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Column: A Walk Down Memory Lane

— Eighty-two year old Maeda* remembers moving as a child to Alexandria from Halifax, N.C. with her parents and five siblings. Their home on Cameron Street did not have electricity — everything was coal or kerosene powered. Coal trains used to run near her home on the way to Fannon’s and often times the train workers would throw some coal off during winter months, keeping her family warm. Maeda also remembers the penny candy stores on Henry Street, the Majestic Restaurant on King Street, and eventually a service station and Dr. Pepper office. And Mutual Ice on Henry Street used to keep full her family’s 50-pound icebox with weekly deliveries.

As a child during segregation, Maeda attended Lyles-Crouch, site of a former silk factory at Wilkes and South Pitt Streets. “Blacks went there until 8th grade, then on to Parker-Gray High School through 10th,” she recalls. “White students were bused to school while we had to walk or pay five cents to catch a bus on Washington Street.” After 10th grade, Maeda and her friends had to attend school in D.C. in order to complete high school. Maeda never went back to school after the 10th grade.

After finishing school, Maeda married and moved with her husband to the Bland Housing Project, recently converted to Old Town Commons. It was here where they began to build their family, eventually having 11 children, six of whom are still living. In between children and house moves, Maeda worked at Trans Circuit Electronics in Bailey’s Crossroads and later as a seamstress at a design shop in Springfield (she still loves to sew pillows and curtains for her Lynhaven area home).

Helping maintain her home for future pillows and curtains since her husband’s death is volunteer-based Rebuilding Together Alexandria, providing services free of charge that keep Maeda warm and safe in her home.

Rebuilding Together Alexandria is an award winning, non-profit organization dedicated to repairing and revitalizing homes at no charge for homeowners in need, including elderly, disabled, military veterans and families. To date, in-kind donations of labor and materials have resulted in $6 million worth of value on more than 1,547 properties. If you would like to apply, volunteer or donate, visit www.RebuildingTogetherAlex.org or call 703-836-1021.

  • It is Rebuilding Together Alexandria’s policy to not disclose full names