Practical Proven Railbuses Often Overlooked

Between Norfolk and Virginia Beach, my late grandmother remembers taking a railbus shuttle that ran on the now abandoned tracks between the oceanfront and downtown. It did not survive deregulation. She talked about it more than a few times, as there has been contentious fighting about building an expensive, billion dollar light rail line from Norfolk to Virginia Beach. Why did they not take an interim step like a railbus? The answer is that there was no off the shelf equipment to buy anymore; the diesel units were just not made.

The resolution to the issue is unfinished. Currently, Norfolk has its expensive light rail system, The Tide, up and running, but Virginia Beach citizens do not want pay for The Tide, and so it does not reach the obvious destination, the Atlantic Ocean and Oceanfront resorts. Continue reading

The Record of Rich Conaty, New York Broadcaster

NEW YORK – Rich Conaty, one of the national treasures of American music history, died Dec. 30, 2016. Conaty, 62, was perhaps the nation’s greatest expert on the songs of the early era of classic American recordings, and his programs and legacy will live on, long after his life.

Conaty hosted a radio program, The Big Broadcast, beginning in the 1970s when he was a Fordham student. On his show he played and discussed popular standards from the early to mid 20th century, with an emphasis the ’20s and ’30s. The WFUV program continued until just before he died, and hundreds of episodes are recorded for posterity. Continue reading

Rural Houses, Real Challenge, Royal Opportunity

Rural decline in Port Royal, Virginia. Even genuine 18th and 19th century historic houses lay in disrepair.

The depopulating of America’s countryside is an odd trend in an era of locavore foodies, environmental consciousness and a supposed interest in authenticity and sustainability. Often, these notions are created by editors about millennials, as the young flock to places like Brooklyn and turn cities like Richmond, my formerly staid hometown, into hipster hotspots.

But the reality is far different. People migrate to places for jobs, and there are fewer and fewer jobs in rural areas, and many more in the growing creative cities around the U.S. As middle class jobs have left small towns, so too has opportunity, and thousands, literally thousands, of small downs and rural areas are declining. Young people go where jobs are, and if there are no jobs, they just hang around, sometimes malcontent and sometimes at peace, with marginal jobs in college towns. Continue reading

Anglican Devotionals in Ralph Wormeley’s Colonial Virginia Library

Here, Rosegill Plantation in Middlesex, in Frances Benjamin Johnston’s famous survey of colonial architecture.

There is an unfortunate notion that the elite leaders of colonial Virginia were somehow deists or agnostics, and that they operated in a sort of less-religious universe than Puritans up north. And it is true, of course, that Mayflower folk were leaving Europe for religious freedom, and the Virginia settlers came more for a better life, and often led a life of excess.

But I came across a fascinating anecdote while re-reading David Hackett Fisher’s  Albion’s Seed, the 1989 survey of American folkways that explain how settlers from different areas of Britain created patterns of living in the U.S. that are prevalent today. In the book, author Fisher cites Philip Bruce’s 1907 history Social Life in Virginia to describe some of the 391 books in Ralph Wormeley’s library at Virginia’s Rosegill plantation in Middlesex County. Of those books, 123 volumes were religious in nature, indicating that the elite figures of Virginia society were in some cases, striving deeply to be better men. Continue reading