Dreaming of Del Ray, Circa 1941
The history of Del Ray is a recurring theme here on DIY Del Ray. So far we’ve covered the classic Art Deco architecture up and down the Avenue and Del Ray at the turn of the century. Today we travel back to Del Ray in the year 1941.
I’ve written before about my husband’s collection of yearbooks, purchased off eBay, but his most recent acquisition is the most meaningful to me: George Washington High School, class of 1941. Rich with historical tidbits, it tells a story about life in our ‘hood more than 70 years ago.
The cover features George Washington’s family’s coat of arms, which roughly translates to “The result is the test of the actions.”
The school opened in 1935, merging students from two of the city’s high schools. One of these was George Mason High School, which was located next to Mount Vernon Community School. George Mason’s building (the part along Mt. Vernon Ave.) was then incorporated into Mount Vernon Community School.
The school’s first principal was Henry Moncure, a fellow alumnus of mine from the College of William and Mary. He remained principal until 1943.
Appearance was important, these seniors had some pretty fabulous coiffed hairstyles.
And “swell” was the adjective of choice to show your affection for your friends. It’s used several times throughout the book.
If I went to school at this time, I’d probably be in this club.
Or possibly the Homemaking Club, making clothing to donate to the Red Cross.
In the background of this photo you get a glimpse of the apartments still holding strong on Glendale Ave.
And in this shot of the school you can see that many of the trees that now circle the building have yet to be planted.
What I find most fascinating are the advertisements at the back of the yearbook, providing a glimpse of how people lived — where they got their groceries, clothing, hair cuts, and sources of entertainment. The corner of Mt. Vernon and Monroe Ave. has long been a spot for gas stations.
In the block where St. Elmo’s, UPS and the Dairy Godmother are, there used to be a deli and a laundry. Hmmm… fresh french bread.
Nowadays we buy our 1940s clothing at Amalgamated, but these vintage treasures probably started out at the Rosecrest Shop (also same block as St. Elmo’s, UPS and the Dairy Godmother — a happening block, that was).
Near today’s Executive Lock and Key imagine popping in for your groceries at Smith’s — free delivery to boot!
How fun it would have been to bowl (for health and clean fun) at the Del Ray Recreation Center! And I wonder what Joseph Campnellie’s “artistic” kids haircuts looked like (now home to E C Robinson Upholstery).
At the other end of Mt. Vernon by Braddock Rd, we had our own hometown drug store (there is nothing there now).
And even a few long-time Alexandria businesses like Thomas J. Fannon & Sons make an appearance in support of the school.
What keeps this book looking great after all these years? Quality Vibratone printing!
Though there aren’t any photos of Del Ray’s main street in the book, we are lucky so many of today’s buildings were around in the 1940s, making it easy to imagine them in their former lives. History is alive and well in Del Ray!