Tag Archives: 909 West Franklin

Well Deserved Mr Tambourine Man

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I was there. He mesmerized me. I’d even say it changed my life. I could do anything. Be anything that I wanted to be. It was liberating.

Today my man Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for literature. Well deserved Mr Tambourine Man, well deserved. I never met Dylan. But I still have an awesome story about how we came to ride the winds of time together.

The year is 1966. I am just into my last semester as a fine arts student at what was then RPI, now VCU, located in Richmond, Virginia. A division of William & Mary, RPI was a campus cobbled together in the fan district, the part of town where streets fanned out from the centrally located departments stores and town churches to meet the suburbs. School was composed of maybe four actual classroom buildings to include a three story gym with the art department being housed on the third floor. All other classes were held where ever a spot could be found. Mostly carriage houses or old homes.

Campus population was roughly half day students and half boarding, save a separate count of night school students who were mostly professionals adding onto their degrees. Those of us that lived on campus, found ourselves housed in former richly appointed homes. My dorm was the Bocock House on Franklin Street. I was one of its first inhabitants. Mrs Bocock had just opened the second floor of the front half of the house to the college. There were thirteen of us. By the time I graduated our numbers had increased to about twice that size since third floor rooms were added to the mix.

My first room was a corner room (they were huge) and overlooked the formal garden. My second room had hand painted French wall paper that used to drive us insane after a night of drinking. Red, white & blue plumes that danced freely for you. This room was in the middle of the second floor rooms (all the rest were corner rooms) and was actually a sitting room and thus very small compared to the others. Each room had its own bathroom complete with European water closet and claw footed bathtub. We had walk in, and walk through to the adjoining room, closets. Our room had its own small balcony, very Juliet like.

All of this narrative is to set the scene for RPI stories to follow in various posts. It was the sixties, women had curfews and were not allowed to wear pants on campus. I had to wear a raincoat over my bibs to and from art classes to avoid a call to the dean of women’s office. I later got one but that is another story and for another reason.

The day of the Dylan concert I was hanging out at Andy’s on Grace Street, the favored watering hole of business students. I was told recently by a fellow student that art students just did not go to Andy’s. I really was not aware of this pecking order at the time. He explained that art students were not cool enough, or maybe too cool, but they gathered elsewhere. Since my roomie was a retailing major and I dated among her crowd I had a free pass to be among the elite. It was there that my drinking buddy (his gal pal was at home in Georgia birthing their college romance son, no pregnant gals allowed on campus in the sixties) said he had free tickets compliments of a friend that worked in the box office of the Mosque to a nifty concert and would I like to go. He promised it would rock my world. The Mosque was close to campus and appears as it sounds, very big, very ornate and very impressive. All campus dances were held in the lower level ballroom. Another story.

I accept his proposal and we part to prep for our date. When he picked me up, he tells me we can get better tickets than the balcony ones he has. We stop at the box office and trade our second balcony tickets in for front row, first balcony. He explains who I am about to see. I know a little about Dylan. A dorm mate had some of his albums, I thought them rough. The house is not packed and at that it is mostly older folks, I did not see anyone from campus. What kind of concert is this going to be?

Then this skinny guy walks out on the stage of this massive place with its elegant side box seats, ornately domed ceiling and layers of velvet curtains. He sits down in a straight back chair set center stage. That’s it. Well, okay a mic, on a stand. But nothing else on that huge stage. Just the man, the guitar, the chair and the mic. He warms up for a minute, probably even smoking a cigarette. And then it begins. I fall in love, He is mesmerizing. A moment in time to treasure. I am a lucky gal.

 

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When Worlds Collide

“I’ll go if you’re going.”

“Well I’ll go if you’re going.”

And so our college reunion weekend begins. Sandra Lee Nash Hamilton from Rockwell NC and I, Sandra Leigh Jett Ball from (then) Rockville MD, roomies for life. Different as day and night on the surface but eternally bonded kindred spirits in the soul where all love lives.

moose and thumperI pick Sandy up at the Richmond airport midday Friday and we proceed to our not to be believed loft apartment for the weekend. It is a dream place for our reuniting. We have not seen each other for over twenty years. We have always kept up with Christmas cards including the requisite family update notes and pictures but that’s all. In trying to locate a place to stay for our last minute decision we find ourselves invited by Outer Banks good friends and neighbors Al, Steve, Wally & Jagger to rest our heads at their Richmond loft apartment in refurbished Lee School. They have decorated the downstairs like a 50’s diner complete with jukebox, pay phone, popcorn machine, menus, a seating booth. And lighting. Ah, the lighting. Stunning. We are immediately time warped back to our college years.

We wrestle Sandy’s big blue suitcase up to the elevator and inside. (I have a small carry on size). She has big blue and a carry on size. In her defense, she is going on to a family funeral after the reunion. Still she would have had more luggage than me in a heart beat.

three beast diner poodle skirt picture ladder photo wall james dean french door copy check outWe semi-unpack. Our loft bedroom is another story. We are in a palace. King size bed, posh pillows, plush throws, rich fabric drapes for closet doors, a loft over our loft (reached via a tiny wooden ladder beside the bed) big enough to sit in and read while looking at street life going by through the huge arch window.

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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts garden

We change to walking clothes and head to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts just around the corner. We want to check out the restaurant Amuse for lunch potential with the rest of the gals the next day. It looks perfect. We move on to Carytown where we find a plethora of fun restaurants for another lunch option. Funky shops are everywhere. We sip some tea at 10 Italian Cafe and chat. We head back to the loft. It’s time to prep for dinner.

linda and glenn

Linda and Glenn Eure

We have reservations at Millie’s Diner on Main Street in Shockhoe Bottom. Friend Linda Lauby and her husband Paul Keevil own this and others in Richmond. It’s a quick trip and we find a parking place just down the block. It has started to rain. By the time we reach the door we are close to being drenched. But it’s a diner, we are fine. And not too wet to dry off quickly. We are seated in a booth across from a small pre-wedding celebration. The hostess apologizes for the noise. We don’t mind. We try to pick out the bride and groom.

The next day we have time before the rest of our group arrive for lunch. We decide to walk the dozen+ blocks to school down Monument Avenue. Sandy has brought walking clothes. I have brought everything but. I live in running/walking clothes. I pull something together out of sleep wear and get my emergency running shoes from the car. We set off. It’s beautiful. Trees are in full bloom. We happen upon an estate sale. Pause a moment for those who do not know Monument Avenue. It’s a boulevard style street with a huge tree lined grass medium strip in the middle. If you walk on one side you can see the other but it’s pretty much way over there. Back to the narrative. We decide to go inside this happened upon piece of luck. “Maybe we can find a host gift for the guys,” Sandy reasons. We don’t need an excuse to browse but I agree.

close up of estateaddress bottle doorselfie at 2315  ceiling 2315 tapestry IMG_4960 hidden door tapestrydining room fake wallrooftopside yardestate salefrances and gordonmonument ave

We do find something but don’t want to carry it. Besides everything is marked down the next day. We chance it and go on. We do go back on Sunday and get the piece. We are going our separate ways after that. Sandy has a ride to her funeral with the gals. I am headed home. I decide to wander through the sale and impressive house designed (I later read) by William Lawrence Bottomley (sold for 2.2 million in minutes) some more. It is stunning. I take pictures and post one of me on the nude sunbathing roof on Instagram. Friend Linda (Millie’s) sees it and messages me. “Wait. You were at the 2315 Monument estate sale?” I tell her yes. “The son of the owners was at Millie’s Friday night for his pre-wedding party. Paul & I went to their wedding yesterday. We have been to dinner at that house.”

Like the song no one ever wants to hear says, “It’s A Small World.”

 

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I Was a Fifth Grade GYPSY

My classroom was on the top floor in the back corner overlooking the playground

My classroom was on the top floor overlooking the playground

Almost. I really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to be a gypsy. They have a small camp near my school, Main Street Elementary, in Whitehall, Ohio. The kids keep to themselves in school. I give them wide berth, they are fascinating but odd. It is when the girls  come to school with mecuricome stained threads looped through their freshly pierced ears that they get my full attention. I want pierced ears too. With red colored loops keeping the holes open until they heal enough for the real deal. But it never happens. Mom is aghast that I even aspire to such low depths.

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Sandy Baker (Finn). Note stockings top. Pantyhose yet in the future.

 

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Better shot of the wallpaper. It was a love/hate relationship.

And then in college I decide it’s time for action. But I don’t know any gypsies. And nobody but nobody has pierced ears, except gypsies. “I know someone who will pierce your ears,” good friend day student Sandy Baker (Finn) tells me.  She says to buy some gold post earrings and meet her at Thalhimers where she works part time in Hosiery. Imagine. A entire department for stockings. You have to buy your choices by size, color, type of fabric. No such thing as stretch. Or cheap. Much of my money goes into keeping a supply of matching hose with no runs. Sandy recently told me that she worked in Lingerie but Hosiery fits my story line better, so I’m leaving it. After all bras are still bras although girdles, a must in our world, have thankfully turned to Spanx.

I do as Sandy says. She introduces me to her friend who tells me to follow her into the empty ladies room. She is on her fifteen minute break. Her directives are simple. She doesn’t have much time. “Sit.” There is a small vanity table, mirror and chair. “Hold this ice cube on your ear lob. Be still.” And then. Oh my god. The unexpected pain.

“Don’t move. Or the holes will be uneven. Give me your earrings.” She stalls. “These have screw backs.” That I didn’t know anything about buying pierced earrings became very clear.

“Here use mine. Sandy will trade off after your ears have healed.” I pay her the dollar an ear she charges. She has ten minutes of her break left.

Friends are impressed. They want their ears pierced, too. I have started a trend and a little business. One dollar a lobe. They line up. All through college I rake in some easy beer money.

Finally a gypsy! At least that’s what mom calls me when I tell her what I’ve done. But hey, I live in a room with hand painted French wallpaper. Hand painted. French. Look at it. Huge red, white & blue decorative plumes. On all four walls. Picture a night of bingeing surrounded by this as you swirl to sleep.

The gypsy life has come to me.

 

 

 

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Miss Jett Take Those Greeks Down

greek godsIn a previous post I told you the beginning of the story about landing on the front page of the Richmond newspaper.

Here’s Page 2 (love me some Paul Harvey.) Let’s begin with the follow up letter home.

Hi Family,

Well, everything was wonderful but am I glad it’s over. I am exhausted. We worked for 3 nights straight on our decorations and then put them up Thursday night in the freezing cold and finished putting up the rest Friday morning in even more cold – at 7 o’clock no less. But they looked so good. And I was so proud of all my girls. Everyone but 2 or 3 worked like Trojans on the things and really put forth an effort. Also every woman’s dorm (the men were too lazy) put up decorations – every last one!

Sharon & I went with the judges Friday afternoon & then had to sit there on pins and needles while they tore them all to pieces & not allowed to say a word. But finally after about 1/2 hour they picked us as best & Founders Hall as honorable mention!!

founders hall

Founder’s Hall

Pause in the narrative here to add that I left out of the letters home the fact that I figured a club sponsorship of the project would better impress dorm leaders as well as Dean Gladding and sold the idea to our Cotillion Club President Sharon Gates. And the club decided to award trophies to the winners. Sharon lived in Founders but honestly our two dorms did have the best decorations.

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909 leaders. Sandy Nash, my roommate, is center. I’m top right. I found this when looking for a photo of 909. I could only see Nash’s head in one of the clips I found about the house. That doesn’t look like Elisabeth Bocock I thought, it looks like Nash. The things you find on the internet.

Meanwhile the Senior Cits had been raising cain about the disgrace on their building. One old man even tried to take it down! Well Nash & I just traipsed right out there and tied it back down because the man was coming from the New Leader to take a pix which he did & it will be in the paper this afternoon. 

After that Sharon & I went to the Dean’s office to write our story for the paper. While we were there Deans Gladding & Johnson came in and asked me to go with them. It seems the Senior Cits had complained to Dr Oliver! So they came by the dorm to look, saw nothing wrong & left to see Dr Oliver. A little later Dean G came back & told me he said they had to come down. She said, “This is one time I don’t see eye to eye with Dr Oliver but I have no choice.” We were so mad! I was even madder because I knew we had won (no one else here knew). So then we decided we’d sorta leave it up til Saturday morning so we could at least get a pix of it.

Then Frances, Gordon & I went to the Press Club. When we got back Mrs Carter informed me that Dean G had called me & said we could not ignore the President’s request, so I marched upstair & cut the ropes. Then we took all the bedspreads (their togas) off of them and dropped them over the side of the porch.

Saturday morning:

I was rushing to get downtown to meet Buddy (8:30) when Thelma (maid) said that Mrs Bocock wanted to know what happened to the decorations. I was in a hurry so I told her to tell her that Dr Oliver had requested they be taken down & then I left.

mrs bocock houseMy dorm was such a unique place. Built in the early 1900’s  for Elisabeth & Frederic Scott it was patterned after Marble House (its style often compared to the White House) in Newport, Rhode Island which was modeled after the Petit Trianon in Versailles. Mrs. Bocock lived in the back upstairs and downstairs of the house but rented (not for money for community support) the front bedrooms to RPI for dorm rooms. I was one of the first thirteen girls to live there. The front downstairs parlour, sitting room and dining room were used during week days for a Senior Citizens outreach program. While they were there we were not allowed downstairs. We had to use the side entrance to come and go. But in the evening and on weekends all but the dining room were ours. This included the elegant stairs that split halfway up with a section continuing up on either side. I lived in the second floor balcony room, the one over the front door. It was a designed as a family sitting room. We had hand painted French wallpaper. Big red, white and blue plumes. The rooms on the third floor are hard to see in this photo. The one over the columns with the huge overlook was the family ballroom.

Well, when I got back (Buddy missed his bus & didn’t get in til 10:30 but I didn’t wait) Mrs Bocock asked me to please put the men back up!! If she only knew how hard they were to get up. It seems she had spent all morning talking to Dr O (and she was right in the process of cleaning house & had 1000 things to do) and he said to put them back up. (She loved them and wanted to get pix of them). So I woke everyone up & after a few groans they agreed to help. So once again we hoisted our men into place. Even after being dropped & mangled they were in good shape (in fact the pix I sent you was taken after they had been put back up again. Make sure Jett sees the pix).

We really caused a stir at dear ole RPI.

Also the picture was the only one on the front page of the Times-Dispatch Sunday! Front page! (The paper always had several editions. My copies probably did have just the one photo).

We were so glad because all those smarty senior cits will be bound to have seen it.

The dance was good. The boys looked so good in their tux. Frances had white gardenias & I had 8 yellow rose buds. 

We went to the Press Club before. A very plush place. Gordon is a member. All wall to wall carpeting, sofas, swivel chairs, soft music, etc. And they mix wonderful drinks. I love to go there.

I also had to give a speech at the dance about this decoration dealy. Fun. Frances accepted the trophy for our dorm & we woke up everyone when we came in to show it to them.

I’ll be glad when all gets back to normal even tho it was fun.

 

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My note from Mrs Bocock. I attached it to a book on her written by her granddaughter.

mrs bocock

Love the title of Mrs Bocock’s autobiography, Never Ask Permission. Perfect!

A few days later Mrs Bocock gave each of us living at 909 a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. She included a card that had a personalized note about how much she appreciated and enjoyed what we had done. She never really interacted with us, probably because she was far too busy but also she was probably keeping boundaries. I mean we could actually open a door on our hall next to the stairs that lead to her apartment. It was rarely locked. But we respected her too much to compromise her trust. She was a classy lady, our Mrs Bocock. And a champion for Richmond history.

We both made our mark on the Richmond landscape.

 

 

 

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