Ruth Jones, born in March of 1913, began to visit Arlington Beach around 1927. The amusement park and beach were popular among area residents in the 1920s.
Arlington Beach occupied space around what was then known as the Long Bridge, and later became the Fourteenth St Bridge complex, from 1923 to 1929. The Washington Airport Corporation eventually bought the land for additional landing space, which then gave away to Pentagon construction.
In this audio clip, Mrs. Jones recalls her teenage years spent at the beach with her friends and future husband.
Narrator: Ruth Jones
Interviewer: Ingrid Kauffman
Interview Date: March 23, 1999
IK: And so can you tell us about Arlington Beach?
RJ: Well, I was just a young girl, 14 or 15 years old and I met my husband, well, he eventually was my husband.
IK: What was his name?
RJ: Raymond Jones. And he lived in Washington. And we started going to Glen Echo and to Arlington Beach and just having a good time for kids, you know. And so they had a roller coaster, a carousel –
IK: How much did that roller coaster cost?
RJ: Ten cents. A ride at your own risk. That’s the truth, too. It was rickety. After I came to Washington, it was only there for 2 years, 2 or 3 years, then they tore it down.
IK: They tore down the roller coaster?
RJ: Everything. And shut the beach down and all, to put the airport there.
IK: Oh, I see, yes. But tell us about everything you can remember there. You say there was a carousel?
RJ: Yes. And like I said, the roller coaster. And all the places you could go play games –
IK: Like what?
RJ: — along the beach. Like throwing darts to win a bunny or whatever they had, you know. Those kinds of things. And eating places, hot dog stands and things like that. And the dance pavilion was wonderful. It was a big, round pavilion, good music, you know, big band music in those days, big band.
IK: Do you remember any of the bands?
RJ: No, I can’t remember the bands.
IK: But it was live bands, huh?
RJ: Yes. We had a good time dancing. And the beach was great in those days.
IK: So, and then, tell us, you say they tore it down. What do you remember about that?
RJ: All I remember is they tore it down. They said they were closing it to put the airport in. And then they put the airport there. And then it wasn’t very long, even, before they tore that down. And my husband and them used to go to – my husband and daughter’s father-in-law – used to go to where the Pentagon is now. It was all woods, weeds and all. And they used to go there and pick elderberries and wild grapes and made the best wine you ever tasted. It was during Prohibition! But it was good wine.
IK: And you don’t remember any shacks or anything that –
RJ: No, but they built shacks down there. Yes they did. And we had neighbors that lived in Annandale after I moved to Annandale, they lived across the street from me, and they had lived down on the water like that. They were shacks.
IK: Oh, they lived on the water. RJ: They did. And they lived there free. It was federal government, see, they didn’t – but they finally told them to get out, they were putting the Pentagon in. So I’m telling the story lovely, aren’t I?
You can find Ruth Jones’ interview in its entirety in the Center for Local History – VA 975.5295 A7243oh ser.3 no.71. For information about Arlington Beach, read the Center for Local History’s post, “A Day at the Beach.”
Photo: Arlington Beach Advertisement 1920; Source: Photographs of the Arlington Historical Society, PG 230-3447
The goal of the Arlington Voices project is to showcase the Center for Local History’s oral history collection in a publicly accessible and shareable way.
From June 2017 – May 2018, we will post one oral history clip and transcript each month, focusing on Arlington’s history, culture and identity.
What is the oral history collection?
Oral history is a popular method of research used for understanding historical events, actors, and movements from the point of view of people’s personal experiences.
The Arlington Public Library began collecting oral histories of long-time residents in the 1970s, and since then the scope of the collection has expanded to capture the diverse voices of Arlington’s community. In 2016, staff members and volunteers recorded many additional hours of interviews, building the collection to 575 catalogued oral histories.
To browse our list of narrators indexed by interview subject, check out our community archive. To read a full transcript of an interview, visit the Center for Local History located at Central Library.