Memories of Da and Braddock Heights
It is interesting to be old enough to be able to remember when the family car was a Model T Ford. Yes, it was a four door open sedan with side curtains to put up if the weather turned bad. This is the car, I think it cost about $550 new, which took us the forty-five miles at least once a month from Kensington up to Braddock Heights, Maryland to visit Da (Grand-Dad). Most memorable was the last mile after Frederick that involved climbing the first ridge of the Alleghenies. It is remembered as very steep and long for our Model T and definitely an adventure. Being a two-lane road it was not good to be caught behind a big truck, which would always be in low gear and climbing slowly. There was nowhere to pass on the mountain and our Ford at this point would be lacking the power to move into a higher gear to pull around the truck to pass. So this last mile to Grand Dad’s house usually called for patience.
Eventually the crest was reached and immediately a left turn would be made onto Braddock Heights Boulevard and the second house on the left was Grand Dad’s. After parking in front one must then cross the trolley car tracks, a convenient transportation line running up the mountain from Frederick and then down into the Middletown Valley. Grand Dad used this service every day to go to work in Frederick. There was a little trolley station a short distance along the crest a short distance away. I remember well the trolley bell that was sounded when it crossed the main highway nearby and started down the mountain. There is still the memory of lying in bed in the front bed- room and hearing the trolley bell as it passed. I even rode once on the trolley with Grand Dad.
But now Grand Dad’s house stands before us, a two story with that fabulous porch that ran 360 degrees all the way around the house. I even remember the solid railing along the porch that prevented us from falling off as we rode our kiddy car or tricycle around and around. The house had practical metal exterior siding that was painted off white with shutters for the second floor windows. The family had moved into the house about 1912 hoping the fresh air of the mountain would help our Grand Mother who was suffering with TB, later to die of it.
So much of the lives of Grand Dad’s three children were spent at Braddock Heights. Later, about 1932, Uncle Bob McCutcheon’s family moved in from California. With the many visits we made from Kensington, a lot of family history was generated and the three Hartshorn boys from Kensington became quite close to their six McCutcheon cousins. There were many overnight visits in this house.
Who could forget the big first floor front room with grand Dad’s rocking chair, the adjoining dining room was big enough to seat McCutcheons and Hartshorns, fifteen plus around the table with Grand Dad carving and serving. Next is the large old-fashioned kitchen. Nothing really modern looking in there and yet there was a good stove and refrigerator. I seem to remember a little free standing iron coal burning stove for extra warmth and comfort, the kitchen was often an assembly place for family conversation while a meal was being prepared.
Who could ever forget our Aunt Rebe? Only a gracious Lord must have given her to us.Â She was officially known as Miss Rebeca Kay McCutcheon, obviously a family name, but to all in the family she was Aunt Rebe. For the three little boys in our family, she was almost like another mother, a relationship she carried out in a way that never competed with our love for or attachment to our actual mother. Not only sisters they were best friends and did everything together. We three little boys growing up looked to her and received her love and attention as part of our lives. Yes, I believe she was a gift the Lord gave us.
Aunt Rebe was our mother’s younger sister raised in the wonderful community of Braddock Heights, Maryland, a suburb of Frederick, Maryland where she graduated from Hood College. She was popular with her many friends and among them a few serious boyfriends. But none seemed to capture her heart. She remained single throughout her life. She was attractive in every way. I do not know how she was led to make her home to be a part of our family in Kensington, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C.Aunt Rebe had a special spiritual life. Her walk with the Lord was special, special in the way she treated all others, special the way she spent time with the Lord, special the way she lived. She taught Sunday school, went to Bible conferences and even took a year off from her job as a secretary with a law firm in Washington to go to study at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. She later used this to be a witness of her faith to those around her. During World War II she felt led to support the war effort by going to Detroit to work on the assembly line at the Ford Plant, building B-24 Liberator Bombers. Her job was the installation of cockpit instruments and communication equipment. For some two years she lived in the dormitory type accommodations made by Ford to house thousands of workers who had come from all over the country. This was a side of her adventurous spirit and her patriotism for her country.
Aunt Rebe lived a life reaching out to others, thinking not of herself but showing her love by responding and by being there for us in all of life’s situations. As an example in November 1944, I had just returned from the ETO (European Theater of Operations) to the US in the hospital on Staten Island, N.Y. on crutches. I was getting around pretty good and planning to take the train home to Washington for a long weekend visit. The date was set when to my surprise a letter arrived from Aunt Rebe telling me she would arrive before my departure in order to make the trip with me. It was a typical demonstration of her kind of love for others; spontaneous.
She was there to quietly redirect events during squabbles among growing boys and there was timely quiet advice when one of us was out of line or thinking wrongly, always with a spiritual emphasis. We loved her! Again this was not done to redirect our relationship with our mother or father. She no doubt was quiet when it was appropriate.I especially remember our big red setter dog, Joe, who loved to be along for rides in the back seat to enjoy the fresh air of an open sedan and just to be with family. This open car had a roof but no windows, only side curtains to be dropped into place in bad weather. I remember as a six year old retuning from Braddock Heights with Aunt Rebe driving and running into a heavy down pour where the side curtains weren’t up to doing the job. It was so bad that Aunt Rebe saw the opportunity to pull off the road into someone’s yard and we jumped out and ran up on their porch for temporary shelter. Driving in a Model T was an adventure. But this story isn’t about the Model T but about Aunt Rebe.
I remember Mother and Aunt Rebe rambling through the Maryland countryside to stop at antique shops back in the old day when these shops had beautiful antiques at bargain prices. Somehow the market for these things hadn’t yet exploded or maybe these shops hadn’t been discovered. Today we still have a beautiful mahogany dining room table in perfect condition they discovered and bought for thirty-five dollars. The ceiling high, glass front corner cupboard still is in our living room displaying four shelves of silver trophies from our sailboat racing days. Mom and Aunt Rebe had great times together, shopping.
Oh yes, how could I forget the Christmas Eve while the tree was being decorated when suddenly Christmas bells were heard coming up the driveway in the dark and glimpses of Santa were seen? We hadn’t noticed that Rebe had disappeared earlier.I could go on and on. She was such a part of our family. We loved her. What an influence she had on our lives. What a blessing from God.