Everyone has stories of family adventures that will never be forgotten.
The name of Magruder Park in Hyattsville, Maryland, is written in my memory.
Our first experience with Magruder came on July 4, 1962. Ann and I heard that they had a good Independence Day fireworks display at Magruder, so Ann and I and our four sons left our home in Berwyn Heights and travelled the few miles south to Hyattsville. We got there long before dark and spread our blankets where we would have a good view of the fireworks. We sat there with our four boys, drank sodas, and munched our snacks while the crowd continued to gather. We were soon surrounded by a veritable sea of families, also on their blankets. All were strangers to us, but they seemed friendly enough. Everyone waited expectantly for nightfall and fireworks. About a half hour before dark Sandy Jr. and Stuart stated a rather urgent need to visit the rest room. I took their hands and we began to weave a path through the blankets toward the toilets. Ann, Harold, and Robert remained on our own little blanket island. When Sandy Jr., Stuart and I reached the public facility we had to wait in line, and by the time we left the restroom it was fully dark and the fireworks had begun. For the next half hour to forty-five minutes I and the boys made our way carefully and slowly through the maze of blankets while looking desperately for Ann and the little ones. Finally, in the blackness, I saw the light of a flare on Ann’s beautiful face, and the three of us thankfully took our places next to our family. At that moment, the fireworks stopped.
Our last trip to Magruder was during Easter time the following year. Again, we had heard good things about Magruder — this time about its wonderful Easter egg hunt. We loaded our four sons in the car and headed south for the fun. When we got to the park we found a mass of humanity. It appeared that every small child and most teenagers in Prince Georges County had gathered at the spot. The hunt organizers had placed a rope around the park’s wooded area, and the children were being herded into a noisy and unruly mob on the parking lot. Somewhat reluctantly we allowed Sandy and Stuart to join the throng. We decided it was too dangerous for Harold and Robert, only four and three at the time. A short while later a starter gun was fired and the rope was dropped. What followed reminded me of a stampede of frightened American bison that I had seen depicted in an old western movie. The noise was the same too — like thundering hooves. Heaven help any small child who might have had the misfortune to get in front of that group. Fortunately, no one did. It was all over in less than a minute. By that time every egg in the park was either found or crushed underfoot — mostly the latter. All our boys got out of the affair was a rather small piece of eggshell.
After that time, if anyone mentioned Magruder, I headed in the opposite direction.