A nomadic life is, we hope, at an end

Our home.
My life has been nomadic since birth in 1947 in Tampa, FL. I lived in Gibsonton (known as "Gibtown," the winter home of the "carnies" (carnival workers) until age 5.

Our home here in Floyd County is 32 years old.  It was built in 1977 but we purchased it in 2004. It is the youngest house we have lived in during our marriage of 39+ years.

That piece of personal trivia came to mind over the weekend with news from the city where Amy and I lived back in the 1970s before moving to Washington, DC, in 1981.

Our former home (the townhouse on the right) in Alton, Illinois

Our home in Alton, IL, was a large townhouse built in 1835, a massive three-stories with a double-level deck that overlooked the Mississippi River, but it wasn’t the oldest home I owned during my 12 years as a reporter-columnist for The Telegraph newspaper in that town that was part of the Metro-East complex of the St. Louis metropolitan area.

My first wife and I owned a row house built in 1811 on a brick street in the Christian Hill area of Alton. A story in The Telegraph this past weekend noted that another row house, three doors down, would fall under the wrecking ball because of serious structural damage.

Alton was an old river town with a lot of historic structures, including a wall from an old prison that housed Confederate prisoners of war and a series of tunnels that served the underground “railroad” that escaped slaves used to escape from Missouri into Illinois. One of those tunnels ran through the basement of our townhouse.

The tunnel in the basement of our home in Illinois: Part of the underground railway

When we left Alton in 1981, so I could take a position as press secretary and legislative assistant to Rep. Paul Findley of Illinois, who died earlier this year, our new home was a condo in a high rise in the Virginia Square area of Arlington County.  That two-bedroom unit of 1,364 square feet was one of the first “condominiums” in the Northern Virginia area of the Washington metro area and was built in 1968. It remained our home for all of our 23 years living in and working out of the nation’s capital.

When we purchased the “saltbox” New England-style home off Sandy Flats Road in 2004, we closed the sale on Dec. 1 but didn’t move in until Christmas Eve.  Sam Hancock installed new wood flooring on the first level, replacing an original tile floor that was showing wear and tear.

Amy had hired Sam to do the flooring while I was on the road, covering the 2004 Presidential campaign for the AFP news wire service, and she didn’t know that he was a classmate of mine, graduating from Floyd County High School in 1965. Sam did a great job on the flooring, and he also built a new mantle for the living room fireplace.

In December, we celebrate 15 years in our home in Floyd County. It continues a progression of living at various locations in ever-increasing periods of our lives: 12 years in Alton, IL, 23 in Arlington County and 15 (to date) in Floyd.

My life has been nomadic since birth in 1947 in Tampa, FL. I lived in Gibsonton (known as “Gibtown,” the winter home of the “carnies” (carnival workers) until age 5. My dad died in an industrial accident in 1948, and she decided to return to near her place of birth (Meadows of Dan) in 1952. The last leg of that train trip was on a Norfolk Western passenger train pulled by the legendary 611 steam locomotive, a streamlined monster with drive wheels taller than a five-year-old kid.

We lived in an apartment over Hoback’s Furniture Store on Main Street in Floyd (where the employee parking lot of Skyline National Bank stands now) for three years before she remarried and moved to Farmville to live with a new stepdad and two step-sisters and a step-brother.

That lasted about five years when the family moved back to Floyd County in 1961, just in time to enter the new Floyd County High School as a freshman. After skipping my junior year and went from sophomore to senior in 1964, a graduated in ’65 and moved to Roanoke to start classes at the then-Roanoke center of the University of Virginia and went to work for The Roanoke Times.

By 1969, I had a new wife and a new job at The Telegraph in Alton, IL. Twelve years later, with a newer wife, we moved to the national capital region. I had predicted we would spend no more than two or three years there as a way to learn a little more about how government functioned but it turned into 23 years. Amy and I both had a chance to see, and in some cases be part of, a lot of history in that time.

Now, as we reach our 15th anniversary in Floyd County — in the same month we celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary and my 72nd birthday — we decided that our move here in 2004 was our last.

We came from different “hometowns” (the St. Louis metro area for her and Tampa for me), but this is our home.



© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse