Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Haircuts and History

Haircut Day arrived. In Wytheville, the barber shop is alive and well. There must have been about half a dozen shops (including Main Street, Third Street, Millwald, Star, and Clem's barber shops) from which to choose, but we opted for the Wicker House Hair Designers. There were four women cutting hair and all were friendly, asking questions about our travels and answering questions about what to see, what to do, and what does "chatauqua" (the town's festival) mean? Regarding the last question, one of the women called her brother who was involved in the planning of the festival and learned that "chatauqua" means "a gathering of fishes." No one seemed to understand the connection.

After finishing the laundry and having some of Kate's homemade corn and sausage soup, I returned to Wytheville to walk the historic-home tour. Now I like to take notes during the day to refresh my memory when entering the day's events on the blog, but I had forgotten a pen. So, I stopped in to the Paper Clip (remember Bill Kirk from an earlier entry).

After exchanges of greetings, I asked the young man if Bill was in. He wasn't, so I asked if he would relay our thanks to Bill for referring us to chef Yonce for the Kentucky Derby pie for our visit to Gerald Anderson. After talking about that particular type of pie, he asked what I needed.

"Just a pen," I said.

"Here take this one. And don't go reaching into your pocket," was his reply.

I thanked the gentleman (but forgot to ask his name). This little Paper Clip pen will be a special reminder of the people we've met here.

As I prepared to start my tour, I stopped by a store which should certainly be on the tour (historic or not)--the Kincer-Miller Hardware Co. Walking into this magnificent store, I could sense the history in the floors and the wall of drawers. What stories they could tell. When a clerk asked if she could help me. "I'm just in awe of your wall of drawers. My first job was in a hardware store like this. What a wonderful store." (I'm afraid my reverence for the store was lost on her.)

As I ventured past the shelves and racks of current display units and products, I could see more of the character of this building far in the back. There they were. Drawer after drawer of nuts and bolts. Each with its own "address." I could have bought one 3/8" x 2-1/2" bolt if I had wanted. Then I could have had a piece of glass cut to my exact specifications on the glass cutter above the drawers. What a gem of a store!

I walked out of the store and saw the Millwald Theatre, built in 1928. It had operated as a movie theatre for 75 years and had been one of the oldest continuously running movie theaters in the U.S. Religious services are held there now.

There are over 50 homes on the historic walking tour and the following are just a couple of the magnificent homes. Not all are this grand, but all are well maintained and give a glimpse into the past since many are located in two sections of the town.

The Clarence Trinkle house, built in the late 19th century, "is a neoclassical two story brick home accented with a monumental front portico supported by Doric columns." Clarence's brother, E. Lee Trinkle, was a Wytheville native and became Governor of Virginia in 1921.

Built in 1916, the Miller House was owned by Dr. J.M. Miller and later his son, Ralph, who along with Sidney Kincer, established The Hardware Store.

The Wytheville Training School is a building that commemorates the African American education that began after the Civil War for freed slaves and their families. The original school was replaced by the present building. It is now maintained by a private citizen.

This town has quite an appeal for us.

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