Hazel Denton: Today is August the 21st, 2017. My name is Hazel Denton, D‑E‑N‑T‑O‑N. I have lived on P Street in Georgetown for 25 years. For the first 23 years, I had the good fortune to be the neighbor of long‑time residents, Judy and Dayton Mak.
I am now interviewing Dayton Mak, who celebrated his 100th birthday last month. Dayton was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1917. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 1935 and began his working life at the Illinois Central Railroad in the comptroller’s office.
Drafted in 1941, he served overseas from 1943 to 1945, seeing active service in North Africa and Italy. He earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Dayton returned to civilian life and happened to see a notice for applications to the Foreign Service.
This led to a 30‑year career in the Diplomatic Corps, serving in Saudi Arabia, Libya, London, Kuwait, and Lebanon, as well as tours of duty back in Washington, DC.
Fortunately, these fascinating years are well‑recorded in an oral history interview for the State Department made in 1989. However, Dayton, let’s focus on your life here in Washington, specifically your life in Georgetown. I’d like to start by asking you to tell us about Judy, your wonderful wife of 66 years. I love hearing the story of how you met. Can you tell us?
Dayton Mak: Thank you. It really was bizarre. I was on vacation in Saudi Arabia. I had a month’s vacation in Italy, so I was touring. My wife happened to be in Italy, had a gift from an aunt of a European tour. She also had relatives living in Genoa who worked for Remco in Saudi Arabia. That was her base.
I took a plane from Jehdah to Cairo, and then from Cairo to Rome. I spent the night in Rome, then I decided I want to go back to Florence. Having known it fairly well, that area anyway, during World War II, I took the bus, a ciat bus to Florence.
Hazel: What bus?
Dayton: Ciat, C‑I‑A‑T, to Florence. On route, we stopped here and there. This very pretty young girl got on board, and she took a seat behind me. I was very tired, very sleepy, not having had too much sleep from Jeddah to where I was then. I went to sleep. Then I woke up, and she was trying to open a window.
I said, “May I help you?” She said, “Oh, yeah.” I opened the window and at the same time realized that she was very attractive, very nice, and spoke English.
I went back to sleep, but then I woke up later as we approached Florence. I thought, “Well, hey. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had dinner together?” I asked her, “Would you like to have dinner the night after?” Thinking that I better go to see whether my favorite restaurant, the Buca Lappi, was still working.
Hazel: How do you spell that?
Dayton: L‑A‑P‑P‑I. The Buca Lappi, I went there that following night on the night of arrival, and it was excellent. I knew she was staying in a hotel, and I was staying in a grand hotel, having more money than she did to spend. Anyway, I got in touch, and we went to dinner the second night.
We got talking about what we were going to see in Italy and what we were going to do. We discovered that we had about the same thing. I frankly had no plans, but she did. I thought, “Well, let’s meld plans.” We agreed that’d be fine. We did the necessary things in Florence in that area. Then we decided, “Let’s go to Naples.”
We hopped on the train right down to Naples, saw Capri and Naples and things like that.
Hazel: You’d been there during the war?
Dayton: I’d been there during the war, yes, but not to Capri. I’ve been to Naples a lot. So, we toured around there for a while then decided, “Well, let’s go to Rome.” I went to Rome, and we spent quite a few days there. Then, “Hey, let’s go up to Venice.”
So we hopped a train and went up to Venice, and we spent about a week there trying to see everything there was to see. She had taken art history, so she knew a lot about the churches and houses that are in Venice, which was nice for me. I didn’t know anything about Venice except that it had a lot of water and canals.
We had a grand time there. We went to Harry’s Bar at night for dinner and saw everything there was to see. Even went to the opera.
Hazel: That was the beginning, and you stayed in touch?
Hazel: You didn’t get married for about two years?
Dayton: That’s when we went into Monte Carlo, too, and came back. Then we had to split up. She had to go home, I had to go back to Saudi Arabia. I did that, and I thought, “This is worth keeping up with.” We kept in correspondence. I asked for her photo, and she asked for mine.
Anyway, I left Saudi Arabia to go to the University of Pennsylvania for Middle East studies. I went to Philadelphia, established myself. I then commuted my courtship to Washington, where my wife lives. She had grown up in Washington, born here, which was her mother’s family.
Her father was a direct descendant of George Mason, and they still had connections with Gunston Hall. Her grandfather, I think because after the Civil War, he had to find some profession. After having taught in several schools around Virginia, he and his bride established Gunston Hall School in Washington DC.
The school, I think, was located in Georgetown, but then moved to Scott Circle, or anyway, that area. Then back to Georgetown, and finally, they built houses up in the Dupont Circle area on Florida Avenue. It was a substantial school. It had a very large administration, gymnasium, and dining hall building, and then three residence halls, all very fine residences.
They had two, four, six bedrooms per house. There was also a primary school for young boys and girls. The others were strictly young women from the South who were interested in having a finishing school of two years in a nice Southern background.
My wife, actually her family, moved to West Virginia, because her father liked to play golf, and they were near the Greenbrier Hotel. He set up shop there and worked while Judy went to public school. He died, unfortunately, very early, and her mother and she and her sister moved back to Washington where Judy went to school. I guess, junior school.
During World War II, the Southern families were worried about Washington and bombing. The school closed, and Judy transferred to Mount Vernon Seminary, up towards Georgetown…No. Anyway.
Dayton: Yeah, anyway.
Hazel: This is the founding of Gunston Hall School. I know the building. It’s right opposite the back of the Hilton.
Dayton: That’s right.
Hazel: It’s a small apartment building now.
Dayton: That’s right.
Hazel: I guess large apartment building.
Dayton: Those were all torn down. The administration building, right after the war, was taken over by Johns Hopkins. I actually applied to go to graduate school there after I left the army. I applied too late, and so I joined the foreign services.
That said, my wife, after graduating from Mount Vernon Seminary, she went to Lewisburg College and went four years there. It was after graduating from there, that we met in Italy.
Hazel: Judy is a Washingtonian through and through?
Dayton: Yes. She was born here, but she was raised for 10 years in West Virginia. She loved Lewisburg, West Virginia.
Hazel: Her family name was?
Dayton: Her maiden name, Easley, E‑A‑S‑L‑E‑Y. Her father was a lawyer. Well, her mother was, let me say, she was a women’s rights activist. She was an utterly charming woman, and I loved her. She was just wonderful.
Hazel: She approved of you?
Dayton: She didn’t disagree with me, I guess.
Hazel: Let’s talk about when you started to live as a family in Washington. You came home from the foreign service as a working foreign service officer with a wife and a baby, and took up residence off and on in Washington.
Dayton: Because of the ambiance of London, which we liked, we lived in the West End in Mayfair. They had nice housing there. We wanted something of the same atmosphere here. I first thought of Alexandria, and that was far too far a commute to the State Department, so we chose Georgetown.
When we came back from London, we searched around with an agent and saw all sorts of places, and settled on the very nice row house on 33rd Street, 1231 33rd Street.
It had been a nice three‑story house. One of those included the basement, which had been completely redone modern by Sophie Bonnemaker. She was Sophie Coors, at the time, and she had very good taste and a certain amount of money.
It was very, very happy in that place. I could walk to the State Department easily. We were barely in walking distance of Gunston Hall School, where her family lived. We had local babysitters who were family. I lived very happily. I love that place in Georgetown.
Hazel: What year did you move into that house?
Dayton: That was the year that we came back from London. It would have been 1956.
Hazel: Tell us a little bit about what life was like in Georgetown in 1956.
Dayton: We loved the life in Georgetown. It was very lively. There were a lot of shops. Many of which are gone, like Meenehan’s, which was on M Street. It sold everything you needed to fix up your house, all those things.
Hazel: What was it called?
Dayton: Meenehan, M‑E‑E‑N‑E‑H‑A‑N. Meenehan’s, I think.
Hazel: Meenehan’s, yes.
Dayton: Yes, I think that’s how they spelled it. There was a laundry on Wisconsin Avenue and shops on Wisconsin. Consoleman’s Candy Shop, I think, was there at that time, and also a barbershop. Everything was really very close.
Billy Martin’s was there, of course, and Peoples Drug Store. There was a dairy on the corner of O Street and Wisconsin, where the Peoples moved into. There were several nice restaurants. The ones that were there were nice, but there were not many.
M Street, that was long before Georgetown Park. There were some empty buildings, warehouse, and the fire station there, and other not attractive buildings. That was the origin of the City Tavern Club. They decided to renovate. It had been a public tavern. It was a tavern in George Washington’s day called the “Sign of the Indian King”, or something like that. A group of people got together and organized that. Are you interested in that?
Hazel: Yes, because this is Georgetown history.
Dayton: There were several people who were keen on establishing it. They wanted a very nice club for dining and for meetings. There were a number of people whose names I’ve forgotten who were interested in establishing it as a club.
Hazel: They were local people who wanted to do something?
Dayton: That’s right. They organized it, and then they got a group of us to put in money by debentures to builders, and after quite a long time, it was finally opened. It was beautiful and was very tastefully done. It had a magnificent ballroom which could also serve as a dining room. It had sleeping rooms upstairs, several sleeping rooms.
The dining rooms were used for lectures and for dining. In the ground floor, the basement floor, ground floor, there was a little dining area and a balcony for cocktails. The whole place was elegant. They had an excellent chef. It was a very popular place to dine. Every Sunday they had a magnificent buffet. It was the place to dine in Georgetown at that time.
Hazel: You had to be a member?
Dayton: You had to be a member. Adjacent to that, there were some restaurants, but we never went to them. We would go to the City Tavern to dine.
We would go to Martin’s occasionally. There was also another not very nice restaurant near where the Georgetown Inn is now. Really, there were very few restaurants to go to. We could go to clubs downtown, but we just did not dine in Georgetown except at the club. Well, that’s enough about that one.
Hazel: I’ve always wondered about the City Tavern Club and how it started. I know you still go there from time to time.
Dayton: Well I joined along the way, the Army/Navy Club, and then they had a Cotton Club. We started going there, and at the same time, the city began to have many more restaurants. Nice restaurants, fine restaurants, which took a lot of business away from the City Tavern Club and such places as that.
We stopped going so much there, and the ballroom stopped serving regularly. Only for special events, so it wasn’t really quite the same. We had thought that, that would be a good place or our daughter, Holly, to have her debut. Well, Holly would in no way have her debut.
Dayton: No way. That was completely out. We never had that, but we always enjoyed the City Tavern Club.
Hazel: When you first moved to Georgetown, how old was Holly?
Dayton: Goodness. She was in her grade school, about first, second, third. She went to Hyde School, which is very close by. There were a number of neighbors who had children there, and the playground was very popular with neighbors, too. The Walters had children there. David Walters and his wife who were good neighbors and friends, and there were a number of children.
Hazel: This is at the time when all the schools are still segregated?
Hazel: Hyde was ehite, and Wormley was Black? It’s just almost opposite where John Kerry lived. It’s on O Street, the Wormley School. It’s now condominiums.
[Wormley School is on Prospect Street. It was founded as a school for Black children in 1885 and named for James Wormley, a prominent African American resident of Washington. https://georgetownmetropolitan.com/2009/10/08/survey-of-historic-school-…
Dayton: I see. I can’t remember what it was.
Hazel: She went there to Hyde for elementary. Where did she go for middle school and high school?
Dayton: We were abroad. We were in Beirut. She went five years in Beirut at the American Kennedy School.
Hazel: She didn’t do anything further than elementary in Georgetown?
Dayton: That’s right.
Hazel: Where did you do your grocery shopping?
Dayton: We went to Safeway.
Hazel: Still there?
Dayton: Mm‑hmm. There was a shop on M Street sorry, below Wisconsin. Not huge, but you could buy everything there. We also would drive out to Magruder’s.
Hazel: Way up Conneticut?
Dayton: Mm‑hmm. I even would go out to Magruder’s out in Virginia for special things, but there was Neam’s Market. Neam’s was good.
Hazel: Neams on the corner of P and Wisconsin?
Dayton: Mm‑hmm. There was the French Market for fine things, but we didn’t patronize that daily. We’d go there for pâté and fine cuts of meat. Other than that, oh there was Magruder’s down in Dupont, too. You had to search more than you do now, but it was not a handicap. Everything was easy.
Hazel: When you moved in, were the trolley cars still running?
Dayton: Yes, trolley cars right. Yes, they were, but not for long. My wife was always very angry at O. Roy Chalk.
Dayton: O. Roy Chalk, who owned the street car company. He did away with the street cars and put buses in. She never forgave him for that. He was a Georgetown resident, too.
Hazel: His name was O’Roy Chalk?
Hazel: You would take the trolley and then the bus to go all over the city?
Dayton: I rarely used it. No, we had a car.
Hazel: Which church did you go to?
Dayton: First, we went to St. John’s, which was right around the corner from us. They had a wonderful rector there who called on us when we first arrived, so that brought us into the fold. It was a very nice church and had a very nice congregation.
Many friends our age from Virginia and hardly anyone from Georgetown, but all over the area, they were attracted to the church. They had a wonderful, active church. Loved it.
Hazel: It is a beautiful church. I like their Christmas services.
Dayton: Yeah? We liked it very much. We went there for years until we were disaffected.
Hazel: Why were you disaffected?
Dayton: We had a preacher who had been a correspondent, a newspaper man, very talented, handsome, very articulate, and not the slightest bit religious.
Dayton: He had been married once and had it annulled. Then he married a girl, a Jewish girl who, over the years, became unhappy with her husband as a rector. She was very, very nice. Nice woman, but Peter started drifting with a gang. Very nice, but they would spend a lot of time down on M Street. Finally, he married the wife of his best friend.
Dayton: Bishop Walker married them. That was not a very happy act either, so we left. We went over to the Christ Church across the avenue. I may have gotten some of those details a bit mixed up, but that was the essence of it. We were just too much… Mind you, Peter was charming. We liked him as an individual, but he was not a minister.
Hazel; His name was Peter…
Dayton: What was it? Vanterpool.
Dayton: Mm‑hmm, Peter Vanterpool.
Hazel: Tell me, when you went to church, you were going to an all‑white church, but you were aware there were all‑black churches as well. Were you aware of how Georgetown had these blocks of different groups?
Dayton: Yes. There was a black church in Georgetown, on the east side of Georgetown.
Hazel: East side of?
Dayton: East part of Georgetown. It’s still active.
Hazel: Yes, there are several.
Dayton: There were several, right. They continued to go, and there were some black residents still on K Street. I think they are still there. I’m not sure.
Hazel: The nearest black residents to where you were living on 33rd, where would they have been? Were there any residents near you on 33rd?
Hazel: It tended to be the black residents were here, the white residents…
Dayton: Yes, closer to the city. There was a black cemetery.
Hazel: Yes, I’ve been there.
Dayton: During that time, it was rediscovered and rehabilitated. It had been going to wrack and ruin. Over the years, it was not kept up very well. I went there a number of times and browsed around. It wasn’t very well‑kept.
Hazel: That’s the Mount Zion?
Dayton. That’s right. Near the bridge.
Hazel: Were there any places in Georgetown where blacks and whites would mix? Did they meet in restaurants? Was there a movie house? I’m just wondering about whether there was any interaction.
Dayton: Very little.
Hazel: Very little?
Dayton: Very little. We were on the far west side, they were on the far east. We had no reason to see them in restaurants or the Georgetown Theater. That was very segregated.
Hazel: The swimming pool on Volta Place?
Dayton: That’s right. That was white. There weren’t many blacks living there?
Dayton: You didn’t see them. We saw them on Sunday at church.
Hazel: Where were you when Martin Luther King was assassinated? That was 1968.
Dayton: I think we were in Beirut.
Hazel: You were not involved. When you lived in Georgetown, did you worry at all about personal safety? Did you lock your front door?
Dayton: Only later on. Our later years in Georgetown, we used to walk to the City Tavern at night, and back. I never gave it a thought. In later years, we stopped going. One night coming back with our daughter and her husband, it was probably nine o’clock at night, we approached the corner of…I think it was Prospect at Wisconsin.
There were three young men standing at the idly at the corner. We weren’t happy about it. We walked by, and one of them stopped us and stopped my son‑in‑law. He said “That’s a nice jacket you have.” I thought, “Oh, God. Here we go.” My son‑in‑law said, “Oh, I’m glad you like it. I got it at so and so place.”
The fellow went, “OK.” We walked on, but the guys stopped us from walking. After that we would not walk out in the streets of Georgetown at night.
Hazel: Were they young white men?
Hazel: They stood out a little bit being in your neighborhood?
Dayton: It was the corner of Prospect. That always bothered us very much. At that time, the city had tried to have a patrol of Georgetown, the streets. They had nice white women and white men and young kids patrolling.
The only time I ever met them was on Elm Street on Saturday afternoon. The streets were loaded with people. You couldn’t do anything bad at that time. They were never out at night. Our protests, did you remember?
Dayton: There were protests all the time. The most they would ever do was they would post a police car with someone in it, occasionally on the Elm Street.
Hazel: The City of Washington would provide these patrols?
Hazel: That didn’t do much?
Dayton: Yes. Also, one night, I woke up with hearing a crash between your house and ours. I’d look out my window and saw a young black man running. I said, “Get the hell out of here.” He said, “Are you kidding?”
[Hazel Denton and Dayton Mac were next door neighbors on P Street at 3249 and 3247 respectively]
Dayton: It’s so funny, but that’s when we put all the lights on in the back porch and all are well‑lit. Security was an issue.
Hazel: It was becoming an issue. We’re now talking about the ’60s?
Dayton: I guess so, yeah.
Hazel: What was the state of the canal during your early years in Georgetown?
Dayton: I don’t remember that being very bad. The canal was operating, and you would ride the barge up a certain distance and come back. I don’t recall this being a problem.
Hazel: You don’t remember what being a problem?
Dayton: I don’t remember the canal being a problem.
Hazel: It was just a pleasant place to take a trip.
Dayton: Yeah, we would take trips. Since I didn’t live near it, I don’t really remember that being a problem. Later, certainly it became a problem.
Hazel: It had nice paths for walking?
Dayton: It was nice, very pleasant.
Hazel: You’d walk on it?
Dayton: Yeah, the canal. The security reminds me of Mary Pinchot Meyer?
Hazel: Mary Pinchot…
Dayton: You know Cord Meyer?
Dayton: He was a resident and acquaintance of mine. This is Kennedy era.
Hazel: I’m beginning to remember. Tell me the story.
Dayton: She had a habit of running on the canal, on the Toe Path. Then she was found murdered one morning. According to the story that I heard, they found the man who did it, but the judge threw out the case because of lack of evidence.
She was going to be the mistress of Jack Kennedy. She was a sister of Ben Bradlee’s wife, who was also a Pinchot.
Hazel: How do you spell Pinchot?
Dayton: P‑I‑N‑C‑H‑O‑T. These are facts as I knew them. I am not an authority.
Hazel: You were a friend or an acquaintance of Cord Pinchot?
Dayton: Cord Meyer.
Hazel: Cord Meyer.
Dayton: He lived around the corner from us.
Hazel: Cord Meyer was her husband?
Dayton: Mm‑hmm. He was a big man in the CIA. Later after he returned, he was a columnist for the “Washington Times” and very nice man. I didn’t know him well, but we used to walk home from the bus together. That is about it.
Hazel: Georgetown was a great place for State Department people to live?
Dayton: Yes. You could walk.
Hazel: Were you aware of the Kennedys in Georgetown?
Dayton: Yes. We lived on 33rd. They lived one block away.
Dayton: On N. They were just around the corner from us. I never saw him. I never saw her. My wife would see her walking the children. She would speak to people. She was nice, but I never saw them. The only time I saw them was on the Inauguration Day when we all went out to watch people leave their home and it was snowing. That’s the only contact I ever had.
Let me tell you something. On the day of the inauguration, the snow was up to here. The Kennedy house was a very popular site for newspaper people to stand and watch their activities.
It was hard to stand in the street in the cold, so the women living on the corner, Ms. Montgomery, let them come in the house to warm‑up and then go out and watch. They put up a plaque to her for her kindness in doing that.
Hazel: Did you know her?
Dayton: Yes. She was marvelous.
Hazel: Who was she?
Dayton: She was the maiden lady. She lived on her own in this very nice house. Had a nice garden, had two garages.
Hazel: Envy. [laughs]
Dayton: She didn’t have a car. I don’t know. I think she rented. She was very nice. We were very good friends. Her sister, Mrs. Brown, that was her married name, lived in one of the very fine townhouses on the road. I can’t think of the name.
Hazel: Cox’s Road?
Dayton: Yeah, Cox’s Row, the one nearest the university.
Hazel: They had money?
Dayton: Yes. She had turned it into apartments. She was very nice. Her husband was a military fellow, nice fellow. They were a very, very nice group, very, very nice. That was my brush with the Kennedys, except for Robert Kennedy one night.
Dayton: He would come to visit Jack. I was coming down 33rd Street, which is one way. There are stop signs on every road. He was coming in on N Street. He wasn’t going to stop for me, but he slammed on the brakes, and he looked at me with the most evil look I’ve seen. He was so angry that I had been in his way.
Hazel: [laughs] The Kennedys were living all in different parts of Georgetown. There were many of Kennedy’s family in the area.
Dayton: Jack lived…I’m not sure of this. I think he lived where the Walkers lived.
Hazel: That’s the story I heard. That’s on our block of P Street, just the corner of P and 33rd.
Dayton: He also lived on…not Prospect. I can’t think of the name of the street. It’s in the row of…
Dayton: No. It was an across street
Hazel: O Street.
Dayton: It has a name.
Dayton: No, it’s on the other side, our side. I’ll think of it later.
Hazel: We’ll think of it. [laughs]
Dayton: Another Kennedy lived on the corner of N and 34th.
Hazel: That’s the one I was thinking, yeah. They’ve done a map with the walking tour of the Kennedy houses.
Dayton: That’s it.
Hazel: That helps to put things in perspective. Did you have the impression that people were visiting, working together, making connections? Was there this Georgetown dinner party atmosphere?
Dayton: I felt that there were two sets. There was the personality set and the ordinary set. I considered myself in the ordinary set.
For instance, Dan Rather lived around the corner from us on 33rd Street. He and his wife and two children lived there. I would pass him often. He would never even look at us. His wife was delightful, but he was in his own little world.
There were the Kitty Kelley’s and the Bradlees, of course. And the Heymanns. They were all a set apart. Griffy Swift. Did you know Griffy Swift and her daughter, Ann Swift?
Hazel: No. Griffy?
Dayton: Griffy was an old family in the old town. She’d had a couple of houses on 33rd Street in the Heymann’s Block. I never knew her at this period, but she used to organize the debutante dances and stuff for people.
Her daughter, Ann, joined the Foreign Service and was assigned to Iran and was one of the captives in Iran. She later married the riding coach at Sweet Briar College and subsequently, I think, died falling off a horse. I’m not sure of that. She died very early. She was a delightful woman. Very few were so nice.
Hazel: Are there any other names that come up?
Dayton: Yeah, there sure are.
Hazel: These are fascinating little anecdotes.
Dayton: David Harkness.
Hazel: David Harkness.
Dayton: He was a radio announcer during World War II, very well‑known. Frida Burling.
Dayton: They were very good people.
Hazel: Did you know her?
Hazel: Did you know Frida Burling?
Dayton: Yes. Frida?
Dayton: I knew her very well. I didn’t know Ed. He died too early, but I knew Frida very well. We were the two oldest people in St. John Church. She was very active in church. She was socially very active, too.
I used to go to her mother’s house in Georgetown. She lives on 34th Street. After church, she’d hold a soiree, even eating, though. It was a mid‑day soiree. She served sandwiches, and people would come in after church.
Hazel: At her house?
Dayton: Mm‑hmm. A small house, but she always had an interior decorator. It was utterly charming. It was delightful. Then Scottie Fitzgerald Smith lived on our block.
Hazel: On 33rd?
Dayton: No, P Street.
Hazel: When you say, “Our block,” I have to remember.
Dayton: Of course, the Herrimans lived there also.
Hazel: The Herrimans were across, though, weren’t they?
Dayton: Mm‑hmm. Pamela and whatever his name was.
Dayton: The Ben Bradlees, they’re very important. Another good friend of Jack Kennedy. Senator Lieberman, lived down the east side.
Hazel: Near the synagogue?
Dayton: Somewhere near there. I never knew exactly where. Kitty Kelly and Senator Heinz, his wife, and his successors. Katharine Graham, she had that wonderful house on R Street.
Hazel: Did you ever visit the house?
Dayton: No, never invited in. Then there’s Tudor Place.
Hazel: The Belins.
Dayton: Not the Belins, no.
Hazel: Who lived in Tudor Place?
Dayton: Julie’s cousin married the man who lived there. I can’t even remember his name.
Hazel: I thought it was Peter Bielan.
[The Peter’s family lived at Tutor Place for nearly 200 years.]
Dayton: The Belians lived on the edge of Oak Hill Cemetary?
Hazel: That’s right.
Dayton: I mentioned Katharine Graham. There are others, but I don’t remember.
Hazel: You give the impression that it was very much a community, that people knew each other and visited and interacted frequently. .
Dayton: Different groups visited different groups, and there wasn’t any barrier between.
Hazel: Tell me about some national issues that came to Georgetown. You mentioned the demonstrations that were a regular part of life, especially during the Vietnam War.
Dayton: We weren’t here for much of the Vietnam War. I remember one demonstration. People from all over the country came to Washington to demonstrate against the war. We had a friend, actually, the wife of someone at the embassy in London who wanted to come and stay with us for the demonstration. We found an excuse not to have her.
Nice‑looking people came up the street in Georgetown. They parked their cars in the street. One time, Julie went out and let the air out of the tires.
Hazel: This was your wife went to let the air out of the tire?
Dayton: Mm‑hmm. I went to the State Department anyway, but there was National Guard on the streets. I got to the State Department and there were a lot of people demonstrating. They would pick up cars and run over people in them. Young women going to work, the State Department, which made me very angry. That was not an explosive demonstration as far as I could see.
Hazel: In Georgetown itself, did demonstrations affect Georgetown?
Dayton: Yeah. It was mainly the people who parked their cars and were going to demonstrate somewhere else. They didn’t march down P Street, M Street, or K Street.
Hazel: Did they damage stores at all?
Dayton: Not that time. Oh, yeah, they did over Vietnam. It’s hard for me to remember what the demonstrations were about. There was a Three Sister’s Bridge demonstration. That was big. That was early while we were living on 33rd Street.
Some of the city or someone wanted to build a bridge across the river from Virginia to Georgetown to connect to the Whitehurst Freeway, to then go fleeing out of North to Northwest Washington. There were huge demonstrations against that. They would pour down 33rd Street, shouting and agitating, while we’re living there.
These were mainly young kids, young people. College kids maybe. We were very angry with them. Also, in that period, they would paint signs on windows down on M Street and break windows. They did damage. People were very angry with them. I suppose they were sympathetic people, too, but it was getting out of hand.
Later on drugs started coming in. That’s when we were living on P Street. We had friends who’d moved to Virginia because they felt that the children were being exposed to marijuana and violence that they didn’t want them exposed to.
Hazel: Drugs started to come in. What year are we talking about?
Dayton: That had to be after we came back from London.
Hazel: That’s when you moved into the house next to me?
Hazel: 3247 P?
Hazel: I’m trying to think of the year.
Dayton: I can tell you in a minute. 1972.
Hazel: You bought the house 3247?
Hazel: 1972. Do you remember what you paid for it?
Dayton: Yeah. $68,500.
Hazel: Smile [laughs] .
Hazel: Do you remember any discussions of the Metro coming into Georgetown?
Hazel: Tell me about that.
Dayton: This is my recollection. Most people wanted it. There were some who didn’t, saying it would bring in the wrong people. To my knowledge and recollection, the Citizen’s Association never voted to refuse it. That’s my recollection. I say that because there was a lot of a talk that Georgetown had opposed it. That is not my recollection at all.
I’d be interested to know what other people in Georgetown thought. There were certainly discussion about how it might change attitudes. There were some, of course, who said it’d have to be done above the water. That means you have to walk up to M Street. It was an issue, but it didn’t last long.
Hazel: The discussion today suggests that there was a problem with the building of a subway in Georgetown because of the likelihood of damaging the houses with the vibrations. Also, mechanical means of boring under the river. The equipment wasn’t good enough, and the water table was rather high.
Dayton: That’s more likely the reason.
Hazel: There was an equipment issue?
Dayton: There were no residents that it would interfere with. It was all on the waterfront. I would think it’d be very difficult, probably be very moist down there, but they do it in New York.
Hazel: The story that the residents didn’t want the Metro, certainly not your recollection?
Hazel: How much relationship was there between residents of Georgetown and Georgetown University? Were you aware of the university? Was it a major presence? Did they reach out to the community? What was your memory of the role of Georgetown University?
Dayton: I remember very well.
Hazel: Tell me.
Dayton: We lived down on the west side, and there were nice bars on Wisconsin Avenue, and they stayed open late. Every weekend, generally on weekend, there would be an invasion of drunken kids going through the neighborhood on their way back to the University. That was a problem, it really was. People on the western side were very angry. People on the east didn’t care. I personally didn’t care, but I know a lot of people did. It was a real issue. The Citizen’s Association would tackle the Georgetown Administration about it. Frankly, my view is that they didn’t care much.
Hazel: Georgetown University?
Dayton: They didn’t do anything about it. They did provide activities, but you cannot replace a bar.
Hazel: Did you ever attend a lecture at Georgetown? Did you take classes at Georgetown? Did you walk through the Georgetown campus?
Dayton: No, I’ve walked around it quite a lot. That would be my exercise often, walking all around there. I used to watch some of the tennis games, and some football, too, baseball. During first oral history, our offices were in Georgetown Library.
Hazel: The State Department oral history? Because you did a lot of…
Dayton: It wasn’t State Department. No, it’s Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, which is located within the site but not a part of it. The campus was like a park for us.
Hazel: A local park?
Hazel: There were no restrictions, no restraints?
Dayton: No, it was very nice.
Hazel: You mentioned the Citizen’s Association.
Hazel: They were a part of Georgetown?
Dayton: Very much so. They were very important. They really were the watch-dogs of what goes on in changing Georgetown. Peter Belien reigned as the monarch, overall. He didn’t do much, but he spoke a lot. There was Grosvey Chapman.
Hazel: Grover Chapman?
Dayton: Grosvey. I guess it was Grosvenor Chapman. We all called him Grosvey. He wielded a big stick, spoke a lot, had a lot of views on everything, which were generally good.
Edith Hitton was a real charger. She had Georgetown citizens’ interest at heart. She wanted to have everything done in good taste and properly. She was abrasive, very abrasive. She stirred up a lot of anxiety and started a disruption.
I thought, generally, she was right. She was a terrific influence. She was the biggest influence in what happened in Georgetown architecturally. She was great person. She lives on 34th, as I remember it. I don’t know where Grosvey lived.
Hazel: That’s not hard to find.
Dayton: The Citizen’s Association was very active and did a lot of good work.
Hazel: Very good work in terms of? It did very good work in what context?
Dayton: If the city were going to do something that the Citizens Association objected to, they would bring it to the attention of the city. If it were something that just the citizens individually were going to do, she could start to campaign against bad taste.
Hazel: Now, I’m going to ask you for a big, thoughtful question. What are your thoughts for the generations who inherit our wonderful community? What should they keep? What should they change? What should they cherish?
Dayton: My feeling is that there should be attempts to prevent Georgetown changing its character. That means being very careful about permitting what we call modern architecture mixing with the old. After all, Georgetown is a very small area, and it should not be overwhelmed by modernity.
I think the cobblestone streets should be protected and the architecture protected.
As long as it’s in sight, what we do underground is not a concern of mine. I’d like to have Georgetown remain Georgetown and not just a suburb of Washington.
Hazel: The other thing is I noticed you brought three pages of notes to this interview. Is there anything in your notes that we haven’t touched on?
Dayton: I think that there’s been a huge development on M Street, Georgetown Park, and other shops in that area. Also, the Georgetown Inn has replaced a lot of old buildings there. I think both changes have been for the good. There have been attempts to keep the architecture valid.
When we lived on O Street, we had an awful smell. There was the Hopfenmaier Rendering Works down on the waterfront which spewed out these horrible stinks. It finally closed. Also, there was paper mill down there that was very stinky, and that was closed. That was very nice.
I think one should take note of the St. John’s Church annual house tour, which was an annual event in the spring. It was really well‑received and became, as I say, a part of Georgetown.
Hazel: I do it every year.
Dayton: Do you? Good.
Hazel: Yes. You remember that starting? Do you remember the house tour beginning?
Dayton: No, it was going on as far as I remember. I think so. One of the things that’s happened that I remember, which isn’t too long ago, there was a vast change in traffic. All these one‑way streets with stop signs at every block, which slowed down the traffic and made it more livable. Everything was slowed down.
There was also an early‑on development of the canal area, down below M. I don’t know whether that’s ever has really taken off, whether it’s become very popular or not. When it first came, I know I’d go down there often. I liked it.
They had a bookshop down there. You’d go there. It was very attractive. Whether that’s still there, I don’t know. They had a very nice restaurant down there, a wonderful fish restaurant.
Dayton: Yes, Cannon’s, that’s this place, but there was a restaurant down there. I will think of it perhaps, maybe. The other thing, the Georgetown Theater was closed.
Hazel: That’s the one that’s now Restoration Hardware?
Hazel: The Georgetown Cinema is now reopening as retail.
Dayton: Is that it? Good. Not a theater, a cinema.
Dayton: I never went to that very often. We would go downtown. Of course, now they are gone, too. It was a big change in the small restaurants in Georgetown. There never used to be very many. They aren’t very good now, but there are fast food restaurants. Billy Martin’s still stands.
Hazel: Martin’s is still going strong.
Dayton: Yes, and the restaurant at Georgetown Inn is very popular.
Dayton: It’s a chain. It’s very good. I think Georgetown has improved for the better, in my opinion. It’s improved for the better, for living.
You still have cleaners. Not the ones who were there before, but you have others. You can get everything you want. You have Safeway. You have the drug, CVS Drug.
Hazel: The library is a tremendous resource.
Dayton: The library, yeah… The renovation of that after the fire! There are so many things that have changed, but luckily, the architecture has not. The ambiance, when you hit Georgetown, you know you are in someplace different.
Hazel: That’s a wonderful closing statement, Dayton.
Dayton: It’s a cozy kind of feeling.
Hazel: When you hit Georgetown, you know you’ve come to a different place.
Dayton: Yes. There is an atmosphere that should be maintained as the tree program maintains the trees and Volta Park and others are looked after. So much is available in walking distance that makes Georgetown a unit.
Hazel: Thank you for sharing your memories.
Dayton: Thank you.
Hazel: I think this is really a very special interview. You’ve observed so much over so many years.
Dayton: Thank you. It’s fun to do because all of my memories are fond ones.
Hazel: Mine, too.
Hazel: Anything else?
Dayton: I was going to mention our friends on P Street.
Dayton: I don’t know. Let’s see. I forget names. I know Al and Linda. I don’t remember their last name.
Hazel: Yes, Amore.
Dayton: Amore, that’s right. Scottie Fitzgerald and her husband…
Hazel: Now, where does Scottie Fitzgerald live?
Dayton: She lived in… I don’t know. It was right across the alley where a number of people have moved in. They had a garage behind. What was the name … Sweeden?
Dayton: Finnish. It was the Finnish house. She lived there, she and her son and her husband.
Hazel: Scottie Fitzgerald.
Dayton: Smith. I forgot his name.
Hazel: Scottie Fitzgerald.
Dayton: And the Heymanns.
Hazel: They lived on our block?
Dayton: No, they lived on 33rd. I liked the shops on our block. I guess that’s about it.
Hazel: Have a look at your notes and just see if there’s anything else you wanted to add.
Dayton: They did recondition Volta Park?
Hazel: Yes. That was a big job all done by the neighbors.
Dayton: It was very nice having a great park so close.
Dayton: Tennis courts, pool. Although there is one thing that bothered us about the pool and the renovation. When we were first there in Georgetown, there was an adult swim in the morning. We tried to, in later years, make use of that, but they had stopped that.
Not only that, but they had closed the pool so young people could be brought in throughout the city. Residents had no priority. We tried to be able to use it just a couple of years ago. We were not allowed.
Hazel: Because you are now living here?
Hazel: Because you are not living in Georgetown?
Dayton: No, we lived there. It was when we were still on P Street.
Hazel: Why couldn’t you use it?
Dayton: It was closed.
Hazel: Oh, it was closed.
Dayton: Closed only for the people from out of town. We’ve fought that mildly. We’re also near Washington. We all liked being near Washington. Not that he did anything that affected us. We liked him. The John Walkers.
Hazel: What did they do?
Dayton: John Walker.
Hazel: I know they lived on our block.
Dayton: They lived in the place where Frelingheusen lived.
Hazel: Tell me how you spell that name.
Dayton: I think it’s F‑R‑E‑L‑I‑N‑G‑H‑E‑U‑S‑E‑N. I think that can go for it.
Hazel: He’s a congressman, so it’s not hard to find his name.
Dayton: Yeah, I think that’s all. I never knew Trevor’s last name.
Dayton: I did know DaCosta, my bad memory.
Hazel: Trevor died nine years ago, which is hard to believe. D‑A‑C‑O‑S‑T‑A.
Dayton: I remember that now. He was one dear man. I mean, dear. He was a sweet man.
Hazel: You always used to get together and organized the garbage.
Dayton: And trimming the ivy. Dear, do you know that Judy has moved to Watergate?
Hazel: Has she? That’s Judy Green who used to be our other neighbor.
Hazel: It was G‑R‑E‑E‑N?
Dayton: G‑R‑E‑E‑N. On M Street, early on in the same block…Not the same block, but in the block. It doesn’t matter, towards the bridge. On the corner of 33rd, there was a filling station. Then up the block farther on toward the bridge there was Stohlman Chevrolet.
Hazel: Chevrolet store on M Street?
Dayton: S‑T‑O‑H‑L‑M‑A‑N. Big family. One of them had the candy store on Wisconsin, the dealership on M, and my dentist downtown. I think that’s about all I have.
Hazel: Dayton, thank you for your time. Thank you for your careful preparation.
Dayton: I loved it.
Hazel: This has been a real treat. I miss you in my neighborhood.
Dayton: Thank you. It’s an honor. I have had a lot of fun being involved in these things.