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John Kelly's Washington

What's Missing in the Life of the City

By John Kelly
Thursday, January 27, 2005; Page C11

Hey, let's say we go shopping at Woodward & Lothrop or Jelleff's. And then take a stroll down the F Street Mall. ("So civilized, to be able to walk for blocks and window shop from one very good store to another," as Betsey Petit of Beltsville puts it.)

Feeling peckish? Then let's stop at Posin's deli on Georgia Avenue NW, where Bruce Shulman assures us we can get "the best cheese danish in the world." Or maybe we could go to Hot Shoppes or the Blue Mirror Grill or VITA Health Foods. Or slake our thirst with an ice-cold bottle of Rock Creek ginger ale.

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Washington Post columnist John Kelly is raising money for the Children's National Medical Center, one of the nation's leading pediatric hospitals. You may make a tax-deductible contribution online anytime between Nov. 29th and Jan. 21st. Thank you for your support.
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Thank You, One and All (The Washington Post, Jan 26, 2005)
The Doctor Is Still In (The Washington Post, Jan 25, 2005)
Answer Man: Free and Forgotten (The Washington Post, Jan 24, 2005)
Treating a Child, Healing a Family (The Washington Post, Jan 21, 2005)
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John Kelly's Washington Live (Live Online, Jan 28, 2005)
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Of course, the only place we can do any of this is in our minds, since all of it -- Jelleff's, Posin's, Rock Creek ginger ale -- is long gone.

These are just a few of the defunct bits of Washington that readers told me they wished would come back.

I figured that since we're getting both professional baseball and the statue of Alexander "Boss" Shepherd back, the time was right for some more reincarnations. What did you want to see return? How about:

The view of the Mall from the top of the Capitol steps (closed for security now). The B.M. Douglas coin shop on 12th Street NW (where David Lightman, now of Rockville, remembers trying to nab a rare penny). Garfinckel's. Division I football at George Washington University. ("Let's hear it for the Colonials: 1957 Sun Bowl Champs," wrote GW alum Michael La Place of Princeton, N.J. "Hail to the Buff & Blue!")

"Number One on my comeback list are the streetcars," wrote Richard A. Bellin of Washington. "I moved here after they were gone, but I do remember them from one of my early visits in the late 1940s."

He isn't alone. Many readers want to see streetcars return. "They are kinder to the environment and more aesthetically pleasing than buses," wrote Jeanne Kelly of Leesburg.

"There's nothing more wonderful than a trolley cruising down the street," wrote Meredith Davey.

Nothing more wonderful? How about that fountain that floated off the tip of Hains Point and hurled a jet of river water 250 feet into the air?

"For a little kid, it was pretty impressive to see it," said Eric Dobson of Arlington. "It would be cool to see that back, especially now that we appreciate both our rivers a bit more."

(And now that the rivers are cleaner. The $160,000 fountain, installed in honor of Lady Bird Johnson in 1968, had to be shut down periodically because the water was contaminated. The fountain would occasionally mist passersby with fecal bacteria. It was finally carted off in the mid-'70s.)

Wheaton's Trish Broud wishes the parking garage under the National Air and Space Museum would again open to the public.

"I could always find a parking place under the Air and Space Museum if there were no spaces available above ground," Trish wrote.

(By the way, it wasn't 9/11 that closed the garage, said Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas. The garage closed 19 years ago, in 1986. The reason is familiar, though: "Security," Linda said.)

When John Kraemer of Glen Allen, Va., went to the Stoddard School in the 1950s, he enjoyed summer nights spent watching free movies projected on a white screen hung from the rear of the school by the city. The community got together and "idle hands weren't available for the devil's use," John wrote.

Speaking of which, Bob Johnson of the District would like to see the neighborhood drum and bugle corps of the 1960s and '70s make a comeback. "The brigades covered every section of the city," said Bob, from the Zorro Raiders of Northwest to the Royal Eagles of the Southwest waterfront.

"These were basically gangs who settled their differences in competition of discipline, military bearing, musicianship and showmanship," said Bob, who started at age 12 as a member of the Ambassadors before rising to become director of the Metropolitan Police Boys & Girls Club Drum & Bugle Corps. The prize? "Bragging until the next competition."

Gerard R. Wenham of Southeast reached waaaaaaay back for a bit of old Washington he'd like to see resurrected. Prior to 1801, Gerard pointed out, residents of Washington were able to vote for their own congressional representatives.

"I would like to go back to a brief and shining moment when 'representative democracy' and 'government by the consent of the governed' actually meant something," he wrote.

Jack Ballard of Lewisburg, W.Va., sent in a photocopied list of the people, places and things that he misses from the many years he spent in Washington: the Neptune Room, the Casino Royale, High's Dairy Stores . . .

"Why are these among my favorite memories?" asked Jack, a retired movie theater manager who also spent 20 years as a Capitol Police officer. "Simple: I was younger."

I think Jack's on to something. I miss getting a cold-cut sub at the Famous Delicatessen in Langley Park (or the "Famo Delicate" as its burned-out neon sign usually announced). And listening to Weasel on WHFS. And downing pitchers of beer at Bethesda's PsycheDelly nightclub. And treating my hangover with a big breakfast at the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring (moved to a new location but somehow not the same).

But do I actually miss these things, or does this 42-year-old miss the 22-year-old who did them?

E-mail: kellyj@washpost.com. Address: 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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