Bladensburg had been a tobacco port on the Anacosta River in colonial times.
Famous, briefly, as the the site of the American defeat in the War of 1812 that allowed the British to burn Washington.
The British were outnumbered, but the Americans broke and ran, giving the encounter the nickname “The Bladensburg Races.”
In my mother’s childhood people still turned up cannon balls in their gardens on occasion.
There’s a George Washington slept here Inn about a block up the road.
There was also an old dueling ground, basically where the game field for my Junior High was.
When it was there, they tore it down for asbestos contamination.
My mom’s parents moved to Hyattsville, the next town over, at some point in WWI.
They lived on a block-long dead-end street just off Queens Chapel Road, a bunch of older houses with gigantic yards and huge gardens.
I think the entire block is now gone.
But at the time it was just off the direct trolley-line to D.C. in one direction, and to the University of Maryland on the other.
About two miles up that road, my parents took us out to watch Queen Elizabeth drive by when she visited in the early 50s.
I mostly remember the crab apple trees being pretty.
My mother and her sister shared a dog – which they each separately described to me as “my dog” years later.
It was some kind of fancy scottish terrier, very tiny and fluffy and white, which had turned up lost after a thunderstorm.
Their dad advertised in the papers, but no one claimed him.
The dog met the ice man at the head of the block every morning, and escorted him around all the backdoors on the block as he made his deliveries, and saw him off at the end.
One day my grandfather got a call at the University.
He needed to come home and call off his dog.
It seems the regular ice man was ill, and a replacement had come
But the dog wouldn’t let him come near anyone’s doors.
The dog also followed my mother and aunt where ever they went.
And one day they were being very bad, and took a forbidden short-cut home across a railroad trestle.
And a train came.
The two girls jumped to safety, but their dog didn’t make it.
The next day the engineer from the train came to their house to apologize for what happened to their dog.
Because everyone knew who they were, and whose dog it was.
That was the sort of town that put up this memorial.
Everyone knew everyone.
And it went on for a long time too.
In the forties, my mom was back living with her parents because my father was off on a ship in the Pacific somewhere.
She was doing war work by then – working for the Department of War (as it was called then.
Instead of teaching high school as she had before.
And she was breastfeeding, because my father thought it was healthier for the baby.
And she had been away all day.
So basically she arrived at the door, and started stripping off her shirt on her way to the baby, before the milk started just pouring out.
(It does that kind of thing.)
Only to discover that the phone repair guy was there, as she walked into the living room, everything hanging out bee-lining for the infant.
Poor guy turning Bright Red, and saying “Pardon Me, Miss Oldenburg!”
And being one of her ex-pupils.
The memorial was put there by people who knew every one of those who died.
And that’s why they put it up.