Edith Shafer

In her interview with Janet Kandel and Cathy Farrell, Edith Shafer talks about moving to Georgetown in 1960 when she married  and what it was like to raise her family here.  She tells how she became involved with the Garden Club and, in 2017, Edith, Lee Childs and June Libin were awarded the William A. Cochran Community Service Award for their efforts to protect and enhance the parks and architecture of Georgetown.  At the recent Oral History evening, Edith solicited belly laughs from her audience when she told stories of how she loved the raging cocktail parties available all evenings on her neighborhood streets decades ago.

Interview Date:
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Janet Kandel & Catherine Farrell

Schafer, Edith. 

April 17, 2018 at Edith’s home in Georgetown, 1530 30th Street, NW. 

Interviewers:  Janet Kandel and Catherine Farrell

Janet Kandel:  What in the in the world, what brought you here to what you describe as “the most civilized village in the world?”

(Hugh N Jacobson)

Edith Schafer: A proposal from my husband.


Janet: Very nice reason to move to Georgetown.


Edith: I thought so.

Janet: What year was that?

Edith: It was 1959, I think, because I got married in…Did I get married in ’60 or ’61? Maybe it was 1960.

Janet: OK. We can always check on the date. We can ask your daughter.

Edith: She won’t know.

Cathy Farrell: She won’t know because she wasn’t there. Right?

Edith: That’s right.

Nancy: They were married in ’61.

Edith: Do you know everything, backseat driver?

Cathy: Somebody was born in ’62, a year after you were married?

Edith: She’s absolutely right. My mother thought it was a shotgun marriage. It was not.


Cathy: OK. You came to Georgetown in 1961.

Janet: You said in an essay about the residents of Georgetown, “We have our causes and enthusiasms, and we care.” What are yours?

Edith: My causes and enthusiasms are really, hop aboard any cause that appeals to me, and work hard for them. I enjoy doing that. That’s how I’ve lived my adult life. My enthusiasms are nature, poetry and books.

Cathy: Would you expand on that a little bit?

Edith: I grew up in the country, with streams, woods, and fields, and all the good stuff that came with that. Then, when I moved here, I said to my husband…he owned this tiny little house…I just thought, “It’s a horrible house. Just horrible.”

It’s about this big, and it’s just not inviting at all. I couldn’t make it inviting, but I now have it rented out and they have made it better.

Cathy: It’s just close by?

Edith: It’s on the other side, west side of Wisconsin, yes. Other than that, it’s close by. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Cathy: No garden over there?

Edith: No, it was a tiny brick patio, in which nothing grew. That’s common in Georgetown.

Cathy: Yes, it is. It is.

Janet: I discovered from reading your books that your knowledge of plants and flowers is amazing.

[Aspects of Georgetown by Edith Schafer]

[Gardens of Georgetown by Edith Schafer]

[Literary Circles of Washington by Edith Schafer]

Edith: Oh well, that comes from parents. Their hobby was gardening. My father had greenhouses and grew orchids and succulents. My mother just grew normal garden plants and flowers, and things like that. They spoke to each other in botanical Latin, so I can do that, too.

Cathy: That’s pretty amazing. [laughs]

Edith: Well, people look at me like, “What is she talking about?”

Janet: You wrote a book about the gardens of Georgetown and have been active for years with the house and garden tours.

Edith: Not the house tour.

Janet: The garden tours. Tell us about that.

Edith: Oh, that’s a nice story, too. When I moved here, there was a pathetic garden tour. It was sponsored by the Georgetown Children’s House, which has since gone out of business. As soon as I arrived on the scene…well, no, not immediately…it started to go out of business.

They had this working garden tour and no cause, nothing it supported. Also, the Georgetown Children’s House went out of business because the domestics that had used it to put their children in day care, they must have found some other way to do it. There was no demand for the Children’s House, which is where the children of the domestics would go while the mothers cleaned the houses of the rich folks.

I was sitting peacefully in my house when the doorbell rang. It was a woman I knew who said, “We want the garden tour. We want to take it over, and we want you, too, so you have to join the garden club.” I said, “Done.”

Cathy: Do you remember the name of the woman who approached you?

Edith: Well, she’s no longer with us. Kathy. Graff, I went to boarding school with her. That’s how I knew her. Kathy Horne, I think her name was then.

Cathy: How involved have you been with this garden tour over the years?

Edith: Oh, it was manna from heaven for me. I grew up in a beautiful house with beautiful surroundings. Then, when I came here, there were no big gardens to run wild in, as I had done, so I got involved in other people’s gardens. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Janet: It does.

Cathy: How many gardens are normally included in the garden tour?

Edith: Eight or nine.

Cathy: Is it difficult to get people to agree to participate?

Edith: No, it’s much easier to get them to participate in the garden tour than it is in the house tour, because there’s not much you can steal from a garden.

Cathy: True. How many people attend an average garden tour?

Edith: A thousand.

Janet: That’s an awful lot. Are owners still given awards? I know that happened for a while.

Edith: I’ve gotten a lot of awards. I’ve just put them all away because they were all out of date. I thought, “This is silly to keep all the awards around.” What did you just ask me?

Janet: During the garden tours, there’s a special acknowledgment for some of the gardens?

Edith: No, I wouldn’t say so.

Janet: What location in Georgetown do you spend the most time, and why is that place so meaningful?

Edith: I go to the parks a lot. Mostly Montrose, because it’s the wildest park we’ve got. Below Montrose is my escape. Do you know about Dumbarton Oaks Park?

Janet: Yeah.

Cathy: Tell us a little bit about the upkeep and care of Dumbarton Oaks Park.

Edith: I got very interested in that, because it’s completely wild down there. It’s not as wild as it used to be, but it’s still not a manicured place. I just went to a big party for it. The people I had been working with were all there. It was a wonderful event. Where was I going with this? I don’t know.

Cathy: Is there a fundraising effort to try to do more for that particular park at this time?

Edith: Yes, but it’s been so unfocused. The party I went to was a fundraiser. I had never seen any of the people before, except the few that I knew from the park who had actually worked in it, as I had actually worked in it.

It’s the people that brought it back, the citizens of Georgetown. Not all of them, because most of them are…


Cathy: …a little disconnected, would you say?

Edith: Yes, that’s perfect.

Janet: I loved how you say, “Our parks are jewels in our crown.” It’s such a beautiful image.

Edith: Oh, thank you.

Cathy: What are your favorite parks besides Montrose? Did you work on the restoration of Volta Park?

Edith: Not much. The house that I just went to see, that I still own, is in Volta Park. It’s across the street from Volta Park. When I moved over here, I cast all that away and became interested in the parks on this side, Rose Park, Montrose Park, Dumbarton Oaks Park.

Cathy: Those are the three that you frequent?

Edith: Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy. It’s always getting mixed up with Dumbarton Oaks. You can’t reach it on the phone because of this. It’s so maddening. Really, this just happened. I’m going to pull myself together and say, “You have to be able to reach an entity like you, a fundraising entity, on the phone.”

Janet: I’m sorry.

Cathy: I would agree with you. It’s important. These conservancies are popping up. I know that I’ve become a little bit involved with the Tregaron Conservancy.

Edith: Yes, I’ve been there, too.

Cathy: Yes, that’s a beautiful one.

Edith: Lovely.

Cathy: They are interested in people who will support particular areas of that in order to restore some things that have need attention.

Edith: Good. I took my grandchildren there last spring a year ago. I was very impressed with all the grounds there.

Cathy: Are there particular gardeners that have been celebrated in Georgetown over the years?

Edith: Well, the famous ones from the past. You can’t ask me to remember lots of stuff.

Cathy:  Jim Van Sweden, perhaps?

Edith: Yes, Jim Van Sweden.

Cathy: What kinds of gardens did he design? He was a revolutionary in terms of garden design.

Edith: Yes. He’s no longer with us, as you know. He brought grasses, and then we all had to have grasses. I hired him. Both of them came to see me, both Man Sweden and his partner, Wolfgang Clime.   He must have thought I was Mrs. Gotrocks. They found out different. I said, “Look, I don’t want grasses. I want a garden I can work in, and you can’t work in grass gardens, because they’re already there. Besides, grass?” [laughs]

Cathy: He introduced a whole new, different style.

Edith: What he did worked beautifully in the public buildings downtown. Sweeps of grasses. These certain kinds of plants and flowers that he used worked beautifully. It’s not at all when I wanted for my little plot here.

Janet:  Do you still work in your garden?

Edith: I do, but now it’s not so easy for me, because every time I get down on my knees, I fall down. I’ve bought myself one of those things which says, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”


Cathy: You push your button, and someone comes to your rescue?

Edith: It hasn’t happened yet because I just got it, but that’s the idea, yes.

Janet: What do you think contributed to the enjoyment and success of your books about Georgetown?

Edith: I said to my husband, “This is fine,” when we lived in that dump over there on the other side of Wisconsin. I said, “This is fine, but when are we moving to McLean?” He said, “Never, never. That’s the end of the discussion.” I didn’t think that was the way marriages were supposed to work. “What would you like to do, dear?” No, none of that!


Edith: I decided I’d better learn to love it here. But first I started showing him all these houses in Wesley Heights and Spring Valley, and he said, “If I lived here, I wouldn’t want to come home at night.” I was getting the message loud and clear.

Cathy: Absolutely. You’ve written this book called, “Aspects of Georgetown.”

Edith: Yes.

Cathy: Tell us the purpose of it and how you went about pulling these wonderful little articles together.

Edith: I had a wonderful editor who I loved. She’s no longer with us, either. She said, “Why are you calling me? You must want something.” She was right, I did. I wanted her to help me to get this book together.

Cathy: Were the articles written for a newsletter or anything?

Edith: I can’t remember. Can I look at this?

Cathy: Yes. Here, let me pull my notes off the front of it.

Edith: You don’t have to take them off. I wonder if I’ve lifted some of them from someplace.


Edith: I mean, I might have lifted them from the “CAG Newsletter,” so it’s all in the family.

Cathy: You wrote them for the CAG Newsletter, didn’t you? Bit I used things in different ways so it wasn’t total plagiarism.

Edith: Did I? Yeah.

Cathy: I think you did. I do.

Edith: Some of these are quite good, some of them are not so much.

Cathy: I think you’re quite a wonderful writer.

Interviewer 2: They’re all beautiful, and you marked so many. How did you go about compiling the information you had for these pieces?

Edith: I’m a cheating writer because I copy down anything. Anything you want to take here…

Cathy: That’s all right. You’re a cheating writer. Tell us about that.

Edith: I had a file called, “Theft.” You see where this is going?

Cathy: All right. What’s in that file?

Edith: Theft of great ideas and lines I’ve cribbed from other people

Cathy: Well, you utilize them beautifully.

Edith: I do, and they really make my pieces. I’ll write my own piece, then I put this socko line on the end that just gets everybody’s attention. I don’t tell that I actually didn’t write that, or sometimes I do tell them.

Cathy: No, you give the attribution. There’s a little Emerson quoted there, Cicero, and a variety others.

Edith: True.

Janet: I can envision exactly what you’re writing, so it’s beautiful. I’ve enjoyed it.

Edith: Thank you. I had to give talks a lot about this stuff, which I enjoy, too.

Cathy: You wrote in this book about historic preservation. You wrote an article on “Black Georgetown.” You wrote an article about a church that was a Spiritualist church.

Edith: That was the kookiest place I’ve ever been.

Cathy: Tell us a little bit about that place, will you?

Edith: It’s right around the corner on Q Street, and it’s called the Church of Two Worlds. They were just salivating with the idea that I wanted to come and be interviewed by them. Of course, I wanted to interview them because that’s the kind of thing I talked about in the book. They said, “You’re just perfect. You want to join this churches?” “No!”


Cathy: Not right away.

Edith: No. Let me think. No.

Cathy: Is the church still in existence?

Edith: The building is still there. I don’t know what goes on there. Not much went on there ever, I don’t think. They sat me down and said, “We’re so glad to see you. We want you to tell the world about us and all the things that we do and have done. We talk to our people who have gone before.”

I had to swallow hard and say, “Oh, OK.” Then they said, “Would you like to join us? We had a dream about you the other night. We know what’s going to happen to you soon. You’re going to get a new car.” I thought that was not a worthy dream.


Cathy: Did you get a new car?

Edith: No. I said, “I already have a fairly new car. I’m not thinking about getting another one.”

Cathy: They actually conducted seances? That was the purpose, to communicate with the dead?

Edith: Yes, we put our feet right on the floor, flat. We closed our eyes. I don’t know whether we ever called up any spirits, but after 5 or 10 minutes of sitting like that, then we all were forced to speak.

Cathy: Interesting. That’s quite an experience.

Edith: You know, I just made it up, or whatever it was.

Cathy: Then you wrote it up for this book?

Edith: Yes.

Janet: You mentioned the Peabody Room, and you said, “There history lives.”

Edith: The Peabody Room is wonderful. It’s on the top floor of the library. You know where it is. The guy that was there then was wonderful, and the guy that’s there now is also wonderful.

Cathy: Yes, and it’s focused. Its collection is on the history of Georgetown, correct?

Edith: Yes, right. I used to hang out there, but that was before the library fire. I still like that. I like Jerry McCoy a lot.

Cathy: He’s knowledgeable

Edith: Yeah, he is.

Cathy: You also wrote an article about something called “Peters’ Square.” Do you remember that one? I think it has something to do with the origins of the Peters family?

Edith: Probably. The Peters family founded Tudor Place. You know everything already.

Cathy: No, I just read your book. That’s why I know these things. You’ve taught me.

Janet: Did you do a lot of research for your books?

Edith: Yes. I did some research. Sometimes I just wrote about the beautiful trees and stuff. I didn’t have to do research.

Janet: You just knew.

Edith: I got some good titles. I talk about, “Life Under the Canopy.”

Janet: Yes.

Edith: I thought that was a good title

Janet: The titles are fabulous. Do you have anything to share that you haven’t had the chance to talk about? Any stories?

Edith: No. My daughter…This one reminded me that we had a much more open society when I first moved here. The kids played in the street, see, which is what I was trying to avoid when I wanted to move to the country.  It actually all worked out just fine.

They played in the alley, which is three doors down that way. They played Stickball, like any little kid from a tenement. They had a wonderful time. I don’t regret a minute of it.

Janet: You don’t see that as much anymore.

Edith: No, you don’t.

Cathy: What other changes you’ve seen over the last years in Georgetown, considering the fact you arrived here in 1961? That makes it over 50 years ago.

Edith: That’s correct.

Cathy: Are there other things you miss?

Edith: Before I married Jack and moved here, I had a friend who lived here. I used to come down and stay with her. It was a floating cocktail party the entire time. [laughs] It really was fun, but I didn’t live here, so it just blew me away. I lived in New York at that time.

These people would get their drinks. They’d walk up and down the street, stop at this house, then at that house. Everybody was young and single. Fun, right?

Janet:  Lots of fun.

Cathy: It was primarily the young and singles who were having their floating cocktail parties?

Edith: Yes.

Cathy: The older residents weren’t?

Edith: No, but I talk about that in one of my other books.

Cathy: What about famous people that have lived in Georgetown that you’ve known?

Edith: Lots of famous people, of course.

Cathy: Do you have a favorite?

Edith: My husband was a lawyer, so he was buddies with Dean Acheson, who was our Secretary of State. Jack referred to him as the Red Dean, which was just supposed to be funny, I think. He wasn’t red, and his first name was Dean. [laughs]

Cathy: That was just a term of endearment, perhaps?

Edith: Yes. They used to walk. He and Felix Frankfurter would walk to work together. Jack would sometimes walk with them. He was impressed by that. I was pretty impressed by it myself.

Cathy: I can imagine. Those were nice shoulders to rub against.

Edith: Yes.

Cathy: Probably interesting conversation on the way to work.

Edith: Yes.

Cathy: Did your husband walk to work on a regular basis?

Edith: Yes. Regular basis. That’s why we had to live here and why we couldn’t move to McLean. Whew! I’m so glad we didn’t move to McLean.


Cathy: I bet you are. The traffic would be daunting at this point. [laughs]

Edith: Horrendous.

Janet: We also took a look at the literary circles in Georgetown.

Edith: That’s the series, part of a series. I fell in with this publisher who saw something I had written. A bunch of us put up some money. We were promoting walking. We were going to start a walking business. We all pooled our money and went to England.

We all fanned out in different areas and ways. I’d forgotten all about this. We all joined various walking tours. They’re big on that in England. We all met back in London. I mean, does this sound like fun? Yes.

Cathy: I bet it was fun. What year was that? Do you remember, or the general time period?

Nancy: Early ’80s.

Edith: See, I was waiting for her to chime in!

Cathy: [laughs] The voice from the other room. The early ’80s.

Edith: How do you know, Nancy?

Nancy: I was in 7th grade when you went. I might have been a little younger.

Edith: She’s a walking…

Cathy: [laughs] It’s wonderful to have the voice from the other room!

Edith: I was just hesitating, thinking, “Who’s going to rescue me?” and she did.

Cathy: What happened to your venture here?  I mean the walking business.

Edith: Well, it was always doomed to failure. You don’t need a magazine to take a walk. They showed pictures of women in high-heeled shoes, which is not the image we wanted to create at all.

Cathy: The walking tour didn’t get off the ground, but the book is excellent.

Edith: We had a fabulous walking tour.

Cathy: In the book, you do it by areas.

Edith: That’s an outgrowth of that. The stuff I wrote for the walking tour was what got this little publisher interested in my writing.

Cathy: All right. It was the nature of the writing

Janet: Is there a place in Georgetown that’s most endearing to you?

Edith: I guess Dumbarton Oaks Park.

Cathy: Who is someone from the neighborhood that you love seeing weekly, and why? Is there anybody you run into on a regular basis?

Edith: No.  But I love knowing so many neighbors. You’re walking down the street and saying hi to them all, calling them by name, and having them call me by name. That’s great.

Cathy: It is a real community that’s supportive?

Edith: Yes.

Cathy: We interviewed Kathy Graff.

Edith: Kathy Graff, that’s who got me into this garden club business. She came from the Georgetown Garden Club and said, “Edie, we want you and your garden tour.” I saluted and said, “Yes.” I went to boarding school with Kathy Graff.

Cathy: She, in her later years, said that the thing that she most loved about Georgetown was that, as an old lady, she could open her door, step outside, and run into other old ladies. They all knew one another. She said the community was truly a wonderful place to grow old.

Edith: I never really thought about the growing old aspect of it. Yes, I do think it’s a wonderful place to live.

Janet: Is there a period of time living in Georgetown that affected you the most? Has a historical moment had a similar effect on the townspeople?

Edith: Well, my daughter will now chime in said, “Don’t you remember when the tanks and the armored cars were lined up during the riots in front of our house?” Actually, I would have forgotten that if she hadn’t reminded me.

Our menfolk came home from their offices in the middle of the day, which was very unusual. The town was in trouble. There were riots.

Cathy: Was this during the riots where 14th Street was burned?

Edith: Yes.

Cathy: Following the assassination of Martin Luther King?

Edith: Yes.

Cathy: There were actually tanks on the streets in Georgetown?

Edith: Nancy?

Nancy: There’s a picture of a tank right in front of our house.

Edith:  Where is that picture?

Nancy: Well, I suspect it’s in this tall cabinet here.

Cathy: Well, let’s dig it out. It would be great to have that for our primary source.

Edith: You don’t know what you’re asking.

Cathy: [laughs] We’ll give you a year to find it.

Edith: Exactly.


Nancy: Actually, it’s in the photo album. I can find it, I think.

Cathy: That would work if we can find it. Thank you, Nancy.

Do you have any hopes and dreams for Georgetown in the future?

Edith: I don’t know if Georgetown’s in trouble or not. All those tacky stores that are going out of business right and left, we were told they were drug fronts. I don’t know the truth about that. It’s in sort of a slump, I think, at the moment.

It’s still got wonderful, classy stores, but a lot of the street action has moved to 14th Street, hasn’t it?

Cathy: Yes, and to the Southeast Waterfront area as well.

Edith: I don’t know that. I haven’t been there for years.

Cathy: Where they built the baseball stadium. I think they call it the Wharf area.

It has a theater and restaurants. Are there any restaurants that used to be here that you miss?

Edith: Well, we all used to go to something called the Rive Gauche. That hasn’t been around for years. We also went to something called…what’s the name of our favorite restaurant?

Nancy: Chaumière.

Edith: La Chaumière. She’s wonderful, isn’t she?

Cathy: [laughs] Yes. We should invite her to sit with us at the table. La Chaumière, it’s interesting because I’ve interviewed, now, maybe 25 people for this project. Almost everyone mentions Billy Martin’s and La Chaumière.

Edith: I’m not a fan of Billy Martin’s. I think it’s…

Cathy: Too crowded?

Edith: Yeah. The food is huge chunks of hamburgers. Not my thing.

Cathy: Not your thing, but Chaumière is a little bit more refined.

Edith: Yes, exactly.

Cathy: It has a wonderful atmosphere with that fireplace right there in the center of it.

Edith: Yes, all those things.

Cathy: Other questions?

Edith: This is kind of fun. I’m not suffering at all.

Cathy: Good, I’m so glad that you’re not.

Your books indicate that you truly respect the people who live in Georgetown, their causes, their enthusiasms, and the things that they’ll pull together for. That is something that is new, as far as being an interviewer, a new point of view. Can you expand on that a little bit?

Edith: I’m not sure what I meant. I’m always talking about the spirit of community here. I wonder if it’s really…

Cathy: Well, you celebrate it, from the ’70s and the ’80s, particularly, in some of the articles.

Edith: I wonder if we still have community. I suddenly notice a lot of new people since spring tried to come. Then it got bad and backed down again. In that brief couple of days, I saw a whole lot of people on the street. I thought,  “Who are they? They must be new.”

Cathy: There probably are a lot of new people in Georgetown. There certainly are more children than there used to be.

Edith: Absolutely.

Cathy: Which is nice for Georgetown?

Edith: Of course.

Cathy: The renovation of the school, when that’s completed will be nice for the children.

Edith: Hyde?

Janet: Yeah. That’s in process.

Edith: You asked about me and causes. I got involved in Hyde. I’m a sucker for getting involved in things, and then not doing as much work as I think I’m going to be able to do. I interviewed that woman and pushed Hyde. She’s long gone. I can’t remember her name, even.

Cathy: Was she the principal at Hyde?

Edith: Yeah. She’s an attractive young woman. She represented change in the right way.

Cathy:. Any other causes? How about the Waterfront Park?

Edith: My husband was very big in that. In all this long stuff about gardens, I became a landscape designer.

Cathy: You did?

Edith: I actually worked as a landscape designer. Because I’m a “jack of all trades” and master of none, I never really exploited that to the fullest, but I had a wonderful time. Once again, I was trying to get out and into gardens.

Cathy: You were able to apply some trade there as well?

Edith: Yeah.

Cathy: Very nice. Gardens, schools. You’ve been active at CAG over the years. Do you want to talk a little bit about that involvement?

Edith: When I first came here, CAG was a whole different organization.

Cathy: Tell us about it.

Edith: It was full of right-wingers. I’m not a right-winger. They would have us to dinner and they would yell at each other across me about how awful the people that I loved were. [laughter]

Edith: I thought, “How am I going to handle this?” “No, you shut up.” “No, you shut up.” I didn’t actually say that.

Cathy: How has that evolved?

Edith: Well, the good guys won.

Cathy: [laughs] CAG fights for many causes in Georgetown.

Edith: Yes, it does.

Cathy: Can you name some of those causes for us that recently they’ve been involved with?  How about historic preservation?

Edith: Yes, I’m very big on historic preservation. I don’t know. They tore down a cute little old house. Just gratuitously tore it down. It was really old. It was on the other side of Wisconsin. They let them do that. I don’t know why. Nobody was paying attention.  I think I talk about that in one of my books.

Janet: Yes, I read it in here.

Cathy: That’s in, “Aspects of Georgetown.

Janet: I did read that there. I remember you mention it.

Edith. My poor daughter — not this one, the other one — is fighting having a big building go up right next door to her home, her house. They’re letting it go through.

Cathy: They are?

Edith: It’s going to wreck her house. It’s kind of sad. Yeah, you can get by it if you push the right buttons of the right people.

Cathy: The incinerator. When I moved to Georgetown, there was an incinerator on the waterfront.

Edith: I remember the incinerator because it was my husband’s favorite place.

Cathy: Tell us about that.

Edith: He always liked to throw things out. He liked to work around the house. He liked to make things, and then he had to throw out the refuse. Our big day was going to the incinerator. It was only just a couple of blocks down there.


Nancy: I’m not finding the tank picture, but my brother would know where it is. This is the neighborhood gang on the house steps across the street. When she talked about how we played in the alley, this was…

Edith: Those were the children.

Nancy: These were the children. I’m the youngest in that picture. That’s my brother.

My sister’s not apparently in the picture.

Cathy: About what year?

Nancy: I’m probably, what, five or six? I’m 49, so it’s 45 years ago.

I didn’t find the tank picture. My brother would know where it is, but he lives in California.

Cathy: Tell us about this photograph.

Edith: Oh yes. It was a black family. One of the kids is here. They lived across the street. They were the custodians of the big house, the big building. There are all the apartments and condos in it now. They lived in the basement. That’s why it’s not a great story, because Georgetown was integrated, but they lived in the basement and they were the help.

Cathy: All these children played together?

Edith: Yes. It really was wonderful because it was a neighborhood. Just too bad it was a city street.

Cathy: The kids didn’t seem to mind?

Edith: No, they didn’t. You’re absolutely right. That’s Nancy with the flowers on her head.

Cathy: It’s the early ’70s? OK.

Edith: Why do you have flowers on your head?

Nancy: It’s a pot, dude.

Cathy: It’s a pot behind her.

Nancy: It’s a pot.  This guy sells real estate in Georgetown. That’s Tom Bryant.

Cathy: Do you remember the names of the others?

Nancy: Yeah. This is Donella and this is Gloria Jean. They are the ones she’s talking about who lived in the basement.

Edith: Donella was the daughter of the custodians and Gloria Jean appeared out of nowhere and became part of their family. I don’t know the story behind it.

Nancy: This is my brother. But this… [sighs]

Edith: Your brother? He wasn’t there.

Nancy: Here he is. She’ll know better than me, but…

I had flowers coming out of my head.


Edith: It’s not all bad.

Nancy: Let’s see. I don’t remember who that is or who that is, but…

Edith: This is Evelyn? That’s…

Nancy: That’s Evey, yeah. One of this is the person John called the dumb idiot friend. I can’t remember which one was which.

Edith: John is not in this picture.

Nancy: No. That’s Tom Bryant and John Schafer is right there. That’s my brother.

Edith: He was never that little.


Nancy: That is him.

Edith: Oh, this is Gloria Jean.

Nancy: Yeah. That’s Donella and that’s Gloria Jean.

Edith: It was really nice. We had a mixed group.

This was a hundred years ago because look at Tom Bryant. Is that Tom Bryant?

Nancy: Yeah. I’m probably four and they’re probably seven or eight, or I’m five and they’re eight or nine.

Edith: This is really getting me interested in the past. Did you see this picture of you in the top hat? [laughs]

Nancy: Yeah. It’s when I was playing. Evey, Bryant and I put on a corruption of “Oliver.”

Edith: [laughs] I don’t remember that.

Cathy: In the neighborhood?

Nancy: Yeah

Edith: It’s lovely, just lovely.

Nancy: It’s fun. It’s so fun.

Cathy: I hope children are still doing those kinds of things.

Edith: I’m not sure they are. They’re all joined at the hip to their cell phone.

Nancy: You only think children are disreputable because you only have grandsons around you. Girls do things like that.

Edith: You think they do?

Nancy: Mm-hmm.

Janet:  They do.

Nancy: We apparently took pictures on those steps across the street all the time. That’s the same house.

Yeah, and that’s my mother with her boots.

Edith: Thank you for looking.

Cathy: Yes, thank you very much. How wonderful. I’ll get a picture of the children for the file. Anything else that you can think of?

Edith: Just talking to you has triggered a lot of memories, of course. I’m old, so they’re elusive.

Cathy: That’s all right. We want to get these memories while they’re still fresh, to some degree.

Edith: I think CAG is doing a good job now, don’t you?

Cathy: I do.

Edith: They never get out their newsletter.

Cathy: I’ve got one in the car if you want one. [laughs]

Edith: When does it come out?

Cathy: I’m not sure. They are all online. If you go to the website, you can click on Newsletters, and they’re all there.

Edith: I did not know that. I like Leslie, and I’m happy with what’s happening.

Cathy: Yes. I think so, too. I was very sorry when Beth died. That was tragic.

Edith: I knew Beth as a street person, which she used to be. Then, when they found her and cleaned her up and sent her to Life Straight, it was very rewarding.

Cathy: Good. I’m glad that she was such a success. She was very nice to work with.

Edith: She was actually a sweet person.  That’s a nice story.

Cathy: Anything else?

Edith: I think you’re doing very well.

Cathy: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.

Edith: I’m going to have to say a lot of this stuff again.

Cathy: Well, you can say whatever you want at the occasion on Thursday night. They don’t need to hear a lot. You introduce yourself. Say when you came to Georgetown. Then, if you’ll pick one topic, like talking about how important the gardens have been, or you can talk about a park, or just a general reflection on Georgetown.

Edith: If you want to take a picture of me and I get to censor it if I hate it, that can happen.

Cathy: Absolutely. All right. OK?

Edith: I just had my hair cut in this very severe way, like I’m matron at the prison or something.

Cathy: I think it’s a trendy cut.

Janet: It’s very becoming.


Cathy: I’m going to go ahead and turn these off for now, and we’ll take a picture. If you think of something else that you want to include, I’ll leave you my telephone number and you call me.

Edith: Wonderful. That’d be good.

Janet: Thank you so much.

Edith: Thank you.