Recalling Columbia's dream

NEIGHBORS

March 05, 2003

Remembering Columbia's dream will be the theme Friday for the first evening of Town Center's "Women's Night Out!" three-part series. Five women who moved to Columbia in its early years will talk about community life in the new town and their role in shaping it.

"It was women who brought so much to the table and [were] at the bottom of the Women's Center, the Family Life Center, the Columbia Pro Cantare," said Barbara Kellner, manager of the Columbia Archives.

"Women really created that community fabric. We'll be talking to them about their role and what Columbia meant to them and how they grew. Because that was the role of Columbia -- a place for people to grow."

Suzanne Waller came to Columbia in 1969 from New York City via Baltimore and Delaware. She and her family moved to Wilde Lake village, living just around the corner from college friends. When they arrived, they found 800 people and little traffic, she said.

"In Delaware, my friends from New York would say `What do you do here?' because in New York you do," Waller said. "We were committed to the issues of our day, which were integration, the environment and reduction of urban sprawl. So Columbia philosophically filled the dream of addressing those issues in an organized and planned way."

The town's new residents set about creating a lively, diverse and culturally rich environment in which to raise their children.

Frances Motyca Dawson started Columbia Pro Cantare.

Helen Ruther, who arrived in 1967, said she "met somebody at the swimming pool who was a movie buff. There were no movie theaters here, so [we] started the Columbia Film Society."

"In the first five years, there was such excitement here and such a sense of anything is possible here. Because it was," Kellner said. "It was a clean slate. We think we need an orchestra -- so we'll make one."

"[Rouse] really invited us to participate in the ongoing planning," Waller said. "I very much loved the interfaith concept. I grew up in New York feeling the pain of separation between ethnic groups, religious groups. This was like the answer to a dream, that we were all going to worship in the same building.

Women of Columbia was an early group, followed by a Women's Center at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center.

"And I would say for our generation, being a wife and mother came first and career came second. But all of us went on to careers, and the Women's Center had a very big role in that," Waller said. "I was able to be liberated, and my daughter is and my sons are.

"This was a wonderful, well-planned experiment that succeeded," she added. "It's a wonderful story, and I think it needs to be told over and over again so people can recommit to the dream. What I saw here was something very unique, which was the grass-roots commitment of people to their city. I saw this as so profound."

Waller and Ruther will be joined by state Del. Elizabeth Bobo, Dawson and Yolanda Bruno from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Historic Oakland, 5430 Vantage Point Road. Kellner will introduce the panel. Admission is free.

The second program in the series, scheduled from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 15, will focus on women's health; the third, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. March 21, will be an evening of rejuvenation, exercise, makeovers, massage and dance. Tickets for the second and third programs are $7.50 per evening; $10 for both.

Information: 410-730-4744.

Wilde Lake candidates sought for board, council

The Wilde Lake Community Association is seeking candidates for five seats on the village board and one seat on the Columbia Council.

The positions are for one year, beginning May 1.

Nominations will be accepted through March 12. Nomination packets are available at Slayton House in Wilde Lake Village Center.

Information: 410-730-3987.

Births

Alexander Carter and Griffin Lee Polinsky: To Barry and Heather Polinsky of Dorsey's Search on Feb. 18.

Around town

Fitness at library: The central library, 10375 Little Patuxent Parkway, will present "On Fitness with Susan Bisson" at 7 p.m. today. Fitness instructor Susan Bisson of the Columbia Association will demonstrate staying in shape with aerobics, kick-boxing and step exercises. Diana Parr will discuss Pilates training. Registration is required. 410-313-7860.

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