The last straw may have rolled off the production line long ago, but Stone Straw still sucks at the hearts of some Washingtonians.
Two weeks ago, Answer Man wrote about the homegrown company, the creation of paper drinking straw inventor Marvin C. Stone. Jack Rains’s mother, Eva Mae Gutridge Rains, worked at Stone Straw, which was in a building that still stands at Ninth and Franklin streets NE. He sent a photo of the work shirt she used to wear, the back emblazoned with “Stone Paper Tube Company.”
“My Mom kept this shirt for years and years and Mom wasn’t a keeper of anything,” wrote Jack, of Leesburg.
Jack’s Uncle Bill worked there, too. Bill’s daughter, Diana Lynn Morris, said he would bring home cardboard tubes in different shapes and sizes for the kids to play with. Diana’s grandmother Mary Hayden also worked there.
Joan Harrison’s mother, Olive Miller, worked at Stone Straw in 1944 after a divorce.
“I was 10 years old,” wrote Joan, of Rockville. “It was real factory work. My mother, along with other ‘girls,’ stood on their feet all day running three machines. At Christmastime, she would bring home the ‘rejected’ straws and my siblings and I would find creative ways to make Christmas decorations. Then the machines were changed to make items for the war. We didn’t find these useful for making anything.”
Stone also operated a plant in College Park. Bruce Radebaugh’s father worked there for more than 30 years, until the late 1980s.
“For most of his time there he was a co-manager of the plant, which primarily manufactured paper tubes for commercial use in products such as electric motors, automobiles and fuses,” wrote Bruce, of Herndon.
“He started at Stone Straw when I was about 5 years old, and throughout my childhood, the sport coats that my father wore to work would smell like the resin used in the plant to seal the paper tubes,” Bruce wrote. “It wasn’t an off-putting odor, just noticeable.”
Hey, they’re brewing beer again in Washington. Maybe some hipster can open an artisanal paper straw plant in homage to the man who invented the handy device all those years ago.
In response to the previous column, David Chalkley wrote from Manassas to say it’s unlikely that lengths of dried ryegrass (genus Lolium), were once used as straws. It’s more likely to have been rye (genus Secale).
“Rye is a grass, just like wheat, oats, fescue, corn, bamboo, etc.,” he wrote, “but ryegrass (one word) is the common name of a short grass used for lawns, fields and pastures, and not likely to yield many stems of the size useful for drinking. Rye, a cereal, is rather tall and so has a sturdier stem of greater diameter, and many of those stems would be available (as ‘straw’) after the grain was harvested.”
Even so, David wonders why anyone would want to drink a mint julep through a straw — natural or otherwise — supposedly Marvin Stone’s inspiration. Wouldn’t you just sip it?
Last week’s column about Field Marshal Sir John Dill’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery brought back memories for Betsy Bailey of Falls Church. When Queen Elizabeth made her first official visit to the United States in 1957, Betsy’s father, Lemuel Mathewson, was assigned to be Her Majesty’s military aide for the four-day tour.
Wrote Betsy: “Early in her very precisely timed schedule was a stop in Arlington Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. While driving through the cemetery, my father asked if she would also like to visit Sir John Dill’s burial site. She was very enthusiastic, having been a great admirer of his. So, to the great consternation of the tour planners, the whole convoy was rerouted to let her pay her respects at the beautifully-stirring equestrian monument pictured in your column.”
There’s no statue to The Washington Post Helping Hand. But through its auspices, Washington Post readers have donated more than $900,000 to local charities over the past four years. This year, our goal is to raise $225,000 by Jan. 4.
Our partners are Bright Beginnings, N Street Village and So Others Might Eat. All three work with homeless adults and children in our area. You can learn more about them — and make a donation — by visiting posthelpinghand.com .
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.