Remembering summer camp — and Armand’s pizza


Yolanda Landers and her son Bryce, 12, of Temple Hills represent two generations who have benefited from Camp Moss Hollow. (Courtesy of Yolanda Landers)
John Kelly
Columnist July 2, 2012

I have a theory that there are really only about 700 people in the world, not the 7 billion they claim there are. I mean, don’t you often find yourself saying, “Small world, isn’t it?”

Yolanda Landers did. A few years ago she was with a friend when that friend introduced her to another friend. What the first friend didn’t know was that the second friend was already Yolanda’s friend. (Got that?)

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

“I said, ‘Keisha, oh my God, where have you been?’ ” Yolanda remembered. “My friend is looking at me like ‘Why do you know each other?’ ”

They knew each other from Camp Moss Hollow, which they’d both attended as girls, back when Yolanda went by her maiden name, Holland.

For Yolanda, summer camp let her know that life existed outside of her Southeast D.C. neighborhood. “It gives you a different perspective on life,” she said. “It’s not just a concrete city.”

And it let her build lifelong friendships. “I’m an only child,” she said. “I didn’t get step-siblings till later. For me to be around a group of people was perfect for me.”

Yolanda thinks it’s also perfect for her 12-year-old son Bryce, who has been going to Moss Hollow since he was 9. He’s part of the camp’s winter camping program, too, where select groups of kids go to the camp in the colder months for leadership training.

Yolanda appreciates the continuity, and the fact that some of the same staffers she knew are now working with her son, introducing him to the same things.

“That’s the beauty of camp,” she said. “It gives them that outdoor thing they don’t normally do at home.”

Yolanda is an analyst for the government and lives in Temple Hills. She thinks camp will make Bryce a more well-rounded person. “A lot of times, especially for me, you grow up in the city and sometimes that’s all you know.”

We’re a little over halfway through our annual campaign for Moss Hollow — timewise, if not moneywise. After four weeks of the eight-week campaign we’ve raised $152,353.35 toward our $500,000 goal.

It may seem like we have a long way to go, but experience tells me that now is when things get moving. You can donate by going to washingtonpost.com/camp. Click where it says “Give Now” and designate “Send a Kid to Camp” in the gift information. Or mail a check payable to “Send a Kid to Camp” to Send a Kid to Camp, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.

The storm that wreaked havoc in Washington did a number on Moss Hollow, too. All campers were safely home when the storm hit Friday night, but trees were downed and power was knocked out. The staff spent Monday cleaning up, meaning that the start of this week’s camp had to be postponed by a day.

Pizza the past

The storm put a damper on what was already going to be a sad occasion: the Saturday closing of Armand’s Chicago Pizzeria’s original location, near Tenley Circle. High rents and falling business forced the restaurant to close after 37 years.

Lew Newmyer founded it in 1975, an offshoot of his earlier sandwich shop, Armand’s Sub-Way (“Sub-Way” because it had just been announced that D.C. was getting a subway, “Armand’s” because Lew’s brother Armand had just won at the track and invested $5,000 in the new restaurant).

According to Lew’s son Ron, Armand’s had a lot of D.C. firsts: the first six-foot-long sub, the first pizza delivery trucks, the first deep-dish pizza . . .

Lew fixated on deep-dish after encountering it while visiting Chicago. When a restaurateur in the Windy City clammed up at Lew’s detailed questioning, Lew returned after closing and went through the trash, pulling out flour bags, yeast labels and tomato sauce cans. The next day he bought a couple of pizzas, put them in coolers with dry ice and took them back to D.C. to study them.

Lew is 90 and lives in Silver Spring. While Tenley has closed, Armand’s locations in Silver Spring, Rockville, Capitol Hill, Gaithersburg, Olney and Bethany Beach remain open, if you crave his reverse-engineered pizza.

Generator gap

Some generator owners cried foul after I blasted the noisy machines in my Monday column. By running a generator, several wrote, they are able to help neighbors keep their phones charged and can offer freezer space. They also said a gas-powered generator only provides enough power to run appliances and lights. It doesn’t have enough power to run a house’s air conditioning. Therefore generator owners must keep their windows open too, listening to the roar.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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