November 22, 1963

Airman 3rd Class Rood

In the summer of 1963, I was looking forward to beginning college but being one of ten children in a blue-collar family, and being unable to find a job since high school graduation, it seemed unlikely that would happen. My scholarship would cover only tuition, which left books, room and board. I had received no information or advice about student aid and felt hopeless about my future. Home life was becoming increasingly more difficult so when Sgt. George Sterling, US Air Force recruiter, came to the house, I was ripe for the picking. Before I realized what was happening, I was stepping off a plane in San Antonio, headed for basic training at Lackland A.F.B. in Texas. Continue reading “November 22, 1963” »

Then and Now: Dining Out

During my early years in the 1930’s and 1940’s, “Dining out” meant going to a friend’s house for supper or grandmother’s house for dinner after church on Sunday. While I’m certain there were one or two restaurants in Front Royal, meals in such were unknown to me although I do remember a place on Route 11 mid-way to Roanoke where we occasionally stopped to get “a foot-long hotdog” to be eaten in the car on the long drive to visit our grandparents and family. Continue reading “Then and Now: Dining Out” »

Liberty and Justice for All

When the Age of Enlightenment was suddenly and inexorably replaced with the Age of Romanticism at the end of the 18th Century, the notion of liberty was exalted and the virtue of Justice was trampled by the mobs blinded by vengeance. The American Revolution straddled those two eras. Reason and Justice were the foundations of that revolution but once underway, reason (Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, etal) was set aside in favor of angry rhetoric (Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, etal) and the middle ground vanished. One was either a Tory or a Patriot. Bystanders were advised to get out of the way.  It seems that now we Americans are being compelled to choose between Right and Left.  While the Right preoccupies itself with Liberty, the Left tenaciously holds on to its complementary value, Justice.

Halloween on July 4

Shenandoah Valley Tea Party in Harrisonburg's July 4th Parade

April 16th marked the passing of former Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates. His death went virtually unnoticed by the media. However, the page-five news item brought back several memories seared into my brain from the violent Sixties. Gates was a very conservative, no-nonsense law and order guy, who was regarded by many as a racist and bigot. His response to the riots spawned by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and later Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 was swift and brutal. He quickly became the darling of the Nixon crowd and a symbol for law and order.

How times have changed. Today the extreme Right is the faction preaching revolution, and with guns if necessary. Continue reading “Halloween on July 4” »

Then & Now: 1872 Rockingham Crime Reporting

Any visitor from another world checking the TV Guide might wonder at Americans apparent fascination with crime and the criminal mind. In one week’s listing TV watchers have an offering of good guys and girls vs. the bad on endless different one-hour shows. Among them are 48 Hours, NCIS, Law & Order, CSI: NY, Criminal Minds, The Evidence, The First 48, Without a Trace, Conviction, and Cold Case Files: Special Victims Unit—which runs four entirely different shows on Saturday nights.

But this is no new fascination. Continue reading “Then & Now: 1872 Rockingham Crime Reporting” »

Then & Now: Founding Fathers Risk Life, Build a Nation

Signing of the Declaration of Independence

Poll any audience today to all what they’d risk life for and easy answers roll off tongues—family, God, country.  But then widen the sacrifice:  what would you also risk your family, your bank account, your home for—not just yourself.  That answer is harder and few, very few, ever answer they would risk all for an idea, a theory.

Yet this is the question members of the Continental Congress answered on July 4, 1776, when they voted to make Jefferson’s final draft—after their revisions and input—the official Declaration of Independence.  They wouldn’t sign until August 2 after all 13 colonies had approved it, but on July 4, they sent the text to printer John Dunlap.  He typeset and ran 200 copies or “broadsides”—about the size of a sheet of newspaper and those broadsides were then carried by messengers on horseback to Continue reading “Then & Now: Founding Fathers Risk Life, Build a Nation” »

Give Me “Liberty” or Give Me…?

Since our arrival on these shores, we Americans have been obsessed with the idea of “liberty.” Some of the earliest European settlers came here to enjoy their newly found freedom from the 17th Century pluralistic society that was evolving in their mother country. They came to practice a more disciplined brand of religion, a legalistic brand that did not place a high priority on individual liberty.

But as the colonies evolved and the Age of Enlightenment swept the soon-to-be nation, the concept of liberty was re-examined in the context of political and economic matters. Liberty became a more inclusive term that extended to so-called Continue reading “Give Me “Liberty” or Give Me…?” »

This post was submitted by David Rood.

Vengeance Is Mine, Hopeth The Pilk

Part II in a series by local writer Andrew Jenner about the South Africa 2010 World Cup and the meaning of life in Harrisonburg, Virginia (read Part I).

John Pilk says the Dutch are due.

For 36 years, John Pilk has been waiting on revenge.

Ever since that July day in 1974, when Pilk watched his beloved Dutch soccer team, the Oranje, lose 2-1 to West Germany in the World Cup final, Pilk has been hoping for another chance.

After the game ended, Pilk stepped out on his porch in The Hague and wept. He sounds as if he might weep again, telling the story, because Pilk is madly Continue reading “Vengeance Is Mine, Hopeth The Pilk” »

This post was submitted by Andrew Jenner.

Then and Now: Coming of Age in the Best of Times

I turned 13 in 1943, a year of world chaos and personal up-heaval. The world was at war, my family on the move. My dad had joined the navy and after he returned from battles in the Pacific, new orders shifted him about stateside. I attended three junior high and three high schools. Yet it was a wonderful time to enter my teens. And even today I’m still grateful for the innocence and idealism that marked my generation. They forged me—and many others—a confidence to face any future and to look forward to it.

Today, however, I sense an opposite outlook on life—too many youthful cynics, too many who don’t dare to dream. And so too many won’t risk Continue reading “Then and Now: Coming of Age in the Best of Times” »

This post was submitted by Nancy Bondurant Jones.

Then and Now: JMU Presidents’ Controversies

“Spring Fest 1010” that took place off-campus but was hosted by James Madison University students led to police battles that headlined newsprint with each step into blame or fame heralding the school’s response. And the school newspaper’s invasion by a team of the local Commonwealth Attorney heightened the public outcry.

Students protesting in Wilson Hall and being arrested, circa 1970, before Dr. Ronald Carrier became the school's president. (Courtesy of JMU Special Collections, Carrier Library)

Since the school’s inception just over a century ago as an academy for young women, the five successive school presidents have each had visions of accomplishment and always faced the media chopping block. Any time something major and/or colorful went wrong, newspapers quickly front-paged the story.

For example, first president Julian Burruss felt, “The development of a strong, noble and womanly character is of first importance….” His rules were stringent but media ignored any small discrepancies such as one girl placed on a quarter’s probation for attending a dance downtown without permission, knowing she couldn’t get permission. Ditto when another was suspended for rudeness to a teacher.

But on certain matters Burruss could not hold the newspapers in check.  Banner headlines in the Harrisonburg paper for February 15, 1913, reported “PRETTY SCHOOL GIRL ELOPES FROM NORMAL.” Immediately below in smaller caps ran “MISS LILLIAN CAMPBELL, LEAVES DORMITORY BY MEANS OF IMPROVISED ROPE, JOINS LOVER AND HASTENS TO BE MARRIED—STUDENT BODY SHOCKED.”

The faculty was more shocked and faced a dilemma since no specific rule banned elopement!  Deliberating from afternoon until after midnight, the faculty finally voted to expel the young lady from school for “leaving without permission.” The groom’s sister was asked to withdraw as well and the other roommate suspended for a year. The story made the Washington Post and newspapers around the state—yet the school didn’t lose face on this one.

And so it goes, both problems and kudos make the news. Yet president Burruss made few errors and when offered the presidency of Virginia Technical Institute, he couldn’t refuse the step up to his alma mater. Newspapers applauded his success.

However, those same papers only halfheartedly welcomed the new president Samuel P. Duke. Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record for July 23, 1919, simply stated the Virginia Normal School Board voted “7 to 5 in favor of Prof. Duke.” Clearly disappointed in the choice, the paper didn’t even accord Duke the title of state supervisor or list his many accomplishments. Their newsprint continued to evoke the vast local disappointment that Dr. Sanger, the local popular Valley choice, had not been given the position.

Yet Duke’s presidency ran smoothly—even when his Dean of Women Denise Varner bobbed her hair and numerous students followed this trend so absolutely forbidden in Duke’s rules of conduct. However, newspapers paid no attention as general student behavior toed the line under Duke at the newly named State Teachers College in Harrisonburg. While Duke’s list of restrictions seems ludicrous today, they generally extended ordinary rules enforced at students’ homes.

For 30 years Duke won only public accolades as he guided his faculty and students through the changing world in the Great Depression and World War II. Under his leadership, men were admitted as students for the first time and male athletic teams emerged. (The basketball team dubbed itself the “Madison Dukes” in hope Dr. Duke would fork over funds for basketballs and equipment—which he did.)

In 1949 a massive stroke ended Duke’s presidency. Soon designated President Emeritus, he and his wife were given the refurbished Zirkle House across Main Street (where JMU is now building its nearly-completed performing arts center) to be their home for the final six years of his life. And Gov. William Tuck appointed Dr. Tyler Miller to become Madison’s third president.

However, “The third time’s a charm” did not apply to third president Miller. While his first decade accomplished continuing growth with few changes, his last years were shadowed by the startling disharmony of the ‘60s and ‘70s. For example in 1967-68, student Jay Rainey came on campus wearing “hippie fashion” blue jeans, blanket ponchos, sandals, and flowing hair. Rainey refused to change and Miller refused his admission for next year. That decision drew wide press coverage when support on Raney’s behalf from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia won in court and the school had to admit him.

Also, a campus underground organization, Harambee, objected to Miller’s firing of three sympathetic faculty members without apparent reason as they were quickly replaced. In addition, demonstrations on campus led to student arrests. Those events included students marching on campus, a one-night takeover of the administration building, and a later welcome for Vietnam protester and movie star Jane Fonda to appear on campus to encourage students to join the antiwar activists.

Looking back years later, fourth president Dr. Ronald E. Carrier candidly assessed:

Tyler Miller had been a good president, was a very fine man. But the world was changing—dramatically. You’d had the assassination of John F. Kennedy; of Robert Kennedy, of Martin Luther King. You’d had the Berkeley free-speech movement; you’d had Civil Rights issues in Selma, Alabama, and Birmingham. You had the Vietnam War, had just had Cambodia, plus we had Kent State. You had some trouble here which was really minor but turned into more of an issue than it probably should have been.

Dr. Miller was caught in the vortex of a changing world, didn’t really want to go into it but didn’t know how to get out of it. Yet he got out in time before it damaged him personally—no one asked him to quit—and before the institution paid the price.

Newspapers had a field day. And at times presidents #4 and #5 have run the same gauntlets. One example is Carrier’s firing of a physics professor popular with the faculty but yearly unable to attract enough students to the physics program to warrant his continuing. The faculty called for Carrier’s dismissal but the Board of Visitors disagreed. Carrier remained and the school continued to flourish with expanding programs in all academic areas.

And now President Rose responded to Spring Fest by taking immediate action to contact parents school wide with a letter of his assessment and reassurance of responsive actions ahead. No student uprising or parent ire has followed. Both parents and students applaud his timely response and strong leadership. That, however, has not made the off-campus news.

For more detailed description of the events of the first four presidents—Burruss, Duke, Miller, and Carrier, read detailed chapters in Nancy Bondurant-Jones’ book, Rooted On Blue Stone Hill, a history of the school’s first ninety years.

This post was submitted by Nancy Bondurant Jones.

Power to The People?

Those of us with a preponderance of gray (or in my case, sparse) hair will vividly recall the angry chant of “POWER TO THE PEOPLE” from Yippies and other radicals on the Left. The phrase was even memorialized in a song by John Lennon, and came to symbolize the vehemence felt by liberals and pseudo-liberals about the Vietnam War, a war prolonged and expanded by the Nixon Administration in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

But the anger did not begin with Nixon. Though Lyndon Johnson was considered to be every bit a liberal as John Kennedy, his decision to allow the military to pursue an unpopular war, which it knew it could not win turned the Left against him. LBJ wisely chose not to run for re-election in 1968 but that did not stop the raucous ugly protests and rage by the anti-war crowd. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a decent man with impeccable liberal credentials, inherited that anger and distrust from his own base. The Democrat landslide of 1964 would not be repeated and the resulting Republican victory spawned an even angrier and demoralized Left. In retrospect, the shift of power was inevitable but in the heat of the times, few liberals could see it coming.

It is my contention that angry people never see clearly and seldom act responsibly. I state this now, having participated in the outrageous protests of the Sixties and Seventies, and having since devoted the intervening years to studying history and gaining some perspective on the political tactics in the context of traditional American values. When I hear Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh venting against their political adversaries, I relive the hate I felt for LBJ and Nixon. I understand why they are so upset with people who are in power, people who do not share their political, economic or religious views. I understand the anger and I also understand how that anger is self-defeating. It is apparent that, because they are so angry, they cannot see clearly and will not act responsibly. Eventually, their influence will wane.

Fringe groups like to say, “most Americans want…” but to anyone outside that fringe, it is clear that they have no idea what “most Americans” want. They extrapolate what THEY want to a fictitious majority to try to make a case for their ideology and policies. Anyone who has ever participated in formal debate knows that the Achilles’ heel to any argument is overstating one’s case. The fringe’s hyperbolic assertions may get the attention of the masses but when the facts are examined more carefully, reason will usually prevail over emotion. We have seen this with the Far Right’s alarmist terms such as “Death Panels.” What they contrived to be a cogent argument backfired to be an embarrassing joke. The same can be said of the term, “Socialist.” I have found that most people on the Right who invoke that hot-button term have no understanding of its definition.

The petulance shown by Republican leaders and the fringe Right at the passage of health care reform is a sad commentary on how we have abandoned our most sacred of American values. It reminds me of professional wrestling, where the match isn’t over until someone is knocked unconscious with a metal folding chair. Contrast that with boxing, where the losing prizefighter congratulates the winner with a handshake or embrace. Our political leaders on both sides of the aisle need to become more like Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano and less like The Undertaker. After all these years, I still support “Power to The People” as long as “the people” believe in democracy, civility and human decency.

This content was submitted by the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Harrisonburg Times.

This post was submitted by David Rood.

Looking Back and Forth: City Lights

Nancy Bondurant Jones will be submitting a regular column to the titled “Looking Back and Forth.”

Through centuries city lights have  not only offered  brighter nights but often reflect city culture.   For example in the Smithsonian magazine for January 2010,  David Martin quoted a 14th Century homeowners association in the year 1365 regarding lighting:

Manor hath provided torches throughout the community for the convenience of all.  However, all torches must be extinguished by curfew and not reignited until the following dusk so as not to obscure viewing of God’s celestial firmament.

What a lovely reflection—though today the number of lights serve to dim sky views.  Yet lights have always been an symbol of proud growth.  Historian John Wayland gave Dec. 22, 1890, as the date electric lights were first turned on in Harrisonburg—streets unlisted:  “Globes suspended from chestnut poles of regulation size…out of the way of traffic. All to burn nightly, except when the moon is actually full and not cloudy.”
Harrisonburg had been officially designated an independent city in 1916 but it took decades later for neon signs and strings of electric lights to evoke that “city feeling.”

Yet in the mid-1930s, a dark horizon still marked rural nights.  Furthermore, as towns and cities gradually acquired more lights, a vast social gulf grew between those living in darkness with kerosene lamps their only lights while townsfolk sat blessed by electricity.

Amid the nation’s worse  financial depression, the President sought to lift Americans’ pride and to close the nation’s cultural divide.  The Rural Electrification Act was signed by Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt in May 1936.  Two years later, on Jan. 29, 1938, the Daily News-Record reported, “More than 97 rural homes in the western section of Rockingham Co. enjoyed electric lights and power for the first time Saturday night when 47 miles of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative lines were energized.”

In spite of some farmers’ fears of electric wires in their homes, on June 16, SVEC reported 118 miles had been energized the prior week for over 400 farms in West Rockingham County and Northwest Augusta Co.  By year’s end, the SVEC had served 1,825  local homes with current, and across the nation, similar growth drew farmers to praise their President.  One Tennessee,  farmer giving witness in church said: “Brothers and sisters, I want to tell you this:  The greatest thing on earth is to have the love of God in your heart—and the next greatest thing is to have electricity in your house.”

Modern Americans may agree if they ever think about it, taking electricity for granted  and complaining fiercely when a storm takes down their line. Yet they’re proudly aware that a modern “city” offers not only great conveniences, but also stylish decorative touches.  Since the 1930’s in many small towns across the nation, any Saturday night drew both country and city dwellers to greet friends, and all to marvel at neon signs and electric lights along Main Street or the passing parade of cars one way.  And electric lights were often followed by neon and fluorescent.  In 1941 Gus Julius remodeled his restaurant to full-time with fluorescent inside and neon along the street.  Newsweek magazine ran an article on this first restaurant in the nation completely lit by fluorescent lighting.

Today holiday nights still beckon those driving or strolling on Main Street.  Traffic now flows one way and  the once familiar large stores now line distant malls.

Yet current lights mark eateries, small shops and clubs  that beckon strollers along Main Street with foods, music, stylish miscellany plus art.    We even celebrate “First Fridays”  downtown for “art & music, shop & stroll, wine & dine” each month from April through October—city lights still reflecting city culture.

This post was submitted by Nancy Bondurant Jones.