When we first moved from Simpsonville, Maryland (near Columbia), I remember feeling a bit sad to leave the only place I knew as home. I had had a bedroom I shared with my older brother, an older sister that watched out for us and a new baby sister that needed lots of Mom’s attention. My Dad had a new job “in town” (as we called it) and so we had to move. My parents bought a house in Montgomery Square at 2409 Chilham Place, Potomac, Maryland, 20854.
I remember getting out of the car to see our brand new house for the first time in 1968, I was 4 at that time. It was much bigger than our old house and it had a garage for the cars. I was very excited when I found out that I was going to have my own bedroom (until I had to go to bed.) I was a little scared to be by myself in that big room at first. The yard was not as big as our old property but it was fine just the same. (Later I was glad it was smaller as I had to mow the lawn most of the time in my teens).
Early on (1968 - early 1970’s) I can remember having a milk box outside the backdoor of the house and the Green Spring truck would deliver our milk and take the empty bottles. Later when the milk service stopped we would ride in the station wagon to the grocery store – Giant at Cabin John. There was also a bank (Citizens Bank of MD, Peoples Drug, a movie theatre, and a dry cleaner). I recall taking trips to the Cabin John Park, riding the mini train and going to Noah’s ark to see the farm animals. The biggest event at the park for my brother and I was picking up trash and putting it in the pig’s mouth, so we could listen to him eat it (it was a trash compactor and it made a sound like a pig when you fed trash into its mouth). I remember waiting for the Good Humor Truck to come down the street and my Mom would treat us to some goodies.
My siblings and I attended Ritchie Park Elementary School from Kindergarten-6th grade. Almost all the kids walked or rode bikes to school without our parents, only a few kids came by bus. The only supervision I recall were the “patrols” (they wore orange patrol belts or white if they were in training), which were students trained by the school (Mr. Dan trained them in my day) or if you walked “the long-way” down Stratton Drive to the main crosswalk at Dunster/Stratton, you would find Mrs. Tolson, the “Crossing Guard Lady,” (Kevin Tolson was in my brother’s class at Ritchie Park) holding up traffic for kids to make there way to school. Ritchie Park was a fun school and I made many new friends during that time. My family also attended St. Raphaels Church for Sunday Mass and CCD classes during the week at the Church (which I didn’t always like to attend, but I went.) I would walk to Church on Sundays, sometimes by myself and go to an early Mass and then get a donut or two for the walk home. To get to and from the church/school from my house, the kids on my street could use the “short- cut” which took you past the “big watertower” (which was green originally) near the intersection of Chilham/Aqueduct and over to Kimberwicke. This “short-cut” was at the end of Aqueduct Rd. which used to be a dead-end with only two houses facing the watertower and ended at “the swamp.” The swamp was the place were kids would go to get tadpoles/frogs (and muddy) in the spring and in the winter we actually could ice skate on it if it rained enough and then froze. Beyond the dead-end and the swamp was an old farm pasture that was overgrown and had some old 1 story farm buildings on it closer to the main house, which I was always told was owned by Mrs. Fields. We would rarely see her and were afraid, mostly of the unknown, but would always hear her calling in the cats at night. We once got up enough courage to go up and talk to her and she gave us all cookies! (she must have been 70-80 at that time.) I do remember playing in those fields with friends and siblings and seeing ponies, sheep, cats and maybe goats (very vague memory of that.) Now that area has been developed and full of homes. I also remember making adventurous trips by bike to Potomac Woods Park to play with school mates.
As I got a bit older (1975-1976), I remember having lots of kids from our neighborhood and other neighborhoods close by would play soccer, football, basketball, and other games after school. I also played on organized basketball teams and spent many fall and spring seasons playing MSI Soccer with other kids from Montgomery Square. I actually played MSI soccer in its first year of existence. In the early summer, just after school let out, all the neighbors on Chilham Place between Falls rd/Aqueduct would gather one evening and we would have our annual “block” party right out in the street. I am sure we had to get permission from the county to do this. I also recall several times that our street would be blocked-off (with County saw- horses) from the portion of Chilham (between Falls rd and Aqueduct) nearest my house after a few snowstorms, this kept the plows away and left the frozen, snow covered street for some great sledding down the hilly part of Chilham Place. I could sled from the intersection of Aqueduct/Chilham right down the middle of the street and right into my driveway. I think one of my friend’s father was on the County Council back then and was able to pull a few strings. Mr. Kenary was his name. I recall around Christmas time many neighbors would decorate their homes in hopes of winning the community contest for best decorations etc. I also remember when the county/state added speed limit signs and painted a double yellow line down the street from Falls Rd down Chilham and onto Aqueduct. This stretch of road had become a short cut from Montrose/Sevenlocks rd to Falls. And Sunday morning it was heavily used for those going to St.Raphaels Church. I remember getting the Montgomery Square phone books that listed all the families and kids names and birthdates, I would read it to see my friends names and my family in the book. I also remember having to change our phone number to a 410 from 301 and didn’t like it as I had my address and phone memorized for filling out forms at school. It took a while to get used to that new number.
After leaving Ritchie Park, I attended Robert Frost for Jr. High (7-8th) and Wootton for Sr. High.(9-12th). The bus to take us to school came early and would pick us up at the top of Chilham near Falls Rd. If you missed that bus and were fast you could run up to Stratton and Kimberwicke and catch that bus that came a bit later. I spent many spring days after school cutting grass in Montgomery Square to make some extra spending money. 7th -12th grade was an new experience that opened my eyes to a much bigger world beyond the safe boundaries I had come to know in Montgomery Square. There were many new friends and places to see beyond Chilham Place. I remember a lot of new home developments cropping up during this time all along Falls Road. I especially remember when the Horizon Hill Mansion (Scott family Mansion- Scott Paper Towels etc.) near Falls Rd and Ritchie Parkway was destroyed to build a new large development. As kids in the neighborhood, we often talked about that house as the “haunted mansion.” This was also about the time that the city of Rockville put in sidewalks all up and down many streets in the nearby neighborhood.
I spent little time during this period in Montgomery Square, as I attended Villanova University from 1983-1986, and only came home on holidays. I played soccer at Villanova and attribute much of my success on the playing field to my first and only coach at MSI, Washington Monge, who lived on Jeb Stuart Ct.. We sometimes practiced right in his back yard. My younger sister soon followed me off to college and my parents eventually sold the house at 2409 Chilham Place. I have lots of fond memories of living in Montgomery Square and have driven down Chilham Place a few times since my parents moved out. I was pleasantly surprised to see the tree-lined street with the pear trees my mother had organized with some of the other neighbors to plant up and down the street to enhance the look of the street.