Lena Dyson and her Deanwood neighbors nostalgically recall the green and white trolleys that once whisked them across the Anacostia River from their isolated far Northeast community into downtown Washington in 20 minutes flat.
Next week, the new generation in electrified mass transit - Metro's subway - arrives to serve them. Some want the trolleys back.
Metro's planners nestled their new station along Kenilworth Avenue, Denawood's western boundary, but the modernistic station still promises to have a profound impact on this proud old community that resembles a small sleepy town.
It is a community dominated by older black homeowners. They live in a helter-shelter mixture of simple one and two-story frame homes with backyard gardens, mirroring the area's rural heritage, and newer two-story brick rowhouses and garden apartments reflecting more recent trends in suburban living.
They are taxpayers who feel neglected, unseen and unheard by their city leaders.
"We've had to fuss and fight for anything we want," said Herbert Turner, a former citizens association president. "I stopped doing civic work because we had such a hard time getting anything done from the city."
Their pride has been nurtured through home ownership, through common opposition to intrusions such as public housing, and through a community heritage that dates back to the 17th century, when Deanwood was reputedly settled by a black man with a land grant from the King of England.
Traditionally wary of newcomers, many Deanwood residents view the $20 million Metro station, scheduled for a ceremonial opening Thursday, as a tarnished blessing.
The station, with its 222 parking spaces, will bring Maryland commuters, congestion and pollution to Deanwood's narrow streets, residents fear, while boosting their own transportation costs.
The Deanwood Citizens Association fought unsuccessfully to move the parking lot to the western side of the new station, but won another fight for an underground pedestrian walkway from the station to Kenilworth Avenue.
The walkway was demanded for hundreds of public housing tenants separated from the station by Kenilworth Avenue and the Penn Central railroad tracks.
Located a block south of Eastern Avenue, the station is one of five Metro is opening this week to initiate service on the Orange Line to New Carrollton. Regular service will begin Monday at 6 a.m.
"It will improve transportation," said James O. Murphy, who lives eight blocks from the station. "But there will be noise, fumes, vibration and trash. We are concerned about our old water pipes breaking because of all the buses," he continued.
"So far we've a quiet neighborhood," said Carrie Oliver, who lives across the street from the station. "I hope people don't loiter at night."
"I hear so many puzzling things about the subway," she added, "like how you have to get in, and the fare machines. It's hard on people who don't understand. They should make things simpler. They pay taxes as well as anyone else and things should be made comfortable for them."
Oliver, like may of her neighbors, has not ridden the subway yet, and knows nothing of station locations, fare machines or routes.
"People in this community don't look happily at Metro's coming," said Walter Byard, president of the citizens association. "It is not designed for the people who live in the city but for people coming through the city."
"Bringing Metro to us doesn't do anything but cost us more money," he continued. "It forces the people to do something they don't want to do - pay a double fare to get into town."
Under the Metro fare structure, ridders who transfer from bus to subway have to pay two fares, but those who transfer from subway to bus pay only once.
Nathan McCain of 4707 Jay St NE is an unabashed Metro supporter. "I can't wait for it to come because I drive to work downtown. It takes me 45 minutes and it costs me $4 a day to park the car. The subway will be easier and faster, not to mention cheaper."
District Government officials believe the advantage of having Metro in Deanwood will far outweigh the disadvantages - and they expect residents to see it that way, too.
Metro predicts an estimated 12,000 riders will use the station daily by 1990.
Some of Deanwood's distrust for Metro dates from a bus route shift last year, when the Stadium-Armory subway stop opened. To feed the new station, Metro moved its U-4 bus from Benning Road south to the stadium, eliminating direct service for Deanwood children attending Spingarm High School. Community protests led to special new bus service between Deanwood and Spingarn. Metro, claiming it learned its lesson from the U-4 incident, has created two new bus lines to give Deanwood residents the option of taking the bus or subway downtown.
While the subway promises to bring Deanwood closer to other parts of the city, Deanwood merchants do not forsee any jump in business. Residents of this stable community, heavily populated with civil servants, feel slighted when it comes to such city services as street cleaning and trash collection.
But they have also inherited a fierce tradition of independence. Many have forefathers who built their homes in Deanwood at night after working long daylight hours at demanding jobs. "They were a hardworking stock of people, a pioneering stock," said one resident.
It is a community "living on top of history," said Earl Simpson, an unofficial Deanwood historian who as a boy excavated Indian artifacts from an ancient burial ground near Division Avenue.
Deanwood traces its history back to 1965, when an adventurer and "a man of colour" named Thomas James received a 103-acre land grant from King William III.
James named his estate on the banks of the Anacostia "Little Deane," said Simpson, who has spent 12 years researching the community's lineage in Maryland and D.C. records but has not discovered the origin of the name.
After the Civil War, the James heirs, needing money, sold some of their land to newly freed slaves. The fourth generation of some of these slave families live in Deanwood today, according to Simpson.