John Kelly
John Kelly
Columnist

Ah, to be young and full of french fries

There’s a laundromat in Seven Corners that Arlington’s Bob Dalton can’t pass without feeling a twinge of nostalgia. It’s not for the washing machines.

In the early 1970s, the space was a Roy Rogers restaurant, a wildly popular gathering spot for J.E.B. Stuart High School students, packed after home football games and often crowded with Stuart kids during weekday lunchtimes. “Leaving the school during the day was a major no-no, but, well, y’know,” Bob wrote.

(Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post) - Hot Shoppes restaurant on the corner of East-West Highway and Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda in July 1994.

Of course I know. And so do you. Many readers wrote in with their memories of favored high school hangouts.

Jerry Watkins attended the District’s Wilson High from 1953 to 1955. The hangout he remembers most vividly was the doughnut stand at the top of the escalator of the Sears at the corner of Wisconsin and Albemarle NW.

“Many of the kids would head over there at lunchtime for a couple or more of the delicious hot doughnuts,” Jerry wrote. “I’m sure our parents weren’t thrilled that we were spending our lunch money on doughnuts rather than the more nutritious offerings in the school cafeteria.”

What is the only place less healthy than a doughnut stand? Possibly where David Peikin and his fellow students from the Landon School in Bethesda would go in the late 1980s. “Our destination had to be close since we didn’t have much time,” David wrote. “That meant numerous afternoon trips to 7-11 on River Road at the corner of Little Falls Parkway. We didn’t have much time to hang out, but we did usually cram five or six seniors in cars built for four, grab a Slurpee and a doughnut, and then hightail it back to campus.”

High school hangouts often have a whiff of the forbidden about them. Betsy McConnell Lechner graduated from Silver Spring’s Montgomery Blair in 1966. “The only place to hang out was the Hot Shoppe on Georgia Avenue,” she wrote. “After chorus rehearsals in the evenings, we were instructed by our director, Mrs. Huntley, not to go to the Shoppe but to go home and study. Naturally, we all went to the Shoppe and here she would come, checking up on us!”

Ah, the Hot Shoppe — a.k.a. Hot Shoppes. The late Marriott chain was once widespread in our area. When Susan Weinsheimer went to Walter Johnson the favored hangouts were Hot Shoppes and Tops. “Those two places were a shrine to teenage angst, joy and every other known feeling,” she wrote.

Robbie Camardi lives in Tampa now, but when he attended Silver Spring’s Northwood High the hangout of choice was the Gino’s at Four Corners. Later it became a Roy Rogers. (Today it’s a McDonald’s, illustrating the circle of life some locations go through.)

For Harise Poland-Wright and her fellow Kennedy High students in the late 1960s, Wheaton Plaza was the place to be. “It managed, barely, to contain the several antagonistic social groups that comprised high schools in the years I attended: Hippies, Jocks and Greasers,” she wrote. (For the record, she was a hippie.)

“Our group used to cram into a booth at Kresge’s lunch counter, spend a lot of time and very little money, and wonder why the long-suffering waitresses hated us,” Harise wrote.

Anthony Medici went to an all-boys Catholic high school in Queens in the 1960s. The student hangout was a corner luncheonette. One day, he wrote, his group was “seized by an antic muse.” They fell into some booths and dropped some coins into the jukebox, punching in “Respect” by Aretha Franklin.

“About a dozen boys began singing lustily along, replete with various falsettos and tremolos, imitating Aretha’s moves and style,” Anthony wrote. “Everyone was having such a good time that even the usually dour owner joined in.”

Ned’s Pizza Cellar was the place to be for Angel Schmitz and her classmates at Pulaski Senior High in Milwaukee. “Every day for junior and senior year, four of us would would shuffle, bounce, meander or stroll down to Ned’s, and depending on the state of our meager finances, nibble slowly off someone else’s leftover chips or splurge on our own $2.99 hot sub and share as needed,” Angel wrote. “Booth 4 heard sorrows, victories, team wins and losses, and the absurd things teens think are vital to their mental health.”

Sure, they may seem absurd now, but who among us wouldn’t happily go back to the Booth 4 of our youth, if just for a few hours?

For previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

 
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