Down Memory Lane for April 6

May 26, 1983

Elmer Atkins is proud to leave the other mountains.

When the state of Virginia moved the mountain people from their homes to clear the way for Shenandoah National Park, “it hurt some of them pretty bad … It hurt their souls, their heart,” Elmer Atkins believes. “But I’m not sorry. I mean that. I came out here. I don’t regret it. I had a choice not to come. I didn’t have to come. I had a choice I could have made about it, but now I’m proud I came. Yea, I’m proud.”

Atkins, who now counts a gas station, an antique shop and cider pressing mill among his business interests in Sperryville, grew up in Beach Spring Hollow, one of a dozen children in a log house with five fireplaces.

He remembers playing marbles and tag, pitching horseshoes and swinging on grapevines in the clearings and hollows of the mountains. He played checkers in the evenings and had the daytime job of getting in the wood. “Daddy would cut it up and leave it on a wood pile and he’d tell you, ‘Now, I want that box full of wood when I come back home.’”

One of Elmer Atkins’ favorite boyhood recollections of life in the mountains are the trips by covered wagon he’d take to Luray with his father. They’d leave at 3 a.m in the morning and get back late that evening. The way was dark, they carried no lanterns, but the horses could follow the trail. “And most of the time going up that Luray mountain, the stars were shooting clear up there in the sky, you could see. It looked sometimes like it would fall right down among the horses.”

In other news, an auditor’s error has left the Rappahannock supervisors $20,368 short of the $116,830 they thought they had cut from the proposed 1983-84 school budget earlier this month.

Superintendent Robert Estabrook explained at Tuesday’s special meeting that the final draft of the proposed county budget shows the total deleted by the supervisors from the amount requested by the school board at $96,462.

Based on computations accountant Wally Cox made at the May 2 budget session, the supervisors thought they had reduced the bottom line of the school budget by $116,830.

Estabrook guessed that the error came in the line items for salaries where Cox made quick calculations on how much savings would accrue by reducing requested pay hikes from seven to four percent.

Dec. 31, 1997

Agriculture in the classroom and the lottery were the two main issues stressed at the 72nd annual convention of the Virginia Farm Bureau at the Richmond Marriott in December, said Chris Parrish, Rappahannock County Farm Bureau president.

The Farm Bureau is looking to the school classrooms to raise appreciation of family farms which comprise the majority of farms in the U.S., said Parrish. A keynote speaker was Jane Shaw, co-author of “Fact Not Fear: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children About The Environment.” The book cites examples of false environmental claims presented in textbooks and children’s books.

Meanwhile, the lottery was criticized for spending too much money advertising and not sending money back to the counties, said Parris. Instead, profits are placed in Virginia’s general fund, an issue that upset many farmers.

Farmers have been critical of the state Stewardship Act, said Parrish, which accepts anonymous tips against polluting farmers, and does not state a clear standard for pollution. “They are missing the point — farmers should be policing themselves,” he added. “It is a stop gap against increased policing by environmental groups.”

Finally, when Steve Critzer was asked to comment on the Rappahannock News choice for 1997 Citizen of the Year he knew who it was before he was told.

“Is it Stewart Willis? It is, isn’t it?” he asked. Yes, I answered, it is.

“He’d be my choice for man of the year,” Critzer said. “I know him and I know what he does in and for the community. He’s a leader. People listen to and will follow him.”

Willis, now mayor of the Town of Washington, re-settled in Rappahannock in the early ‘80s. His wife, Eve, was born at Mt. Green, outside Washington, Va., and her family was from the county.

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