Rappahannock residents Lois Snead and Carolyn Tholand Thornton took their audience back in time during Rapp at Home’s popular Local Voice Series.
Carolyn is the widow of Philip Lee Thornton, of the original Thorntons of Thornton Gap, and an always welcoming face volunteering at the Food Pantry. Lois is a 95-year-old Rappahannock Force of Nature, also filled with stories of local lore.
Lois is one of the founders of the Dried Flower and Annual Trinity Episcopal Church House Tour, which over the years has raised thousands of dollars to benefit the community and further Trinity outreach. She spoke of initial efforts by the group to sell dried flower arrangements at Woodward & Lothrop at Seven Corners, where they were set up next to the plastic flower sales display.
They sold out briskly, as customers favored their dried flower arrangements, until subsequently the women received a letter from the president of Woodies disinviting them from future engagements as they had taken away so much business. And that is how their Trinity Dried Flower and House Tour was born.
Lois is the widow of Judge Rayner Snead, who was the brother of Dr. John Snead, both well-known and well-respected Rappahannock men. To laughter in the room, she shared her memories of raising “sheep and children, in that order.”
She’s a proud grandmother, great-grandmother and indeed has 17 great-grandchildren. Lois met Rayner at the University of Missouri where he was in a World War II naval academic program and she was a student. Lois was one of the first women in the Agricultural Program at “Mizzou.”
Lois talked of the churches in Washington. There were four: Methodist, Baptist, First Baptist and Episcopal. She, being Episcopalian, went to the Episcopalian church and Rayner, being Baptist went to the Baptist Church, which his family helped establish.
She spoke of each being given 25 cents for the collection plate when she and her brothers went to Sunday school. She dutifully contributed, but her brothers ran down to the local general store (now Kevin Adams’ art gallery) and got penny candy instead.
Lois remembered characters in the county like Jim Bill Fletcher and his far-reaching influence as a powerful attorney. She good-naturedly laughed that Jim Bill most likely was instrumental in having her attorney husband, Rayner, nominated as the youngest judge in the history of Virginia, probably, she said, to keep him from absorbing any of Jim Bill’s business.
She recounted fond memories of Mary Botts Quaintance, principal of the elementary school and her unusual way of correcting the students, “My son,” tells Lois, “took an ear of corn to school and flicked the kernels at girls. ‘Ray’ said Quaintance, ‘if you like corn so much, push this pile of corn one at a time across the floor with your nose.’ He never took an ear of corn to school again.”
Carolyn talked of Dr. Snead, Rayner’s brother, and of his wife, Pinky, who would be working in the small doctor’s office in their home. Carolyn told the story of some of Dr. Snead’s “just plain tired” patients, overworked by too many children and household demands. “Pinky” he’d call out, hollering across the room, “give her some of those green pills. Now I’m not going to charge you for these pills, but I want you to take one every four hours.” (The pills were placebos).
“Dr. Snead was part psychiatrist,” Carolyn explained. Dr. Snead charged $5 a visit, not considered a lot at the time but he always said he’d rather have cash than money owed to him on the books.
Carolyn shared fond memories of the former Washington Ski Area in Harris Hollow and the ski team. “Lois’s kids and I skied together, gave lessons, and helped keep the place up,” she said.
She spoke of fox hunting in Rappahannock: the hunt breakfasts and hunt balls often held at Mrs. Slaughter’s house in Flint Hill. To laughter she regaled the room with stories of Rappahannock foxhunters, wildly galloping over hill and dale, heavily forested woods and deep pastures, not a manicured trail in sight as often found at other regional hunts:
“Sometimes the whips would throw a jacket over a barbed wire fence and that’s what we would jump. We were known as the second most dangerous hunt in the world, Galway in Ireland was first. Heck we’d tear down mountains at breakneck speed. We were known as ‘Rappa Hang On.’”
She also told of the 25th annual Labor Day Mixed Double Handicapped Whistle Cup Tennis Tournament of Rappahannock. “We just called it the 25th because we couldn’t remember how many years we’d been having the tournament,” she laughed.