Charlie Hurt's mark: “HCH 5/16/87.”
Along the north wall of historic Competition Alley's echoing canyon can be found the personal mark of an illustrious expatriate of Chatham, journalist Charlie Hurt. “HCH 5/16/87” appears prominently on the south-facing bricks of the former Chatham Furniture and Undertaking building. Fifteen-year-old Henry Charles Hurt, Jr., left his initials there during a May 1987 night of mischief.
Soon young Hurt was off to more voluminous writing exercises at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, and Hampden-Sydney College, and then journalistic employment at the Danville (Virginia) Register & Bee, Richmond Times-Dispatch, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Detroit News, Charlotte Observer, eventually as Capitol Hill bureau chief for the Washington Times, and currently as Washington bureau chief for the New York Post. His sharp, balanced, and original observations stand in more noticeable contrast to the politically-tinged New York – Washington media pack than even his early painted additions do to Competition Alley's red brick wall.
Charlie's mother Margaret Hurt comments, “I did not learn of the mischief in the alley until I was much older and Charlie was nicely settled in life and purpose. I suspect there were many ‘nights of mischief,’ the particulars about which I still have never heard. And I have learned not to inquire. But I have come to treasure those initials on the wall as the seriousness of the mischief recedes in my mind and the cherished memories of my children's childhoods ascend. I guess the fact that all three [Charlie, Robert, Elizabeth] survived growing up (thanks in no small part to Chatham itself) means the process wasn't so bad but was rather part of ‘growing up and gaining wisdom.’ Surely God was looking out for each one and kept them from the edge of danger. (He was hearing a lot from me!)”
Of course, Charlie Hurt is not the only well-known Virginian to have, in his youth, indulged his impulse to initial a canyon wall which later became a tourist attraction: George Washington left his “GW” on the rocks of Natural Bridge. (Natural Bridge is said to be among the Seven Natural Wonders of the World — but Competition Alley is even more exclusive as the only remaining original street from the early village of Competition!) Hurt has now become professionally and residentially Washingtonian himself, but one hopes and assumes that as a principled traditional journalist he, like the Father of Our Country, “cannot tell a lie!”
This guide to Chatham, Virginia is sponsored by Mitchells Publications.
Copyright © 2009 Patricia B. Mitchell.