In our dining room, I have a charcoal pencil drawing of what appears to be a section of Town Creek. It is one of only a couple of pieces of art that my grandfather, W. C. Jones, did. He had two daughters, Gladys and Ruby, who were quite accomplished in the field of painting. In fact, Ruby taught art classes and sold art supplies in her home on Harcourt Street for a number of years.
My mother, Jewell, had a great appreciation for the fine arts but lent her hand to only one small ceramic statue of a young girl. My father, J. Roy, was talented art wise with architecture drawing.
Well, you can see where my interest in fine arts came from. It also had a great effect on another interest, wandering.
Papa, as we called him, helped get my interest in history and travel as well. The charcoal drawing shows an old railroad bridge across a creek, probably Town Creek, with trees along the banks. As a kid, I used to explore the creek behind our house on Boundary, winding north to an old railroad bridge like the one in the drawing.
I never really gave much thought to my adventures except they were a lot of fun. Thoughts of snakes, animals and perhaps tramps did not enter my mind. Things back in the late 30s and early 40s did not seem to be dangerous for a youngster.
With a caring family background and neighbors that were old friends gave me a sense of security for my ventures. The art background was also exciting as I got to marvel at the painting of door stops by high school kids who would later become longtime friends such as Bill Newberry, Bill Witherspoon and Ann Milburn. Ruby was noted for her class’s door stops.
Perhaps I should have been a travel writer instead of settling for more formal writing. Travel writers get to travel the world and see all sorts of things us commoners miss out on. It’s all part of their jobs.
Growing up included many hours at my Papa’s feet. Each evening after school and the adventure radio shows, Papa would set me on his knee and discuss the news of the day and where it was occurring. He always had maps to show of the various locations and his National Geographics and Life magazines swept me on the high road to adventures. He also read classics to me, one chapter only a night.
As I reached adulthood, those early days served me well. When I had the time and money, I wanted to see what I had only dreamed about as a kid. Although limited, my trips to Europe allowed me to see first hand what we had read about. The good old USA has taken up most of my travel in recent years, going from Maine to southern California and from Vancouver to Florida. I also got to enjoy another favorite, golf.
Every time I look at Papa’s charcoal, I get nostalgic and wish he could have drawn more to set my mind racing once anew. I sometimes think that travel might be a fine art in itself. Any way it sets my mind off on other ventures.
Jon Vandagriff is a retired daily
newspaper editor, author and college history professor emeritus, who still writes, teaches and speaks.