Goodbye to Raljon, and good riddance; Landover welcomes end to Cooke creation


RALJON -- This hamlet of 81,000 part-time inhabitants will disappear next week, peeled from local history like an old decal from a car window.

The neighbors say good riddance.

Daniel Snyder, new owner of the Washington Redskins football team, is restoring Raljon to Landover.

Born in the spring of 1996 on 200 acres of Prince George's County farmland next to the Capital Beltway, Raljon was the football kingdom of Jack Kent Cooke, the mercurial and powerful owner of the Redskins. He stitched together the names of sons Ralph and John in naming the turf beneath his stadium and the vast expanses of blacktop surrounding it.

The U.S. Postal Service even bestowed its blessing -- not only accepting the name Raljon, but granting Cooke's request for an exclusive four-digit extension to the Landover ZIP code.

Landoverites were not amused.

"It was a slap in the face to Prince George's citizens," says Bonnie Beck, vice president of the county's Chamber of Commerce. "He renamed something that already had a name. He was saying to us, 'This is my own little fiefdom. Don't cross over the moat.' "

There is no Raljon Diner. No Raljon Cleaners. No Raljon Town Council. The name never passed through the lips of locals -- unless the upper one was curled in disgust.

"Landover is Landover, by golly. It doesn't matter what he wanted to call it," says Dr. Harry Nichiporuk, owner of the Landover Animal Hospital, who never entertained the idea of changing his 27-year-old practice to conform to Cooke's vision.

The locals bided their time through the construction of the $160-million, 81,000-seat stadium.

Ralph Cooke died before Jack Kent Cooke Stadium was built. The senior Cooke died in 1997 before it opened. And John Cooke was outbid for ownership of the team by Snyder, who never pledged allegiance to Raljon.

When Snyder removes Cooke's name from the stadium next week (it's gone from the stationery), renaming it Redskins Stadium for now, he also will dissolve Raljon.

"I'm delighted," says Beck. "I think things will quickly go back to the way they were."

Postal officials haven't gotten a request to remove Raljon as an entity, and its ZIP code, from computerized mail-sorting equipment, but spokeswoman Deborah Yackley says they anticipate one.

"We'll just kind of retire it," she says. "It's much easier to take one away than add one."

And history will little remember Jack Kent Cooke's foray into colonialism.

"I would imagine we'll make note of it in our files as part of the mystique of Jack Kent Cooke," says Jane Eagen, president of the Prince George's County Historical Society. "But I don't think it would meet the criteria of a historic site."

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