Doyenne of Maryland County Horse Sports is Named 2000 Maryland Horse Woman of the Year
By: Ross Peddicord
Alyne Carroll, the first woman to own and operate a saddle shop in Maryland (and The Surrey is now the second oldest tack store in Marland), is now the first woman to be honored as Maryland Horse Person of the Year.
The Surrey & Horses—A Way of Life
At 87, “Mrs. C,” as she is known to many generations of Washington area horse folk, rarely misses a day of work, where she accounts for keeping tabs on “the box,” (The Surrey’s daily receipts). Her name is virtually synonymous with Potomac Village, where, The Surrey, founded in 1953, is the oldest shop in the village and has been a longtime employer of many young (and not so young) horse folk in Montgomery County. Currently, the store is open seven days a week and employs 15-18 people (full and part timers). Although it must seem that every young girl once worked at Surrey during school breaks, Mrs. C has cultivated a fierce loyalty amongst many of her long time employees, with Mary Jane Hensley boasting the longest tenure of 35 years.
Mrs. C’s life in equine activities has paralleled the growth of Potomac as the ultimate spot for horse and hunting activity in the Washington suburban area. She has literally “seen it all,” from the flourishing of the Potomac hunt, (which became formally recognized during the Depression), to the advent of the Potomac Hunt Races, the Potomac Horse Center, the Potomac Polo Club, the Washington International Horse Show, the Washington Bridle Trails Association and various area pony and 4-H clubs. When Mrs. Carroll and her husband, William, wanted to explore territory beyond Potomac, they kept horses and hunted for a dozen years with Gilmore Flautt and the New Market Hounds, where Mrs. C is still and honorary member of the New Market-Middletown pack.
But Mrs. Carroll did more than just watch these institutions grow and flourish; she has been at the hub of the activity the whole time, either as a long time whipper-in for the hunt, a rider at the races and at horse shows, or as the ultimate authority on the correct attire for hunting and showing, serving both the faithful locals and the glitterati of Washington. Pat Nixon outfitted her daughters for their riding lessons in The Surrey’s attic (the second hand shop). Jackie O was a frequent customer, as well as Marilyn Quayle, and Queen Noor, when she’s in town, is another frequent client.
Visiting Mrs. Carroll at The Surrey is more akin to visiting a charming Southern hostess, for whom everyone is either “just a darling,” “a real doll,” and everything is “absolutely lovely.” In fact, The Surrey hosts several parties each year, including a legendary Christmas Eve party, which is attended just has much by friends and by loyal locals as it is by customers.
So it is easy to see why Mrs. C likes to think of The Surrey more as a service than a shop. “I have one customer from England who comes to us just to buy our lamps,” Mrs. Carroll said. “Why, I [used to have] customers drop off their children for us to baby-sit. It used to be the area—children rode their ponies here. In fact, I’ve even had them bring the ponies in the store.”
In addition to its top-of-the-line selection of tack and strap goods, riding attire and hard o find hunting extras. (The Surrey is one of the few, if not the only, shop in Maryland to keep in stock jacket buttons for recognized hunt clubs), The Surrey is famous for its enticing array of china, silver, books, quirky gifs, unusual cards and precious objects, all usually with a country or sporting theme, and is a popular spot for brides-to-be to register for “just the right thing.”
The shop is also famous for “The Surrey Dogs” (Juice the whippet, Macbeth the lab, Molly the mini-Fox Terrier, and Flurry the Jack Russell) who come to work with their owners. The “Surrey Dogs” have become so famous that they will be featured in the souvenir program for the “An Affair of the Heart” fundraiser luncheon for the American Heart Association, hosted by the National Capital Area Women’s Board, of which Mrs. C has been an active member for decades. Scattered around the store are pictures of bygone Surrey pets.
In The Beginning…
It all started in 1944, when Bill Carroll presented her with “Diamond” and asked her to marry him.
“My mother asked me if I received a diamond for my engagement,” Mrs. Carroll recalled, “I told her ‘yes and it weighs 1,200 pounds!’”
And since then, horse sports and all the accouterments that go with it, including a dashing husband who played polo and was a Master of the Potomac Hunt, have been the loves of her life.
The Carrolls met on a blind date, when Lyn, originally from north Alabama, worked at the Treasury Department, and Bill, from Ohio, was in the Navy.
“When we got married, Bill brought 18 horses with him from Cleveland and we leased the Fisher Farm, now he site of the Montgomery Mall,” she recalled.
“In 1947, the house burned down, and we lost everything in it, including all of our lovely wedding presents.”
Bill Carroll started Carroll Real Estate and had an office on the corner of Falls and River Roads, across from The Surrey’s present location. Sam Bogley, who became a prominent developer and subscriber of Potomac Hunt, became Bill’s partner. At various times, Potomac Hunt met on the corner of Falls and River.
“Anita Bogley [Sam’s wife] always wanted to have a gift shop, even thought she had a big farm, three children, and lots of animals and no time for it,” Mrs. C recalled. So, she talked me into being a partner. At that time, all I wanted to do was hunt.”
The women started the shop in a location behind their husband’s real estate business. Portraits of Bill Carroll, who died five years ago, and Sam Bogley, shown with favorite hound, Tweet Tweet, sill hang in The Surrey.
When the shop started, “we couldn’t think of a name for it,” Mrs. Carroll said. “Then Sam and Anita took a vacation to Bermuda and one of the first things they saw when they got off the plane was a horse-drawn surrey, and that was it; we were The Surrey. For many years, I had an actual surrey sitting in front of the store, and the children just loved to play on it.”
The store was a success right off the mark. “We sold out of everything that first day!” recalled Mrs. C, “everything except for a set of fish plates. Anne Christmas, I remember, ended up buying those fish plates.”
That was 47 years ago this July 14. In 1959, The Surrey moved across the street to its present location. In 1966, Anita Bogley died and left her half of the store to her three daughters. Mrs. C bought them out. If you asked her then if she thought she would still be in business in 2000, the answer would have been a resounding ‘no!’ “I never intended to make a career out of this,” she declared.
“Mrs. C is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met, as well as extremely energized, vibrant and highly exacting,” said Kay Titus, who operates the country clothing, china and finery department of The Surrey. “I used to love to watch her pop in and out of the woods when she was a whip. She was an agile and very talented rider.”
Her “pure grit,” said family member Cissy Finely Grant, is legendary.
“I remember she rode a horse a Margaret Cotter’s in the very first Potomac Hunt Races,” Grant said. “The horse was so tired that Lyn got off the horse, pulled the horse up the hill, and won the race!”
Grant also said that long after Lyn started being plagued by/with arthritis, she kept on hunting; “When she couldn’t hold the reins in her hands, she wrapped them around her wrists.”
Mrs. Carroll finally quit hunting in her seventies when her favorite hunt mare, Precious, died.
Last fall, Grant recalls, Mrs. C marched, at age 87, the entire route of the annual Potomac Day Parade during Halloween Weekend with her fellow members of the Daughters of the American Revolution. “I still don’t know how she did it,” Grant said.
When asked if she ever toyed with the idea of retiring and moving to a warmer climate, perhaps Florida, Mrs. C. looked as if the thought had never crossed her mind. “Oh, I love to visit Florida,” she said. “But I’d certainly never live there with all those old people.”