The Future Airport Acres Neighborhood
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History: Neighborhood Notes
A Conversation with Beulah and T. Arno Bowers, Saturday, January 20, 2001
I visited Beulah (age 85) and Arno Bowers (age 84) at their home at 602 Rose Avenue, Airport Acres, Blacksburg, Virginia. Their home was built in 1952. It (and 506 Rose) are interior houses not part of the Airport Acres construction described by Mr. Pandapas.
Their lot on which their house was built was owned by a lady in Merrimac. With the help of lawyer Mr. Scott, they bought the lot for $600. It had originally been the concrete mixing place for the Airport Acres development. Grass was difficult to grow in the early years because of the concrete and soil compaction.
Houses in Airport Acres did not sell well and some were not rented. A Rocky Mount firm sold them for $1,000 down. They could then be bought for $5,000.
Mr. Robert Smith worked on rentals. He died in 1957. His wife, Edna, worked at the store at the corner of Airport Road.
Arno had gone into the service June 30, 1943. He had lived in Floyd. He recalled stacking hay for a dollar a day. He worked in a Floyd restaurant. He was shipped to California where much to his surprise there were two others in his outfit from Floyd County. He ended up in the 567th anti-aircraft unit. He recalled being "in supplies" and seeing milk in paper cartons, the first he had ever seen. After maneuvers in Louisiana and Georgia he was in the Battle of the Bulge and awarded four combat stars.
Arno started in business at the College Inn in 1946. Edna Smith bought the 511 Fairview house. Arno and Beulah rented the 3rd house on the right (509 Fairview) and the attic apartment was rented to a student. Dick Hummel lived across the street. Lila Logan owned the house on the corner (501 Fairview). Becky Bower lived in the same place as now (503 Fairview). Margie Johnson owned her place (across the street at 601 Rose), currently listed for sale (2001) for $120,000.
The Town limits were shown by a sign on the corner of Airport Road and Draper Road. There were few houses along Airport Road. The Airport Road turned (as now) at the corner near the airport where there was a small store. In the center of town (College and Main) there was one stop light and a "round-about" with a monument in the center. He does not recall when it was removed.
All the roads in the neighborhood were gravel. They do not recall when they were first paved. There was little dust from the gravel since there was not much traffic.
Arno remember Flood Andrews (601 Fairview) who lived behind their house on Rose Avenue having two nectarine trees in the back. Mr. Andrews was involved in the Agriculture College insecticide spray program. Arno jokingly told that "One day he spent 10 minutes spraying those two little trees."
They thought the neighborhood was "real pretty" from the beginning. There was little landscaping. The trees in front of each lot were small, "hardly up to the window." There were no fences and the yards were all open.
There was a rabbit's nest with young in their front yard that they remembered well -- before there were as many dogs and cats. There was often the smell of "polecats", or skunks bothered by dogs or people. (Several people have commented on how the frequency of skunk odor being noticed has declined from that remembered in the 1960's.)
Last year, Arno saw seven squirrels at the corner -- all at one time. He fed squirrels until they started climbing his back porch screens, waiting for him to feed them. Then, he stopped. (Squirrels and songbirds have increased as the trees and landscaping have grown.) The deer have now (2000) begun to bother the Garst's garden (off Airport Road near the turn at the Airport fence.).
Each house had a septic tank and these" all had to be pumped out ever so often". When the sewer system came in, people rarely objected because it was getting more difficult to find a place to dispose of the pumped waste.
All of the children in town or the nearby county went to the school behind the Town Armory (off Draper Street, now a College of Architecture building). There were plenty of children in the neighborhood.
The main grocery store was a Krogers in the building beside the bank (now Boudreaux's Restaurant). Oliver had a store (now Annie Kaye's Foods), but they later went to Radford Brothers since the prices and meats seemed better. The only ABC store (none on Blacksburg) was in Christiansburg.
The neighborhood has been quite. There have been no major fires; no crimes of note. There have been few cases, even lately. There has been little noticeable drunkenness. The police patrol occasionally. Last year was the first time they saw two police on their bikes. In the 1946's there were only 2 policemen for the Town. One was very politically oriented and moved to Washington soon after Eisenhower's election.
The coldest day was Sunday night, January 20, the Superbowl, 1985. It was -14 degrees on their porch thermometer. Mountain Lake reported -32 degrees. Beulah sat up all night tending the water in their pipes and tank to keep them from freezing.
That night was the beginning of the end of the College Inn. The next morning, Arno wen to the front door of his restaurant and found water running out of the front and back doors. Pipes had not been properly installed in an adjacent building. They froze and broke, and the basements filled with water. The oil stored there floated and leaked, and oil saturated the ceiling . . . everything. The odor never really left. Customers suffered from the odor, although some remained faithful. The owner, Mrs. Smith, didn't want to go to court and so never sued for damages. Arno regretted never having money from a settlement surrounding all of the damage. They now are concerned about oil in their home; the price for heating and staying warm seems very high.
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
Arno died on June 24, 2003 Beulah a year earlier. I remember that while he was sick in a Blacksburg hospital bed and in some pain, he said "Let's get something started," as he thought about getting well. That's my new slogan. I think he might like that.
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