Secrets of the Blue Ridge: Crozet 1938: Hear Those Lions Roar!

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William H. “Bill” Haden (1911–1996) transformed the Haden family’s store into Crozet Theatre in 1938-’39. Visible in the background c.1941, alongside the Carter/Herbert Cold Storage, the theater’s original signage extended over the downtown sidewalk, directly across the street from Crozet Drug Store. Posed in front of a car parked beside the bank building were Crozet High School students, l-r, Ann Martin Carter, Sue Owen, Margaret Gentry, and Edith Sandridge. Gene Autry’s blockbuster movie “Melody Ranch” was playing on the big screen that day. (Photo courtesy of Cole W. Sandridge Jr.)

The progressive village of Crozet in 1938 hummed like a well-oiled machine. It still straddled a strategic spot on the main highway between Waynesboro and Charlottesville, the main flow of traffic not yet having been diverted to U.S. Rt. 250 between Brownsville and Mechum’s River.

In that pre-WWII era, Crozet’s Chesapeake & Ohio Railway passenger and freight depots adjacent to The Square in the center of town connected rail excursionists with every one of the country’s 48 states, plus daily, carefree there-and-back business and shopping options in towns east and west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area’s shippers of fruits and other local commodities relied on the readily available rail access to major markets.

Ray W. Warrick (1890–1967) established Warrick Machinery & Supply at Crozet, and later entered into partnership with Norman P. Gillum (1913–1994). That successful business was sold and relocated to Charlottesville, reopening there as Piedmont Tractor. Warrick continued to serve western Albemarle’s real estate needs while Gillum established Crozet Hardware. (Photo by Mac Sandridge)

Every vibrant community, great or small, includes individuals and groups who strive to be mindful of the plights of their neighbors and to meet the needs of their greater community. Crozet residents have long benefited from the efforts of many who, publicly or quietly, stepped up to lend a helping hand of relief. The Woman’s Club of Crozet, established in 1920, was one such organization that actively encouraged the beautification of the village by planting flowers, installing waste receptacles, and encouraging business owners to tidy-up their surroundings. Their persistence produced results.

Quietly, they assisted struggling households and bolstered local schools. They raised monies for a clubhouse used for public and private events, which also served as a permanent home for the village’s wandering library, hosted Red Cross blood collections and, with the assistance of a local physician, provided regular cost-free well-baby clinics.

Ernest L. Sandridge (1881–1951), one of Crozet Lions’ four founding directors, was the organization’s oldest charter member at age 57. His Standard/Esso gasoline filling station, Crozet’s first ‘full-service’ affair, opened in 1923. It operated a short distance east of Crozet’s C&O train depot until 1966, just prior to excavation for Crozet Shopping Plaza. (Photo courtesy of Leonard Sandridge Jr.)

Challenged and encouraged by the Woman’s Club’s efforts and subsequent results, a group comprised primarily of Crozet businessmen met together on Friday evening, October 28, 1938, to organize and seek a charter from Lions Club International, a service club organization formed in 1917. LIONS is an acronym for Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nations’ Safety. Local orchardist Henry C. Chiles was elected president of that initial group of 23 men.

A virtual history of Crozet’s early business community is revealed by the names of those on hand at the organizational meeting. Silas W. Barnes formed Barnes Lumber next door to his father John Barnes’ Crozet Lumber Company. Similar to Lions’ President Chiles, Ambrose Burfoot Sr. was in the fruit industry, brokering that commodity with Ches Haden. William F. Carter Jr. was instrumental in the initial building phase of the imposing apple cold storage in the center of town.

Dr. Ernest Downer Davis Jr. (1902–1992), one of Crozet Lions’ four founding directors, began his medical practice at Crozet in 1930. He established Crozet Hospital in 1939 and operated it until 1951. His patients still recall his superb diagnostic skills and ever-present cigars. (Courtesy of Bruce Baldwin)

James W. Clark had been Cashier at the Bank of Crozet. Physician Dr. E.D. Davis Jr., affectionately known as “Doc,” established and administered Crozet Hospital next to Crozet Drug. John W. “Junior” Gentry, from a family of Crozet farmers and merchants, became General Manager of the Daily Progress newspaper. Lawyer Col. Henry Goodloe was called upon for legal guidance by local residents. Curtis A. Haden Jr., a chemist at DuPont, had grown up in Haden Brothers’ general store adjacent to the cold storage. His brother and fellow Lion William H. “Bill” Haden, at the time of the group’s charter, was in the process of converting their family’s store into Crozet Theatre, western Albemarle’s premier movie and stage show venue, seating more than 250.

Alfred S. Harris was an insurance representative and a son of Ellis Harris, former Crozet postmaster and manager of Crozet Hotel, above Crozet Drug on The Square. Dr. John F. McGavock was a physician and graduate of U.Va. School of Medicine. George W. Pollock managed Crozet Variety Store and founded Pollock Insurance Co. A.E. “Elmer” Rea was a respected Crozet merchant and meat cutter for nearly three decades. Cole W. “C.W.” Sandridge Sr. owned the largest grocery store on Miller School Avenue beside the landmark Bank of Crozet.

The Crozet Lions Club was chartered on November 8, 1938. Its founders comprised a ‘Who’s Who’ of Crozet and western Albemarle businessmen. (Courtesy of Crozet Lions Club)

Ernest L. Sandridge, the oldest charter member at 57, operated the Standard/Esso gasoline filling station east of the train depot while also distributing gas and oil products. Linden Shroyer was an orchardist, fruit broker, and accountant. Some years later, he was Manager at the bank. T.C. Williams Smith, the club’s youngest charter member at 23, was President of Crozet Motors, Inc., a Ford dealership. Those in Greenwood would have known him as operator of The Country Store. Henry B. Stoneham Jr., a salesman and the only unmarried charter member, was the son of a Baptist minister in Charlottesville.

Harrison Waite Jr. was another banker. He previously had been postmaster at Greenwood. Ray W. Warrick was an orchardist, real estate agent, and founder of Warrick Machinery adjacent to Crozet Depot. G. Bourne Wayland was a lifelong orchardist and member of one of Crozet’s most storied first-families. Like his father Charles, he served on the Albemarle County School Board. Thomas G. Wayland, a brother to Bourne, was, likewise, an orchardist as well as a Ford Tractor dealer.

The village of Crozet had come into being a mere 62 years earlier. Those attracted to the once-rugged little flag stop had to model a can-do attitude as well as be willing to look out for and lend a helping hand to their neighbors. The first Crozet Lions represented the diverse citizenry that has always comprised Crozet. Typical of any new or expanding town, they hailed from far and wide: the District of Columbia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Virginia natives in the group had earlier roots in the counties of Clarke, Dinwiddie, Greene, and Wythe. The Albemarle natives represented the towns of Afton, Brown’s Cove, Charlottesville, Crozet, and Greenwood.

A constitutional amendment in 1987 allowed women to become members of the previously all-male organization. In the Crozet Lions Club, just as in our homes and businesses, men and women, side-by-side, demonstrate the Lions’ motto, “We Serve.” Their longstanding philosophy “to provide unselfish service to others” is an example, and a reminder, for all who desire the best for their community. 

Follow Secrets of the Blue Ridge on Facebook! Phil James invites contact from those who would share recollections and old photographs of life along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Albemarle County. You may respond to him through his website: SecretsoftheBlueRidge.com or at P.O. Box 88, White Hall, VA 22987. Secrets of the Blue Ridge © 2003–2018 Phil James 

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