The Washington Post

Groveton oral history project from ’70s now online

An old post card from the Penn-Daw Tourist Hotel along Route 1.

The interviews were compiled into three printed volumes, called “Snake Hill to Spring Bank,” and that was a big deal back in the day. But now the volunteers and staff of the Virginia Room at the Fairfax County Public Library have put the whole project online, and it’s an awfully fun thing to scan or sit down and spend some time with.

Elizabeth Vandenburg in the Fort Hunt Patch tracked down some of the participants, including former Groveton teacher Bev Byrne, now 85, who helped launch the original project. Byrne also wrote the introduction to the online version, saying she and colleague Marian Mohr were familiar with a magazine called “Foxfire” in which students captured oral histories of the Appalachians.

“We could record memories of our own place,” Byrne wrote, “with historic land turned to new uses — homes, stores, roads and much more.” And they did. Groveton High closed in 1985, but the students left behind this great collection of memories of the area, talking about the building of Gum Springs, the Penn-Daw Fire Department, the old Dixie Pig restaurant and much more. There are lots of names that you Fort Hunt, Belle Haven and Mount Vernon types will recognize. Check it out here.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.

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