1950s

Filed Under:DC

When Washington was Nashville North

Photo of Connie B. Gay.With the American Country Music awards coming up this weekend what better time to look at our local country music heritage?

There was a period, from the late 1940s until the early 1960s, when Washington, D.C. was a veritable Nashville on the Potomac, a mecca that provided country performers a chance to get their records played, and to perform before big audiences. The man who was most responsible for the District's country preeminence was a charismatic impressario who originally hailed from Lizard Lick, N.C. named Connie Barriot Gay.

Filed Under:DC

Attempted Rembrandt Heist at the Corcoran

We're not 100% sure who this Rembrandt painting depicts but it is clear that it was damaged by a would-be thief in 1959 at the Corcoran. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)The 145-year-old Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington's oldest private art museum, recently announced that it will be taken over by George Washington University and the  National Gallery of Art and cease to exist as an independent institution. That makes it a good time to look back at one of the more bizarre events in the history of art in Washington--the attempted theft in 1959 of a painting by 17th Century master Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn.

Washington has a long history of thefts of antiquities from its museums but this attempted heist was one of the stranger assaults on artwork that our city has seen.

Filed Under:DC

Salinger and the Swami

Four years after he published The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger and his wife, Claire traveled to Washington, D.C. in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. (Photo courtesy of Antony Di Gesu via PBS Pressroom)J.D. Salinger, one of the most important American writers of the 20th Century and the subject of tonight's American Masters documentary, was deeply influenced by Indian philosophy and religion. But that spiritual quest, curiously, led him to not to Varanasi or some other Indian city, but to Washington, D.C.

It happened in the spring of 1955. It was four years after the publication of Salinger's celebrated novel, The Catcher in the Rye, and two years after his anthology, Nine Stories, futher established him as a literary sensation.

Filed Under:Maryland

Queen Up in Aisle 4

In October 1957, Queen Elizabeth II visited the United States and took in a University of Maryland football game. Apparently American football made the queen hungry because after the game her motorcade made a pit stop at the Queenstown Giant Food Store in West Hyattsville. (Photo source: Digital Collections at the University of Maryland on Flickr.)So, imagine you are doing your Saturday afternoon grocery shopping at the local supermarket. All of a sudden a motorcade pulls up. Out pops the Queen of England and the royal prince. They walk into the store and begin to wander the aisles, indulging in the free samples and chatting with customers. After a few minutes they exit the store, get back in their limo and drive off.

Seems pretty far fetched, right? Well, maybe so, but that is exactly what patrons at the (aptly named) Queenstown Giant Food store in West Hyattsville experienced in October 1957.

Filed Under:Virginia

It Happened Here First: Arlington Students Integrate Virginia Schools

On February 2, 1959 (l-r) Michael Jones, Gloria Thompson, Ronald Deskins and Lance Newman became the first black students to break the color line in Virginia's public schools. (Source: Washington Post website) Here’s a cool “it happened here first” story.

On February 2, 1959, Stratford Junior High School (now H-B Woodlawn High School) in Arlington was the first public school in Virginia to be integrated. That morning, four African American seventh graders – Ronald Deskins, Lance Newman, Michael Jones and Gloria Thompson – started classes at the school with over 100 Arlington County police officers in riot gear standing guard. To the great relief of the community, there was no violence or disorder (though two students were sent home for setting off a firecracker in a school bathroom)

The day had been a long time coming.

Filed Under:Virginia

An Unexpected History Lesson in Warrenton

The waiting room at Joe's Service Center in Warrenton, Virginia is a small local history museum.Sometimes a trip to the mechanic turns into a history lesson. Don't believe us? Visit Joe's Service Center in Warrenton, Virginia. The waiting area is unlike any auto shop you've ever seen.

Filed Under:DC

D.C.'s Own "Brown vs Board"

John Phillip Sousa Junior High School in Southeast, Washington, D.C. (Source: Wikipedia user Dmadeo)Ask most people what Supreme Court case ended public school segregation and (perhaps after checking their smartphone) they will say, “Brown vs. Board of Education.” That is would be correct… for most of the country. But, for citizens in the federally-controlled District of Columbia another case was more important.

Sixty years ago this week — on December 10, 1952 — the Supreme Court heard the first arguments in Bolling vs. Sharpe, a case filed on behalf of eleven African American parents whose children had been denied enrollment at D.C.'s John Phillip Sousa Junior High School on the basis of race. The court would issue its decision two years later alongside the more famous Brown decision.

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