This blog has been gathering dust the last few months but I have a good excuse. My book, From a Richmond Streetcar, is coming out the end of October and with that, my aunt with Alzheimer’s who lives with me, the real estate business that pays the bills and a few other trivial matters like a third cast on my foot, the blog had to wait. My apologies.

Rather than explain the book, I think I’ll give you the link to Style Weekly Magazine. Ed Slipek’s cover story was an amazing summary of some of the pictures and background so, if you didn’t see the issue, take a look now: 

Instead of Richmond history this time, I thought I’d tell you a couple of the incredible connections I’ve unearthed (mainly fallen into!) while on this adventure. I can’t remember if you’ve heard this first so pardon the repetition.

My ‘research’ started with a picture of an African American man in a casket that I was sure could be identified by the date on the photo and the note on the back: “I made some $10 of these pictures of Preacher Thomas, colored, lying in state for three days in his little church”. I called several historic Richmond churches (Ebenezer, Hood, Sixth Mt. Zion) and Benjamin Ross, historian for Sixth Mt. Zion, responded to my call with a possible Pastor Thomas at Sharon in that year and with an invitation to ‘share’.  Turned out to be a different Pastor Thomas, which I found out a year later.

I was digging for another church picture for the book and recalled seeing “Union Church” on an envelope of negatives. It was indeed a church picture but didn’t look like the present First Union’s structure. I checked their website and sure enough, my photo is the earlier building. Of course I had to read the church history and there it was…their Preacher Thomas was my Preacher Thomas! The church got me in touch with two of his granddaughters and I recorded their stories. Cool, huh?

Another unbelievable story came from that same envelope’s notations. “John Harton’s child’s Christmas house” was written and it was indeed a doll house. I put it aside but then later wondered if that John Harton was related to the Jim and John Harton that I went to school with. At Dogwood Dell this summer, I ran into John Harton. Yup. It’s his Aunt Louise’s doll house. So my great-grandfather took a picture of the Harton boys’ grandfather’s doll house and the photos have been in family collections all these years. Meanwhile, I’ve known the grandsons of the original John Harton for over 40 years and never knew that our families were neighbors and with connections before 1920. Do you see why I say Richmond is the smallest town ever?


Here’s the Harton doll house, naked dolls on the porch and all. Following Harris Stilson’s picture trail is a lot like playing Nancy Drew and, like the intrepid Nancy, I have good friends assisting me. The VCU Libraries gang is the best. Richmond In Sight is partnering with them to preserve and restore the Stilson collection and Ray Bonis and Wesley Chenault come to my rescue all the time. Ray’s the one who told me Harry’s photo of the Church Hill Tunnel before it collapsed was already on the VCU James Branch Cabell Library online digital collection of vintage Richmond postcards. Who knew?

I knew Harry sold postcards and pictures to support his ‘habit’ but would never have looked online for his pictures. Ray’s a great source of information. My son recently gave me a book because one of the photos looked so much like a 17th Street market scene of Harry Stilson’s and guess who was the author? Ray Bonis. You ought to check out Greetings from Richmond, Virginia. It’s a real treasure.

I hope this explains a bit about why the blog has been silent for awhile. I’ll be signing books at the Museum Holiday Bazaar (14 museums offering gifts from their gift shops, easy shopping in one location). This year it’s at the Science Museum and I’ll be at the Beth Ahabah Museum table so come on by. November 1st is for all museum members (Lewis Ginter, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, etc.) and Nov. 2 & 3 are open to the public.

One last thing and this is pure brag: if you are ‘old Richmond’, you remember the Sailor Bob television show. I’ll tell you more about it another time. I asked Sailor Bob (Bob Griggs) to read my book and give me a comment for publicity purposes. The following was his response. I am SO proud of this blurb!!!!!