Press-Republican

FYI...

December 12, 2013

A 67-year-old caroling tradition

WASHINGTON — Last Christmas Eve at 5, the long-running caroling tradition in Kenwood, a neighborhood in Chevy Chase, Md., seemed to be on a very wet track to coming to an end. The bitterly cold rain that evening refused to turn into snow. I could see from my window that no one was in the circle where the giant Christmas tree stood. There should have already been a crowd drinking hot chocolate, chatting and getting ready to sing.

Kenwood, the same Kenwood known across Washington for its cherry trees, has a Christmas caroling tradition that, to its residents, is just as profound as the cherry blossoms. I had gone every year since I moved into the neighborhood in 1997, and now all I could think was: Could this really be the end of that tradition? My family and I got our umbrellas and boots, and slogged over to the circle to find out.

As we approached, we suddenly saw three people standing near the tree. One was an older woman I recognized from past Christmas Eves. She was the vibrant person always playing the electric piano, accompanying the carolers. I knew nothing else about her.

"Ruthanna here," one woman said, pointing at our piano-less pianist, "was the one who started this whole caroling tradition in Kenwood. She's been doing this since World War II when she was in the Navy."

Old enough to be in World War II?! Was that even possible? I was disoriented just doing the mental math. She might as well have said Ruthanna used to split logs with Abe Lincoln.

I had to know two things: Was a tradition that old about to end? And who is this woman?

Just days after the Germans sank the Lusitania and two years before the United States even entered World War I, Ruthanna Maxwell was born, on May 31, 1915, in the small town of Findlay, Ohio.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
FYI...
  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 16, 2014

  • news_twitter.jpg Travelers fly on Air Twitter

    The enlightened age of social media has dawned over the airline industry, casting shadows over telephone call centers and on-site agents. Facebook and Twitter are racking up the friends and followers while the hold music plays on.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • 297px-Starbucks_Corporation_Logo_2011.svg.png Why Starbucks won't recycle your paper coffee cup

    When you drop that used white paper cup into the bin next to the door at a Starbucks, have you done your part to save the planet? Starbucks has long hoped that you would think so. After all, there's no better way to attract an affluent, eco-conscious clientele than to convince customers that your disposable product is "renewable."

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 2.16.35 PM.png Are Americans smart to stop drinking diet sodas?

    Recent data from Beverage Digest suggest many are cutting back on diet sodas. Consumption of diet sodas fell more than that of sugary sodas in 2013. This raises two questions: Why is total consumption declining, and is drinking diet soda harmful to health?

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fast, cheap test can help save lives of many babies

    As Easley did more research into her daughter's death, she learned that a pilot program had started just months earlier at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. (Easley had delivered at a different hospital in the Washington area.) The program's goal was to screen every newborn with a simple pulse oximeter test that can help detect heart problems such as Veronica's, allowing doctors to respond.

    April 12, 2014

  • Starbucks retools pastry menu after customer complaints

    After the coffee chain bought gourmet-baking company La Boulange in 2012, it used the acquisition to add fancier pastries to U.S. locations. Now Starbucks is discovering that some customers liked the food better before, prompting another round of retooling.

    April 11, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Taking someone out to the ballgame gets expensive

    Families in big-league cities like Boston and New York pay steep prices to catch a baseball game. It's not so expensive everywhere - especially if you're frugal.
     

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • How improv comedy skills became a must-have for entrepreneurs

    A few years ago, for complex reasons, I attended the orientation week for Columbia Business School students. The week involved team-building exercises that forced us to solve problems together.

    April 9, 2014

  • news_amazonfiretv.jpg Amazon introduces Fire TV to challenge Apple in living rooms

    Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is stepping up efforts to win over customers in their living rooms with a $99 TV box for watching digitally delivered shows and movies, challenging Apple's TV device.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hate With Friends, the fun new Facebook tool

    Hating movies, earworms, conventions of grammar, clothing brands, diet fads - you get the twinkle of pleasure without the glob of guilt, or the cold brush of fear. A Coldplay song doesn't know you hate it.

    April 7, 2014