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Hanover County, Let Me Give You a Personal Tour
I grew up in Hanover County, about 25 miles north of the City of Richmond. You can drive north on Route 301 from Richmond, and you will end up at the crossroads of Rt. 301 and Rt. 54. The intersection is less than a mile from the house I grew up in. There are other areas of Hanover County that are more built up, have shopping centers and subdivisions. But this little area, Hanover Courthouse, will always be the one I call home.
The Houndstooth Cafe is sitting right there, in it's simple white building. But it's everyone's favorite place to go for hushpuppies. My mom used to be a waitress there, and when I was a kid sometimes my dad would bring us in for dinner while she was working. The owner, Bob Cunningham, died working on one of the old cars he loves. But his wife Connie carries on the traditions of the Houndstooth.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church also sits at that intersection. I went there for Sunday School, pancake and spaghetti suppers, and all kinds of social activities growing up. I remember one year I was serving spaghetti plates and I spilt one on someone's lap because the noodles just slid right off the styrofoam plate. And I remember the Halloween parties they held every year before the kids went trick or treating. I went as Wednesday Addams when I was 8 or 9 years old. One time, there was a haunted house in the church basement, and they had peeled grapes in a bowl to feel like eyeballs. Outside, where you'd always go with your lemonade and cookies after a service, were wooden playground my daddy built. I think those were replaced a few years back. The Church has a cemetery behind it, which faces the intersection. Mr. Wingfield always used to say that if they widened the road anymore, you'd start to see people's feet sticking out from the bank of the cemetery.
At the flat T part of the intersection is a little green antique store called Two Frogs On a Bike. I learned about bartering there, when I negotiated to buy a little gold jewelry box that I still have. My dad bought an old pinball machine there once, which was a lot of fun, but the fuses kept blowing. Now it's gathering dust in his shed like a lot of other things.
If you head north from there, towards the Fire Station where my dad used to volunteer when I was a kid, you'll pass Kelley's Country Store on your left. You better stop in. Billy Kelley was a sweet man, who loved his family, antiques, and funny animals like emus. He would always give out a whole full size candybar to trick or treaters on Halloween. And no matter how many piercings or tattoos I came back with, or how infrequently I came back, Mr. Kelley would always greet me politely, as Moriah. Mr. Kelley died a few years back, and his wife, Catherine, still runs the store. Go buy some old glass bottle sodas and dot candy.
When you see the Fire Station, don't get confused. That's all new stuff. There is a little yellow building back behind the new white one. That's where my dad used to volunteer. He was buddies with the other firefighters. Every year, the Fire Company gets someone to dress up as Santa, and they drive down the streets of Hanover Courthouse in a firetruck, and Santa sits up top, and throws candy out to all the kids who run to the ends of their driveways. It was always a huge thrill, that night in December when you'd hear the sirens, and think there was a fire, then remember. Inevitably, running down the gravel in bare feet, not dressed warmly enough for the December chill, all to sweep up pieces of hard candy thrown down to you. I also remember, how one time, my dad was burning trash in a barrell, like we always do, but the bottom of the burn barrel was all rusted out, and the fire escaped and caught the tall grass on fire. The fire was headed towards our chicken coop and stable, and my little brother and mom and dad and I were trying to hit the fire with shovels to put it out. My mom called the fire department, but gave them the wrong address, and I had to jump up and down at the end of the driveway waving my arms to flag down the firetrucks. They figured it out eventually, but we had the fire out by then. I'm pretty sure my dad's buddies gave him shit for that one.
Go south of the intersection, and you end up in the actual Courthouse area. You pass the bank, I don't know what iteration it is, but it was the first bank I had a little savings account at that I was very proud of. I was also very excited about the lollipops. The Post Office is right across the street. I've always loved mail. I can't really remember what I was always mailing out, but I know I went in there a lot. My dad used to mail order baby chickens, and the post office would call up at 5 in the morning to tell you the chicks were there, and you could hear them cheeping in the background. One time the box had gotten wet and the chicks got pnemonia and half of em died. I always tried to stop my dad from mail ordering animals after that.
The gas station near there is new, and it's already had multiple iterations of an italian restaurant attached. I'm not much for new things, and I feel real bad for the business it takes away from Kelley's. But I know my mama likes being able to get pizza right down the road.
There is a little section across from the courthouse with a bails bondsman and a restaurant that is always changing. I don't know that anyone has kept a restaurant there for more than 5 years at a time. The one time it was good, it was a Mexican restaurant. I was pretty little, maybe 10 at best. I remember thinking fried ice cream was the craziest sounding thing. I also remember, my little redneck self ordering a Jarito soda, and pronouncing the J. And the waiter, kind soul that he was, took a minute to teach me about how in Spanish the letter 'j' makes an 'h' sound. The small kindnesses stick with me.
The Hanover Tavern is this super historic building next to the ever changing restaurant. The Tavern has been renovated a couple of times in my life. Part of the tavern includes the Barksdale Theater, where all kinda of small plays and productions get put on. I went there on school field trips, and I remember how old it all smelled. Now the recently renovated Hanover Tavern has a high end restaurant too.
The library was a favorite place for me when I was growing up. Ann Long, who had also been my preschool teacher, was a librarian and she always helped me with books, and let my late fees slide. I tore through books at that library. Ann's daughter Corine gave me horseback riding lessons for a couple years. I was never going to be a very good fancy horseback rider. My dad's friend Reinard gave me some wild ponies, because the other horses from his herd out past Blacksburg were picking on them and their half blind mama. I ended up with Lucy, a beautiful Apaloosa pony who knew better than to get pushed around by 11 year old me. That horse was always trying to kill me. I got 4th place at a horse show, maybe the only one I was ever in, when Lucy just cantered in a dang circle the whole time. There were only 4 competitors in my contest.
Down the hill from the library is the turnoff to the road to get to my cousins' house. The Kastelbergs are Catholics, and they had 6 kids. Which was nice for riding the school bus. We used to go to their house afte school, or they'd come to ours, and we were always running around in the woods, playing king of the hill, and generally being ragamuffins. Also down that road is where a lady from church who used to babysit my brother and I lived. I remember she'd watch soap operas when she came over. The trick or treating was pretty good down that road.
That's the end of my basic tour of Hanover County. I could tell you more about the Juvenile Facility only fenced in on 3 sides, or the time my brother got stepped on by a cow, but I don't want to use up all my stories on one day. If you go to Hanover make sure you are respectful of the people and the complex relationships formed in small communities.