Dorothy Hawkins

Dorothy Owens Hawkins was born in 1915 in her grandparents' home at 513 E Street SE, across Marion Park from the police station, an appropriate location for her grandfather who spent 40 years as a DC police officer. 

When interviewed in 1999, Dorothy provided many details of a time long gone, when you knew which households had electricity and you saw confiscated liquor being hauled to the police station. Dorothy's son joined the Park Police after serving in Vietnam and was killed on duty trying to stop a robbery. Dorothy's obituary, as prepared by the US Park Police appears at the end of the transcript; she passed away in March of 2015 at age 99.

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Interview Date
June 15, 1999
Nancy Metzger
Nancy Metzger
Chris D'Alessandro

Full Directory


Before the Overbeck Project was created in 2001, Nancy Metzger interviewed long-time residents of Capitol Hill while she was chair of the Historic Preservation Committee of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society. She graciously offered to allow these interviews to be incorporated into the Overbeck Project collection. Any use of this material should credit the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project website for making it available.

[Addresses in this transcript are in Southeast Washington, DC, unless otherwise noted. This interview was conducted at the home of Nancy Metzger.]

METZGER: When did your family come to the Hill? Your grandparents? Great-grandparents?

HAWKINS: My grandparents lived at 513 E Street SE. I don’t know when they moved there, but I know that for my father, as a young person, that was the home. I can’t give you the years. My grandfather was a metropolitan policeman and his name was William E. Owens. My grandmother went to Christ Church and my father did too—he grew up there and was confirmed and all that. Some time in there the church had a little military unit of some kind—they had little uniforms—but it wasn’t exactly ROTC. My life began at this address—513 E. I was born there, July 24, 1915.

Dorothy Owens Hawkins, age six or seven, with her family, in front of 513 and 515 E Street SE; about 1922. From left: grandfather William E. Owens, DC police officer; Mrs. Mary Kehoe, family friend visiting from Tennessee; grandmother Laura I. Owens; mother Cara S. Allen Owens; Dorothy.

My family (my mother and father took me) moved up to North Capitol Street for some few years. Then when the house next door—515 E—became available for rental (my grandparents rented) they moved there. Of course I don’t remember anything until I was about five years old. A Doctor Rossiter and his brother, I think, owned those houses. The doctor lived at C Street or D Street at Eighth—near the Wallach

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

School. As a little girl, my mother was a Baptist and I would go uptown to Sunday school. However, there was a time that I would go to Second Baptist Church which was on Fourth Street about G Street SE. The E Street houses faced Marion Park. Marion Park at one time had a fountain in the middle of it, at Fifth Street.

METZGER: Really? I’ve seen the map with the curved roads and wondered what was in the middle— but it was a fountain.

HAWKINS: It was a fountain, but I never recall it being operative. With the automobile there were accidents with trying to go around the circle and they closed it off.

METZGER: So that was when you were little that they closed it off.HAWKINS: I can’t remember anything before about 1920.METZGER: Were the trees in the park real big then?

HAWKINS: Yes there were big trees in the park and I would play in the park and take my chairs and table and we’d have little tea parties over there. I had a pal—a little friend—who lived around the corner on Sixth Street. Now my father grew up with the Hardy family, and they lived in the red brick corner house.

METZGER: Right down the street from you? Number 501 Sixth Street?HAWKINS: Yes. Across the street from them was a little grocery store.METZGER: Called what?

HAWKINS: I have no idea. That was where we could go and get bread and ice cream and penny candy and so forth. The whole neighborhood was served with gas light at the time. However there was one family on the northeast corner of E—their name was Taylor—and they were the first to get electricity. He was some kind of contractor, and I know we were very impressed because he had a Peerless [a luxury brand produced until 1931] automobile. Their daughter, named Marian, was about my age and I played with her a lot. I went to the Wallach School until the fifth grade. When I was ten years old, my family moved into Maryland for a year or so and then we came back into Washington to live. My family moved several times. In my teenage years we lived in Anacostia on S Street, and it was from there that I went to Eastern High School. At that time the streetcar came across the 11th Street Bridge.

My grandfather was a policeman and some time of his tenure he operated out of the Fifth Street station. As a little girl—this was in the Prohibition days, in the 1920s—I remember they had a police wagon that

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

they would put the prisoners in. The little young fellow that was the chauffeur—but he was a policeman—he would play with us kids. I mentioned the patrol wagon because they would make raids on speakeasies in this area—possibly at night—and then in the daytime they would haul all of the whiskey in the patrol wagon back to the Police Station. We kids would run across the park [Marion Park] to watch them unload it.

METZGER: Did they just carry it into the station? They weren’t dumping it down the drain?

HAWKINS: No, they didn’t do that. They had to keep it for evidence. Another thing that was thrilling to see as a child—I think it’s still there—was the fire department on Eighth Street. In that day the pumper was run by steam—this great big thing with a big smokestack on it. They had these three horses. When they would get a run, they would come out of the house at Eighth Street and turn left and come along South Carolina Avenue and take the north side of E Street along the park and whiz on down. Providence Hospital was down that way. So that was a good memory. It was thrilling to see them run.

METZGER: So there was a fire station at Eighth as well as the one up by Eastern Market?HAWKINS: Yes. They were both there.

All the police officers walked the beat ... One funny little thing, at least it’s funny now that we have electric traffic lights, there was always a uniformed policeman on duty at Eighth and Pennsylvania Avenue. He was especially there, I suppose, when the school children got out. He operated this little hand thing that was no more than signs “Stop” and “Go” on a pole. He would just turn the pole for the “Stop” or “Go.” Of course he knew all the children—and he had gold teeth.

METZGER: Gold all the way across?
METZGER: So whenever he smiled it was very flashy.

HAWKINS: Now while we lived there my mother would shop on Saturdays at the Eastern Market and my father bought me a wagon to bring the groceries home. So we would walk up South Carolina Avenue to Seventh Street and up. On the corner of Seventh and Pennsylvania—the northwest corner—there was a Sanitary Grocery Store. So you could shop there and then go to the market.

METZGER: So the Sanitary Grocery Store would have your canned things and paper goods ... And was there still a little one across from the market? Because later on there was a Safeway across from the market.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

HAWKINS: But that was many, many years later. I don’t recall. But in those days the farmers would come in and line up all along Seventh Street with their wares. Some of what I remember in the market, my mother would get a certain cut of beef which they called a shoulder clod—they don’t cut them that way anymore—but you would have big thick slices, and she had a special stall that she went to. Also there was a lady that had horseradish and coconut. She would grind it in front of you. My grandmother was great on making coconut cakes at Christmas time. Also my father became quite a health nut and my mother would buy him honey in the combs from the farmers outside.

METZGER: Were the farmers there every day or just on Saturday?
HAWKINS: I don’t recall because we went only on Saturday. Then there was another store down at

Fourth and E on the south side.
METZGER: Yes, there’s still a little grocery store there.

HAWKINS: As a little girl, in addition to playing in the park right in front of my house, I was allowed to go to Garfield Playground. To this day, there’s a big rock there that has an indentation to it like a camel. They had a wading pool there with a little house where you could change your clothes. The pool went from six inches up to your knees. It was shallow at both ends and dipped in the middle. We used to lie in it and put our feet up on the wall and see how long we could hold our breath. It was nice.


HAWKINS: My father, as a young man, was a stenographer. He learned stenography from Woods Commercial College in the 300 block of East Capitol Street and I have his diplomas and things. I took them up to the Columbia Historical Society and they published some of the pictures and things in their annual report. At one time he was secretary to the engineer commissioner of the District of Columbia. Then he decided he wanted to be outside so he took a job with the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey installing gas stations and that led on to other things, such as salesman of their oil burners. At one time he was head of their pump and tank department installing gas stations. He spent thirty-some years with Standard. My father’s name was Charles Raymond Owens

My grandfather was a District of Columbia policeman for almost 40 years, so that meant that he came on about 1892. They lived on E Street until about 1929 when they had finally saved all their life to have a home of their own. They moved to far Southeast across the Anacostia River to a place called Randle

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

Highlands—25th Street—up on the hill. They had only lived there [together] a few years when my grandfather died, but my grandmother lived there until she died in 1945.

METZGER: Can you tell me how the inside of the house looked? Your grandmother’s house [on E Street] ... I know they were mirror images. They had the double parlors didn’t they?

HAWKINS: I think it was three rooms deep. My grandmother’s house, yes. It had the hall all the way back. The kitchen was on the back—a big kitchen with a big pantry, coal cook stove was on the right. She had an ice box at the end of the hall before you went down into the basement. She had a formal parlor with the bay window, always had a fern. The Victorian ladies always had ferns at that time; stiff lace curtains and big pillows. Then she had a formal dining room which was only used for formal occasions. However at Christmas time it was kept dressed—a white tablecloth. I always remember the ladies in that day collected brilliant cut glass. She had a cut glass “ferner”—it’s a round bowl with three glass feet about five inches high. She would put that in the middle of the table and put a little artificial Christmas tree in that. That would stay there.

METZGER: Was it one of the feather trees or did it look like a regular tree?

HAWKINS: Well, you opened it by pulling the branches away from the stem. It had real short green needles. Then she would decorate that with little ornaments. I think to hold it up straight she would put cotton batting or something in the bottom. That was a great nostalgia thing for me. In my later years of marriage, my husband and I became very interested in antique arts and I studied also about brilliant cut glass and I bought a ferner. I can just look at it and have nice feelings.

METZGER: Was the furniture ... like in the living room, did she have a sofa or was it mostly chairs?

HAWKINS: I think she had some big chairs. On the mantle there were two great big vases. As a matter of fact I took one and made a lamp. And flowers—the flowers were crepe paper that were waxed. They made them themselves. My grandmother liked to grow flowers out in the back yard—and my mother too. The back yards were very long. In later years, the late 20s when my grandfather bought a Model T Ford, they built a garage back there. My grandmother was great on growing roses and peonies. On Memorial Day, she would cut all these flowers and take me and we would get on the streetcar and go all the way out to Rock Creek Cemetery that is out by the Hospital Center. I’d get an ice cream cone for helping her. That was where her parents, and now my grandparents, are buried.

METZGER: And what was her name?

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

HAWKINS: Her name was Laura Diehl Owens. Her mother is buried there. As a young woman she went to the Rock Creek Church. I think she was born in York County, Pennsylvania but the family migrated down to Washington. They were tenant farmers out there on Harewood Road where the Catholic Cathedral is. My grandfather had come up from Spotsylvania, Virginia for work. He had gotten work with the Soldiers Home. So the two of them sparked across the road. My father was born out there—in what they called Terra Cotta.

METZGER: How did your family celebrate Christmas? Is there anything that people did then that they don’t do now?

HAWKINS: People in that day visited. We walked to see people. As a little girl I remember a Christmas. My father would always go out to get the tree a little before Christmas or maybe Christmas Eve even. They used cedar trees a lot in that day. I know I’d always rather have a pine tree but a cedar tree was traditional. The people would go to a lot of trouble making a Christmas “garden.” It would take up the whole room practically. This was before electric trains came about— after that it was a whole different thing.

METZGER: What is a Christmas garden?

HAWKINS: You could have a theme—like a farm with farm animals. Or you could have it with a house with a yard around it. I remember one time they wanted green grass around the house. My father got sawdust and my mother dyed the sawdust in a great big kettle to make it green. Of course now, you’d buy it in a bag.

METZGER: The Christmas tree would be in the middle of that?
HAWKINS: The Christmas tree would be in the corner and this would be around it.

METZGER: So the Christmas presents were not stacked under the tree like we do now. Was there an emphasis on Santa Claus?

HAWKINS: Oh definitely. I believed in Santa Claus until I was ten years old.
METZGER: And then your sister came along so you had to believe again ... Do you remember any

particular Christmas present that meant a lot?

HAWKINS: I was always delighted ... Now I did have a lovely big doll. She had a bisque head and real hair. She was put together with joints and elastic inside that. Every year my mother would make her a new dress and would send the doll to a doll hospital, which were shops called that, and they would

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restring the doll and recurl the hair. I kept that for years and years. As a matter of fact, one time my mother was cleaning and put out in the yard a trunk with draperies and all in it and someone came along and stole everything but the doll. Later on, after my husband and I got interested in antiques and I didn’t have any girls—I had a son—I sold the doll. For the last 17 years I’ve been a docent at one of the historic houses in Alexandria. We’re showing the house during the Victorian period, and we have a doll there that is about the same. Of course, I’m not Victorian, but my grandmother was and I can relate to that so easily that I can give interesting tours.

METZGER: Even your mother would have had a Victorian upbringing ...

HAWKINS: Oh yes, but definitely my grandmother. I think she was born in 1876; my mother was born in 1895, my father in 1894. I was born in 1915. Then there was another child—a sister, Helen—who was born in 1927.

METZGER: Did your family grow any food in the garden? And they used them for drying clothes too didn’t they?

HAWKINS: Oh, yes.
METZGER: And was your house heated with coal?

HAWKINS: Yes, there were little stoves—the Latrobe stoves—that used coal. We had what we called Chestnut coal that is a hard coal about the size of a chestnut. And then there was something called Cannel coal that is a cross between soft and hard coal. You bought it in big hunks and it would burn a long time—more than a log would. The Latrobe had little Isinglass windows in it so you could see the fire as well as get the heat. There were registers so the heat would gravitate upstairs.

METZGER: Was there a stove in the dining room as well?
METZGER: So the one stove heated the whole house?
HAWKINS: In the kitchen was an iron stove with round tops that had the ovens.METZGER: And there was a register so the heat would go up.

METZGER: Those houses had basements ... were they used mostly for storage?

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

HAWKINS: You did the laundry in the basement. My grandfather decided they were going to learn to dance. My father already knew, of course. My mother was a little wallflower type, very timid. My grandfather, my grandmother and my mother went uptown and took ballroom dancing lessons. He got so excited about it. The basement floor was a smooth cement. I don’t know if they painted it but I do know they waxed it. He bought a little Victrola that had a handle on it like a little suitcase. We would get down there and they would dance. The coal bin was up front. They put the coal in through a small window at the front of the house. The laundry was in the back. In the house that we lived in, they had an outdoor water closet, hooked to the sewage. It was in a wooden closet. My father took that and moved it in to the basement.

Dorothy’s father, Charles Owens, by the backyard water closet, complete with modern plumbing, which supplemented the indoor facilities.

METZGER: When it was the outdoor wooden box, was it attached to the house?HAWKINS: Yes.

METZGER: Actually Mr. Taylor [Frank Taylor, also previously interviewed by Nancy Metzger; transcript on the Overbeck Project website] told me about an outdoor toilet at his first house on Maryland Avenue. He was rather puzzled about why the pipes never froze. From what he could recall it never did. He said the servants were supposed to use that or if you were muddy.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

HAWKINS: Of course everybody struggled to make a living in that day and there were periods when my mother and father rented out rooms upstairs for light housekeeping. So the toilet down in the basement made it more convenient.

METZGER: And upstairs—there was a big bedroom across the front of the house usually, a medium- sized bedroom in the middle. And the stairs went up the side—

HAWKINS: Yes, on the side.
METZGER: Then the bath was toward the back, above the kitchen and a small bedroom behind that ...

maybe that’s what they rented out.

HAWKINS: Well, I guess they must have rented out two rooms and then had one for themselves. I don’t recall too much. You asked me if they had two parlors. No, I never remember two parlors in my mother’s house. In my grandmother’s house next door I mentioned that she had a formal dining room. Evidently they used that room as a bedroom so they could rent out the upstairs. As a matter of fact several times they got lifelong friends

METZGER: In your parent’s case they would rent out the whole second floor.
HAWKINS: I presume so—when they were couples. Once or twice they would rent out the big front

room to little old ladies.

Changing the subject a little bit. Next to my grandmother’s house there was one more house that was the parish house for the church on the corner. That was a church for black people. The preacher and his wife lived at 511. His name was Boone—Preacher Boone.

METZGER: You had mentioned before [during an interview with Dorothy Taylor and others, by Nancy Metzger] that Fifth Street, at least from G Street down toward the Navy Yard, had a number of black families living on it. Was it a thing ...

HAWKINS: I think any black person lived below G and on down to the Navy Yard.

METZGER: But it wasn’t segregated in the sense—I mean there were white people living on that street?

HAWKINS: Actually you can’t call it integrated at all. That was just unusual for it to be a black church on the corner. A number of the blacks actually lived in alleys—and that extended almost to the Capitol. Of course the Navy Yard was working at that time—every morning at seven o’clock they would blow the whistle. Boy, you could hear that whistle all the way to the Capitol. It was something. At four o’clock they would blow it again.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

METZGER: So you were supposed to be there when the whistle blew—HAWKINS: Yes.
METZGER: In the front yards, was it mostly just grass?

HAWKINS: Well the front yards were very short. I think there was a slight terrace to it. There was room enough to get a bench that two people could sit on. My grandfather had this bench that every evening after supper, when he was on day work, he would sit on the bench. Between the yards there was an iron fence and in the front there was an iron fence, a brick sidewalk and a big tree box. The street itself was paved with big Belgian brick. There was a curb. The big trees—I don’t know what the name was—but they would get great big long seed pods on them.

METZGER: Oh, the catalpa? That you used to pretend were cigars?

HAWKINS: No, that’s another one, with big leaves. This had small leaves like some form of locust. They used to say that black children would suck on those things. What little yard there was, I guess there was ivy or something. I was about in the third grade and the teacher had these long boxes filled with ferns. Everybody liked ferns in those days. The teacher was worrying about what she was going to do with these ferns during the long summer vacation. I said, “I’ll take them home.” So I took my wagon and brought them home. It was an ideal spot for them because it faced north and they grew and grew and grew.

METZGER: Do you remember what you did in the summer when it got very hot? I guess in the daytime you could lie in the wading pool. Did you have electricity?

HAWKINS: Well you see people didn’t travel in those days. There wasn’t the money and there wasn’t the spare time. My father bought a 1916 Model T Ford, but this was in the 20s.


We would ride up to Chain Bridge, go to Glen Echo and various places he would take us. Occasionally they would take a trip down to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania where the relatives were. But Route 1 was just a gravel road and you would have to ford the little creeks along the road. Of course the tires would go flat sometime.

METZGER: But at nighttime you just used cool cloths and just be hot.HAWKINS: Yeah you just lived it.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

METZGER: I guess I just picture all these people wearing all these clothes—not so much in the 1920s— but certainly before that. I know they closed up the windows when it got hot.

HAWKINS: They did invent screens so they could get some cross ventilation. There was always a screen door. You could buy a screen door with the wooden frame to it and put it up in the summer time. But there weren’t storm doors.

METZGER: Do you remember the screen doors—did they have the fancy things to them or was it just a pretty simple frame?

HAWKINS: I think I know what you’re talking about. It was a plain screen but some people had window screens that had scenes painted on them. I remember that my music teacher up on Pennsylvania Avenue had that. They could look out but if you looked in you saw the scene.

METZGER: Did people worry very much about their houses being broken into?


METZGER: So you could leave the window open at night on the first floor?

HAWKINS: Oh yes, it never dawned on you that somebody might crawl in the window.

METZGER: Capitol Hill has big houses next to small houses. Was there a sense of everyone being the same economic—everyone was struggling?

HAWKINS: At least over here in Southeast, people were middle class. You were either filthy rich or were of modest means.

METZGER: Some people have talked about knowing the senator or somebody important nationally. Were there any of those people in this area?

HAWKINS: No. And if there were they wouldn’t have mingled, so to speak. As time and history went on, my husband and I got married in 1939. In 1941, we bought our house at Pennsylvania Avenue and 33rd up on the hill. They were detached houses with a fireplace. We were thrilled with that. One of the families that moved next door was the delegate from Alaska. Then Alaska became a state and he became the senator. They had two children, one almost my son’s age, so they played somewhat. We had the same stairway. It was like a double stairway. The house was on a hill. We had a big stone wall in front of the house. You would go up the steps from the street. He went that way and we went this for a short distance and then you had a few more steps up to the porch and into the house. That meant the yard was a terrace. We planted floribunda roses—salmon colored—and they bloomed all summer. Every morning when they

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

were blooming the senator would pluck one of my roses and put it in his lapel. To himself, he would say, “Thank you, Dorothy, for the rose.” The reason I’m telling this story—I was so thrilled—when they molded his statue for the Statuary Hall of the Capitol, they put the rose in his lapel.

METZGER: What was his name?HAWKINS: Bartlett [E. L. “Bob” Bartlett].

In speaking about the Marion Park, you know I had a son, and he was a policeman. He grew up and was drafted and went to Vietnam. They tried to kill him over there. A grenade hit him and almost blew his arm off. He was a year or more getting over it. He had put in his application to be a United States Park Policeman. Eventually he was appointed and was a Park policeman for almost two years and got shot and killed at a 7-11 store trying to thwart a robbery. Helen Au knew that I had been born on Capitol Hill and they were doing a memorial for Officer Jason White. I was very interested and wanted to make a donation. She said to get in touch with the lady that lived in the corner house.

METZGER: Libby Kelly Dingeldine.

HAWKINS: Right. I proceeded to tell her about my son and living on E Street. To make a long story short, we contacted the Park Service and I purchased a tree and planted a tree in memory of my son at the same time that they were having a ceremony in honor of Jason White. It came full circle.

METZGER: Is it in the playground part?

HAWKINS: Yes, they said it would eventually get real big and actually provide shade. They would put a picnic bench or something underneath. They said I couldn’t have a plaque but this was more important to me. His name was Raymond L. Hawkins. He was shot December 23, 1971 and he lived unconscious until February 15 when he died. I buried him the day after his birthday—February 19. He wasn’t married so I don’t have any grandchildren. Then my husband comes down with cancer shortly after that. So here I am, all by myself with no family.

[Discussion of family, friends, physical limitations, etc. removed from the transcript.]

HAWKINS: You were mentioning pleasure in the 1920s. My mother and father belonged to a little patriotic organization called the Daughters of America. It’s not the DAR. They were an auxiliary of a mechanical organization with roots in Ohio somewhere. They did good works—gave a flag to country schools, an ambulance during World War II and what not. In the early days, in the 20s, they would meet, this particular lodge, at the Masonic Lodge Hall on Pennsylvania Avenue between Third and Fourth. The Naval Lodge. As a little girl I remember the meetings—we kids would run up and down the steps. There

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

was Carry’s Ice Cream. If the group was having a party they would deliver the ice cream in a wooden container—almost like a barrel. The cylinder of ice cream was down in there with ice around it. I guess we were on the second floor. Over the entryway there was a little porch and that was where they would store the ice cream because the ice would leak.

METZGER: Speaking of ice, you mentioned that your grandmother had an icebox. Was ice delivered to the house once a day? Once a week?

HAWKINS: The iceman would come on a regular basis. He would cut it to fit your particular box.METZGER: Would there be a tray underneath the icebox?

HAWKINS: Oh yes. Now with my grandmother’s icebox you put the ice on top and everything else was underneath. Under that there would be a tray about six inches high that you might have to empty about twice a day.

METZGER: I guess it would be the same summer or winter because in winter the stove would be going and that would make it warm.

HAWKINS: They didn’t use it in the wintertime because they had the pantry.

METZGER: And you went out every day or every other day to get the milk or things that would spoil.

HAWKINS: Yes; however, they had window boxes. There was a big window off of the kitchen. I guess my father must have made it, but everybody seemed to have one. You would lift the window up and then put the butter and so forth in that. There was always a window box in the winter.

METZGER: Then the other thing that would be delivered would be milk?
HAWKINS: Yes, that was delivered by the milkman. In the summertime there would be people with

horse and wagon at the front of your house selling watermelon, selling fish on Friday.METZGER: Would people sell vegetables from a wagon?

HAWKINS: Yes, I guess they would. We had what we called a rag man. He would come up in the alley about once a month and would holler “Rag man! Rag man!” I would save my newspapers (we got the Evening Star every day). I would have them tied up. He had a little scale and he would measure them and give me the money. If you had rags—certain rags—they would make writing paper.

METZGER: So he actually paid you—early recycling. Did the city do the trash collection?

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

HAWKINS: I don’t remember too much about that. I remember the rag man especially.

METZGER: What about scissors grinders?

HAWKINS: Yes, he would come about once a month. On Sixth Street between E and G there was an alley that went between Sixth and Fifth. There was a house right on the alley, and the owner still had a horse and buggy. The alley had great big cobblestones and right down the middle there were pieces of granite for a walkway.

METZGER: What kind of games did you play? We went through some games with Dorothy Taylor [during a previous interview], but what did you play?

HAWKINS: Dolls and tea party. We were playing hopscotch and hide-and-seek.
METZGER: It was mostly you and another girl or group of girls? You didn’t have a group of girls and

METZGER: Were there some boys in the neighborhood?

HAWKINS: Oh yeah, there was a Catholic family there. My best little friend named Jane—Jane Norris. They lived there on Sixth Street, in that block. That was a big family, but I only really knew her and Marian Taylor across the street.

METZGER: Where did you go sledding?

HAWKINS: I remember having a sled, but I don’t remember much about it. What I do remember about my childhood is that every Easter I would take my Easter basket and go up to the Capitol and they would allow you to play and roll your eggs down the West Front of the Capitol, which was hilly. But even in that day they also had the Egg Roll at the White House—I only remember going up there one time. My grandfather was a policeman on duty up there. They invited me in to eat lunch with some of the people, but I was so excited I couldn’t eat. My big moment.

METZGER: Did anyone have hired help? Did someone come to help with the laundry?

HAWKINS: We had Hattie Washington. She lived down in an alley and was married. The poor soul would come up. My mother didn’t have her all the time but when she got hungry or something she would come up and my mother would give her something to do. But by and large both my mother and my grandmother (my mother’s mother-in-law) did their own work. There were times when we had someone

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

doing the ironing in their own place. I remember going down in this alley with my father in the car to pick up the laundry. There was some black guy who was drunk in the alley, and he was going to fight everybody.

METZGER: A lively thing to pick up the laundry! Did they do any canning?

HAWKINS: Oh, Lord yes. Always. And always made your fruitcakes. At one time they allowed you to make “near beer” or something, they called it. One time my grandfather tried to make up a batch. Neither he nor my father really drank but it was an experiment. Yes, you always canned and you made chow- chow. At the Alexandria house we have a cruet set out, and I tell people this is for mustard and oil and sometimes chow-chow. People now don’t know what that is.

METZGER: A relish.

HAWKINS: Oh! Did it ever smell good!

METZGER: You would go up to the market and get a bushel of tomatoes or whatever?

HAWKINS: Yes. At Christmas time they would make candy. It was mostly made out of 4X sugar and butter and so forth. They would roll it and then dip it in chocolate and set it on wax paper.

METZGER: Did you have any of your mother or grandmother’s recipes?
METZGER: Was there any special celebration for Fourth of July?
HAWKINS: No. My father always got sparklers for us. They didn’t have the big “do” downtown.METZGER: So they didn’t have any parades ...

HAWKINS: No, not in the early days. I don’t think it was over the Fourth. I think it was over Labor Day. For some years—I was a teenager at the time—they would have Fire Department Parades and fire departments from all over the area would come. They would have a parade and give prizes. It’s just coincidence that we were talking about that because my husband eventually became a firefighter. He was a D.C. firefighter for 30 years. They had an auxiliary at the time. This auxiliary started out in the days when people were coming from out of the area and they would feed them. But that eventually petered out.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

The only other big thing that I remember as a little girl was down on Pennsylvania Avenue at the Peace Monument, right at the bottom of the Hill—you have to go around it. Between Peace Monument and Third Street (NW), lined up on the north side of the street, was Chinatown. There were all little tiny shops where they sold little souvenirs and so forth. That was kind of a tourist attraction. It was in the 20s that the Shriners held their big convention. It must have cost them a fortune. They put up telephone poles on each side of Pennsylvania Avenue from Peace Monument all the way up, I guess, to 15th Street [NW] and strung these electric lights with the great big Shrine emblem in the middle, all in lights. There was one group that had shoes that curled up and, right at the end of the curl, was lights!

METZGER: The shoes to die for!
Were there any ethnic neighborhoods in this area?

HAWKINS: No. As far as development in the neighborhood, when I went to school at Wallach, where the library sits now—

METZGER: Seventh and D and South Carolina—
HAWKINS: —was a great big vacant lot.
METZGER: The library just had its 75th anniversary, so that would make it 1923–24.

HAWKINS: That would be about right because I remember when they built that. And years later when I married and moved across the Anacostia I brought my son there because that was the closest library. Of course since then they’ve built a library out on Alabama Avenue.

I guess that just about covers it.
METZGER: I have one more question. When you started dating, what did you do for dates?HAWKINS: Well, I wasn’t living here.
METZGER: Right, but you were going to Eastern and I’m assuming ...

HAWKINS: My mother was very strict and I guess I didn’t do any dating until my senior year in high school. Of course I fell in love with my husband, Clayton R. Hawkins, in high school. We took the same course and we had every class together. He joined the cadets and his company won the City Competitive Drill—the first time in nine years that Eastern had won. I worked on the lunch room staff, but I didn’t have any time for extracurricular activities at Eastern. My mother worked some nights a week at a dress

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

shop, and I had to get home. As far as dating, that just started when my husband said, “I’ll take you to the Regimental drill if you’ll teach me how to dance.” I said, “Good. Come on over.”

I was never attractive to the boys. One reason was that I have the overbite. At Eighth and G on the southwest corner was a big drugstore and there’s a little hill between Seventh and Eighth. We kids one evening were roller skating and it was just like dominos. Somebody tripped and we all tripped over him and I practically knocked my teeth out. It broke them off, and I eventually lost them. So I was tormented and taunted with “snaggletooth.” To this day, I have a crooked smile because I tried to hide that open space. My mother and father didn’t know what to do about it. Finally I got to the point that I said, “I’m not going to go to high school unless something is done with my teeth.” By that time the teeth had kind of grown together and they did put a tooth in and I wore braces. (Not like they have today. They called it tipping and it was just one band.) Eventually when I went to work, at about 21, I had them pulled and this is a permanent bridge. So I was not popular with the men, and I was not pledged for a sorority because they thought I was homely.

METZGER: I didn’t even realize they had high school sororities ...

HAWKINS: Well they finally did away with it. Well, you know, I was on the honor list but my girlfriend was stupid enough to come and tell me and they couldn’t understand why my boyfriend, who was so good looking, wasn’t going with them instead of me. But unless you belonged to a sorority or fraternity, there were not groupings of people.

METZGER: So you really didn’t start dating until after high school, even though you met each other and fell in love back then?

HAWKINS: That’s right. We didn’t get married until we were 24. It was the Depression. I graduated in 1933—right in the height of it. Being born and raised in Washington you couldn’t get a government job because they were under the quota system. Congress wouldn’t hire you and it wasn’t until World War II broke out that they allowed the District people to take the Civil Service exam.

METZGER: Isn’t that interesting? I’ve heard that one reason Capitol Hill stabilized was because when jobs came under Civil Service (rather than political appointee jobs) that allowed people to be sure that they could retain a job longer. But it seems from what you’re saying it would only work for one generation. So we are going to have to take another look at that theory.

HAWKINS: Well, what opened up the whole government and the whole city was World War II. There were so many jobs that had to be here. They brought in these young women for clerical jobs. And of

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

course all the young men were having to go into the service. They appealed to households—even the churches—to open up their houses to these young girls.

That’s what happened to us. We settled on our house the first of December. Pearl Harbor was the seventh, and we moved in on the 16th of December, 1941. They were begging people to take in roomers and boarders. In the meantime, I had gotten sick and the doctor said you’d better start having a family, blah, blah, blah. So what we did was turn our dream house into a dormitory. I had five girls upstairs. They couldn’t even get home for Christmas, so I gave them Christmas breakfast and presents. That changed the life styles of everybody, the clothing and fashion.


After completing the interview, Nancy Metzger followed up with these additional questions:

METZGER: Concerning Marion Park, you mentioned the big trees and the fountain. Were there flowers or bushes? Benches? Did people walk there in the evening? Sit out in the summer?

HAWKINS: I do not remember flowers in the beds in the park. There were big bushes planted at the corners in the park. Yes there were big trees and benches. People would stroll through the park and rest on the benches.

METZGER: You mentioned your Grandmother’s dining room was used for formal occasions. What were they? Christmas? Easter? Family birthdays? Did they entertain friends? What would a formal dinner consist of? Soup course? Roast?

HAWKINS: My Grandmother used the formal dining room for special events such as Christmas, Easter, etc. The Christmas dinner would be the traditional turkey and dressing, and gravy. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, slaw, celery and jellied cranberry sauce that she made. For parties, the ladies would make chocolate cake, fresh coconut cake and fruitcake.

I remember the kitchen as being rather large, and I would eat dinner frequently at the table with my grandparents. My Grandfather sat in his favorite rocker at the window.

METZGER: Cut-glass “ferner”? Is that spelled right? How high in inches? What is the basic shape?

HAWKINS: The cut-glass ferner is round—seven inches in diameter, five inches high including three glass feet two inches high.

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Interview, June 15, 1999

METZGER: You mentioned your mother working in a dress shop when you were at Eastern. Did she work as a sales person? Did she work outside the home when you were younger? Was that unusual? When did she start working?

HAWKINS: My mother worked part-time from five to nine pm several nights a week, mostly during my high school years. She was a sales lady at Wahl’s Department Store at Seventh and H Streets NE. That is the only time she worked out of the home. There were times when she took in a roomer or two.

METZGER: Your Grandmother was Laura Diehl Owens. What was your mother’s name? (This might have been on part of the tape where the tape stopped and the conversation kept rolling.)

HAWKINS: My mother’s name is Clara S. Allen Owens. She was born at Passapatanzi, King George County, Virginia in 1895. Her family moved to the Washington area when she was small.

METZGER: It seems that Brent, Dent, and Giddings might have been closer to your home than Wallach. Any reason that you’re aware of why you didn’t go there instead?

HAWKINS: Wallach was the closest school. I don’t remember one called Giddings. [Giddings was at Third and G Streets SE, but was part of the Negro school system.]

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Dorothy Hawkins Death Notice

ADDENDUM: Death Notice

United States Park Police Passing Of Dorothy Hawkins

On Wednesday, March 11th, [2015] the United States Park Police paid their final respects to Mrs. Dorothy Owens Hawkins, who passed away on Monday, March 2nd at the age of 99.

Mrs. Hawkins was the beloved wife of the late Clayton R. Hawkins, who retired from the DC Fire Department, and was the devoted mother of the late Raymond L. Hawkins, a U.S. Park Police officer.

Following the death of her son, Mrs. Hawkins established an award in his memory. The Hawkins Award is presented to a Park Police officer who graduates with the highest combined achievement score of all classes that graduate from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center each fiscal year.

Mrs. Hawkins was proud to see each officer honored with the award and attended as many graduation ceremonies as she could. She considered all members of the United States Park Police to be members of her family.

Mrs. Hawkins’ sister, Helen O. Bottamiller, expressed her kind words to Chief MacLean, asking that he “please thank everyone of your men who attended her funeral and took part. It was magnificent to see them perform their various duties as pall bearers, color guard, the ones who lined the steps going out, the motorcycle brigade and the mounted police.”

Mrs. Hawkins’ selfless acts and kind heart will forever act as a great comfort to those touched by her dedication and kindness.

[Submitted by Sergeant Lelani Woods, Public Information Officer]

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