Thursday, June 14, 2018

6/14/2018 An Open Letter to WHAN, Feed the Life Guards, Local Kids Earn Their PHDs

We have been without a local newspaper now for two months and the void is still there.  It hasn't been without effort, though.  I have reached out to the Richmond-Times Dispatch and the Mechanicsville Local, and I have been in touch with the owner/editor of the Progress-Index in Petersburg who was interested in continuing the H-P, but nothing.  I know that no one has had any success with Lakeview Publishing who doesn't seem interested in selling the rights to the name.  What do they care anyway?  Makes me so mad.

There are wonderful online efforts to connect our community: this blog, the Ashland Hawk, the Hanover Ledger- all small, grass-roots, and led by passion and dedication.  But we cannot assemble and disseminate the news like a local newspaper.

Is it morose to say that we miss being able to read the local obituaries?  Those short stories of lives-well-lived made me feel grounded to this place, and we miss that.  We miss local church news and sports' teams scores.  We miss the pictures of people traveling and holding up their copy of the H-P outside of the British Parliament or Big Ben.  When is the next salt-fish breakfast?

We do have one local voice that is free to the public and readily available in any home, and that it WHAN radio, 102.9 "The Mater."

When I was growing up in the Northern Neck, my grandmother's kitchen radio was always tuned to WRAR in Warsaw, and we were treated to all the quirkiness of a small radio station.  They had a show called the "Swap Shop" where they would open the phone lines and people would call in to say that they had a refrigerator for sale, or that they were looking for a cheap garden tiller.  Sometimes they would call in to say that they had lost a hunting dog somewhere near Farmer's Fork.  And everyday the DJ would read the report from the local funeral home while heavy organ music played in the background.  It's the soundtrack from a hot summer day in my childhood, when my life was so boring that shelling beans on the front porch was a welcome chore.

So, WHAN, I'm talking to you- I think your role here could be bigger than you know.

If you have a kitchen radio, or one in your car, save the 102.9 spot.  It's a really great station with interesting and fun music.  The signal is pretty strong, too, I can listen all the way down in the West End.  Now is your time, 'Mater...

In other Ashland news, the brand new snack bar at the Carter Park pool is up and running although they are maintaining some tight security so none of my informants can tell me much about it.  Apparently all the life guards are not allowed in the snack bar, nor do they get a discount on the food items.  Poor lifeguards- they are always hungry and texting their parents to bring them food.  The next time someone is at the store, maybe you could pick them up some nabs. #carterpark4ever

Sweet Henry Clay Elementary School, has two wonderful inner courtyards that were created when the school was enlarged many years ago.  This summer, they will begin renovations to one of those spaces as a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) outdoor classroom.  Funding of this project is underway, and you can purchase an engraved brick to be used in the walkway.  These bricks are $50 each and can be engraved with a message up to 60 characters.  What a great way to leave a piece of your family at Henry Clay after your kids have grown up!  Stop by the office at Henry Clay to get an order form this summer.

Congratulations to all the kids who will be graduating from Patrick Henry this weekend!  I remember when you were all at Henry Clay.  It was just last week, you know.  I am so excited to hear stories of where you land and the good things that you will do out there.  Please come home on holidays and maybe for a few more summers. Be glad you got to grow up here; you have so many wonderful stories to take with you.

Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320,  Have a wonderful weekend COTU!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

6/7/2018 Things of Summer: Bees, Pool Water, Books, Tomatoes

And just like that it is summer.  Randolph-Macon has sent its graduates out into the world and the streets around campus are empty and quiet.  Swim team practices have begun at the pool with the wonderful addition of Ari Brothers as a coach.  She is reportedly tough, but encouraging, and the allure of ribbons and a ticket to the championship meet surrounds her swimmers.  There are a few days left of school, but those days are all half-days next week; for the seniors, their last day is tomorrow.  

Mosquitoes, wasps, lightening bugs, may flies- all manner of Virginia summer buzzers have returned.  We avoid walking bare-footed in the grass so that we don't step on a bee, and every evening we try and destroy the wasp nests that have develop daily in the upper eaves of the porch.  Magnolias are in bloom, morning glories are just starting to appear and are looking for something to climb, and I spend too much time looking online at vacation cottages along salty rivers in the Northern Neck.

All of this is to say that it is another summer in the COTU and we have a wonderful couple of months ahead of us!  A wise man from Arkansas once told me, "Ya'll are the most gettin-together people I've ever met."  Yes, we do like to get together; it is so much fun.

Saturday mornings have become market days in Ashland. Everything is alive and awake as the Farmer's Market draws record crowds, and the shops in town line their sidewalk space with flowers, plants, and toys.  Saturdays around here are really how every mornings should be: no long, hectic commutes, no scrambling to get kids out to the bus.  Just a nice walk or bike ride into town to see what the farmers have brought in today.  

The newly remodeled Cross Brothers continues to attract lots of customers and attention!  They are accomplishing a lot in the smaller space, and we are enjoying all the delicious pre-made goods.  I have heard wonders about a certain ice cream sandwich.  

This Saturday, come out to see the new concession stand at the Carter Park Pool and enjoy a day in the sun for free!  The Town is hosting "A Day in the Park" on June 9th.  Residents and visitors will have the chance to learn more about the parks in town and the recreational offerings.  The pool will be open for all, and visitors will be able to provide input on new playground equipment at the Kiwanis Pufferbelly Park.  There will also be volleyball, corn hole, and other games.    

Summer Reading sign-ups are happening now at your neighborhood library.  Just like waiting for a train forces us to take a breath and put the car into "park," a visit to the library instantly calms and settles you.  I think we should all be stopping by there at least once a week.  Look for their schedule of events on their website, and find a good book to read by the pool this Saturday.  

Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320, Enjoy the weekend, Ashland!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

5/31/2018 Season of Mud, First Street Party of Summer- CANCELLED, Will Kimbrough, Ashland Hawk

I think somehow we missed spring this year; winter lasted into April and May has been a soggy mess.  Now, we know that it's almost summer because a tropical system moving up from the south and hurricane season begins Friday. Regrettably, all signs point to a very humid summer. 
Sorry to report that this event has been cancelled due to the predicted weather for the evening.   The first Ashland Street Party of Summer is this Saturday, June 2nd, from 6:30 to 11:00 PM behind the Library on South Center Street.  Tickets are $10 in advance and can be purchased online here or  in town at The Caboose Wine and Cheese, Ace Hardware, SONA Bank, and Coldwell Banker to name a few spots.  Tickets purchased at the gate are $20 each, but kids 12 and under are free with a paying adult.  Bring a lawn chair if you'd like to sit between dances, but no coolers or pets please.  There is always an abundance of food and drinks available to purchase there. 

Also this Saturday night Will Kimbrough returns to the Ashland Coffee and Tea, indoors! Will is an amazing singer and songwriter that we have seen several times on his tours through the COTU- once with Rodney Crowell.  He has worked with Roseanne Cash, Todd Snider, Steve Earle, and John Prine.  The concert starts at 8:00 PM; tickets are $15 in advance, or $18 at the door.  There is no need to leave the town limits this weekend. 

This evening is the Senior Awards night at Patrick Henry High School.  I know that a certain amount of euphoria exists naturally with those seniors, and rightfully so, these kids are full of enthusiasm, hope, and optimism. But on the Senior Awards night, the stage will be full of people handing out scholarships to these kids so that they can continue their education.  Some of the presenters are alumnae of Patrick Henry, and some are parents who have lost a child but give the scholarships out in their name as a way of remembering.  It is the most touching evening that I have ever experienced as a parent of a Hanover County student.  If you get the chance to go, you certainly should.

Congratulations to the Randolph-Macon Baseball team who made it all the way to the final eight teams in the NCAA Division III College World Series this past week!  What a wonderful showing for the team's first trip to this tournament.  We are so very proud and look forward to their season next year.

And as we wade through the trough of information, now unaided by any sort of local newspapers, we find ourselves creating and putting together communication in any way that we can.  I even thought about printing several hundred one-page newsletters and delivering them to doorsteps, but the web seems to be our only resource for now.

Ragan Phillips has recently founded The Ashland Hawk to serve as our virtual opinion section, or letters-to-the-editor page.  The Hawk will focus on public issues: education, housing, jobs, economic stress, and will strive to be a forum where ideas can be exchanged respectfully.  Stay informed at

Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5302,  Have a wonderful weekend; buy a newspaper!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

5/24/2018 Yellow Jackets Look To World Series, Cross Brothers Re-opens, Saturday Shopping, Memorial Day

Photo courtesy of Randolph-Macon College

So, not only are they headed to the 2018 NCAA Division III Baseball World Series, but the Randolph-Macon Baseball team is seeded number 1!  The team leaves today bound for Appleton, Wisconsin- way over on the other side of Lake Michigan- almost a thousand miles away.  Their first game will be tomorrow, Friday, May 25th, at 2:15 (our time) against the Misericordia Cougars.  Sportspage Grille, 504 England Street, will be streaming all of the RMC games

Ten years ago when the football field was flipped, and there was no Andrews Hall, you could sit in the stands and see the baseball field. In 2008, Ashland was getting ready for their big 150th birthday celebration to be held on the football field, and the elementary kids of Gandy and Henry Clay came out one afternoon to practice singing the national anthem.  The RMC baseball team was practicing behind them, but as these little kids started to sing, all of those boys stopped, took off their caps, and turned to face the kids.  It wasn't the start of a game, or a professional singer with a microphone, just some little kids from way across the field who weren't even aware that anyone was listening. 

The Randolph-Macon softball team had a great season this year.  Even though they got eliminated in the Regional Championships, it is a young team who will be exciting to watch next year!

Saturday will be a big day as we all have been looking forward to Cross Brother's re-opening!  We have been tempted with lots of pictures online, but the one that grabbed my attention was the box of tomatoes from Farnham, Virginia.  That's in Richmond County, folks, the Northern Neck, which grows some amazing tomatoes in its sandy soil.  All I ask is that you leave some for me. 

As always this Saturday in May, the Ashland Farmer's Market will be open and busy- I go mostly for the flowers and plants.  The Feed Store is stocked with any kind of vegetable plant that you may need for your beautiful garden.  The soil is pretty perfect now after all that rain, for planting.  I will probably have to pull a wagon with me to bring everything home.

There's a great town event this Sunday, May 27th: Ticket to Ride, a Run, Bike, Walk event through the streets of Ashland.  This 4.5 mile route will feature train stops along the way where you can learn more about Ashland and the trains that visit us each day.  This event is free, so come check in at 2:00 at the table on the south side of Archie Cannon Drive at the Railroad Track trail. 

Do you have a senior getting ready to graduate next month?  We have Patrick Henry kids getting ready to leave us for James Madison, UVA, Virginia Tech, Longwood, VCU, Tulane, and the University of Washington.  It's always wonderful to see where these kids will spread their wings and we look forward to each holiday when they come home.  

Happy birthday to A.C. Bruce who celebrates this Sunday!  Not only is he a great home builder, but a superb neighbor as well.

This Monday, Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember all the men and women who gave their lives for our freedoms.  

Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320,  Have a wonderful weekend; buy a newspaper!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

5/17/2018 Rain, Street Party Moved, Rain, Cross Brothers Reopens, Rain

 Oh, now I remember what I forgot to bring out last week when I put winter clothes away...rain boots.  Although we don't have it as bad as our New England friends who are just beginning their mud season, it is certainly wet around here.  Our spongy Ashland soil will soaks up all this moisture to ensure that we have lots of humidity as soon as the sun returns.  We are the lucky ones.

And speaking of this soggy weather, the first Ashland Street Party of 2018 has had to move to Saturday, June 2nd, at 6:30 PM.  You can buy tickets online at here, for $10 each before the show, or $20 each at the gate.  Children 12 and under get in free with a paying adult.  There will be food and beverages available at the party, so please just bring a lawn chair if you would like a place to sit.  

We are excited to learn that the grand opening for the newly remodeled and restructured Cross Brothers will be next Saturday, May 26th!  I think we are all anxious to see what things look like in there, and there will be some veggies, right?  Just asking for a friend.  

Registration is now open for the Ashland Barracuda Swim Team!  Practices will start after school on Thursday, May 24th.  Will the pool be filled?  Will the water be cold?  And what about that snack bar? Well, friends, those mysteries are just one part of the excitement.  Sign up your kids, pull out the beach towels, and come find out.  Register at

There is always a cozy corner at your Ashland Library to sit and read a book.  It's a perfect retreat if you wanted to get away from things.  I wouldn't even think to look for you there.  This evening, Thursday, May 17th, there is a fun metal stamping class from 5:00 to 6:00 PM for kids ages 11-18, and this is free like almost everything at the library!  Call 798-4072 for more information.

There are so many opportunities to hear good music within walking distance of your Ashland home:

Ashland Coffee & Tea

England Street Tavern


Enjoy the rain if you can.  From my kitchen, I can imagine that train whistles are really boats, and the clank of a flag pole in the wind is actually rigging.  You know I love you COTU, but I really wish you had a harbor.  Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320,  Have a wonderful weekend!  Go buy a newspaper.  

Thursday, May 10, 2018

5/10/2018 Variety Show Delayed; All Citizens Devastated

Maybe that heading was a little extreme, but it was written after hearing the news that the Ashland Musical Variety Show, which is normally held every odd year, will be postponed until March 2020 due to renovations at Randolph-Macon's Blackwell Auditorium.  While the improvements will be very welcome, it was with shock and disappointment that we read this news.  Even years?  It's like the whole town has been thrown off its axis.  What will we do this winter with no rehearsals, no costume search, and no glitter?  We will have to plan something to keep us occupied, and to support the Arts and Activities Center, as we all struggle to hold on until 2020.

I have been reading a lot of Richmond newspapers from the early part of the 1900s, and a large majority of the news from Ashland focused on baseball games.  So nothing much has changed in one hundred years.

Eyes are watching the Randolph-Macon Baseball team who is currently ranked No. 1 in the Massey Ratings.  The boys of summer will be in Lynchburg this weekend for a double-elimination tournament to determine the ODAC champion, and to see who will be moving on to the NCAA Tournament. As you can see from this 1908 article, R-MC had "invincible battery" even then.

Not to be outdone, the Randolph-Macon softball team who is now ranked 5th in the national Division III poll!  Coach Kevin Proffit and his team are in New Jersey today getting ready to face the College of Staten Island tomorrow, Friday, at 2:30 PM in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

I don't have any Ashland Little League news other than to say that I can hear the sounds of an evening ball game in my back-yard, and it is such a wonderful noise.

CSX is performing track maintenance for a few days this week, which means all the wooden pedestrian board walks have been removed.  Cross carefully!  Do you know what CSX stands for?  They originally wanted to call it "CSM" which stood for Chessie Seaboard Merger, but that was already taken on the stock exchange.  They decided to go with "CSX" and have the X symbolize the train tracks, as any train crossing sign has a large X across it.  Just a little bit of info for the COTU.

We were all lucky to have another summer here, don’t you think?  I know that life in Ashland is not perfect, but I hope that you know it is special.  This column should never comes across as being Pollyanna-ish, or ignorant of the trials of life, but I want to remind you of the small things that we sometimes overlook: the odd sign in front of the dry cleaners, decorated bike gardens, opera singer sightings, and pool towels hung on a porch railing. 

Life in this town is good NOT because of the size of your house, the kind of car you drive, or the clothes that you wear.  Life is good here because we laugh a lot at silly things.  We have an affinity for organizing events, and we love it best when our sidewalks are crowded with people.  We leave things on each other’s front porches, we stand in the middle of the road to talk, and we absolutely love to decorate. 

This is a good town, and we will always be lucky because we found our way here. The summer is really something to look forward to in the Center of the Universe. Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320,

Thursday, May 3, 2018

5/3/2018 The Return of Shade and Flowered Prints, Dr. Kiss to Speak at RMC Graduation, and an Election without Politics

By the time you read this, we may have already descended into summer...that's how fleeting spring can be in the Center of the Universe.  We have a very brief window of opportunity for chilly mornings and sunny afternoons, when we need a sweater if we are sitting in the shade.

One of the best things about spring is that Mr. Hale has brought out his floral ensembles for his bike trips around town.  While his daily bike excursions may be a confusing thing, he surely makes many people smile everyday.

I know that this recent Town Council election wasn't historic or headline news, but it I want to make sure that you know how meaningful it was.  There are very few places where we can experience democracy without the rhetoric of politics, or where we can see candidates debate without attacking one another.  In contrast to national politics, this Ashland election lets us believe that we can govern as neighbors and respected colleagues.  All three candidates have my respect and admiration for the work that they did on our behalf, and I look forward to hearing the opinions of Mr. Hodges and Mr. McGraw in the July Town Council meeting.  Alexander Hamilton would have been proud.

The next Town Council meeting is Tuesday, May 15th, at 7:00 PM.

Congratulations to the Patrick Henry Girls Varsity Soccer team who beat Highland Springs at home this week with a score of 10 to 0!  Their next home game will be tomorrow, Friday, May 4th, at 6:00 PM against Lee-Davis High School.  Cheering for your home town high school is a great way to spend an evening.

Speaking of kids, have you ever thought about hosting an international student in your home? There are students who would love the opportunity to live in the US and study at our local high schools. Families are needed for the 2018-2019 school year and all students are fluent in English.  Contact Welby Fairlie to get more information: 800-263-2936.

Randolph-Macon has announced that Dr. Elizabeth Kiss will be the commencement speaker for their graduation this year on Saturday, June 2nd.  Dr. Kiss was a professor of philosophy on our Ashland campus in 1987, and since has gone on to serve as president of Agnes Scott College in Georgia.  Dr. Kiss has recently been named the chief executive of the Rhodes Scholarship Program at Oxford University in England.

Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320,  I still believe that this town needs a printed newspaper and that there is a market for it, even in this digital age.

6/14/2018 An Open Letter to WHAN, Feed the Life Guards, Local Kids Earn Their PHDs

We have been without a local newspaper now for two months and the void is still there.  It hasn't been without effort, though.  I hav...