Our Man in Arlington

June 26, 2018 1:10 PM0 comments

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Last year I published a compilation of defunct newspapers that once served the readers of sainted Arlington. I’ve since been reminded of another.

My friends Charlie and Paula Dierkes recently decluttered and delivered to me a yellowed stash of 1964 issues of a cool weekly the “Arlington Suburban Leader.”

The four copies gave me a joyous hour of perusing a frozen-in-amber slice of Arlington’s past that took me back to intense events of my youth.

The Leader, with offices at 1045 N. Glebe Road (just across from the old Blue Goose building), was a tabloid edited by publisher R. Edward Holmes. It cost 10 cents per copy ($5 a year) and claimed a circulation of 20,000.

One front-page profile of conservative county board candidate Kenneth Haggerty quoted him asking voters to “place a halting reign on the twentieth-century paternalistic monster across the Potomac.”

A banner headline announced a summer jobs program for 40 boys in the Youth Conservation Corps at the Arlington Hall playground. Surrounding the stories were ads from such vanished commercial stalwarts as Bob Peck Chevrolet, WAVA News Radio, Tom Sarris’ Steakhouse, Yeatman’s Hardware and Martin’s Men’s Shop.  Washington Senators season tickets were advertised for $37.50 (includes opening day!).

But most fun was the Leader’s elaborate take-out section titled “The Northern Virginia Sports Recorder.”

It featured Washington-Lee High School’s crew team, under coach Charlie Butts, winning global fame at London’s Henley Regatta. “Yorktown Gymnastics Team Easily Retains State Title,” ran its headline for March 21, 1964. Using stringers, the editors stretched coverage to youth sports in Falls Church (Go Boys Club!), Vienna and Fairfax, as well as George Washington University. They profiled legendary O’Connell High School baseball coach Al Burch.

Not all was mainstream sports. The Leader covered church league basketball, co-ed swimmers at the Northern Virginia Aquatic Club, men’s leagues at Skor Mor Ten-Pin bowling lanes (one team sponsor was the still-running Hurt Cleaners), and even a “Hobby Corner” column on stamp collecting.

Most meaningful for my gang was a photo of “Mr. Baseball,” Little Major League Coach Jim Bowman. He’s shown giving a batting clinic to some of 150 boys who enrolled at the YMCA on N. 13th St. As the longtime mentor of Optimist Club, Bowman was a stickler for fundamentals. Like other coaches, he asked the Leader to run items announcing tryouts—they even printed his phone number (Kenmore 8-2520).  Bowman’s employer also advertised in the paper — Edmonds “Ford City” at Wilson Blvd. and 10th St.

The kids’ enthusiasm jumps off the Leader’s pages. Some 200 showed up for tryouts for my old team Mario’s Pizza in 1963. There was also a notice seeking volunteer coaches for girls’ “pigtail” softball.

I caught references to my football and baseball coaches Bob Guillot, Howard Millner, Ralph Whikehart (misspelled) and Jesse Meeks.

Amazingly, one issue provided detailed coverage of a Little Major League All-Star baseball game for 12-year-olds that I witnessed.

It featured exploits of pitcher Joe Sweeney of Arlington Trust (who led the league in 1964 with a .590 batting average and nine home runs). Arlington’s American League won that game 1-0. I counted mentions of 15 players I played with or against. There are several with whom, more than a half-century later, I still speak.

Alas, the Leader was not long for Arlington, folding after a couple of years.

***

Those statewide history activists producing the coming Virginia Women’s Monument in Richmond gathered June 19 at a private home in McLean for a progress report and remarks by former First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe.

According to a chief organizer, former Arlington state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, fund-raisers for the display called “Voices from the Garden” have brought in $3 million of the $3.7 million needed for 12 outdoor bronze statues of accomplished Old Dominion women going back four centuries.

Against a backdrop showing the design and sample texts, Whipple noted that planners decided that showing the women on pedestals “didn’t quite do it for us.”

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