Down Memory Lane for March 2

Jan. 27, 1983

Looking Back 150 Years

An old stage wagon that John Wayland used some 60 years ago to haul kids to classes was the beginning of the Rappahannock school bus fleet, according to Mutt Atkins, a school bus driver from 1929 until his retirement in 1973.

In 1929, Mutt’s brother James Atkins had a contract with the county school board to provide bus transportation. “He furnished the chassis and they furnished the body. The chassis coat about $750 and we used old wooden bodies in those days. Five-hundred dollars would have been a good price for them,” Mutt said.

Mutt first drove for his brother and then worked directly for the school board after James Atkins sold his bus to the county. “I made big wages,” he joked. “$1.50 per day and I paid for the gas.”

“Most of the time, you didn’t get anywhere in the winter without chains on,” Mutt recalled. Routes 211 and 522 were the only paved roads in the county; the rest hardly qualified as more than muddy wagon tracks.

Compensation for Rappahannock early teachers was not princely. Anne Keyser recalled making $45 each month that she taught. “And I spent sixteen dollars for a pair of shoes,” she said. “My father was furious but my mother stood behind me. I can still picture those shoes — they were beautiful — two toned brown shoes with high laces. I worked hard for them and wore them until they wore out.”

When Pauline Bruce’s mother started teaching at Hazel Mountain School in 1908, she made $30 a month. She lived with Mr. and Mrs. Jim Burke (Weldon Burke’s parents) and paid $5 a month for her room and board during the week. Pauline followed her mother into the ranks of country teachers and during the depression earned $85 a month for her work at a little one-room school in neighboring Warren County, which operated its public schools jointly with Rappahannock under a single superintendent. In 1936, when Pauline returned to Rappahannock to teach at the three-year Amissville School, the principalship there carried an extra $5 a month. “But you had extra duties, like sweeping the floor and lighting the fires every morning.”

Oct. 15, 1997

Roberta Wagner always started to work big. As a painter she couldn’t get the texture and three dimensional quality she longed to create in her paintings.

“I’ve finally found the direction I wanted to go with my art,” she said of her work with tile.

She works with porcelain and stoneware and said differences in the clay which is used in mixing glazes and in firing the tiles gave varied results, but they “don’t always turn out the way you think they will. It takes a lot of working with the glazes.”

The culmination of this effort is her current work in progress — a proposal for a nave in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. She has conceived a design for the small room, completely tiled, done in textures and shades which — from floor to ceiling — approximate the changes in color from the earth to the sky.

“The space will have to have a meditative feel,” she said.

Each individual tile is, in itself, a work or art-a small painting, separate and unique.

Wagner calls it “putting art into your environment.” She has said that she hopes her work “will give a glimpse into another world, a moment of wonder, joy, or quiet contentment.”

The 41st House Tour and Dried Flower Sale, presented by the Episcopal Churchwomen of Bromfield Parish, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 18 and Sunday, Oct. 19.

Following the tour, visitors are invited to enjoy an afternoon tea at Fairlea Farm Bed and Breakfast, one of Rappahannock’s most charming bed and breakfasts. Located on Mt. Salem Avenue, Fairlea, owned by Walter and Susan Longyear, is surrounded by a working sheep and cattle farm, and is just a sort walk from the center of historic Washington.

Fairlea is a stone house with what the Washington Post described as “killer views.” It overlooks the meadows dotted with grazing animals and in the distance, the rolling mountains. The house was built by Judge and Mrs. Rayner Snead.

Fairlea Farm is located on the old Rappahannock Fair Grounds and remnants of the old fair grounds still remain. The gazebo was built from the roof of a judging stand and the old showing barns are still used for storage.