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Readers tell us about their first apartments

September 18, 1997

By Teri Johnson

Staff Writer

When you turn the key in your first apartment, you step into a world of freedom and independence.

You also open the door to a number of responsibilities. It's an important rite of passage.

We asked readers to tell us about their first apartments and describe what made them memorable.

Here are some of their recollections, and they may unlock a few memories of yours as well.

His roommate's closet was a filing cabinet

Finding a place with affordable rent can be murder.

When Preston Cecil graduated from Wake Forest University in 1990, he and his roommate rented an apartment in Rosslyn, Va.

"We got a break on the rent because someone had been killed there a couple of months before we moved in," says Cecil, 29.

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The fact that someone had been murdered there was unsettling, but the $400 rent was tough to pass up.

"We had a bunch of guys living there, and there is safety in numbers," he says.

And those numbers continued to grow.

By the end of the summer, four people were living in the one-bedroom apartment, which had almost no furniture.

"The place was so small that one of our roommates kept his clothes in a filing cabinet," Cecil says.

Each person had a different job - one worked for a congressman, others painted and one did nothing - so someone always was coming or going.

"Since we didn't have cable, we watched `Raising Arizona' and `Goldfinger,' the only two movies we owned, about 100 times," Cecil says.

Cecil, an attorney with Wantz and Cecil LLP in Hagerstown, lives in a third-floor apartment above his office.

He says the year in the Rosslyn apartment was an interesting one.

"It was the type of experience that was worth a million dollars, but I wouldn't give you five cents to do it again," he says.

Newlyweds had an outhouse nearby

A one-room cabin in the woods was the first home of Harry C. "Chip" Grove III and Polly Grove.

The Groves married in June 1971, after Chip Grove graduated from Mount Saint Mary's College. That fall, he enrolled at Pennsylvania State University.

The newlyweds were short on cash, and their brother-in-law, Robert Foltz, allowed them to live in a cabin on some land he owned near Smithsburg, Chip Grove says. Foltz, who now lives in Cavetown, was building a house there.

Electricity and a small woodstove were the cabin's only amenities - it had no running water and no indoor plumbing. Water was drawn through an outdoor faucet, and there was an outhouse nearby.

They cooked meals on a hot plate or a small outdoor grill that was hastily erected, Chip Grove says.

"In order to take baths or showers, we heated water on the grill in a lard can. Then we both stood on the front porch au naturel and gave each other a sponge bath," he says.

"Since the cabin was quite close to the Appalachian Trail, this was done at dusk or after dark. We tried to be as discreet as possible."

The cabin wasn't insulated, and it got chilly in the early fall.

"Fortunately, my brother-in-law's house was nearly completed, and we moved into his heated basement for the winter," Chip Grove says.

The Groves, who have been married 26 years, have five children and three grandchildren.

Chip Grove, 50, is superintendent of Waynesboro Municipal Golf Course in Waynesboro, Pa., and the borough provides the family with a house. Polly Grove, 48, is a teacher's aide at Mowrey Elementary School in Quincy, Pa.

The Groves never have owned a house, but that soon will change.

"In the near future we will be building our first house near Boonsboro - a log house," Chip Grove says.

Rent was $37.50 and an occasional pint of blood

The rent was $37.50 a month and an occasional pint of blood for an elderly landlady in poor health.

Anna Hershey says "memorable" is a great way to describe the first home she and John R. "Jack" Hershey Jr. shared - a three-room, third-floor attic apartment in the smokestack steel town of Bethlehem, Pa.

Jack Hershey offered to give blood to their landlady, Mrs. Cope, and he also got his fraternity brothers in Phi Delta Theta to donate.

It was the early postwar period, and the Hersheys were newly married college students. He attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, and she went to Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pa.

"I rode a trolley car to school," she says.

The rooms were no bigger than most people's closets, Anna Hershey says of the apartment where they lived for about three years.

"Our apartment was comfortably decorated in `antique antiques.' The gas stove and oven with no temperature controls and the open tin roof that provided my clothesline are truly cherished memories," Anna Hershey says.

Both grew up in Hagerstown, and they had gone together since junior high school.

They live in a house on Fountain Head Road in Hagerstown and will celebrate 50 years of marriage Jan. 31, 1998.

Jack Hershey, 71, is a broker at Ferris, Baker Watts Inc., and Anna Hershey, 70, is a homemaker. They have four children and five grandchildren.

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