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Posts Tagged ‘Richmond’

First my calves, then knees, then thighs – and regions higher – began to feel the cold, wet snow as it rushed up my body. The frozen, white slope looked very long and steep. It was my first time snow sledding and I was twenty years old. On the sled behind me was my boss, Henry Snellings, Jr.

 Mr. Snellings (always Mr.) was the brains of my department at the City of Richmond, and second in command. I was a secretary.  His brilliant mind was balanced by the spirit and wonder of a little boy. He was ever proper and shy, yet playful. He once handed me a brown envelope to deliver to my husband. I had no idea what was in it. Jerry opened it to find a copy of a rather thick booklet I had typed to be printed. Inside was also a note saying, “I just wanted you to see what good work your wife does.”

 This was a man you trusted, so when he told me to come along with him at lunchtime while the snow was piled high outside, I put on my coat and went. He finally came to a stop at Bryan Park, opened the trunk and pulled out a sled.

 “We are going sledding. You can’t go your whole life without going snow sledding.” He had seen my excitement when the flakes began to fall the day before. Growing up in South Texas, it was all new to me. That boyish twinkle was enough to make me forget the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I looked down that steep hill. So I climbed on in front of him and braced for a new adventure.

 I have not told you what I was wearing. This was in the late fifties, and ladies dressed properly for work, which meant I was wearing a wool skirt, high heels covered by boots, and nylons on a garter belt. This was before pantyhose.

 At the bottom of the hill, I stood and shook as much loose snow from under my clothing as I could, but I was still cold and damp. He must have realized because we climbed back up to the car and drove back to work. He was very proud to have initiated a Texas girl in the benefits of a good Virginia snow, and am I still very proud to have known and worked for such a man.

 

 

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I began blogging in the early sixties. You read that right. That revelation occurred to me only today. It is amazing how a word, name or place will pop out of a page and events will come wafting back. The words today were “Lynn, Massachusetts” on Mark Sardella’s blog.

 

I suddenly remembered someone who lives (or lived) there. The Boston Strangler stalked somewhere in that vicinity. She used to talk about it. Her name is lost to the years and this is the first time I had thought of her in over four decades. The mystery person from Lynn was only a voice to me on a tape recorder. An 8-track? I don’t remember, but it is possible. Soon after another nameless voice came to me. This one a woman from Long Beach, California – then another from some western state where he was a radio personality. I was a young mother living in Richmond, Virginia. What did all of us have in common? Writing—entering contests to be precise where we finished jingles, wrote 25-word statements and named things.

 

The early sixties was a fertile time for contests and sweepstakes, which we considered poor stepchildren to what we called “skill contests.” I belonged to the Gold Dominion Contest Club which met at the Richmond Public Library once a month. In my early twenties at the time, the next youngest member was at least twenty years older than I, the oldest in her seventies, but we shared a love of creativity and writing. All had won a lot of prizes. Tempa Blanton had taken advantage of rampant contests after World War II ended and won everything in her kitchen—including the kitchen sink. She said in her youth she was told she looked like Judy Garland. If you squinted your eyes just right, she still did.

 

Oh, back to the early blog——  From a national contest newsletter, I hooked up with contesters from across the country. Soon a tape arrived in the mail. I listened to each tell of their lives and contesting experiences, then added my story and mailed on to the next in line. The tape continued to make its circle for several years with long gaps between arrivals. One day it no longer arrived and I never heard from them again.

 

Could they still be out there? Still contesting, or gone on to other writing, as I have? More important, do they know they might be among the first bloggers on earth? Okay, so it was a round robin tape, but a forerunner of coast to coast communication with strangers, don’t you think?

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