Dumbarton Street resident, Tyler Abell, 79, has lived at the intersection of power and politics almost from the time of his birth. In 1936, his mother, Livie Abell, married journalist Andrew (Drew) Russell Pearson (1897-1969), whose syndicated newspaper column “Washington Merry-Go-Round” was among the best-known of its day. Pearson paid $20,000 for four houses comprising the entire corner of Dumbarton and 29th Streets, razing two and renovating the other two. His office was in one home, at 2822 Dumbarton (formerly 1313 29th Street). Tyler still owns both properties and his son, Lyndon Abell, resides in one today. Abell’s wife, Bess, served as an assistant to Mrs. Lyndon B. “Lady Bird” Johnson from 1961-1963 when Lyndon Johnson was Vice President and later as White House Social Secretary in the Johnson Administration from 1963-1969. In his July 21, 2011 interview with Betty van Iersal, Abell remembers a Georgetown of small neighborhood stores, some of which are still in business, including Scheele’s Market and Morgan’s Pharmacy. Others, including a Jewish delicatessen and a Chinese laundry, have faded into history. He rode the streetcar up Wisconsin Avenue to St. Alban’s School and roller skated on the neighborhood’s often bumpy brick sidewalks. Coal was delivered almost daily, and you could buy a milk shake for five cents. Though much has changed, he thinks that much of the essential character of Georgetown has remained the same.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Betty van Iersel
Betty van Iersel: All right, it’s on now, so just let me know when you’re ready.
Tyler Abell: I’m ready.
Betty: OK, thank you. All right, I guess we’ll just put it right over here. I’ll listen to it and make sure it’s on. It is. It says record, so OK.
All right, well just for the record, my name is Betty van Iersel, a member of the Oral History Committee for the Georgetown Citizens. It is Thursday morning, July 21st, 2011.
I’m interviewing Mr. Tyler Abell, who was raised at 2820 Dumbarton Street in his home in Potomac, Maryland. So thank you…
Tyler: OK, well I will introduce myself. I am Tyler Abell. I’m 79 years old. When I was born, my mother and father, Livie and George Abell, lived on Dumbarton between Wisconsin and 31st on the south side of Dumbarton that my mother described as a “shotgun house.”
It went along an alley, and I used to see it when I walked to catch the streetcar on Wisconsin Avenue. I think it’s now the Dumbarton Drugstore, but I’m not positive. I haven’t walked along that block in a couple of years. It may have turned into something else.
My mother married my stepfather, Drew Pearson, in 1936, and he was one of the original “blockbusters” in Georgetown. He had bought a property on the corner of Dumbarton and 29th which had four houses on it.
He tore two of them down and took the other two for serious renovation. He paid $20,000 for the entire corner, and the property has been in the family since he bought it in roughly 1928.
He and my mother married in 1936 so that’s when I came into the family. My son, Lyndon Abell, now lives in one of the houses, although it’s still my official residence. He seems to be happy to share it with me.
The other house, which for many years was Drew Pearson’s office, has two addresses ‑‑ 2822 Dumbarton, and around the corner, it was for many years 1313 29th Street. We recently changed that because now there’s another entrance to 2822.
We gave that the 1313 address because that had been one that Drew had used in his office for years. We gave the new address for 2822 which is now 1370. I think I got off too far on that little detail. I’ll try to not get so detail oriented in the future here.
I remember living in that area. Very early on – I was four years old in 1936 – and so many of my memories are pretty hazy, but I do remember that there was no air conditioning.
When it got especially hot, which frequently happened in the summer ‑‑ people complain about the heat today; it was just as hot then. I can tell you that. Sitting in those still pockets in Georgetown where the houses were close together, it really seemed oppressive.
You’d open the windows and pray for the best, but it didn’t happen. When it got really bad at night, my mother would commandeer my stepfather’s convertible ‑‑ he always drove a convertible, and we’d drive around a few blocks to cool off.
We had a fish pond in the back which was partly on a piece of land that my stepfather rented that went all the way over to 28th Street. It connected the back of one side on 29th Street and the other side where the house was was on 28th Street.
I don’t remember who lives in that house now, but Barbara Woodward lived there for quite a few years. Lord and Lady Lewis also lived there. They were the first whites to live there. Our stepfather rented it from a black lady.
He built his daughter a playhouse on the property. He played badminton on the property. Then they went all the way through to 29th Street, which was partly the backyard of our main house, the 2820 house.
When the black lady sold it, my stepfather could have bought it, and should have bought it. God knows, everything that you bought in Georgetown eventually turned to gold. But he didn’t.
He probably said it was too expensive, or he couldn’t afford it, or life was going along just fine like it was. That house still has that property, and there is now a fence that blocks it off, so it’s about a 16 or 18-foot wide strip that runs in the back there, and the fish pond got cut in half. For a while we kept it as a fish pond, but eventually it disappeared.
One of the things I remember about Georgetown in those days was the number of lightning bugs. I would catch lightning bugs in a jar and try to keep them alive for days.
Of course, they didn’t survive very well in the jar even though I put holes in the lid. But now you hardly ever see a lightning bug, and I don’t know what’s happened to them, but there’s something about the atmosphere that they don’t like. But they sure liked it there then.
My best friend there was a little girl who was a year or two older than I am named Marian McClain. Marian was a great athlete and wanted to be a boy. She lived in a house on 28th Street.
Her garden backed up to our rented property. When Lady Lewis bought the property and stopped letting us use that, we were furious because we had a jungle gym and a playhouse, a badminton court, a fish pond, and everything there. We never communicated through our front doors; we always just went back and forth across the backs. I would climb over the fence and climb up the trees and all that sort of thing.
Anyway, we were so furious that we threw a bunch of trash in the yard. Naturally we were surprised when a policeman came and wanted to know why we’d done that.
We sort of sheepishly admitted that we had done it, and he gave us a stern talking to and said he was sure that we wouldn’t do that again. And we were quite sure that we wouldn’t do it again either. And didn’t.
As time went on, what’s always interested me is how big houses got popped in Georgetown side by side with little, dinky houses. Marian McClain and I were the only white kids there in the block.
As I said earlier, Drew Pearson was the blockbluster there. Two little black kids lived right next door to 2820, and they didn’t have indoor plumbing. And Marian McClain didn’t have indoor plumbing. They had a maid, but when they took a bath, they took a bath in a washtub in the kitchen.
The toilet was a hole in the ground outside with a little enclosed area. So summer and winter, that’s where you went to the bathroom. I always went home to go to the bathroom.
There were all sorts of interesting people that moved in as time went on. He wasn’t famous then, but it was ‑‑ later I recall ‑‑ where Adlai Stevenson had lived when I think he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War II.
Harry Hopkins lived right around the corner. Adlai Stevenson and Harry Hopkins both lived across the street from each other on N, and the house that a friend of mine named Chris Toron lived in at the corner of N and 29th was occupied for many years by John Sherman Cooper, Senator from Kentucky.
The house across the street from that was occupied by a procession of famous and infamous people ‑‑ some these names escape me now.
There was a Chinese laundry across the street, across 29th Street from us and it still looks like it did then because the door sits catty‑cornered on the corner instead of facing either Dumbarton or 29th.
It faces by a commercial establishment of one which was directly across both streets and there was a lot of commercial stuff going on there. Scheele’s Grocery, which is still there and still called Scheele’s was completely different.
Everybody bought their groceries at Scheele’s and they were delivered. And Scheele’s had a fantastic meat department. It was all run by Scheele’s. The oldest one, I think, I don’t know what his first name was, I used to of course, I think it must have been George. There were a couple of George’s and a Billy.
The old man always wore a paper sack on his head – a great big, tall paper sack, and they all wore white coats and white aprons and they’d get back there in the meat department and if you wanted a steak two inches thick, they’d make it two inches thick. If you wanted it three, they’d make it whatever you wanted, that’s the way they did it.
And if you wanted lamb chops, the first question was, “Well, do you want loin chops or rib chops. Do you want them frenched or not frenched.”
They made deliveries to our house which was right across the street, two or three times a day. And mother would call up on the phone. Imagine that. Call on the phone to the grocery store that was right across the street. And of course, there was no self service then.
Self service was unthinkable because if you’d let people pick their own stuff off the shelves, they’d run off with it. They would have a truck look, that’s the way the police cruisers, police trucks got their names. Meat wagon. They’d haul prisoners around in it, and it was the same style truck that was a meat wagon.
Scheele’s, they’d put the groceries for everybody, all their customers, would go in old cardboard boxes that they saved up from all the deliveries that were made.
They would, Mr. Stevenson’s here, Mrs. Johnson’s there and the Peterson’s and whomever would be thrown in the cardboard box with a slip in it, an invoice of what the price was, and then George or one of them would drive the truck around to make the deliveries. I don’t know how far away they delivered. I’m sure it was a pretty long ways. Certainly to the other side of Wisconsin.
I would take the streetcar when I moved from elementary school where I was at Potomac. Potomac is now McLean. Potomac then was at 22nd and California and after about second grade, I started walking. Before that I’d be driven.
It wasn’t a very long walk but I’d cross streets. Sometimes I’d roller skate over there. I don’t think my mother liked the roller skating. I guess by the fourth grade I started to ride my bicycle.
But then to go to St. Albans, way up Wisconsin Avenue, I had to take the streetcar. I think the streetcar went out in 1962 and the bus, by that time I was long since graduated from St. Albans and tried to stay off streetcars and buses because I had a driver’s license.
The fare for the streetcar on weekdays, a school day, you could use a three cent school ticket and you bought the school ticket in big blocks. I forgot what the little block was but the big block cost $1.20.
That was a lot of money, of course, that was a lot of tickets. But three cents seemed like a lot of money at the time so we tried to figure out how we could cut the ticket in half and make it do for two rides instead of one. And secretly, I was successful. St. Albans had a lot of activities on Saturday, so I’d have to take the streetcar up to school on Saturday. The streetcar driver said, “No, no, no. It’s not a school day. You can’t use a school ticket.” And, I’d have an argument with him and usually, I guess, he figured three cents wasn’t worth it. He’d just accept accept my argument and let me on the streetcar.
I don’t remember every being told, “Put in a dime or get off the streetcar.” But a dime was the price if you didn’t have a school ticket.
One of the things I remember in Georgetown was the knife sharpener. This was an old guy who carried his knife sharpener on his back and set up a tripod arrangement with a foot pedal so he turned the grinding wheel by pressing with his foot. He would ring his bell as he walked along, and people knew that if they wanted something sharpened, they just come out, give it to him, and he would open his contraption right there on the sidewalk and sharpen up one knife, two knives, scissors, or whatever it was.
I have no idea what he charged for that. I’m sure it wasn’t very much. I wish I knew. I wish I could remember. But he’d come along fairly often. It seems to me like it was once a week.
And then, with great regularity on the weekends, these bike kids would come maybe from next door, maybe couple of block away, and they’d have a bucket and they’d want to wash your car. I think it was about 50 cents to get your car washed. They’d do it right there in the street with their bucket and their rags.
We had a guy named Rosco. Rosco would come and take the coal into the basement. Griffith and Soomers, which still has an oil company which probably belonged to completely different owners but has the same name, delivered the coal.
To take it into the basement, somebody had to carry it down the steps into the basement the outside steps from the sidewalk down into the basement; that was Rosco’s job.
I don’t know what he got paid for that. He’d load it up in a bushel basket and take it down to a corner of the basement that was sort of blocked off so it would hold the coal.
Then there was another guy, I don’t think it was Rosco, I think it was a different guy who would come in and keep the furnace going. Shovel the coal into the furnace and then there was a little water heater which was also coal fire.
When you were getting ready to take a bath, you had to make sure that the hot water heater hadn’t stopped. I only remembered it when it stopped. Then you either took a cold bath or waited about an hour while you got the fire going again and enough water heated up for a bath.
My stepfather gave up on the coal furnace probably right around 1940 and switched to oil. Then World War II came along in ’41. Very shortly after that, it was back to coal because you needed oil for all those battleships and cruisers and aircraft carriers that were all over the Pacific Ocean and some in the Atlantic Ocean.
So we were back to coal, and then World War II ended in ’45. We couldn’t wait to get back to oil again because it was so much more convenient. You didn’t have to haul it down to the basement in a bushel basket, and you didn’t have to shovel it into the furnace and take the ashes out. It just all worked automatically.
When the oil went in, everything went up the chimney. Now, we have natural gas.
But the little hot water heater ‑‑ it was a coal-fired hot water heater ‑‑ that stayed cold for a long time. I remember really getting furious because keeping it going would sometimes become my job, and then I’d forget and wouldn’t keep it going, and it would run out.
Then everybody would be mad at me, quite properly. Finally, the day came when that was replaced by a gas hot water heater. [silence]
Tyler: It was amazing to me how much commercial activity there was right near at hand. Now everybody wants to get into the car and drive to the Georgetown ‑‑ the social Safeway. But then there were grocery stores almost everywhere.
There was a grocery store across the street from us ‑‑ Scheele’s. There was one down about like on 27th Street. There was a little DGS down there. There was one on the corner of Olive and 29th. There was the Chinese laundry, which I mentioned earlier, which is at 29th and Dumbarton.
At the other end of our block of Dumbarton at 28th and Dumbarton, there was a drycleaner that later became a real estate office. It might still be a real estate office.
Across the street from that was what my mother always called the Jewish delicatessen. It really wasn’t much of a delicatessen. I just remember her calling it that because that was one of the first times I ever learned that Jews were somehow separate.
There was also a synagogue which is still there. Another example of strange place. But the little Jewish delicatessen [inaudible 18:10] in some ways was a candy shop and I would go in there with a couple of pennies and Marion McClain, my friend and any other friend who was visiting. We could buy, you know, three gum balls for a penny, two gumballs for a penny.
And then up on P street, where the Griffin Market was, it was a regular grocery store up there. And there was a shoe shine, a shoe repair place right next door to it.
That was where I got my shoes fixed. At the shoe shine, the shoe repairman was very nice to me. He would always say, “You don’t have to pay. I’ll collect from your mother the next time she’s in.”
I was trying to think the other day how many Presidential candidates had lived in Georgetown. Adlai Stevenson was one. Jack Kennedy was a very famous one, and in some respects, you’ve got to put Georgetown on the political map, although plenty of others had lived here.
But he used to have his political press conferences out on the street maybe with the latest Cabinet appointment. And the reporters would be shivering, waiting for him to come out and talk to somebody.
We talk about somebody, I guess John Kerry lives in Georgetown. Nixon mercifully never lived here nor did George McGovern or Humphrey. Johnsons never lived there.
There was a streetcar, I mentioned the streetcar that ran up Wisconsin Avenue, that went out, shifted to bus in, I guess, ’62. I think all of the streetcars stopped in ’62.
When I was a kid taking the streetcar to St. Albans, the streetcar would shift right there. At 29th and Wisconsin it would shift from a three-rail to a two-rail with an overhead wire.
So there were guys who were digging this hole in the ground 24 hours a day taking a thing off the streetcar that lifted up to the third rail and put in tiny antennae on the back of the streetcar up so it would run on the wire that was above it.
I remember that business corner was really so different than it is now. At Wisconsin and Dumbarton there was a bar, a big bar, and even when I was taking the streetcar in the morning, I’d take the streetcar.
I liked to get to school early, sometimes I’d be down there at seven or seven thirty in the morning and the bar would be open. Guys would be going in, including policemen. [laughs]
I was fascinated by how they did business that way. And a bunch of, you know, seedy-looking characters. I remember a guy I was looking at because he was so oddball looking; he reached in his pocket and pulled out a bag and asked me if I wanted a piece of candy.
And I thought, “No, I sure don’t.” [laughs] I said, “No, thank you.” And I thought about that ever since, what would have happened differently if I had accepted that piece of candy.
On the other side of Wisconsin and N was Fissels Ice Cream Factory. I don’t think I ever had any of their ice cream. The factory was right there, right in the middle of Georgetown until really after World War II.
It became the Georgetown Inn, which was a much more realistic use of that sort of real estate than an ice cream factory. Then up at Wisconsin and P, there was a pie factory, Mom’s Apple Pies. They made pies right there. They were terrible pies; I had one once. You should interrupt me if you’ve got a story or want me to…
Betty: I just want to mention that Scheele’s, of course, is still there. It was just sold recently, but it’s still there. Griffin’s closed just within the last year unfortunately. Actually Senator McGovern, I don’t know when, but I know that he actually sold a condo at Montrose Walk across from Montrose Park about a year or two ago. He did live there at one time. I don’t know if that was when…
Tyler: I only remember him living in the Bazelon house. I don’t remember him ever living in Georgetown, but that isn’t to say he didn’t. I didn’t know him well enough to know everywhere he lived.
Betty: Also, I just wanted to ask, since you mentioned, of course, the Kennedy era; that Kennedy put Georgetown on the map politically. It was also the era in the early ’60s when the grande dames of Washington society lived there and were active socially. The first Toni Bradley and Pam Harriman and Marvella Bahy, and people like that… senators’ wives. Was that something that you remember or could you comment on that and if that’s changed now that Washington…?
Tyler: Well, I think yes. I remember most of those people. Lorraine Cooper, I had mentioned before because I mentioned her husband. She actually owned the house.
John Sherman Cooper was a U.S. Senator from Kentucky. He outlived Lorraine. I don’t whether the house fell to him and then he sold it or whether it got sold with whatever else her estate was. I didn’t know who else was in the estate.
Then there was a huge house right next to ours that I remember I got interested enough in it that I went back and looked to see who owned it and how long it had been owned by that family.
I got back to, I think, about 1900, and it was the same family. That’s the one that Mrs. Cameron lives in right there at the corner of 29th and N Street. There’s a swimming pool in the front that you never see.
The carriage house is split off the back and had been a stable. It had had people living in the second floor for quite a while… since World War II. I’m sure before World War II it was just completely a stable. When it got renovated, which would have been like in the ’70s, the first floor still had stalls. They laid out the stall partitions to make way for a rather fancy house.
Betty: Hard to think of that area being so rural so recently. Dumbarton Oaks was actually a dairy farm until the 1920’s when the Wilsons purchased it. That’s hard to imagine. Isn’t it?
Tyler: I don’t think it was still a dairy farm in the 1930’s, but it wasn’t much before that.
Now, of course, it’s just a warren of buildings of every sort beautifully hidden back there, that garden with that big wall around it. One of the things I get a kick out of is how difficult it is to change anything in Georgetown now.
Then you see the house that was Joe Alsop’s, that Joe Alsop built, which is a completely contrived pseudo‑modern monstrosity. I don’t know how he ever got away with that because the laws that govern what can be built or not built in Georgetown go back quite a while.
I think long before he would have done that house. And I was also fascinated, you know, by Abe Fortas’ house. He somehow contrived to put an extra story on it. It’s a house that’s on the corner of R and 32nd. The southwest corner of R and 32nd.
And it doesn’t look out of proportion with the second story on it but I just wonder if the Fine Arts Commission had been told that they wanted to add a second story, whether they would have done it. I guess they must have. It was done fairly in the last 30 to 40 years.
I thought they would have been done with that, all the permits.
Betty: You know you mentioned a lot of it, you mentioned that the demographic in Georgetown when you were growing up that there still were a lot of African Americans there and I noticed another demographic change since the ’70’s when we lived in Georgetown before and back years ago.
But now there’s so many young families, you know? A lot of them families with babies and toddlers and young children, so it seems to me it’s been a lot more younger and family oriented now. Maybe it’s gone full circle, I’m not sure [inaudible 39:01].
Tyler: I don’t think it’s gone full circle. What I remember was a lot of blacks, or colored as we all called them and they were, Washington was completely segregated. They couldn’t go to white restaurants, white theaters. They had their own churches. The schools were segregated.
I was very aware of them because they filled up the streetcars and the buses. Not many of them had cars.
One of the oldest black families was Albert Jackson’s family that lived over on P Street. I don’t know of any Jacksons that live over there anymore but his family lived there forever. There were some of them in a group in the White House waiters and Albert did parties. He was a butler [inaudible 40:55] forever.
But more and more, Georgetown became, is that prices became for residences, higher and higher. Things like the little BGS stores would be converted to residential.
And now, of course, people are actively trying to preserve Scheele’s Market, which probably, well if anyone had suggested putting a grocery store on that corner 20 years ago, they would have been shot out of City Hall but impossible. Now they want to keep it. There’s no explaining how politically inept people can be whether unconcerned or uncaring. They just want their own interest.
Dan Abell: [inaudible 42:15]
Tyler: What’s that?
Dan Abell: The bookstore on 28th and [inaudible 42:11]…
Betty: There was?
Dan: [inaudible 42:18]
Tyler: Oh, 28th and [inaudible 42:22]? Francis got the bookshop. [coughs] That was a great place. Yeah, I can’t see how I did not mention that before? It was wonderful there.
To walk two blocks and flip through the book stacks there and see what was good. I loved it. I stayed in touch with them for years. It’s just a shame they shut down.
Dan: When did it open?
Tyler: Before I was born. I think they expanded it once or twice. I can’t remember for sure. I think, but I’m fairly certain
Betty: And of course there’s Morgan’s which has been there since the 20’s.
Tyler: Yeah, Morgan’s was the place.
Betty: A wonderful neighborhood resource.
Tyler: Morgan’s was the place. I’d take my bicycle up there to buy the newspaper and bring it back, and newspapers were a nickel.
Betty: Ha! Wow.
Tyler: I’d stay up there and sit on the magazine counter and read comic books. And they had a soda fountain. I don’t see how they had all that stuff in Morgan’s Drugstore.
They had a soda fountain, a prescription department, all kinds of things on the shelves that they’d sell to…whatever it was, toothpaste, shaving cream, shaving brush, a zillion different things. And now, you walk into Morgan’s and there’s no room in there.
But the ice cream counter where you could buy an ice cream cone for a nickel. I bought an ice cream cone the other day and it was $2.50. But a nickel for a regular ice cream cone. Or a chocolate soda, ice cream soda.
Betty: [inaudible 44:11] price on them. You pay about five dollars for one of them.
Tyler: What else? What am I forgetting about?
Betty: Well Georgetown University, was that a part of your world or was that a totally separate world from…the student world, was that….
Tyler: That was a totally, totally separate world. Although my father had gone to Georgetown for a short time, he got thrown out for missing bed check.
Thrown out of a university for missing bed check. Can you imagine that? Times sure have changed. George [inaudible 30:21] my father. Today you have a…if you live in Washington, I think you have a hard time getting a dorm room, or whatever.
I don’t know whether he had a room. He probably didn’t have a room. Just a dormitory with beds.
Dan: what was the C&O like when you were growing up?
Tyler: Don’t remember. Don’t remember the C&O canal. I guess, we used to go, when I was about 14, 15, 13 there about, we’d explored all kinds of different things that we must’ve… Well I know C&O canal at some point but I just don’t remember it.
[editor’s note: Tyler’s granddaughter joined the conversation]
Kid: What is the C&O canal?
Tyler: Well right now the C&O canal is a national park and it goes from Georgetown where it originally was set to go from, all the way from Georgetown to hook up with the Ohio river near Pittsburgh.
It was made into a national park in the ’60s, and a lot of money is going into restoring it. Every time there’s a serious big storm, it takes a whole lot more money. But they keep it up pretty good now. In those days it was just a piece of ground that had gone broke.
Betty: So they didn’t have the mule drawn barges that the National Parks Service didn’t maintain it down, or that’s been subsequently…?
Tyler: No, no that’s… That happened… William O. Douglas who publicized there was this big walk sometime in the ’60s?
Tyler: Yes. The Army Corps of Engineers decided that it should be made into a highway. Just as Justice Douglas said “Oh, no, it’s great for bird watching.”
So he gathered bunch of bird watchers to assemble somewhere in Georgetown, I’m not sure exactly where, maybe closer to Chain Bridge, and walked along the tow path with this group. Got a lot of publicity and talked about how this was a great natural resource and should be preserved. So, it’s preserved.
Betty: Was he one of the people who lived in Georgetown?
Tyler: I don’t remember him living in Georgetown. I don’t think he did, but I’m not sure where he lived.
Betty: I did’t know Adlai Stevenson had also had lived in Georgetown.
Tyler: Not very long.
Betty: He always talked about New York most of his career.
Tyler: He was from Illinois, he was governor of Illinois. That was after World War II. He might have been Secretary of the Navy but I think he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
Betty: Now a lot of presidents had live just… you mentioned you went to elementary school in Kalorama and a lot of them had lived around there, of course. Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson, and Harding all lived right in that vicinity on 24th and S on Sheridan, they lived just east of there.
Well is there anything else you can think of? Tou’ve been very generous with your time this morning Tyler, and we really want to thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to add? [inaudible 49:50]
Tyler: Well, I’m not sure I’ve been particularly helpful but I made a few notes here and just testing my eye data to see what I, if I had forgotten anything.
The notes I made are not encyclopedia by any stretch of the imagination. I would figure I know more about Georgetown but [clears throat] as I say, enough is enough.
Betty: Well, it’s been really wonderful and again, thank you for your time and this will be available in the Georgetown Public Library in the archives so it’s been a wonderful project.
Dan: I have a question. Wasn’t there a vague memory that the house that Fose bought, before he bought it was a cobbler shop or something like that? Did you ever hear anything about that?
Tyler: I don’t. I tried to find out a little bit more about it but I don’t have much authority on what it was. But the ‑
Granddaugher: What is a cobbler shop?
Tyler: Or back in those days, they made the shoes. Today, shoes are made in big factories but in those days they were handmade because they didn’t have factories that would do things that were that complex.
Betty: [inaudible 50:35]
Tyler: One of the things I remember is roller skating in Georgetown. You couldn’t roller skate on the sidewalks because they were all, almost all, brick. Those [inaudible 50:55]. We loved to roller skate. I would, they would go on my, you fit the roller skates on your shoes. Everybody had a [inaudible 51:25]. Tighten it once, tighten it on your shoe.
Betty: [laughs] I had forgotten [inaudible 51:35]
Tyler: Of course that was a little dangerous roller skating in the street because the traffic whizzed by. We did it anyway. It was a great pastime. You know, I never see anybody on roller skates anymore. They have skate boards but they have a completely different wheels.
These wheels were steel and they just rattled on the bridge. They were made out of…
Betty: The old ball bearings, remember how noisy they were? They were very noisy because they weren’t the plastic with the online skates today.
Betty: The noise of ball bearings, you could hear them coming blocks away and you would strap them on your shoes, you know? That’s fun.
Now I don’t see roller skaters in Georgetown. I see a lot of bikers. Some online skating, mostly bikers on the bike lanes.
Tyler: We didn’t do much bicycle riding. A fair amount later on when I got older, I did. So, but I quickly graduated to cars.
Betty: To cars.
Tyler: Cars were no problem there. I remember one of my jobs was, before I got my driver’s license, I could drive, and was a good driver when I was 14 or maybe even 13.
I used to drive from the farm all the way into the city in the traffic because I’d been driving on the farm since I was nine.
In those days, they was required that you not park on the south side of Dumbarton after midnight. So before midnight, it was my job to take our cars, we usually had two, and park them on the north side of Dumbarton. There weren’t enough cars to make that a problem. Can you imagine what would happen today if we had to only park on one side of Dumbarton Avenue?
Betty: No, although that would be a good idea [inaudible 54:04]
Tyler: Well, this was all in the eventuality that the snow plow had to use Dunbarton to plow the street for the bus so that there would be room to go down the street and push all the snow to the south side.
I remember when there wasn’t a bus, very, very early on. There was a streetcar and it shifted from a streetcar to a bus probably in 1938 or 1939. Then it was a while before they pulled up the tracks.
There’s some parts of Georgetown where the streetcar tracks are still there. There were streetcar tracks on Dumbarton for quite a while. It was a great day and I was thrilled when they got rid of those streetcar tracks. Streetcar tracks were the enemy of the bicycle. If you had to ride a bicycle, you didn’t want to be on a street that had streetcar tracks because your wheel would get stuck in there and throw you right off.
Betty: Still an obstacle, I guess. A lot of fond memories, huh? Well, a lot of things have changed, but the essential character of Georgetown has remained very much the same and that’s a good thing. Do you have any other questions you wanted to add or…? Thank you again very much for your time.
Tyler: Did that other voice get identified? That’s my son, Dan Abell.
Betty: Thank you. Yes.
Tyler: He put in a couple of comments and questions. Dan grew up in that same house that his brother Lyndon now lives at, 2820 Dumbarton Street. So that’s a three generation house.
Tyler: One of these days we hope that Dan’s children will live there or perhaps Lyndon’s children.
Betty: Hopefully so.
Tyler: Make it a four generation house.
Betty: I think Henry Kissinger was in that next block, the 2900 block on the south side.
Granddaugher: Who is Henry Kissinger?
Betty: Secretary of State under President Nixon. He is still living today. He is quite old, but he’s still alive today but arguably . . .
Tyler: I remember him being in the house between 30th and 31st.
Betty: May have been that one.
Man: On the north side of Dumbarton.
Tyler: I remember the south side.
Betty: South side. It may have been [inaudible 56:11].
Tyler: I remember somebody telling me how he rented that house and after he left, they went in to fix it up and that it was a terrible mess. Dozens of phone lines had been run in and out…
Betty: Oh, yeah, of course.
Tyler: Security stuff had been done in it and had hurt the house.
Betty: Imagine that. A lot of security lines, yes.
Tyler: We still have in our house, 2022 [Dumbarton], which was where the phone junction box is ‑‑ really old fashioned, I mean really old‑fashioned, phone junction box.
It’s got lines in there that go all over Georgetown. We were interested in just getting rid of it but we tested a few of the lines and they’re connected to houses in Georgetown.
Betty: Yeah, it is.
Woman 1: That’s cool.
Betty: Isn’t that cool?
Tyler: So we decided to be nice to everybody and just leave it alone.
Betty: Thank you. I’m always losing phone service and power there because of the infrastructure. That’s one of the disadvantages of living there is that the infrastructure is old and the lines are above ground.
We do tend to… I think we lose power there more than we should. [laughs] So thank you for not. [laughs]
Dan: Two of the other people that I remember [inaudible 58:15]. The other person is Paul Kramer. He told lots of stories so it’s too bad he’s not with us anymore.
Tyler: Paul Kramer wrote a book. Most of the book is…
Dan: It’s about being a secret agent.
Tyler: About being a secret agent, yeah. Not too much about…
Dan: [inaudible 50:28]
Tyler: … the intrigue of [inaudible 50:30] Place, which is his address.
Betty: Oh, he lived in [inaudible 59:41]. That’s around the corner from me.
Dan: [inaudible 59:46]. I’m trying to remember the name now.
Tyler: Ella Burling.
Betty: Oh, is that Frieda’s mother?
Tyler: No. Frida, [laughs] replaced Ella as Eddie Burling’s wife.
Betty: Oh whoops, OK.
Tyler: I’ve forgotten where Ella moved after she and Eddie split.
Betty: Frieda Burling, of course, is the grande dame of Georgetown today.
Dan: Is she one of the [inaudible 60:15] of Georgetown?
Tyler: Is Frida ?
Dan: No, Ella. Ella. I don’t know who elevates Frida to Grande dame of Georgetown. A lot of people accept that [inaudible 60:30]. But Ella certainly could, as could my mother.
Betty: Well, Frida ‘s been one of the movers behind the Georgetown house tour and all of that at St. John’s Church.
All right, well thank you so much. I learned a lot and it’s just been fun for me to picture the neighborhood as you’re talking about these places. I’m picturing what’s there now and it’s great fun. Again, I want to thank you very much for that.