Tag Archive | rockville history

A Look Back at Montgomery County High School from 110 Years Ago

Montgomery County High School

Originally known as Montgomery County High School, later as Rockville High School and Richard Montgomery High School. Located at the corner of Monroe Street and East Montgomery Avenue. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1906.

The tradition of graduation ceremonies, complete with pomp and circumstance, caps and gowns, and awarding diplomas, marks a rite of passage at schools in Montgomery County and at other high schools across the country. Not this year. The coronavirus pandemic has left in its wake widespread cancellations of annual events and ceremonies. This year’s 2020 graduates will be honored in the minds and hearts of loved ones for their achievements, and individual efforts will be made to celebrate the moment, but this year’s graduating seniors won’t be able to participate in the traditional graduation celebrations. In honor of this year’s high school graduates, here is a look back at a collection of photos of graduates from Montgomery County High School that were taken by Lewis Reed in 1910.

A bit of history: Located in the City of Rockville, Richard Montgomery High School is the oldest public high school in Montgomery County. An allocation in 1892 by the then Board of School Commissioners of a $300 addition to the existing elementary school in Rockville brought to fruition the then named “Rockville High School” that served students from grades one to eleven. The first class of twelve seniors graduated in 1897. In 1904, the Board of Education purchased land at the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Monroe Street for the construction of a new school building, to be renamed “Montgomery County High School” at Rockville. Students came to the school by train, trolley, and later by school bus from all corners of the county. In 1935, when the new “Rockville Colored High School” building opened in Lincoln Park, the Board of Education officially renamed the old Rockville High School, “Richard Montgomery High School.”

1910 Montgomery County High School class photo

Montgomery County High School class, 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Back row: Edward Story, Lena Ricketts, Tom Young, Louise Larcombe, Miss Ford, Fred Hays, Lucius Lamar, name unknown, name unknown.
Middle Row: name unknown, name unknown, Jesse Wathen, Jesse Higgins, name unknown, name unknown, Mary Hyatt, name unknown, name unknown.
Front Row: Maude England, Rebecca Lamar, (first name unknown) Garrett, Helen Pumphrey, (first name unknown) Lehman.

Old Rockville High School class photo

Montgomery County High School, Academic Department, 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Back: Harry S. Beall, Katherine Hughes
Middle: names unknown
Front: Edith Prettyman, Virginia Darby

From The Baltimore Sun, Thursday, May 26, 1910 newspaper:

The Baltimore Sun 26 May 1910

The Baltimore Sun, Thursday, 26 May 1910.

Old Rockville High School’s First Baseball Team

Inter-school athletics in Montgomery County began with a meeting, duly noted in the Sentinel of February 18, 1910, of the principals of the high schools at Rockville, Gaithersburg, Kensington, and Sandy Spring to formulate plans for a baseball league. Within a month, the athletic association of Rockville High School was formed with Roger J. Whiteford, principal, as manager of the baseball team, Edward Story, teacher, as assistant manager, and Jesse Higgins student, as captain.

Old Rockville High School Baseball Team 1910

Rockville High School First Baseball Team, 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Front: Billy Beck, Tom Young, Edward Storey, Harry Beall, Roy Warfield.
Back: Otis Hicks, Lucius Lamar, name unknown, name unknown, Jesse Higgins, name unknown, name unknown, Frederick Hays, Roger Whiteford
Holding pennant: Griffith Warfield

Announce Line-Up of High School Team. Special to The Washington Post, Sunday, March 13, 1910:

The line-up of the baseball team that will represent the Montgomery County High School this season has been decided upon, and the team will start the season as follows: Catcher. Harry Beall; Pitcher, Edward Story; First Base; Thomas Young; Second Base, Griffith Warfield; Third Base, Marshall Darby; Shortstop, Jesse Higgins; Left Field, Roland Garrett; Center Field, Frederick Hays; Right Field, Lucius Lamar; and Substitutes: Otis Hicks, Marshall Manion and William Beck.

Montgomery County High School 1910

Montgomery County High School 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Montgomery County High School 1910

Montgomery County High School 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

On May 27, 1910, commencement was held in the Rockville Opera House. The major address of the graduation ceremony was given by Judge Hammond Urner. Then came the presentation of diplomas by Roger B. Farquhar and the seniors marched into the history of Montgomery County High School, as will their 2020 successors, all proud graduates.

Credit to: E. Guy Jewell, “Richard Montgomery High School.” The Montgomery County Story Vol. 24 (1981)
Other sources of information: Newspapers.com and Montgomery History

8 Years, 353 Posts & Thank You

8 Years

This month marks the 8-year anniversary of this blog. It’s been an honor to share the history of Reed Brothers Dodge – whether you’ve read our blog, followed us on Twitter, or “liked” us on Facebook. I would like to thank all of you who have visited, followed, shared, or commented on this blog, and many others, for their kind words and the visibility they have provided.

Here’s a look back at the last year.

What People are Saying Around Facebook:

“Amazing blog and postings. I spent sometime reviewing your site and found it both fascinating and interesting.”
“I am thankful for the documentation this site provides with images of a beloved hometown that can no longer be seen.”
“Love seeing the old photos.”
“This is soooo cool! Someone needs to do one of those historical books of Historical Rockville photos!”
“These photos are absolutely awesome!!!”
“Thank you so much for sharing! This is classic Montgomery County info.”
“That was so cool reading all your memory posts. Best thing I’ve read on FB in a while.”
“I love seeing these old photos and reading the history. Thank you.”
“Thank you for this history. There is so much we take for granted.”

Past Lectures:

2019 Montgomery County History Conference: Each year in January, the Montgomery County Historical Society holds a day-long conference on various aspects of local history. Upwards of 200 people attend this annual event, which has been held since 2007. Last year, I was very honored for the invitation to speak about the history of Reed Brothers Dodge at the Montgomery County History Conference on Saturday, January 26, 2019.

The PowerPoint presentation followed the dealerships 97-year historic timeline and included more than 100 photographs, 70 of them rare, historic images taken by the dealership’s founder, Lewis Reed. The conference was held at the Bioscience Education Center on Montgomery College’s Germantown Campus.

2019 Montgomery History Conference

Montgomery History Speakers Bureau: Officially added to the Montgomery History Speakers Bureau. My topic is, of course, The History of Reed Brothers Dodge“. It is my great honor to join the talented league of speakers at Montgomery History, and I sincerely look forward to sharing our 97-year family business history throughout Montgomery County and the greater Washington D.C. metro area.

Montgomery History Speakers BureauKensington Park Retirement Community Talk: Gave a presentation as part of Montgomery History’s Speakers Bureau at Kensington Park Retirement Community. Approximately 25 residents from the Woodlands Assisted Living facility attended. Such a joy me sharing, their listening, and appreciating the time spent together. Thanks to Activities Director Kate Moeller who invited me to speak.

Woodlands Assisted Living

Kensington Park Woodlands Assisted Living

Montgomery History Tuesday Talks: Montgomery History’s lunchtime lecture series, Tuesday Talks, takes place at noon on the first Tuesday of every month at the historic Beall-Dawson House in Rockville, Maryland. Enjoy presentations covering various aspects of history including local history of Montgomery County and the history of those who once lived here.

Montgomary History Tuesday Talks

Online Exhibit: Montgomery County, 1900-1930: Through the Lens of Lewis Reed Lewis Reed’s photographs are now a part of a series of online exhibitions featured on the Montgomery History website. Montgomery County, 1900-1930: Through the Lens of Lewis Reed displays extraordinary photographs in several themed categories (Transportation, Photo-magic, Recreation, & Daily Life) taken at the beginning of the 20th century by county native and founder of Reed Brothers Dodge, Lewis Reed. It is an absolutely unique window into how the people of Montgomery County lived over a century ago. Working in collaboration with Montgomery History Librarian and Archivist, Sarah Hedlund, I am proud to play a part in the preservation of local history, making these photographs available to all.

Through the Lens of Lewis Reed online exhibitI appreciate all of you for your continued support and making Reed Brothers Dodge History one of the places you visit during the course of your day.

Thank you

Then & Now: Vinson’s Pharmacy

“Then and Now” photos are an excellent way to explore the passage of time. In this special post, I have combined one of Lewis Reed’s original photograph’s for “then” and matched it with a corresponding contemporary shot for “now”. Taken approximately 114 years apart, these photos show Vinson’s Pharmacy in Rockville, then and now.

Vinson’s Pharmacy (THEN): Vinson’s Pharmacy was built in the 1880s and was run by Robert William “Doc” Vinson from 1900 until his death in 1958. The store had previously been owned and/or operated by several men, including D.F. Owens and E.T. Fearon. The drugstore was a popular gathering place for city politicians, and that President Woodrow Wilson once personally traveled there to buy Wolfhound tablets.

Most roads in Montgomery County, even those running  though towns, were dirt. In the photo below, taken in downtown Rockville, a delivery wagon can be seen at the curb, as well as advertisements for Coca-Cola, which would have been a product only 20 years old at that time, having been invented and trademarked in 1887. Trolley tracks bisect Montgomery Avenue. Previous to Edgar Reed’s enlistment in World War I, he had been employed as a clerk by Vinson’s Drug Store for eight years. In 1919, Edgar became a partner with his brother, Lewis Reed, in the firm Reed Brothers Dodge.

Vinsons Pharmacy, 1906

Rockville looking east down Montgomery Avenue at Perry Street (now Maryland Avenue); Vinson’s Pharmacy is on the corner. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1906

Vinson’s Pharmacy (NOW): The building was torn down in 1962 and replaced with an office building during Rockville’s “urban renewal”.

Vinson's Pharmacy location

2019 location of Vinson’s Pharmacy on the corner of Montgomery and Maryland Avenue.


Rare Images of Early Rockville from Lewis Reed’s Collection

Unknown street in Rockville

This photograph was marked only “Rockville.” Note that the sidewalks are board planks elevated from street level. Photo by Lewis Reed ca, 1912

What makes Rockville such an interesting place? It’s interesting history! Old photos have an amazing way of showing us what life was like years ago and depicting how our communities once looked. You might not realize how much things have changed until you look back and see what it looked like in the past.

A bit of Rockville history: More than 250 years ago, land grants to European settlers formed the nucleus for today’s Rockville, Maryland. By the 1750s local farmers were transporting tobacco to market in Georgetown down a road formerly used by Indians. The tiny settlement was designated as the seat of the new Montgomery County in 1776. Known as Rockville by 1803, the town’s life centered on Courthouse activity. More homes and shops were built, and the town of nearly 600 was incorporated in 1860. The dynamics that created Rockville in the 18th and 19th centuries are still the same ones attracting newcomers today: the presence of county government, a favorable location close to the nation’s capital, converging transportation routes that bring people here, and identity as an independent municipality.

Take a journey back in time through the lens of Lewis Reed and see what Rockville looked like more than one hundred years ago. As always, click the photos to get a better look.

Rockville Town Square, 1914

North side of East Montgomery Avenue near the courthouse, ca. 1914. Note the trolley car on the left. Photo by Lewis Reed

Shops sold groceries, baked goods, sewing machines, hats, lumber, and hardware. Families lived above their stores, renting rooms to others.

Rockville Town Square, 1912

Court House Triangle. The large white house behind the Confederate Statue is the Hicks House.  The Montgomery House Hotel is to the right of the Hicks House, just out of the image. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1914

On September 28, 1917 a draft for World War I began and the first 40 men reported for duty at the Montgomery County Court House in Rockville, Maryland. In the photograph below, cars are parked around the court house during the speech-making in the court room to drafted men. Montgomery County’s first recruits left Rockville by train for Camp Meade, Maryland on this same day. They each received a package of smoking tobacco and a rousing send-off from two thousand people after speeches at the courthouse, dinner at the Montgomery House Hotel, and a parade to the depot. About 160 Rockville men served in the eighteen-month war. One of those men was Rockville resident, Edgar Reed. Edgar was fortunate enough to survive World War I and to settle back in Rockville and enjoy a successful life and career in the automobile business.

Montgomery County Court House 1917

Montgomery County Court House.  Photo by Lewis Reed, 1917.

Notice that most of the cars in the above photo have two license plates: at this time, you needed a separate tag to drive a car in the District of Columbia. There is also horse dung in the dirt road (E. Montgomery Avenue), suggesting buggies had been by recently as well. Barely visible in the background left is the Maryland National Bank building, which was demolished during urban renewal in the late 1960s.

Suburban Electrical Co Montogomery Ave

Suburban Electrical Company on Montgomery Avenue in Rockville. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca.1914

The upper story of this building was the living quarters of Mr and Mrs B. F. Hicks. The building was later acquired by W. Valentine Wilson, who tore it down and replaced is with the “SECO” for Mr Wilson’s Suburban Electric Company. The ground floor was made into a moving picture theater.

W. Hikcs Genral Store Rockville 1914

W. Hicks General Store on Montgomery Avenue Rockville. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1914

Washington Hicks operated this general or dry goods store in Rockville from the late 19th century until 1940. His son W. Guy Hicks continued to run the store until his retirement in the late 1950s. The photo above shows the storefront in 1914.

Montogomery Avenue Rockville 1914

H. Reisinger Lunch Room on Montgomery Avenue Rockville 1914. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1914

H. Reisinger Bakery, Confectionery, Ice Cream and Lunch Room, 5 and 10-cent Bargain Store on Montgomery Avenue, Rockville.

J. P. Collins General Store

Clerks at J. F. Collins General Store on East Montgomery Avenue. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca, 1914

On a bleak night in February 1921, a pistol shot was fired while others yelled, “Fire!”. From John Collin’s store on East Montgomery Avenue — beloved by local children for Cracker Jacks and penny candy — flames reached toward the sky. Volunteers arrived with buckets while others operated the hose reels and hook and ladder truck. The main street was saved with help from men and equipment of Washington, D.C., but Collins’s store was a smouldering ruin. A few weeks later, fifty concerned townspeople elected officers of the newly formed Rockville Volunteer Fire Department.

Vinsons Drug Store 1912

Rockville looking east down Montgomery Avenue at Perry Street (now Maryland Avenue); Vinson’s Pharmacy is on the corner. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1906.

Most roads in Montgomery County, even those running  though towns, were dirt. In the photo above, taken in downtown Rockville, a delivery wagon can be seen at the curb, as well as advertisements for Coca-Cola, which would have been a product only 20 years old at that time, having been invented and trademarked in 1887. Trolley tracks bisect Montgomery Avenue. Today, the view down this street ends with stairs to the pedestrian overpass, which leads over Hungerford Drive into the Rockville Metro Station.

The drugstore was built in the 1880s and was run by Robert William “Doc” Vinson from 1900 until his death in 1958. The drugstore was also a popular gathering place for city politicians, and that President Woodrow Wilson once personally traveled there to buy Wolfhound tablets. The building was torn down in 1962, and replaced with an office building during Rockville’s “urban renewal”.

Fearon's Pharmacy Rockville 1912

Vinson’s Drug Store Fearon’s Pharmacy (as named in the window; also Owen’s and Vinson’s at other times). L to R Tom Talbott, Wardlow Mason, Otho Talbott, unknown, Dr. Fearon. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1898.

Rockville Town Hall

Rockville Town Hall. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1912

Rockville Town Hall was incorporated in 1881 to “improve the educational, moral, scientific, literary and social condition of the community. Stock sold at ten dollars per share raised most of the six thousand dollars needed to erect a handsome two-story brick building on Montgomery Avenue. The Town Hall opened on Tuesday evening, July 18,1882. For the next half century, the Town Hall operated as a small-town cultural center, with a four hundred-seat auditorium on the second floor, a stage, balcony, and dressing rooms, a ticket office on the lower level and seven leased offices. The community used the facility for visiting lectures, theatrical and musical performances, dances, and other suitable “instruction and amusement”.

Rockville Court House

Rockville Court House. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1914

For most of Montgomery County’s history, a single building, familiarly known as “The Courthouse,” served all functions of local government. The Red Brick Courthouse is the county’s third on this site, constructed in 1891 at a cost of $50,000. Roads were crude, daily trains connected county commuters and farmers with the nation’s capital, and trolley tracks were planned between Rockville and Georgetown. The county’s 27,185 residents visited the courthouse as litigants and jurors, to pay taxes, buy dog tags, probate wills, obtain marriage and business licenses, record deeds, speak to County Commissioners, and request law enforcement from the Sheriff. Designated a historic building on July 19, 1965 by the Montgomery County Historical Society.

St Marys Church

St Marys Catholic Church. Photo by Lewis Reed, c. 1914.

Founded in 1813, historic St. Mary’s Church led the way for Catholics in Montgomery County. The cemetery in front of the chapel is the final resting place of literary legend F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda.

75 Years of Rockville, Maryland
As remembered by William F. Prettyman

Rockville: Portrait of a City by Eileen S. McGuckian

Remembering Rockville Volunteer Fire Department Carnival

On this date 87 years ago the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department held its first annual carnival.

From The Daily News, Frederick Maryland, August 10, 1932:

At a special meeting of the department August 5 it was unanimously voted that a carnival should be held on the Fairgrounds from September 3 to 10, inclusive. The first event will be a fireman’s parade and hook-up contests with three cups being offered as prizes. Other items of interest will be the baby show, the old-fashioned square dance, and the public wedding. An automobile and fifteen cash prizes are to be given away during the carnival.

Rockville Volunteer Fire Department Carnival

The News [Frederick, Maryland] 08 Aug 1964

The June 1960 Rockville Sanborn map below shows the location of the Rockville Fire Department Carnival Grounds. From what I have been able to piece together from newspaper archives, the carnival began in 1932 and closed sometime in the late 1960s. The carnival ticket booth used to be the one-room doctor’s office built for and used by Dr. Edward E. Stonestreet from 1852 to 1903. It was donated to the Montgomery County Historical Society and moved to the complex in 1972.

Rockville Volunteer Fire Department Carnival

Rockville Fire Department Carnival Grounds location, circa 1960. Courtesy of the Library of Congress digital collection of Sanborn maps.

All of the buildings, including flood lights, fencing and metal frames for carnival stands, on the 10-acre site on the Rockville Pike were permanent fixtures all year long and remained unused until the carnival. In 1947, a 70-foot dance pavilion with detachable side walls was built by labor and materials donated by members of the department and Rockville citizens. I remember the wooden buildings coated with layers of red and white paint, and the classic Coca Cola signage that was so typical back then.

Rockville Volunteer Fire Department Carnival

View of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department Carnival buildings across from Beall’s Esso on Rockville Pike, circa 1960s. Photo credit: RVFD Photo Archives.

The Rockville Fire Department held its annual carnival during the month of August. The eight-night carnival was the staple of the organization’s fundraising for several decades. Locals came to the carnival every year to enjoy the rides, win raffle prizes, listen to the live music every night and most importantly, to eat the food. It was the perfect place to catch up with friends, ride a few rides and maybe win a gold fish that might actually remain alive by the time you got home.

Valuable prizes given away nightly. Prizes by General Electric:

  • 4-Speed Record Player
  • Vacuum Cleaner
  • Portable Transistor Radio
  • Roll Around Fans
  • Toaster Ovens

It is exciting to note that for many years, a car was the grand prize given away at the carnival. The Dodge in the photo below was donated by Reed Brothers.

Rockville Fire Department Carnival

Automobiles were given away as Grand Awards in cooperation with local car dealers. Photo credit: RVFD Photo Archives.

Rockville Fire Department Carnival

Win this new Chevrolet! Photo credit: RVFD Photo Archives.

Rockville Fire Department Carnival

Family driving off carnival grounds in a new Chevrolet. Photo credit: RVFD Photo Archives.

Rockville Fire Department Carnival

Win this new Ford! Photo credit: RVFD Photo Archives.

Beauty Contest, Wedding to Highlight Carnival

A public wedding and a bathing beauty contest for “Miss Rockville” highlighted the eight-night carnival on August 12, 1949. The contest winner receives $75 and have the honor of representing the firemen in a September contest at Sandy Spring for the title of “Miss Montgomery County Fireman of 1949.”

Rockville Carnival Wedding

The Evening Star, August 17, 1949

From The Evening Star, August 17, 1949:

Rockville’s Volunteer firemen are beginning to believe in sawdust wedding aisles as lucky omens.

All 17 couples who in as many years have been married in public at the Rockville fireman’s carnival have lived happily ever after – at least without a divorce.

And the firemen are counting on this year’s couple, Arthur Fleming, 21, Rockville Post Office employee, and his 18 year old bride, Dorothy Lucille Campbell Fleming of Gaithersburg to maintain that record. The two were married last night at the carnival, and like their predecessors, they spoke their vows over a loud speaker in view of a merry-go-round and walked down a sawdust aisle edged with 5,000 onlookers.

Chief W. Valentine Wilson originated the public wedding at the Rockville Carnival back in 1932. The firemen provided a $500 set of furniture, the wedding license, ring, minister, bridal gown, bridegroom’s and ushers’ white tie and tails and flowers.

Some of the town folk weren’t too much in favor of the idea and almost talked a town minister out of performing the ceremony. Later they found out the ceremonies are all very solemn affairs with no frivolity and bystanders even whimpered. For the 17 weddings, State Fireman’s Association Chaplain James C. Minter has conducted the ceremonies. Most of the nuptials ran smoothly, but the Chief remembered one that edged on the border line. That was the time a bridegroom, kneeling at the altar with his bride, whispered, “I can’t get up.”

As to why the marriages have been such successes, Fire Department General Counsel David E. Betts, thinks he has the answer: “If they love each other enough to be married at a carnival public wedding under the populace’s eyes, they’ve got enough love to hold them together for life.”

RVFD Carnival Program Line up from 1968

1968 Carnival Program

The Music

Music has been a big part of the carnival over the years too, as big-name country acts performed at the fairgrounds. There were floor shows each night featuring artists such as  Conway Twitty & the Twittybirds, Loretta Lynn, Buck Owens, Jimmy Dean, Patsy Cline, the Osborne Brothers, and many others.

Nightly entertainment featured attractions such as a trapeze artist, hillbilly comedy, Punch and Judy show, old fashioned hoedowns, the Jamboree Boys of television fame, a western rope spinning and whip act, thrilling acrobatic on the slack wire, comedy juggling act by Billy Dale, the Ringling Brothers circus clown, and the Blue Mountain Boys. And nightly dancing in the Pavilion to the music of Sid Graham’s “Five Tones.”

Also appearing were the Shirleyettes with Linda Rita Peluzo, a versatile young lady who danced, sang, and played the accordion. The Eng Sisters, a Chinese trio, entertained with modern song. Carol Bo Barnstead, a flaming baton twirler, appeared with the young Jean Kruppa and Bert Bottamilla on drums.

From The News, Frederick MD 07 August 1965:

Local talent such as the Rockville Municipal Band under the direction of Frank Troy, the Tune Twisters with the Darnell Sisters, and Johnny Glaze and the Night Hawks will round out the entertainment for the two week period. Proceeds from the carnival will go toward payment of a $15,000 Miller-Meteor Cadillac ambulance and a $62,000 Peter Pirsch, 100 foot aerial ladder which were put into service to meet the demands of a growing community.

1961 Cadillac Ambulance by Miller-Meteor

1961 Cadillac Ambulance by Miller-Meteor. Photo credit: RVFD Photo Archives.

The Games

“Dime to play, dime to win, come on in!” The games – The Duck Pond, simply pick up a floating rubber duck out of the water, turn it over to see your prize. Dunk Tank, Rifle Range, Hoop-la (throw hoops around pegs), Balloon Pitch, Teddy Bear Toss (get ring completely around bear stand for 1st prize), Guess Your Age, Cigarette Wheel (spin the wheel and win unfiltered cigarettes)… Lucky Strikes, Camels, and other horrible brands. Lamps (ring toss over miniature lamps was a lot harder than it looked). Panda Bear Stand, ring a coke bottle to win one. Test your strength on the “High Striker” (driving a puck up a tower with a hammer to ring the bell). Rifle Range, 25 cents for shots with a carnival rifle at rotating ducks you just fired away for prizes. And for those a bit older, the favorite game was Bingo.

Rockville Carnival carnival cigarette wheel

Cigarette wheel at RVFD Carnival. Photo credit: RVFD Photo Archives.

Rockville Fire Department Carnival

Lucky Number Ball Game at RVFD Carnival. Photo credit: RVFD Photo Archives.

Rockville Fire Department Carnival

Calling Bingo at RVFD Carnival, August 1961. Photo credit:  RVFD Photo Archives.

The Rides

The heart of the historic fireman’s carnival was the rides – Ferris Wheel, Kiddy Automobiles, Merry-Go-Round, Kiddy Aeroplanes, Scrambler, Dipper Dive Bomber, Octopus, Paratrooper, Live Pony Rides, Kiddy Train, Kiddy Boat Ride, Space Chaser and Tank Ride. Ride the teacups they said, nobody gets dizzy on the teacups. Oh really? Well, let me introduce myself – I am the only person who always got dizzy on the teacup ride! Remember the Zipper, where you would be pelted with handfuls of coins as you went upside down? Ouch! For parents, a lot of enjoyment came from seeing their kids having such a good time. These are some samples of the rides that were featured at the carnival:

Scrambler carnival ride

The Scrambler

This ride is fast — really fast. Proving that rides don’t have to go high to make you question all of your choices, The Scrambler is something you shouldn’t ride if you’ve eaten within your current lifetime. Picture this: the ride has three arms. On the ends of each of those arms are clusters of individual cars, each on a smaller arm of its own. When the Scrambler starts, the main arm and the little arms all rotate. The outermost arms are slowed and the inner arms are accelerated, creating an illusion of frighteningly close collisions between the cars and passengers. The Scrambler proves that you don’t have to go on a roller coaster to lose your lunch or have the wits scared out of you.

Octopus Carnival Ride

The Octopus

One of the most entertaining rides that you can go on at any carnival is called The Octopus. The arms go up and down multiple times during the ride, but it is the spinning action of the ride itself which causes the carts to automatically spin, making this one of the most fun rides ever created.

Paratrooper carnival ride


The Paratrooper, also known as the Parachute Ride or Umbrella Ride is a type of carnival ride where the seats are suspended below a wheel which rotates at an angle. The seats are free to rock sideways and swing out as the wheel rotates.

Tilt-a-Whirl carnival ride


The Tilt-a-Whirl ride wildly spins in countless directions at variable speeds. Calculated chaos ensued. Those who look a little green or lose their lunch of hot dogs, cotton candy, and soda pop are probably just coming off a Tilt-a-Whirl.

The Food

Did I mention the food? Carnivals are a feast for the senses. The smells of food floods the air with the toasty, oily, salty smell of french fried potatoes mingled with scents of buttered popcorn, spicy pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and other tasty treats. Those french fries in a paper cone with vinegar… didn’t you just love those french fries? There was fried chicken that Colonel Sanders would have to salute. And as if that was not enough, there was snack time. The night would not be complete without cotton candy or a caramel apple. And I would be remiss to not mention the infamous funnel cake, which is either loved or hated; there is no middle ground.

For hundreds of children who grew up in the Rockville area, the carnival is where they held their first job. It was such a great tradition and a real community effort. Unfortunately, due to increased call volume, the fire department had to end the annual event. Carnival revenue has since been replaced by a combination of public funding, private donations, and commercial income.

It made a lot of money for the fire department, and by the end of each evening there were quite a few happy young girls to be seen in the crowd, carrying a large stuffed animal and accompanied by a smiling young man.

Sources of Information:
Library of Congress digital collection of Sanborn maps
Chronicling America digitized newspapers
Newspapers.com Historical Newspapers, largest online newspaper archive.

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