Bored Teens in Greenbelt - A History of the Drop Inn
With schools currently closed and our teens at home, boredom is an issue. Greenbelt has had this issue at other points in our history. In early days, some youths found entertainment by visiting Schrom Airport after hours to examine the airplanes. Some Greenbelt boys were apprehended at the airport by police officer Buddy Attick, and each young teen was delivered home to their dismayed parents.
Other teen hijinks in the earliest days included vandalism of the Mother and Child statue in the (Roosevelt) Center. At its worst, some youths attempted to tear down the statue! Another concern in the Center was at the soda fountain located in the Co-op Drugstore. In 1944 the shop was losing money. A new manager was brought in and he soon discovered that the teen workers were giving their friends free ice cream, treats, and sodas. This manager put a stop to the free giveaways and was the victim of severe backlash from Greenbelt teens, some of it anti-Semitic. He resigned after only seven weeks.
The events at the soda fountain were pivotal, and the town council searched for a recreational facility to occupy teens after school and on the weekends. A recently vacated basement of the fire/police station (small white building that currently houses a hair salon and other businesses) was utilized as a gathering spot for teenagers. Called the Drop Inn, it was opened by December of 1944. Decorated with benches and tables built in shop class and slipcovers created by Greenbelt girls to cover second hand furniture, the Drop Inn was an immediate hit. They served hot dogs, chips and soda. Adults supervised it, but all the operations were run by the teens.
By 1946, funds were being raised to purchase a government surplus pre-fabricated building to relocate the Drop Inn. Much work on the new building was done by the community, and a grand opening celebration was held on May 3, 1947. Once in the new space, the teens had fresh curtains, an upgraded juke box, a reading room and more. The ceremonial keys to the Drop Inn were handed over by the city to the young president. A wide variety of programs took place in the new building. In February 1949, for instance, a wienie roast and hayride was announced, as well as a knitting club, and a photography club led by Paul Kasko, a well-known Greenbelt photographer.
For years the Drop Inn served as a premier gathering place for Greenbelt’s teenagers. As they outgrew the facility, plans were made to build a larger Youth Center, and fundraising was taken up in earnest. By 1960 the larger building was opened and available for teen dances and sports, skating, French lessons and more. Teens in Greenbelt still use this facility as a gathering place. The Greenbelt Community Center is a draw for teens as well. Sometime in the future, they both will reopen for use! Do you have memories of the Drop Inn, or photos? We'd love to hear/see them! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extra Credit: We don't know what songs were on the jukebox at the Drop Inn (we wish we did!) but That Lucky Old Sun sung by Frankie Laine was a Billboard #1 in 1949, so we bet it was there.
Watch a video of it here!
Photos: (top) Joanne Taylor and Donald Hahn won a dance contest after Arthur Murray dance classes at the Drop Inn in 1949, (bottom) exterior of the Drop Inn late 1940s. Both by Paul Kasko.