Chatham: A Good Place to Grow Up

By Ron Miller, Glendale, Arizona (2012).

Ron Miller and Phyllis Craddock, Chatham High School Class of 1965

Ron Miller and Phyllis Craddock, classmates in the Chatham High School Class of 1965, stack Krispy Kreme doughnuts for a 1964 Chatham High Booster Club fundraising project (photo from the 1965 C.H.S. Cavalier yearbook).

See an illustrated version of this article, narrated by the author, on YouTube.

I was reading the Star-Tribune obituaries yesterday and Nellie Catherine Overbey's passing caught my eye. It also opened a floodgate of memories. My Dad, Shellie Miller, was transferred to the Transco pumping station when it opened in 1958. From that time, at age 12, until 1966 when I went into the Air Force, I had the privilege of calling the pleasant, orderly, clean little town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge home.

I must have been 14 years old when I took over a paper route (Danville Register) from Glenn Oakes. It was two routes which had been merged into one, running from all of downtown out South Main Street almost to the hill going out of town, and out North Main Street a little past Lynn Street. It also took in Reid Street, Depot Street, Whittle Street, Military Drive, and all streets between it and North Main, Spruce Hill Road, and out Chalk Level Road to the Chatham dump.

As a result, I delivered the newspaper to many. I felt an attachment to some, I suppose because they treated me well. Mrs. Overbey's husband, Archer, was one. Another Mr. Overbey, Archer's brother “Buckeye,” owned Overbey's Hardware on Main Street. It was always pleasant to deliver there, especially on a cold winter day. Upon opening the front door, one was welcomed by the embracing warmth of the wood-burning stove and its aroma.

I delivered to Chatham Pharmacy, owned by Hunt Whitehead. Mr. Whitehead had bushy eyebrows, which gave him a serious look. Although I seldom saw him smile, he called me “Mill” and spoke to me in a “grown-up” way, making me feel important.

Occasionally on late afternoons as I delivered on Whittle Street, the Rev. Cullum would run from his back door and down Military Drive on his evening jog. That was years before jogging became popular. He stopped me in front of the Bank of Chatham one day and said, “Miller, you have a smile on your face every time I see you. Never lose that.” He didn't know he was making a lifelong impression on me.

Early on Sunday mornings, as I waited at the courthouse for the truck to deliver the papers, I always spoke to Joe White, who swept Main Street with a push broom. Yes, with a push broom. Yes, all of Main Street from Center Street to Depot Street. He had a quick smile, moved with enthusiasm, and obviously did not shy away from work. No doubt scant few knew, or even thought, of Main Street's having been swept by one man using a push broom.

I now reside in Glendale, Arizona. Although there is much time and many miles from those found memories, Chatham was a good place to grow up.

This website is sponsored by Mitchells Publications, Chatham, Virginia.