Found 1938 Film Provides a Glimpse of the Newly Restored Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg is all about providing a glimpse back in time of life during the period of our country’s birth. An 81-year-old home movie film that was just discovered, it seems, provides us with a glimpse back of the early days of Colonial Williamsburg, as restored by Dr. William Goodwin, John D. Rockefeller, and company.

Filmed in 1938 and found in a storage locker just outside of Washington D.C., the black-and-white, 8mm film was acquired by Dallas Moore of the Forgotten Now Found website, along with a variety of other films from the same source.

The film was digitized and an edited version has just been released, showing scenes taken by someone visiting the historic city to attend a christening, taking shots of various locales including the Capitol, the Governor’s Palace, the Courthouse, the Magazine, and Bruton Parish Church. The restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, which began in the late 1920s, was still underway at the time this video was taken, the Governor’s Palace having been restored less than five years prior to its filming.

Such a glimpse of the early days of that which provides us a glimpse of the early days of our country is a rare and novel thing, indeed.

( This post has been updated to include the occasion of the video, a christening, as confirmed in the comments. )

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Remembering Fun Times at The Rink in York County

Newspaper ad for The Rink from July 1984 Daily PressSome of the first birthday parties with friends, held out at a venue, that I remember involved rollerskating at a proper local roller rink. I can recall the first, which was with a group of school friends over at the Plaza Roller Rink in Hampton, in the third grade, perhaps (1980 or so). I loved skating parties because I could go “look cool” out there in the swirly, dark rink with loud music and disco lights in full effect. There was also the arcade corner (the first place I ever played Tempest) which was great fun, and the concession stand with plenty of sodas and greasy junk-food. If I was feeling crazy enough, I’d order a “Suicide,” a drink where they mixed all…the sodas…together! It was madness and it was awesome.

I didn’t get to visit Plaza very often though, as we lived in York County and it was way over on the far side of Hampton. Before long, however, a closer alternative popped up near home that greatly increased the frequency with which I could go skate with my friends: The Rink on George Washington Memorial Highway in Grafton.

Newspaper clipping from March 10, 1983 Daily Press about The Rink opening

From Daily Press, Thursday, March 10, 1983

The Rink Family Skating Center was opened in early 1983 by Dr. Ralph R. Novoa at the site of his former Peninsula Bargain Mall, a 12,000-square-foot warehouse that never really caught on with locals and closed its doors in early 1982. The recreational establishment was managed by Karen and Dave Emerson and Carman Quinn, daughter of owner Novoa.

Picture of skate rental counter at The RinkThe Rink had a rental counter along the right wall and a snack bar and an arcade room in the back. There was a definite feeling that things were done somewhat on the cheap there; the video games were titles I’d never heard of (I’m pretty sure one of the games on hand was Eagle, which I never saw before or since), the purple-painted rink floor could’ve been a lot smoother, and various other little details like that could be noticed. It didn’t matter though — the place was enormous fun and it was close enough to home that I was able to visit quite frequently.

In May of 1985 my family and I moved from the Dandy neighborhood in York County to Kingspointe in Williamsburg, and I’m afraid I never made it back to The Rink after that. I have such great memories of hanging out with friends in that place, and of that time in my life in general, really. I would love to hear about any memories readers might have of their visits to The Rink in the comments section.

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This mini-post links to a post on Nostlgic Virginian's sister website, Byte Cellar, a vintage computing blog. It is included here becuase the post in question is significantly tied to happenings or locales in the state of Virginia.

LINK: Memories of a Local Software Rental Shop

Memories of Snow Sledding at Harwood’s Mill in York County

Living in a hilly Alexandria neighborhood as we do, when winter rolls in and the snow starts to fall, my daughter and her friends can usually have a bit of sledding fun in the yards or down at the park. Sledding with her naturally takes my mind back to when I was a kid enjoying the snow. And when it came to sledding, I had it pretty good.

York County, where I grew up, is for the most part devoid of hills. It’s quite flat. Because of this, when the snow fell people grabbed their sleds and headed to the biggest hill around: an elevation on the east bank of the Harwood’s Mill Reservoir along George Washington Memorial Highway in Tabb, VA.

This was a perfect spot for sledding. The hill was substantial; it was tall and very wide, and of an even slope along its entire width. At the bottom where the hill leveled out were a few willow trees one had to be mindful of, and then a flat area where one could decelerate without fear of flying onto the highway.

I have memories of sledding there, usually with my father and some friends, on many occasions over the years. Sometimes I had a proper sled with me, sometimes just a sheet of cardboard. Always, I had fun.

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Remembering Rice’s Fossil Pit in Hampton, Virginia

My daughter, Rory, is a fifth grade Alexandria public school student with just a few months left before making the big jump to middle-school. Recently she had a field trip with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in order to study, first hand, the plant and animal life of the bay. Thinking about this called up memories of school field trips I took when I was her age. Growing up in the Hampton Roads area, many of my field trips were related to the bay and its wildlife. But the one field trip that stands out as my favorite of them all was to a rather unique treasure of Hampton Roads: Rice’s Fossil Pit.

I had been a student at Hampton Roads Academy only a few months when the trip happened as part of Mrs. Sailor’s sixth-grade science class, as I recall. We were told ahead of time to bring in a digging implement of some sort. I remember going to A&N with my mother and finding a military-style collapsible shovel / pick, which I still have today.

We bussed out there, down Fox Hill Rd. to Harris Creek Rd. ( map ), and as we pulled up to park all I could see was trees. As I approached on foot, however, the pit revealed itself. It was a striking sight — 70 feet deep and a huge distance across with terraces along the edges winding down at different heights. I remember feeling amazed and awed at the site of it.

Jan Rice, daughter in-law of the man who brought this pit to the public (more on that in a moment) recently described the experience of the pit in a manner with which I completely agree.

“To me, it was always like walking back through time into the prehistoric era,” says Rice, who accompanied her mother-in-law into the pit almost every day for an evening stroll.

“When you looked around, it was almost unbelievable. It was like being in a different world.”

We wound our way to the bottom of the pit and began digging. The prospect of finding something ancient was extremely exciting for me. The day was a scorcher but that didn’t slow down our digging.

Kids searching the walls of Rice's pit - 1981
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Memorabilia and Memories of Beethoven’s Inn

In one of the first posts I wrote after setting up this blog two years ago, I shared my fond memories of the lovely Beethoven’s Inn on Merrimac Trail in Williamsburg. The Inn was opened on December 16, 1975 (Beethoven’s birthday) by Jim Wesson and his wife Ann. The Wessons ran the beloved establishment for 22 years, until handing the keys to a long-time employee and moving on to new adventures. A few years later, sadly, Beethoven’s Inn closed its doors forever.

In writing that early post about this establishment that I loved so, I did a lot of digging online for photographs or other artifacts relating to the Inn to share with readers, but sadly I found little. Today, however, I am delighted to be able to share some memorabelia that recently came to me from the original owner of Beethoven’s Inn, Jim Wesson himself.

Jim recently came across my earlier post and commented, graciously offering to send me some items from the Inn that he has kept all these years. I was quick to take him up on his offer and I’m happy to report that I’ve just received a Beethoven’s Inn pamphlet with coupon, a pamphlet for Jim’s other restaurant, The Ancient Mariner’s Inn of Yorktown, as well as the full Beethoven’s Inn 11×17-inch menu, which immediately brought back a sea of splendid memories.

I’ve scanned the items in and a click on the images you see here will take you to the full 600dpi scan files. Enjoy! (And thank you so much Jim.)

As a related item, I wanted to share a rather touching story that I was fortunate enough to have stumbled upon while doing research to put this post together. Then-student Alyssa Lodewick recently shared a life changing, personal experience that she had while working at the Inn one hot summer night, 25 years ago. A couple came into the Inn for a meal, but when they got up to leave, what they gave Alyssa was much more than just a check for the bill.

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Perry Como’s Early American Christmas in Williamsburg – 1978

I was standing with my parents in a crowd along Duke of Gloucester street in Colonial Williamsburg one autumn day in 1978. I remember the moment well, though I was only six years old at the time. People had gathered to meet Perry Como and John Wayne who were scheduled to make a public appearance in the vicinity of the colonial Printing Office & Post Office. They were in Williamsburg filming the upcoming Perry Como’s Early American Christmas TV special, which aired a short time later, on Friday, December 13th.

My father was a particular fan of Perry Como (though I didn’t know who he was), and so we arrived early in order to find a good spot to meet the celebrities as they came out onto the street. We were waiting there for some time; as I recall the singer and actor were running a bit late (the latter moreso than the former, it would turn out). Finally and to much applause Perry Como emerged from a garden path that ran between two of the colonial houses on the streetside. He was alone, and began shaking hands and chatting with the crowd.

It seemed that I was the only one frustrated that John Wayne hadn’t yet appeared. After staring down that path for several minutes, I turned and loudly cried out in a voice heard by all, “Wait a minute! Where’s John Wayne?!” It was laughter all around and a smiling Perry Como walked over and tousled my hair!

My parents told that story to friends and family more times than I could count, over the years. It’s an amusing little anecdote I wanted to share, as I just noticed that the entire 42-minute Christmas special has recently been placed online (thanks Cost Ander). You can see it above (here’s the direct link) and here is a WAVY TV-10 news report from 1978 in which local anchor Bruce Rader discusses the filming of the TV special.

I have a great pile of movies and TV specials of olde that I watch religiously every year around the holidays — and I drive my wife and daughter crazy with some of them (Little Lord Fauntleroy (1980) yearly is too much for some, apparently). It’s a real treat to be able to add this Christmas special, of which I have a very particular memory, to the list.

UPDATE [Dec. 25 2016]: The Williamsburg publication Williamsburg Yorktown Daily picked up my blog post and did a post of their own about me and the event, “John Wayne came to Colonial Williamsburg — and this boy wouldn’t take no for an answer.” Fun!

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Antique Shop Find: A Collection of Virginia Postcards from Decades Past

31020408326_0d8ccdb980_oA few weekends ago my family and I took a fall weekend trip to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia in hopes of seeing deeper shades of autumn than Alexandria was offering. It’s a quaint little town that my wife and I have visited several times during our stays at the nearby, now-abandoned Coolfont resort.

One of the shops in town that I quite enjoy is the Berkley Springs Antique Mall, an expansive space chock-full of all manner of things out of the past century or so. We stopped in for a visit and after wandering about the place for half an hour or so, I found myself rummaging through a series of boxes full of postcards organized by state. I dug around and uncovered the Virginia box and, flipping through the postcards, pulled out a few that particularly struck my interest and brought them home with a mind to share them here.

The postcards I selected appear to be from the 1960’s or thereabouts. Two of them were postmarked (1961, 1967) with greeting notes penned on the back. I have laid them out below, with all of the descriptive text found on the back of each shown below its card face. You can also see these in my Flickr album.

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The Motor House Pool, Williamsburg, Virginia

The three swimming pools of The Motor House offer guests of this unusual establishment a refreshing pause in the sightseeing schedule of the historic city. There is a pool for diving, one for swimming and another for wading. Adjacent are a playground for children and sports areas for adults. The Motor House is Williamsburg’s most popular family accommodation.

Ektachrome by Thos. L. Williams

Mirro-Krome® Card by H. S. Crocker Co., Inc., Baltimore, Md. 21224

Official Colonial Williamsburg Card

[ see the back of this postcard ]

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Remembering The Boathouse

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This morning I found this concert ticket at the back of my dresser drawer while rummaging about for something or other. That Crash Test Dummies show back in 1996 was the last time I ever set foot in my favorite concert venue, The Boathouse in Norfolk. It was also my second date with she who would become my wife (presently of 17 years). I’m glad she got to see it before it died.

Here’s a bit of history about The Boathouse from a 2004 Virginian-Pilot article that has also faded out of existence (thanks Internet Archive):

The Boathouse started as an adjunct to Bessie’s Place, the cavernous farmers/flea market that opened in mid-1983 where Harbor Park now stands.

The market’s management asked Cellar Door Concert’s Bill Reid to look at the old warehouse on a pier to see if it might be usable.

Reid, now president of Rising Tide Productions, remembers walking into the decrepit place.

“You could literally see the water underneath when we walked in,” Reid said. But he got it into shape and began booking bands to play. The first were the Skip Castro Band and the Knighthawks.

He innovated by offering all-ages shows, one of the first venues in the country to do so. Those of drinking age were segregated from those who weren’t by a moveable wall of chicken wire.

“At the time, there just wasn’t a good concert venue for smaller drawing acts,” said Maisey, also a free-lance music writer for The Virginian-Pilot .

Sadly, late 2003 brought Hurricane Isabel and it was more than that wondrous warehouse on a pier on the Elizabeth River could bear.

The Boathouse was an incredible concert hall and I have a great many wonderful memories enjoying concerts there with friends throughout high school and college. I’ve been on both sides of that chicken-wire fence as the years rolled by. I even arm-wrestled a bouncer. (He won.)

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Some of the headliners I recall seeing at The Boathouse include They Might Be Giants, Violent Femmes, Waxing Poetics, The Smithereens, Bad Religion, James, The Replacements, Pixies, The Connells, Faith No More, BoDeans, Tori Amos, and Crash Test Dummies. And yes, I saw the best concert of my life there: They Might Be Giants on their Flood tour in 1990. Here’s a nearly complete concert setlist running from 1983 to 2003.

I’ve been to a number of venues that are pointed in the same direction, but none has ever come close to the experience that was The Boathouse.

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On the Passing of The Pottery Wine and Cheese Shop in Williamsburg

cheeseOn my last trip to the Hampton Roads area with my family, I was dealt a sorrowful blow. One of the favorite fixtures of my youth is The Pottery Wine and Cheese Shop in the The Village Shops at Kingsmill on Pocahontas Trail in Williamsburg. I should say that’s the name by which I came to know it when my mother and I first discovered it in the mid-’80s, though it has more recently been known as The Wine & Cheese Shop at Kingsmill. What it has lately been called is of little import however as, quite sadly, after over 30 years in business it has closed.

The place holds a great many pleasant memories for me. I grew up in York County, and my family and I (my mother and I, mostly) spent a lot of time in Williamsburg. I attended Walsingham Academy during Kindergarten and 1st Grade, and so we made the weekday trip up the Colonial Parkway from Dandy to that Catholic private school on Jamestown Rd. Even on weekends we spent a lot of time around CW. The whole region was and is awash with history and my parents were fond of the colonial atmosphere of Williamsburg. I, too, became so and at a very early age.

We actually moved to Williamsburg (the Kingspoint neighborhood) in the late spring of 1986, but our stay there was destined to be a short one, as my parents decided to divorce the morning after we moved in. All of the stress and anxiety which that sort of thing puts on a 14-year-old aside, it was nice living in town for the summer while we waited for the house to sell. (After the summer, mom and I ended up in Village Green in the Oyster Point area of Newport News).

22289313384_fc5f50b64a_oAfter we got settled, mom and I resumed our weekend trips up to Williamsburg and around that time discovered The Pottery Wine & Cheese Shop when we were walking around The Village Shops, mom in search of sewing supplies of some sort. It was a lovely place, a small gourmet market and deli that made wonderful fresh baked bread and sandwiches with the most amazing sweet mustard sauce. Mom and I ordered the Turkey Trot (french bread, turkey, swiss, sauce) that day and, since then, I’ve surely eaten over a hundred of them. I have an aunt Jane on my father’s side who is a gourmet, and on our visits to her cottage on Fishing Bay in Deltaville she instilled in me a love of cuisine rather richer and more exotic than that which piques the typical young boy’s palette. Because of this, the cheeses, meats, imported crackers and pastries, and all manner of such things that lined the market’s shelves appealed  to me greatly. (There was much wine, as well, but that was something that would wait some years to enter my sphere.) I remember young teenage me thinking that it would certainly be a measure of adult professional success to be able to regularly shop at this market. I hoped I’d get there one day!

Lunch at the Wine & Cheese shop became a weekend ritual for my mother and I, compounded by the proximity of Next Generation Computers of Williamsburg, just around the corner. Being a computer geek since age 10, we purchased an original Macintosh, an Apple IIe, and an Apple IIgs from the place, and so I would have fun fiddling around in there for half an hour, chatting the ears off of poor salesman Dennis Long, while mom perused the yarn and fabrics a few shops down. And after that: the Turkey Trots. That was the drill, basically every weekend for a couple of years, and we loved it.

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