A Special Guest Interview with, Jean Poholsky, a Resident of Mt. Pleasant in 1940

Jean, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Thanks to Kalia for submitting this great interview.  If you have any neighbors who have lived in any of the neighborhoods covered on PoP please send their recollections to [email protected]  

“I have been fortunate enough to work with an extraordinary woman and friend who I recently discovered was a former resident of Mt. Pleasant. Jean Poholsky was born in 1936 and since then has traveled and lived all over the world in places like East Africa, Ireland, and Australia to name a few. She often shares her fondest memories of living in Mt Pleasant and can recall things like they were yesterday. In 1940 she moved into her first house in Mt. Pleasant, 1948 Irving Street. Her grandmother owned the property which was a house split into two apartments inside the vestibule area. Her neighbors, the Vought’s, were an older couple that had the lower level apartment and her family’s door led them up to the top two floors including the attic (where she once ate a moth ball just to see what it would taste like!) The house was beautiful inside she describes and had a very similar look to the 1.3 mil house featured earlier on PoP’s site under “Let’s Play Good Deal or Not -Fantasy Edition”. (Yes, Jean does like to occasionally check out PoP’s blog!) Jean’s family would live in this house from 1940 to 1946 where she fondly remembers being able to roller skate from 16th street to the Zoo jumping the curbs and cracks in the sidewalks. When it snowed, Irving Street would be closed to traffic and she and the other children would sled down it all day or ice skate on Adam’s Mill Creek. She loved going to Tivoli to see a movie or hopping on the Street Cars to ride to the National Theater to catch a show. Jean says that those were very exciting years for her. Interview continues after the jump.

In 1946 she moved to Chevy Chase, MD, only to return back to Mt. Pleasant again in 1948. Her family moved into 3155 19th Street by Lamont. This house was also extremely beautiful. Here she related to me about the one and only time she went to The Old Soldiers Home to “Park” with a boy. This was where all the young kids would go back in the day. Jean said she doesn’t think she even kissed the boy because she was so afraid she was going to get arrested and her Dad was going to have to pick her up at the station…a fate that would have been worse than death she exclaims! Another big place for necking was Haines Point where they would go see the “Submarine Races”. Jean laughs as she remembers being asked if she would like to go see a Submarine Race at Haines Point with which she replied “Well how do you see the submarines if they are underwater…oh do you watch the periscopes?” She said she was answered with laughter and later realized why it was so funny- no one would be actually watching any submarine races because they would be too busy making out!

When I asked her what she thought about all the recent development in the surrounding areas she said she was happy with the house renovations in Mt. Pleasant that kept the original facades of the houses and was sad however to see the many Mom and Pop shops disappear. Back when she lived in the area Mt. Pleasant Street was the place to go for all the great shopping and food. She has not yet seen Columbia Heights’ new renovations (at the Tivoli Square area) but when I told her what was in there she replied “What good is a Target when you used to have all the great local shops in the area?!?” She does plan on visiting the area again soon to revisit all of her still remaining childhood hang outs and homes as well as take in the new development in the surrounding areas. Jean is also very interested to know when the next PoP Happy Hour is so she can make an appearance- she hopes it is very soon.

Now at 72 years old, Jean resides in Columbia, MD but still feels a strong affiliation with Mt. Pleasant and wishes she could live there again today and that you all enjoy the area as much as she did.”

Ed. note: the next PoP happy hour will be early August.

17 Comment

  • Hubba hubba – what a looker!

    Seriously, though, thanks for sharing this.

  • if you think she was hot back in the day, you should see her now. like a fine wine, perfectly aged 🙂

  • Jean is going to be on today so if anyone has any questions for her she will be more than happy to answer them.

  • This picture was taken in 1954 for my graduation from Sacred Heart Academy, 16th and Park Road. I also attended grade school at Sacred Heart.

    I will be available any time for questions that you may have about the Mt. Pleasant area back in the day.

  • Hi Jean, Can you speak a little more about what Mt. Pleasant Street was like when you lived there? Was Heller’s bakery there? Were there many restaurants? Are there any similarities to today? Thanks!

  • Yes, Heller’s was there. This is where I had my first job. I also worked at Heller’s on 14 Street and over on Connecticut Avenue. The Heller children also went to Sacred Heart and lived on Park Road. In the 1940’s and 50’s there was a Safeway one store off the corner of Lamont and Mt. Pleasant. David’s Men Store was exactly on the corner of Lamont and Mt. Pleasant. Next to that store and on Lamont Street was a restaurant (where are the SHA girls would go and smoke and drink cokes after school which was precisely against all rules and regs.!) Often the nuns would appear to catch the street car and we’d duck down in our booths hoping not to be seen. There was another restaurant/lounge directly across from the street car turn-around, a shop that sold notions, a candy store, dry cleaners (all going up Mt. Pleasant towards Park Road). Going down Mt. Pleasant towards Columbia Road was a People’s Drug Store, a DGS (grocery store) an Aristo dry cleaners, gas station (on the corner of Kenyon and Mt. Pleasant). The corner of Irving and Mt. Pleasant was a huge dry cleaners owned by Mr. Levine. He was a special friend of mine and would let me come into the store and watch him as he pressed clothes and shirts. His wife did alterations and I’d stand and watch her. Often she would give me scraps of clothe and chewing gum. Chewing gum was precious as this was during the war. Across Irving near Hobart was yet another restaurant lounge, Mr. George’s delicatessan, a Chinese laundry, gas station and a Safeway. (I think this was the first Safeway and it closed and opened a larger store on the corner of Mt. Pleasant and Lamont.) Mr. George was another particular friend especially during the summer. His store was airconditioned and I was a frequent customer on a hot summer day. If I had a nickel I’d drop in to see him and have a dreadful time trying decide whether to buy an orange popsicle or a dill pickle out of the barrel! I was always on skates and the gas station had a newly paved area where I’d practice doing circles while on skates. I also love the smell of gas and liked to hang around and watch the guys work on cars. Everyone knew me, my sisters and my parents. Everyone watched out for me and if I was not behaving (whatever that meant in those days) my mother was informed. Across the street from these stores was the Kenesaw. I loved, absolutely loved, that place. They had a small eating area and a soda fountain. I could skate in there too, on the black and white tile which allowed me to really move. The pharmacist was not always too happy with me but he tolerated my incursions fairly well only once complaining to my mother.

    Yes, I have stories and memories.

  • Did you ever go to The Raven Grill back then?

  • Was the zoo free back then too? Could you feed the animals?

  • Yes, the zoo was free and we could feed some animals. We always had a picnic on Easter Monday at the zoo on the big hill in front of (I think) the monkey house.

    The Raven Grill? Where was that located?

  • Jean, it’s great to hear your stories. My mom grew up on a farm in New York state but often came to Washington in the summers to vist her aunts and uncles that lived here. She was born in 1937, so very close to your age. Her first time in Washington was at age 6, and this trip was the first time she ate in a restaurant—a seafood restaurant on the waterfront (perhaps Philip’s?). She wowed her aunts and uncles by eating raw oysters on the half shell (and loving them)…she was a very adventurous eater for a young farm girl on her first trip to the big city!

  • Philip’s is relatively new. She may have eaten at Hogate’s.

  • Hi Jean!

    I’m on Kenyon between 13th and 14th in Columbia Heights, I wonder if you have any stories of the columbia heights area when you were growing up. How was the tivoli as a movie theater, wasn’t there another one on 14th?
    Did you ever go to the origianl Hot Shoppe (the Marriot family’s very first venture), i think it was on Park Rd.

  • The Tivoli was a very grand neighborhood theater. The Capitol, on F St. downtown was magnificent and top-of-the-line in DC but the Tivoli was a close second. Very plush in red velvet and great seats, dim lights and a great chandleleir. This was the place where a boy first held my hand, Saturday matinee, and where I spent many a Saturday afternoon. I believe my mother gave me a quarter and that covered admission and candy. Whatta deal! (Later the boys paid this tab.) The othe theater was further down 14 Street, past Irving and it was called the Savoy (I think.) This was the place where my parents would not let me go EVER. I believe the theater only showed what was perceived as second-class pictures. For heavan’s sake, this is where Linda Darnell starred in “Outlaw” and Jennifer Jones starred in “…..Sun”. Can’t recall the exact title but these two features were even talked about from the pulpit! Of course this made the curious (like me) crazy to see these movies and I did, much later as an 18 year old adult. Neither impressed me very much but just tell me I can’t do something and you make me crazy! Oh, good and gracious God, the Hot Shoppe. People’s Drug Store was on the corner of 14th and Park Road and the Hot Shoppe was two doors down. Oh, how many times I’ve wanted and still want a barbeque, french fries and orange freeze from there. I believe my first two children thrived in the womb on these foods. J. Willard Marriott built a house on 16 Street next to my grandmother’s. When it was being built I’d look in the windows to see what all my money had built.

  • jean, i didnt realize what a man-izer you were! i can only imagine how much fun it must have been to run around the city with you back then, not worried about being shot or ran over by an suv, with a couple of dollars and a weekends worth of fun planned!

  • Cristobal: It all sounds so darn good, doesn’t it? It felt good while living it, too. I have been trying to think of what was scary then; what I was afraid of. I think of the war as being scarey and of my two uncles who were serving in the Pacific. I was afraid about their never coming home. Otherwise I did feel safe and goodness only knows I was all over DC either by street-car, or bike or skates.

  • In the 1950s there were many Tops Drive-In restaurants in Montgomery County, Tops was a big sponsor of the Milt Grant Show. Do you know if there were any Tops Drive Ins inside the District?

    On a different note, do you remember how Mt Pleasant responded to major cultural events? Was there something specific for the Bicentennial? Do you remember Mt Pleasant St parades or anything like that?

    What about the razing of Southwest? I knew a few neighbors when I first moved in who came to MtP after their houses were bought up for the conversion of SW “wrong side of the tracks” housing to federal land. And another woman who grew up in a basement apartment in Georgetown and got her own house in MtP in the late 1950s.

  • Don’t recall Tops Drive-In restaurants. Do remember Milt Grant. I wasn’t living in the area during the Bicentennial. We had one heck of a parade at the end of WW II – went on for days. (Not exactly a parade but a spontaneous celebration.)

    My parents moved from Mt. Pleasant in 1958 and that became the end of my real experience with Mt. Pleasant. At this time also, my grandmother moved from Kilbourne to the Connecticut Avenue area so all my Mt. Pleasant ties were gone.

    I believe I was over seas during the ‘razing of Southwest’ and have no memory at all of this.

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