Had business in Northwest Roanoke Saturday and finished up with some time to kill so I decided to venture across Williamson Road to see if I could find an apartment complex where I lived in the 60s.
Vista View opened in 1967 as one of Roanoke’s first, singles-only apartment complexes. Located just off the intersection of Williamson and Hershberger Roads, the two rows of apartments with a swimming pool and club house in the middle featured large balconies, bright colors and an "anything goes" attitude.
When it opened, most of the original residents came from the Roanoke-based flight crews of Piedmont Airlines – young, reasonably affluent singles who partied hard. I moved into apartment 201, overlooking the club house and pool.
At 19, I was the youngest resident in the complex but that didn’t seem to matter to the twenty-somethings who played poker all night in the club house or skinny-dipped in the pool at 3 in the morning.
They welcomed me into their nonstop life of parties, poker and debauchery. It was a young, carefree time where sexually-active young women took the pill and AIDs didn’t punish promiscuity.
But like the swinging sixties, the fun didn’t last. Residents of nearby houses complained constantly about the noise from all-night partying and the perceived trauma of their children sneaking peeks at naked, nubile young women frolicking in the pool in the wee hours.
Management cracked down: No swimming after hours, no all-night poker games in the club house, no nude sunbathing on the balconies. As leases expired, the fun-loving pilots and stewardesses of Piedmont moved on and so did I, renting another apartment in South Roanoke Apartment Village, another complex that catered to singles just off Franklin Road on the other side of town.
But life there wasn’t the same. Nobody skinny-dipped in the pool, the young women wore bathing suits when they sunbathed and if there was a poker game, I never found it.
After a few months, I left and settled into a house in Second Street SW – my last home before leaving Roanoke in 1969. Thinking about Vista View brought a smile as I crossed Williamson Road and turned left off Hershberger.
I wasn’t sure I could find the apartment complex after 40 years or even if it still existed. It did – sort of. The apartments are still there but one row of apartments are boarded up. Looks like a fire destroyed the unit I once called home.
The property is run down and a Confederate flag flies from the balcony from one of the remaining, occupied apartments. Airlines no longer base flight crews in Roanoke. USAir swallowed up Piedmont years ago and most pilots and flight attendants now are older, married and less inclined to party.
I got back into the Jeep and headed back across Williamson Road to I-581 and home, leaving another relic from the past behind. Ah, but the memories remain.