Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Remembering Challenger

In 1986, on January 28, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded and broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

By then, space missions were no longer a big deal. They had become routine, and mainstream America wasn't paying much attention. To remedy some of that apathy, NASA had implemented the "teacher in space" initiative.

Christa McAuliffe was chosen to be the first teacher in space. As a result of her being on board, many school TVs were tuned to the 25th space shuttle flight that morning. Thousands of children watched the shuttle explode in real time.

I was on my way to work, having finished an early morning class at Virginia Western's Roanoke campus. I worked part-time at a law firm then. I knew the shuttle was launching so I turned on the radio to hear it.

I was on I-581 when the announcer said the shuttle had broken apart. I started crying and was crying when I reached the office. The other secretary was somber, having heard the news, but I had to pull it together and work. My first chore, as it was every day, was to drown a poor plant that one of the attorneys said had to be watered every single day. That day I watered it with my tears.

The space program today is nothing like it was when I was growing up. We don't send people to the International Space Station anymore - we send our folks up in rockets from other countries. Private companies have taken over what used to be government-sponsored work. The private companies are harder to root for. They are, after all, in it for money in some fashion or another.

The government was trying to beat the Russians. However, back then we were not so fearful, so terrified, nor so lazy. Back then, people wanted to explore new worlds, to reach out to others, to see and understand that we live on one great big blue-green world that we all must share, together with an infinite number of other species.

We don't think like that today. Our space efforts now are militarized; we want to shoot the aliens, not embrace them. We fear our own shadows and can't tell right from wrong any more. Live and let live is no longer the slogan of the day.

We lost a lot when we lost Challenger, but in the last 34 years, I think we've lost more than a space program.

I think we've lost ourselves as human beings.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Remembering Challenger

Thirty-three years ago today, the space shuttle, Challenger, blasted off from its dock in Florida at Cape Canaveral.

Seventy-three seconds into its voyage, it exploded. All seven people on board died.

When this happened, I was 23 years old. I was driving down Interstate 581 on my way to my part-time job after taking a class at Virginia Western Community College. Since I was an avid fan of the space program, I always watched the launches and I remember being upset that I was missing this launch of Challenger, which was taking the first teacher into space. Since I couldn't see it on TV, I listened to the radio report of the event.

I nearly wrecked the car when I heard the horror in the radio announcer's voice as he cried, "It's breaking up, it's breaking up! Oh my God!"

I began crying, sobbing hard even as I trudged into the office. No one there was aware of the tragedy and I had to beg the attorney to turn on a TV so I could see news footage. I was appalled that no one else at my workplace seemed to share my horror and dismay, but I remember it as well as I do any other national tragedy.

This was the 25th mission for a space shuttle and I fear that by this time it had become "routine" in the minds of the public. We flew into space - big deal. We had stopped expecting catastrophe.

Nothing is routine about a space flight, though. It was, and still is, a big deal. I consider our efforts to take humanity off of earth and into the stars our greatest achievement and our loftiest of goals.

two minutes of CNN footage of the shuttle blowing up is here; the news media missed the explosion and took too long to realize that something terrible had happened. I have hindsight on my side: I know when I see the smoke what exactly has happened. As the NASA spokesperson says, "obviously there was a major malfunction."

Whatever shrugs the space program had received up to this point disappeared quickly. This disaster was hard on the nation because Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, was on board. Millions of children were watching when Challenger suddenly burst into a ball of smoke and flame.

I admire people who put their life on the line so that we might venture out into the great unknown. The space program, now defunded and derided by those who eschew knowledge and education in favor of fiscal prudence and safety, gave mankind many great innovations. It saddens me that we no longer aim for the stars. We only seem to see the dollar bills floating around at our feet. We no longer look up or to the future.

The space program fostered hopes and dreams. The work gave humanity a sense of common purpose as exploration and accomplishments took place time and time again. If we could go into space, we could do anything. Space exploration was a tremendous step forward and an example of what we could accomplish when we worked together.

It was a glorious time in our history, even when bad things such as the Challenger explosion occurred. We stood for something. We believed in science. We were civilized.

I salute all of those heroes who set off in search of something more than themselves. May we find that bravery once again in this country, which now seems to be a land of cowards, bullies, and bigots, not soul-searchers who would walk amongst the stars.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Tingler's Mill

Tingler's Mill is a restored grist mill located in Paint Bank, in Craig County, Virginia. The mill has been restored with a working wheel and sluice, but the interior is still in need of work. Renovations appear to be ongoing and have been for nearly two decades.

While this structure dates to 1873, a mill has been in this location since 1783. Colonel William Preston of Virginia, (well-known to most Botetourt Countians) established the grist mill for corn and wheat in Paint Bank. "The grist mill sits on Potts Creek, on property originally owned by Revolutionary War hero Colonel William Preston. Colonel Preston was given the land grants in 1780 for his service in the war," states information at the mill.

At that time, the mill was located in Botetourt County, Virginia. Then the land became part of Monroe County, Virginia, in 1851. Craig County was formed in 1863 when West Virginia became a state, and the property was in West Virginia for a time before being returned to Virginia. Because of these changes, Paint Bank and this mill have been in two different states and five different counties without ever having been moved.

Through the years since the American Revolution, ownership of the mill changed several times, and in the 1970s it became known as "Tingler's Mill".

It is open to the public for viewing.

The restored mill building.

A history of the mill.

A little carriage beside the mill.

The recreated sluice and water wheel.

A little known piece of information - back in the early 2000s, I was commissioned to research the history of this mill for the current owner. I have no proof of this, of course, as the person who hired me was an employee and I presume no longer there. I don't remember her name anyway. I do remember doing the work.

I just hope I had the facts right.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cape Henry Lighthouses

Our trip to Virginia Beach was different for us. For one thing, we never went into the ocean and barely set foot in the sand.

The weather was great - it never warmed above 76 or so, with cool evenings. There weren't a lot of folks on the beach, so we were not alone in looking for other things to do in the area.

We like history so we set out on Friday, October 20, to see the Cape Henry lighthouses.

The oldest of the two lighthouses there, which is also one of the oldest in the nation, is the first federally funded lighthouse. The government built it to guide maritime commerce at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It stands near the “First Landing” site where English settlers arrived in 1607.

The structure, authorized by George Washington and overseen by Alexander Hamilton, was completed in 1792. It was designed by New York architect John McComb and it was used for about 100 years before being replaced by a cast iron lighthouse that still stands about 100 yards away.

Preservation Virginia acquired the Cape Henry Lighthouse in 1930. Over the years lighthouse and its surroundings have been restored including repairing the lantern after damage from Hurricane Barbara in 1953, repairing the damaged original Aquia sandstone and restoring the surrounding dunes.

Visitors to the Cape Henry Lighthouse can climb to the top of the tower.

Our first surprise occurred at the entrance. We thought this was a historic site - which it is - but it is also part of Fort Story, an active military base.

To get in to see the lighthouses, you must be searched and you must allow your car to be searched. If you go beyond a certain point, you will be arrested and charged with trespassing.

This is not exactly the welcome I've come to expect at historic sites.

When you accept the four-hour "historic site access pass" from the soldiers who declare you fit for entrance, you agree not to use text messaging or hands-free cellular telephones and to only photograph the historic sites.

This happy little dolphin greets you.

It immediately becomes not so happy when you realize
you're on a military base.

You were not supposed to take photos of personnel. I
took these photos before I was told that and I have
altered the faces and the license tag of the car in front
of us.

This is the original 1792 lighthouse.

This is both lighthouses as you approach them from the

This is the new lighthouse. I don't think
it is in use.

No clue what the other buildings beside the lighthouse are.

The old lighthouse.

A nice poster in the gift shop.

The lighthouses from the backside.

The old lighthouse from the back side.
I had never been searched before. It was intimidating though the soldiers were polite. They asked if we had any weapons and I produced a tiny little knife that I use sometimes to trim my nail cuticles with, and the guy waved it away like it was a plastic fork. My husband had his pocket knife and produced that, which was also waved away. Our drugs consisted of our prescriptions, and the only other thing in the car was my MS Surface which wasn't working so we'd stowed it in the trunk.

I would not have consented to any kind of body search but they didn't ask to do one. I would have asked to turn around and be allowed to leave had I been told that would be necessary. No one is touching me without reason, which is why I don't expect to ever get on an airplane again. I don't consider searching me - because that implies I have done something when I have not - to be a good reason to feel me up. I still believe in innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. Searches assume you are guilty. (For the record, it is also why I don't go to many things at the local coliseum - I hate the searches, especially when they make women open their pocket books while the men walk in with guns holstered to their ankles, something I have personally observed. How stupid is that?)

The one thing it showed me is that the "land of the free" - isn't. And anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool.

I did wonder why, since there was a vast expanse of land between the historic areas and the closest military buildings, they didn't just move the checkpoints back behind the historic areas so the public could access them without all the rigmarole.

Anyway, this colored my appreciation of the historic structure quite a bit, and not in a good way.

It is nice that it is still there, though.

It is not so nice that my government considers me guilty of something simply because I want to see a historic structure that my tax dollars are keeping up. I'm sure others see searches like this differently, and simply accept it, but this is why I am not like everybody else. I have never been one to abide by arbitrary rules and accept the status quo.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Preston Medal

Last week I attended an event about Greenfield, a former plantation in my county that is now an industrial park.

The Botetourt Center at Greenfield is a 922 acre site the county purchased for $4.5 million in 1995.  The land was divided into an industrial area, a parks and recreation area, and a school area.  The county built Greenfield Elementary School and the Greenfield Education and Training Center in 2000.  The county completed a couple of ball fields and built a $3 million sports complex at the Recreation Center at Greenfield.  Two industries located in the industrial area; one left, that building has now become a brewery. There is also a "pad-ready" site that a business could build a structure upon. It was available for several years with no takers. Supposedly a company from Italy is going to build there, but the last time I was by there - about six weeks ago - no construction was underway.

In late 2015 there was a big brouhaha over the supervisors decision to move historic structures on the property to a place they deemed more appropriate for a historic/visitors center area. One of the arguments they used to justify moving these structures was traffic. People shouldn't be moving through an industrial park, they said. Interestingly, the new brewery, which purchased an empty building not long after the historic structures were moved, is going to have 300-seat restaurant. So I guess that having people driving in and out of an industrial park really wasn't the reason.

When the supervisors' efforts to remove the historic structures became known, a group calling themselves the Friends of Greenfield/Preston Plantation sprang up. I was a part of that in a peripheral way. First I wrote letters to the editor of the local weekly to keep it in the public eye, and once people finally woke up and realized they needed to move, I set up a Facebook page and managed it for a short time. I also made monetary donations and took photos.

The slave quarters at Greenfield,
being prepped for moving. Photo taken December 30, 2015.

The slave quarters at Greenfield. Photo taken December 30, 2015.

Greenfield was once owned by Colonel William Preston, a Botetourt County statesman and a Revolutionary War hero. The structures that the supervisors moved despite public opposition were pre-Civil War and included a slave dwelling and kitchen.

The farm was called Greenfield Plantation, named so in 1761. William Preston moved from Greenfield to Drapers Meadows in 1774. He represented Botetourt County in Virginia’s House of Burgess in the 1760s, before there was a United States.  He was a pioneer and a soldier who defended the Virginia frontier during the Revolutionary War.

Preston's son, John, also a Revolutionary War soldier and a Botetourt County statesman, became owner of the Greenfield farm after William Preston and his wife died. The Preston family owned Greenfield through seven generations and sold the land in the late 20th century.

The Greenfield mansion burned in 1959, and it is thought that part of the original log structure existed until that time.

The Friends of Greenfield last week showed off some of the more than 13,000 artifacts that archeologists and volunteers dug up during a hurried three-week dig last year.

I'm not sure what these things are but the archeologists have been busy cataloging this stuff. The hope is that eventually there will be some kind of museum at Greenfield. I am not holding my breath.

Lisa Farmer was one of the group leaders.

Danny Kyle, who I later found out is my cousin, was
also one of the group leaders.

Rupert Cutler, a well-known Roanoker, is working on the
supervisor-appointed Greenfield Commission.

After remarks and discussion, some of which included financial concerns as there are still bills to pay for the archeology study, the group handed out medals they had made to folks who had played at role in attempting to preserve Greenfield's history.

They very kindly gave me one.

The fate of the historic area at Greenfield lies in the hands of the Greenfield Commission appointed by the supervisors, and the supervisors, of course. I do not know if the community has the will to push to have this historic preservation area funded and placed. We have lots of folks who are always yelling about taxes and what they consider to be unimportant expenditures, so I guess it will depend upon who screams the loudest.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Thursday Thirteen: Canning Companies

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, local farmers had canneries. At one time in my area there were nearly 200 canneries. Most of them put up tomatoes. Around 1919, this area was the second-largest tomato-production area in the nation (a county in Maryland was first).

A blight came through and killed much of the tomato crop, and in so doing made the ground unproductive for tomatoes (even today it is hard to grow tomatoes here). The blight crushed the industry, and those who survived the blight then suffered after World War II from government regulations as big farming and packaging companies took over and put the smaller farming industries out of business.

The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum in Ferrum, VA currently has a display of labels from these many companies. Each little cannery had it's own label for cans and packing crates. These labels are all from my little part of the world.

The labels were very colorful and unique.
Each farmer created his own design and brand.
Many of these family names can still be found in the area today.
The labels described the product as "mountain grown"
or used some other descriptive advertisement.

This explains how the canneries grew and then collapsed.

Farmers also grew and canned apples, sweet potatoes, and
 other fruits and vegetables.
This is what a cannery looked like. Many of these old buildings can still be found in the area.
These labels were used on packing crates.
A tree of cans with the labels still attached. Each one is different.
Three local cans from my community.

The collection is on display courtesy of Mr. Charlie Woods, who has generously donated his collection
to the Blue Ridge Institute.
Many of the labels were made in nearby Bedford by the Piedmont Label Company. It is
still in business under another name.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Historical Archives

Back in 2010, I wrote about all of the photos from The Fincastle Herald that were stored in plastic tubs.

At the time I was sifting through them, I and another history lover were contemplating a book together. However, I went back to college to finish up my masters degree, and she is pursuing a book on her own now, something different from what we had contemplated.

So the tubs of photos went into my barn, because I had no place else to store them. The newspaper office had no place to store them, either, and in fact the former newspaper owners had instructed the editor to throw the photos out.

But he had saved them, and until they were in my barn, they were in his.

Last spring, I was at a Botetourt Farm Bureau Women's Committee meeting when they mentioned they were eager to locate old photos of agriculture in the county. So I told them what was in the barn.

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from Gwen Ikenberry, co-president of the Women's Committee. They were ready to deal with these pictures.

So we hauled them over to the Farm Bureau office.

There were nine tubs of photos. About half were loose and the other half were in folders with dates on them.

We set up apple boxes, courtesy of Ikenberry's Orchards, and created 21 different categories for the photos.

This is Elizabeth, who greatly enjoyed the work of sorting the pictures.

It was rather fun, for there was no way to not run across pictures of places and people you knew.

It was like a party all week, with various people in and out, putting pictures in boxes.

This is Gwen, who arranged everything and even took time off from work to deal with the pictures.

This is Toni, who also helped a lot.

I spent about eight hours over there helping to sort photos, but felt that was all the time I could give to the project. This was mostly because the old photos have a smell to them and were causing problems with my asthma, which I could ill afford. People don't realize how sick that makes me or how long it takes me to recover. 

In any event, the photos were sorted out, and some of the boxes went out to various historic groups, towns, or other civic organizations interested in preserving the pictures. The Farm Bureau Women's Committee kept all of the agriculture-related photos for their various projects.

Those with photos have been instructed to scan them and return them to the newspaper editor, where they will join the other unused photos.

Those unused photos went back into the newspaper editor's barn, where perhaps some day they will again see the light, and other folks with history on their minds will oo and ahh over the visuals.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blast from the Past

Yesterday I had the honor and privilege of running into an old high school teacher. Her name is Tina, and she taught me Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Trig. I was an A student and yes, teacher's pet.

She was a hard teacher, with the reputation to match it. I loved her and thought she was the best math teacher ever.

We have kept in touch all of these years, sending annual Christmas cards. In the last card, I noted that I wrote this blog, and Tina told me yesterday that she'd been reading it every day!

I was so surprised. What a wonderful compliment. She also told me to get off my butt and write my book. I wonder if that will be the nudge I need?

Below is a column I wrote in 2009 for The Fincastle Herald about my favorite teacher. I never put it on my blog but I will do so today, except I will leave out last names, since I don't want to post them on the Internet.

Students who attended Lord Botetourt from 1972 to 1984 might remember Tina F., one of the math teachers. I studied under her for three years, taking Algebra and Trigonometry.

Mrs. F. was either the dragon lady or one of the best teachers ever, depending upon your point of view.

I know quite a few students tend to recall her as the former while I always have thought of her as the latter.

She was a strict teacher and her subject matter was difficult. She expected and demanded the very best from her students. If you didn’t give it, she would know why. If you were capable of “A” work then you’d better darn well get that grade.

She was also very interested in her students and spent mornings, lunch and time after school helping me and others to learn the intricacies of X+Y-Z=3 or other unintelligible equations.

Mrs. F. had a strong voice and an even stronger personality. You knew when she was in the room. You didn’t dare misbehave for her wrath was real and fearsome.

I thought she was wonderful.

I was a teacher’s pet, I admit. I did my homework, I studied and I made good grades. Other kids called me names like “computer head” (or brainiac, as a cousin recently reminded me when I thoroughly trounced her in a word game on Facebook).

Teachers praised my work ethic and I lapped it up. Mrs. F. was judicious with her words and thus praise from her meant a great deal. I had earned it.

I turned to her for guidance for important and upsetting national events, like the murder of John Lennon and the shooting of President Ronald Reagan. I also went to her with personal issues, like a dating.

“You are one of the few that has spent 3 years with me and is still alive!” she wrote in my senior album.

She even took me out for a steak dinner to celebrate my graduation when the time came. She was the least surprised of all of my teachers when I chose not to go straight to college but instead decided to work a year. She didn’t blink when just a few months later I let her know I was getting married.

She knew me well.

As for Mrs. F., she remarried, becoming Tina W. It took me a long time to get used to her new name.

We stayed in touch with Christmas cards. She left LB to go to Roanoke City Schools, where she eventually worked her way up to assistant principle at Lucy Addision.

Her father for a time was head of the Roanoke City Fire Department where my husband worked. It was another bond between my old teacher and me. When he passed away in 1995 I went with my spouse to the funeral.

Tina told me later that when she’d given her father’s eulogy, she had been pleased to look out at a sea of firemen in uniform and see me amongst them, a favorite student from the past honoring her loss.

This December Tina sent me her cell phone number with my Christmas card. “I’m retired now. Let’s have lunch,” she wrote.

We met recently at Shakers for a reunion. She looked exactly like she did in high school, with her hair cut short and very few wrinkles. She pulled in the parking lot driving a hot little two-seater and I recalled she drove something similar when she taught at LB.

I could scarcely believe it had been over 25 years since I was her student. I can hardly find the words to say how grateful I am for her interest in me, then and now.

She has never been a dragon lady to me.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Remembering Challenger

Twenty-seven years ago today, the space shuttle, Challenger, took off from its dock in Florida.

Seventy-three seconds into its voyage, it exploded.

I was 23 years old at the time. I remember I was driving down Interstate 581 on my way to my part-time job after taking a class at Virginia Western Community College. I was listening to the radio report of the launch of Challenger, a space shuttle which would be taking a teacher into space.

I nearly wrecked the car when I heard the horror in the radio announcer's voice as he cried, "It's breaking up, it's breaking up! Oh my God!"

I cried so hard I could hardly make it into the office. No one else there seemed to share my horror and dismay, but I remember it as well as I do any other national tragedy.

You can watch two minutes of CNN footage here; the news media missed it a bit by not realizing that something terrible had happened. Of course, I have hindsight on my side: I know when I see the explosion what exactly has happened. As the NASA spokesperson says, "obviously there was a major malfunction."

This explosion and loss of a space shuttle was particularly hard on the nation because Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, was on board. Lots of children were watching when Challenger suddenly burst into a ball of smoke and flame. All seven on board perished.

I have long been a fan of the space program and an admirer of people who would put their life on the line so that we might venture out into the great unknown. The space program, now defunded and derided by those who eschew knowledge and education in favor of fiscal prudence and safety, gave mankind many great innovations.

It also fostered hopes and dreams, and gave humanity a sense of purpose as exploration and accomplishments took place time and time again. If we could go into space, we could do anything. Space exploration was a tremendous step forward and an example of what we could accomplish when we worked together toward a common goal.

It was a glorious time in our history, even when bad things such as the Challenger explosion occurred.

I salute all of those heroes who set off in search of something more than themselves.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Thursday Thirteen

Do you ever wonder how much things change? Consider these headlines, ripped from the pages of a local newspaper.

1. Local Farm Records Show High Seed Cost
2. Work Goes Forward on Triton Plant
3. Make Virginia Stronger Aim of Home Economists and Nutritionists Joint Meeting
4. Town Council Considers Water Supply
5. Coal Mine Project Abandoned
6. Help in the Fight on Infantile Paralysis
7. Schools Face Shortened Term
8. Flu Receding
9. County Banks Paid Dividends and Added to Reserves: Local Bank Had Good Year
10. Eagle Rock Farmers Hear Talk on Farm Water Systems
11. Schools in this Area Closed by Quarantine
12. Earl Wilcher is First Draftee from Botetourt
13. Botetourt Goes for Roosevelt and Woodrum

That last might clue you in on the year. I took these headlines from November 7, 1940 (#13 in my list) through February 20, 1941 (#1 on my list).

While I was looking for headlines, though, these little proganda cartoons caught my eye. They are from the same front pages during the same time frame:

In 1940 and 1941, war was taking place in Europe. When these headlines were written, we were still almost a year away from entering World War II, which we did in December, 1941, after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Looks to me like we forgot to change the propoganda when the war ended.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 253rd time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.