Interview with Judith Beattie
Conducted by Linda Byrne for the Providence District History Project Providence Perspective
Linda Byrne: I am here this afternoon with Judith Beattie and it is July 15, 2007, Sunday afternoon and we are going to conduct this interview for the purposes of the Providence Prospective which is being done by Supervisor Linda Smyth's office.
Linda: Good afternoon Judith.
Judith: Good afternoon.
Linda: How long have you lived in Fairfax County.
Judith: 55 years.
Linda: Where do you live in Fairfax County?
Judith: In the Hunter Valley Subdivision.
Linda: So you are actually in the Sully district which is a stones throw from Providence. "
Judith: Yes and since the shops were built in Oakton, I have always shopped there.
Linda: Where did you grow up?
Judith: Westport Ct. During the depression my father (Frazier Peters) was an architect and builder and lost everything. No one was working so no homes were being built. We then moved to an old farmhouse with no electricity, phone, water, and a floor with a hole in it. My father rebuilt it and refinished the home and it was beautiful. During this time we worked the farm. We had chickens, which I fed; caught pigs if they got away from the electric fence, weeded the garden, helped with the hay and cut wood. We worked hard.
Linda: Where did you go to school and how did you wind up in Fairfax County?
Judith: I went to the local school in NY and then to the University of Chicago, but first I went to nurses training during the war. I attended this training to do my part during the war. My brothers were off to war and I did not want to do something frivolous as attending college at that time. After the war I attended the University of Chicago, graduated and it is where I met and married my husband. When he graduated with a Masters Degree we moved to Washington where he accepted a job at the State Department. We lived a year in Arlington and in 1950 we purchased land in Hunter's Valley. The first time we went to Hunter's Valley we went down Malcolm Road but it stopped at the top of the hill. We had to turn around and make the trip another day. We found it the second time. When we located the area we fell in love with it and bought 2 ½ acres. We built a stone house through the method of my father's architectural workings.
Linda: Your father (Frazier Peters) was famous for his architectural ability.
Judith: Yes he was. He was a published author on the subject and to this day the New York Times still features the Frazier Peters homes for sale. I like to think that the stone house we built in Hunters Valley on Little Fox Lane was the last Frazier Peters home that was built through my father.
Linda: Weren't you in NY recently for a celebration?
Judith: Yes, my grandfather was a minister for St. Michael's church in NY. He was quite involved in integration. There was a bad incident, at that time, in the Midwest and my grandfather decided it was not a conducive event and changes had to be made. He joined the group of 100 who founded the NAACP in New York where he lived. That was one of the reasons for this celebration. It was about his ministry and the church that my ancestors founded, St. Michaels, in New York City.
Linda: Since this is audio and not video, I would like to mention that Mrs. Beattie is of white ancestry. And I might add that was quite commendable of your grandfather to be so innovative as to be part of the group which founded the NAACP in New York City.
Linda: How was the area in Hunter's Valley when you first moved there?
Judith: Basically the roads were the same, not quite as well paved and some have been straightened since then, but there were no traffic lights.
Judith: You know the corner of Hunter Mill Road and Vale Road used to be Hannah's Hill and my children use to love to go sleigh riding there. There were no big houses there then.
Linda: That area is the end of the Providence district located at the corner of Vale and Hunter Mill Road. I assume your grandchildren would have been sleigh riding in the 1950's?
Judith: Yes my daughter was 4. During the late 50's and 60's many people went to Hannah's Hill to sleigh ride.
Linda: My children went there in the 80's and 90's until it was developed. Judith: I don't know if the owner's knew of the liabilities, but back then everyone just went to enjoy themselves and we had bonfires, and all the kids and some adults went sleigh riding down that great hill. We all got along with all our neighbors and it was wonderful.
Linda: Tell me about shopping.
Judith: It was very different then. At that time in Vienna there was one 5 and 10 cent store. At one time there was a Lowe's, it left but came back at a different time. Also there were one or two gas stations, and one store that had a potbelly stove in it and you would go there to buy your Sunday paper. There was also one grocery store and that was about it. The closest department store was Hecht's on Wilson Blvd in Arlington, near Ballston, I believe it is still there, the store is but it no longer has the same name. My daughter had her first haircut there. Seven Corners opened after that time. Then we went overseas and came back and Tyson's Corner was just getting ready to open. Woodward and Lothrop had just opened and was hiring and my daughter had her first job there in 1967. Then Fair Oaks opened. Today we are ringed by shopping centers. Also, medically there was a shortage when we first arrived. No Fairfax Hospital, Fair Oaks Medical Center and Reston were not around then. I remember my son ate something and we had to call the hot line number and they had to take him all the way to Arlington Hospital to have his stomach pumped.
Linda: Do you remember Appalachian Outfitters?
Judith: Yes, there was a Mr. Moyers who owned a hardware store on that corner.
Linda: That is the corner of Hunter Mill Rd and Rt. 123.
Judith: Correct. I believe he owned the whole corner but then there was a grocery store at another time. There was a robbery and the owner was killed, I believe, and they closed.
Linda: Please tell me how you started the Hunter Mill Country Day School.
Judith: Actually I did not start it; this was owned and operated by Mrs. Klare. She ran it for 10 years and then had financial problems. They offered to let me buy the business and rent the property, which I did but eventually wound up buying the acreage.
Linda: The School is in the Hunter Mill district on Hunter Mill Rd about 3 miles from Rt. 123 and Hunter Mill Rd. Crossing.
Linda: Can you please explain how your daycare is different from all the others.
Judith: We have animals. We have ponies, a miniature horse, goats, a sheep, chickens and ducks. The children observe. The children are not active in their raising but have seen eggs hatch and how we care for the animals. We also provide pony rides for them once a week. These rides are given by members of the community: Jill Campbell and Sharon Hecht are qualified riders and belong to the horse community, which is very strong in Hunter's Valley.
Linda: My son attended school there and saw the hatching of eggs. Judith: We just had a good year with this event. The school wound up with 25 baby chicks and 4 baby ducks although a couple ran away.
Linda: How many children are in the daycare?
Judith: 71 but there are after and before day care. So it is a constant movement of children before and after school. They can start at 2 yrs old.
Linda: Where do some of the children attend school?
Judith: Oakton Elementary and Sunrise Valley Elementary School if they are in the GT program.
Linda: Oakton Elementary School is on Rt. 123 near Hunter Valley.
Linda: What organizations have you been involved with since living in Fairfax County?
Judith: League of Women's Voters, Democratic Party, Friends of the Oakton Library (of which I am secretary) and the Unitarian Church.
Linda: What is your fondest memory of this area?
Judith: I loved the whole Hunter Mill road area. It was so peaceful, so little noise. It is still peaceful though. I loved building my own home, the neighborhood. We started a community swimming pool. It was a wonderful community where neighbors were comfortable and all liked and helped each other.
Linda: You are the current President of the Hunters Valley Civic Association. You were the First woman President of that group years ago and they are now recycling you as President again. kudos to you.
Judith: Yes and I informed them that this is the last recycling for me. Even though it was an honor and as much as the organization has done for the community, I am done being President but somehow still will be involved.
Linda: Please tell me about this organization and the impact it has on the community.
Judith: I think that the impact was very good. The board of the Hunters Valley Association really tries to maintain the ambiance of country quiet living. We believe in respecting your neighbors and in kind by them. This is also a fairly liberal group of people that accepts others as they are, they ways of living and so on. We have created a very warm and friendly place to live.
Linda: Isn't the Hunter's Valley Riding Club under The Hunters Valley Association umbrella? Please talk about this because it is extremely unusual to have such a group in a metropolitan area.
Judith: You are right it is unusual and also it is becoming a rare situation. They are an extremely active club. They join all the activities in the Hunter Valley area even if a member is not physically located here.
Linda: People who live in the Hunter Valley area own and have horses on their property.
Judith: Yes, but individuals come from outside the area also. They board horses so they can ride the 25 miles of trails in the area. The club also has a Dressage ring and jumping ring. The club maintains these trails and also provides riding lessons. The riding club is a wonderful asset to the Hunter Valley Community for adults and children.
Linda: What impact to our community has I66 been in your observation?
Judith: Well you can drive from Rt. 123 and Hunter Mill Road to Washington DC within 20 minutes. I clocked this at one time.
Linda: What about the road development of I66? How is that affecting Hunter Valley?
Judith: A solution has to be met due to the amount of traffic and how rapidly the Hunter Valley area has grown. One objective is to obtain a method of traffic calming on Hunter Mill Road so we can maintain the flow that has existed there. We are working on the calming situation now. We do not want to wind up with a bottleneck problem but to maintain a smooth continuity of traffic.
Linda: So is there a committee for this situation?
Judith: Yes there were 8 members of the committee (Hunter Mill Road Traffic Calming Committee) selected by the Board of Supervisors. Dollars were funded/provided from Richmond, VA and we met for 4 strenuous years getting this started. We have met with VDOT and other individuals to come up with a plan. The committee has been selected to assist in researching the ability to make the area to be safer and more pleasant. This is the object of the plan. We also had an engineer come up with preliminary drawings and suggestions as to how to do a round-a-bout and how to make Hunter Mill safer and not become a four lane highway.
Linda: I understand Supervisor Linda Smyth was instrumental in taking that portion of the road that was to become four lanes. What occurred to stop this from becoming a reality?
Judith: She did get it off the Plan. We were concerned that if a portion of this road became four lanes it would become a precedent for the rest of the road to be the same.
Linda: Do you remember any fast food restaurants or movies in the 50's?
Judith: There weren't any. They did not exist. I remember Hot Shoppes when I gave birth at George Washington Hospital. Years later there was a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Vienna. There was also a movie house in Vienna. No McDonalds's until the 70's when I came back from overseas.
Linda: You were instrumental in starting the Unitarian Church on Hunter Mill Road. Please tell us how this occurred. Judith: In the early days the members bought land where the new Post Office is. Then when I66 was developed the State bought the land and the church had enough dollars to buy the land where it is now, 1 1/2 miles from route 123 on Hunters Mill Rd. They had 3 individual buildings at that time and also a day care, which I ran for the County Welfare Department. It ran 4/5 years and when I went overseas they closed it. But during its run, it was quite successful. That is when I learned that I loved day care.
Linda: Can you think of any interesting events that happen since you moved here?
Judith: My daughter was going to Oakton Elementary and that was a time of integration. There was a derogatory cartoon passed around which made many individuals uncomfortable. Eventually the real estate people realized if they closed the schools no one would buy land. I always had this feeling that was one of the resolutions to that problem. Coming from the North I never understood this situation, nor agreed with it and was shocked. I also found that you had to buy textbooks. In the North they provided textbooks to all children.
Linda: Are there any other events you are looking forward to such as the Oakton Library of which you played a large part in its existence?
Judith: I am terribly excited about the opening of the Oakton Library. I am in hopes it will help develop a sense of community in the area. We have had great community participation with book sales and events it bodes well for having a community grow together.
Linda: Do you feel as though the Oakton Library will be an asset to the community?
Judith: Hunter Mill Residents although they are a part of Vienna, don't feel they belong. In the Hunter Mill Community we feel very much a part of Oakton. The library will give us all a sense of belonging.
Linda: You have done a lot to make it a walkable village, if I may call it that.
Judith: I like the concept of a village. A village is a much better place to be a part of. I grew up in a small community and always had a sense of belonging.
Linda: We will have a 10-acre park a tenth of a mile from the library shortly.
Judith: That will be a great asset in the sports area for the children.
Linda: There is a historic school building that was moved to the park site, are you aware of this?
Judith: Yes, actually this building was within the Appalachian building group on Rt. 123. There were three buildings at that site. I believe one was a grocery store and one a barbershop or maybe that was located in the schoolhouse. We just knew Lynn Moyer very well and we were all sad when it disappeared. He was well established when I moved here in 1951, then we went overseas and then when we returned it was closed.
Linda: Where did you go overseas?
Judith: We were stationed in Munich, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Burma, and Hong Kong again and our last post was Jamaica. It was wonderful, we traveled all over the world and I now have no desire to travel anymore.
Linda: Do you have anything you want to add before we end this interview?
Judith: Yes, I have a problem with the schools. I believe the elementary schools should be no more than 250 students. Our children are getting lost. I know if would be expensive for the County of Fairfax but it would be worth it. We put money into gadgets and computers but our kids are getting lost and don't feel as though they belong. I won't vote for school bonding. I don't want to vote for schools that are too big.
Linda: What do you consider a fair size for student enrollment in schools?
Judith: 250 for elementary, 500 for middle school and no more than 1,000 for high school. Those numbers are even high as far as I am concerned but it is probably more realistic due to budget constraints.
Linda: I forgot to ask you about the two boards you have served on, one being the Health Care Advisory Board and the Governor appointed you on the Child Day Care Council. Judith: I really enjoyed both groups but the traveling to Richmond of 4 hours a day became a problem and then the Child Care Council came up and I had to make a choice to stay with that one.
Linda: You have done a lot for the community.
Judith: No the community has done a lot for me.
Linda: What do you feel you get from the community?
Judith: A sense of belonging and all my needs are met. Mainly a sense of community and friendship is what I have received. Also, being able to belong to the Oakton Library is really exciting to be able to watch it grow from the beginning was wonderful. Shopping at the Giant is even something I have gained from the community even though the parking right now is a problem.
Linda: Tell us what they are doing at the Giant Shopping Center.
Judith: They are growing, double in size I believe - I may not agree with the whole concept but it will be an asset to the community when it is finished.
Linda: I am ending this interview with Judith Beatty and I thank you.