My name is Gary Owens,
I was born in 1953, in what is now known as "old Broyhill", meaning the houses just east of Annandale Road, at the end of Graham Road. I remember little from there, as we moved to "new Broyhill" in 1956, and I spent the next 14 years there before going off to college. My mother, Betty Evely, still lives in the same house. My father was a carpenter, and he worked for M. T. Broyhill, the home builder for whom Broyhill Park was named. He actually worked on the home we moved into, and I remember thinking that he literally "built" all of Broyhill Park.
I went to Walnut Hill Elementary School, was bussed to Whittier Intermediate School, then finally, the current Falls Church High School. Some current residents of Broyhill Park may not know that the original Falls Church High School was actually located in the center of downtown Falls Church, on Cherry and (something) Street, what is now all town homes. I believe I was in the first freshman class of Falls Church High School in it's present location, which would have been 1967. In addition, I believe Walnut Hill Elementary is now a school administrative office.
I have many great memories of growing up in Broyhill Park, and wanted to share a few of them. The most consistent theme is that there were lots of kids my age. This makes sense as it was a new development and many young families moved in. So, it just seemed like the most perfect place to be. First of all, I remember walking to Walnut Hill Elementary School, which was probably only about 1/2 mile, but to a six, or seven year old, it seemed like a long ways. The school was named after the Walnut Hill Mansion, which was on the "other side" of the woods that surrounded Parrots Creek., situated on the very top of a large lot, on Annandale Road, half way between Graham Road and Gallows Road. The mansion is now gone, replaced by very nice town homes. At that time, a young boy could spend all day on a Saturday in those woods, following Parrots creek from the entrance to the woods, just outside the safe harbor of Woodley Pool, all the way to the Walnut Hill Mansion. Again, for a young boy, who would stop to pick up every stone, sure it was an "arrow head" from the Native American Indians, tadpoles, and sticks, etc, it could take all day to navigate there and back. I haven't traversed it as an adult, but I might guess it is no more than a mile or two, but in those days, it was a big, big adventure. The moniker to your friends who could not join that day, "we made it all the way to Walnut Hill Mansion and back!". All things considered, it was very safe, as all one had to do was follow the creek there, and follow it back. As an adult, I read J.R. Tolkiens books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. I think back to my early childhood, and those woods felt like the woods in Tolkiens books, huge, deep, and dark. The only difference was there was never a hint of danger, only fun and adventure.
Woodley Pool was the place to be in the summers. Every friend I had belonged to Woodley. Every day started and ended at the pool. I'd arrive when it opened, come home (maybe) for dinner, then head back till it closed. There was basketball, shuffle board, ping pong, of course swimming, and games in the pool, card games, and best of all was that every hour the pool was closed for 15 minutes for the "adults" only to swim, which meant 18 and older. This was the time for all of us "kids" to run to the concession stand to buy candy, or ice-cream. I think I spent all of my "grass cutting" money on these sugar breaks. Ah, it was idyllic. One summer, my brother had the concession stand contract, which meant, even though I was a squirt, I got to help him out, and therefore, I was the coolest kid around. I also remember the ping pong tournaments on the last day of the summer each year, which was traditionally Labor Day. Numerous times I won my age group, even entering and winning the adult category as a 13 year old. That and $3 will buy you a cup of Starbucks coffee today, but back then, that was big!
I remember big snows. Again, were they really that big, did we get a lot more snow in the 60's than we do now, or did it just seem so because I was so small? Who knows, but I remember that there were many snow days, when school was closed, and that meant sledding on Carol Lane, from the top of the hill on Camp Alger Street down Carol Lane, toward Annandale Road. It was very steep, even hard to get back up. No one had plastic sleds back then, rather we all had Red Arrow's, good ole wooden sleds, and there was an art to keeping the blades waxed, for maximum speed. I remember long "sled trains", as well as the many attempts to capsize your friends in front of you if you could catch them on the way down.
I remember playing football in the "Triangle", a small parcel of land just off Graham Road, where it bends north heading towards Loehmans Plaza, (which of course was a small airfield before it was a shopping center). The Triangle is still there, with the brick "Broyhill Park" sign still proudly displayed. At the time, it seemed like a perfectly legitimate football field, worthy of future Washington Redskins learning the game. Sometimes, as many as 10-15 of us would be playing there. When I look at it now, I don't know how we did it, but again, at the time, it seemed big enough. I remember many summer nights playing "kick the can", or flashlight tag", until late at night, when Mom would force me to come in. I remember that Congressman Finley, who was in the House of Representatives for 22 years, representing the 10th District of Illinois, had a basketball court in his back yard, and he happened to live across the street from me. He was quite gracious, and allowed us kids to play whenever we wanted, without asking. That meant sometimes early, sometimes late, sometimes, for long periods of time. Looking back, I'm sure there were times that the bouncing of my basketball woke him up, or kept him awake (he even had an outside light). Yet, never did he make me aware of this, rather, whenever I saw him, he'd just smile and say something positive about "my game."
Well, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, Broyhill Park was (and hopefully still is) a tremendous place to grow up and live. I have nothing but fond memories of being there, and though I have not lived there since 1972, I visit my mother regularly, and everytime I come, I am full of warm thoughts from such memories as I have just shared with you.
Downers Grove, Il.