July 21, 2017

Them damn hippies

020405first.jpgWhen fellow Floyd County blogger Fred First posted this 1977 photo of himself, his wife Ann, and their daughter on Fragments From Floyd, it reminded me that if you get into a prolonged conversation with some longtime Floyd Countians you probably will hear this phrase:

“Them damn hippies.”

Floyd County became a magnet for practioners of alternative lifestyles in the 1970s (Fred and Ann were at their first farm on Greasy Creek in Wythe County at the time). Cheap land prices and mountain beauty combined to draw newcomers to the county and the locals eyed these longhaired freethinkers with suspicion.

“Them damn hippies” became part of every day discussions at the barber shop, beauty salon, hardware store and the Blue Ridge Restaurant. They would, the locals said, become the ruination of Floyd County.

That was then. This is now. “Them damn hippies” are, for the most apart, still around and amny of them are a big part of Floyd’s economic base.

Just look around: Cafe del Sol. Owned by Frank and Sally Walker, a couple of “them damn hippies.” Mama Lazardos? Liz and Rick are another couple of them. When Pine Tavern’s Restaurant reopens later this month we can thank more of “them damn hippies” for bringing them back to life. Another couple of “them damn hippies” started Oddfellas Cantina before selling it to a couple from California (one a former actor for God’s sake).

Those hippies settled down, had families, and their sons and daughters played football and basketball and went on to other careers. Eric Brady, photographer for The Roanoke Times, is a product of “them damn hippies” in Floyd County.

You don’t hear as much talk about “them damn hippies” nowadays. Some hard cases still bitch and moan but they are a bitter minority and not, I hope, reflective of the majority of the residents of Floyd County.

As a Floyd Countian who returned home after a 40-year absence, I’m glad “them damn hippies” found Floyd County. They helped resurrect the county’s economic base, generated a respected arts community that is attracting national attention and brought much-needed diversity to our area.

And several of “them damn hippies” have become good friends to Amy and I. They reached out and welcomed us home when we moved to Floyd last year.

Too bad they didn’t receive the same warm welcome when they chose to make our county their home 30 years ago.

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