I AM THE YOUNGEST child of a family of five -- my mother, my brother and two sisters. I was born and raised in Washington, as were my parents. I grew up in Anacostia in the Stanton Dwellings projects. My family and I lived there for 14 years. We were the first family to move into the new development on Congress Place SE They did not look like the projects we know today, but more like small semi-detached houses. I was only four months old when we moved in 1952, but I remember my childhood there on Congress Place very well.

Everyone knew everyone. In fact, if a stranger walked down our street, some of the parents would either sit at their windows or step out on their porches and watch until the stranger was out of sight. We all took pride in where we lived. Some parents planted flowers and vegetable gardens. My mother was one of them. She planted some of the most beautiful and unusual flowers in our front yard. I had some of the happiest times of my life in our "little community."

For most of the time my family and I lived on Congress Place, we were proud of our neighborhood. But things happened -- people moved, the original manager left, new people moved in -- and our little community changed for the worse. When I tried while writing this article to talk to people I had known from the neighborhood back then, several did not want to speak to me. I think they were ashamed to be associated with what our neighborhood had become. I understand their feelings, but I also wonder why it changed so drastically from the community I like to remember.

In that community, you could leave your doors unlocked and even sleep outside during those hot summer nights and no one would bother you. If you were caught doing something wrong, it was only natural for a neighboring parent to punish you, take you home to your mother and tell her what you were caught doing. Then your mother would punish you all over again.

Ice cream trucks used to come down our streets. If we missed one, we would stop and listen for the bell and then we would take off running towards it. We even had our own favorite ice cream man. His name was "Shake." If some of the kids were a few pennies short or if some of them didn't have any money at all, Shake would say, "Here, take this popsicle and tell your mother she can pay me tomorrow."

My mother was the neighborhood seamstress, even though she worked as a valet at a Northwest hotel. She was always available for her neighbors, especially during Easter time. Easter was a holiday all of us looked forward to. All of the kids would parade up and down the block, showing off our new Easter outfits.

A few of us had made friends from school with some of the kids that lived near us in the Parkland Apartments. This was the first time I ever felt a little bad because we lived in the projects. I was with a friend when her mother screamed out of the apartment window and asked her daughter who we were. When she told her mother that we went to school with her and that we lived up the hill, her mother said, "I told you not to associate with those project kids." It hurt because I never saw a difference between us and them. It's really sad that their parents imagined that they saw a difference.

All the kids went to the Turner Elementary School, located at Stanton Road SE. There was a recreational center located in the back of the school. It was open after school hours and during the weekends. We could go in and borrow every toy imaginable and play with it. The center gave dance contests and block parties. They were very successful because not only did all the kids come, but the parents joined in also. Every Halloween, the school would give a Halloween costume contest. My mother made a clown costume for my oldest sister one year. She won first prize. Then five years later, I won first prize with the same costume.

Those were some really great times. We had what we all call today a shopping center. It was located on Alabama Avenue SE. One of the first Jumbo food stores was located there, as was our own drug store, with a pharmacist, whom we all called "Doc." The drug store had a carry-out and an ice cream parlor. There was the Slades' restaurant, which sold some of the best home cooking you could find anywhere. I remember how the cook would visit the tables and ask the customers if everything was all right. There was also a cleaner, a laundromat and the "Saddle's," a 5-and-10 cent store.

We even had our own playground area. It was a large cement area. We use to jump rope, play hopscotch and play jacks there. As we got older, we started to call our little playground, the "gossip place." We use to meet there to tell and listen to the latest gossip.

The original management of the projects was very strict. The manager's name was Mr. Morton and he ran it with a stern hand. For example: The projects were for families with low-incomes, as they are today. A lot of families moved out, because they had to. Mr. Morton used to hide and watch who was getting on the bus in the mornings, and watch what time they got off the bus in the evenings. This is how he found out who was working and who wasn't. The ones who didn't report to the rental office that they were working were asked to move.

Management made daily inspections of the alley behind our house. I remember how my grandmother used to wake us up early in the morning so we could take the garbage down to the alley before the garbage men came. All the parents were very strict about cleanliness not only inside of the homes, but outside as well.

One day, one of my sisters lost some of her school papers on her way home from school. Somehow, those papers ended up in someone else's garbage can. During that night, that family's garbage can was knocked over. The next morning, management was making its daily inspection of the alley; when they saw the garbage laying in the alley, they noticed some papers among the rubbish. They looked at the name on the papers, came to our door and made us go down to the alley and clean the garbage up.

Mr. Morton got a promotion and transferred to another housing unit. A woman took his place. She wasn't at all friendly like Mr. Morton. She ran the projects with a stern hand, too. When she made inspections of the alley, if anyone's lid was off of their garbage or trash cans, she would look at the address, go to that house and make them find the lids and put them on. She, too, made spot checks of the lawns and inside the homes as Mr. Morton had.

When she left, there were no longer inspections of the inside or outside, and no checks on how many family members were living in a household. The families were no longer made to keep their lawns clean (of trash, or the grass cut) or to make sure that no trash or garbage was in the alley. This was in 1965. The families that were moving onto Congress Place that year were mostly families with small children and no father present.

I started to notice other changes in our little community around 1965. The new people moving in didn't care how their children looked while they were outside. They were people who didn't take care of their lawns. I remember seeing some of the new parents sitting outside on the porch, drinking beer and cursing out loud, while their kids stood nearby. We could hear some of them calling their children's names after 11 p.m., trying to find them. These were children as young as six years old.

In 1966 we moved to a smaller unit because of the death of my grandmother. We moved from our four-bedroom place down the street to 1504, a two-bedroom house. That was a move I wish we never made. The house next to us was vacant when we first moved into 1504, but it wasn't vacant long enough to suit me. The people that moved next door were the nosiest people I have ever seen. They had two bedrooms as we did, only in ours it was my mother and me in one bedroom and my two sisters in the other. But in the apartment next door, it was Alabama Avenue SE. One of the first Jumbo food stores was located there, as was our own drug store, with a pharmacist, whom we all called "Doc." The drug store had a carry-out and an ice cream parlor. There was the Slades' restaurant, which sold some of the best home cooking you could find anywhere. I remember how the cook would visit the tables and ask the customers if everything was all right. There was also a cleaner, a laundromat and the "Saddle's," a 5-and-10 cent store.

We even had our own playground area. It was a large cement area. We use to jump rope, play hopscotch and play jacks there. As we got older, we started to call our little playground, the "gossip place." We use to meet there to tell and listen to the latest gossip.

The original management of the projects was very strict. The manager's name was Mr. Morton and he ran it with a stern hand. For example: The projects were for families with low-incomes, as they are today. A lot of families moved out, because they had to. Mr. Morton used to hide and watch who was getting on the bus in the mornings, and watch what time they got off the bus in the evenings. This is how he found out who was working and who wasn't. The ones who didn't report to the rental office that they were working were asked to move.

Management made daily inspections of the alley behind our house. I remember how my grandmother used to wake us up early in the morning so we could take the garbage down to the alley before the garbage men came. All the parents were very strict about cleanliness not only inside of the homes, but outside as well.

One day, one of my sisters lost some of her school papers on her way home from school. Somehow, those papers ended up in someone else's garbage can. During that night, that family's garbage can was knocked over. The next morning, management was making its daily inspection of the alley; when they saw the garbage laying in the alley, they noticed some papers among the rubbish. They looked at the name on the papers, came to our door and made us go down to the alley and clean the garbage up.

Mr. Morton got a promotion and transferred to another housing unit. A woman took his place. She wasn't at all friendly like Mr. Morton. She ran the projects with a stern hand, too. When she made inspections of the alley, if anyone's lid was off of their garbage or trash cans, she would look at the address, go to that house and make them find the lids and put them on. She, too, made spot checks of the lawns and inside the homes as Mr. Morton had.

When she left, there were no longer inspections of the inside or outside, and no checks on how many family members were living in a household. The families were no longer made to keep their lawns clean (of trash, or the grass cut) or to make sure that no trash or garbage was in the alley. This was in 1965. The families that were moving onto Congress Place that year were mostly families with small children and no father present.

I started to notice other changes in our little community around 1965. The new people moving in didn't care how their children looked while they were outside. They were people who didn't take care of their lawns. I remember seeing some of the new parents sitting outside on the porch, drinking beer and cursing out loud, while their kids stood nearby. We could hear some of them calling their children's names after 11 p.m., trying to find them. These were children as young as six years old.

In 1966 we moved to a smaller unit because of the death of my grandmother. We moved from our four-bedroom place down the street to 1504, a two-bedroom house. That was a move I wish we never made. The house next to us was vacant when we first moved into 1504, but it wasn't vacant long enough to suit me. The people that moved next door were the nosiest people I have ever seen. They had two bedrooms as we did, only in ours it was my mother and me in one bedroom and my two sisters in the other. But in the apartment next door, it was the mother, her boy friend and five kids. They never kept their grass cut or their trash inside the trash cans.

They were famous for tying their screen doors back in the summertime; this is how I saw how filthy their house was inside. This is also when we started having roaches and rats. By the end of 1966, the whole neighborhood became infested with roaches and rats.

In the early years, everyone on Congress Place was trying to better themselves at all times. This was just the type of people that lived on our street then. A lot of families got better paying jobs, and this was also the time when blacks began to enter the government. More families began to buy cars, and a lot of them started buying their own homes. But none of them who left moved from the Stanton Dwelling projects into another project. They were either buying homes or some moved into the new Stanton Hill apartments, privately-owned apartments that are located on Stanton Road SE. A family that lived next door to us bought a house on Franklin Street NE. Another family bought a house off of Rhode Island Avenue NE. A third family bought a house on Alabama Avenue SE. These were families, like so many others, who had saved enough money while they were living on Congress Place to put down payments on homes.

The tight family unity was destroyed when the original families began to move out of the old neighborhood. The majority of the original families that lived on Congress Place were working-class people, even though they did not make that much money at first. This alone made a big difference between us and most of the families, who were moving into the neighborhood in the mid-'60s. The majority of the new people, many of whom came from Southwest where urban renewal was getting under way, were on welfare when they moved in.

Another difference between the newcomers and us was that we believed that no matter where you lived, you had to maintain your surroundings in an acceptable manner. These places were projects, true, and they were for low-income families, but we didn't treat them as such nor did we carry ourselves as such. This made the biggest difference between the original families and the families that moved on Congress Place in the mid- and late-'60s.

For a while, management started to make inspections again in 1967 -- not like Mr. Morton had, but they gave forth a little effort. Word spread when management was on its way. I used to watch some of the parents, who were just sitting on their porches, run inside, pull down the shades and refuse to answer when management knocked on their doors. Those inspections soon ceased also.

We used to have a police officer who walked the beat in our neighborhood. We called him "Officer Goody." He was the nicest person, and everyone respected him, parents as well as children. I believe he kept the neighborhood intact, as Mr. Morton did.

But we never saw Officer Goody anymore after 1963. Another officer took his place, but he never matched up to Officer Goody. Soon after that, the policemen started to ride in police cars. A drastic change happened that year. Many of the original families started moving out and then Officer Goody left, too.

Shortly after, crimes began to start in our neighborhood. Homes were being broken into, lawn furniture stolen from back yards, someone even stole some of my mother's flowers out of her flower garden. I remember when a little boy threw a rock at a neighbor's window and broke it. A parent saw who had done it and told his mother. The child's mother cursed her out terribly, right there in front of the child. This was the first time I ever heard the words, "welfare," "geechy" and "'Bamas." ("Geechy" is the name people from the country were called. 'Bamas was the name people from the South were called.) I remember seeing two little boys, pointing to some new arrivals, saying, "You're poor, you're on welfare." I found out later that a lot of my friends and their families were on welfare. But we never knew the mother, her boy friend and five kids. They never kept their grass cut or their trash inside the trash cans.

They were famous for tying their screen doors back in the summertime; this is how I saw how filthy their house was inside. This is also when we started having roaches and rats. By the end of 1966, the whole neighborhood became infested with roaches and rats.

In the early years, everyone on Congress Place was trying to better themselves at all times. This was just the type of people that lived on our street then. A lot of families got better paying jobs, and this was also the time when blacks began to enter the government. More families began to buy cars, and a lot of them started buying their own homes. But none of them who left moved from the Stanton Dwelling projects into another project. They were either buying homes or some moved into the new Stanton Hill apartments, privately-owned apartments that are located on Stanton Road SE. A family that lived next door to us bought a house on Franklin Street NE. Another family bought a house off of Rhode Island Avenue NE. A third family bought a house on Alabama Avenue SE. These were families, like so many others, who had saved enough money while they were living on Congress Place to put down payments on homes.

The tight family unity was destroyed when the original families began to move out of the old neighborhood. The majority of the original families that lived on Congress Place were working-class people, even though they did not make that much money at first. This alone made a big difference between us and most of the families, who were moving into the neighborhood in the mid-'60s. The majority of the new people, many of whom came from Southwest where urban renewal was getting under way, were on welfare when they moved in.

Another difference between the newcomers and us was that we believed that no matter where you lived, you had to maintain your surroundings in an acceptable manner. These places were projects, true, and they were for low-income families, but we didn't treat them as such nor did we carry ourselves as such. This made the biggest difference between the original families and the families that moved on Congress Place in the mid- and late-'60s.

For a while, management started to make inspections again in 1967 -- not like Mr. Morton had, but they gave forth a little effort. Word spread when management was on its way. I used to watch some of the parents, who were just sitting on their porches, run inside, pull down the shades and refuse to answer when management knocked on their doors. Those inspections soon ceased also.

We used to have a police officer who walked the beat in our neighborhood. We called him "Officer Goody." He was the nicest person, and everyone respected him, parents as well as children. I believe he kept the neighborhood intact, as Mr. Morton did.

But we never saw Officer Goody anymore after 1963. Another officer took his place, but he never matched up to Officer Goody. Soon after that, the policemen started to ride in police cars. A drastic change happened that year. Many of the original families started moving out and then Officer Goody left, too.

Shortly after, crimes began to start in our neighborhood. Homes were being broken into, lawn furniture stolen from back yards, someone even stole some of my mother's flowers out of her flower garden. I remember when a little boy threw a rock at a neighbor's window and broke it. A parent saw who had done it and told his mother. The child's mother cursed her out terribly, right there in front of the child. This was the first time I ever heard the words, "welfare," "geechy" and "'Bamas." ("Geechy" is the name people from the country were called. 'Bamas was the name people from the South were called.) I remember seeing two little boys, pointing to some new arrivals, saying, "You're poor, you're on welfare." I found out later that a lot of my friends and their families were on welfare. But we never knew it; nor did they show it.

Then the '68 riots hit. I was 16. I remember seeing my mother, sitting by the window and crying, as she watched some of our newer neighbors run through the street with their arms full of food and clothes. A man knocked at our door that same night and asked my mother if she wanted to buy some eggs real cheap. This was the first time I had ever seen my mother really angry. She said, "Look fool, for one, I don't buy stolen goods; two, you better get away from my door, before I call the cops on you." The man got mad and started throwing eggs at our doors and windows. That was a mess to clean up the next day.

After the riots, we had to walk two miles to the grocery store because our neighborhood store had been vandalized.

A past resident of the Stanton Dwelling projects agreed that the neighborhood started to change in the mid-60s, especially when a more lenient management took over. More children were moving in than should have been allowed, she said. The majority of the families moving in from 1966 to the time that she moved out in 1975 were on welfare, she said -- something she knew because she worked at the rental office for Stanton Dwellings from 1967 to 1975. She said she moved because drugs had become a big issue.

We moved in the fall of that same year. I was glad to leave, because it was the first time that I didn't feel so proud of my "little community." A few of my old friends would catch the bus over to my house on Minnesota Avenue SE during the weekends and tell me all about the changes in the old neighborhood.

Some of the changes that they told me about I just couldn't believe, or I didn't want to believe them. I went back to the old neighborhood to visit a few of my old friends that were still there in the summer of '69. When I got off the bus I couldn't believe my eyes.

Some of the people who had just moved in before our departure had clothes hanging out of their windows and some thrown across the fences to dry. I couldn't understand that, because we all had ample clothesline space in the back yards to hang the clothes on. Screen doors hung off the hinges; grass and weeds grew tall. I couldn't understand that, either, because the rental office would loan you a lawnmower upon request, so you could cut your grass. Sheets and blankets hung from some windows, in place of curtains. It was the first time that the old neighborhood looked just like what it was -- projects.

As I walked further down the street, I saw a little boy, around two years old, standing in the middle of the street crying for his mommy. I then saw two ladies, just sitting on their porch, drinking beer, looking at the boy. I was afraid a car would hit him, so I ran over and picked him up in my arms. I then walked over to the two women and asked them did they know where the child lived. One of them said, "Yeah, he lives right here." I then walked back to the bus stop and waited for the bus to go home. I couldn't bear to go any further, because I didn't want any more bad surprises.

I did go back when I was 19 years old. I had one friend left there on Congress Place and she was getting married. I went to her wedding shower. When I got out of the car, I was shocked to see how some of the houses were decorated in graffiti, with black spray paint. Where beautiful gardens used to be were now just dry dirt and small patches of grass. Some of the windows had no panes; instead there was cardboard in its place.

I have heard so many people complain about how our city has been invaded by so many foreigners. But I have not heard anyone say how our neighborhoods were invaded by these non-caring people -- people whose standards in life are so much different than ours.

This is just an example of what has happened to, not just my old neighborhood, but so many other neighborhoods throughout our city. You can ride down any low-income area and see what I have been talking about. You can tell who takes pride in where they live and who doesn't. And it; nor did they show it.

Then the '68 riots hit. I was 16. I remember seeing my mother, sitting by the window and crying, as she watched some of our newer neighbors run through the street with their arms full of food and clothes. A man knocked at our door that same night and asked my mother if she wanted to buy some eggs real cheap. This was the first time I had ever seen my mother really angry. She said, "Look fool, for one, I don't buy stolen goods; two, you better get away from my door, before I call the cops on you." The man got mad and started throwing eggs at our doors and windows. That was a mess to clean up the next day.

After the riots, we had to walk two miles to the grocery store because our neighborhood store had been vandalized.

A past resident of the Stanton Dwelling projects agreed that the neighborhood started to change in the mid-60s, especially when a more lenient management took over. More children were moving in than should have been allowed, she said. The majority of the families moving in from 1966 to the time that she moved out in 1975 were on welfare, she said -- something she knew because she worked at the rental office for Stanton Dwellings from 1967 to 1975. She said she moved because drugs had become a big issue.

We moved in the fall of that same year. I was glad to leave, because it was the first time that I didn't feel so proud of my "little community." A few of my old friends would catch the bus over to my house on Minnesota Avenue SE during the weekends and tell me all about the changes in the old neighborhood.

Some of the changes that they told me about I just couldn't believe, or I didn't want to believe them. I went back to the old neighborhood to visit a few of my old friends that were still there in the summer of '69. When I got off the bus I couldn't believe my eyes.

Some of the people who had just moved in before our departure had clothes hanging out of their windows and some thrown across the fences to dry. I couldn't understand that, because we all had ample clothesline space in the back yards to hang the clothes on. Screen doors hung off the hinges; grass and weeds grew tall. I couldn't understand that, either, because the rental office would loan you a lawnmower upon request, so you could cut your grass. Sheets and blankets hung from some windows, in place of curtains. It was the first time that the old neighborhood looked just like what it was -- projects.

As I walked further down the street, I saw a little boy, around two years old, standing in the middle of the street crying for his mommy. I then saw two ladies, just sitting on their porch, drinking beer, looking at the boy. I was afraid a car would hit him, so I ran over and picked him up in my arms. I then walked over to the two women and asked them did they know where the child lived. One of them said, "Yeah, he lives right here." I then walked back to the bus stop and waited for the bus to go home. I couldn't bear to go any further, because I didn't want any more bad surprises.

I did go back when I was 19 years old. I had one friend left there on Congress Place and she was getting married. I went to her wedding shower. When I got out of the car, I was shocked to see how some of the houses were decorated in graffiti, with black spray paint. Where beautiful gardens used to be were now just dry dirt and small patches of grass. Some of the windows had no panes; instead there was cardboard in its place.

I have heard so many people complain about how our city has been invaded by so many foreigners. But I have not heard anyone say how our neighborhoods were invaded by these non-caring people -- people whose standards in life are so much different than ours.

This is just an example of what has happened to, not just my old neighborhood, but so many other neighborhoods throughout our city. You can ride down any low-income area and see what I have been talking about. You can tell who takes pride in where they live and who doesn't. And it's sad. Because the ones who don't seem to show it with glee. I say this simply because they don't do anything to change it.

So many government funds have been used to renovate different low-income areas. Not long after the completion, the same people destroy the work all over again. I can't understand them. They don't know how lucky they are. If they had to live anywhere besides subsidized housing, then I'm quite sure they would learn to appreciate their surroundings better, because they would know then just how much better off they are than if they had to pay the asking rent for private apartments and houses throughout our city.

A few people who once lived in the old neighborhood did not want to talk about their memories of life in Stanton Dwellings. One lady told me she didn't know me and denied that she ever lived there. Others said they didn't have anything to say because they did not want their names mentioned. When I assured them that their names would not be used, they told me they were not ashamed of where they came from while they lived there; but it's what the neighborhood has become that makes them ashamed now.

A lot of people from the old neighborhood have become very successful. One became a dentist. Another became a policeman. Two became school teachers. My older sister is an office manager. My other sister is a certified public accountant. I work as a communications specialist for the federal government. Both my sisters have college degrees and I have taken college courses.

My sister and I live in a house we own in Southeast near the District line. It is a white clapboard house. In the backyard we have a flower garden like my mother used to have. My daughter and my sister's daughter live with us. My niece is getting ready to go college next year.

Our house is two miles from where we grew up, but in the neighborhood where we live now the people own their own homes. It is a quiet neighborhood. People say sometimes that you can take the people out of the slums but you can't take the slums out of the people. I say it depends on the people.