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Commentary: From The 'Boonies' To Bustling Neighborhood

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Judy Downs Tinelli

The other day as I was driving down Sycamore Street in Arlington, between Lee Highway and Washington Boulevard, it occurred to me that I was probably the only one on the road who knew what was under the pavement.

I grew up in Arlington, just two blocks from what is now the East Falls Church Metro Station. The kids in our neighborhood used to play in the woods and the stream that's now under Sycamore Street. 

We had a rope swing that carried us over the stream and back. Those braver than I let go and dropped to the other side. We collected tadpoles there. And it was in those woods that my brother, Jim, and his best friend tied me to a tree one afternoon. At dinner time, noting my absence, Jim ran down to the woods to untie me.

When we moved to Arlington in 1950, my Dad's coworkers on Capitol Hill wondered why we'd gone "so far out." While the drive into town probably took 20 minutes max, that was far out then. I doubt that those who now live in Ashburn or Gaithersburg would think 20 minutes a long commute.

Where Roosevelt Street dead-ended into Lee Highway was the Crossman's farm. They had a herd of cows, which certainly proved that we were living in the boonies.

I went to St. James School in Falls Church. and ran in a pack of friends with Jimmy Bles. His family had a house out by a little crossroads called Tysons Corner. There wasn't even a traffic light there. 

I remember what a big deal it was when Jimmy's dad, Marcus Bles, sold that land many years later. With that money, he bought a home out along Route 7 on the way to Leesburg, which was truly the boonies. But today, it's McMansions and shopping centers.

And so it goes. I can still close my eyes — not while I'm driving — and see our corner of Arlington as it was then. 

Change has brought so much richness to the D.C. area. Great restaurants, the Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, and people from all over the world to enjoy this vibrant city. I'm willing to give up my stream and woods for that! But I'll always hold on to memories of an earlier time, now paved over by progress. 

Judy Downs Tinelli is a retired human resources executive who lives in Falls Church. Her commentary came to us through WAMU's Public Insight Network. You can submit your responses to Tinelli or separate commentaries here.

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