Picnics at Congressional Cemetery

Picnics at Congressional Cemetery.
Personal recollections from mid-1950's to early-1960's.
By Regina Barry, 2002

My father worked as a boiler operator at the Navy Yard, and he enjoyed taking me to picnics at Congressional Cemetery. We would take the streetcars; sometimes routes 54 or 40 and we would walk south from the terminal to the Cemetery, and sometimes route 90; which went down to the Navy Yard itself. We would have to walk quite a ways to 17th street. I don't know why we never took a bus from the streetcar.

Because my dad worked different shifts, we would sometimes go during the week and sometimes on weekends. The cemetery was never crowded with people but we saw caretakers working with hand mowers, sickles and clippers. We also saw flowers on graves, so people were visiting the cemetery. Sometimes the back slope, near the river, would get a bit overgrown with grass and weeds, and once we saw tombstones that had been pushed over.

My dad liked to point out some of the tombstones - the family killed in the boat accident and the statue of the little girl killed in a traffic accident. She was the same height I was at the time. We would also count all the 'little Washington Monuments' on the graves.

My dad and I always brought blankets for the picnic, and we would walk down the brick paths to get close to the river, some of the bricks were very overgrown with moss. I think many graves were unmarked, as the ground had dips in it. Once, during the week, we saw a burial. The bell near the gate tolled the entire time the cars for the mourners were entering the cemetery - I was very impressed with the sound of the bell tolling.

On the weekends, we sometimes saw kids come into the cemetery with their fishing poles - they would climb over the back fence to fish in the river.

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