Old-Timers Share History of Route 1
Group of senior citizens meets every morning at McDonald’s.
Did you know the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax County was once home to two airports? That a bowling alley—duck-pin downstairs and ten-pin on the main level—was in Penn Daw? That Duran’s Auto Service was a social hotspot?
The collective mind of a group of retirees that meets every morning at the Hybla Valley McDonald’s remembers these places of days long gone, and much more. These senior citizens first met while hanging out at Krispy Kreme, and later McDonald’s, where they eat breakfast and participate in senior bingo on Mondays. They’ve been meeting for at least the past 12 years. Everyone is welcome.
“We like people,” said Dorothy D’Andrea of Hybla Valley, who joins the morning group with her husband, Bill. “We talk to everybody. No one is better than anybody else.”
At a recent morning at McDonald’s, Frank Myers of Fort Hunt recalled how Route 1 originally followed the path that Fordson Road now takes, but it was later straightened to its current route. At the time it was the main route from New York to Florida, and everyone passed by.
Myers also remembers the Dixie Pig barbecue joint—a classic, he said. It sat alongside Route 1 beginning in 1946, with an oversized pig on top, until it was torn down. A Rite Aid is now in its place.
“Almost anybody who was a local person ended up at some point in their life at the Dixie Pig,” he said. “It was a gathering place.”
“No complaints,” added Bill D’Andrea. “It was the best barbecue you could get anywhere.”
Across from the Dixie Pig was an airport, Bill D’Andrea said. “Sometimes it would be scary,” he said. “You’d be driving up there and here’s an airplane coming across the highway, almost within reach."
There was also a second airport near where Mount Vernon Plaza is today, he said.
Jack Townes of Fort Hunt, a former aviator, has lived in the Route 1 area for 43 years. At McDonald’s, he enjoys making paper airplanes out of placemats to give to children. He can remember the old Zayre store, and Thieves Market, an antique store.
“I’ve seen all of Hybla Valley change,” he said. “… I’ve just seen the evolution of things."
Places long past include a drive-in movie theater and the Twin Barrel gas station near Buckman Road. There once was a restaurant near the intersection of King’s Highway and Route 1 that featured a large moose head, Bill D’Andrea said. “When you paid the bill, they rang it up in the register and the moose’s eyes used to light up and blink,” he said.
Another favorite was Thompson’s Corner. D’Andrea recalled how Mr. Thompson was “nice to everyone” and served people all the chicken they wanted to eat in the restaurant.
Not all memories are glowing. Myers said he remembers the days when young people, many from Fort Belvoir, caused fatal accidents due to drunk driving. Bill D’Andrea can remember that a trip to Duran’s Auto Service often cost a pretty penny.
“Every car that came in needed a headlight adjustment, and on and on and on,” he said. “And he had a way to buff your windshields if they were scratched, and everyone had to get that done.”
Myers recalled that a large trailer camp once flanked the side of Telegraph Road near Eisenhower Avenue. “Through there was a one-lane road, and where the railroad track was, was a one-lane bridge,” he said. “And so when you went through, the traffic had to stop while the car went this way, and then the traffic had to stop when the car went that way.” The west side of Eisenhower housed a large dump.
Then there’s the McDonald’s itself. Bill D’Andrea said it began as a small square building with take-out service only. It then expanded to include an area where people could wait if it was raining. When a dining room was added, the building was about half the size it is now. A beam in the dining room shows where the original wall was.
The group that meets at McDonald’s used to be larger, about a dozen people. Today, about six show up in the mornings.
“Because of our ages and all, we’ve lost almost half of our group,” Myers said. “Everybody’s passed away. We’re an older bunch of people.”
Bill D’Andrea added, with a chuckle, “They have the nerve to pass away.”
But as long as these old-timers meet for breakfast, Route 1’s history is kept alive and well.