It's easy to tell which house belongs to Pinkey Oden, well-known chronicler of Cheverly news. Parked in front of the brick dwelling on Euclid Street is a spotless maroon Ford. On both the front and back of the car are special license plates boldly announcing the owner's identity -- "PINKEY" coming and "PINKEY" going.
"I used to drive a white Gran Torino with a sticker on it that said, 'Have you thanked a green plant today?' " Oden said. "But when I got the Ford, somebody -- I forget who, maybe it was somebody at the police department -- said, 'Well, Pinkey, now how are we going to know it's you?' They like to wave at me, you see. I said, 'Okay, I'll fix that.' "
For more than three years, Pinkey Oden has dispensed birth and death announcements, gardening tips and household hints, lists of memories and closing thoughts as the Cheverly columnist in the Prince George's Post-Sentinel, a weekly with a circulation of 7,000.
The picture accompanying her column features a smiling Pinkey holding a watering can poised over a potted plant. The text always begins with a breezy comment on the weather or an occasion: "Let's forget that four-letter word, 'Snow.' " Or, "Spring is here, yippee!" The sign-off is a classic: "See you next time, Pinkey."
"Somebody gave me a call a few years ago and said, 'Why don't you do that column?' " Oden recalled. "So I got a column together. It didn't take any time. I already knew everything that was going on. I'm in everything in town and I hear news every day of my life."
Indeed, Pinkey Oden, grandmother of three, is involved. She sat in her immaculate avocado-green and gold living room on a recent afternoon, trying to list all of her activities -- the Cheverly Garden Club, the county fair board, the Cheverly recreation council, the Maryland Federation of Women's Clubs, many others.
The television was turned to the Cheverly cable channel. Notices about Boy Scout Troop 716, Las Vegas Night at St. Ambrose Church and a meeting of the local Mothers of Multiples steadily appeared and disappeared.
"Wait, quick, they're telling about me," said Oden, pointing to the television. Sure enough, an announcement of the upcoming Cheverly flea market had spread across the screen, directing anyone wanting more information to contact Pinkey Oden.
Oden, a native of Washington who moved to Cheverly with her husband Price 36 years ago, rarely uses her given name, which is Catherine. That just wouldn't be Pinkey.
The nickname dates from her birth, Oden said. The story goes that she mysteriously stopped crying after her mother dressed her in a pink crocheted gown and that her father, noting the dramatic mood change, commented, "We'll just have to call her Little Miss Pinky." Oden later chose to spell it with an "e."
Her column abounds with small-town chitchat -- community journalism with a personal touch, a conviction that Cheverly, with its 5,750 residents, is not just a part of the metropolitan area, but a distinctive place.
"It's supposed to be a neighborhood column and I try to keep it that way," Oden said. "Somebody's sick and we wish them well. Somebody has a baby. Somebody wins an award. I try to get as many names in my column as I can. You can't disappoint them. You find people like to know who dies in Cheverly, who's born . . . . "
In a recent column, Oden noted that the Stueckers of Carlyle Street had had a visit from their daughter and new granddaughter. ("I understand that baby is beautiful," Pinkey reported.) She congratulated Ruth and Ralph Nardone on their 30th wedding anniversary. ("Here's to 30 more and may they be on Hillside Avenue in Cheverly," Pinkey wrote.) She welcomed several new subscribers, and warned in her gardening tips, "I wouldn't plant anything outside until after the end of April."
Oden is one of several town columnists featured in the Post-Sentinel. Others report on happenings in such communities as Hyattsville, North Brentwood, Takoma Park, Lewisdale and Bladensburg. "Pinkey is delightful," said Anne Healey, editor of the Post-Sentinel. "She seems to know everything that's going on, and we are very lucky to have her in our newspaper."
While Oden dutifully attends Cheverly Town Council meetings in her role as the garden club's representative, she steers clear of airing controversies in her column -- although she has been known to mention who she sat beside at a particular meeting.
Still tuned to the Cheverly channel, the television suddenly flashed a reminder of an upcoming recall election of Town Council member Francis George. Oden shook her head and refused to comment publicly on the charges of malfeasance in office. But rest assured, Pinkey knows the poop.
That controversy is one of Oden's current worries about Cheverly. Increased crime in her once-secure neighborhood of older homes is another.
Last September, her house was broken into while she was attending a garden club meeting and her husband was working at the farm the couple owns.
"They came in through the rec room," Oden said indignantly. "They took a lot of old things, some things of my mother's."
It was a blow to the woman who proudly proclaims that she coined the town slogan, "Keep Cheverly Beautiful."
But Pinkey Oden was not downcast for long. "I'm up to my chin in all this volunteer work," said Oden. "Why, I went to England and had a luncheon with the Royal Horticulturist Society and I sat in the queen mother's velvet chair. Oh, I do lots of things. I have a very interesting life."