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Last Saturday, Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King penned a piece deploring gentrification in the District. He wrote that the local press hasn’t covered the issue in depth and that the pain of residential displacement doesn’t register with Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

When King sought to bring the issue to ground level, he invoked the saga of Foggy Bottom, the neighborhood where he came of age in the ’50s. “[W]hen gentrification came to the West End and Foggy Bottom, the character of our community died,” wrote King, who recalled a long-lost community of hardy working-class souls whose clothes were “clean” but “old.”

Set up issue, then cite examples from the Foggy Bottom of yore: It’s a pattern that dedicated King readers can smell as clearly as the obligatory attempt at poetry in that Style trend piece or the implication-heavy nut graph in that front-page Post feature. Simply put, if King wants to make a point, he goes back to the ’hood.

When he wanted to commemorate Mother’s Day, King explored attitudes toward moms in his boyhood Foggy Bottom. When he wanted to highlight a rash of youth killings, he drew a contrast with the civilized mores of his old neighborhood.

Whatever the topic—school closings, holiday celebrations, churches—there’s always a lesson to be pried from Foggy Bottom. Indeed, King in the past 12 years has invoked his youth stomping grounds in no fewer than 25 columns and other pieces.

And since the Post apparently has no plans to produce an index of King’s Foggy Bottom remembrances, Dept. of Media feels compelled to.

The Colbert I. King Foggy Bottom Reference Guide

Foggy Bottom

as community where “a child could walk three blocks and run into someone, a relative or friend, who was known to the family”; neighbors didn’t let neighbors starve; people looked one another “squarely in the eye”; people enjoyed the same food and music; people weren’t afraid of one another; people “played the same childhood games,” 1/8/2005

as community “where you could walk for blocks and still encounter a relative, or a church member or school friend or co-worker to chew the fat with,” 3/22/97

descriptions of neighborhood life as simpler, more wholesome—yet occasionally troubled—in the ’50s, 11/17/94, 4/8/2000, 5/6/2000, 5/27/2000, 9/2/2000, 2/3/2001, 3/10/2001, 12/8/2001, 5/31/2003, 8/14/2003, 2/1/2004, 1/8/2005

as place bursting with caring extended-family members and merchants, 2/1/2004

as place where kids in the ’50s were taught never to give in to their fears, 10/19/2002

as place where mothers occupied a central social role and Mother’s Day was a bittersweet occasion, 5/8/99

as place where professionals commanded respect and married couples worked through their troubles, 5/31/2003

as place where residents swept the sidewalks daily, 4/8/2000, 5/31/2003

as place with its own adage back in the day: “Fair warning is fair play,” 1/1/2005

as place with no air conditioning back in the day, 8/9/2003

as swanky modern-day neighborhood, 4/1/2000

tensions with other black communities back in the day, 5/29/99, 2/1/2004

Children of

improbability of stealing from neighbors back in the day, 8/9/2003

learning that “no Bible verse can serve as a stand-in for the home or regular church attendance,” 11/17/94

tendency to solve problems in the ’50s with fists, not guns, 3/10/2001, 5/31/2003

Churches of

as backdrop for Fair Budget Coalition’s media workshop, 2/3/2001

as “glue” holding people together, 9/2/2000

as institutions determining status from neighborhood to neighborhood, 1/29/2000

as places where “ditch-diggers and hod-carriers” were seen “not as unskilled laborers but as ushers and deacons and pillars of the congregation and community,” 9/2/2000

as “unthinkable” places to stage a crime, 5/31/2003

Entrepreneurship in

author’s earning of a quarter from Mr. Colodny for helping deliver groceries to his “most valued customers,” 12/8/2001

cops’ hassling the King children for picking mulberries from a neighborhood tree, 2/21/98

Gentrification in

King family as last of the “old inhabitants” to leave neighborhood, 4/8/2000

loss of churches and concomitant loss of community, 9/2/2000

and speculation that author’s father would survey today’s cityscape and ask, “Son, what happened to our people?” 6/20/1998

and subsequent discovery that “all we shared and held dear was destroyed,” 1/8/2005

Holidays in

specifically, how nearly “all homes in our West End-Foggy Bottom neighborhood had Christmas trees and young kids looking forward to Santa Claus” back in the day, 12/8/2001

Parents—specifically, Amelia King

ability to do everything, 6/20/98, 5/8/99, 2/1/2004

ability to turn one can of tuna into eight sandwiches, 4/8/2000

belief that a benevolent God “had delegated to her full and unchallenged dominion over every aspect of our being,” 11/17/94

occasionally ungracious attitude toward husband, 6/20/98

as pillar of Foggy Bottom Baptist Church, 3/15/97

record of performing “miracles by the week,” 6/20/98

relief that husband isn’t around to see depravity of modern times, 6/20/98

role in steering son from ’50s gang life, 4/29/2000

Parents—specifically, Isaiah King

faith in the “divine truth” and provider of family’s moral foundation, 6/20/98

lessons in cutting the lawn with scissors, since family lacked lawnmower, 4/8/2000

role in steering son from ’50s gang life, 4/29/2000

status as enforcer of household rules, 5/8/99, 5/25/96

status as family entertainer most evenings and weekends, 6/20/98

versatility as handyman, 4/8/2000


as “anchors” and a home away from home, 2/1/2004

and folksy recollections of Francis Junior High School back in the day, 1/29/2000

as incubators for accomplished adults, 3/22/97

as places of inspiration for young students, 11/17/94, 2/1/2004

as places where author and classmates dreaded prayer, 11/17/94

as places where older folks were involved in the lives of youth, 11/17/94

as places where principals and teachers were pillars of the community, 5/31/2003

and scarcity of psychiatric help for youth after traumatic events, 5/27/2000, 2/3/2001

status of Stevens Elementary School as “surviving shrine” to King family and others in old Foggy Bottom, 3/22/97

—Erik Wemple