Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Robert Simon, Reston, VW, and Blacks

When I was in the Army, I was stationed for a while at Ft. Belvoir, which is south of DC. I was there long enough that I used the money I'd saved for graduate school (a long story) to buy a gray market VW bug, a 66 with a 1300 cc engine.  (Mine was white, but this picture is correct.)
On weekends friends and I would drive to tourist sites in the DC area: Gettysburg, Fredricksburg, Antietam, etc.

One such weekend jaunt was to the wilds of Fairfax county where Robert Simon's Reston had just opened.  I think we had trouble locating it, and the spring weather was cool and it had rained, so the sightseeing wasn't the best.  Why were we there?  I had the car, so my friends put up with my choices just to get away from the barracks. And I had read something about the "new town" somewhere, perhaps in the Post article mentioned in the wikipedia entry, and was intrigued.

As a good liberal I had followed the stories in the NYTimes and other media about discrimination in housing, redlining, and blockbusting.  I had also imbibed the popular liberal disdain for the way suburbs were developing, for Levittown, and strip malls.  So the whole idea of a planned "town" where the inhabitants could walk to work, where housing was open to all, where the design included European style urban amenities, was very attractive to me.

After I got out of the Army and got the job with USDA/ASCS I lived downtown for 8 years. But then the idea of investing in a house made sense.  So I ended up looking for houses in Reston, finally buying the townhouse we live in now.

Reston has grown and changed over the years.  According to wikipedia it's now about 70 percent white, with the remainder about evenly split among black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans. 

I've always wondered why Reston wasn't more attractive to black Washingtonians,  most of whom when they left the city behind seem to have moved to Prince George's county (now 64 percent black) in Maryland.   One of life's mysteries.  As is whatever happened to my VW, which was stolen from my Reston parking space in 1978.  I hope it's still chugging away somewhere.

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