Thursday, May 24, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Summer in Shenandoah

Those Places is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that invites family historians to post photos and stories about places their ancestors lived. 

As a child visiting my cousins in Shenandoah, Virginia was second only to Christmas on the anticipation scale.  My maternal grandparents Lucille Rucker and Orvin Davis returned to their ancestral roots as often as they could, and they would take me with them. 

You know how they say, “Getting there is half the fun.”  Well, it wasn’t.

Today with the Interstate highway, we can make the trip in 3.5 hours.  Back then it was a 5-hour drive, the majority of it on a 2-lane rolling highway, up one hill and down the next, up and down, up and down.  It could have been delightful watching the geography change from flatlands to piedmont to mountains and valley if it hadn’t been for those darn oil trucks.  When they were full, they couldn’t handle the posted speed limit.  Granddaddy was forced to inch toward the opposite lane to get a peek around the truck before bravely entering the game of Chicken.  It was easiest on the downhill run when we could see if anything was coming, and if it was, whether we had plenty of time to make it around the oil truck back to the safety of the right lane.

All that with no air conditioning.  And no portable DVD player.  The most fun you could hope for was a rousing game of Twenty Questions.   It was that or count cows.

The reward for the white-knuckle ride was the scheduled stop at Zion Crossroads for a bathroom break.  And a treat.  I always got a Nutty Buddy.

from Google Images
Love those things still.

Then we resumed the ride across the mountain.  Not just up and down.  Round and around. Curve after curve.  At Swift Run Gap we were at the top of the mountain with our destination just 30 minutes away. 

I could hardly wait for Granddaddy to pull that big grey Buick into the little dirt driveway on North Third Street so I could see my cousins, Bobbie and Glenn. 

Glenn on Granddaddy's Buick

They were three and four years older than me but we always found plenty to do.  We picked blackberries in some nearby woods.  It’s a good thing Glenn didn’t tell me until years later about the snakes back there.  And they had a nanny goat.  How many people have cousins with a pet goat?  Cool, eh? 

1960 - Bobbie and me with one of the Dachshunds,
either Punky or Chunky -- I can't remember

We wondered about the strange old man across the street who always sat on his porch well-hidden by an overgrown vine.  He was probably just staying cool, but we thought it was creepy.  Rumor has it he really was a Peeping Tom. 
1960 - I bet that creepy man was sitting on the porch behind that vine.
But what a view from Bobbie and Glenn's house!

Part of the fun of visiting was getting to play with the 6 Jenkins girls across the street and with different toys.  Bobbie had good paper dolls.  One day Bobbie must have been bored with her selection, so we walked downtown to buy some more.  Coming home just before dark, we encountered bats.  We didn’t have bats in the city, and I had seen enough vampire movies to know bats were nothing to mess with.  Bobbie suggested we cover our heads with our new paper dolls and crawl home because bats could get in our hair.  She knew a girl who had to have her head shaved when that happened.  (Really???  I totally believed it then.  I don’t think I believe it today.)  So crawl we did.  Up one hill and down the next.   When we finally made it to safety back at Bobbie’s house on the top of the hill, my aunt and Grandma were laughing at us.  They had watched the whole spectacle from the porch. 

I’m not one who wishes to relive times in my life, but summer in Shenandoah comes close.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. You tell a great story! Really enjoyed this. :)

    I can relate to those games of chicken. I experienced a lot of them when I lived out in the Nebraska farmlands. There was always slow-moving farm equipment in the way. Always...

  2. Like Dana said, you do tell a great story! Ooh! Those Nutty Buddys look yummy!

  3. What great fun you had as a child. You've told it really well.

  4. Oh, this was a great 'Travel Story'. Are you sure you weren't in Texas....Oil Trucks and two lane highways. Except, ours were miles and miles of cactus, sand, and jack rabbits. Great memories you have of visiting cousins and the photos are priceless. Really enjoyed this post, Wendy...thanks for a great story!

  5. I love the bat story! Great post!

  6. Your childhood summers sound simply wonderful. That bat story is priceless!