Celebrating 100 Years of Dedicated Service

halls hill watermelon carving fire station 8

Arlington County’s Fire Station 8 Honored at a Community Gala!

halls hill watermelon carving fire station 8

The John M. Langston Citizen’s Association honored the legacy of the 14 brave African-American men who came together in 1918 to start the Halls Hill Volunteer Fire Department. These men and the others who followed in their footsteps to staff what is now Fire Station 8 deserve our thanks and praise. This event was the community’s way of doing just that.

There is a documentary that will be released in the spring to preserve the history and stories. In the meantime, here are a few pics of the crowd.

Crowd selfie.
Wilma at FS8 100th anniversary gala selfie
Crowd selfie two.
Crowd selfie three.

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Helping to Change the Narrative on Race

Wilma Jones at Swanson Middle School

Speaking with Middle School Students About Being a 12 Year Old in 1959

Wilma Jones at Swanson Middle School

This week I had the privilege of presenting my newest workshop for middle school students at Thomas Jefferson and Swanson Middle Schools. I am partnering with Arlington Humanities to help the students discuss life as a 12 year old African American in Arlington in 1959. These workshops are a part of the Changing the Narrative on Race project provided through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to Virginia Humanities, who have funded projects in six localities in Virginia.

The purpose of the grant program is to develop “Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation initiatives across the Commonwealth. In collaboration with community partners, educators, and librarians, Virginia Humanities is developing programs that use stories to empower Virginians in underserved communities in Arlington, Charlottesville, Norfolk, Richmond, Roanoke, and Harrisonburg. These programs will focus on fostering safe opportunities for all to tell their stories and engage with the experiences of others. “

The workshops are based on the experiences of my sibling interviews and periodical research I completed for my book, My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood.” I had a such a great time interacting and engaging these young minds. Many were surprised by the information. But I was surprised and also moved by some areas of the discussion. Every one of the three sessions were different because of the dynamic of energy between the kids and I.

These workshops and keynotes are so important because it helps the stories come alive. We can delve into the details that matter to them. I make sure to prep so I know what is important. Like how? Well, I knew I’d have a good number of pre-teens boys. So most of my geography references were to the fast food spots. They “got” every one. There’s more to come from this engagement with the students next month. I am so looking forward to it!

The purpose of the book is to share these stories with people, both young and old. This is Arlington history. Virginia history. U.S history. Black history. And yes, even Women’s History.

Thanks for the opportunity, Arlington Humanities. Stay turned for more of events in 2019 . I think everyone enjoyed themselves this week. And I know the ancestors were pleased.

Lee Highway Extended to Falls Church 95 Years Ago

New Year’s Day 1924 Brought Big News

Lee Highway is Extended from Halls Hill to Falls Church

I interviewed my dad in 2012 about life on Halls Hill as he remembered it as a young child. One of the things he explained was a big deal was the extension of Lee Highway from Halls Hill to Falls Church. Although he was only around 5 years old, looking back he remembered that for the first time people could drive cars to what was then a pretty rural area.

Prior to the highway extension most people traveled by horse to Falls Church, the Chesterbrook area of McLean, and the what is now the Tyson’s Corner area. When 40 residents of Falls Church endorsed the $40,000 bank loans (from two Georgetown banks) for the state to extend the road, it was proof of how important increasing access to the community was for it’s future growth and relative importance in the area. Arlington paid the interest on the loan.

Lee Highway had been extended from Cherrydale to Halls Hill many years before, making the allowing the neighborhood to thrive from a population growth and for entrepreneurs operating businesses on the Highway. The road was eighteen feet wide with one lane in either direction. It was extended 1.5 miles from Halls Hill to Falls Church. The work was completed on December 23, 1923 but the road was not opened for use until January 14, 1924.

It was during this period that Halls Hill and the route to the community via Lee HIghway became important for the safety of African Americans. Sometimes when traveling from DC to Halls Hill, African Americans were concerned because of the thriving Klu Klux Klan organization in Cherrydale. Many people experienced whites chasing them via car through the Cherrydale area, with taunts and threats of violence for passing through their community, especially after dark. But once the chase reached Culpeper Street, (the only way in or out of Halls Hill at the time) and Fire Station 8, they were safe.