Original Owner Interview: Milt & Marlyn Socolar
Julie and Dick Marcis recently hosted a luncheon in April for Marlyn and Milton Socolar during which the Socolars graciously agreed to talk about their early experiences in the Rock Creek Woods community. They are original owners of a Goodman house on lower Rickover.
The following is a lightly-edited transcript of our conversation with the Socolars.
Dick: You were original homeowners in the Rock Creek Woods community. What was it like when you moved here?
Milton: Well, when we moved in it was all mud! Lower Rickover was nothing but a dirt road when we moved in with dust and mud everywhere from all the construction activity.
Not only was construction going on in our community there also was the construction of the close-by Connecticut Avenue extension. When we moved in our two young boys were fascinated by all the construction activity as well as all the earth-movers and trucks used in building the Connecticut Avenue extension.
Marlyn: Upper Rickover was the first section of Rock Creek Woods to be developed and some people had already moved in by the time we arrived. The houses on upper Rickover were already constructed and that part of the road was paved. But the further down Rickover you went the less the development and more construction activity.
Our house was just beginning to be built so the developer sent us to the Katz’s house at the corner of Rickover and Ingersol to see what our finished house would look like. We liked what we saw but more importantly we struck up a relationship with the Katz’s that has lasted through the years. Even though they have since moved we continue to see them at least twice a month.
Houses further down Rickover beyond our house hadn’t been built yet. Where the Waldman and Markoff houses are today were just lots under construction at that time. Sometime after we moved in I remember Geri Markoff came over and introduced herself as an artist and our new neighbor.
Dick: The Pelz’s once told me that there was a lot of construction going on when they moved here. One evening they strolled down to a site under construction and “borrowed” some cinder blocks for a bookcase they were building in their house.
Milton: The builder of the community bought a house at the top of Rickover in what is now the Kennedy’s house. But people kept knocking on his door complaining that this or that didn’t work or wasn’t completed and would he please take care of it. I think he just got tired of it and eventually moved.
Marlyn: We originally came here by chance and were delighted with the fact that the community had an “open” housing policy and wasn’t restricted unlike some other communities being built at that time that had whites-only policies. I can remember that there was a black family already living here when we moved in and several other black families have also lived here through the years.
We weren’t going to buy a house in a segregated community. And that’s also the reason why our children attended Green Acres School in North Bethesda. We weren’t going to have our kids attend a segregated school. So when the Waldmans told us their children were also going to Green Acres we agreed to take turns driving the kids to North Bethesda and the kids loved it.
Milt was president of the PTA or whatever the governing board was at the school.
Milton: it was a cooperative school and essentially run by the parents.
Dick: How did you two meet?
Milton: We met at the University of Maryland where we both were students. I had just returned from the military and decided to go back to school under the GI Bill.
Marlyn: I was a sophomore at the University and living off-campus with some other people. I didn’t like campus life so I lived off-campus. I noticed Milt long before I met him. I noticed him helping other students with their math problems and homework and that he frequently cut classes. I didn’t think this is what the GI Bill had in mind.
I thought he had such a handsome profile and I asked a friend if they thought he was Jewish. My parents were very traditional and I didn’t want to worry them by dating outside the Jewish community.
And my friend said that he was in fact Jewish which made him even more interesting.
On Fridays, the house I shared with 20-some other women would hold an open house and Milt was one of only two people to show up. That was like a miracle. I was delighted. I remember we both were wearing sweaters borrowed from friends so it was easy to break the ice. We started dating shortly thereafter and the rest is history as they say. I was married at age 20.
Milton: We had very similar backgrounds. We had mutual friends and even relatives that knew each other but we never met until we got to college. We also both came from families that ran little grocery stores.
Dick: Milton, what work did you do and where did you work when you moved here?
Milton: At that time I had a full-time job as a CPA accountant. But I didn’t like accounting so I had to find something else. Because I was a veteran I decided to take advantage of some of the education benefits under the GI Bill and signed up for law school.
I took law school classes at night for 3 years and eventually graduated with a law degree.
Marlyn: Milton started out as an auditor, got his law degree and then moved into some legal positions, moved up to some administrative positions and eventually was promoted to Deputy Comptroller General of the U.S.
Dick: Marlyn, did you work when you first moved here?
Marlyn: I was pregnant with Serge, our first child, when we moved here so, no, I didn’t have time for a regular job. In addition to raising a family I dabbled in ceramics and pottery-making and while I enjoyed it I wouldn’t call myself a real potter. I also liked to draw and actually preferred drawing to pottery.
I also worked as a substitute teacher and spent some time at Green Acres School as an unpaid volunteer.
Dick: What was the social life like here in the early years of the community?
Marlyn: It gathered nice people, always special people. It was a real friendly, welcoming environment. A majority of the early residents were about the same age, just starting careers and many starting families just like us so there was a real community of interests. Children got along exceptionally well together and that formed even closer relationships between families.
Milton: Some of our closest friends here included the Katz’s as well as the Markoffs and Waldmans who lived just a few doors down from us.
Marlyn: One of the early friends here was a psychiatrist who was a fascinating guy. It’s awful but I can’t remember his name right now but I do remember he would entertain us during get-togethers at his house by playing the piano and singing parodies about politics or social issues like pollution. One of his lines I remember was “Washington is wonderful but don’t drink the water or breathe the air.” It was a big loss when he moved away.
It was a very interesting community. People were looking for what they referred to as “California-style” houses, the type that Goodman was building. Goodman said that he was building for millionaires but he also wanted to build a community affordable for young people.
The houses initially cost $19,000 to $20,000 and that was about all we could afford at that time. Houses with fireplaces installed cost a little more and ones with larger back yards, like ours, also cost a little more
Milton: There were lots of children so there was always something going on. There were always ballgames going on in the streets. On Rickover it was football but on the next street over, Ingersol, it was basketball because there were a lot of kids there and the Pelz’s had installed a basketball hoop. The Pelz’s daughter was our son Josh’s girlfriend for a little while during high school so he was always spending time up there playing basketball.
Milton: Years ago there was a fellow living here who was a clerk to Justice Goldberg and it was important that he always be able to get to work. So I remember during big snowstorms the snow ploys would immediately come by and clear the streets, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. So we always got priority snow-plowing service. It was one of the job perks that benefitted the entire community back then.
Marlyn: It has been a wonderful experience living in this community. These modern-style houses with floor-to-ceiling windows seem to attract interesting people. We had really neat neighbors and interesting things to do in the community. You could do modern dance at the Katz’s and you could take cooking lessons at another house. And someone else taught painting and there were several pianists that gave lessons as well.
The original owners included a number of psychologists. I remember 3 or 4 psychologists that were original owners. Lovely people but I remember several of them got divorced and moved out.
Milton: One of our early neighbors was a fellow named John Volk who lived in the house next door to us, the one now owned by Motoko and Henri. John was president of the Rose Association and grew rows and rows of roses in his back yard. It was a riot of color.
Marlyn: But he had wide-ranging interests. I remember before the County put the street trees in he went door to door and encouraged people in the community to order Japanese cherry trees to plant on their tree lawns instead of the other trees offered by the County. He was very successful and that’s how we ended up with all the wonderful cherry trees lining our streets.
Shortly before he left he planted some yellow daffodils on the hill at the top of our yard and didn’t tell us. He wanted to surprise us. So the next spring we found these wonderful flowers blooming in our yard that he had planted.
Dick: Milton, did you drive to work every day or did you carpool with neighbors?
Milton: Nobody here worked close to where I did. Tom Waldman worked at NIH and others worked at other downtown locations like the State Department. So I drove but did make some stops in DC to pick up a few colleagues on the way to work.
Marlyn: there are a lot of wonderful memories. We could go on and on so maybe we need to call it to a close otherwise we will be here all day reminiscing.
Marcis: well I want to thank both of you. It’s been simply wonderful for us.
April 21, 2015