Car Collecting | Shenandoah Living Magazine

Car Collecting–What’s the Attraction?

To accompany a story on car collecting, we want to see your cool car photos. The car doesn’t have to be old. Some folks collect newer models. Afterall, Jay Leno’s Garage has antique, vintage, and newer hybrid supercars.

Include with your photo a brief paragraph about what the car, or car collecting, means to you and we may include it in our Summer Fun Cool Car photo essay on the Shenandoah Living website and in the July issue of the magazine.

Car Collecting | Shenandoah Living Magazine

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All submissions become the property of Shenandoah Living Magazine.
Health Goals that Work for Seniors | Shenandoah Living Magazine
Senior Living

Health Goals that Work for Seniors

by Carly M. Cooley, RDN, CPT



Are you looking to stay active and get healthy this year? Too few New Year’s resolutions ever really seem to be successful. Have you ever wondered what it is about the ones that stick? Let’s take a look at how to set health goals that work.

There are several different types of health-related goals you can have. Good health resolutions focus on at least one of these five pillars: body fat composition (think muscle vs fat and overall weight), resistance training (muscular strength & endurance), cardiovascular endurance, stability (balance), and flexibility. These five pillars of fitness work together to improve quality of life and, therefore, are a great focus for resolutions.

Health Goals that Work for Seniors | Shenandoah Living Magazine

Photo by Carly M. Cooley

The best health resolution goals are “S.M.A.R.T.”:

Specific: Detailed. Instead of “exercise more,” list what type of exercise you will do (walk, go to the gym, etc.), location and at what time of day.

Measurable: Be clear about frequency and quantity. Instead of saying you will work out “more,” or eat “less,” or “lose weight,” use numbers you can keep track of. This will help you to see your progress.

Action-oriented: Clarify when you will start and how you will accomplish your goals. What steps will you take towards making your goals a reality, such as joining a gym or buying vegetables for every meal?

Realistic: Don’t go crazy on yourself, setting insane goals that are outside your abilities. One of the 60+-year-old members at my gym said, “Consider your overall abilities and physical health” before setting your goals. If you haven’t exercised in months or years, don’t sign up for a marathon or a seven-day lifting split. Start with a goal to run a 5k or create a three-times-per-week workout plan.

Time-oriented: Set a time frame for meeting your goals. Give yourself deadlines so that you can easily track your progress and maintain inspiration.

Ronnie, 69, said that once you have your SMART goals in place, “find your motivation and stay consistent.” He’s been going to the gym two to three times each week for decades, despite having a recent major orthopedic surgery!

Measure your progress. Keep yourself motivated. Each week that you succeed at moving toward your goal, consider it a winning week! Let that progress motivate and propel you forward.

Of course, you’ll hit roadblocks and speed bumps. Jim, 81, weighed 200 pounds five years ago when he decided to change his lifestyle. Added to the difficulty of getting healthy, he suddenly had to fight cancer as well. But he persevered. He hits the gym three times a day, eats more vegetables and lean meats, enjoys golf, and is now 160 energetic pounds. How did he stay on track with such big obstacles in the way? “I put it in my mind as priority number one and just stayed consistent,” he said.

Don’t let setbacks discourage you or get in the way of you meeting your goal. “Just get back to it,” said Sue, 67, “stay consistent, and each time you exercise, work just a little harder. The more you do it, the better you feel.”

Above all, if you’re going to meet your SMART resolutions, you must enjoy the journey. Find a friend, pick an activity you love, reward yourself for progress, enjoy the endorphins, and give it all you’ve got!

With these tips and strategies in mind, your new resolutions are sure to help you feel young, stay active, and get on the path to a healthier you.

Lifting the Spirits: Skiing in the Shenandoah | Shenandoah Living Magazine
Outdoor Life

Lifting the Spirits: Skiing in the Shenandoah

by Rebekah Postupak


Nestled quite comfortably below the Mason-Dixon line, Virginia may not be every family’s first thought when making their winter skiing plans—but perhaps it should be! The Shenandoah Valley area alone boasts a whopping 100 acres of powdery perfect skiable slopes, at historic Massanutten Resort to the east of Harrisonburg in McGaheysville, and at Bryce Resort on the west side of the Valley in Basye.

Built in the late 1800s as a fresh-air escape from Richmond and DC’s muggy misery, Massanutten Resort still serves as a getaway for locals and visitors alike. Where families used to take the train and then switch to horse and buggy to reach the resort, now Massanutten is an easy “four lanes from anywhere on the East Coast,” said Kenny Hess.


Lifting the Spirits: Skiing in the Shenandoah | Shenandoah Living Magazine

Photo courtesy Massanutten Resort

Hess is the Director of Snow Sports at Massanutten Resort, where he has worked for the past 30 years.

“Who doesn’t remember sledding as a kid?” said Hess. Skiing, he said, is an exciting and natural next step. “We have a season-long competitive race program, with youth ski racing and snowboard competitions. Some of our athletes have gone on to compete at the collegiate level.”

Particularly noteworthy is Scott Veenis, whose powerful skill and athleticism crowned him, among many other accolades, the 2006 Giant Slalom National Champion. Native to the Massanutten area, Veenis now works as an assistant coach to the US Alpine Ski Team.

Of course, “Not everybody’s going to want to ski or snowboard,” said Hess, “so we also have the ice rink and the snow tube park. Snow tubing is a great way to get introduced to snow sports for the long term. We have a tremendous ski school, including our Pathway program for beginners. But we also have more advanced trails—we’re 100 percent lit at night for skiing.”

Across I-81 in Basye, Bryce Resort too claims a long and rich history of rejuvenating visitors, dating back to William Brice’s opening of a summer resort in 1906.

Bryce’s General Manager Ryan Locher practically has Bryce snow DNA. His ski instructor dad and uncle, Horst and Manfred Locher, immigrated from Germany in the 1960s and have been instrumental in the blossoming of the resort. It’s therefore little surprise that Ryan Locher himself strapped on his first skis at age 2 and dove into his first ski race competition at 6. An eventual four-time all-American skier with a degree in business administration, Locher said the “family” component of Bryce is what keeps people returning.

“Bryce is a place where entire generations come back,” he said. “My own family represents three generations of people at Bryce. Here, everybody knows everybody. We call it our little happy land.”

While cooperative weather always plays a part in a resort’s ability to make snow—ideal conditions require low humidity and temperatures around 24°—Locher shrugs off any concerns about the upcoming season.

“We’ve already started making snow,” he said, and the resort plans to open by the first week of December. “We have a ski school and offer classes and programs throughout the week, and we’re open to the public for skiing and snow tubing on weekends. Our restaurants are open daily. Our niche is families; we’re a family resort with a laid-back feel. We want families to come enjoy a relaxed weekend with their kids.”

Locher is excited at the resort’s planned 2018 construction of a new cafeteria with a modern design, which will hold up to 300 people and be ideal for weddings and other events.

But at the end of the day, it’s the snow that keeps his spirits flying, a joy that Massanutten’s Kenny Hess fully shares.

“I love the early morning fresh air at the top of the mountain when the sun’s rising,” said Hess.

And it’s a joy that the unmatched, snowy beauty of our Shenandoah Valley continues to grow in hearts everywhere.

“Here in the Valley we’ve turned many people into lifelong lovers of the sport,” Hess said. “And that’s our very purpose.”

Main Street Matters in Middletown, Virginia | Shenandoah Living Magazine
Community and Business

Main Street Matters in the Shenandoah Valley

by Carol J. Alexander


Less than 100 years ago, Quicksburg bustled at a quick pace. The railroad kept this town alive, bringing supplies and taking goods up and down the Valley. The village once included a blacksmith, tomato cannery, and general store. The town’s racetrack drew visitors from neighboring communities who probably enjoyed a few drinks in the saloon after the races were over. Now, the only thing left of Quicksburg is a post office, which the US Postal Service wants to close, and a Methodist church, congregation 20.


Main Street Matters in the Shenandoah Valley | Shenandoah Living Magazine

Photo by Mark Segreti

What happened to Quicksburg? I’m sure there are many answers to that question. Location off the Valley Pike, some say. Less frequent rail travel, say others. But I cannot help think that if Quicksburg had a Main Street, a thoroughfare along which the business district stretched, other than tracks, that it could have survived the demise of the railroad.

For some small towns, Main Street is all they have. For larger cities, Main Street is their calling card and a community all its own. But most folks would agree, the pulse of a town’s Main Street creates the heartbeat of the town.

The part of government

Valley citizens value their Main Streets so much they have formed downtown enhancement groups, Main Street committees, or business alliances for the merchants in the area.

Tracy Lyons, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce for Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County said the county recently launched phase one of its 20/20 plan for revitalization. The first phase involves reaching out to alumni from local colleges and asking them to return to the area and invest in the community.

Craig Laird, owner of Royal Oak Computers and Shenandoah Confections and the president of the Front Royal Independent Business Alliance, said that the town of Front Royal just agreed to hire a community development director. “This position is an important piece to vitalization of the town overall,” he said.

Groups such as FRIBA and Main Street Lexington, Chambers of Commerce, and Rotary clubs provide networking opportunities for business owners and host events to draw folks to the Main Street area.

“Events are the key to get people out of their cars and start walking into businesses and seeing what the town has to offer,” said Charles Harbaugh IV, mayor of Middletown. He said that Middletown closes down the Main Street and re-routes traffic for special events.

Mike Good, owner of Timeless Wines in Middletown agrees. He regularly hosts wine and beer tastings at his shop to bring folks in.

“Events are effective in bringing people together,” said Robbie Jones of Hamrick and Sheridan Jewelers in Lexington. He said they not only attract shoppers to the district but provide networking opportunities for the business owners.

Live music, art shows, and heritage festivals are popular events hosted by towns up and down the Valley. The most popular, the Shenandoah County Department of Tourism’s Route 11 Yard Crawl is held each August along more than 40 miles of the Valley Pike. This event brings more folks to the Main Street sector than any other.

“Events give you the opportunity to talk to people and get to know your customers,” said Good.

More basic than events, though, a town needs to create a warm and inviting environment, said Jenna French, director of tourism and marketing for Shenandoah County. “From planters to lights to pocket parks,” she said, it’s all part of the plan to make visitors to downtown feel welcomed.  Rodney Shepherd, Mt. Jackson town council member, agrees. “You need to keep the infrastructure and background in good shape,” he said. Mt. Jackson has worked tirelessly to upgrade its sewer system, lay new sidewalks, install lamp posts and more. The most talked about improvement has been repainting the water tower along Interstate 81, to the tune of $250,000. “It’s boring,” he said referring to infrastructure, “but it’s important.”

French said that some businesses in Woodstock have taken advantage of a façade grant program to fund improvements. She also said that it helps a town to capitalize on its historical charm.

Lyons concurs. Several of the businesses in downtown Lexington have worked diligently to restore their buildings, “recapturing what they used to be in their heyday.” One such business is the Robert E. Lee Hotel, built in 1926 and totally restored in 2014. And to call attention to the historic district of Middletown, Harbaugh co-authored the book Images of America: Middletown.


The part of the business owner

The onus is not on the town, though. When asked what the key to success is for small businesses the answers varied, but Chamber officials all agreed—a new business needs a viable business plan.

“Before opening the doors,” said Lyons, “have a positive business plan that meets the needs of the community.” Do your market research and be engaged with your customers to know what their needs are.

“A successful opening is very important,” she added. “Be ready. Don’t have a soft launch. Make a big deal of your opening by hosting an event. Use the Chamber; they will help you.”

Business owners, though, look past that initial plan with their advice.

“Be open,” said Good. “Have set hours and be consistent with them.” Jones agrees that you have to be there. “Don’t think you can just hire someone to man the store,” he said. “Your business needs your personal touch.”

French said it’s important not to operate just another store or place to eat lunch. “It takes creativity and ingenuity,” she said, “but you need to create a destination.”

Destinations are what young adults and families are looking for. Something to do on the weekend or the perfect place for a birthday dinner are a few things the younger generation looks for. “We need to get them excited about coming down,” said Jones, “because they are our future.” And what better way than showing them that we speak their language by being active online.

Of course, everyone agrees a successful business must have an online presence and be active on social media. And, of course, almost everyone struggles to make it happen.

“Eighty percent of Internet users are on their phones,” said Janet Michael of Java Media in Front Royal. A couple traveling through the area will turn to their phone to find a good place to eat. A mom uses her phone to find the closest toy store. Someone else looks up a place of business on his phone to get its hours. At the very least, a small business needs to have a Facebook page and be active on it. “Social media,” she said, “is almost, if not more important, than traditional advertising.”

But many business owners don’t know what to say or post on their Facebook or Twitter feeds. For that reason, Michael teaches social media management classes to small business owners. She tells them just to start a conversation and engage their followers.


The part of the consumer

Nurturing Main Streets of the Valley requires not just effort on the part of governments, organizations, and business owners, but also the consumer.

“Money spent at a local business stays in the community,” said Ralph Wakeman, owner of Shenandoah Sew and Vac in Woodstock. He encourages everyone to shop locally, visit the shops on Main Street, and ask questions.

Wakeman contends that the local shopkeeper, with his reputation on the line, will provide superior customer service to the big box stores and online retailers. “Who are you going to complain to and who is going to take care of you?” he asks, referring to his national competitors.

Likewise, who is going to take care of the town, if not the folks that live in it? Shopping local is, decidedly, the best way to nurture Main Street.

Whether townsfolk develop the habit of shopping local, organizations host regular events, or shopkeepers stay active on social media, there is no doubt one thing, in particular, keeps a Main Street and its businesses alive.

“It’s old school, I know,” said Jones, “but the key is hard work.”


Secrets of Old Valley Homes–Riverlawn

by Carol J. Alexander


In an age when machinery performs most of our manual labor—from washing dishes and clothes to cutting hay and plowing fields—one struggles to imagine a 4,800-square-foot brick home made completely by hand. Such is the story of Riverlawn.

Slaves began forming the brick used to build this impressive Federal-style plantation house for Jacob Price’s family in 1842. Not surprisingly, it took them five years to make enough brick, fire them on-site, and construct the home with exterior walls four bricks deep.


Secrets of Old Valley Homes: Riverlawn | Shenandoah Living Magazine

Photo by Mark Segreti

One step through the front door of Riverlawn, located just outside New Market, and you can almost hear the rustle of women’s gowns, tinkling of the piano and merriment from the parlor as the Price sisters entertain—a skill women in the mid-1800s were expected to acquire.

The expansive entryway at Riverlawn boasts an elegant staircase of white pine. Today, quilts hang from the second story railing and historical photos of this southern plantation house sit proudly amongst photographs of the Shumway family. A chandelier hangs from the center of a plaster medallion, common of the era.

Approaching retirement from a nomadic military existence, Jim and Jane Shumway chose the Shenandoah Valley for their family’s permanent residence. But buying an antebellum house in need of more than tender loving care was not what Jane had in mind for their first home purchase.

“It was very overwhelming,” Jane said, speaking of that first year of overseeing remodeling projects while husband, Jim, continued to commute to D.C. as an Army officer.

“Although we got an incredible deal,” she said, “we’ve sunk a lot of money into the house.” For what, exactly? Jim rattles off a long list of projects they have accomplished since they purchased Riverlawn in 2010: a new first-floor bath, kitchen, well, and laundry room are just the beginning. They refinished all the tongue-in-groove white pine floors and removed yards and yards of wallpaper. Jane’s brother, a drywall and plaster expert, re-did the first-floor walls and repaired others as needed. They also removed century-old boxwoods that were swallowing the house alive, added landscaping with flowers for color and planted a grove of fruit trees.

Originally, the home had five rooms on the main floor and five rooms on the second story, including a formal parlor, library, dining room, and winter kitchen. The three rooms in the dirt-floored basement include a slave’s fireplace. The walk-up attic runs the length of the house.

The interior woodwork at Riverlawn was constructed of white pine and walnut. Skilled slave artisans fashioned everything by hand and fastened it with wooden pegs. The eight fireplace mantels—each of a different design—and the main staircase railing reflect the artistic ability of the craftsmen. (There are three staircases at Riverlawn, two behind doors resembling closets.) The original door locks, from England, and the windows with wooden latches remain.

“We’ve been told they built the house around the windows,” Jane said. “So, to replace them would be an incredible undertaking.” The Shumways eventually plan to replace the windows, however, because many of them no longer open.

The original estate included outbuildings of stone and hand-hewn beams. A springhouse with a trough to keep food cool is all that remains. Once, a summer kitchen with a huge fireplace and slave quarters stood behind the springhouse.

Both Jacob Price and his only son, Berryman Zirkle Price, served as captains in the Confederate Army. Although there is no documentation to prove it, locals say that Riverlawn escaped Union destruction because it was used as a hospital for injured soldiers.

Jacob Price paid $10,000 to have this house built on 600 acres. After his death in 1880, Berryman became the master of Riverlawn. It remained in his family until 1962 when Berryman’s daughter, Lulu, sold it out. Today the estate includes only 15 of those 600 acres.

Only the fourth owner of Riverlawn since the Price family, the Shumways would do it all over again. “It has been a joy,” said Jane. “We consider ourselves caretakers of history. While it is our home, we feel honored to be able to take care of this house until we pass it on to the next person, when the time is right.”


Take 5 with John-Robert Rimel | Shenandoah Living Magazine
Arts & EntertainmentPeople

Take Five with John-Robert Rimel

by Rebekah Postupak



John-Robert Rimel of Edinburg may only be a 15-year-old sophomore at Woodstock’s Central High School, but he’s appeared on The Ellen Show twice and has performed on WHSV TV and Q102, as well as at the Rockingham and Shenandoah County Fairs and many other events. His haunting tone and wide vocal range have consistently stunned producers and other industry professionals.


Take 5 with John-Robert Rimel | Shenandoah Living Magazine

Photo courtesy John-Robert Rimel

  1. At what moment did you realize music would be your life?

My family was already somewhat musical: my grandfather was a drummer, my father was in a boys’ choir, and my cousin’s a top-notch drummer. But what really got me started was the 2010 Relay for Life, when I was nine and had a chance to sing on stage. I sang Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” acapella, and was just so pumped to be on stage. That’s when I knew.

Since then I’ve learned a lot from working with instructors at JMU, Scott Zane Smith, Brenda Witmer, and David Newman; and also with Robby & Lisa Meadows of the Shenandoah Jamboree Show at Shenandoah Caverns. And now that I’m taking music theory at school with Ms. Hunsberger, suddenly everything is starting to make sense to me musically.

I’ve got two buddies I play with now, Tim Aumiller and Robbie Phillips. I love playing with them; they’re so inventive. In March we just performed together at PhilPhest on Madeira Beach, FL, for melanoma awareness.  

  1. What kind of music inspires you?

My heart is in alternative—Ed Sheeran, Twenty One Pilots, The 1975, James Bay—so soulful. As my voice started changing, I got into The Kooks and started experimenting with voice cracks. I worked and worked on it until I got them where I wanted them. I also took choir, and that made a huge difference.

  1. How did you get on The Ellen Show?

In 2014 Ellen’s team came across one of my videos and called my father. He pulled me out of class to tell me, and I’m like, “Is this a joke? I was just working with integers.”

The hardest part was not being able to tell my friends, even once I was back. All I could say was, “We stayed in a nice hotel. There was a McDonald’s with a thirty-minute time limit.” And that was it. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about how I got chauffeured around, or how amazing Ellen was. She’d ask me questions, but her eyes—they were crystal blue and mesmerizing. Her staff was the sweetest; I must have gotten a thousand hugs.

I still have the keyboard she gave me. I wouldn’t sell that for the world.

  1. And from there you caught an award-winning producer’s eye?

Yes; I had already met with him a couple of times on our L.A. visits, and he asked me to come out and work with a team last summer.

I spent most of that time with songwriter Jamie Hartman, who is also working with Sawyer Fredericks, winner of last year’s “The Voice.” We focused a lot on lyrical content. With pop music, the first time you listen to it, you want to know what the song is about. But if people look for a deeper meaning, it’s there in the lyrics. That’s the kind of thing we wanted to accomplish with our own music.

  1. What’s next for you?

I love it in the Valley; there’s so much to be inspired by here. But I definitely want to go back to L.A. and finish up some of the projects we started. I’ve been working on a lot of new ideas myself. I want my album to have diverse sounds, like “alternative-pop-rock-soul-R&B” all mashed up.

My dream is to make my music timeless, like David Bowie, or Queen, or Journey. And I want to push the pop industry in a different direction, with my own original take on alternative pop rock music. I also want to be part of my album’s writing process at all costs, for it to reflect my vision. It’d be really cool if nobody understood it now, but like in ten, twenty years, people are like, “This guy was on the right track.”

I’m ready.

Making a Difference: The Volunteer Farm | Shenandoah Living Magazine
Community and BusinessFarm

Making a Difference: The Volunteer Farm

by Rebekah Postupak


Bob Blair, chairman of the World Foundation for Children at Woodstock’s Volunteer Farm, is no stranger to disaster. He worked as the Director of Public Affairs for the White House Office of Emergency Preparedness, which eventually transformed into FEMA, “from Nixon to Clinton,” he said. “Shenandoah County became my sanity clause.”

For thirty years the sprawling land Blair purchased off Back Road in Woodstock served as a Christmas Tree farm. But one morning in 2004, the retired Blair woke up with a revelation. Combining his professional expertise in crisis management with his love for farming and helping others, he would use the land to grow food for needy families in the Shenandoah Valley. Thus the Volunteer Farm was born; an effort that, 12 years later, continues to grow.


Making a Difference: The Volunteer Farm | Shenandoah Living Magazine

Photo courtesy the Volunteer Farm

In 2015 alone, Blair said the farm distributed over 55 tons of food to local food banks, including 2,000 pounds of potatoes just before Thanksgiving. From the initial 50,000 people helped per month, the Volunteer Farm now supplements the pantries of 150,000 per month.

The numbers are astounding.

“More people are hungry now,” Blair said. “We may not have a starvation problem in this country, but we have a nutrition problem. Poor nutrition leads to diabetes and other health problems—but Twinkies are cheaper than apples.”

With food pantries across Virginia struggling to survive due to lack of funding, Blair admitted that despite its tremendous success each year, the Volunteer Farm battles funding and expense challenges too.

“The amount we grow is based on the amount we collect,” he said. “Farming is expensive.”

The Volunteer Farm is not detached from the Shenandoah residents it serves; its lifeblood consists of donations and volunteer labor from caring people and organizations in the Valley and beyond.

And goodness knows there is always plenty to do. Even in February?

“Oh yes,” said Blair. “In February we need people to help with fundraising, to work in our office. If the weather’s dry, we’ll start prepping the field for planting, and trying to get potatoes, turnips, and beets in the ground as soon as possible.”

Adult supporters often cherish personal reasons for donating to or working at the farm. “The vast majority of our donors have been hungry at some time in their lives,” Blair said. “For example, maybe they were on food stamps for a while. They know what hunger is all about. It’s much harder to convince people to help who have never been hungry.”

However, of the more than 20,000 volunteers who have served at the farm over the years, representing 42 states and 27 countries, the vast majority are under 18. Many come from local schools and homeschool groups; a steady stream of helpers come from Harrisonburg’s James Madison University. Church groups, both local ones such as the United Methodist Church in Woodstock, and far away, such as Presbyterian churches in Georgia and Pennsylvania, may design mission trips around working at the farm.

“They come here to help us feed our own neighbors,” Blair said, amazement tinging his voice.

This past year the Volunteer Farm was successful in attracting several classes with special needs kids to join the effort.

Cindy Ritter is a paraprofessional assistant in a special education class at Woodstock’s Central High School. “We volunteer there every week,” she said, “and the difference in these kids since the beginning of the year is amazing. They’ve learned independence—they know where to go, to sign in, what to do. We work on social skills, on teamwork. You should see all the smiles.”

Blair smiles right back. He said serving at places like the Volunteer Farm when they are young will hopefully translate into “a lifetime habit of helping others.”


Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum | Shenandoah Living Magazine
Community and BusinessHistory

Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum–Sparking Interest in Public Safety

by Jean Young Kilby


Forty-five years in the making, the Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum sits perched on the third floor of the city’s Public Safety Building like a cat in a tree, the pet project of Harrisonburg Fire Chief Larry Shifflett.

Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum | Shenandoah Living Magazine

Photo by Matt Schmachtenberg

An impressive collection

Since he began volunteering at Hose Company #4 as a young teen, Chief Shifflett has collected hundreds of items from fire brigade buckets to fire extinguishers to a brassy fireman’s pole. “A lot of stuff was just laying around the firehouse. I picked a lot of it out of the trash can,” he said. “I never thought it would turn into this.”

His prize display is a mammoth hose reel with wheels big enough to move a covered wagon. “This was made in Harrisonburg in 1894 by John Morrison, who was at one time the mayor,” he said. “This was the earliest piece of fire equipment owned by the city. It took 8 to 10 men out in front pulling it to wherever the fire was. The bigger the wheels, the easier it was to pull it over gravel and stone. The problem was going downhill.”

Wandering through the circular museum gives one the surreal feeling of stepping back in time. A cough-drop red fire alarm box stands at the ready. At one time, Harrisonburg had seven of these alarm boxes posted around town for folks who didn’t have telephones. Cold War-era gas masks and Chemox masks are relegated to hanging on a wall, while mannequins showcase outdated yellow rubber fire suits. Vintage uniforms linger as testaments to the courage and pride of local firefighters down through the decades, beginning with the earliest professional firefighter, the Keeper of the Apparatus—the man responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of firefighting equipment.


A brief glimpse into the past

Not all fires are caused by faulty wiring or chimney sparks. According to the museum’s 1943 Record Book, at least one fire that year was sparked by a mislaid cigarette. Another fire broke out when someone struck a match close to rubber cement. One person’s curtain burst into flames from a nearby jack-o’-lantern; while one industrious woman started a fire while scrubbing her floor with gasoline.

Flipping through the pages of the 1943 Record Book can leave one with more questions than answers: How did a fire ignite at Wetsel Seed Company at 11:00 one night? Why did Harrisonburg’s Main Street School sustain a fire on March 28, while on the next day, Harrisonburg High School on Grace Street also reported a fire? Was an arsonist afoot? Several familiar names pop up in that book. On April 25, for example, Mrs. George Grattan sustained an estimated loss of $250 because of “unnecessary loss due to delay getting water on fire.” Why the delay? Fodder for speculation.


A museum for all

The fire department museum offers visitors a unique perspective on Harrisonburg’s history. History buffs will appreciate rambling among the exhibits, while children can enjoy a hands-on experience. They can don rubber suits and fire hats, pick up a real fire hose, and pretend to squirt water on a blazing fire. To top it off, they can shimmy up and slide down the fire pole.

Chief Shifflett will be retiring soon. He plans to continue collecting for the museum, but he hopes he won’t have to scour the trash cans for his next prize—the 1948 GMC pumper truck he’s had his eye on for a while.

Museum hours are 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Entry is free and open to the public. If you’re lucky, you might catch Fire Chief Larry Shifflett, a modern-day “Keeper of the Apparatus, inspecting the equipment.

Home Grown BBQ | Shenandoah Living Magazine
Food & Dining

Home Grown BBQ

by Lauren Hunt


“Good, better and best,” are three words Faye Bland, owner of the Bar B-Q Ranch, uses to describe the barbeque on the menu.

Eugene Taylor opened the Bar B-Q Ranch in 1947, 15 years before Interstate 81 was built. The original Bar B-Q Ranch consisted only of what’s now the kitchen, and customers either ate outside or ordered to-go. Today, the restaurant includes an indoor dining room and overhangs that provide dry, outdoor seating.


Home Grown BBQ | Shenandoah Living Magazine

Photo by Lauren Hunt

Inside, tables and booths are covered in red- and white checked tablecloths. A jukebox that has a habit of spitting out new, state quarters sits in the far corner. Pig figurines line the walls. There are piggy banks, stuffed pigs, pigs in costumes and even a pig on a motorcycle. Bland began collecting the figurines more than 30 years ago when her husband, Sammy Bland, bought her two as a gift. She estimates the Bar B-Q Ranch now holds about 6,000 figurines.

“There wasn’t a pig in the place when I bought it,” Bland said and laughed. “I still have the two original ones at home in my China cabinet.”

Bland, who bought the Bar B-Q Ranch 30 years ago last October, is usually perched on a chair in the kitchen between a counter and a freezer. She takes to-go orders over the phone and watches over the staff as they wait tables and cook food.

Almost like clockwork, hungry couples and families begin rolling into the parking lot at about 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. The kitchen quickly fills with smoke from the grills and fryers as the two cooks begin to stack barbeque on buns with a practiced hand.

The Bar B-Q Ranch menu boasts more than just barbeque. It includes hamburgers, hot dogs, country fried chicken, homemade vegetable soup and fried pickles — a crowd favorite — just to name a few. All of these items are served on a plastic plate with plastic utensils, of course.

“Not a thing has changed,” Margie Heatwole, a waitress at the Bar B-Q Ranch for the last several decades, said. The Bar B-Q Ranch still uses the same recipe that originated somewhere in western North Carolina.

“People say we’ve changed the recipe, but we haven’t,” Bland added.

And it’s that classic barbeque taste that keeps local residents coming back. All of the barbecue and coleslaw is made in-house with fresh ingredients. Between the homemade barbeque taste and the family cookout atmosphere, the Bar B-Q Ranch continues to bring customers back and sending clean plates to the kitchen, even 68 years later.

“Its just good barbeque,” Bland said.