BY PEGGY DEE — In 1936, the City of Hyattsville was caught up in celebrating its 50th anniversary. The first annual Easter Egg Hunt was held in April and local women dyed 500 eggs for the event. By 1941, the Magruder Park event had become a highlight of each spring. By that time, there were 1,500 hidden eggs, with prizes for the finders ranging from a nickel to 50 cents in cash or ice cream cones from the local Hot Shoppes.
I recently had a delightful chat with former Mayor George “Cotton” Harrison, a Hyattsville native who now lives in Frederick. His home was on the 4000 block of Shepherd Street, which is now Kennedy Street. Cotton was a Ward 4 councilman for 10 years and was elected mayor in 1972. He has fond memories of attending the many events held at Magruder Park, especially the Easter Egg hunts, which were always held on Easter Monday. They were sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.
Cotton laughed as he recalled the scene. All children participating in the hunt were behind a rope on the left side as you entered the park. When the whistle blew and the rope dropped, there was a wild stampede of children heading toward the right side of the park, where the eggs were hidden. The grand prize was $5 for each golden egg that was found. Every year, many of the little girls paraded around the park afterwards to show off the lovely chiffon dresses that they wore for Easter.
Many of the local politicians and businessmen were in attendance. Playing a prominent role each year was Walter Smith, who owned the popular Smitty’s Restaurant, located at the end of Hamilton Street. Dave Ginsburg, who was affectionately known as Uncle Dave, was the usual master of ceremonies for the day. Uncle Dave also managed the Hyattsville Movie Theatre, which was located on Baltimore Avenue.
Former Ward 1 Councilmember Douglas Dudrow, who also grew up in our fair city, remembers one Easter weekend in the early 1960s when the egg hunt had to be moved inside because of the inclement weather. It was held at the Hyattsville Movie Theatre.
Elaine Miller remembers taking her son and daughter to the festivity in the late 1940s and then returning with her grandchildren and grown daughter in the early 1960s. After the hunts, they topped off the day with lunch at the Hot Shoppes in downtown Hyattsville.
It is reassuring to all of us to know that the City, after 76 years, still carries on the same tradition. This year, the Great Egg Hunt will take place at Magruder Park on Saturday, April 7, beginning with a pancake breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m., with the hunt to follow. Please call the City at 301.985.5000 to make your reservations.