washingtonpost.com
Taking another stroll past Tally's Corner

By John Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 6, 2011; 12:22 PM

Debra Marshall lives in Prince George's County now, but she grew up at 10th and M streets NW - the very spot immortalized in "Tally's Corner," the book by Elliot Liebow that Answer Man wrote about last week.

"The corner carryout was Bosco's and they served the best sandwiches," Debra wrote. "Most of the kids in the neighborhood attended Thomson Elementary at 12th and L streets, and for several years the Washington Daily News was next door to our school. My family attended New Bethany Baptist Church at 10th and N for years."

Debra figures she probably knew some of the street-corner men Liebow wrote about. "Those men made the neighborhood interesting; made you laugh, or annoyed you," she wrote. "We always said that no matter how drunk some of the men in the neighborhood would get on Saturday, Sunday morning most had on a suit and tie, even if they were not going to church. They even dressed for Easter Sunday and Mother's Day."

Rob Hungerford worked at the family-run Hungerford Printers a few blocks away from Bosco's and often ordered from the carryout. "I remember customers often complaining about how the eggs were cooked and thinking that they were just out of Lorton (a healthy number were) and wondering if the eggs were better there," he wrote.

Morton Lebow is no relation to Elliot Liebow, but they were professional colleagues and their names are similar enough that they occasionally got each other's mail.

"Finally, in 1979, we arranged to meet each other and have lunch," Morton wrote. "I took my copy of 'Tally's Corner' with me for him to autograph. During lunch, he told me that as he received his royalty checks for the books, he would divide up the royalties and give them to the characters in the book."

Liebow's widow, Harriet, said Elliot never actually gave the men money. "Professionally it wouldn't be a good idea," she explained. And he was afraid that they would lose their welfare payments. "We decided when they were in difficulties we would get involved and try to help," she said. That included paying for motel rooms when they lost their apartments, buying winter clothing for their families and buying presents the fathers could give their children.

Finally, though it pains Answer Man to say it, he was scooped on the precise location of Tally's Corner by the Washington City Paper - 19 years ago. In 1992, author Dick Mendel interviewed Elliot Liebow, identified Tally's Corner and placed his groundbreaking work in context. To read Mendel's story online, click here.

Shepherd's pile

Where was Boss Shepherd's summer mansion, Bleak House? Three weeks ago, Answer Man said it was at 13th and Geranium streets NW. Shepherd Park resident Carl Bergman said no, that's too far east. If you want to imagine where Bleak House stood, it was within the trapezoid bounded by Alaska, Holly, 13th and Geranium. Torn down in 1916, all that remains is the carriage house, now the garage behind 1332 Holly St. NW.

Rough landing

Ina Schwartz and Gordon White were among readers who disputed Answer Man's assertion that Dulles was the first area airport to be named after a person. Wrote Gordon, of Deltaville, Va.: "Dulles was first 'Chantilly,' though after [John Foster] Dulles died in May 1959 the unfinished airport was re-named in his honor."

Answer Man would argue that an unfinished airport is not an airport - he wouldn't want to land at one - but it's true that early on it was referred to as Chantilly Airport, as in this 1959 headline from The Post: "Chantilly May Get Moving Sidewalks." (That story was about how "horizontal escalators" could be an alternative to the "floating lounges" planned for Dulles. A Harvard professor had deemed the floating lounges - what we call mobile lounges today - "silly.")

Some residents fought the name-change, arguing that the late secretary of state had nothing to do with Northern Virginia. The publisher of two Loudoun County newspapers, Fitzhugh Turner, vowed to keep calling it "Chantilly Airport" and urged other news outlets to do the same. One of his editors, Randolph G. Murphey, told The Post: "Does anyone ever talk about the New York International Airport? No, of course not. They call it Idlewild."

They didn't for much longer. That airport became John F. Kennedy International in 1963.

Send your questions to answerman@washpost.com.

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