Rapp at Home is a “village” organization dedicated to helping the county’s seniors stay in their homes as they age and hosts a popular Local Voice Series entitled “Growing up in Rappahannock” that celebrates the lives of Rappahannock residents. At their most recent meeting, Alice Anderson, whose family roots in Rappahannock extend back many generations, shared remembrances of life growing up in the county.
Alice is a Rappahannock jewel, a veritable force of nature, a fixture of warmth and generosity, bubbling with energy. She’s known throughout the county for her selfless acts of volunteerism on behalf of virtually every good works organization ranging from the Benevolent Fund, The Food Pantry, the annual Town of Washington Christmas Parade, and many more.
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, kids she said were everywhere — the village streets were teaming with children playing and riding bikes. Her family, six siblings including her brother John, a well known county resident, highly respected businessman and philanthropist lived in a quaint cabin on Rediviva alongside Route 211, still owned by the family. The family also owns substantial acreage in Harris Hollow and of course John’s beloved Jessamine in Tiger Valley.
Alice talked of her elementary school, located in the Washington School House, where grades 1 through 4 were housed. The cafeteria was located downstairs, reminiscent of a low ceilinged dungeon, said Alice smiling. Lunch was 25 cents and upstairs they had a jukebox, Perry Como and other singers enjoyed for a nickel.
“Sports offered were basketball and football and we all knew everyone”, she relayed. “The teachers ruled and and if you acted up, Mrs. Cox would smack you on the hand with a ruler. There were no cell phones and we often played down by the Lake Motel — which had a lake — owned by Dorothy Davis who was the mayor of the town of Washington. Back then, the town had an all women town council, in fact I remember the New York Times wrote about it.”
Alice spoke of the many farms and pastures dotted with cattle, orchards and packing sheds galore and she told of the springtime, when school windows were open, the fragrant scent of apple blossoms wafting in the air. Alice graduated with 40 kids in 1962, the second class to graduate from the newly minted Sperryville Schoolhouse High School built in 1960-61.
She was asked if she had black friends, as the schools were then segregated, and replied: “We weren’t taught to discriminate. We had lots of black friends, they’d come over often for dinner on Sundays or help dad out on the farm with horse and plow.”
Queried about her brother, Alice relayed: “John was a cute little thing and everyone adopted him and took him everywhere, to D.C. and neighboring towns, all kinds of day trips, and I pretty much hung out at home. We all ended up living outside of the county after we graduated, my brother Don in D.C. and John in Fairfax, and a bunch of us in Baltimore where in fact I worked for a manufacturing firm for 42 years. I loved Baltimore but boy it sure was a culture shock, coming from Rappahannock were everyone was polite and respectful and in Baltimore it was common to hear lots of cussing and yelling and fighting so I guess I grew up sheltered.”
“Growing up we were dirt poor but didn’t know it,” she recalled with a bright smile. “We didn’t have a bathroom and mom would wash sheets with bleach and go to bed sometimes crying from bleach burning the sores on her hands. My dad Loring was a mechanic and all around farmer”.
A man larger than life, he was infamous for catching live rattlesnakes, sometimes walking them through the village streets or nestling them in a bucket on the passenger side of his pickup truck. When passing a child walking to school, he’d kindly offer a ride and not surprisingly they politely demurred. To the sounds of shrieking women standing on chairs in the office of the Rappahannock News, Loring introduced two live rattlesnakes on leashes of bailing twine. John recalled that he’d received a call from Peter Luke, then commonwealth’s attorney, and no stranger to calls about Loring, John was asked: “John, please tell Loring not to bring live rattlesnakes into county buildings.”
Loring was also a man of tremendous charm. Alice talked of his plucking the first spring flower buds, placing them in warm water to bloom and then hand delivering them to all the ladies in town.
“We had mountain lions and bear and deer and a huge garden and we ate extremely well,” she said. “The garden was filled with potatoes, corn, cucumbers and watermelon and more. We had a cow named Alice and plenty of chickens. We had fresh milk, lots of pigs and devoured sausages, so delicious. We ate tenderloin, and pork chops and Sunday was a treat as mom would go to the chopping block with several chickens, the neighbors would come over to visit and enjoy dinner. I have great memories.”