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


  1. Great stories.I really enjoyed talking with Jim at the reunion.I knew his younger sister Elsie. Especially glad to get the info on the streetcar. I met one of the conductors out in Woodstock VA in the 70s. The track bed was still visible in the 80s in the Graveyard on us1 across from Academy Ford. Might still be there. Gary Manley

  2. Wondering if Jim recalls a classmate: Dave Fern... one of the original "Berwyn Boys?"
    Dave graduated HPHS 1960, went to Germany x 3 years as a "guest" of the US Army and became a master electrician. Knew the Owner of Beltsville Shell for years.

    Dave retired to southern Delaware several years back... went home to be with the Lord in 2020. Had a tremendous sense of humor and recalls several "visits" with a younger principal named "Chotner."

    Steve Abdalla


Remembrances (and appropriate comments) are always recommended! Thank you, Cary