Growing Up in the Nation's Capital: We Made It, But It Took an Entire Village

Growing Up in the Nation's Capital: We Made It, But It Took an Entire Village

by Carrolyn Pichet


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Growing Up in the Nation’s Capital, invites the reader to spend some time with Carrolyn Pichet as she tells the stories of her childhood growing up in Washington, D.C., in the 1940s. Growing from her recollections of the caring and distinctive people who lived around her and creating a village in the midst of the city, this memoir does not tie itself down with exhaustively documented research. Instead, it liberates the members of the community to come to life through the stories that make up its account of the author’s early years.

Over the span of thirteen chapters, Growing Up in the Nation’s Capital introduces the author’s family, describes her humble beginnings, paints a picture of family life, walks around the local community, recounts childhood adventures, recalls family road trips, and follows the author on her journey to adulthood.

If you have wondered what goes on in the nation’s capital in the places beyond the shadows of monuments and outside the halls of power, then Growing Up in the Nation’s Capital will give you an intimate, personal, and memorable guided tour of one woman’s life and help you to become familiar with the lives of all of the members of her urban village.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481728089
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 03/28/2013
Pages: 258
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.58(d)

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Growing Up in the Nation's Capital

We made it, but it took an entire village

By Carrolyn Pichet


Copyright © 2013Carrolyn Pichet
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4817-2808-9



My heritage – meet my family

First of all, let me say that on both sides of my family, I am a third generation Washingtonian and that my maternal grandfather Paris Henderson was born here. Based on my family history and heritage, we are not as "black" as we'd always wanted to believe. We were somewhat disappointed about that revelation because we had shouted as loud as the next man, "I'm black and I'm proud." When we learned the documented facts, here's how it turns out. The official breakdown according to the DNA ancestry testing is that the Henderson family is 48% white, 50% black and 2% Indian. After all of the bragging we'd always done that we were "part" Colusa Indian, we were sorely disappointed that we came up with only 2%. That's not a very big part, is it? And that 48% white blew my mind.... Really? Oh well, I am who I am, and as you will see, despite living with a few social disadvantages, I turned out just fine. That may just be wishful thinking, but I really believe I did.

Some of you may have learned a little about my family already, because I introduced them to you in my first book. You've already met my devoutly religious, poetic and storytelling Grandmother Helen, known as "GG," and you may have tasted the living legacy of my feisty Aunt Edna. I'm now inviting you dip into the well, drink the cooling waters and quench your thirst for the origins and lives of the other prominent members of my heritage that I actually grew up with, beginning with my grandfather Paris A. Henderson and Helene Caroline Hailstorks.

My mom's family - the Hendersons

The following segment consists of excerpts from the ancestral research made by my cousin, Marilyn Coates, who was researching our family heritage to help her children with several school projects. Here's what she found about my maternal ancestors in her own words:

"I am proud of my heritage, for when I think of my family, I see proud, strong men and women. They, despite the struggles and hardship, turned the many stumbling blocks strewn in their path into stepping stones. The purpose of this family history is to renew our sense of pride, strengthen our bond of love and inspire us and all those who came after us.

On April 16, 1862, the District of Columbia abolished slavery. In May of that same year anti-discrimination laws were passed which made the District of Columbia a black man's paradise. My story begins with Thomas Marshall Henderson born in 1856 and Mary Elizabeth Henderson. I shall start my story with my grandfather Paris, the youngest of Mary Elizabeth's 16 children and my grandmother Helena Carolina Hailstorks. Paris, the patriarch of our clan, was born on March 11, 1895 in Washington, D.C. A small sickly child, he knew he could not depend on his brawn to make his way in the world. He graduated from Dunbar High School. After graduation he worked in a clothing store while attending Miner Normal which was the black college for training teachers. His belief in the power of education and his love for knowledge continue to be a motivating force in our family. He loved languages, especially Latin. Even into his seventies, he could still read Latin classics. I remember my grandmother teasing him about reading a dead language. According to my grandmother, Grandfather was a snappy dresser in his youth. On Sunday he liked to dress up in his white suit, two-toned shoes and a straw hat that he tipped to the side. All my life I never remember him dressed in anything but a white shirt and suit. He also liked to sing. Since there was no TV or video games, families entertained themselves by reading out loud and singing together. He had a beautiful tenor voice and was always ready to blend it with others.

Grandfather provided for his family using his many skills. In 1922 he opened a tailoring shop where he also cleaned and pressed clothes. He was an accomplished tailor and made many of the clothes for his wife and children. He also worked as a substitute teacher, but because the School Board kept the segregated schools understaffed and overpopulated, it took a long time to obtain a permanent position. While waiting, he took a position with the Federal Government as a messenger. He eventually took a position with the Internal Revenue Service. In 1996 Grandfather retired with citations from the Bureau of Revenue. His accounting skills were helpful after his retirement. He managed the accounts of several neighborhood businesses. He was always a very active man even in his later years. An entrepreneur at heart, at age seventy-six he bought a liquor store where he worked every day for six years until a car accident in 1978 forced him to really retire.

My grandmother Helena Carolina (later changed to Helene Caroline) was born on March 9, 1903 in Washington, D.C., the only child of Lottie Stewart and Nathan Hailstorks. She was a pretty girl with fair skin and wavy, dark brown hair. She was also very bright and gifted in many ways. In later years she would keep her grandchildren amused for hours with poems and stories from Uncle Remus to Shakespeare. I remember her telling the entire story of the Merchant of Venice and even quoted a long soliloquy from memory. She also knew the Scriptures and would quote chapter and verse with the slightest encouragement. Although she was never able to use her talents in the work world, grandmother used her talents in the church and many other volunteer organizations. My grandmother was also a graduate of Dunbar High School, but there were not many career options for black women. She put her hopes for a good life in the hands of her husband. This was the norm for women during that time.

Throughout my grandmother's lifetime she was active in many social and community organizations such as the "Home-Rule" drive and the Feed the Children Program. She participated in many reading and storytelling programs for children and was a member of the "Foster Grandparent Reading Program" for the children of Washington's Public Schools. Even when she went to live with her youngest child in New Jersey in her declining years, she earned the distinction of being named Poet Laureate of the Zurburgg Adult Medical Day Care Center that she attended daily. Up until her death on March 1, 1991, she was still using her talents and religious testimonies to bring sunshine into the lives of others.

My grandparents raised their growing family in a large white house in southwest. The heart of the house was the large kitchen dominated by a potbelly wood stove. In the early years of their marriage, my grandmother rose early each morning and put on the fire to make quick bread and cereal for the children's breakfast. The neighborhood where they raised their children was a racial and ethnic melting pot. It was essentially a ghetto for blacks of all economic levels and poor whites, especially the first generations of Jews, Poles, Italians and Asians. Though there was great poverty, especially during the depression, the neighborhood was stable and despite racial discrimination in the city, within the ghetto there was a good deal of sharing among the various races. Though my grandparents would not have been able to take the children to a restaurant in downtown Washington, they could take them to a restaurant on U Street, where they could have a decent meal.

The Newspaper and TV paint a very bleak picture of the family, especially the black family. However after writing this history of my family, I see a more positive picture. Mary Elizabeth Henderson and Thomas Marshall Henderson created a close-knit family with love and faith that helped them to survive poverty and racial prejudice. They passed their ideals of family and racial pride and the importance of education to their children. Their legacy still liv

Excerpted from Growing Up in the Nation's Capital by Carrolyn Pichet. Copyright © 2013 by Carrolyn Pichet. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents


Dedication....................     v     

Acknowledgements....................     ix     

Greetings my friends, welcome back....................     xiii     

Carrolyn's Caveat....................     xv     

Introduction....................     xvii     

Part I – My heritage – meet my family....................     1     

Part II – Humble beginnings – it's all about me!....................     49     

Part III – Family life – the formative years....................     73     

Part IV – Life in our village community....................     101     

Part V – Just Being Kids – getting our game on....................     119     

Part VI – Road trips and delightful family moments....................     157     

Part VII – Holidays and special events – love and bonding..................     171     

Part VIII – Scholastics – the alpha and omega of it all....................     205     

Part IX – A nostalgic return to Montello Avenue....................     213     

Part X – Growing up in the nation's capital – my incredible journey........     219     

Part XI – The future – bring back the village (wishful thinking)...........     223     

Part XII – The gap widens – the price of progress....................     227     

Part XIII – The best part – leaving my legacy....................     229     

About the Author....................     239     

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