65'.
Sue: Okay. To switch gears just a little bit, when you moved to this area what were shopping opportunities like? Were there farmers markets? Was the Magruders there or were things pretty much like they are now? Have you seen a lot of changes?
Arnold: What is the motorcycle shop over here? Harley Davidson it is big when you go toward the center of Falls Church down Lee Highway?
Judy: There was a Safeway there
Arnold: and that's gone
Judy: and Seven Corner's Shopping Center was there and I remember I never thought the Metro would be completed because Cody Vansdale was working hard on that, I remember and we thought we'll never live to see that thing done.
Sue: How far are you from the Metro?
Judy: We are close to the East Falls Church
Arnold: It is not - not quite it's about 2 ½ or 3 miles. It can be walked; you could walk it.
Judy: Yes, we park in the Kiss and Ride or park in the streets there. So, that's a big development since we were here.
Arnold: I think Magruders was here. It's been there forever.
Judy: I think it might have but I didn't shop there, I mainly shopped at that little Safeway which I loved because it was so tiny and you could whip around it in two minutes and find everything. And Seven Corners - I don't think that Tyson's I think Tyson's - I'm not sure when that was developed - that was later and we enjoyed going into the city because we are so close and that's one of the things that I think really appealed to us about Providence District or where we are in Fairfax County is although we are in a nice suburban area and the schools are excellent and that was important for us as our children went to school here.
Sue: What schools did they attend?
Judy: Devonshire, which our older son went to Devonshire. And then it was closed much to our chagrin.
Arnold: He walked to school right across the woods there.
Judy: Because Paul could walk up to Devonshire and interestingly a lot of the people here took their kids out of Fairfax County Schools at that point and sent them to Saint James because the elementary school for this district then was Timberlane and at that point all the apartments that are over there were predominately African American low income families and they didn't want their children to go into Timberlane because there would be too many black kids there. And Arnold and I thought you know we need to have our children in that school, we need to be advocates. If all the middle class families bail out whose going to be there to rattle the cages and make sure that the kids there get a good education. And we were pleased and I only remember one incident at Timberlane that we did have to go rattle the cages.
Sue: What was that?
Judy: Bobby Ricks was a 6th grade teacher and I think Paul was in his class our older son, and he came home upset because Mr. Ricks wouldn't let them go to recess and he was embarrassing some children at the lunch table by putting brown bags over their heads if they didn't eat their lunch, if they didn't eat all their vegetables is what it was and so this had never happened to Paul but he was really upset on behalf of the kids to whom it was happening. And so we thought, this is not good, we need to go up and try and find out. Well, I think Bobby Ricks was an outstanding teacher and he is an African American man who was trying to be a stern father figure for a lot of the kids from those apartments whose dad's had taken off. And so he was a very strict disciplinarian and we just had a nice conversation with him and said we can understand your goal and clearly there needs to be discipline but it concerns us that you are penalizing a whole class and not letting a whole class have some exercise.
Arnold: Well it was the type - you don't just do that.
Judy: And you don't put a bag over a kids head. You know, if he is not eating his food, maybe there is some other sanction or he'll get hungry.
Sue: What was the result of your conversation?
Judy and Arnold: It was resolved.
Arnold: Actually we really like this gentleman.
Judy: Then our younger son had him and he knew Mr. Ricks by reputation but we knew Mr. Ricks ran a tough ship a taut ship and we had to agree with his motives but not his methods and so I think it was good that we were there to speak out because I am not sure how many other parents were there. We also were Den Mother's together or Leaders for the scouts had a lot of kids from that school who were in our group and I just remember them all wanting to sit on my lap and to hug Arnold and you could just see how starved for attention they were. And so, we tried to get involved in that way through scouting.
Sue: What kind of scouting activities did you do to get involved?
Judy: Well that was through the school initially then the Cub Scout,
Arnold: This was Saint James.
Judy: But I think initially it was at Timberlane and then when our kids got older and went into weebelows I think then we found a Troop at Saint James Catholic Church and Arnold was the Scout Master until our kids got out of that. But when they were Cub Scouts they met at our house once a week and we planned activities for them.
Arnold: Different kinds of games, arts and crafts - simple stuff.
Judy: And refreshments.
Judy: Yeah we did, we did and then as they got older Arnold took them on camping trips.
Sue: Where did you go camping?
Judy: Went down to Goshen.
Arnold: I think the highlight was the Camp Goshen, I took what 10 you know scouts down there what's it called chal.
Judy: It's an adventure camp.
Arnold: Adventure Camp everyday you do a different - you may be familiar with this you do different - repelling or swimming (Judy is talking at the same time saying the same things)
Judy and Arnold: Like hiking, mountain, everyday, swimming, repelling or whatever, caving you know, I will never forget his. I remember your being so anxious about the swimming test, yes I know we realized that I am not a good swimmer okay and in order to be the leader on this you had to pass the swimming test at the camp with the boys and I knew that, well I hired a swimming teacher or coach at Providence for about a month to try to get me up to speed so I could pass this test and not embarrass my son. Judy - laughing.
Arnold: So anyway it worked.
Sue: Did you pass?
Arnold: I passed barely.
Judy: You don't remember how far you had to swim?
Arnold: Well it was pretty far, you know I don't remember but we had to do all these different strokes you know and bobbin. I did a lot of or some of that in the Peace Corps. But I learned how to survive in the ocean for hours at a time by bobbing but that wasn't bobbing down there that was swimming.
Judy: Back when he went in they tried to drown proof them.
Arnold: Well they had really severe training then to try to get you to go beyond what you think your expectations of what you think you can do stretch your limits you know. So they did all this stuff you know that was fairly severe.
Judy: At any rate, the guys had a wonderful time and we were really impressed with the scouting program in terms of the level of responsibility they give to the boy's themselves to plan what they are taking in the way of food and giving them cooking responsibilities and cleaning up responsibilities.
Arnold: Greg went to Filmont didn't he?
Judy: And Greg went to Filmont our younger one.
Arnold: Of course and we sent just individual hiking and camping in some of the parks and Shenandoah and places.
Sue: But not so much in this area so much?
Arnold: Yeah, we would go out of this area.
Judy: I think they camped in our yard before we had a fence.
Arnold: Yes, now that was a lot of fun. We use to, (Judy laughing as he talks) well we had trees and stuff down there and I did a bad thing one time.
Judy: He did.
Arnold: We made a little campfire back there you know (pointing to his backyard) and it was just a tiny thing it was all good, I know you shouldn't do it but. Hum. And I decided -w e had this little boy who was really a smart act, he was really a tough guy and I thought I would frighten him that night so I got up in a tree and he didn't know I was up there and I had a big sheet on me and I swooped down -
Judy: Not on him.
Arnold: Not on him but close to him and it didn't faze him at all. Anyway I use to do crazy things like that.
Sue: Tell me a little bit, I don't know how much you want to say, but you are a hobbyist - you have this beautiful yard and tell me a little about your wine hobby.
Arnold: Okay, We were traveling in Europe in the late 80's
Sue: Where in Europe? Western eastern?
Arnold: We were in Italy
Judy: and France.
Arnold: and France and we visited some vineyards there for the first time that I had ever seen a vineyard and that was 87' I guess something like that. And so I told Judy I bet I can grow grapes. So we came back in I think 88' or 89' and we bought 10 grapevines and put them in back there. And I think we got 2 gallons or something like that, hum, and our bottom line was if you can consume it this was a success. So we thought considering I guess it was okay and we didn't have to pour it out. And so each year for the next 5 or 10 years we would add a few vines every year maybe a different variety until we got to this maximum. Judy won't let me bring any vines up closer to the deck you see, this is the best sun right up here you see - but she won't let me do that so we have maxed out
Judy: the size, the size,
Arnold: yeah. So we have been actually making wine since about 90'.
Judy: Well when Arnold first went to Fairfax County Library and checked out books to read about how to do it an then he found some other vintners who were really very encouraging to hobbyists who share their expertise. He found a book - Phillip Wagner's book and read that. And so there is quite a network of people who grow grapes as a hobby and make wine as a hobby.
Sue: In your back yard, in Northern Virginia that you know of?
Arnold: No, I don't know of anyone in Northern Virginia.
Judy: But around in the East who know what the growing conditions are in this area and so they are very generous in saying okay now your spraying program you need to watch out for this or that or the other and here's the pruning program you need and here's the pruning methods that we use.
Arnold: It is such a vast thing to really become an expert in. I mean there are two phases, the growing is one, you know bringing the grapes to harvest is one part of it and the other separate part is the processing of the grapes
Judy: of making wine.
Arnold: of making the wine you see. So you know I think it is fairly unusual to have both of these scales together. I mean you go out to a vineyard, you're going to have a manager of the vineyard you know and you are going to have a vintner and you have different people that are experts in different things. But it has been a challenge all these years, and you learn every year something that you didn't know before. It doesn't necessarily improve the wine but you continue to learn and it is just a great hobby. It takes a lot of time; I spent 4 days out there already this winter.
Judy: I know it and I just said today it is hard to believe that just last week he was out here working in the vineyard because it was so nice and warm and he was untying them all to get them ready to be pruned back and retied before they put out their spring growth.
Linda: Do you do all the work yourself?
Arnold: Yes in fact I took up 20 vines and I am replacing them with another variety this year.
Sue: What kinds of varieties?
Arnold: The Chambourcin - well we have primarily french hybrids as opposed to your vinifera grapes, your vinifera grapes are the ones which are the most common ones for the Chardonnays and Seyval blancs and all those. You are probably less familiar with the french hybrids. The french hybrids are a grapevine that supposedly does well in the east where you have the problems with the humidity and the various funguses that attack these vines and they are cold hardy so you don't have the problem. For instance Chardonnay is good down to about zero and if you get below zero your plants are at risk of getting killed so you've got all of those considerations. So most of these are french hybrids, we have a day Chinook which is a french red and we have a Chamborsine, which is a french red, and I am trying to do some Carbonet Franc, which is a vinifery, and I have about three rows of those and then my largest producer is a vidal, which is a white grape. And then I have two rows of Chardonel which is a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and it brings cold hardiness to that particular one.
Sue: How much wine did you make last year?
Arnold: Well this is complicated.
Judy: Because of the birds. We have suet out there especially because the Woodpeckers and Cardinals come.
Arnold: I don't mind talking about this and including it in here in fact we have a couple of nice photos if you want to copy.
Arnold: We can go down and look on the computer before you leave.
Linda: That would be nice, okay.
Arnold: Where were we - so last year, the year before we lost most of our grapes to birds.
Judy: Birds are a real problem. Arnold: See that black thing down there that black canopy thing at the end of the vineyard? That is netting, black netting and what I have devised is my own system. It's one piece but it is attached together. We just roll that baby out and roll it over the whole top, see those top wires on top that go way up, it comes all the way down on those and we stake it down. And the birds began to really wise up on this and they got to the point where they could cut that last year. (Judy is talking with him in agreement.)
Judy: We said that evolutionary biology right in our back yard. The first year he had them up, it worked. The next year they learned to do two things. One was with their beaks to cut a hole in the top to get inside and then two was to find something on the ground to push up the stake and to get under the netting and to get inside. And, of course once they are in there, they can fly the whole vineyard and it takes two people, me walking with a stick banging on the wire and Arnold inside with a bucket to catch these little birds. (Arnold is talking with her in agreement).
Arnold: I caught 17 last year and I took them out to the park and released them.
Judy: And lectured them on the way out there.
Sue: How do you catch them?
Arnold: Well, it is a skill; it is an acquired skill.
Judy and Arnold: After they fly they get exhausted, if you can keep them flying they get exhausted and they go to a corner and then they can't get out and you just put them in the bucket. You can't always do it but that's how you
Sue: What kind of birds?
Judy: Starling. Arnold: No, no catbird and the cardinal. Those are the two premier offenders. You know it got to the point where I started tagging them to see if they were going to try and come back. Laughing and talking. Judy: Our older son Paul would say now mom you are breaking up these happy families, they have their families here and this is not good. Arnold: But anyway - so that's what we did this year, the previous year we just kind of gave up and let them have them. Judy: But you just bottled a bunch yesterday. We buy grapes and juice from other places too and make wine. So that's why it is complicated. Arnold: Yeah we normally - we try to get grape juice from California, frozen. And this year we tried, so I went a year without any production so I was like down to hardly anything and I didn't know if we were able to have any this year so I looked for sources of juice and I found a distributor up in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia that buys it in bulk, not frozen now what we were getting before was frozen, so it was really right off the vines in Napa Valley and that is very expensive to get because of the juice and transporting it. But, we found this distributor that was selling chilled juice, it wasn't frozen, and he had these big semi trucks and you would have to make your orders before hand and then they would let you know when it was coming so you could pick it up. So that is what we did this year, so we did about 60 gallons of that and then we had a bumper crop here so we had close to 200 gallons yeah close to 200 gallons - about 180 gallons this year. Now we don't know if it is going to be any good or not, there is a problem with the California juice because this did not come from Napa Valley it came from one of the Southern Valleys further South - one of the hot areas and the sugar levels in the whites was so high that I had problems fermenting all the sugar out of it so what you have is a semi-dry wine with a little taste of sugar in it. A lot of people like that, I don't happen to like that I like it dry, dry, dry as I can get it. Sue: Where do you do this in your basement? Arnold: I do it all over. Well I've got stuff in the shed out there; you know equipment and stuff like my press and crushers and containers right there. I am doing more (I'll take you down there) in the basement now it's our son's old bedroom there that I have kind of taken over there making my wine cellar. So this year when we harvested and when we got the juice we took it down there and fermented it in the basement and so that's where it's been ever since because what I normally have - what you have to do is - you have to go through - I'm telling you more than you need to know but you have to go through a process called cold stabilization of your wine that means keeping your wine below freezing temperatures for a week or two. That drops out all of the crystal that doesn't come out with the natural fermentation and settling process. You may have had a glass of wine and when you were finished you saw little crystals like in the bottom of it, or something like that - not the sediment, just little crest crystals (crystalline) that means the tartaric acid was not dropped out before it was bottled and when it was really chilled in the refrigerator for a while they dropped out. So normally I used it when I was doing less, I would move it out there and leave it out there all winter. Judy: But he has back troubles and you know these carboys are heavy when they are full of wine that is an issue - he needed a place where he wouldn't have to move these Arnold: So, what we do now is I put 10 gallon in our refrigerator in the basement, 10 gallons in the refrigerator at a time Judy: 10 gallons at a time Arnold: And I can bring it down to below freezing in that refrigerator. Sue: So you actually bottle these in standard wine bottles with labels? Arnold: Yea we have a bottle for each of you if you would like. Sue: What is the name of your private label? Arnold: Ambrosia Vineyards. Sue: And how did you choose the name? Arnold: It's the nectar of the Gods. Judy: So we just remembered that. Arnold: We didn't know of any on or any other with that name and you make sure you don't want to name something - I don't know it is something we did and our son designs our labels that we use. Judy: One of our sons is graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in Graphic Design and for his senior project he needed to do all the business letterheads and cards for an imaginary business and he said well why don't I do it for your vineyard. And so he designed a label, and a calling card, and a business card. So when we got there for graduation his professor said that this is the most expensive label you ever could have had designed. You know the cost of a 4 years of residency at the school makes it more than it was worth. Arnold: I know longer use that one. Judy: He's designed Arnold: A different one. Sue: You had told me Mr. Baker on the phone that people were looking for this vineyard when it was publicized in a local newspaper not long ago. So are there neighbors who don't know? Arnold: Oh the neighbors do but there are some who don't even know where Rosemary Lane is but they saw it in the church news press. Judy: So the son of a friend of ours as a high school student who was interning at Nick Benton's Falls News Press and he wanted a byline in the paper and he was trying to think something to write about. And so he approached us one day and said could I come and interview you about the vineyard. And Arnold said well sure James. So you know we didn't think anything more about it and it just happened that it ran in the Falls Church News Press while we were at the beach. Arnold: I think it was on a front page spread. Judy: It was on the back of the paper and so we heard from one of the neighbors that there were people were driving up and down Rosemary Lane trying to find the vineyard. Talking. Arnold: We know you don't want to do anything with the public - you have to get incorporated and all that so - you can't make any money; you have to have large quantities to make any money. Judy: I know it and we know that legally we can make how much? Arnold: 200 gallons Judy: 200 gallons a year. The county regulations tell us that. Arnold: I'm not sure - I think it is the Federal Government the Alcohol and Tobacco. Judy: Yeah so at any rate Gerry finally (couldn't hear them) Arnold: Gerry told me the first time he came here - he said that if I don't win this election, I am having your vines taken up. Sue: Gerry lives in my neighborhood. Sue: Linda would you like to ask a question about the local government? Linda: Do you have anything else you would like to add to this and in your addition if you would like to talk a little about local government and your perspective on that. Arnold: You mean like the County Supervisors. Sue and Linda: yes - in Providence District specifically. Judy: Well we have, I am trying to think if we've ever really needed to call on them to intervene in anything and I can't remember that we have other than our call about the house there. But, we believe local government is very important. I think you know public schools, our local schools are extremely important. I was trained as a teacher as a high school teacher and did substitute, I never employed full time in Fairfax County but believe in the public school system and so funding for that is important, I think. So, we've always supported that and have been actively involved in supporting Bond Referendums and all kinds of things. Arnold: Yea it makes you feel - I mean I know that we have made a very minute, a very small contribution to what is going on here but it is a wonderful thing to see the change in the last 5 to 7, 8 years from what was always Republican dominated Judy: Very conservative Arnold: you know the State Delegates and Senate you know in this area. Sue: So this area the demographics have driven the change you feel? Arnold: Well I don't know, I mean we found that when we started really getting involved at this precinct for example it was strongly Democratic. Judy: And I think historically it has been, although I am not positive about back in the 70's, but I think this has been sort of a blue collar or in those days a blue collar sort of middle class neighborhood - a lot of government workers, but also plumbers and electricians. We have a plumber down the street and other folks so there have been Union families here who are progressive and who look to the county to maintain good policies that favor Union's and public schools and public services; and we look for people who understand that. The community is important and it's not just me, I mean you know we don't have kids in county schools anymore but I want Fairfax County schools to stay top notch because I think it drives the region in terms of its economy and drawing people to come and live here. So I think what has driven us to be involved in local politics and to talk to our friends who say ah it doesn't matter if I vote or not vote, you know my vote is unimportant; and we try to persuade them that whatever their opinion is they need to get involved. I was in the League of Women Voters for many years and just firmly believe that people need to exercise their right to vote and if they don't they don't have a right to complain. And if they do they can know better who to talk to, to try to make their concerns heard.
Arnold: I think we are real pleased with the government you know and what we see happening that affects us directly.
Sue: Thank you very much.