Jim Ziepolt - 10 Years ago

Today is the 10th anniversary of receiving one of the more interesting letters from someone who wanted to purchase my book.  I have pasted the text below.

For Beltsville folks, Jim Ziepolt's letter will bring back a flood of memories.  The people and places he describes are all in the book -- which warms my heart.  He has included so much Beltsville history -- much of which I did not know.

Jim finally attended his first Beltsville Shell Reunion in July 2018 and we met face-to-face.  

He also attended the 2021 reunion a few weeks ago -- and it was so nice to visit with him and to have him remind me of his correspondence!

Thanks, Jim, for adding a memory to my book of memories!

Cary Thomas July 28, 2021

Cary Thomas
Carlsbad, CA. 92008

July 28, 2011

Dear Cary,

I just read a copy of "BELTSVILLE SHELL" that had been donated to the used book store at the Beltsville Library (formally the Chestnut Hills Elementary School (CHES) on Sellman Road, about a third of a mile from where you were raised. I read it in one day. I couldn't put it down. In fact, I want to purchase two copies to give to friends, one of which is Ronnie Donley, who grew up across the street from CHES.

I also grew up in Beltsville during that era, at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue (our drag strip) and Sellman Road. In the 1940's my dad built the red brick house up on the hill on the west side of said intersection. For the 1st 6 or 7 years of my life, our driveway entrance was at the trolly tracks. A little history of the street car: Back at the turn of the twentieth century, a wealthy man built a horse race track in Laurel. We were still an agrarian society made up of mostly farms. To get enough customers to support the track, he built a trolley car line from Laurel to Washington,DC. After business waned in 1932, the trolley only went as far north as Boteler's store. My father used the trolley to attend Hyattsville High School in the 1930's. When the trolley came to US Route 1, the conductor would stop the car. Then, using a long stick, he would reach out and flip a switch on a utility pole. That resulted in turning a red traffic light onto US Rt 1 automotive traffic. He would drive the trolley across US 1, and then using the stick would turn the traffic light back to green. I used the trolley to visit my cousins in Hollywood. We used to put pennies on the track to watch them get flattened out. Around 1949, the trolley only went as far north as Branchville. Herman Knauer's uncle, Fred Knauer, received a County contract to demolish the abandoned tracks and create Rhode Island Ave.

The fact that I knew a few of your friends and many of their older brothers and sisters made your book more enjoyable to read. I was very close friends with Dexter's brother, Tim Drake, who made the ultimate sacrifice in Viet Nam as well as Wayne Scaggs's brother, Rick. In fact, I bought my 55 Ford custom 2dr with a 292 Y block V8 from Rick. He had raked it, nosed and decked it and gave it a black enamel paint job. I un-racked it, and added fender skirts and the loudest set of glass packs in all of Beltsville and surrounding areas. When I wound it up in 2nd and let off the gas going by Boteler's Store, the majorettes practicing in front of the fire department would just stop and wait till I finished cruising by. Those old cast iron blocks & heads had a deeper, more mellow burbel than the modern aluminum stuff. I went to school with Darryl Richards, Buster Chilcote, Johnny Bradley's sister, Cathy, and with the late Webster Gross whose father was our trash collector as well as being a full time employee w/USDA on the government farm. I was friends with Wayne Arminger & his dad, Walter, and with Tommy Jenkins and his dad. I knew Stanley Moore who owned a 53 Corvette and Bobby Morris who passed away about 2 years ago.

I didn't know Sonny Boteler. However, I knew old man Boteler, Sonny's grandfather, who used to drive his truck to the District (Wash.DC) every morning to pick up groceries, meat & produce from the wholesalers. On his way back from DC, he would stop off at Phil's Bar & Grill. The bartender would see him pull in and have a shot poured; waiting for him. Mr. Boteler would walk in, slam a 50 cent piece on the bar, down the shot in one gulp and head back out to his truck. Sonny's dad, Clifford, often worked the cash register. I often saw him extend credit to customers who were short on funds. Buddy Boteler, Sonny's uncle, was always in the back room cutting meat. He was a hard worker who I believed lived to be 100 or close to it.

I used to walk with my cousin, Chip, to Botelers, picking up soda bottles along the way. They were deposit bottles and were worth 2 cents a piece and a nickel a piece for the larger Hires Root Beer bottles. Once we reached Botelers, we would cash them in and buy packages of bubble gum. Each package also contained a baseball card which we flipped or otherwise traded with our friends. We would also buy candy and soda. I can still remember when the price of sodas from Boteler's Coke machine went from 5 cents to 6 cents. Beginning that day, you had to put a nickel and a penny into the machine. I didn't realize it then, but that's a 20% increase. At age 16, I started working for Doc Resnick at the Beltsville Pharmacy and didn't patronize Botelers Store as frequently.

I attended High Point from 1956 to 1961. Can't remember what year it was, but while riding the school bus, there appeared a new large sign advertising brand new brick homes in a new subdivision called Birmingham Estates. They were priced at $19,999.00. I was basically a good boy, never had the occasion to have a one-on-one with Alan I Chotner, Fred Novak, or Bucky Beaver. My friends drove some pretty fast (for the day) cars like rat & mouse chevys, tri-power ponchos, 442's & 390 Fords. Unfortunately, we weren't gear heads like the group that hung out at Beltsville Shell. Still in all, we had plenty of stories similar to the ones in your book. We hung out at the original Beltsville Elementary School, the Fire House, the Beltsville Pharmacy, the Poole Hall, the two Mighty Moes, C & P Ice Skating Rink, Randy's Dairy Delight, Sidney Lust's Drive-in Theater, Shepard's Park in D.C. and later Phil's and other watering holes. One time we lined the north bound B & O track with about a dozen railroad torpedoes and then went into the show at Sidney Lust's via the rear entrance. When the train came by, there was quite an audible disturbance at the east end of the theater. I wonder to this day what the engineer decided to do. I remember having older friends buy us 7 bottle six packs for a dollar at Veterans Liquor. Considering the speeds we drove (110 mph on R.I. Ave & Montgomery Rd but not near as much traffic then) and the amount of beer we consumed , we are lucky to have lived through it. 
Jim Ziepolt

Beltsville Shell Reunion #18

For the 18th time in 19 years the Beltsville Shell faithful (and other friends) gathered for the 2021 reunion.

Emerging from the pandemic, and yearning to see long-time friends, 45 people gathered at Herman's Garage on Memorial Day weekend -- a new attendance record.

Kneeling (L to R): Nancy Paul Thomas, Cary Thomas, and Canon Thomas

First Row (L to R): Eddie Scarcia, Michael Moore, Bradley Moore, Sam Whitmore, Malcolm Van Kirk, Janet Merkel, Sonny Boteler, Nace DeLauter, and Phil Marcus

Back Row (L to R): Cody Beard (slightly off the edge on the left), Mike O'Connor, Mike King, Phil Corbin, Kathy and Phil Cleary, Steve Anderson, Brian Lister, Steve Van Kirk, Bud Duley, Jim Ziepold, Steve Koch, Sandi Watt, Bill Goodwin, Annie McFarlane, Tick Magnum, Suzanne Lees, Herman Knauer, Barbara and Rick Ransom, Lynn Stephens, Gary Manley and Charles Crowson (slightly off the edge on the right)

Present, but not in the photo: Caden, Dresden and Lacey Beard, Al Beck, Doug Jones, Sharon Nomikos, Danny Sokolowski, Bonnie Williams, and Steve and Tammy Yokum.

With us in spirit: Bonnie and Tom Hontz.

What had began so long ago as a few guys who shared the experience of working at Beltsville Shell back in the 1960's has evolved into a richer phenomenon. No longer a get-together for only "car guys", the reunions now include high school classmates, spouses, friends, and families.  And this year, we even had a visit from a Super-Hero!!

About noon people began arriving at Herman's Garage which lies within the grounds of the USDA Agricultural Research Center.  This quiet setting, among fields, woods, and Beaver Dam Creek, is an ideal location for our reunions.  The weather forecast for the Memorial Day weekend called for rain showers.  Everyone chose to ignore this small inconvenience and their smiles were sunshine enough for the day.  A few brave souls defied the Weather Gods and brought their collectible cars.

Malcolm Van Kirk brought his two-owner 1964 Corvette that he has owned since 1967!

Gary Manley drove his 500,000 mile 1939 Ford from rural Virginia!

Steve Koch and Suzanne Lees surprised us all with Steve's 2002 Morgan

We had a nice turnout of newcomers this year and a few people who returned after not attending for many years -- it was great to see new faces and to renew lapsed friendships. Because our High Point High School Class of 1965 had to cancel our reunion in 2020, the BSYAWYD Reunion served as an excellent substitution.

Lynn (Moore) Stephens and Doug Jones, HPHS class of 1965 alumni, attended their first reunion.

Lynn brought her Aunt, Sharon Nomikos, and her Father, Bradley Moore; they are pictured here with Jim Ziepold.  At 94 years young, Bradley has set the record for the most senior attendee of a BSYAWYD reunion!

Reunion regulars, Eddie Scarcia, Michael Moore, and Michael O'Connor, enjoyed the day.

Sandi (Johnson) Watt, also a HPHS class of 1965 alum, is pictured here with Annie McFarlane.

Old friends, Mike King (who worked at Boteler's Store years ago) and Steve Anderson, reconnect with Sonny Boteler.

Here we find Sam Whitmore joining Phil Marcus, Malcolm Van Kirk, and Sonny Boteler (all four HPHS alumni).
Over the years about 100 different people have attended these events.  Three have attended every reunion since 2002 -- Cary, Sonny and Nace.
From noon to about 2PM there was plenty of socializing inside the garage while Herman and  Danny Sokolowski provided the Grill Master services.  Herman cooked up some delicious home-made french fries.  Tick Magnum brought a wonderful Beef Brisket.  There was no shortage of great food, as always!

Everyone brings their favorite pot luck dish and the food filled two long tables inside the Garage.  We even had the traditional BSYAWYD cake!

As soon as all of the food was displayed, Herman stood up to make a few announcements. Suddenly, a familiar Super-Hero appeared from out of nowhere -- The Green Hornet!  Bearing Beltsville memorabilia, and visiting us from his Fleur de Lys estate in the ├╝ber-posh enclave of Holmby Hills, California, the Green Hornet wished us all a happy reunion.

Herman thanked everyone for attending, especially those who came from as far away as California, Delaware, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia.  He recognized Bradley Moore who, at age 94, has set the record as the most senior participant in these reunions!

For the next three hours the Garage was filled with sated appetites and joyous camaraderie.

Of all the venues we have used for the past two decades, Herman's Garage has been the location of choice.  This is the eleventh time that we have met here. 

What makes this venue even more enjoyable is the way that Herman and his family jump in to make sure that every detail is perfect and everyone feels welcomed.  Here are Herman's daughters, Tammy and Lacey, without whom the reunions would not be possible.

The reunions are a family affair, too.  Tammy and Lacey's husbands and children are part of the festivities.  From left to right Cody and Caden Beard, Steve Yokum, Lacey and Dresden Beard, Bonnie Williams, and Tammy Yokum.

As the day winds down, and people reluctantly leave, I'm always torn between the extremes of delight and melancholy -- delighted to think how much these gatherings mean to so many people, while melancholy thinking about the season of our lives which evokes the unspoken fear that next time . . . . . .  well, you know what I mean.

Herman and I want to thank everyone who participated for coming out on a busy holiday weekend.  You made the day very special!