Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Broadmoor Apartments

I ran across this great old brochure from the Broadmoor last week. My grandfather, Roger Calvert was the first manager there when it opened- just before the Big Crash of 1929. Our family moved in in the late summer while the children, Bebe and Roger Jr stayed on their grandparent's farm in Misssissippi. The Broadmoor is still there- and still a great place to live, although the olden days always sound more charming to me. Here are quotes from the booklet with comments/memories from my mother.

“On Connecticut avenue north of Porter street is the attractive apartment section of Washington. Here within a landscaped five acre setting of garden and flower decked promenades is erected THE BROADMOOR, an imposing edifice expressing the acceptable in modern architecture and fireproof construction. Within its 800 rooms are maintained the lovely apartment homes of lovely people.”

A lot of the Senators, the baseball kind, lived there in the early thirties. Bebe remembers going to games with her dad at Griffith Stadium, and the excitement when the team went to the World Series in 1933. She also remembers Huey Long arriving to stay with a great big entourage that scared my grandmother.

“Dining Room and Silver Grill: Decorated in the moderne.... The food is of the highest quality, and prepared by a particular chef who caters successfully to particular people.”

Here is the “dollar menu” from those days:

Choice: Fruit Cup- Iced Cantaloupe- Consomme Hot or Cold- Strained Chicken Gumbo-Iced Celery

Choice: Filet of Sole, Saute Meuniere- Fried Chicken with Corn Fritters- Grilled Sirloin Steak-Assorted Cold Cuts, Potato Salad
French Fried Potatoes New Peas in Butter
Green Corn Saute O’ Brien
Hearts of Lettuce Thousand Island Dressing
Choice: Green Apple Pie Fresh Peach Shortcake
Chocolate, Vanilla, Peach Ice Cream Raspberry Ice

Homemade Rolls

Tea Milk Coffee

Bebe had never had sherbet before and was very impressed with that- especially since it wasn’t served as a dessert.

“All Apartments have outside porches and windows overlooking the garden of the Broadmoor or famous Rock Creek Park.”

Bebe remembers her little  Roger hanging by his fingers from their window on the sixth floor, overlooking the garage.

"Most important to Milady:
All apartments have been designed to provide the utmost in comfort, and to eliminate home- making responsibilities to unusual degree...Waste from the kitchen and apartments is placed in receptacles, and noiselessly removed in the early morning by janitors from corridors outside apartments.”

And a certain pet rabbit with a voracious appetite for undergarments was sent to live downstairs where the bellboys took care of him. Later, he reportedly lunged at a bellboy and was not seen again.

“Schools : The Broadmoor is close to all educational centers.”
Mom loved the private little bus that took the children to John Eaton.

“Beauty Shop: Within the Broadmoor. All approved treatments, and scientific care.”

Bebe got her first haircut other than the detested ‘Dutch Bob’ here. It was called "The Windblown".

“Children’s Paradise: A play estate supreme, away from mere grown-ups, and in a wooded setting among wonder-trees and fairy verdure....Here the commanders of the sand pile, see-saw and swing develop to become the kind of men and women the world relies upon.”

That may have been all well and good, but Bebe remembers mostly hanging out on the beams underneath the building with her pals. One particularly noteworthy commander of that sandbox was John Hechinger. He grew up following his father into the hardware biz and had an early impact on Washington’s do it yourself hardware scene.

The Broadmoor also boasted of: a valet service, a laundry, a pastry shop, and a newstand-where Bebe hung out and read all the magazines for free. She also got movie passes for the Avalon Theater. She and Roger would take a picnic and ride up there on the streetcar to spend the day at the movies.

Life was good for the family until a year later at Christmas time when Roger Calvert was killed in a car accident. He had been visiting his parents in Mississippi and was bringing two cousins back with him, hoping to find work for them during the Depression. Mom was only 13, and Roger Junior was 8. My grandmother took over the job at the Broadmoor until 1934. At some point she hired a musician/medical student named Bernie Schultz, to play the tea dances held in the dining room, and later married him. Mom also met the man she would marry at the Broadmoor. She’d seen him around at John Eaton and Western, but it was that fateful day in April 1932 when Dad’s friend, Carl Langmack took him to hang out with Mom’s gang that they remember the best.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pre Youtube Washington

Every time I go to the movies these days, I find myself paralyzed in front of the concessions. My feeble brain refuses take in the current exchange of money for a drink or popcorn ratio. Five dollars or more ? They can’t be serious. And that yellow stuff that goes on the popcorn? Seriously.
What is that?

I’m not old enough to remember the whole cartoon and news reel bit, and maybe the movie going experience has technically improved since I was a kid, but back in the days of the palaces, it was definitely worth the price of admission which my dad and mom remember as being around 15 cents.

 In 1925 when my mother, Bebe Calvert was eight and her little brother Roger was four, they would walk to the Tivoli at 14th and Park Road every Sunday and spend the whole afternoon in the theater.
( Talk about "free range" kids.)

Her favorites were the Westerns because she “loved watching all those horses run around.” She says Tom Mix was popular, but personally she didn’t think he was all that cute.

She also has a hazy memory of walking with her dad walked from Mozart Place to the Ambassador Theater on 18th and Columbia Road to see Al Jolson in the first "talkie"in 1928.

Dad remembers the three theaters near him on H Street in Northeast: The Princess, The Apollo and The Empire. They were smaller, plainer theaters, but he could walk there and see Charlie Chaplain, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton movies. He remembers the piano player. And like Mom, he also was into the Westerns and all those horses.

The Apollo from Library of Congress
When Bebe moved to the Broadmoor Apartments in Cleveland Park, she hit the jack pot getting free passes to the Avalon on Connecticut Avenue. Bebe and little brother Roger would take a lunch, get on the streetcar and spend the whole day, especially in the summer when theaters were one of the few places in town with air conditioning.

Meanwhile George had moved uptown as well- to Macomb Street in Cleveland Park. To help pay for his "new" car, a Model T, he was charging his sister Catherine and her friends, Rose Papadeis, and Julia Kekenes, a quarter each to drive them downtown to the Earle on 13th Street. (now known as the Warner Theater)

The bigger venues had  live vaudeville show before the movie and charged a whopping 35 cents.

 Mom remembers seeing Cab Calloway at the Capitol which was around the corner from the Earle near 14th and F Street. Much later, when the Capitol closed, Dad’s buddy, Blackie Auger bought some of the theater's furnishings for his restaurant Blackie's House of Beef.

All in all, both Mom and Dad say the film that made the biggest impression on them was "Gone With the Wind." At that point,  they were married with two children, and it was a lot  harder for them to get out to see a film, but they still managed (even if the kids did try to make grilled cheese sandwiches in an upright toaster while they were out) It was worth it. The year was 1939- an awfully good year for the movies.