Returning to Floyd County in 2004 after 39 years brought some realizations that while change is inevitable in a community, much of the area was little different from what I left in 1965.
I began my high school years at the opening of Floyd County High School in 1961, the countywide secondary school that combined the schools in Check, Willis and Floyd into a new facility.
Revisiting the school nearly 13 years ago found some changes, a new gym, expanded sports and facilities to serve them and an expanded vocational program. Still, it pretty much looked the same.
The three new car dealerships that sold Fords, Chevrolets, Dodges, Plymouths and Chryslers were down to just one — selling the Chrysler brand that now also included Jeep.
Gone was the Ben Franklin store on the corner of Main and Locust Street. The old Floyd Press building on South Locust, where I worked after school for two years in high school, was and still is a law office and a newer building houses the newspaper at the north edge of town on U.S. 221.
Gone, too, was the Western Auto Store on Main Street, replaced by a law office that is also gone now, along with the Piggly Wiggly Store. The Bank of Floyd building was larger. So was the sheriff’s department in the courthouse and the county government, housed in the building that Citizens’ Telephone Cooperative had outgrown and moved to larger quarters on North Locust Street.
The old Amoco gas station was then a pizza restaurant called Mama Lazzardos. It is gone now with the building remodeled into offices, retail shops and apartments The former Moses Restaurant was Oddfellas. Blue Ridge Restaurant was still in its old location but the lunch counter was gone.
Floyd now has liquor by the drink in two of the county’s five districts.
We saw other changes in businesses and shops in 2004 but the town and county looked, for the most part, the same.
Started thinking about how Floyd looked and what had or had not changed when we arrived in 2004. Floyd was a one-stoplight town in 1965 and was still one in 2004. The population of the Town of Floyd was 435 in 1964. It was 434 in 2004.
My granddaddy used to say the population didn’t change in Floyd because whenever a new baby was born, some guy left town.
I also started thinking about the many changes of the town and the county in the last 14 years. Over the last decade, in particular, Floyd has changed more than it did in the four decades before. The town looks different, particularly along Locust and Main Streets, thanks to remodeling and revitalization. The town now has a park, along with a Mexican restaurant and public restrooms.
Opinions vary over whether or not the change is good or bad. Discussion on that topic pops up on social media, often focusing on what Floyd “used to be.”
A county minister complained the other day that modern technology and communication has brought “sin” to Floyd.
True, we have court cases involving adults preying on children for sexual abuse. A former county assistant treasurer went to prison for embezzlement of taxpayer funds. A restaurant owner lost her business because of misdirection of funds that belonged to the Commonwealth. The former manager of Farm Credit went to jail for child pornography and a teacher and assistant coach lost his job and is now registered as a seuxal predator for activitiy with a student.
“That didn’t use to happen here,” the minister said. “Too much outside influences.”
Really? In high school in the early and mid-60s, we had a basketball coach involved with a high school student and a assistant football coach caught with a high school girl at the Starlight Drive-In in Christiansburg.
A girl I knew as a 9th grader at Floyd County High School left town after she became pregnant by an uncle. A fly-by-night confidence man conned the county into payments to help bring businesses to Floyd. He took the money and disappeared.
Those crimes came before the Internet or satellite TV. The big change now from 50 years ago is that sexual abuses were whispered about then and now are in court with charges, convictions and prison time.
We came to town amid the uproar over the new Food Lion supermarket in town.
“Floyd doesn’t have chain businesses here,” read one letter to the editor. “We don’t need them.”
In the 60s, the Western Auto store and Ben Franklin were chain stores. So was the Piggly Wiggly.
Chain retail operations existed in Floyd 50 years ago and still exist today. Now they are called Family Dollar, Dollar General, Food Lion, Pizza Inn, Subway and Hardees.
The Friday Night Jamboree didn’t exist when I left Floyd in 1965. It was about the only time the Floyd Country Store was open in 2004. Now the Jamboree has a worldwide following and the Store is open as a updated country store with food, musical instruments, music lessons and a full slate of entertainment options.
FloydFest began the year before we came to Floyd. It is a popular musical event with a worldwide audience. Yes, the site is mostly in Patrick County but the name is FloydFest and it brings business to the area each July.
Chantilly Farms hosts a growing BBQ and Bluegrass Festival each year along with other events. Yoga Jam is growing, along with other festivals.
Yes, Floyd has changed. Its business base is now more varied. Agri-business, based in large part by sustainable operations, are adding to the rural farming community. Arts continues to grow and tourism is a growing part of the area’s economy.
There’s an old saying that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Floyd is still a one-stoplight town.