CAG Salutes Oral History Pioneers at City Tavern Club January 19: Fond Memories and Funny Stories
The Oral History Project celebrated its inaugural year by honoring the first ten Georgetowners to record their memories of living, working, and raising families in Georgetown over the years. These “Oral History Pioneers,” Frida Burling, Betty Hays, Hugh Jacobsen, Ray Kukulski, Jack Lynch, Lucy Moorhead, John Prince, John Richardson, Al Wheeler, and Page Wilson, each shared their favorite memories with a standing-room-only crowd of 140 at the City Tavern Club on Tuesday, January 19. CAG President Jennifer Altemus introduced the honored guests and also acknowledged the hard-working oral history committee and interviewers. The City Tavern Club hosted this special CAG evening and manager Steve Andronica and City Tavern Association President Richard Meyer also welcomed the crowd. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the club was the perfect setting for an evening of Georgetown memories.
Annie Lou Berman gave an overview of the first year of the project and then turned the microphone to the honorees for some great stories. John Prince began the evening by revealing he was the first manager of the City Tavern Club when it opened in 1959. He was hired a year before the club opened and helped make many decisions about the interior design of the club. He said most of the paintings at the club came from the basement of Evermay and he chuckled as he remembered the wallpaper of the ballroom originally being “a much brighter silver.” Architect Hugh Jacobsen explained that the ballroom was at one time a courtyard with no ceiling where coaches pulled in and let guests enter the inn through the elegant staircase now at the back of the room.
Several of the pioneers noted the neighborhood has changed very little in some ways. Frida Burling, who has resided in Georgetown for over fifty years, said, “We are a community and we love each other ... Georgetown is my home, and I love it.” Lucy Moorhead, who moved here when her husband was elected to the House of Representatives, described a party she and her neighbors threw at the end of the Kennedy administration. She detailed how it was crashed by a young couple and quipped “You see? Nothing has changed in Washington!”
John Richardson’s story about his brother-in-law and former CAG president, Juan Cameron, had the crowd laughing: Cameron was on his way to a CAG meeting about crime, when he was accosted and shot in the leg. He entered the meeting saying “I’ve been shot!” — but didn’t want medical attention, just to discuss what could be done about crime! Others finally persuaded him to go to the hospital.
Honoree Betty Hays recalled how she and her husband, following a trip to Mexico where they fell in love with the crafts, founded The Phoenix to sell the station wagons’ full of clothing and jewelry they brought back from many subsequent trips. Jack Lynch, a third-generation Georgetowner, reminisced about the horse-drawn milk carts from Chestnut Farmers Dairy in Chevy Chase that used to ride down N Street and how he and his buddies roller skated in the garage near Martin’s Tavern.
Al Wheeler highlighted the changing landscape of the Georgetown waterfront. What used to be a bustling port and smelly industrial center is now replaced with restaurants, office buildings, and a brand new park. Page Wilson gave the rapt audience a “guided tour” down Q Street and described eccentric neighbors and the “darling house” she bought that had a tombstone on the roof. Her young son and his friends later “surprised” her by lowering the tombstone off the roof with ropes — and it’s now in her backyard.
The tone of the evening was summed up by Ray Kukulski who thought it was a great idea for everyone to go to “the local pub for some dinner and a drink!” Annie Lou Berman thanked each honoree for sharing their intriguing — and often hilarious — memories of Georgetown. She urged people to volunteer to become part of the program so “this kind of celebration will continue with the growth and expansion of this project!”