A Sojourn in Waynesboro: Part 3, The Town Itself
Feast your eyes on Waynesboro's downtown circa fifty years ago:
(And yes--I know it's not the greatest picture, but it's the best I could find at short notice.) Taken from a vantage point near the foot of Main Street hill rather than the top, the photo reveals something different in the distance. Where is that nice swath of green? Well, my friends, what loomed over beautiful downtown Waynesboro up until around the 1980s was, literally, half a mountain. Specifically, the raw rock face that remained after the town quarried gravel for the railroads for decades on end. Here is an aerial photo of Waynesboro taken a couple of years before the photo in the postcard above:
You can clearly see the gravel bed, or "the scar," as some local folks called it.
Today, the scar itself has been "healed," obliterated by landfill. It took the city about twenty years to build up the missing half of the mountain with its trash, cover the detritus with soil, and seed the soil with grass and, it appears, trees. There were plans to open the former landfill up as a park, but I'm not sure if those plans are still in the works.
While I agree that quarrying an entire half a mountain--especially the side facing the town--was ill advised, I must admit that the old scar defined the town in many ways. I miss it.
As much as I champed at the bit to move to the bright lights of any number of bigger cities when I was a kid, I have to say that the old town holds a lot of warm memories for me, and that I enjoy visiting. In fact, the place has a lot to recommend it (which may be why it is expanding apace--and that might not be the best thing for it; that's fodder for another post, however). First off, it has a real homey, small-town feel: tree-lined, hilly streets, welcoming older homes, rolling mountains.
The following photo offers a capsule view of what has always defined the town (other than the erstwhile half a mountain): churches and factories:
Note the smokestacks peeking over the roofline of the church. Mountains, industry, and so much faith in religion that the second thing (after "What's your name?") a local was likely to ask someone upon first meeting used to be "What church do you go to?" Not so much so now (and good thing for me, because answering "I don't" might put a damper on continued conversation), but definitely in my youth. And the third question might have been "Do you work at DuPont or General Electric?" They used to be the major employers in Waynesboro; General Electric left at least 20 years ago or more, and I think even DuPont is something else now.
Still, the town grows.
The picturesque "Tree Streets," however (so called because they are named for trees--Cherry Avenue, Maple Avenue, Pine) remain as they have always been, at least ever since I was a kid. Gracious older homes and lots and lots of trees. Strolling through the Tree Streets this time year is particularly nice, what with the fall foliage and all.
I think this house is on Maple:
It's one of my favorites, because, although it is (and always has been) in good repair, nicely painted, and so on, it looks as if it could be haunted. I think it's the tower. When I was a kid, I thought it would be the greatest thing ever to live in a house with a tower. I still do. One of these days...
Waynesboro also has a few surprises to offer. One of them can be found on South Wayne Avenue, a boulevard of stately homes:
Yes. It is David and his goose, all decked out for Halloween. This statue is maintained and decorated according to season by Robin, the little sister of an old high-school chum of mine, Cindy F. Back in the day, when Robin was a lowly junior high school student and therefore not old enough or cool enough to hang out with our band of nerds, there was a stately statue of David standing guard over the entrance to a not-so-stately apartment complex on what was then the edge of town. This statue was a tad larger than Robin's, and it was more, um, family-friendly, what with its discreetly placed fig leaf--something you may have already noticed that Robin's statue lacks. Anyway, among our many high-school pranks was the regular "dressing of David," where we would gather all kinds of props and cast-off clothing from our basements, closets, etc., and, under cover of darkness, bedeck the poor emasculated statue with all the finery we could amass. Our handiwork even scored a picture on the front page of the local paper! That David is gone now, the victim of vandals who were much rougher with him than we ever were. But the spirit of David decoration lives on at Robin's house. Hooray!
I'm sure the neighbors approve.
So, while the town is still pretty small and generally conservative, it has its bright spots. It retains a goodly portion of its charm. And while I'm glad I live in a big city with easy access to great shopping, museums, theaters, and the like, I will always have a soft spot for the 'boro. I hope I have many more chances to wander through its tree-lined streets in autumn.