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Then and Now: Orchard Hills (Part II)

Our series continues in 1955, when young families bought the new houses, and stayed.

Editor’s note: Click to read Part I of our Orchard Hills Series.

When Loretta Vandenburg moved to Orchard Hills with her parents in 1955, she was in high school. Her parents were the first ones to live on the street, Warwick Drive.

But rather than having lots of space to park the moving truck, they had the opposite problem -- the movers didn’t want to drive to the house.

“When we moved in, the movers didn’t even want to come up to our house to deliver our stuff, because we had no roads,” Loretta said. “We had nothing but rocks. They had sidewalks, and the houses were built, but no paved roads.”

Several years later, Loretta, now married and with a baby, bought the house three doors up from her parents, and witnessed another interesting example of the role pavement can play in society.

“Through the years, we watched the beltway being built, and one time we had an airplane land on the beltway -- he must have thought it was the airport,” Loretta said. “That was before it was opened.”

Warwick Drive backs up to the beltway. It’s a noisier street now than it was in the 1950s, even with the wall that was built to cut down the sound of traffic.

But the Vandenburg family doesn’t mind. In fact, Loretta’s daughter, Lisa, came back to the neighborhood to buy her grandparents’ house -- the same one where Loretta lived in high school. It’s also the same house where Loretta and her husband, Dick, briefly lived as newlyweds, when Lisa was a baby, before they bought their own neighboring house.

“I said to Lisa, ‘You’re like a boomerang. You’re coming back to the same house as when you were a baby,’” Loretta laughed.

Lisa raised her own son in her grandparents’ old house, three doors down from her own parents, just as Loretta and Dick raised Lisa, three doors up.

“It was a great neighborhood to live in,” Loretta said. “No crime, no nothing, just a peaceful neighborhood.”

The Vandenburgs aren’t the only family to claim multiple generations in Orchard Hills.

Jane Amy, a longtime Malbay Drive resident, raised her children in the neighborhood, and her daughter, also Lisa, bought a house on McPherson Court, right around the corner.

“My daughter said she remembered the streets had cobblestones on them,” Jane said. “Malbay, Othoridge, all of them. She remembered falling so many times off her bicycle.”

Jane’s favorite memory of an early Orchard Hills is the trees, and not the apple trees from the original orchard that still dotted the new landscape.

“There were a lot of big oak trees,” Jane said. “I know when we moved here, I had 13 trees just on my little area. I only have two left now.”

Jane also remembers the sense of camaraderie that the old block parties brought to the neighborhood, when the neighbors sectioned off a portion of the street and held a barbeque, with everyone bringing their grills and their food, their friendship and their children.

Orchard Hills must have a little magic in its hills, to keep the children of the original owners returning home to raise their own kids. The magic worked a little more strongly Malbay Drive, though, when it not only kept an extra generation within its peaceful limits, but also pulled together two neighboring families into one.

The story goes like this.

Dottie and Arthur Pokorny moved to Malbay Drive on Christmas Eve in 1955, with their teenaged son and new baby daughter, Janice. The newly-built house was supposed to be ready, but the builders had “goofed,” to use Dottie’s word, and the floors were not yet sanded.

“They had done next door, where nobody was moving in for a month or more,” Dottie said. “So they messed that up, but that was all right.”

So Dottie and Arthur moved their furniture and their boxes from living room to bedroom to basement, until the floors were complete.

The next five years were blissful. Janice played with Jim and Ethel Delp’s children across the street, and the two families got together for bridge games, bowling, and trips to Beaver Dam. Dottie was active in her community, which was known as Devonshire Forest, before it became part of the greater Orchard Hills community. Dottie remembers using a hand crank to print the newsletter, called, jokingly, the ‘Devonshire Daily, Published Monthly.’

Then, Dottie and Arthur moved to Cambridge, MD for two years while Arthur tried his hand in the car dealership business, running the short-lived Pokorny Ford.

“And it was a failure, so we moved right back,” Dottie chuckled. They bought a house on Lyn Court, across the street from their original Malbay Drive house, and now their backyard was adjacent to their old friends, the Delps.

“We would sometimes get together and eat out back, but mostly we played bridge together,” Dottie said. “We were good friends.”

Janice continued growing up with the Delp children, and eventually bought a house on Sandsbury Road, around the corner from her parents.

In 1986, many years later, Arthur, ill, passed away in March. Ethel also took ill and passed later that same year.

Dottie and Jim, neighbors, both found themselves alone.

“I was helping Jim with the funeral,” Dottie said, “I took over some food and stuff, and he surprised me by saying, ‘I was going to ask you, can I come over and eat with you?’”

Dottie offered to make a pot of bean soup out of a big ham bone that someone had brought over to Jim’s house after the funeral. Jim, not comfortable in a kitchen, readily accepted, and the next night they ate Dottie’s homemade bean soup in her kitchen.

“He raved about,” Dottie said. “He hadn’t had anything like that since his mother made it. We had bean soup three nights in a row. I said, ‘I’m all beaned out!’ He just kept coming over every night. He was like the man who came to dinner and never stopped. Before you knew it, we were constantly together.”

Dottie had a condition, though, if Jim was going to date her.

He had to learn how to dance.

Dottie loves to dance. In fact, she chose her senior prom date, in 1938, for his ability to dance – and that was Arthur Pokorny. They eloped later that same year, when Dottie was still only 18, and dancing always played a part in their relationship.

“He was a terrific dancer,” Dottie said.

After he passed way, Dottie started going to a bereavement class at the Bykota Senior Center, and a gentleman there encouraged her to join the square dancing and folk dancing.

Dottie was beginning to enjoy herself, and she wasn’t going to heft Jim’s two left feet around.

“It just so happened that Essex Community College was giving dancing lessons at the high school in Parkville, so I went with him, and he learned to dance,” Dottie said.

She gave Jim her approval. “He picked it up very nicely,” she said.

It’s a good thing he did, because he and Dottie then dated for 12 years, still living in two separate homes with adjacent back yards.

In 1999, when Dottie was considering selling her home and moving into a retirement community, Jim finally popped the question. They got married on April 24, 1999, at noon, at Immaculate Conception Church in Towson. Dottie wore a long, off-white gown with a jacket, had flowers, photos, a reception, a cake, and a flower girl in the form of a small great-granddaughter who gave out potpourri balls to the guests. Dottie enjoyed the fuss, since she had never had a real wedding before.

Dottie and Jim invited all the neighbors, since they both knew everyone from Malbay Drive and Lyn Court, and invited both of their families. Their children, having grown up together, now found themselves to be step-siblings in their middle age.

Dottie and Jim have shared Dottie’s house on Lyn Court ever since, and, as of now in 2011, their marriage is going strong.

Join us next week (click ) for Part III of Then and Now: Orchard Hills

Charles Noon July 03, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Joanna, once again, you've done it! I think these Then and Now pieces of yours are simply splendid! I didn't live in Orchard Hills, but I cut grass for about 6 years for Colonel and Ruth McGrayne on Othoridge Road, their neighbor's yard, and a couple of others once in a while. My freshman college roommate, Skip Flanagan, live up the street and the Creech's lived there somewhere. Many of my classmates were also Orchard Hills denizens. And there was a Little League ball field in Orchard Hills Park. I got beaned there once! Lincoln Avenue in the '50's was one of the last streets to get indoor running water. There were still hand pumps until about 1955 or 1956. I remember an "investigative story" in the Evening Sun that forced the county to get them into the 20th century. Dr. Flanagan and his wife Bobbie had a very successful career as private school Headmaster (and HeadMistress, I suppose you could call her) in Connecticut and Ohio. Colonel McGrayne was an artillery officer in WWI and WWII and Mrs. Mcgrayne taught us piano for many years. Thanks for the memories!
Janet Libertini December 29, 2011 at 03:07 PM
This is the first time, I've seen Then and Now - and it was great reading. I grew up on Othoridge Rd and my father still lives there. Not to mention, that I grew up nowing these families. How wonderful to remember the past. I loved the community parties, and I remember winning a transistor radio one year, I was about 10 or 11. I was thrilled. Janet (Harris) Libertini
Tara Finn Bull May 02, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Love this. Born and lived on Burleigh Road, then Lived in Ruxton, moved to Florida in 1985 and have missed the area ever since. Mrs. McGrayne was my piano teacher for over 10 years. Her little dog would bite me every time I came to the house. Good memories!

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