Friday, December 30, 2011

Books Strings and Things

Customers browse the record bin at Books Strings & Things, 214 Draper Road

[ I know I did a previous posting on this but it felt like I really didn't do it justice, plus now I have some more photos to share ]

This was not only one of my personal favorite places in town, but one of the most classic businesses ever to grace Blacksburg.  When I ask people around my age what they miss about the Blacksburg of old, Books Strings & Things is almost always at the top of the list.

The unabridged dictionary
Part book store, part record store, part reading room, part social gathering place ..... and an eclectic decor of natural woods and little nooks that made it almost cozy and homey.

It started out a little smaller at first, and in 1974 and 75 they expanded into the empty space adjacent to the original store thanks to the help of local artist and craftsman Peter Montgomery.  The owner, Richard Walters, started the establishment just around the corner in the alley in the latter part of the 1960's but it's "hayday" was in the 1970's for sure (or so it seemed).

There was something very inviting about the place.  It even felt friendly the moment you walked in, and you wanted to stay there for hours.  Old buildings with exposed bricks and lots of wood have a way of feeling comfortable.

Dick Walters at the antique register
No one seemed to mind if you got lost in one of the book nooks and just sat there reading.  After all, there were chairs awaiting your tush if you were so inclined. 

I think I bought most of my vinyl records there.  The music of that era was so great, so exciting, people were constantly clamoring to see what new albums were available from their favorite musicians.  Another cool thing about LPs was the artwork.

I remember at times Dick Walters would put out a large quantity of paperback books in a trash bin, as if throwing them away (the covers were torn off), and left it out on the sidewalk for anyone to grab .... a great way to get a freebie.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hokies Win Big in 1973

The 1972-73 "Virginia Tech Gobblers" basketball team had a good year ..... a VERY good year.  To cap it off, they went to the NIT tournament in New York and came away with their first ever national championship, winning their final four games by a total of only 5 points.  The Hokies shocked the college basketball world by pulling off an upset of Notre Dame in overtime.

The Blacksburg Sun reported it this way:

Hokie Bird of the early 70's
"When Bobby Stevens missed what should have been the last shot of the game with the Hokies down by one at 91-90 in overtime the Irish from Notre Dame were all but home with the (NIT) trophy.

Stevens wasn't convinced.

The ball rolled crazily off the right side of the hoop, bounced off some frantic hands and Stevens, at 5'10" the smallest man on the court, found himself with the ball and time running out.

He fired up a shot Tech fans will be a long time forgetting.  The net hadn't even stopped swaying when the horn went off and a team that most people had never picked to get past the first game of the tourney had won it all."

When the team bus pulled into Blacksburg they got a huge welcome from students and fans from all over the area.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's Your Number?

As the population continued to climb and the Baby Boomers kept getting older, the demand for services also grew.  In late June 1973, for the first time, the entire state did not have just one telephone Area Code.  For us here in southwest Virginia, and also stretching up the Shennandoah Valley into Northern VA we got to keep our familiar "703".   However, to call friends and family in Tidewater, or Charlottesville, or many other points central and east we had to learn a new three digit number ... "804".

This was the decision of the good ol' C & P Telephone Company of Virginia (Chesapeake and Potomac).  According to them, there were some 600 different central office codes (that's the first three digits of your phone number after the Area Code) that could be used within one Area Code designation.  They needed more to keep up, therefore it made sense to split the state.

It wasn't a big deal really, but if you had this old black dial phone like I did it just meant three more spins of the dial and hearing more of the tick-tick-tick-tick after releasing your finger.  Oh yeah, and don't forget the "1".

Also in the 1970's, Blacksburg had two exchanges ... "552" and "951" and Virginia Tech added "961" to distinguish them from the town.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

University Billiards

Although there were pool tables in the Squires Student Center, there was another place in town that got a lot of action from the "townies" (high school and older) and students alike.  Located on the second floor at the corner of College Avenue and Draper Road was University Billiards owned and run by Bob Hill.  Take the stairs a couple doors down from Little Docs and you were immediately greeted by an array of regulation size 9' pool tables.  Just around the partition to the left was a long line of classic mechanical pinball machines.

One of the great things about University Billiards was the long row of windows facing both streets.  On a summer day you could gaze down below while waiting your turn to shoot some 9-ball and see friends passing by.  The owner, Bob, generally took the day shift and the evening hours were shared between me, my buddy David, and a red haired fellow named Bruce.

There were some darned good pool shooters in Blacksburg then, guys by the names of Cody, Steve, Rick, and several more.  When the Tech basketball team won the NIT in 1973, Mr. Hill had a private party for the team members and we got to shoot pool and drink beer with them all evening.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Eight Track Tapes

Here is an ad from our downtown Roses in 1973 advertising a big sale on 8-track tapes.  Although very popular for use in cars, the little plastic buggers were quite expensive compared to vinyl albums.

The Lear Jet Stereo 8 track cartridge was designed by Richard Kraus while working under Bill Lear and for his Lear Jet Corporation in 1963.  In the late 60's the bulky machines were more and more prevalent in automobiles, usually bolted onto the metal below the ash tray in the middle of the front seats.  Keeping a dozen or more tapes in your car meant cramming your glove compartment full or carrying around one of those pseudo-alligator leather black boxes with fuzzy red lining inside.

In case you can't read the music titles, Roses is advertising tapes by Merle Haggard, Grand Funk Railroad, Canned Heat, Sugarloaf, and The Ventures.

And those of you who know me already know this ..... I play my 8-tracks in my Beetle whenever I cruise around town today, keeping a fresh selection of a half dozen or so in that same black carrying case I just mentioned.  Believe it or not, they sound great!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Bug Shop

Sometimes it seemed like half the cars on the roads were VW's of some sort, especially in the early 70's.  Next time you see a picture or a film from that time period pay attention to the street scenes .... you'll be amazed at the number you count.

In 1968, Max Sentelle and son Tommy had a place on Harding Avenue they dubbed The Bug Shop that worked on not only Beetles, vans, and buses, but other makes and models of cars too.

If you go by there today you'll still see the same friendly white block building with (perhaps) the same original sign.  In 1985 it was purchased by Juel Albert and continued, to this day, to be the best place in town to service VW's old and new, as well as just about any other vehicle you own.

When you walk in the service counter area you'll feel like you're in a time warp.