Roanoke, Virginia: My first home away from home. The first stop in a journey beyond what I then saw as the restrictive borders of Floyd County.
I arrived in the summer of 1965: 17 years old, fresh out of high school and ready to conquer the world. I had a plan: Attend college at the University of Virginiaâ€™s Roanoke facility on Grandin Road and work nights at The Roanoke Times. I moved into the YMCA on Church Street ($30 a month).
At the Times, entry level for someone fresh from the mountains of Southwestern Virginia meant the copy boyâ€™s job â€“ 6 p.m. till midnight five nights a week at $1.25 an hour â€“ enough to pay the rent at the â€œY,â€ junk food, gas and repairs for my 1957 Ford and college expenses.
The copy boyâ€™s job turned into an internship by the summer of 1966 and, along with it, a chance to write about the city. I loved exploring Roanokeâ€™s downtown â€“ the hustle and bustle of banks and businesses along Jefferson Street, the winos and hookers of the Market area and the characters who hung out at Texas Tavern on Church Street. I learned the city and wrote about it. When the internship ended, the Times offered me a fulltime job as a reporter.