National Geographic : 1953 Apr
536 The N a tional G eographic Magazine odd note of color as they pass on Sundays, clad in green , red , white, and lavender robes very mu ch like Biblical dress . The Mount Zion Methodist Church , oldest Negro congregation in the District of Colum- bia, was founded in 1816 with 125 members. Before the Civil War its membership book frequently recorded opposite a name the single word " sold. " It meant the sale of a slave member. After the name of Edward Brown in 1834 appears: " sold- poor fellow. " The More Things Change ... One of Georgetown 's chief concerns in its early days was to keep the town clean. Resi- dents are equally mindful of the problem today. When the restoration began , it was accompanied by a crusade against trash, ref- use, and unsanitary conditions. Street cleaners are held in proper regard here. I 've encountered them at work in the still sleeping streets as early as 6 in the morn- ing. Each year they are guests of honor at a special garden party which includes speeches, lunch, and gratuities. One of the town 's leading women is hostess. Traffic also worried the first officials , appre- hensive about the breakneck passage of stage- coaches or horsemen galloping through town. Since M Street is a busy channel for the Capital's populous suburbs in Virginia, the traffic problem is still with us. In the past few years optimistic pleas have been made for holding motorists to the lei- surely pace of bygone times, even if it meant stop signs at every intersection. As far as I can learn, su ch proposal s are still tactfully pending. Some reminders of the past are convenient, even touching. Negro sawyers used to make their rounds, wagons stacked with logs cut to varying lengths so a householder would have no trouble getting the right size to fit his fireplace. Sawyers are still part of the scene in late fall and winter. Most wood peddlers are motor- ized now, but from time to time I have seen some who rel y on the old-style horse-drawn wagon. Like them, the itinerant fi shman also believes old dobbin is here to stay awhile. On Christmas Eve, from colonial times until the Emancipation Proclamation, bands of slaves went throu gh town singing carols in soft, rich voice s. They were rewarded with sweetmeats and other gifts. Despite Georgetown 's stretch of lean y ears, the custom survived. Negro chil9ren still go about the streets sin ging Christmas hymn s and spirituals as only they can sing them·. Georgetonia ns celebra ted our town 's 200th anniversary in 19 51 with understandable pride, heightened by the still sweet victory of the " Old Georgetown " bill (page 522). A decorous observation it was , nothing to flaunt an older heritage and traditions before the much younger sections of the District of Co- lumbia. The program provided for a parade, fancy - dress ball, dancing in the streets, concerts, and special church services. Its most imagi- native feature was a revival of the fair author- ized by the colonial act creating the town , said fair to be held spring and fall as " encourage- ment to back inhabitants, and others, to bring commodities there to sell and vend. " One pleasant evening after the bicentennial, my wife and I were sitting in the yard with the couple ne xt door, a U. S. Navy com- mander and his wife , now lost to us by assign- ment in north Africa. We fell to talking about Georgetown. I recall ob serving how many towns there are in this country and the world which have kept one rendezvous with history and are content to bask in the reflection of that mo- ment. Georgetown , it seem s to me, has been keeping such appointments for a long time and evidently intends to continue. The Dumbarton Oaks meeting laying the groundwork for the United Nations might be cited as a recent indication of intent (page 517). The commander's wife happened to be an Englishwoman , just about to become an American citizen. Perhaps her British back- ground had something to do with the unex- pected comment she offered. "Go It, Old Girl!" "You know ," she said in the clipped manner that always delighted us, " I love it here. The town keeps reminding me more and more of the curtain lines in Laurence Housman 's Vic- toria R egina. The Queen describes how her jubilee procession neared Hyde Park Corner where suddenly a surge of men broke through the lines of police and troops. " They ran alongside her carriage, cheering and shouting : ' Go it, old girl! You 've done it well! Go it. ' " Somehow , y ou almost get to feel that way about Georgetown. " Notice of change of address for your N ATIONAL G EOGRAPHIC M AGAZINE should be received in the offices of the N ational Geographic Society by the first of the month to affect the following m onth's issue. For instance, if you desire the address changed for your J une number, The Society should be n otified of your new add1'ess not later than M ay 1. Be sure to include your postal-zone number.