A couple of weeks ago, during the Festival of the Book, City Councilor Kristin Szakos was attending a talk by historian and University of Richmond president Edward Ayers, in which he talked about the importance of talking about the Civil War in intellectually honest terms throughout its 150th anniversary. During the Q&A period, Szakos—an attendee like any other—asked if Ayers thought he believed that statues honoring the Confederacy should be removed. In response to that question—apparently not an assertion or a suggestion, but a question—some folks freaked out.
At tonight’s City Council meeting, Szakos lamented the hateful e-mails and phone calls that she’d received after her remarks, Graham Moomaw writes for the Progress, saying that one caller informed Szakos’
daughter child that her mother was a “fucking whore who needs to get her fucking hands off our heritage.” Of course, it can’t be known which ugly responses came from local folks, and which came from pro-confederacy and white supremacy groups. Szakos asked that people tone down the rhetoric and leave her family alone, which seems like a tough request to object to.
Today I got my hair cut at Staples’, picked up some carpentry supplies at Martin, and had lunch at Riverside, and that set me to wondering about which local business is the oldest.
Martin Hardware seemed like a good place to start. They were founded in 1893. But Timberlake’s, as their sign informs all who pass by, was established in 1890. Keller & George promotes their 1875 founding in radio ads. My insurance agent, Hanckel-Citizens, was founded a few years earlier, in 1872. After half an hour of thinking about this and googling around, I can’t come up with any older local business that’s still running, without interruption, and hasn’t been bought up by a larger business.
Now, of course, my curiosity is piqued, and I have to imagine that I’m overlooking something. Do you know of a business that’s older than Hanckel-Citizens?
UVA is planning to take down the big magnolias on either side of the Rotunda, Ted Strong writes in the Daily Progress, and some people aren’t thrilled about it. The enormous trees are slated for removal in order to allow scaffolding to be put up around the building, so that the leaky roof can be replaced. (The scaffolding, interestingly, will support a tent to cover the roofless Rotunda.) The trees are thought to have been planted about a century ago, but it’s not clear if they’re really the same trees or replacements. Ironically, the trees could be contributing to the building’s troubles; as evergreens, they leave the building in shade year-round, preventing evaporation of rainwater. A student petition opposing the removal of the trees has garnered over 2,000 signatures.
In 1994—the year that Fellini’s shut down—I was sixteen years old. That was the summer that I started to spend all of my waking hours downtown, and I knew Fellini’s only as something legendary that I’d just missed taking part in. The restaurant’s reputation for debauchery and its position as a hub of the downtown social scene were and remain legendary, but it’s remained in the realm of oral tradition until recently. Over the past two weeks, C-Ville Weekly has published a two-part series of J. Tobias Beard, “The (Mostly) True Story of Fellini’s” and Here’s Looking at You, Chief.” I found these to be fascinating reads, and learned both that Fellini’s was far more interesting than I’d ever known and that, if I had been able to hang out there, my parents probably should have been investigated by social services. I’m tempted to summarize the story here, to pique your interest, but I couldn’t possibly. It’s got sex, drugs, murder, crime, and a whole lot more, and concludes with Beard tracking down Chief Gordon in L.A.
This is the sort of story that, I’ve found, is a sort of a litmus test. One group of people will find this terribly exciting, and another will find it exhausting and self-indulgent. Chalk me up as an enthusiastic member of the former.
My friend Rosanna Bencoach recently scanned in a few bits of memorabilia from the Ridge Drive-In Theater, which her father managed from 1953–1965, and she’s kind enough to let me share them here. Although I’m a generation too young to have ever gone there, I’m told the theater was adjacent to Hydraulic, between the bypass and 29, or basically where Kroger and Dominion Power are located now. Here’s a colorized black and white aerial photo, taken in the late fifties:
You can also see scans of the April 1964 and August 1961 movie schedules, with features including The Facts of Life (starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball), West Side Story, Flipper, and Gidget Goes to Rome.