I stumbled onto your website this week and found nostalgia in Gary Owens' description of growing up in Broyhill Park. I too recall the early days of the development as my family moved to "New Broyhill" early in 1954 when I was 9 years old. The model homes for "New Broyhill" were at the entrance to Graham road at Annandale Road, which had but 2 lanes, and I remember our first trips to see the models and my parents looking over plans and specifications at the sales office. We purchased a house on a corner lot where my Mother still resides. I have vivid memories of our frequent trips to inspect the house as it emerged from the excavated hole in the ground and my Dad's meticulous documentation of soon-to-be-hidden plumbing, wiring and other construction details. I recall the strong odor of wet plaster that persisted long after the walls appeared to have hardened. I watched lawn appear as the rolls of sod were laid. I remember my parents' battle to eradicate the poison ivy that remained under the sod and on a large 4-trunk oak tree in the back yard that had escaped the ravages of home construction. I recall a significant population of black widow spiders that had also survived and my fascination with their beautiful black satin sheen, striking red markings and extraordinarily strong webs (my parents were much less enthusiastic). There was a creek behind our house that offered even more wildlife to observe (crayfish, frogs, wolf spiders, even the rarely seen mole cricket). For a kid who had lived in an apartment to that point, this was great stuff!
I first attended Westlawn elementary school until construction of Walnut Hill elementary was completed ('55 or '56?). Either school was within walking distance (at least in good weather) but Walnut Hill was much closer. There was a certain appeal to being among the first to occupy a new school. There was no middle school at that time so when I finished 7th grade at Walnut Hill, I attended the old Falls Church High School on Cherry St. at Hillwood Ave. where I graduated in '63. I sometimes walked home even from that location. In the '50s, there was no drug problem in the schools and the playground equipment posed a far greater risk of injury than did your classmates.
"Parrot's creek" was a popular area of exploration as Gary mentioned and we found many creatures to bring home, including some, such as my Brother's injured copperhead in an open coffee can, that did not find favor with our parents. It was a great loss to us (kids) when the Raymondale homes were built between Camp Alger and Annandale road, eliminating much of "our" wilderness. The not yet developed wooded areas west of the first phases of "New Broyhill" were a source of young plants (dogwoods in particular) for my Parents' early landscaping efforts and I remember helping to extract them from the woods and haul them home in our '51 Plymouth.
The airfield was a natural attraction for young boys, no doubt to the consternation of airfield operators and our parents. I recall a couple of mishaps involving aircraft: in one, a plane on a westward landing approach snagged his landing gear on the utility primary conductor(s) that ran along the west side of Graham Road, crashed upside down (but in-tact) on the runway and interrupted power to the neighborhood. I don't recall the fate of the pilot. In another, a plane landed (thankfully without injury or damage) on Mark drive. Obviously there were far fewer trees and cars then. In recent trips to the neighborhood, it has struck me that the number of cars has increased dramatically since the mid-fifties when cars were rarely parked on the street. After the airfield was closed it became a popular venue for RC plane hobbyists, which was also entertaining (by then, the empty fields east of Bailey's Crossroads that had previously served that purpose were being developed). There were also a few abandoned aircraft carcasses and other cool stuff (junk) at the margins of the airfield that we could scavenge for treasures that only a young boy could appreciate.
It is difficult to imagine in the context of present development, but in '54 my Parents had reservations about moving "that far out" of the city (our prior abode was on Glebe Road). The intersection of Graham Rd and Rt. 50 had only the Esso station on the N.E. corner and a small group of stores including a grocery, barbershop and hardware store to the West. The airfield occupied the SW quadrant and I think that the SE corner was vacant (a Cities Service station was later built there). The vacant areas on the corners were the annual locations for Christmas tree and fireworks stands. "7-corners" was just an intersection (no overpass or shopping center) and Merrifield was really out in the country (although the "gingerbread" body shop was probably there as it is today) and Fairfax was similarly isolated. Bailey's crossroads was an intersection of 2-lane roads with a pony ride on one corner and a home diagonally opposite. Similarly, Tyson's corner was just an intersection on Rt 29 and Herndon was a distant town in farmland and might have remained obscure if not for the Virginia Gentleman distillery. There was no Beltway, or Reston and I believe that even Springfield was yet to become significant in the residential archipelago. The only "mall" was the one designed by George Washington in DC. We had moved to the suburban frontier and I thought that the 10 miles to the city was a long way. I wish that I had but a 15-20min commute such as that today.
In 1954, an 1800sq-ft (including basement), 3-bedroom brick ranch in Broyhill Park could be yours for little more than $16,000. I recently saw one listed for $350,000! That's nearly 31/2 times inflation-adjusted dollars, not a bad return on one's housing cost. Apparently, Mr. Broyhill built sturdy homes that have withstood the test of time well and my Parents' decision to build "far out" has proven to be a wise one.