- Kitty Norris
As a long-time librarian in Colonial Beach, I'm asked frequently whether we have historical information about our town, which dates back to 1892. We had very little. In 2016, I had a chance to change this, thanks to a conversation with local author Sherryl Woods and the enthusiasm of a group of women whose memories stretch back for decades. This was one of the most memorable and fun activities I've ever been involved with.
What started as a way to collect oral histories from some of the oldest families in town slowly evolved into a book, A Small Town Love Story: Colonial Beach, Virginia, being published on November 14 by MIRA Books. Over the summer of 2016, Sherryl and I sat down with a broad range of Colonial Beach residents to hear their stories. It was fascinating to learn how these people came to live and raise their families in Colonial Beach and what it is about this community that made them stay here.
There are stories from many of the eras of the town's history—from the days of the St. John's steamboat coming from Washington to drop off tourists to the gambling heyday of the 1950s to the Oyster Wars. One of the most memorable stories for me came from someone who as a boy used to slip off to an oyster packing plant to listen to the gospel songs of the workers as they shucked the oysters. The sound of that music made him so happy, and he truly wished he'd been able to record it.
Because I'd heard so many stories and seen so many pictures last summer, I was recently able to connect a visitor to town with an important treasure from her own past. She mentioned that her grandfather had owned an ice cream stand in the '20s and '30s. I knew exactly who now owns that building and took the visitor over to meet her. Not only did she get to meet someone who knew more about that bit of town history, but she was given the old ice cream machine from that business. Seeing her smile as she was reconnected to this part of her family history was priceless.