The people are what makes Columbia great – by Norman Winkler

Memories of a Life in Longfellow – by Jan Olsen

My Columbia Childhood – by Timothy Duquette

My Columbia Wizard of Oz Experience – by Karen Bradley

Bryant Woods Elementary – by Mike Reiskis

Biking to Wilde Lake – by Linda O’Neill

The Mall’s First Expansion – by Barbara Nicklas

Boat Float

Swim Meets

The people are what makes Columbia great – by Norman Winkler

In 2016 Columbia Maryland was chosen as the best place to live in the country. As a Columbia pioneer July 2, 1967 I already knew how special Columbia has been and will continue to be. It is truly unique and wonderful in the opportunities it provides to all who make it their “home”. I remember fishing on Wilde Lake as a child. I remember attending Bryant Woods Elementary school when it opened – I was able to generate life long friendships with those I went to school with. I remember “Mr. B” our legendary teacher and Media Center Specialist – he taught thousands of children to appreciate the written and visual word. I fondly remember the sporting activities and the quality CA facilities for golf, soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming, horseback riding as well as the ability to walk out my back door and go fishing at Wilde Lake. Most of all I remember the GREAT people of Columbia who tirelessly volunteered their time to make Columbia Special.

Fifty years flew by in a flash.  Our young family of five moved into Longfellow during the later part of Columbia’s first year, May 1968.

Longfellow was mostly mud with the carvings of streets to come.  Elliot’s Oak was just a short street that was not complete. Bulldozers were part of the scenery.

A few other adventuresome families were excited to choose lots in Longfellow and waited until later in 1967 when the Longfellow lots were released for sale.  Construction began soon and our home was one of the first occupied in Longfellow, still within the first year of Columbia’s  official existence.

Longfellow school followed a few years later.  Our young daughter was a first year student there.  Our older two children were first year students at Bryant Woods with its open space concept.  They also opened the Middle School and Wilde Lake High School.  Eighth graders went to the high school the year it opened, so one son spent 5 years there.

Gradually, our street filled with wonderful neighbors and it was an ideal place for our family.  Children newly located to Columbia had the safe freedom to roam the countryside and also the newly developed pathway system that wandered through open space that connected the neighborhoods.  Bikes and their own legs were their gateway to exploration of the nature around them.  Pick-up softball games were the norm.  As were evening games such as King of the Mountain, played from dusk until dark.  There was time and freedom to chase lightening bugs and to do other things that we adults probably never knew about! All told, there were about 50 young children on our street when all the homes were completed.

Soon after the pools were built, a friendly rivalry emerged between the neighborhoods, particularly between Bryant Woods and Longfellow.  Lasting friendships were made through meeting others at the swim meets.  Our daughter swam in many competitive AAU meets with two other 4 year olds from Longfellow and a very talented gal swimmer from Bryant Woods.

Other simple childhood activities came about, mostly from the children themselves.  Longfellow had its 24 hour continuous swim, to raise money for charity. There was a pet fair for younger kids with their stuffed animals.  And of course, the development of the annual Longfellow Fourth of July Parade preceded by the baseball game between the Hesperus Wrecks and the Elliot Oaks, which ended in the Hamel’s back yard for a few years.  The beer truck was always there.  This parade continues today without all the people in the Hamel’s yard, since Longfellow grew over the years!

Early shopping was mostly confined to Wilde Lake Village Center.  The nearest department stores were Sears in Silver Spring, a ride south along two lane Route 29, or nearer to Baltimore where there was Hochschild Kohn in the Edmondson area on Route 40.  So our Village Center in Wilde Lake was a Mecca.  (Route 29 became a 4 lane divided highway between  Burtonsville and Route 40 in the early 1970’s)

The Giant was very popular and a place where most people knew one another.  James Rouse while shopping there would often hold conversations with the new residents and remembered most of our names.  And of course, we enjoyed the convenience of The Columbia Bank and Trust Company, opened by William Jefferson and also Mr. Powell’s pharmacy.  Many other small shops lined the center including the hair salon, cheese shop, Miss Eugenie’s Dance studio and the butcher shop owned by her husband.

Many memories, but this is a sampling.  These can be multiplied by the stories of other adventurous pioneers that took the risk, on faith, that Columbia would live up to its touted concept and be a “garden where people could grow”.  I would say that its beginning was fabulous and that James Rouse was the true “Pioneer”!

My Columbia Childhood – by Timothy Duquette

This is the story on my childhood in Columbia, Maryland.

Many years ago when I was a boy, I spent a lot of time playing with my mom and dad . We went everywhere in Columbia together – to the zoo and to the farm to see  the animals and to ride the horses – which I loved. Each day I spent in Columbia I became increasingly a lover of Columbia. As I’ve grown up, I still like to take advantage of the opportunities that Columbia has to offer – going to the movies, out to eat or even just to look around.

I’ve been a member of the Columbia Association since I was 5 years old , I took classes in the Kidspaces ( back then is was WKYS ) and was enroled in swimming lessons when I was 5 years old for those with special needs. I did not like it at all and all I did was sit in the water to begin with but thanks to my grandpa I started to enjoy it and have since earned a number of medals in the special olympics.

I love how we work, live and play in Columbia and make it a better place. The Columbia Association helps me to achieve my dreams and I am happy to have been born in Columbia.

Adapted from the words of Timothy Duquette



My Columbia Wizard of Oz Experience – by Karen Bradley

My family moved to Columbia from Rockville, in Montgomery county, the summer before I entered the 3rd grade in 1976. I had previously attended a strict private Catholic school where we had to wear grey plaid uniforms and the only things hanging on the walls were math charts and the alphabet. It was very drab, boring, lifeless, and lacking in joy. Both my neighborhood and school were mostly white. I didn’t realize just how monochromatic and dull my world was until we moved to Columbia.

I immediately loved our new house and neighborhood in Owen Brown – it was prettier, cleaner, and more colorful. No power lines in the sky meant we could fly a kite and see the pretty sky unobstructed. The tot lot right behind our house was the best thing ever and then behind that was Dasher’s horse farm and my sisters and I loved being able to see and pet the horses.

Lake Elkhorn quickly became a favorite destination for walking, bike riding, fishing, and turtle watching. I would ride my bike around that lake so many times through the years that I memorized every turn, bump, crack, and crevice of the bike path around it. We had nothing like that back in Rockville. When my Mom told me that I was going to attend public school and could wear whatever I wanted, I jumped for joy. We went school clothes shopping and I made sure to pick out clothes of every color in the rainbow. And then school started. I walked into the “Pod” (a foreign and new concept for me then) and was immediately in awe of all the colors. The walls were painted bright colors with colorful and educational posters everywhere. The kids and teachers were of all different colors and everyone was very friendly.

My first school friend was of a different race from me – Angie was friendly and smiley with bright yellow ribbons in her hair and greeted me immediately as the “new kid” (Dasher Green Elementary had opened the year before so many of the kids already new each other). She showed me the ropes… where to put my lunch, taught me what a “tote tray” was, showed me where the bathroom was, etc. It wasn’t long before we were having sleepovers at each other’s houses.

I was instantly in love with my new school and home. I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Like her, I had left a drab, grey, world and landed in this bright new colorful place like the scene when she opens the door and finds herself in munchkinland. I actually thought for a moment that I might discover a yellow brick road one day while riding my bike on one of Columbia’s many bike paths. In my 7 year old mind, I had hit the jackpot and found Emerald City and Mr. Rouse was the Wizard.

To top it all off, I had the best teacher a kid could ask for in Miss Jones. She was the cherry on top of this Columbia Sundae…. all this and a Fairy Godmother for a teacher too? This is awesome! I am eternally grateful to Mr. Rouse for realizing his dream and building this community and to my parents for having the wisdom to move our family there. Thankfully we stayed in Columbia long enough for me make life-long friends and graduate from Hammond High School in 1987.

I feel blessed to have met some truly good people in Columbia, many of whom I am still in contact with to this day. Mr. Rouse was right about the need to create an environment to “grow people” and some of the highest quality humans I have ever known are the people I met when I was seven years old in Columbia….and they still are. Glinda was right, “there’s no place like home”.


Bryant Woods Elementary – by Mike Reiskis

This is the first page of the first yearbook of the first school in Columbia. I lived in Columbia from 1967 to 1978 and never realized until after I moved away how fortunate I was to from up there. Us kids who attended Bryant Woods Elementary at the beginning grew up with an almost “Tom Sawyer” like sense of freedom and adventure. I can’t imagine a place where I could have a better childhood.

Bryant Woods Yearbook Page 1

Biking to Wilde Lake – by Linda O’Neill

We lived here before Columbia. Wilde Lake was the first “neighborhood” and we would ride our bikes (as young children, without adult supervision) to the Wilde Lake shopping Center (from near Atholton High) and go into the drugstore (where The Melting Pot is now located) to get a candy bar or gum. Afterwards, we would play in the fountain, climb on the statue. Good times!

The Mall’s First Expansion – by Barbara Nicklas

It was August 6,1981 and the first expansion of The Mall in Columbia was just

about to open. One of the community groups was a troupe of the most adorable tap dancers seen here in this photo.


 To mark the occasion an entire wall of balloons had been constructed between the

existing mall and the new expansion. A huge cake in the shape of the mall’s

iconic pyramid had been created by a bakery in the mall and was waiting to be

devoured by the crowds. During the morning before the opening I had my first

encounter with Jim Rouse as he wondered into the marketing room looking for

what was being done “backstage” and to see what mementoes were available.

And yes, he had on his traditional plaid jacket and was wonderfully personable.


Four stages were set up throughout the mall and for 10 days they were filled with

countless community musical and dancing groups as the entire entertainment

budget for the opening period was only $4,000!


Over 50,000 people visited The Mall in Columbia that opening day. The crowds were

so great that we ran out of the branded napkins we had specially made to use to

pass out the cake to customers. When I returned to the cake with extra napkins

donated by the food retailers, there was my dear sweet grandmother holding out

her hand for a piece of cake to be placed on it!! Yes, it was day of many

wonderful memories.



Boat Float

For decades, cardboard boats constructed by teams from companies and organization across the community competed in Lake Kittamaqundi. Winners included the most unsinkable watercraft, best design, and most team spirit.

Swim Meets

For many, summers in Columbia included Saturday mornings at Swim Meets. Hundreds of kids aged from kindergarteners to high schoolers from neighborhood pools across town compete in individual and relay events. Many Columbians learned to swim in the program, but more importantly, the meets, the pep-rallies, the sleep-ins, and the practices instilled a community spirit few other activities could.