Thursday, May 22, 2008

F. Scott Fitzgerald, buried in my hometown, Rockville, MD

Now that I left the place years ago, I am discovering all kinds of interesting things about my old "home towns" of Rockville and Bethesda in Montgomery County, Maryland. I used quotation marks because so much has changed about this rapidly developing area that I can hardly recognize the place. I don't know where Betheda ends and Rockville begins. I can't find the old movie house, Gifford's Ice Cream Parlor, or Peoples Drug store on the corner. (Later, found out Giffords was rebuilt in another part of town). And I definitely wouldn't hitch-hike into town any more. Nevertheless, some things have remained unchanged- thankfully. For example, yesterday I drove through the mass of gnarled traffic and "Do not ever park here" signs to Saint Mary's Catholic Church in the center of downtown Rockville. The historical sign on the church building stated it was the first and oldest church in Montgomery County, build and dedicated in 1817. A banner on the road mentioned that F. Scott Fitzgerald was buried in the church yard. Sure enough, F. Scott, his wife, Zelda, and several members of his family are buried in the church yard (see image above).

Francis Scott Fitzgerald's book, The Great Gatsby, was required reading in my Freshman English Class at University of Maryland. My Gosh, if my English professor had only told me that Fitzgerald was buried in my backyard, I might have gathered enough interest to REALLY read the book. I am not sure why it was required reading. I believe it had something to do with a new literary style of writing. The story itself didn't seem to me to be very remarkable. Perhaps, I'll have to take another read of the book.

By the way, the quote from Great Gatsby which is inscribed on F. Scott Fitzgerald's tombstone would be a great starter for a book on family history or genealogy:

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past"

I believe that means we can't escape our past. Try telling that to my married children. Hey, now I know why it was required reading.

A new, larger, modern St. Mary's church was built beside the historic church (see image below). A demolition permit was obtained to tear down the old church; however, I group of concerned townspeople fought and won the right to preserve the old church. Thank you perservationists.

Post Note: After a little library research, I learned that Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was named after his great grandfather- a lawyer who penned a poem about the attack on Fort McHenry by the British around 1817. The poem was put to song, "The Star Spangled Banner" which later became America's National Anthem. The Lawyer-Poet was of course, Francis Scott Key. Fort McHenry should be the next stop on my hometown or rather my home state tour.

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