University Park, Maryland, USA, 2008
Taken off Google Street View. It shows Ratsie's, the place mentioned by the interviewee.
University Park, Maryland, USA, 2018
Also taken off Google Images. This is what replaced Ratsie's: Nando's Peri-Peri.
University Park, Maryland, USA

My mother describes how commercial development and other factors have made living in the University Park area easier. Furthermore, she discusses the influence of American and foreign students at the University of Maryland as well as of urban development and the introduction of bird diseases in the past twenty years and invasive plants in the past ninety.

Observer: Mary Baugher
Interviewer: Michael Baugher
Interview Date: June 4, 2019
Submission Date: June 6, 2019
About This Place

Historic Appearance

The University Park area was highly populated but not nearly as developed. It took longer to run your errands, with fewer grocery stores and such. There were fewer businesses like restaurants dedicated to foreigners, although foreign populations weren’t necessarily much lower. Housing had variety in appearance and University Park itself had a good community feeling (at least compared to Ft. Mead).

Changes over Time

There is more development (especially commercial or business), more animals, and more restaurants that don’t just appeal to college students. University Park itself has become more liveable and has retained the appeal that had attracted the interviewee in the first place.

Historic & Current Activities

Going to Wawas and Ratsy’s, letting cats roam free (increases in urban wildlife prevents this now), receiving subsidies to replant trees (this goes on to this day).

More going to Whole Foods and restaurants.

Additional Information

The foreign student population has risen some; more animals are being displaced and running into suburbs due to urban development; fewer crows, but blue jays have made come back; plenty of native species of plants and invasive ones, too.

Conversation Transcript

Interviewer: Okay. So, what do you remember from when you first moved here?

Interviewee: You mean what the neighborhood was like?

Interviewer: Yeah, just like some general I guess like impressions, you know.

Interviewee: Well, it’s a college town, and we live pretty close to the University of Maryland. But things like, there wasn’t grocery stores anywhere near us, so we had to either drive into Hyattsville or go up to Cherry Hill road in Silver Spring to go grocery shopping, which seemed kind of odd for such a highly populated place.

Interviewer: Okay. So compared to today, like today’s a lot more like, you know, stuff like that, more grocery stores and whatnot?

Interviewee: Oh yes. When we moved here, there wasn’t a Shoppers Food Warehouse yet. There was no Giant or Safeway or Whole Foods, of course. So there was a lot more running to…we had a Wawa convenient store that was like, had actual fruits and vegetables in it, so we would go to that, and sometimes farmer’s markets and stuff. But there was not as many restaurants, and the restaurants that were in the area were very much focused towards college student crowd, not really that much for families.

Interviewer: Okay. All right. So I guess, what is your favorite part about living here, you know, I guess?

Interviewee: Well, when we moved here, before here, we lived at Fort Meade, and before that we lived at Fort McPhearson, and so on. And when you live on army bases, all the houses are alike and all the walls are white and all the carpets beige. And we wanted to live in a neighborhood where the houses didn’t all look alike and there was trees and you could park in the driveway and not on the street, and it had like a nice neighborhood feel, and University Park really suited us for that.

Interviewer: So has that kind of feeling kind of changed over time? Like, the kind of variety, the kind of I guess good feelings you’re describing, has that changed much since 20 years ago?

Interviewee: No, I think it’s actually gotten better over the years here. We didn’t really miss not having a Whole Foods or, you know, so many restaurants at the time when we moved here because we hadn’t gotten…it’s like if you don’t know it, you don’t miss it. And we had little kids so we didn’t go out to eat that much, and stuff like that. But I think the area has just improved over the years, it’s become a much more livable neighborhood. And I think that College Park area is, I mean, it’s still dependent on the University of Maryland, but there’s more stuff going on than just that now.

Interviewer: Okay. All right. So, I guess kind of continuing off that, what do you miss about living here? What do you miss about…

Interviewee: The old days?

Interviewer: Yeah, the old days, you know, 20 years ago? Yeah.

Interviewee: What I miss is, you know, we had neighbors and friends who’ve moved away, and I miss them. But it’s not anything like when we lived on army bases. We went through five complete sets of neighbors in the two years that we lived at Fort Meade, you know, two and a half years rather. And it’s much more stable in University Park, people tend to stay around, sometimes for generations. But when you do get attached to somebody and they, you know, move away, they get a job somewhere else, whatever, you miss that. But as far as, you know, some of the old College Park landmarks, like there was a place called Ratsie’s that sold pizza that the people who were my age that went to the University of Maryland were sad because it was like a little hang out for them when they went to college. I don’t miss it because the pizza wasn’t that good. I’m very happy to have new and interesting places. And there’s so many people that either attend as students or work at the University of Maryland that are from other countries that the area around our neighborhood is really beginning to reflect that. When we first moved here, if you wanted Chinese food, you had to go to Greenbelt, and now there’s all sorts of options. And that is, I think, really nice.

Interviewer: So is there like more foreigners now, foreign students? Or is it just simply that happens there happens to be like more restaurants, more stuff accommodating them?

Interviewee: I think that there is probably more international students than there used to be, but there’s always been some international students. What I think has happened is that people who have either moved here from abroad or might be just particularly savvy business people see an opportunity to welcome, you know, all these international visitors to their restaurants and stuff. And if you’re… Like when I was in Germany, after a month or so, I was really happy to find a McDonald’s, you know. So if you’re from China, you might get really sick of American food after a month or two and are really happy to find a place that suits you, that has food from home.

Interviewer: Oh yeah. Of course. Let’s see. Oh, this is still going. That’s good. All right. So I guess one final question. What kind of plants and animals have you seen here, you know, because maybe like in…is it like any different, you know, compared to 20 years ago, I guess?

Interviewee: I think it is. Part of it’s because the development that’s surrounded us has displaced animals, you know, which is unfortunate for them. So when the Whole Foods complex was being built, all the deer and rabbits and foxes and stuff that lived over there had to go somewhere. Some I think followed stream bed and ended up in like Lake Artemesia area or something. The others came this way and then maybe eventually some ended up on the golf course. But for a long time after the construction began, we saw coyotes and foxes in abundance that we’d never seen before. And when they came into the neighborhood, people had to start making sure their cats came in, and you saw a big decline in squirrels and and rabbits. And several years ago, we used to have a lot of crows and blue jays. And then when there was the bird, was it West Nile virus or bird flu or something like that?

Interviewer: Something like that, yeah.

Interviewee: When that came through, for two or three years, we didn’t have any a birds like that. In the past couple years, we’ve…not so much crows, but the blue jays have come back. And then for plants, our town makes an effort to use native plants in landscaping, and they encourage people to, you know, plant trees, like they give a subsidy if your tree falls down to plant another one. So there’s a lot of beautiful, both native plants and like cultivated plants, but there’s also a lot of things like poison ivy and English ivy and Virginia creeper and bamboo, which are more invasive species that were fashionable to plant in the ’30s. And I wish they never had because I’m still yanking them up to this day.

Interviewer: Okay. All right. So I guess that’s that. We’re like eight and a half minutes in, so I guess that’s good enough.

Interviewee: All right.

Interviewer: All right. Thank you.

Interviewee: You’re welcome.

Interviewer: And that’s that.

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