Small Town Maryland

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.


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Riesie on October 6, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Wonderful post. I have fond memories of the Peace Cross. That was as far as I was supposed to go with my friends (when some of them had cars), because any farther and you were almost in DC and of course that was forbidden. Do you remember the hot dog stand there? Wonder if it’s still there.


  2. Jerry’s Hotdog Stand? Seems like I remember some hotdog stand, too.


  3. What a great post! I can visualize this town and it’s inhabitants. The world needs more Peace Crosses. And Peace Stars and Peace Turnips.


    • Isn’t that strange…I can remember the name but not exactly where the stand stood. Refresh my memory!

      I LOVE the story about your mom> LOL As a once working, breastfeeding mom, I know that feeling all too well. My male co-worker never knew how to knock on the bathroom door, caught me 3x’s collecting milk! I couldn’t relax enough to get it to “let down” so when I got to the sitters my boobs were live milk blasters! Her ex-pupil?!!! Poor Mom! I bet your family still uses that “Pardon me, Miss Oldenburg” whenever something embarrassing or unexpected happens!!! That would be a catchy phrase! Ha!

      I remember lots about that area. The tire store fire that burned for days, Chick Hall pool hall, the boat store with the boat built in to the side of the building, getting stuck at that railroad track (in labor!) waiting for that slow, noisy, longer than usual train to pass, the Carolina Inn before it was turned in to a strip joint. …and right in the midst of it all, I remember that tall monument that just stayed the same while everything else in life changed. It always made me feel sorta safe for some reason. Grounded? I don’t know. I think our arguments to keep it are far better than a few pissy pant whiners selfish obsession to rid the world of all things remotely symbolic of Christianity!


  4. And it continues its work, as we can see from lauo and Car’s reminiscences!


  5. How sweet a read this is. I am sitting in the holiday house we rented in the blue ridge mountains, head full of cold thanks to nephews back in England, wind raging outside. And needed this read, apple pie for the brain it was. ESP the dog, and the breast milk.


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