MEMORIES FOR MIKE, GREG AND THEIR CHILDREN
1947 - 1949 - 28th Street, Washington D.C.
1949 - 1951 - Quesada Street, Chevy Chase, MD
My mother was sick. She was awfully sick. She had these great huge whelts, filled with pus, all over her back and arms. The many doctors that she and my father had consulted just looked at her sores, scratched their heads, consulted each other and then books and then each other, nodding in a way that indicated they had no knowledge of the solution.
Receiving the consolation of knowing that mother was making medical history was of little comfort to my father, now the remaining parent due to weeks of hospitalization and endless rounds of treatment during which various ointments and salves were applied at length with careful patting administered patiently by silent nuns, none of which worked. She was allergic to wheat but they didn't know it then. Jimmy later developed a terrible allergy to glutton, when he lived at the Dakota in New York, and had to eat rice cakes as bread. I try not to eat anything with white flour in it – but pizza crust is the exception.
The medical staff of the Dermatological Department at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, suggested that she might have some type of allergy to the flora or fauna found in the nation’s capital and suggested that we move to one of the outlying areas of D.C. to avoid such pollution. The year was 1949. My father was working as a traveling salesman for Mead Johnson and Co., a pharmaceutical company that has since been purchased by Bristol Meyers. Dad had recently acquired the tri-state territory of Maryland, Virginia and D.C. and was busy making calls on the many physicians and hospitals of that area. He had no time or inclination for being a mom.
To save money Mother would cut my hair with bowl on it. I hated it and wore a scarf every day. She was too cheap to take me to a beauty shop and I suffered greatly for it. Mother had a friend named Seal, who lived in apartments down the street from us. They were typical of apartments that were built in the 1920s and I always loved to visit them with her. They were four stories high and were dark with ivy. When we would take walks, in the early evening, to visit Seal, I would look through the windows to see what everyone was doing. This activity completely fascinated me and I would make up stories of all of the people that lived there.
While we were living on 48th Street West, I walked to school with Peter Marshall, Jr. & Katherine Duckham each day. They were my best friends. Peter Marshall’s father was the Chaplin of the Senate at the time and Katherine’s father worked at the British Embassy. We were all quite close. In fact, in the summer of 1949 I went to the 1,000 islands and Quebec with Katherine and her family.
That was a wonderful trip and I remember it to this day. The island that we visited was quite quaint. We did not even have running water in our house so we would take a wagon, filled with empty containers, and walk into the village each morning to pump water, filling the containers from the local communal pump. Actually, it was quite a chore as the wagon was quite heavy upon returning to the house.
The house was quite large, whitewashed and situated in a large yard with lots of trees. Inside the furnishings were early “beach” with everything being quite comfortable. The weird thing was, that on the second floor, where the bedrooms were located, the walls did not go up to the ceiling but stopped about 18 inches before. Katherine had an older brother who I thought was quite handsome. He had several of his friends there also and they slept in the bedroom adjacent to ours. We were always climbing up on our headboard and looking over the wall at them – especially when they were undressing – boys being boys, they thought this was a hoot. In the afternoons, after all of the chores were done, we would go to the beach and to pay us back they would go into the water, remove their swimming trunks and then moon us for what seemed like hours. Of course, we found this totally disgusting.
Katherine’s mother let us have much more freedom than my mother allowed so we were always venturing out and enjoying ourselves. When the holiday was over we went to Quebec City for a holiday and stayed in a motel with neon. I thought that was quite something. I remember that she lost some of her jewelry there and was quite upset as she didn’t find it before we drove back to Washington.
Several very negative things happened while we lived in the D.C. house. I was stalked by a man in his 50s named Leo White. We lived quite near to Rock Creek Park, where there had been several murders of young girls. Leo would come to my elementary school and walk home with me in the afternoons. He would give me candy, which my mother would not allow me to have because of the fear of cavities, so he was quite popular with me. During these walks he would say nasty words, which of course not knowing the meanings, had no effect on me. But I remember them just the same.
One afternoon he suggested that we go to the park where he would push me on the swings. I liked that idea. When we arrived he asked me to put my schoolbooks on a table further in the woods; while I was doing this he lurched at me, missing me by inches. The look in his eye scared me to death and I ran like hell towards home. He started chasing me but I was much too quick for him.
By this time I was crying and was really scared. Mother was really upset and called Daddy who came home at once. FBI agents came to our home and talked to us; then we all had to go to their headquarters and testify. I remember this vividly as my father was in one chair and Leo White was directly across from him. I was with my mother in two chairs, completing the circle, during the questioning. What I vividly remember was that it took three agents to hold my father down when I started testifying. He was so angry that he shook.
We never spoke of this incident again – never. But I did discover that Leo was sent to jail for quite a long time. For years I lived in fear that he would be released and come to find me – but by then I had moved many times so he would never have had a clue as to where I was.
There was also another bleak incident in that home involving Jimmy and his playmate, Frankie Dayark who lived next door. They were always fighting – Actually, Jimmy didn’t have a mean bone in his body so Frankie was always tormenting him. One day, when no one was around, Frankie came out with a large kitchen knife and swung it at Jimmy, who put up his hand to defend himself. The knife severed Jimmy’s index finger, on his right hand, completely down to the bone. He was rushed to the hospital, with mother screaming in a state of shock, where it was carefully sewn back on. Combined with mother’s skin problems and Leo White, this recent problem added to the decision to move immediately.
I really didn’t want to move. Because of Mother’s illness we had recently purchased a dishwasher, a rare appliance in those days but part of one of the endless medical theories was that my mother could be allergic to dishwater. The thought of my back tracking to actually washing dishes was way too much for me to comprehend. I liked stacking and loading much better than washing and drying. Besides, living on 28th street N.W. put me in close proximity to the National Zoo, a force of latent psychosis for as much as I adored animals, I hated cages – which presented an approach/avoidance conflict – I quess I was more than willing to move.
Dad with his wonderful fedora and mother swathed in gauzes that hid even more assundry medications immediately went house-hunting. A suitable house was found by my parents in Chevy Chase, Maryland. This was in 1949 and our address was 3303 Quesada St. in Chevy Chase. Because I was lonely at first my next door neighbor, a friend of mother’s, loaned me all of her daughter’s Judy Bolton & Nancy Drew Mysteries, which I literally devoured. This was really the beginning of my love of reading – a habit that has become a part of my life today and also contributed to my love of literature and writing.
A two story brick designed in the same architectural style as the buildings of Williamsburg, Va. not too far away and recently restored by the Rockefeller Foundation. The home had a small vestibule, painted white in the center of the first floor which provided a covered entry for anyone coming to the front door. My younger brother Jim and I had to always enter and leave from the back door. I was nine and still had more dirty shoes than anyone on the block even half my age.
Mother’s skin condition strangely seemed to improve in the atmosphere of beginning suburbia. After four months the sores had disappeared and she could actually show her arms in the stylish clothes that she favored. The house was located across from public tennis courts, which was standard fare for Chevy Chase in those days. I took tennis lessons from Poncho Gonzales and actually became quite competent. I was always either on the tennis courts or trading cards with friends – mainly Barbara Condon and Christine, who also played tennis with me. I had a collection of some 1,500 cards with all sorts of fronts. I had divided these into categories – dogs, cats, horses, wild life, scenes, ladies, etc. A great deal of time was spent each afternoon trading cards. Everyone wanted to trade with me because my collection was so extensive. I wonder whatever happened to my cards. I understand from my grandson, Terrell, that today it is baseball or football cards that they trade. They come in cereal boxes. I really don’t remember where I got mine – they just sort of magically appeared.
I had my first boyfriend while we lived on Quesada. His name was Barton Richwine and he lived on Rittenhouse Street, which was the street directly behind us. His little sister was a friend of mine, but probably only because Barton was her brother. He looked very much like a child actor of the day, Gary Gray, so I would cut out pictures of Gary Gray from movie magazines and put them in my wallet and the drawer in the table next to my bed, so that I could gaze into his eyes. Literally, I would spend hours looking at Gary’s picture. I remember that I asked for a camera for Christmas. Mom gave me the cheapest kind and it never took good pictures so I never really had a proper picture of Barton.
In 2006 Gary Gray died. Here is his obit.
Child star and teen heart-throb GARY GRAY died of cancer at his home in Brush Prairie, Washington on 4 April (06). He was 69. Gray starred in MGM's final LASSIE movie and appeared on screen with the original Lassie in the 1951 family western THE PAINTED HILLS. The actor's other films included RANDOLPH SCOTT's RETURN OF THE BAD MEN in 1948 and he was WILLIAM HOLDEN's son in the 1948 film RACHEL AND THE STRANGER. He appeared with BOB HOPE in THE GREAT LOVER, RONALD REAGAN in THE GIRL FROM JONES BEACH and in THE PARTY CRASHERS with CONNIE STEVENS. His TV work included FIRESIDE THEATRE, STUDIO 57, ANNIE OAKLEY, I LOVE LUCY and THE LEGEND OF WYATT EARP. Gray was a popular speaker at western film festivals and received a Golden Boot Award from the Motion Picture and Television Fund for his contribution to film and television westerns. He is survived by his wife JEAN, four children and numerous grandchildren.
It was also in Chevy Chase that I got my great love of movies and fantasy life. My cousin, Janet Blackwell, who lived in Alexandra, Virginia, would come over to spend the weekend. We would walk up to Chevy Chase Circle, where a small business community was located, and go to the movies. I remember when we saw our first horror movie, The Thing, I was terrified and had nightmares for weeks. For this reason, I have always been opposed to children watching terror or violence on TV. If anything has contributed to the violent society that we have to day it has been movies and TV, and I think statistics will prove this.
Barton was not the only male interest that I entertained. My mother truly punished me for an incident that happened on Valentine’s Day in 1950. My teacher had left the room and in her absence I proceeded to write all of the names of the boys in our class on the blackboard. I cannot imagine now doing such a “ballsy” thing. When confronted about it I think I lied but my fellow “inmates” turned me in. I can’t remember the exact punishment but I know that it must have been terrible because I certainly remember crying.
My father was always playing jokes on us. On April Fools Day, of the same year, he had one of his friends call our house and ask for me. When I answered the phone father’s friend pretended that he was a TV announcer and told me that I had just won a red Cadillac convertible. Well, I was beside myself – I have never been so happy. I rushed out of the house and proceeded to visit each of my neighbors, sharing my good news, and inviting them to be my guest on a ride that very afternoon when the car was delivered. I made such a big deal out of it and was totally broken hearted when Daddy had to tell me, amid much anguish of his own, that it had all been a big joke. Not believing him I continued to cry. When the car wasn’t delivered, and the TV announcer failed to call back I finally knew that Daddy was the culprit.
Other things that I remember about this house have to do with windows. Whenever and wherever I am truly relaxed, I physically position myself so that there is a window in front of me. As I look out, I see my feet, usually barefooted, and the world beyond. For this reason most of what I remember about the twenty-eight houses in which I have lived begins with a single memory of my feet and the extended view beyond, situated directly inside of a window frame. I always try to position either my bed or an easy chair directly across from such a view and it matters not the time of day, yearly season or the subject matter of the view.
f, in contrast, I am outside I then enjoy the opposite - of looking in. I wonder, as I grow older, about the difference between the voyeur and the observer in this habit of mine. Life to me is nearly always within a frame, limited by a bottom sill, two sideboards and the stark 45-degree turn, imposed upon my view with a ceiling, as the eye travels upward. Curtains, valances and shutters are inconsequential as adorning objects, with reference to the view within, in much the same way, as a frame is secondary to the painting it encloses.
I remember a home in which my family and I lived during my adolescence. I was in the fifth grade and just learning the art of escape through books. The family next door to our two-storied Georgian home, in Chevy Chase, loved books and was always lending me a Judy Bolton or Nancy Drew mystery story.
Although I completed both sets of the authors' works, their plots were secondary to the scene I witnessed each night as the neighboring librarian undressed for bed behind the window that was facing mine.
June was in her late teens and although she had what would be considered quite a nice body it was her routine that held my fascination. Always taking her skirt off first she would hold it between her hands and shake out the wrinkles. Then folding it in half lengthwise it would be pressed firmly against her standing body and then carefully folded, once more, over the highest rung on the ladder back chair that faced her desk.
Next the starched linen collar, buttoned oh so tightly at her neck, would be removed, a fashion of the day in the late forties. Shoes were then removed followed by bobby sox as my neighbor sat on the side of her bed. The removal of her undergarments did not hold the same fascination for me as I was then embarrassed by the quick, but certain, nudity that followed before her gown was slowly slipped over her head. Being only ten I was more interested in the sight of a bra and panties than I was the reality of a naked woman. My mother would never let me watch her undress. Having no sisters I was visually unaware of women's undergarments - such things were never advertised in the newspapers and magazines that my parents read and we, as yet, had not purchased a television set. The cups of my neighbor's bra held my glance. They were so strangely stitched and came to such hard points, the result of which hardly resembled the softness of my mother or grandmother's bosom.
As I had school most mornings and as such was supposed to be asleep during this early period of voyeurism, I normally fell into slumber before June had completed her bedtime toilette. While her dawdling interested me the activity of the day left me exhausted and sleep brought me a world as interesting as June's nocturnal world - that of dreams.
PLACES I HAVE LIVED -
1940 - 1947 - Augusta Ave. Richmond, VA
1947 - 1949 - 28th St. NW - Washington, D.C.
1949 - 1950 - 3323 Quesada Ave, Chevy Chase, Md.
1950 - 1951 - Hotel where Greer Garson lived in Dallas, Texas
1951 - 1952 - Asbury Street, Dallas, Texas
1952 - 1954- Hanover Street, University Park, Dallas, Texas
1954 - 1959 - Newburgh Road, Evansville, Indiana
1957 - 1959 - DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana KKG House
1959 - summer Albert Pick Hotel, Evanston, Illinois
1959 - 1960 - Pleasant Lane, Glenview, Illinois
1960 - summer 3540 Washington Ave, Evansville, Indiana
1960 - 1961 - 3055 Meridian St., Indianapolis, Indiana
1961 - 1964 - 860 Broadway, SoHo, Manhattan, N.Y., N.Y.
1964 - 1965 - Wherry Housing, Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Ms.
1965 - summer Arrowsmith House, Bethesda, Md.
1964 - 1967 - 509 Harrington Rd., Rockville, Md.
1967 - 1968 - 3 separate apartments in Iowa City, Iowa
1968 - 1976 - 405 Ruskin Ave. Ocean Springs, Ms.
1976 - 1986 - 316 Lovers Lane, Ocean Springs, Ms.
1975 - 1986 - Navarre Beach, Florida (beach retreat)
1976 - 1986 - 1031 Chartres Street, French Quarter, N.O. - (city retreat)
1986 - 1987 - #7 North Street, St. Croix, USVI
1987 - 1988 - St. Croix By the Sea Condos, St. Croix
1988 - summer Bordeaux Mountain, St. John, USVI
1988 - 1989 - Coral Bay, St. John
1987 - 1990 - The Dakota, West 72nd & Central Park, N.Y., N.Y.
1990 - 1991 - S/V ANTARES-Sapphire Beach Marina, St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
1991 - 1994 - Soper's Hole, West End, Tortola, BVI
1994 - 1996 - S/V ANTARES, Nanny Cay, Tortola
in the marina on F Dock, Peg Legs Dock & C dock
1996 - 2001 - Pieces of Eight, Sea Cows Bay, Tortola, BVI
2001 - 2006 - Swan Song, Nanny Cay Marina, Tortola BVI
2006 - 2008 - Bahia Redonda Marina, Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela
2009 - cruising South & Central America, Panama and Mexico
2010 - living in Hawaii & cruising the islands
MITZI WAS THE PET DUCK THAT JIM AND I HAD WHEN WE LIVED IN CHEVY CHASE AS CHILDREN. WE LOVED HER DEARLY !!
WHEN HE WAS SICK WITH AIDS I BOUGHT HIM A STUFFED DUCK THAT LOOKED JUST LIKE MITZI. HE SLEPT WITH HER UNTIL HE DIED.
Far Above - Outside with the Duckham Family (UK Ambassador to the U.S.)
Above - My grandparents - Ophelia (Harris) and Earley Terrell
Below - The Jimmy Grimes Family - 1965
Below right - Wendy Grimes, me, Reynolds & Melissa Grimes
in the BVI 2004
Mom in front of our row house on 48th Street N.W. in Washington D.C. 1947 & '48
Gary Gray with Lassie
My favorite dress 1948
Our mantle at Christmas
1950 - the holiday when we each received bikes. That was a biggie. Notice all of Mama's nick-knacks on the shelves. She was quite a collector.
Gary Gray AKA Barton