As Washingtonians and Marylanders began to recover from the hardships of the Great Depression, movies and local theater were a great way to find some escape. In the late 1930s, outdoor theaters were beginning to spring up on the outskirts of the District, where they were especially popular in the summertime. Most of the new playhouses, though, were in Northern Virginia. Maryland lacked options... until organizers of a new theater project in Olney called in a favor from Ethel Barrymore.
Bethesda has become one of Washington’s busiest, most populated suburban communities. It’s hard to believe that, only 150 years ago, it was a little roadside stop haphazardly named after its general store!
Josiah Henson is not a well-known name in American history—or even in the Washington area, where he was enslaved for many years. Born into bondage in Maryland, he lived in Montgomery County before eventually escaping to Canada—there, he served in the army, became a preacher, and established a prosperous settlement for escaped slaves. He was immortalized in Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, serving as the inspiration for the titular character. But though the novel made him a well-known and popular figure in the nineteenth century, Henson was determined to tell his own story. As he says, the truth is stranger than fiction.
In the summer of 1970, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert were driving down Clopper Road to a family reunion in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Montgomery County was a much more rural place in those days, and the scenery inspired Danoff to repetitively sing “country roads, country roads, country roads.”
Under normal circumstances, this burst of creativity might have gone nowhere, but the couple happened to be a duo of professional musicians. So, with the help of John Denver, they soon turned the phrase into the earworm we know today.