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MUNSON HILL MEMORIES

[January 9th] -- There's no real baseball news at the moment, so I thought I'd throw another "I remember when.." story at you. "Why," you ask? Strangely enough, these kind of stories get by far and away the most amount of positive comments and emails. Go figure.

Ask and ye shall receive, I guess.

I never did anything incredibly stupid as a kid. But I came oh so close ....

I lived in the Lake Barcroft Apartments during the late 1960's and early 1970's. It was a sprawling complex that consisted of several six-story buildings that were crammed into a small silouette of land between Leesburg Pike and the back fence of J.E.B Stuart High School. The apartments were decidedly middle class, inexpensive enough for truck drivers yet nice enough for mid-range government workers.

It was a pleasant place to grow up.

Neighboring Munson Hill Towers was as oppulant as Lake Barcroft was simple. Although they both shared a common property line, the two complexes might as well have been in different countries. Munson Hill was for the upper-crust, housing a combination of rich retired types and high level government officials. It featured a tennis court and a one-hole golf course. In the front of the building was a beautifully tiered water fountain that created a soft mist which gave the building an eerie appearance in the early morning. It was that fountain that almost got me in a whole lot of trouble.

Our school bus picked us up and dropped us off just a few feet away from the fountain. I had joked to one of my fellow 7th graders one day that it would be "cool" to pour a few boxes of laundry detergent into the fountain and create a wall of foam like I saw on the Brady Bunch the previous night. My friends loved the idea.

I was kidding. They were serious.

By the end of the school year, my friends Brooks and David were ready to "attack" the fountain, and they wanted me involved. I refused. Oh, I tried to come up with some "cool" reasons as to why I couldn't, but the fact is I just didn't go for that kind of thing. They finally gave up on me and made their plans for the "attack on Munson Hill." They snuck out after their parents went to sleep and crossed the golf course towards the fountain. They carried several boxes of Tide detergent. Around midnight, they made their move. It took them about five minutes to empty the boxes of detergent into the fountain. Brooks told me later that as they ran away, he glanced back over his shoulder and saw the foam already beginning to overflow the fountain wall.

The next morning, I walked to the bus stop and found literally dozens of work trucks surrounding the fountain. There were three police cars as well. They were so busy running around the fountain that they never noticed us waiting for the bus. Brooks and Dave were in hysterics.

The police were waiting for us when the bus made its afternoon stop. They had a feeling that someone in the group was responsible, but weren't able to force anyone to admit it. I thought that my two friends were dead for sure. That night, detectives canvassed the entire apartment complex looking for anyone who might have seen someone walking towards Munson Hill the previous night.

They came to our door too.

They asked my father who said that, no, he was asleep and didn't see anything. He asked the police why they were so interested in a "prank" that did no real damage. I was shocked when I heard the reply. "It wasn't just a prank," began the policeman, "Part of the apartment's cooling system uses the water from that fountain. When the pumps brought in that soapy water, it destroyed thousands of dollars of equipment." As the policeman was walking away, he turned and said, "What's even worse is that they won't have their air conditioning for several weeks." It was two weeks before the July heat and humidity was to hit. The apartment windows were small and weren't going to be much help with ventilation.

They never found out who did the damage, and I never felt the need to tell. Although my two friends still laughed about what they had done publicly, privately, I have little doubt that they were very troubled by their actions.

And I came so close to being part of it.


Comments:
Thanks for sharing that story, Farid. I really enjoy your reminiscences of your childhood in Falls Church, as that was also where I grew up. It's interesting that your story involved the Munson Hill Towers, because I had occasion to drive past them a week or two ago, and I mentioned to the person in the car with me at the time that the building looks as nice today as I remember it looking 25 years ago. It's really stood the test of time.

Also regarding the soap prank, you may recall a Burger King on West Broad Street in Falls Church, about 1 mile west of the intersection of Route 7 and Lee Highway. It's on the right as you're heading in the direction of Tysons Corner (west, in other words). That Burger King once had a water fountain out in the parking lot right up agains the sidewalk on Broad Street. They stopped using the fountain sometime in the mid to late 1970s after someone pulled the exact same prank with washing detergent. That Burger King is also infamous for another incident back in the 1980s. A patron sitting in the restaurant having a burger was shot, apparently by a professional sniper, through the window of the restaurant. The police believe that it was a professional hit because the bullet was fired from pretty long range (probably from across Broad Street), and the person was hit pretty close to the heart. I don't believe that the crime has ever been solved.

For such a small town, quite a bit has happened in Fall Church over the nears, no?
 
Wow. You just ratted out your friends. Can you be sure that the statue of limitations on fountain-foaming has expired by now? I'm sure they are on their way to the Mexican border as we speak.

Thanks for the story...I always like a good old-time story about this area...I always relay them to my wife when we're driving around. I'll never look at the Munson Hill Fountain without picturing a 30 foot wall of foam again!
 
That's funny that Mike (above) thinks the place stands the test of time. My reaction was the opposite. I moved to the Skyline Square complex in 2001 (after growing up in western Fairfax County), which is just a short ways up the road from Munson Hill. My impression of Munson Hill Towers from the first time I layed eyes on the place driving by on Rt 7 was that the place looked very dated and down-at-the-heels. I guess thinking back it wasn't exactly shabby looking, but just so clearly a design from another era, and NOT one that (to my eye, at least) conveyed the sort of timeless, classic elegance that ages gracefully.
 
sbrent, I don't disagree with your impression that the building looks dated, in the sense that such a design would not be built today. My comment about it standing the test of time referred more to the fact that it's held up very well and still appears to be in excellent condition.
 
Hmmm, guess they must have gotten all the laundry detergent out of the heating/cooling systems, then. :-)

Fair point, that I guess the place is in good condition. I frankly just find it ugly.
 
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