Wednesday, May 24, 2006


There was a Post article in the Business section on Monday on the proliferation of bank branches in the DC area. While I appreciate that there are three ATMs for my bank within 40 feet of each other in our neighborhood, that’s not that part of the article that was of interest to me. The accompanying picture shows the abandoned Appalachian Outfitters, which went out of business in 2003, as it now stands in Oakton on a piece of very valuable property.

In a time before Sports Authority and Target there weren’t too many options for the outdoorsy boys of NOVA to get camping gear. You could go to the Appalachian Outfitters or the Great Outdoors in Arlington or totally sell out and go to the Herman’s Sports chain. (Though it was at Herman’s that I realized it was much easier to buy those difficult merit badges than it was to earn them, sending me down this lazy path of unaccountability I’ve been on ever since.) But the last time I tried to go to Appalachian Outfitters completely ransacked and it looked like a tree limb had crushed part of the roof. And the last time before that they didn’t have anything that I needed and everything else was way overpriced. And now it’s going to be a Chevy Chase Bank or something. A bank with an 1890s schoolhouse in it. Or that’s at least what inferred from the article.

But what really caught my attention was a mention of the new Chevy Chase bank on the corner of Lee Highway and George Mason in Arlington. It mentions that the bank bought the property from a Friendly’s restaurant, one that had been there a few years. (like all Americans I toss around the term “worst ever” in inaccurate ways but the worst meal I have ever eaten was at Friendly’s. Good ice cream, though) The restaurant struggled for a few years before finally shutting down. It sat as rubble lot for a few months before Chevy Chase got their act together.

What is not mentioned in the article is that for years before Friendly’s a Roy Rogers sat on the property. And while the McDonald’s up the street received plenty of attention from the neighborhood kids, it was the Roy Rogers that was the center of social functioning. Maybe it was the Fixin’s Bar and the French fries you could wear on your belt that made it such a draw. Or maybe it was because McDonald’s hired moonlighting cops to arrest HS kids with droopy pants and Vuarnet t-shirts. Either way here’s a sample of what went down:

  • It’s where the radio was hijacked and Smells like Teen Spirit was played for 2 hours straight in ‘91.
  • It’s where a cashier was convinced that hand drawn coupons of 2 for 1 Double K burgers should be honored.
  • It’s where their rather liberal loitering policy was abused even further by hours of drinking booze from Roy Roger cups, gambling and games of dice.
  • It’s where that dude’s head was nearly severed in the parking lot when his friend passed out on the mechanical window switch and the guy in the back had to dive to the driver’s seat and use his hands to brake the car from rolling into Lee Highway.
  • It’s where certain managers would allow walk-ups, bikes and skateboards at the late nite drive thru, as long as they yelled loud enough.



But there is some unpleasantness associated with the restaurant as well, something that always sticks in my mind whenever I drive by now. In 1992, night manager Sanford Swift was found stabbed to death after a robbery. Even though a detailed sketch and automobile description were released, no tips were ever called into the police. Hardee’s, who owns the Roy Rogers, offered a reward but nothing ever materialized.

When Friendly’s moved in they changed some of the architecture, but the overall building design remained the same. That similarity coupled with a few years of living out of town caused the incident to wane from my memory. But when the whole structure was razed to make room for the bank I started to wonder aloud several times about what ever happened with the case.

A few weeks back, I called the Arlington County Police and asked if anyone was ever arrested in connection to the killing. Days later they left a message saying that while the case was still opened they haven’t had any movement or tips in several years. They also asked that if I had information that would help moving the investigation forward, they would appreciate a call.

Well, I don’t know anything. I’m just an over-curious former Roy Roger’s patron with fond memories who just happened to get through to the right person at the police station. But if there is a small chance that someone reading this site does, the Arlington police are still looking for the killer of Sanford Swift.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for not losing the memory of the murder of my brother Sanford K. Swift ..... His murderer has never been found. Detective Ortiz at the Arlington Police Dept. now heads up the case! My email address is: