Author Barbara Holland was online Tuesday, March 8, at 3 p.m. ET to discuss her book, "When All the World Was Young," a memoir of growing up in Washington, D.C., during the 1940s and 50s. The book was reviewed in Sunday's Washington Post Book World: The Way We Were.
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my wife -- you knew her as Eda Schrader -- was your classmate at Chevy Chase, Leland JHS and Wilson. She remembers you well and read the fine review in The Post with interest. She looks forward to reading your book. You might find some of the war-years stuff in my book, "Bethesda: A Social History," interesting. Good luck. Bill Offutt
Barbara Holland: Say howdy to her for me!
I really enjoyed your earlier book "Bingo Nights at the Fire Hall" and look forward to the new one.
Since much of the mood of "Bingo Nights" is derived from the sense of impending loss of the country/mountain way of life you describe due to encroachment of suburbia into Loudoun, I wonder whether you would comment on the Virginia Supreme Court decision last week opening up the western two-thirds of the county to yet more development.
Barbara Holland: The final nail in the coffin. I'm glad I wrote "Bingo" when I did, when the old ways were still visible. Even an occasional cow...
What your impressions of the future when you were young? The 1940s grew up in fear of global war, the 1950s grew up learning about "duck and cover" and of fear of the bomb, yet the generation of the 1990s (until September 11) did not face these almost universal fears. What is your recollection of how you felt: were world events too distant to you and of little concern, or were you and your friends aware and concerned?
Barbara Holland: Sure we were aware. We lived in Washington, we waited for the bombs of WWII and the nuclear holocaust of the cold war, but at least in our younger years we weren't so much concerned as fascinated. Made us feel important. We threw ourselves into war work, digging trenches in the lawn to trap the enemy infantry and poisoning arrows to shoot them.
What made you write on this unique topic?
Barbara Holland: What's unique about writing about yourself? Everyone does it - cuts down on research.
How is D.C. different now than it was 50 years ago? Did you get out to the suburbs much? Was Arlington considered bucolic country suburb?
Barbara Holland: DC is unrecognizably different now. It was a small town then, and a company town, and Roosevelt was mayor and CEO. I grew up in Chevy Chase, Arlington was a world away.
I'm living now (snowed in) on a mountain between Leesburg and Winchester, and don't get IN to the suburbs much. Scary shopping malls. Oh for dear old Woodward & Lothrop, and going "downtown" to buy school clothes!
I enjoyed the book very much. I understand you weren't there for your graduation ceremony, but I was there. I have the yearbook. We both are Washingtonians.
Barbara Holland: Did my picture get in the yearbook? I seem to remember refusing to have anything to do with the whole scene, nasty little snot that I was.
Hello, Ms. Holland:
I'm looking forward to reading your book! Thank you for speaking with us. Having lived here for only 23 years, I delight in scenes of mid-century Washington in old films. Could you tell us a little about the concerts that were held on the water prior to the construction of the Kennedy Center? Also, do you know if street cars ever ran along Rhode Island Avenue, or if organized community baseball games were ever held in the shadow of the Washington Monument?
Barbara Holland: A place at the foot of Wisconsin Ave. rented canoes, and you could paddle out over the dark water and listen to the concerts from the river.
There were streetcars, but I don't know about Rhode Island Ave. - I think I rode them mostly on Wisconsin.
As for baseball, the unfortunate Washington Senators were such a gloomy obsession I don't know that anyone had time for pickup games. Except for us kids, of course, playing with a broom handle and a dead tennis ball in the back yard.
New Orleans, La.; Hollywood, Calif.:
Ms. Holland, I am sorry that I will not be able to engage in
the live chat. I'm very much looking forward to your book.
My father, a native Washingtonian, came of age at roughly
the same time and I'm doing a documentary on him. Much
success on your book and best wishes...
Barbara Holland: Thank you, and luck on the documentary. Hope you've found some great pictures.
What do you of recall of the attitude of C.C.MD. residents towards the C.C. D.C. residents. I understand that as recently as the 50's Catholics were not allowed to live in C.C. Md. Any observations?
Barbara Holland: Huh? How very odd. We weren't organized in any way, no one was in charge, how could we have kept out Catholics, who would have known they were Catholic anyway, except by following them down to the church at the Circle? All creeds mixed freely. It was a more secular time then than now and perhaps no one cared.
I spent earliest years in CCDC, then moving at 7 or 8 to MD, and can't recall any difference or distinction whatever except for the new school district.
Remember going to Glen Echo on the street car for a dime?
Barbara Holland: Oh my. How did I leave Glen Echo out? Oh, that roller coaster, oh the tilt-a-whirl, oh the creaky shabbiness of their underpinnings, how did any of us live to grow up? And at 10 I was sent there in charge of my younger siblings - how did THEY live to grow up?
Fort Valley, Va.:
I'm retired now, living in a bingo nights community and loving it --I'm within walking distance of the Woodstock Tower with its beautiful views.
I grew up in the Washington area (Silver Spring/Blair) at the same time you did, and eagerly await the arrival of your book from Amazon. I'm sure it will bring back many memories. Did you, too, help win WWII by stomping tin cans and collecting milkweed pods?
I took many a detour in life -- Philadelphia, Denver, Boston -- but I still have the fondest memories of 40s and 50s Washington. I guess that's called getting old...
Barbara Holland: Strangely enough I was in Fort Valley just recently. Heavens, it's lovely - only I don't know about the mountains looming. Blot out the sky.
Yes, we stomped some tin cans, but mostly our war work was more martial, and involved elaborate booby traps for the invading infantry, eavesdropping on neighbors who might be German spies, and lying on our backs looking for German bombers. Somehow tin cans & milkweed just didn't seem warlike enough. We carried guns hacked from odd pieces of wood that just might fool the enemy from far enough away, & made bows and poisoned the arrow tips.
Enjoyed reading Yardley's great review of your new book. Was your mother's first name Janice? If so, I have one of her books published in 1953 entitled "The Story of Washington, D.C. -- They Built a City," a book written and illustrated by Janice Holland. Also have several newspaper clippings my mother saved and will be glad to make copies for you and mail to you if you give me your address. My mother, Rhea Gray, knew Janice Holland very well through church affiliation. My book is personally autographed to me from Janice.
Barbara Holland: Mother knew Janice - but Mother was Marion Holland and wrote and illustrated kids' books.
So I live on the border of "East 1/3" and "West 2/3" of Loudoun and I moved here maybe a year and a half ago because it seemed to be protected country. Oh well. Still, it's amazing to me that I'm five minutes from an old country store AND five minutes from a McD's and Target. There's a huge housing development across the street from me, but an ostrich farm 1/4 mile away. Am I too young to miss the good old days I was never really a part of?
Barbara Holland: Yes, Arcola is kind of caught in the middle, isn't it? I once thought the mountain here was protected territory, being inaccessible and widely held to be haunted, but the building began last year and the mini-mansions are rising up and the slopes being illegally clear-cut in the dark of night. Progress. As for the good old days, well, you wouldn't have had a Target, that's for sure. Coiners Dry Goods in Berryville was about it.
I sent this e-mail to Jonathan Yardley this morning. I hope you got it but just in case you did not, here it is.
I much appreciated your review of "When all the World was Young" by Barbara Holland.
I picked it up immediately and read it the same day. Her Memoir -- to me many memories.
Ms. Holland states on Page 292: "I suppose I must, on the record have graduated from High School, though I didn't go to the ceremony and don't remember ever seeing a diploma." I have in hand the Commencement program for Woodrow Wilson High on 6/14/50 and listed as a graduate is Barbara Murray Holland. She is pictured in the yearbook with the following narrative:
Barbara Murray Holland (Bug)
Wilson's Amy Lowell -- can't stand sports --
Plans for immediate future: to be a starving Poet---
Ambition: to be rich enough to sleep all day.
My wife and I both Washingtonians also live on a hillside in Loudoun County.
May she be able to sleep all day.
Barbara Holland: Oh no. Oh no! Horrors. "Bug," forsooth, only my aunt Lois ever called me that & I stopped answering at age 6.
Shudder. Amy Lowell. Please rip out page and burn! Only then will I be able to sleep all day or even all night.
Hello Ms. Holland,
In the reveiw Jonathan Yardley mentions the racial climate
in D.C. during your youth and your observations about
them. He says that you now have strong views on the
place blacks should occupy in US society and I was curious
if you'd be willing to share those views. Thank you.
Barbara Holland: Can't remember airing my current views on race anywhere - plenty of people doing that. I am now, of course, Enlightened, though as a child I had work enough trying to figure out the rules of the world as they were rather than rewriting them as they ought to be. Segregated schools didn't engage my interest as schools were all so local and drew from the segregated local housing.In the book, I recount an alarming incident with Jim Crow in Florida, in which my siblings and I were scolded soundly for sitting in the colored folks' seat by a very angry white matron. Who knew?
Racially, I suppose DC was more Southern than not, but it certainly wasn't the Real South.
I'm looking forward to reading your new book, but in regard to an earlier work, what goes into the ideal martini?
Barbara Holland: Gin. Some wave the label of a vermouth bottle over the glass. Winston Churchill, having poured and chilled the gin, nodded politely & ritually across the room at a bottle of dry vermouth.
Ms. Holland: The late David Brinkley's book on living in D.C. during WWII, did it provide any inspiration for your great book?
Barbara Holland: Never read Dave's book. Must give it a try - he & Ann were regular guests at my Uncle Bob's, but I never felt he was half the gent that Huntley was. Bless 'em both, though.
I wonder if you remember, but I found your phone number in a book that I bought at the Strand Book Store in New York about two years ago. I called and asked how to get a copy of "Hail to the Chief," which I loved, lost, and discovered was out of print. You said you were in the process of up-dating it, but were having trouble with the Clinton Chapter. It has since been republished, and my question is was my phone call an impetus for you to finish the update?
Barbara Holland: Hail to the Chiefs, all updated with subtitle "Presidential Mischief, Morals, and Malarkey from George W. to George W.," is alive and well, and thanks for the prod. The Clinton chapter gave me trouble because I hate haranguing people about stuff they already know more than enough about.
I'm about half way through the book and enjoying it very much. How accurate do you believe your recall of your mother and Carl is? Would you characterize some percentage of your memoir as "fiction"? If they were here today, what would they disagree with.
Barbara Holland: Hey, nobody's memory's perfect & memoirs are more about memories than facts, but I think Mother & Carl would probably approve. Carl was actually quite proud of his autocratic ways and was never heard to repent.
Don't really have a question, although it's
a pleasure to read your answers to
other's inquiries. Whether it's "Guilty
Pleasures", "Bingo Night at the Fire
Hall" -- or any of your other books, a new
Barbara Holland is always a treat for me.
I'll look forward to reading this one. You
are one of my favorite writers. Thank you
for your work!
Barbara Holland: And thank you! And that's "Endangered Pleasures," though I think I like "Guilty" better.
Washington, D.C., now a current New Yorker:
I am 22 years old and I grew up in Washington, D.C. I can still see the relics of a small southern town not so long ago but a distance and unknown memory but very known to my parents. Please, tell me about the four quadrants that seperate the city from SE to NW. I really want to know.
Barbara Holland: Northwest is the largest, the most important, and traditionally the most respectable. The quadrants seem to be used mostly for street signs and addresses and I never figured out the sense of them.
North Bethesda, Md.:
What advice do you have, or what do you think is the most important to bear in mind when writing about one's own life?
Barbara Holland: Leave out as many boring facts as possible. Say to yourself, would even my nearest & dearest really want to know this particular item or date or mileage or what have you?
Congratulations on your book. My newest book, a historical fiction, "Forbidden Loves, Paris Between the Wars," chronologically begins in Washington. How did you get the publicity for your book? I would love the same for mine.
Barbara Holland: The publisher does all that stuff. I wouldn't know where to start, though I think you can hire professional PR folks.
Rural Retreat, Va.:
Hi Barbara, I think I knew you and we were friends back D.C. between 1953 and 1956 do you have a P.O. Box or address to where I can write you a letter and send you a check for a book?
Barbara Holland: My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, but if you live in Rural Retreat you can just open the window and holler.
Yes, your picture and signature are in it.
Nickname was BUG.
Barbara Holland: So much for memory...
Just a comment... we did indeed fear our fathers. They were stern, strong, quiet and represented authority. As I read the review I think of my mother's childhood recollections of Brooklyn, N.Y., and although I am only 57, I, too, can remember when New York and the rest of the world was truly different -- different because of the people. My memory of Washington is of the late 1960s Chevy Chase and bringing my sister to American University -- a different planet... a different universe. Oh, well, just a thought.
Barbara Holland: Yes, and some of our fathers were ogres, with their unchecked authority. But that was the way it was, and on the other hand, we enjoyed the most amazing freedom from supervision that would astound any parent today - just be home by dinner time, and nobody cared where you went or whether you'd skinned your knees or fallen out of a tree. If I were a supervised child today I'd think it was jail.
Hello Ms. Holland,
I am currently reading and enjoying your book. In your description of what is was like growing up, you talk about once asking your stepdad if you could sit on his lap and looking back on this with regret as an act of toadying, "like a worm's whine for mercy." To me, however, it seem only natural that any child would want and expect some parental affection. My question: Did your relationship with Carl ever change? Was he ever able to express affection for you or your siblings? thank you for being on the live chat today.
Barbara Holland: Goodness no, nothing changed, and "affection" from a father - or stepfather - was out of the question. He would have been shirking his duty.