Virginia Landmarks
December 2, 1998
          
Fairlington Historic District
Reminiscences
          
National Register
March 29, 1999
Historic Designation Seal Homes in Historic Fairlington background image - American Flag Homes in Historic Fairlington Historic Designation Seal

Fairlington - 1943
Memories of Archie T. Miller

My Dad's family business had collapsed during the Depression and he was on the WPA in Jersey City, NJ in the late 30's. When the war started, he was offered a job in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (Army) in the Pentagon and we moved to 4100 33rd Street in August 1943. I was 13 years old then and lived there until 1956 with the exception of the 4-years I was in the Navy. My mother Emma Miller, who taught first grade at Fairlington School for many years, lived there until the condo conversion.

1944 Photo of 4100 33rd Street in Fairlington
(Photo Courtesy Archie Miller)

Our apartment (leftmost unit) at 4100 33rd Street probably in the spring (open windows) 1944. That is my Dad's 1940 Nash parked in front.

I think it is Spring 1944 because there are no foundation plantings. Later people planted things (and the volunteer tomatoes came up) and I know that eventually there were plantings (including tomatoes) on the side of our apartment facing Quaker Lane.

In 1943, Fairlington was still under construction and it rained a lot that fall.

The concrete sidewalks were in but the streets weren't paved (and they were often a sea of mud) and there was no grass -- just soybeans everywhere.

The soybeans had been planted to enrich the clay soil and were the subject of many jokes.

In the late fall they finally plowed under the soybeans and planted grass. In the spring, they fertilized the foundation plantings with sewage sludge that evidently contained tomato seeds.

After the Health Department assured us that the tomatoes on our volunteer plants were alright to eat, we enjoyed them all summer.

In fall 1943, units were still being constructed in South Fairlington down the hill north of 32nd Street. Most of North Fairlington was under construction. Only the footings were in for the Fairlington Elementary School. Shirlington only existed on paper. Shirley Highway (now I-395) was a gash in the earth ending at Route 7. You could drive from South Fairlington to North through the Shirley Highway construction on a dirt road that came up behind the rental office and up to Abingdon. Of course we were only going to have to do that until they built the bridge from 34th Street to Abingdon -- right!

As far as we knew, the woods on the south side of Route 7 (then Fairfax County) extended to Richmond -- we were on the edge of civilization with woods all around us. Just a little more perspective -- in 1943, and for some time thereafter, traffic control at Seven Corners and Tyson's Corners was provided by STOP signs!

Transportation in those days was a problem. Gas was rationed and most people going to work car-pooled so that they qualified for B Gas Cards. The A, B & W bus line provided a shuttle bus from 36th Street and Stafford that ran to "Braddock Cannon" (Braddock Road and Russell Road) and back every 20-minutes or so. On Russell Road you could transfer to a northbound bus to 12th & Pennsylvania or a southbound bus to downtown Alexandria.

Finally A B & W provided a bus that wandered through Fairlington and Parkfairfax and then went up Army-Navy Drive to get to Washington. It cost 15 cents from Fairlington so we used to walk across Quaker Lane to Parkfairfax where it was only a dime.

2007 Photo of 4100 33rd Street in Fairlington - Click on Photo for Larger Image
(Photo by Ron Patterson)

4100 33rd Street as it appears today.
Photo Taken February 3, 2007
(Click on Photo for Larger Image)

Dr. Mitchell was the only MD in Fairlington -- and for quite distance around. He had a home on 36th Street near Utah and an office in a one-bedroom unit at the end of 34th Street. He made house calls and his office waiting room was always standing room only. He truly was a General Practitioner handling almost everything including prenatal care -- he had an arrangement with obstetricians at Arlington Hospital to deliver the babies.

School started late for Fairlington kids in fall 1943. Arlington County Schools (which were bad) were not ready for this influx of new students and did not have a transportation plan. Finally, a couple of weeks late they scraped up a few 1930's vintage A B & W buses that took us up Glebe Road every day to Washington and Lee High School (not very good) in Ballston. At that time the school board consisted of political appointees who had no idea (nor cared) what they were doing. (Fortunately by the time my sister Nancy got to Washington & Lee there was an elected board and things were much better.) Celebrity Note: Gena Rowlands, the now Hollywood star, lived in North Fairlington and rode our school bus -- she was the star of the Junior and Senior plays at W&L. (See Editor's Note and Photo Below)

Photo of Archie Miller and Marcia McClellan
(Photo Courtesy Archie Miller)

Marcia McClellan and I sitting on her front porch on 34th Street. This was Probably in 1944 or 1945.

Some parents, headed by a Mrs. Kendall, were concerned about the large number of teen agers plunked down in Fairlington with nothing to do. They organized a Teen Recreation Club that had dances every Saturday night in the Fairlington Elementary School. They were an immediate and well-attended success.

For most of us guys the Saturday night plan was to hook up with a young lady at the dance and then walk her home. "You live in North Fairlington -- no problem" while he contemplated that long romantic walk along the dark stretch on the dirt road to North -- boy how times have changed.

Winter was fun. Sleigh riding down the Utah Street hill was very popular -- from 34th Street you could go almost to the ball field. The extreme riders started from the top of the embankment on the west side, came into Utah going like a blivet, jumped the curb to the left as they approached 32nd and went down through the woods toward Shirley Highway.

Ice skating was popular too. There was a pond on the Episcopal High School grounds just inside the wall at Quaker Lane & Braddock Road that was not very deep and froze over quickly. There was an "island" with a big tree on the west side where we would keep a warming fire going. The pond was always crowded.

There were no places to shop near Fairlington. The shopping center near the Centre Theater was still woods. Shirlington was a sea of mud. There was a little general store at Route 7 and Quaker Lane that did a booming though limited business. Real food shopping meant going to the A&P in downtown Alexandria. There was an ancient Penney's on King Street in Alexandria compete with oiled wooden floors and a cable and rail system to carry money and change to/from the cashier on the balcony. The nearest real department stores were Woodies, Hecht's, Palais Royal and Garfinkel's on F Street in Washington.

Coming from the north as a teenager to the segregated south was quite a shock -- white in front - blacks in back on the bus. Segregated schools and rest facilities. To me one of the greatest signs of inequality was the housing provided by Defense Homes Corporation. For the white government employees they built Fairlington's brick homes with plaster walls, hardwood floors and slate roofs. Every day going to school I passed the housing they provided for the black government workers -- an enormous trailer park with tiny trailers in Green Valley off Glebe Road along Four Mile Run.

Archie T. Miller
12 Falstaff Drive
Manchester, NJ 08759-6071
Phone: 732-408-1057
Fax: 732-408-0061

archiet@comcast.net

Born in Madison, Wisconsin (19 June 1930), Gena Rowlands later moved to Virginia where she won a scholarship to the Jarvis Repertory Theatre in Washington, D. C. While still in her teens, she enrolled in New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Discovered by Joshua Logan, she was cast as the female lead opposite Edward G. Robinson in a Broadway production of "The Middle of the Night." Eighteen months later, she was in Hollywood where she made her feature film debut opposite Jose Ferrer in "The High Cost of Loving." Her most definitive roles were in husband John Cassavetes' films, including her Oscar nominated performances in "Gloria" and "A Woman Under The Influence".