The new houses sprouted on Eyre Drive South in 1970 and 1971, and for five years that street in the Marlboro Meadows subdivision of Prince George's County was predominantly white.
The children still race skateboards and their parents continue to espouse the strong middle-class values that brought them to this suburban community of 750 homes near Upper Marlboro. But today, Eyre Drive South is 80 percent black.
As the county's black population has climbed from 15 percent in 1970 to 35 percent today, integration -- coupled with white flight -- has come to this island of suburbia 10 miles beyond the Beltway.
For the first time, the president of the Marlboro Meadows Civic Association is black.
Last year, the parent-teacher association at the neighborhood school also had its first black president.
On Eyre Drive South -- half of a horseshoe-shaped street that feeds in and out of the subdivsion's main thoroughfare -- the years of rapid change were 1976 and 1977, when 18 of the street's 26 houses were sold. Eleven of those sales were in 1977. In 1978, three houses were sold, all by whites to blacks. This past year, no homes were sold along the street.
School busing to achieve racial integration, often cited as the cause of white flight, played no role here. The Patuxent elementary school serves the Meadows exclusively.
While some techniques of the real estate industry -- to be discussed in an article next week -- appeared to have been partly responsible for the change, traditional block-busting did not occur here.That kind of hard-sell, involving scare letters, panic calls and door-to-door solicitation, is against the law and out of style.
Interviews over the past three years with former and present residents suggest that change in this peaceful-looking subdivision has been far more subtle, fueled largely by the residents' own closely-held notions about their neighbors and their community. The story of Marlboro Meadows suggests that racial feelings set the course of community change in the 1970s.
On Eyre Drive, whites had perceived themselves to be in a minority before they actually were. Isolated crimes were seen as crime waves. Whites -- and some black residents -- tended to tag all newcomers as unruly refugees from the inner city, when in fact they were often aspiring middle-class families, interviews indicated.
"It's almost like being in a foreign country, in a way, because I'm in a minority now," said Dennis DeRycke, a white homemaker, before she moved from the neighborhood and when whites were still in a majority on Eyre Drive South. "I find it a very difficult situation to live with."
Such notions triggered the move of at least five white families from the street, the families themselves acknowledged.
The blacks who replaced them turned out to be strikingly similar in income, goals and life styles. But those similarities, in most cases, were insufficient to overcome racial barriers.
"The problem," said Ron Whitehead, a white resident who was interviewed before he moved from the neighborhood in 1977 to the Midwest, "is that we have not gotten to know any of the blacks who've moved in."
Lee Whitehead, his wife, hastened to add: "Not that we haven't wanted to, but because they are not receptive."
Several houses down the block, Bille Moss, a black women then in charge of veterans' affaris at Prince George's Community College, complained bitterly to a reporter that her white neighbor across the street -- whose home was for sale -- had never spoken to her.
The bitterness on both sides is a memory now. The whites are resettled, and the new blacks middle-class majority has settled in to enjoy the split-level American dream.
The part of Southern Maryland was long the exclusive domain of farmers, landed white gentry and almost hidden rural poor of both races. Marlboro Meadows sits there, on land once planted with tobacco, as if dropped by parachute from another world. It is only miles from the Southern States farm supply store and church graveyards dotted with Confederate crosses.
It is a setting in which some of departed whites -- military families from the South -- said they felt comfortable. At the same time, many of their new black neighbors found it chilling.
"Some jackass off Village Drive flies the Stars and Bars daily," John Kennedy, a black police officer from Philadelphia who lives on Eyre Drive, said during an interview in 1978. "I recognize the fact that we are in the South."
The Meadows residents -- striving, black, white, blue collar and professional -- are alike in many ways, however.
Two-income households, unusual here in the early 1970s, are now commonplace.
Land records show that black owners, like their white predecessors, made small down payments and are paying off large mortgages insured by the Veterans Administration or the Federal Housing Administration.
But some current and former residents -- white and black -- believe that newer arrivals were able to buy because they were given housing subsidies, allowing them to purchase homes that now resell in the $50,000s and when new sell for upwards of $87,900. County officials say no such subsidies have been granted to Meadows buyers.
The black newcomers, many from other states and, most recently, from suburbs inside the Beltway, say they moved to the Meadows to get away from the congestion, crime and other ills -- real and perceived -- of life inside the Beltway.
Among those newcomers was Ezel Silver Jr., a General Services Administration engineer who grew up in New Jersey and attended Howard University. Silver moved to the Meadows in 1973 from an apartment in another Maryland suburb.
"It seems that when you move into an integrated community, white people wait to see what errors you're going to make, whether you're going to keep up the neighborhood," said Silver, who said he has many white friends.
Despite what he construed as aloofness by some white neighbors, Silver felt good about Eyre Drive North until an incident in 1976, one which illustrated a popularly held but wrong notion that many of the new black residents were moving to the Meadows from the District.
His mother was visiting from New Jersey when her car was spray-painted with the words "Nigger, go back to D.C."
In December 1977, Silver moved, to a larger house in Kettering, another development in the county.
Eyre Drive residents John and Louisa Kennedy are typical of those who moved in during the mid-1970s. They had come from Hyattsville, an area where criminals had begun "selling you hot goods on the street," said Kennedy, a District police officer who is black.
The Kennedys bought their Meadows home four years ago from a middle-aged white couple who had been transferred to Panama. Kennedy, a pipe-smoking, philosphical man who reads Melville, Mark Twain and "Psychology Today," and whose outlook is conservative, said the house was "our starter home . . . an investment."
Insurance salesman John Baynard moved to Eyre Drive seeking a better place to raise his family. But Baynard and other black buyers said they were often surprised to learn that their arrival had prompted others to leave.
The whites leaving the Meadows often moved to other Maryland counties a little further commute away. Frequently, they bought houses very much like the ones they just left.
"I feel very sorry for people who (move) because they live in a changing area," said real estate agent Grace Sands, who lives in the Meadows and still sells homes there to whites. "This business of letting some element chase you all over Prince George's and Anne Arundel is ridiculous. It's sad. They don't have a mind of their own."
Fred Altiere, new-home salesman in the Meadows from 1972 until last July, used to keep a list of a dozen satisfied white residents to show prospective buyers. "It was not effective," he said. "People buy on emotion."
And sell on emotion, too. Admittedly moved to act by their own feelings, the DeRyckes left the Meadows in September 1977, for a subdivision near Poolesville, in upper Montgomery County, where the majority of residents are white. The small town is very much like the Upper Marlboro they used to know, Dennis DeRycke said.
Other whites have moved from Marlboro Meadows to distant cities, moves some of them frankly say were prompted by racial change in the neighborhood.
"To put it bluntly," said former Eyre Drive resident Kitty Thornell, interviewed by telephone at her new home in Minneapolis, "I just didn't didn't like so many of the black people moving in there . . . You try to make friends with them and you get nothing but a go-to-hell look." Thornell moved in 1976.
Joe Cantelupe, a white friend of Ezel Silver's, hoped it would end differently.
Cantelupe, a resident of Eyre Drive North for eight years, is remembered by another former neighbor as a man who will "get to know his neighbors in spite of them."
But Cantelupe left in 1978, giving up his work as a systems programmer at the Goddard Space Flight Center for a new job in Dayton, Ohio.
Cantelupe said he became "paranoid" after his son was attacked by two black children in an incident with racial overtones. The Cantelupes say there were deeply troubled, too, by anti-black feelings expressed by their son, who once threw eggs at Ezel Silver's car.
Before she moved, Dennis DeRycke expressed a different kind of parental concern. Her children, she said, "want to be black. They seem to be losing their own identity."
DeRycke also found fault with the neighborhood school, saying it had "declined in its goals" as the result of an influx of new students "from schools that did not have the same standards."
Another white resident, before her move from Eyre Drive to Anne Arundel County, also criticized the school. Her statement was was based on hearsay; her children had never gone there.
When it was first built in 1969 in the middle of Marlboro Meadows, the Patuxent School had been a drawing card for the new development. A decade later, it was being cited by some as a reason for moving.
Test scores were lower than they had been in the early 1970s. But test scores throughout the county are down, and Patuxent's most recent results are close to county-wide levels.
Jim St. Ledger, the school's white principal, said Patuxent had gotten a "bum rap."
"In this school," said the the principal, whose former duty station was in predominantly black Palmer Park during a period of racial change, "they're coming from different systems. But the people coming in seem to appreciate the school a little more."
Reflecting the community, the school had been 61 percent white in 1974. By the fall of 1977, there was a black majority of 56 percent. In 1978 it had climbed to 65 percent, and last fall it reached 71 percent.
During the period of change, the school has suffered a declining enrollment, down from 478 in 1977 to 408 today. PTA membership dropped, too, from 235 three years ago to 142 in the last school year. This year, membership is back up to 184.
In last 1977, black and white parents united to defeat a plan under which some Meadows children would have been bused to Bowie -- to better integrate its schools. But further in the future, some parents fear, increasing racial imbalance combined with a decreasing enrollment could threaten Patuxent School's very existence and, with it, the community.
While one neighborhood organization, the Optimists, has dwindled to a handful of members as whites moved out, the Marlboro Meadows Civic Association is thriving, and its membership has grown from 350 in 1977 to 480 today.
Crime has been one of the association's concerns, although the county police generally describe the Meadows as a low-crime neighborhood. A spate of thefts from cars in 1977 ended when citizens formed a CB radio patrol.
The civic association, now organizing a "neighborhood watch" to safeguard the community, has never dealt with white flight or its social and economic consequences. The subject, however, has been widely discussed in the neighborhood.
"Everyone talks about white flight and I firmly believe this community has it," said John Malach, a white homeowner who refuses to be passive. "You've got to get people riled up. Blacks and whites, we've got to somehow get together to stem the tide."
Some blacks said they agree with Malach. Others said they could care less about white flight, but there was sometimes an edge of anger and hurt in their voices.
"The people who moved out are really missing a good neighborhood," said Eyre Drive resident Gladys Turner. "The community didn't need them to begin with. With progress comes integration, that's all." CAPTION: Picture 1, Village Drive, the main thoroughfare of Marlboro Meadows, a Prince George's County community where a number of houses have been sold to black families. By James Parcell -- The Washington Post; Map, no caption, The Washington Post; Picture 2, Eyre Drive resident John Kennedy: "I recognize the fact that we are in the South." By James Parcell -- The Washington Post.