John McDaniel was nonplussed at being asked to ponder the coming of year 2000.
"Hell," he said, "it's just another year."
At 92, McDaniel has seen his share of years. He has been a farmer, banker, mayor and great-great-grandfather. A chair he caned sits on display in the Herndon Museum, a former train station.
When McDaniel was born on a farm that his parents rented from the Purcell family in 1907, Theodore Roosevelt was carrying his big stick in the White House, and the Town of Purcellville--named for the rented farm's original owner--was still a year away from being incorporated. Soon after, his family moved to Fairfax Station, where he later learned to jump freight trains for joy rides.
After six more years, it was on to Germantown, where he went to a two-room school. During the summer, he would chase bicycle tires with a stick and "almost lived on the ice pond," where he and his buddies would fish and swim.
During the winter, when the only paved road in Germantown "sleeted over, you're talkin' about a good sleigh ride. Long hills. Took you about a week to get back," he said. Now, "we don't seem to have winters like we used to. Snow up to a horse's belly."
In 1917, a 10-year-old McDaniel and his family moved to a farm off Seneca Road between Great Falls and Sterling. He still remembers bouncing down Wisconsin Avenue and along the Chain Bridge "behind a six-horse team," he said.
"There weren't many automobiles" back then, he laughed. "We was in that damn wagon."
After another three years, the roving family bought a 212-acre farm six miles away--on the Loudoun-Fairfax county line. It was there that he made his first telephone call.
"We didn't know what . . . the telephone was for," he said describing the foreign object in the family's new home. He still remembers their phone number: "one long and two shorts."
The population of Herndon was 1,200 when he first moved to that farm, which has long since disappeared with the area's development. "I couldn't even find it now," he said.
In those days, he rode his horse to high school, and when he graduated in 1925, he decided not to work on the family farm with the two of his three brothers who stayed on.
"I wanted to do somethin'," he said. At one of his high school baseball games, a bank executive who was a friend of the family offered him a job, and he accepted, going to work at Vienna National Bank the day after graduation.
"There were two guys there" running the bank, he said. "Cashier, janitor, bookkeeping. We did everything." He chuckled at the thought of being only "20 years old and handling all this money," sums he had never seen.
During his 10 years there, McDaniel earned a degree at the American Institute of Banking night school and married a Herndon girl named Margaret Sager. He had known her in his sleigh-riding days and fished with her brother as a boy. Together, they would raise John Jr. and Leah.
"I didn't know there was a Depression on," he said of those lean early years when he worked at the bank. "At the farm we didn't have much money anyway, but we always had something to eat."
In 1934, he said, a New Deal agency called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) came along "and closed all the damn banks"--including his. But a new bank was being organized, and by the age of 28, he was head cashier at Citizens National Bank in Herndon.
"We did well," he said of the bank. After five years, "we declared a 100 percent stock dividend."
In those days, he owned the only tennis court in town and spent summer weekends on the court with friends from neighboring towns. But when World War II came along, "nobody played," and people stopped coming around. "I guess all the young men got conscripted," he said with a shrug.
At 29, married with two children, McDaniel was ineligible for the draft. He registered, he said, but "my number came back."
In the late 1950s, after spending about 20 years on the Herndon Town Council, McDaniel twice became mayor by default when two successive elected mayors decided that the job didn't suit them as soon as they attended their first council meetings.
"I never ran for mayor," he said, adding that he might prefer to forget his time as the town's top official. "I'm not into politics, I just ran the bank,"--even after it was bought out by Richmond's Central Fidelity Bank. He retired in 1969 after 34 years and became a member of the board.
"The whole banking thing has changed," he said, waving a hand dismissively. McDaniel remembers when everything--from conducting transactions to bookkeeping--was done by hand. Even in retirement, when it came time to relax and practice his newfound love of wickerwork and caning, that, too, was "all machines."
McDaniel and his wife had been married for 67 years when she died in 1992. About six weeks ago, he pulled up stakes in Florida--where he still played golf, drove his car and cooked for himself--and moved to Sunrise Assisted Living in Leesburg to be closer to his daughter.
"I've enjoyed my life," he said nodding. "Might as well--I'm stuck with it."
As for Leesburg, he's just getting settled. "I haven't voted yet," he said with a grin.
CAPTION: John McDaniel, who remembers Northern Virginia before cars, says of year 2000, "It's just another year."