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Category Archives: The way we were

What can we learn from railway maps?

A coal train near Cotton Hill, West Virginia. Source: Jason Bostic, Flickr As I mentioned recently, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to go on more hiking and picture-taking expeditions. When I made the resolution, I was vaguely aware that I wanted to focus on the Appalachian highlands. But I also wanted to get […]

Architectural history: Some biodegradable, some not

Click here for high-res version My county, Stokes County (North Carolina), is a county of rolling hills and forest, with a few small and picturesque mountains, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which of course are a part of the Appalachian chain. Stokes was never a prosperous county. There were a couple of […]

Adams Motor Grader

When I see fine old machines, decaying and unlikely to ever run again, I feel something like pity. There’s something about well-made machines down on their luck that deserves our empathy. But people do restore these things, and that’s part of why I’m posting the photo. This one is for sale, and it’s parked alongside […]

More Buffalo China

This blog gets a lot of visits from people who are interested in the history of Buffalo China. I would collect Buffalo china if I had anywhere to put it, but as things are I’ve collected only enough Buffalo china for the table, and no more than will fit in the kitchen cabinets. But recently, […]


These days we take bridges for granted. We seldom think about what travel was like when getting across rivers was a big deal. The earliest solution, of course, was to ford the river where the terrain was suitable. Then came ferries, and then came bridges. In one of my visits to Paris, I wondered aloud […]

Buffalo china: A sad American story

I wish I knew much, much more about a now-defunct American company named Buffalo China. Yep — they were in Buffalo, New York. The company started about 1901, making a mishmash of porcelain products. In the 1920s and 1930s, they started marking commercial porcelain dinnerware for restaurants and institutions. For decades, they made incredibly excellent […]

Vintage fire truck

While attending a community event recently in the little Stokes County community of Francisco, I sneaked into the fire station to get photos of their vintage Mack fire truck.

Caboose for sale

How often do you get a chance to buy a caboose? This one is on U.S. 311 just south of Madison, N.C.

How to find a dark sky

The dark blue areas are reasonably dark skies. One of the darkest areas on the East Coast is in West Virginia. Note that almost the entire state of North Carolina has ruined skies, with the exception of the Dismal Swamp in the northeast corner of the state. One of the cruelest, most magic-killing forms of […]

What young'uns used to eat

The school cafeteria staff, circa 1960. Mrs. Martin is on the left. When I was in elementary school, we called the school cafeteria “Miss Martin’s Slop Shop.” Mrs. Martin has gone on to her reward, but we all owe her such an apology. I have often thought about Mrs. Martin’s made-from-scratch cooking and how lucky […]