Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bonifant Road

When I stopped to take a picture of this ridiculous looking fake tree/cell phone tower that is obnoxiously visible from way off in the distance, my intent was to post the picture on my blog and complain about how stupid and unattractive it is. But it's actually kind of photogenic in a way. It looks pretty dumb in real life though.



Once I was out of my car with the camera in my hand, the compulsive picture taking disorder started once again. A couple of years ago they came in with bulldozers and completely destroyed what had once been a recreation area with baseball diamonds and things. They sprayed it with hay but it was just a big mud pile for quite a while. Gradually the vegetation filled in and it became a marshy area with a pond that seems to be very popular with migrating ducks. There were about twenty of them - they didn't all make it into the picture.


I am guessing that they constructed this artificial "wetland" area to compensate for some of what the Inter County Connector will be taking away. They are building a gigantic overpass a little bit east of this area. It's really going to change the character of the area, but it was nice of them to at least make an effort to keep some areas friendly for wildlife. I hope it all works okay, because at this point we don't really have any choice in the matter.


This is probably one of the most scenic bus stops in Montgomery County. I would imagine that waiting for a bus might be a little more pleasant if you had this lovely creek to look at while you waited.


It's pretty amazing that some of the trees haven't even started to change color yet while others are completely bare.


This is the "Road to Nowhere." That's what I used to call it when I was younger. I always wanted to see where it went. I think it was one of the old original parts of Bonifant Road. They've changed it a couple times and I guess sometimes it's easier to re-route the road than it is to widen an old bridge. You can't really tell to well from this photo, but it just heads off into increasingly heavy underbrush.

After my husband saw this photo he told me he used to fish from this bridge when he was a kid. The creek there is Northwest Branch.

So now I'm looking back across Bonifant at that cell phone "tree" again. I started thinking about my first official piano teacher (my mother taught me until I was about 12). His name was Harold Pries and he was really old. I remember driving up a very long curved driveway with lots of trees on either side to his big beautiful but slightly gloomy old house on what eventually became the former site of the Trolley Museum.

I had never had formal piano lessons before when I started with Mr. Pries and my year of lessons with him was very interesting. Although he seemed to be extremely old fashioned, he had me work through several volumes of Bartok's Mikrokosmos along with the usual repertoire which included a whole lot of Bach. No more John Thompson for me!

One of the most interesting things he had his students do each week was to memorize a poem of his choice. He must have had hundreds of poems memorized himself. There were poems by Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and many others, including Shakespeare. And he wanted you to recite them with the proper expression too. One time he assigned me a passage from MacBeth:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.
It is a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

I memorized it, but I just couldn't get into the sentiment of it in my recitation. I was just a silly little seventh grader and I couldn't feel or relate to whatever this poem was about. I hadn't experienced doom and gloom yet. Well he gave me a demonstration of it that was so grim that I thought he might kill himself afterwards. It was pretty scary and very intense, but I was sort of impressed and amazed anyway. I think it was too intense for my mother though because she started looking for a new piano teacher for me pretty soon after that.

All in all though I'd have to say that the weekly poem memorization experience was very beneficial to me in ways that I couldn't possibly appreciate then, but certainly do now. And I didn't know enough to have an opinion about his teaching, but I do know that he inspired me to work harder than I ever had before.



So first it was the piano studio of Harold Pries, then it became the trolley museum, and now it's the ICC. The trolley museum has moved to a new location just on the other side of the ICC. I had heard it was due to open this weekend, so I drove on in to check it out.



It's not open yet. They're still working on attaching the cables and they won't open until at least one of the trolleys is up and running.



I asked one of the guys who was working there when it would be opening and he said that they were trying for next Saturday but he thought that was optimistic. I peeked inside the building. It's a lot fancier than the old one was and it looks like the exhibits are more attractive. From what I could see just peeking in the door.

There was a road around the back that did not say "Do Not Enter" so I drove it up to the top of the hill. The light was really fading by then so this herd of deer looks rather ghostly.



I took one more picture of the "tree" from behind the trolley museum. It's actually planted rather close to the new building, which you can't tell at all just driving down Bonifant.



I guess I have a little more appreciation of this thing now that it has caused me to take a little trip down Memory Lane. Thank you, cell phone tree!

39 comments:

lacochran said...

I've often wondered why they bother to "branch" up these towers. It's not like anyone's going to mistake it for a tree when it's three times taller than any tree around it. Not exactly blending in, is it?

Bowie Mike said...

The tower looks like a giant pipe cleaner.

We had to memorize that same poem in English class - 12th grade. So you must have been advanced!

Talk about a stroll down memory lane - I remember far too many details from the past. I remember who the teacher selected to recite the poem in class, and I even remember where he messed up. When it came time to say "dusty death," he said, "dust in the wind." Funny how the mind works like that. I also don't remember much emotion in his recitation.

Looking forward to seeing the trolley museum when it opens. I've never been.

Barbara said...

It's so cool that you grew up here and have such a historical appreciation of places.

I kept wondering whatever happened to Harold Pries, who sounds like a teacher I would have loved, instead of the old drunk I had who probably had never read Shakespeare.

I feel about the tower the same way I feel about artificial Christmas trees. Fortunately I don't have to look at either!

Cyndy said...

lacochran - yeah, it seems kinda silly. But I would find it somewhat entertaining if they were to put Christmas tree lights on it!

Mike - It does look like a pipe cleaner! That's funny! That MacBeth passage was a little bit over my head. I remember thinking "Who would write such a thing?" But I kind of liked the way the words flowed out and the way they sounded. That's about as deep as it went for me then.

Barbara - It sounds like your teacher definitely fit one of those musician stereotypes. Wasn't he a cocktail pianist or something? I'm sure he had a lot of "life" experiences that he could share with you.

MyCatTom said...

I really, really hated Bartok's Mikrokosmos. A lot. One of the reasons I couldn't wait to quit piano lessons. I can still remember what the cover looked like. Ick.

Garrett said...

It is nice to see the county try to set up new areas for migrating wildlife to take refuge. I guess whether or not they did it intentionally isnt so important. We get a lot of birds in our yard here every year because we leave the dying flowers for them to eat the seeds. At least thats why my neighbor thinks they come back yearly. Its too bad it feels like i need to take a trip to see nature around here. Great photos as always. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

Cyndy said...

Tom - weren't those brown covers ugly? I thought most of them sounded kind of ugly too, until I played the Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm at the end of Book VI. Those were cool.

Garrett - That's nice of you to leave the dead flowers for the birds. I'll have to remember that if and when I ever get any flowers. My Thanksgiving was nice - I hope yours was too.

terpsucka said...

Hi Cyndy, just stumbled across your blog, and "Bonifant Road" was the first posts I saw, and I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. I was taking my daughter to ballet class yesterday, and saw that ridiculous "pipe cleaner" (thanks Mike!) tower, and thought "What on Earth is that supposed to be??" Funny we should notice it only a day apart. I wondered, if they want it to look natural, why don't they plant some sort of low-maintenance evergreen at various levels on the way up? I would think that would be cheaper than that hideous man-made monstrosity.

Anyway, I've also always wondered about the road to nowhere. I grew up in the neighborhood, and am now 33, but this summer I finally brought myself to riding my bike down there to check it out. I think your theory is correct, it must be an old Bonifant route. That thing was built to last, though, because it's in pretty good shape considering it's sat unmaintained for at least 30 years.

Your photography is gorgeous, please keep doing such a great job documenting the area that I love.

Cyndy said...

Greetings Terpsucka! Yeah, when I first saw that "pipecleaner" I kind of felt insulted or something. It was like an assault on my aesthetic sensibilities. Now I just laugh...what else can you do?

I definitely plan to keep taking pictures. Between the beautiful and the ridiculous, there is plenty of photo-worthy material in our area.

LiLu said...

I didn't know they pretended to "camouflage" cell phone towers. Who are they kidding??

Cyndy said...

Yeah, it's pretty damn silly if you ask me.

Elizabeth @ the Natural Capital said...

Wow. That's pretty bad. Where on Bonifant? I might have to go check this out in person.

Cyndy said...

Hi Elizabeth - the part of the road where it is most visible is when you are heading east from the intersection of Layhill and Bonifant, heading towards the ICC and the Trolley Museum. It really pokes out above all of the real trees as you head down that hill.

bozoette said...

I pass that tower every day on my way to Glenmont Metro - Joe and I laugh about it all the time! I'm glad to hear the trolley museum is going to reopen too; it's always been a favorite place of mine.

Cyndy said...

I guess if it weren't decorated with those fake tree branches we wouldn't be laughing much. I wish I'd had a chance to see if it had snow all over it today.

Bauhaus Bob said...

Thanks for mentioning that Old Bonifant Road Bridge.

My dad and I used to fish out that way, from that exact bridge, before they finished "straightening out" Bonifant Road. For a while there, during construction, they used to have "Bonifant Road #3", "Old Bonifant Road", and just plain Bonifant Road. I think those road names still exist as mailing addresses for people whose houses suddenly found themselves down an abandoned road right of way instead of on the only east-west route between Randolph Road and Ashton's MD-108 (or Norwood Road, maybe).

Try finding the bridge in this Historical Aerials photo of 1963 Layhill, MD. The crossroads dead-center of the image is Bel-Pre/Bonifant Road intersecting Layhill Road. Compare with the modern-day photos with the "swipe comparator" tool and you can see how the realignment went, and also see how much development has taken place there.

Cyndy said...

Bauhaus Bob - Those historical aerial photos are really cool. Thanks for the link! I had a lot of fun looking all around the area during the various years. It's very interesting to see what the area looked like before I had any awareness of it.

I do remember seeing all of those various versions of Bonifant Road, now that you mention it.

Another thing that seems to have happened somewhere along the way is that the addresses on Bonifant are different now than they were back then. Perhaps they did that as part of the widening/straightening process. I think it would be rather disconcerting to undergo a change of address while living in the same house. But they change road names all the time too so I guess that's nothing new.

Bauhaus Bob said...

Well, "Progress" forges ahead.

This morning I was driving north on Layhill Road from Glenmont.

The entrance road to the old Indian Springs Country Club (I think that's the name) was clogged with construction vehicles. A brief glance to the right showed a scene that looked a lot like an old one-and-a-half-lane asphalt on gravel road being ripped up. It looks like they're going ahead with that huge new development back in there. I had thought this would be delayed by the econmoic situation and the surplus of affordable housing in this part of the county. Yet despite all of the foreclosures at auction every other week in Rockville, it seems that there is a perception of a market for new McMansions.

I guess all of those new residents will need that cellphone tower, once they're done building those new homes. I bet they all drive the ICC, too, straight to their jobs in the Shady Grove Science Center, once that also is built.

Cyndy said...

Yeah, they'll probably have to put in a four lane highway/entrance road to accomodate all the traffic from that huge new development.

mjn...LEPS said...

cindy, this may seem odd but while researching my great-grandfather, Wassili Leps, i came across one of his piano students, Harold Pries, therefore here i am at your blog...found info about pries/leps http://www.archive.org/details/musicanddanceint001427mbp...read online pg.248-249

Cyndy said...

mjn...LEPS - Thank you so much for this fascinating information! I had no idea Harold Pries was a cellist, and played under Stokowski no less. I'm definitely going to take a closer look at that very interesting book when I get a chance. I love that while you were doing geneology research some musical lineage came up as well. Now I want to know more about your great grandfather too! I have this hazy notion that I've heard of him somehow, but it's a very vague feeling. Thank you again for commenting.

E Scott said...

I studied piano with Harold Pries as a boy in the late 50's and during most of the 60's. The house is still there, about 1/4 mile from the trolley museum site, and I spent time at the house in later years (Emmy Lou Harris used to rehearse her "Angel Band" in a shed behind that house, before she was signed to Warner Bros. I loved the poems, and still remember the lessons as very intense but Harold Pries as a most memorable person in my childhood.

Cyndy said...

E Scott - It's so wonderful to hear from people who have had far more experience with Mr. Pries than I did. I only studied with him for a year, but it made a lasting impression. I think about him every time I drive on Bonifant Road, which has been almost daily for the past four years.

Thanks so much for letting me know that the house is still standing - I'm pretty sure I know which one it is now. I'd heard that his property had become the old trolley museum and figured I'd been thrown off in remembering exactly where it was after they straightened the road. But the terrain around that house with the radio tower totally matches what I had remembered, especially the way the driveway curves as it goes up the hill. They changed all of the house numbers on that stretch of road so I could never really tell for sure. I'm so glad to know the house is still there!

There was another old house just to the east which is probably gone - the entrance is almost completely covered by underbrush. Things look so different around there now with all of the new neighborhoods, and now the ICC.

That's so cool that EmmyLou Harris used to rehearse there - I had no idea! Were you in her band?

E Scott said...

No, I wasnt in Emmy Lou's band. John Colianni the jazz pianist grew up in that house. A musical address, which is currently 1111 Bonifant I believe.

Cyndy said...

That's the house. I had no idea John grew up there. I didn't really know him but early on I used to play in a trio with his not-yet girlfriend, several years before she moved up to live with him in NJ. Now I've totally lost touch with her, but isn't it a small world?

Also, I rented my bass to his bass player one time for a show at Blues Alley a while back (a WHILE back) and stuck around to hear it. All I can remember is that I'd never previously heard any piano player swing as hard as John Colianni did that night. Ever. It was astounding.

Lisa said...

Cyndy,
I came across your blog when looking up Mr. Pries. I was curious if he was mentioned anywhere on the web. I studied with hm from 1965 until probably 1970, when he had his stroke. I learned much of the same music that you mentioned (and more), and I still have my notebook with all the poems that I memorized. He influenced me a great deal even though I was so young (6 years old when I started studying with him). After he had his stroke, I because a student of his son, Roger Pries, who used to be a concert pianist.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the photos. I don't live in the area anymore, but I am there occasionally and will check out the scenery.
--Lisa

Cyndy said...

Lisa, it's so nice to hear from other people who studied with Mr. Pries. I never became acquainted with any of his other students during my short year of study with him, but since then I found out that one of my bass-playing buddies also had piano lessons with Harold Pries, and one of my piano teaching colleagues studied with Roger Pries, probably around the same time you did. It's a small world, isn't it?

In another interesting twist, I ended up working with John Colianni (mentioned in the comments from about a year ago) this past New Years Eve in a mostly New York band that had come down to play in DC for the night. It was a total coincidence. I had an absolute blast playing with him - best New Years Eve gig ever!

rick said...

I took piano lessons from Harold Pries in the mid 60's for a couple of yrs. At the first meeting as a prospective student with my parents he wanted to demonstrate the strength of his hand. He got down on his hands and knees and stretched out his cupped hand, palm down, and said: "Go ahead, step on my hand." I lightly tapped it. "No, harder, what are you, a weakling?" I wound up (as much as a puny 12 yr old could wind) and stomped on his hand as hard as I could. My parents were aghast. He rubbed his hand and said "very good, now let's continue" without missing a beat although I was pretty sure his hand hurt alot.

Cyndy said...

Rick - Ouch! Poor Mr. Pries! I guess he was pretty tough. That's one way to prove that curved fingers are stronger than straight ones, hahaha!

I'm sorry I didn't see your comment right away - I should check back here more often. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Unknown said...

Mr. Pries was one of my first piano teachers, ca. 1964. I was only 5 years old and he spent most of the time talking to my mother. I remember a sculpture of stairs and a stick-figure child walking on it. And I still have the Gallejkian (sp!) primer and his red and blue pencil scribbles "F-A-C-E" for the treble spaces and "G-B-D-F" for some of the lines. I also remember a much older student, David Dudley, who was very good at that time. Anyway, I went on to get a doctorate in Music years afterwards and I still remember some of the foundations from him. He tried poetry with me. I still remember something about a ladybug..

Down in the hollow,

Not so far away,

I saw a little ladybug

When I went to play.

Swinging on the clover

Up in the air.

I wonder if the ladybug

Knew I was there.

Cyndy said...

I remember that poem - thanks so much for sharing it! I hope Mr. Pries is as thrilled as I am that so many of his former students have shown up on such a random blog posting. I'm sure that he must be proud of what they all have accomplished.

I think the experience of studying with him was memorable for every single one of his students, even those who only lasted a year, like me. I went on to major in piano in college and then taught piano for more than 25 years. I'm just working as a bass player these days, but when I get back to teaching piano I think I'll try to incorporate poetry into the lessons. It's one of those things, like music lessons, where the benefits spill over into many other areas of a child's development. Now that I have some hindsight, hahaha!

Recently my mother found two of those shiny black lesson plan books down in her basement. If I ever get myself organized maybe I'll post one of the pages from it. I was in that Gala***jkian book too. I have no idea how it's spelled because I still can't read all of Mr. Pries' handwriting. The assignment book is full of his comments and grades for each activity, written in red and blue pencil and sometimes what looks almost like a very sharp crayon! But always red and blue.

My mother had tucked several programs into one of the books and one of those programs was for an entire recital given by David Dudley.

Thanks for your comment and for stopping by! I think I might just go ahead and write a followup post one of these days that is just about Mr. Pries. Stay Tuned!

Al Sollod said...

I too found these messages from Googling Pries. I studied piano with Harold for 7 years in the 1950s, and used to go plinking around the farm with Roger while my sister took her lesson. Roger had a brother who was a true prodigy but unfortunately died young of leukemia. I retired to Mississippi with an appreciation of music and an earworm, "while I wandered weak and weary."

Cyndy said...

Hi Al - It seems like the student of Harold Pries are everywhere! It's so much fun to read about these experiences from his other students because it gives my mind fodder for daydreaming whenever I drive past his house. And that's pretty often since I still live in the area. We were luckier than we all probably realized at the time to have had such a wonderful and inspiring teacher.

Wanda said...

I found this post while I was looking for the lineage of piano teachers going back from my teacher, Roger Pries. I knew his father had grown up in Germany and I was curious who he studied with as well. I lost track of Roger many years ago, but it appears he is still alive from my research and I would love to find him. I teach piano and voice in Lakeland, Florida and just recently unearthed my shiny black lesson books as well.

Wanda said...

Also, I would love to find out from the person who posted about Harold Pries' teacher...where those lessons occurred and where he received his instruction.

Sharon said...

I was reminiscing today about my piano lessons with Harold Pries during the 60's and was interested to find this blog with everyone's comments. I also still have my black lesson plan books and my book of copied poems. He was an unforgettable man and teacher. I haven't played the piano in years but am thinking about getting back to it. My father was one of the founders of the trolley car museum.

Anonymous said...

You guys are too much after all these years! I am Michelle Pries; Roger was my father (he died of lung cancer in 2002--his faithful student, Helen Smith, was at his memorial service. Harold Pries was my grandfather; after a stroke in the seventies, he came to live with us and fully recovered. He contiued to teach and hike and recite until age 93, when he literally died at his desk with his head fallen forward into a volume of poetry he was reading. WANDA, I bet you are(were) Wanda Huff, aren't you? I also heard from Debra Shapiro, right around the time dad died. Luke Patterson, a pupil of Roger's, is still a friend. ANyone remember either of Harold's: Glenn Walp; or Ami Cohen? That would have been around '68 to '70. I was also a student, and doing a lot of riding of my pony out back. I scarcly doubt that Colliano or EmyLou practiced in the shed out back, as there were 100 pigeons in 1, and my pony in the other. But anything's possible, I guess, as the house still stands and is now called Wolfs Den. It's 525 Bonifant Road. To whoever asked, Harold Pries was largely self-taught; his father was a cigar maker in Connestoga, PA and while wholly uninterested in his music, allowed him to have an old upright from the church. He ran away to Philadelphia and studied at the Settlement School of Music. Then he fell under the tutelage of Hans Kindler, cellist and conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, and after the great flood of the forties in WIlliamsport,Kindler brought the family to the Washington area. My father studied with Olga Samaroff Stowkowski and then later with Leonard Shure in New York City. I should stop, because I'm probably up over my space limit. But I have a fine memory of you all. Just "thanks" and wanted you to know.
Michelle Pries, also
Mpries21701@gmail.com

Aimee said...

I studied piano with his son, Roger Pries for many years. Not as quirky and no poems! He had us do the Bartok Rumanian Folk Dances ... Which were much more fun! Aimee

Tony Dziepak said...

I was a student of Harold Pries 1970-75. First at the old white house with dark green shutters on Bonifant Road, and later in the smaller house in Cloverly off New Hampshire Ave. I believe McNeil Lane, second right past the Southern States store.

We had to copy the poem or quote from the blackboard in the waiting room into our composition book. Then we had to recite last week's poem. He had the cello standing in the corner with the back facing out. He had to give up cello due to arthritis. He had a great garden in the smaller house with plum or prune trees and other edibles.