The following letter was published in the most recent edition of the Rockbridge Advocate a wonderful journalistic publication that is “Independent as a Hog On Ice.”
I see from the latest issue the natives, the come heres, and VMI alumni all have gotten their panties all knotted up during the last month. Usually this happens in the dead of winter, when there is nothing happening in Lexington so people begin looking excuses to get all excited.
Let’s begin with whether there should be a Subway downtown. Clearly those who are getting most upset, and in particular the denizen of the Lyric Theater believes that Lexington is some type of bucolic paradise. I doubt if they realize they are living in a former movie theater; a former movie theater that was sleazy at best and probably would make your annual review of Health Code violations. Nevertheless it had the best popcorn in town, showed movies that the other theater in town would not touch—usually the more esoteric of art movies that often were considered pornography. It was the favorite theater of both Cadets and Students as the owner and manager, turned a blind eye to what was in coat pockets. Getting drunk watching a movie is not a bad way of spending a Sunday afternoon!
Of course if they knew anything about Lexington they would that where the Rockbridge Regional Library is, a car dealer use to be located. Further up the street one would find one of the best dives in Lexington, Estelle’s Grill where someone could always get a greasy burger and cold beer. Later Estelle’s move to Randolph street where you could get a greasy burger, cold beer, and bowl chili, mix with some of the characters of Rockbridge County and listen to “cry in your beer country and western” music. Occasionally a fight would break out over the game of pool but it would quickly end when the owner threaten the customers involved with the threat of being cut with a butcher knife.
At the other end of Main Street one could find the Central Lunch, run by Mr. and Mrs. “Duck” Chittium, it was a favorite gathering place for generations of VMI Cadets and W&L Students who regularly mixed and mingled with few problems. Mr. Duck being a former policeman knew how to handle the rowdies. More than one rowdy was thumped over the head with a blackjack. On West Washington Street was the Paramount Inn, also a gathering place of Cadets and Students and whose owner Ernie Lawhorne, also a former policeman, kept order if need be.
I doubt if any of these establishments would meet the criteria that seem to be place on new eating establishments: unrecognizable food, with fancy names, and very high prices. Some forget that without the students of VMI and Washington and Lee, Lexington would be as desolate as many a small town in Virginia. Students and Cadets are the economic life blood of Lexington and if one doubts that see what happens if they disappear.
While I am glad as a native and former Lexingtonian that the City seeks to maintain its historical character it should not get hysterical over maintaining Lexington as a story book town, as Doc Carroll use to say about VMI and it applies to Lexington, “it ain’t what it used to be and never was.” Lexington needs to be an oasis for all of its citizens and not a few.
Now let me comment about the brouhaha over Police Chief Al Thomas comments in a class at Washington and Lee University. I do not know Chief Thomas, but I know from talking with friends in Lexington that he has been an outstanding Chief of Police. He has promoted Community Policeman and has put an end to the practice of arresting citizens and visitors for “Public Drunkness” upon stepping out of a bar.
I do not know whether he was misquoted, or was taken out of context, or whether he was actually said what he did. I have been told by those who know him well he was joking and that he would have said something similar about Washington and Lee students if he was speaking to a class at VMI. It should be noted that Chief Thomas’ son attends the Virginia Military Institute.
Should he apologize—no! What he said in Class should have stayed there. In part I blame the professor for not creating an environment of non-attribution. I have spent a fair amount of time in academic environments where governmental officials have spoken, and in each case, it was a policy that what was said there stayed there.
As a Virginia Military Institute graduate I would urge my fellow Alumni and the parents of Cadets to take a chill pill. They are making “much ado about nothing.” VMI graduates have a major problem, while successful in many walks of life, they have an inferiority complex about their beloved Institute. If they really loved the Institute they would pay more attention to how the Institute is being run or not run in a prudent, conservative, and fiscally responsible manner.
I want to take an opportunity to congratulate the Editor on his fine narration on the film I recently viewed on House Mountain. If I didn’t know that he was born North of the Mason-Dixon line I would swear he was a native of Rockbridge County.
Lastly I could be pretentious enough to sign my name a being a Retired Colonel in the United States Army, but that and a quarter still won’t get me a cup of coffee at Lexington Coffee Roasters.
I remain, with kindest regards,
Henry J. “Hank” Foresman, Jr.
Formerly of Lexington