P. Thomas May
I would like to begin with some thoughts of growing up in Oxon Hill, Maryland in the 1940’s and 1950’s. My story starts on November 30, 1941 at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. At that time the medical profession kept new mothers and babies in the hospital for 10-11 days!! Thus, I was still there when the news came that Pearl Harbor had been attacked on December 7th. During the war many necessities were rationed such as gasoline, tires, butter, shoes. Many factories switched from production of domestic products to production of war materials. I got my first electric train from Santa on Christmas of 1943 at age two. It was a Lionel train (which I still have today) made in 1935 which my Dad had gotten used because Lionel stopped making trains and converted to making war materials until 1945.
In the 1940’s Oxon Hill was pretty rural. There were woods for playing cowboys and Indians with trails for riding bikes and huge fields to fly kites and shoot handmade bows and arrows. I started school at age 5 at Oxon Hill School in 1947. At that time the school had grades 1 through 11 or 12 (can’t remember when 12 was added). The front wing of the school was elementary grades 1-6 and the rear wing grades 7-12. Those high school kids looked huge to us first graders but we survived!! The principal’s name was Jessie G. Soper and she was a wonderful administrator. The PTA was very active and parents seemed to be so involved with their children’s education and helping out at the school. I can remember that the cafeteria had only a couple of paid staff and the rest were mothers volunteering. My Mom worked in the cafeteria quite a bit. Through that volunteering and work at the school she met several mothers of other students and they became friends for life. The PTA every year held a bazaar in early December to raise money for the school and this was always a fun time for us kids to play together as our parents worked in the bazaar. Our teachers were memorable and remarkable: Mrs. Luce –1st grade, Mrs. Campbell-2nd grade, Mrs. Larkin – 3rd grade, Mrs. Tierney – 5th grade Mrs. Mack – 6th grade and Mrs. Warren - 6th grade. Take a look at those class pictures – there were 38-40 kids in each class with very little discipline problems. Many of these teachers I kept in touch with for years. They cared about their students and enjoyed hearing about their successes in life. I received a Christmas card from Jessie Soper every year until she passed away and used to visit my 2nd grade teacher, Jane Campbell, who lived just down the street from my parents, and also kept in touch with Myrtle Larkin (Humes) until she passed away. I believe that all of us who attended Oxon Hill Elementary School still look back on those years with fondness. In addition, we made friendships that have lasted a lifetime.
As our community grew new schools opened and in 1949 Oxon Hill Jr/Sr. High School opened just down the hill from the old school leaving only elementary students in the old school which allowed the name to become Oxon Hill Elementary School. In 1952 a new band director was hired at Oxon Hill High named C. William Johnson. He realized that he needed more students to be interested in playing instrumental music in order to expand the band program so he proposed to give music aptitude screenings to 6th grade students who were interested in becoming band members. Those of us who passed the screenings and wanted to play were invited to an orientation session to select our instruments and we would walk to the new school several times a week to take lessons in our particular instrument. Mr. Johnson taught each of us to play our individual instruments and what a special person he became in many of our lives.
Oxon Hill itself was somewhat defined by the intersection of Livingston Road and Oxon Hill Road. How many of you remember some of the stores and other businesses that were there? Perrygo’s Hardware, Berry’s Store, Clark’s Market, Seitz Liquors, Livingston Amoco, Jenkins Brothers Garage, Oxon Hill Music. If you wanted to go to the movies you had to go to D.C. – Atlantic Theater, Anacostia Theater, Fairlawn Theater, Penn Theater or really upscale downtown to the Capital or the Palace Theaters. The Capitol and Palace each had theater organs playing between showings. Who could forget all the double features, newsreels and cartoons played between features? Before Eastover and Brinsfield’s you had to go Congress Heights Elmira Drug Store to get a prescription filled. If you wanted to shop at a department store you went to downtown D.C. to Woodies, Hechts, Kanns, and Lansburgs. Do you remember how dressed up your Mothers used get to go “downtown” – high heels, stockings, hats, fancy dresses. Quite a change from today!!
Service to the community was important and many of our Dads were members of service clubs. My Dad was a member of the Oxon Hill Lions Club from 1950 until he passed away in 1992. Who could forget the Lions Summer carnivals held at Eastover and their Christmas tree sales? I included a picture of the entry advertising sign for the 1958 carnival. The business ads bring back many memories and the remembrances of many of our classmates’ Moms and Dads who volunteered to work in the carnival to raise money for community activities. Some additional Lions names that come to mind are: Dixon, Stringer, Wareham, Warner, Wockley, Leadbetter, and Gibbons to name a few.
Once we moved to the 7th grade of Jr/Sr. High we were in a new world of homerooms, changing classes, multiple teachers and hormones!! The next six years were exciting, sometimes stressful, but full of great memories. Whether you were into sports, band, clubs or other extracurricular activities there was something for everyone. Basketball games, football, sock hops, Sadie Hawkins dances, proms were something to look forward to. I remember decorating for so many dances in the gym. (And the persistent rumor that the gym was sinking) and those “after the prom” caravans to Gusti’s or Roma restaurants downtown! Remember learning to dance in 7th grade Phys. Ed. in the gym with the girls on the bleachers on one side and the guys on the other. When the whistle blew you could run to the other side and choose a partner and how disappointed you were if you didn’t get who you wanted to dance with!!
For the most part our teachers were good, some better than others. Some made real differences in our lives. Bill Johnson was very special to me as well as Nick Bush and Joe Lynn for their wise advice and counsel. What 7th grade boy didn’t fall in love with our Core teacher Mrs. McDowell and who didn’t respect the no nonsense but great teaching of our 10th grade Biology teacher Idella Von Loetzen, the sweetness of our Typing teacher Miss Donna Spate, and who could forget the experience of 12th grade English with John Bosworth Fling!!
Now, on to what was supposed to be the purpose of this writing – what happened during the last fifty years since high school graduation.
After graduation I attended the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore thinking I would major in electrical engineering. I was ill prepared for the advanced math and chemistry for which I signed up, took on too many credits and didn’t do well at all that first year. I took a year off, worked to save some money, and re-entered Johns Hopkins University in the fall of 1961 with a major in History and a minor in Economics. This new major was more to my liking and I did very well. I continued with my music avocation by playing in the JHU Band. I student taught at Baltimore Polytechnic but decided teaching was not for me and after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1965, I took a job more in line with my finance background as a management trainee with First National Bank of Maryland in Baltimore in July of 1965.
In my first year at Hopkins on a break from school I went to OHHS (new school) for a visit. On the way home I saw Mary Ann Moore (OHHS Class of ’61), walking home from school and gave her a ride home. In the summer of 1958, Mary Ann had moved into the house behind us. At that time the rules had changed and she wasn’t able to ride the bus to school because the distance was just under a mile. Since it was a long walk with no sidewalk along Livingston Road, her Dad approached me, since he knew I had a car, and asked if she could ride to school with me and offered me a $1.00 per week. Since gas was about $.25 a gallon I said yes!! So Mary Ann rode to school with me every day. She was a sophomore and we didn’t date at all my senior year.
I asked her for a date at Christmas time and she said yes. On our first date I took her to Bud Stringer’s home in Hollywood Maryland and that was the start of a beautiful relationship. Mary Ann graduated from OHHS in 1961 and went on to study Home Economics Education at the University of Maryland and graduated in 1965. We dated all through college and were married on July 10, 1965. We rented an efficiency apartment in a home where I had rented a room during my time at Hopkins. It cost us $80.00 per month for a fully furnished efficiency, the only other expense was for the phone. Mary Ann took a position teaching Home Economics at Fort Holabird Junior High School in Baltimore County in Dundalk, Maryland which is just outside Baltimore City. Mary Ann went on to teach home economics at Julius West Jr. High in Montgomery County, Maryland, Walker Mill Jr. High, John Hanson Jr. High, and at Oxon Hill High before accepting a consulting position with Prince George’s County as the Coordinator of the Interior Design Classes for the student built house. Mary Ann wrote the curriculum for this program to extend the experience of the interior design classes by having them compete for interior designs for rooms in the student built house. The winning designs then brought their projects to fruition by selecting furniture and accessories and actually decorating the house once construction was complete. The home was then sold and profits invested in the program for the following year. Mary Ann worked as the Coordinator for 17 years until she retired.
After eight months in the training program at First National Bank of Maryland I was offered a position as Branch Manager of the retail banking office in Poolesville, Maryland. At the time, I was attending the University Of Maryland School Of Law in Baltimore. I had begun my classes when the promotion offer was made by First National. It was a tough decision but I decided to take the promotion and quit law school. For the next several months I commuted from Baltimore to Poolesville until Mary Ann’s school teaching term was over at the end of June. We purchased our first home in Rockville, Maryland in June of 1966. I managed the Poolesville Office for the next two years during which time our Son, Kelley Eugene was born on August 7, 1967. In 1968 I took a position as Branch Manager of a much larger banking office of First National in Gaithersburg, Maryland. In August of 1969 I accepted an offer from First Virginia Banks as Assistant Cashier and Branch Manager of the office in McLean, Virginia. During the next four years I managed various retail banking offices for First Virginia in Northern Virginia. In June of 1970 we began construction of our new home in Piscataway Hills in Fort Washington, Maryland and moved into it in October of 1970 and I commuted daily to Northern Virginia. I held various positions in the First Virginia organization managing loan operations and data processing operations and wrote and offsite tested the first disaster recovery plan for data processing operations. Our Daughter Abbey Leigh was born on August 22, 1973.
In January of 1986 senior management tapped me for another position in the organization as Senior Vice President of Mortgage Loan Servicing. I remained in the mortgage area of First Virginia for the balance of my career serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of First Virginia Mortgage Company until I retired in October of 2000. (Almost 32 years with the First Virginia organization)
In December of 1986 we moved from Fort Washington, Maryland to Fairfax Station, Virginia where we lived on five acres until we sold our place in November of 2004 and purchased a home in Jeffersonton, Virginia located in the Virginia Piedmont region between Warrenton and Culpeper. I serve as Treasurer and a Director on the Board of the South Wales Community Association and have done a little consulting for a law firm from time to time regarding mortgage fraud issues. Mary Ann is First Vice President of the Cedar Run Garden Club and has been taking a series of courses to become a certified Flower Show Judge. We love our community and have established some excellent friendships since moving here. We still love to entertain a great deal. We have an acre here and enjoy our yard and Mary Ann has a special touch with flowers and plants. In 1998 we built a place in Nags Head on the Outer Banks which we rent out in the summer and enjoy for ourselves in the spring and fall. In December of 2008 we purchased a condo in the mountains of western North Carolina and we plan to spend some time there as we can. Our children and grand children enjoy getaways in both places. I have started to rebuild a model railroad using postwar Lionel trains I had as a kid and some I have acquired over the years and am having fun doing it when I have the time. We also enjoy golfing but never seem to have time to play enough to improve our game!! Retirement is great, never boring, and thinking back on it, I don’t know how I ever had time to work!
Our Son Kelley (age 41) got his MBA from George Mason University and is Branch Manager of the Mortgage Banking Retail office of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Fair Lakes in Fairfax, Virginia. Kelley has two children, Katelyn Ann (9) and Joseph Thomas (5). We love spending time with them as much as we can. Our Daughter, Abbey (age 35) got her MS from the Medical College of Virginia (VCU) and is the Clinical Supervisor of the Mobile Crisis Unit for Fairfax County, Virginia. In addition, she has a private practice as a Psychotherapist in Reston, Virginia.
I feel very blessed to have had good health, wonderful parents and family, to be married to Mary Ann, the love of my life for almost 44 years, for two great kids, Kelley and Abbey, our wonderful grandkids, Joe and Kate, and all of the friends through the years who have a special place in our hearts. It has been a real joy to touch base with friends from the OHHS Class of 1959 as our reunion comes together. I look forward to seeing each of you and “catching up” on the last fifty years of your lives and together take that walk down memory lane to relive the time we spent together so long ago when we were young.
3164 Somerset Drive
Jeffersonton, Virginia 22724
Land Line: 540-937-4613