Homesick for Crozet

Ed. Note: One of my favorite parts of running RealCrozetVA is the reader submissions I receive from time to time. Should you ever want to write a story for the blog, please submit it here.

I wonder if anyone else who grew up in Crozet ever feels this way when they drive through Crozet today. I read that some feel the old Crozet was an eye sore, the old buildings and store fronts, etc. Maybe you need to go to Charlottesville to live. Crozet was a village.

The old bank is gone. Crozet Superette, run by Mr. Moses Sandridge and his wife is gone. The Crozet Shoe Shop is gone. The old Crozet Drug store, where Jimmy Robinson use to dip out the biggest ice cream cones for 10 cents, is gone. Old Seals’ gas station is gone. I remember Mrs. Seal well, sitting out in the front, helping out. Tomlin Grocery – long gone.  Sandridge Gas Station where the road to IGA begins. Morton’s Frozen Food, with the TV dinners, Ice box pies, etc – gone. Acme Visible records where my mother worked, closed. The Red Front Super Market and Nannie Wagner’s 5 and dime, just a sweet faded memory. Coffee Jackson selling Christmas trees in the parking lot beside the old bank, I just smile to think, “how did he make anything for his efforts?”

Crozet had a theater at one time. Crozet had a drive-in too. Crozet Pool was where most all of us kids stayed from sun up to sun down and then rode our bikes home, or walked. We all had swimming lessons too. Vacation Bible School at the old Crozet Methodist Church, and oh! the popsicles handed out at the end. All the fun sleigh rides down the hill in Orchard Acres. Christmas time was something else.

Fourth of July at Crozet Park was beyond excitment for us kids. We could barely sleep the night before it started. Starting first grade and Mrs. Sara Wyant. I loved her and she loved me. The train ride from Crozet Station to Charlottesville and then to McIntyre Park to play. Trick or Treating and our home-made costumes.

I rode through Crozet recently; it’s not the Crozet I remember.

Nothing like it. It has a feeling of not being sure who or where it  belongs. I felt sad when I rode to old Crozet Elementary School, I got out and walked around and went to the back of the school where I started first grade so many years ago. I walked through the play ground. I looked over and I spotted something that I knew could not  possibly be the same sliding board that I nervously slid down in 1962.

It sure looked the same. I went over and stood beside it. It still seemed larger than life to me. I looked underneath the sliding board and was so surprised to see stamped just under the steps it read, “Property of Crozet High School”. For all of you former Crozet residents you will know what that means.  I had found one thing they had not taken away from us. You know what I mean. I left with a feeling you have when you go back to a place you haven’t been for many many years and you find something that holds so much memory for you.

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8 Replies to “Homesick for Crozet”

  1. I am new to Crozet. I’ve lived here just over a year. I’m sorry all those wonderful places aren’t still here. I would love to take my kids to get ice cream at the old Drug Store or buy their shoes from a small business who really takes the time to help their customers.

    If you think about the vision that those people had back then, I’m willing to bet there was some opposition to them at first. Maybe if more people thought of the future happenings in Crozet as a restoration of that sort of community feeling, rather than focusing soley on the “changes”, they would be able to embrace it rather than resist it.

  2. Crisanne –

    Thank you for commenting. I think that there is great value on reflecting on the past – not necessarily lamenting, but seeing where we “used to be.” Those were simpler times, but it’s refreshing to see the comment in this month’s Crozet Gazette by the developer of the Gateway Gas location that he is open to any business that “won’t put a Crozet business out” of business.

    We have a long way to go and so long as we communicate and work together we should be able to achieve a lot of those goals.

    Thank you again for reading.

  3. I, too, feel a deep sadness as I drive through Crozet. Then again, I feel the same sadness when I drive through areas of Charlottesville. I simply prefer a small town, and the changes in Crozet are not something that I value. Though some will see that as an attempt to block “community efforts” or tamp down enthusiastic community spirit, sadness is an instinctive emotion. The way you feel cannot be wished away by hopeful or patriotic thinking.

    Even the language of Crozet has become strange. Efforts to rezone are never called “rezonings”. They are referred to as “community plans”, “master plans”, “new models” “input sessions”, or “making sure we have a plan the community can agree on”. I always smile when I see these gently-assuring phrases, knowing there is so much more behind them.

    A downtown rezoning will be passed soon that will intensity what is happening in Crozet from even existing levels. It would not surprise me if very few have the courage to speak out against it, but many will complain about the effect it will create long after the fact.

    Perhaps I would be classified as one of the “opposition”. I felt that there were far more environmentally-sensitive options to rezonings in Crozet never considered, debated, or aired — not for a lack of trying. I went to meetings and stated how I felt about the approaching changes, their impact, and their cost — environmentally and fiscally. I am glad I did, even if the outcome was far different than what I wanted.

    As long as I can remember, we have had very passionate and motivated advocacy group in Crozet that has focused on rallying residents behind shifting the way Crozet looks and feels, increasing profitability for property owners downtown, and funding growth infrastructure. Also, the efforts of residents and environmental groups outside Crozet who desperately want to protect their rural areas by intensifying development in Western Albemarle has had an even great impact — well-funded external forces contributing to the change in Crozet.

    Residents in Crozet have since said the plan was misrepresented to them by county officials — something I agree with. Now, these residents say they no longer support it. That said, who are these residents going to vote for. Both parties in Albemarle — Democrat and Republican — have felt strongly that sending more people to Crozet is a powerful environmental and economic tool. We don’t have one candidate — at least not yet — who could cite some environmental problems with sending commuters into Western Albemarle. There really has been no difference between the two parties.

    One thing I would encourage Chrisanne to think about is that there is nothing wrong with any new resident choosing to be a voice to protect a small community. It has been inferred by some that it is hypocritical for any new resident to be against “community efforts”. After all, you moved here, so you need to think of yourself as “part of the problem” and get with the program.

    But all residents, whether new or long-time, DO have a choice. If you don’t want a rezoning, super-road, or intense development, it is your right as a citizen, whether new or long-time, to say so. Residents do not have to spend money at businesses that support advocacy that they feel changes their community in a negative manner. If you value trees, clean air, and less development; then you have a right to say it. Even though I probably fought against the rezoning that created your house, there is no reason why new and long-time residents cannot see eye to eye on rezonings in the future and be good neighbors to boot. 🙂

    Some things, however, never change — memories. I enjoyed the memories that were so passionately written by the poster above, so I will finish with one of my most pleasant memories of Crozet. I remember the Peachtree Little League. It was a league where girls were allowed to play and hit home runs, chewing tobacco was snuck in between innings, and parents of both teams socialized in the outfield. Occasionally, we cleared the benches for a scuffle over pitching philosophies. Kids picked up stones from the infield every game, but this still didn’t prevent ground balls from hopping erratically at the last moment, giving us infielders a wonderful excuse for missed grounders. The baseball diamond (at Crozet elementary) had an unique indentation that we called “home plate”. This indentation would fill with water after a short rain, making batting a rather muddy experience. I still recall closing my eyes and swinging like Reggie Jackson (or was I swingning like Evil Knievel), desperately hoping to get a piece of a Scott Abell fastball — never easy. Our coaches purchased free hotdogs and sodas for us, whether win or lose. And after each game, we went strolled out to the parking area with the friends we knew from the other team, chattering about the close call at second base, the new umpire with the funny voice and potbelly, or our plans for the afternoon.

    Everyone knew everyone, and though Crozet may be soon engulfed by an approaching urban storm, those memories need not fade. Memories cannot be paved over, rezoned, or swept away by development of political advocacy. Developers, profits, and politics may destroy but so much. But, they cannot reach memories. Memories truly do last a lifetime.

  4. This weekend, I had a wonderful community experience, and it leads me to say this: community is where you find it. At the C-ville Women’s 4-Miler, there were 2700 female runners and walkers, and at least that many friends, family, and fans gathered to support them. I, who don’t consider myself to know that many people, saw people I knew everywhere I turned. And, because of the event, people I didn’t know soon were greeted like friends, and soon became friends, as we completed a challenge together. Community can be a small town, but community can also be a race against cancer. Community can be your child’s soccer or t-ball team–I still know and socialize with the other parents at practices and after games, as Craig reminisces about in his comment. Community can be an evening seminar you attend, as I do in C-ville, where bonds are formed over ideas and aspirations. Community can be a chorus you sing in, the neighbors you live with, something you do once a year or every afternoon. Community can be Cub Scouts walking in the 4th of July parade, as we did this year, tossing candy to the kids on the side of the road. Rather than assuming that the new way is bankrupt of community, let’s keep looking for those moments when community can be formed. Just today at the wonderful Crozet pool, I was told , when I had forgotten my season pass, not to worry because they knew we were members. They know me there. They know me at the library. They know us at La Cucina. And, in each of these moments, community is built. It might not look like yesteryear, but, as Madonna says, Beauty’s where you find it. I love my Crozet community, as I build it for myself, piece by piece.

  5. I miss the old Crozet too! My mom and dad run the Seals service station. I worked there after walking from crozet school every evening. wishing I could go back to those days. hope the new people dont change it too much

    1. Paul,
      I remember your parents station well. I also remember your beautiful mother, with that golden tan. I sure wish we could go back for one more July 4th , say 1962?
      Liz Bond

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