Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tornado Damage in Driver

I have the distinction of growing up in a town that virtually no one has ever heard of. Even many folks born and raised in surrounding areas such as Norfolk, Portsmouth, or Hampton are likely never to have heard of it. Imagine my surprise when I read this in the R-T-D following the storms that devastated Suffolk this week. After 100 plus years of anonymity, the little village of Driver gets news coverage for being blown off the map!

Driver is one of those sleepy little crossroads that once functioned as a supply and social hub for the farmers that made up the largest part of the population in Nansemond County. Nansemend County no longer exists, having been swallowed up by the City of Suffolk in the 70s. As a child, I grew up accompanying my grandfather on his daily visits to Driver where he was one of the better known farmers in the area. He was a avid participant in the political affairs of the town, with daily meetings held in the feed and grain store run by his good friend Captain Jack. Then it was on to Mr. Arthur's General Store where the Post Office was located. Mr. Arthur was the town's Postmaster, Grocer, and one of the principle landowners in the township. The store had one of those old glass displays containing their entire selection of assorted candy and treats and if I would stare through the glass long, and longingly enough, I would be granted my choice of the day. Then, if my grandfather would be caught in another extended conversation, I would go across the street to the Driver Variety Store to travel the aisles of old shellaced wooden shelves filled with dusty odds and ends that no one ever bought. Most of their inventory was either outdated or useless, but fun to look at nonetheless. The store was run by Mrs. Birchard, an old woman of part Native American descent, who appeared to me to be at least 120 years old. She sat around an old pot bellied stove with a shawl around her and never had to move because no one ever bought anything. It is that same old store that was completely demolished this week by the tornado.

As all of my family from those parts have either died or moved away, I don't get the chance to visit anymore. With the recent storm however, I feel the need to go back there just to see if anything is left of the boyhood memories I am now struck with. Funny how we never really realize the importance of things until they are gone.

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