Since 1968, a McDonald's has stood here, at the corner of East-West Highway and Pearl Street in downtown Bethesda. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)

You can keep your salons of Paris. You can forget your Algonquin Round Table. Some of the wittiest repartee is spouted among high school students at fast-food restaurants.

That’s my memory, anyway. For better or worse, the friends you make in high school and the experiences you have there set the tone for the rest of your life. And there is no better place for mutual showoffery — for wisecracks, capers, quips, jokes, japes and (literally) sophomoric witticisms — than ensconced in the hard plastic seat of a corner booth at a McDonald’s after play rehearsal, band practice, soccer practice, detention . . .

There’s something in­cred­ibly liberating about those hours just after school. Free of adult supervision, you unwind with a soda or milkshake and shoot the breeze. No preprandial Old Fashioned or postprandial port ever tasted as good.

And so I wonder what effect the recent closure, after 44 years, of the McDonald’s at the corner of East-West Highway and Pearl Street in Bethesda will have on the student body of Bethesda Chevy Chase High, a mere block away.

“There was a pretty huge uproar when it closed, especially because the news came so suddenly,” senior Aaron Wildavsky, 17, e-mailed me.

I noticed last week that the Mickey D’s was closed. When I went by on Monday, the red-brick building had been razed completely, nary a golden arch in sight.

“It was very sudden,” Aaron said. “Even on the last day of operation, it just looked like any other day. The next day it was closed.”

It looks like it’s being replaced by a glass office building. I wonder what memories will be forged there.

Do you have strong memories from your high school hangout? Send your recollections, with “Hangout” in the subject line, to

Thanks a bunch, Grinch

For five years, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church has been selling Christmas trees at a vacant lot at Third and M streets SW. The lot is where the church used to be — and will be again. The old building had structural problems and was torn down. It will be replaced by a new church in a complex that includes apartments and a community center. To remind people that the church will return — and to offer inexpensive Christmas trees — the congregation set up the tree lot. Well, 16 trees were stolen over the course of the sale, pinched at night when the fenced lot was locked. Then on Sunday, congregational vice president Katherine Beaver’s Dodge Intrepid was stolen. Inside were some of the proceeds from the tree sale. All told, St. Matthews is out about $1,600.

The church never makes money on the firs and pines. The idea is to break even while providing low-income neighbors a place to buy trees.

“It feels bad,” Katherine said of the theft. “It shows that there’s such a need for the churches in that area to be open to people and try to show them God’s love.”

I’d like to show the thieves something else, and I’m afraid it isn’t love.

Color my world

DuPont, maker of automotive paints, has released its annual survey of most popular car colors. The results? People still go in for boring hues.

In the North American rankings, the top three colors are white, black and silver. Gray comes in fourth. That holds true pretty much worldwide, though there are some minor variations. Silver beats white in South America. Brown is a surprise No. 3 in India. Red comes in fourth in Russia (naturally).

I wish some automaker would start painting its cars plaid.

Children’s Hospital

Every office should have a Darla Hannan. For 35 years, the Silver Spring resident was a tireless charity engine at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, where she worked. Rather than exchange Christmas cards, the technical staff there would pool their donations and give to Children’s National Medical Center. Darla organized it all.

Wrote her colleague Grace Goodman: “Before there were word processors, she would hand write (using red and green pens) a list of the contributors and the purpose, and post the lists by the elevators. She updated the lists as more and more people contributed.”

Darla retired earlier this year from FERC, and her friends there decided to honor her with a $200 donation in her name to Children’s Hospital.

Thank you for all you did for the hospital, Darla. And I hope some other local offices will take inspiration from your tireless efforts.

You can make a tax-deductible donation by going to
or sending a check (payable to Children’s Hospital) to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390.

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