A Generous Donor Remembers the Old Days
An article by Kathy Kerr for the Barcroft News November, 1996 Issue
Why would someone from Connecticut make a very generous donation to our BSCL Community House Renovation Fund? I recently contacted Margaret Presson of Trumbull, CT to ask her precisely that question!
Margaret Presson was born, raised and married here in Barcroft. The only school her father, Thomas Hazel, ever attended was at our Barcroft Community House. He completed the eighth grade there and went on to become a hardworking and successful dairy farmer. Later he opened a frozen custard stand on Wilson Blvd. at what is now Virginia Square. In 1925, Margaret’s mother, Annie Hazel, became the first teacher at the new Barcroft Elementary School on Wakefield St. where she taught for 30 years.
Back during World War II, few if any Barcroft families had more than one car and gas was rationed. Fathers went off to work and their families could not easily go anywhere. Children enjoyed riding their bikes, roaming Barcroft and playing with friends for most of the day. Their mothers did not worry about them for everyone pretty much knew everyone else. The Barcroft Community House was the hub for most social activities. It was a place to worship, to delve into politics and a place to have fun. There were many events just as we have been enjoying in recent years. There were carnivals, picnics and parties. The Civic League Booster Club sprinkled powder on the floor for dances on Saturday nights. Then on Sunday, the children enjoyed sliding on the floor as they prepared to go to Sunday School.
Partly due to the gas rationing, many Barcrofters attended church at the Barcroft Community House. It was becoming apparent that a new larger church was needed. Arlington Methodist Church used to be located at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed. When they decided to move to their present site on S. Glebe Rd., Barcrofters decided to use the building materials to build their own church here. Using trucks, they hauled all of the bricks, chandeliers, doors and other materials to the building site at 901 S. Wakefield St. Little old ladies cleaned each brick while children stacked them. One family cleaned up chandeliers. The Hazels worked on restoring some of the wooden doors. A lay minister helped direct the construction but in reality, the church was built by Barcroft neighbors. Events were held at the Barcroft Community House to help raise money for the church. There were ice cream festivals. Women made and sold aprons. On Saturdays everyone working on the church enjoyed huge, homemade midday dinner feasts. The food was prepared in the Barcroft Community House kitchen and was served on the stage. After the meal, giant tubs of water were put on the stage and used to wash all of the dishes. When they were done, they threw the wash water out the back door
Mrs. Presson lived in the same house on 8th St. S from her birth until the time she married. In that time, the Hazels never once had a new neighbor. No one moved away! Annie Hazel is the last of this cluster of longtime Barcrofters still living in her original home.
Mrs. Presson remembers all of Barcroft with great fondness but especially loves her memories of the fun she had at the Barcroft Community House. She is thrilled that present day Barcrofters seek to care for and renovate the building. And she knows that it would mean a great deal to her father to have the only school he ever attended repaired and restored.
Present day Barcroft children are also going to cherish their memories of the Barcroft Community House. Our annual 4th of July Parade, festivals, events, coffee houses and dinners all help us to unite in the sort of community spirit that has existed in Barcroft for many, many years.