Roanoke, VA

Down on the corner at the fork in the road anything could happen

Cheryl E Preston
Things allegedly happened after dark on the cornerPhoto byThanos PalonUnsplash

CCR's Down on the Corner brings back past memories

Today I heard one of my all-time favorite songs: The 1969 hit Down on the Corner by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This brought back memories of a corner in my hometown Blue Ridge Virginia where I have a number of varied memories. If you drive down 460 East about 12 miles from Roanoke you will see Blue Ridge Springs Road on the right. It's about one block long and you come to the corner which was sort of a crossroads. To the left you drove up a hill where the majority of Black families lived and as I mentioned in other articles it was referred to as Ni**er Hill.

To the right of the corner Colonial Road went past where I lived and Blue Ridge Baptist Church and we were called the "Lot nigg**s. Yes-its like that and that's the way it was. Straight ahead from the corner Blue Ridge Springs road extended about a half block until a dead end so there were four directions you could take from the corner. This area was integrated long before the official integration of schools but when Botetourt County schools did officially integrate all the Black students from the lot and the hill had to gather and catch the bus on the corner in the mornings that first year in 1966 but in the evening would be let out at designated stops as the White students did both ways.

Tall tales and fear associated with the corner

My grandmother Elizabeth Prease told me and my brothers several ghost stories about the corner. She said that if you walked past the corner after dark you would feel hot breath on your neck but would not see anyone. She also said there was a headless spirit roaming the area singing "I ain't got no body" and my brothers and I laughed and assumed this was a tall tale. Her mother my great grandma Florence Ragsdale said there were "Hants" AKA spirits or ghosts hanging around and perhaps residing in the dilapidated shed that was on the corner because someone had been shot on the corner decades earlier.

The first house across from the corner was the home of a White man named Marion Dooley and he had a dog named Bullet who would often chase me as I passed to walk to the store alone. He never bothered me in groups but I guess when it was just me he could at times sense my fear. Sometimes I would go back home when he came off of his porch and on other occasions Bullet let me pass without trouble.
Things allegedly happened after dark on the cornerPhoto byRyan OlsononUnsplash

A neighborhood hangout

There were two neighborhood men who would squat on the corner in front of the old building and continued even when it was torn down and my grandma said they were sitting on their haunches. The Black man's name was Jim and we called the White male whose name was Sam- Sambo. They were friends and often sat on their haunches side by side and it looked as if they were on invisible stools. At other times one or the other would be there alone. When I purchased my first car at times as I passed the corner I gave one or the other rides as did others in the community.

My Golden Retriever Peanut was so smart that at times when he followed me I would tell him to stay on the corner until I returned from the store or Post Office. He was obedient and always waiting when I returned. From where my home was located you could see the corner from the dining room window so if my mom or anyone else was driving or walking towards our house we often knew in advance. Sometimes my brothers would meet the guys from the hill on the corner and they would go swimming or to the store together.
Love encounters on the cornerPhoto byShaira Dela PeñaonUnsplash

Love on the corner

When I was 12 I was walking to the store and as I got to the corner I saw the boy who said he loved me carrying bags from the store walking with two of my cousins. I was jealous because he never walked me to the store or carried my bags. When I was 15 a guy from a neighboring community would only dance with me when he came to our parties and everyone called him my boyfriend.

One day as I walked to the store I saw him in a car at the corner and I thought he had decided to visit me but he only smiled and waved. The driver went down to the dead end I noticed all the occupants were wearing hard hats. I realized they had been working at the local Rock Quarry and being Friday it was payday. He had come to my neck of the woods to purchase alcohol and not to see me and that was disappointing.

The day I met my late husband Michael he had been riding from Roanoke with a friend named Johnny who dated one of my friends who lived up the hill. She called and asked me if "Shaky" his nickname could hang out with me so she could spend time alone with Johnny and I agreed to meet him on the corner. I walked out and he came down the hill and we walked back to my house were together for 45 years until he passed. I guess the corner of Colonial Road and Blue Ridge Ridge Springs road had a fringe benefit for me after all.

My Willie and the poor boys so to speak- my grandma, great grandma, Jim, Sambo, my brother Bill, my husband, and the boyfriend at age 15, and others who gave me memories on the corner are all deceased. This intersection is now just a place you pass to get to other destinations. If, however, I ever drive that way again I might bring a nickel stop on the corner and lay my money down.

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I write, about breaking news, and current events. I wrote a newspaper column from 1997 to 2007 and have written for various online platforms since 2012 including Yahoo Contributor Network, Hubpages, and Vocal Media.

Roanoke, VA

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