In the words of former New England Patriots’ owner Victor Kiam, “Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.”
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And, Ben Franklin noted, ‘”YOU may delay, but time will not.”
That being said, it was time to move forward with the idea of adding a monument on the face of Mill Mountain to honor five of the greatest newspaper publishers throughout history. Let’s face it, Roanoke can’t make it as a 5-Star tourist attraction with nothing but craft breweries and a single big star. Ben Franklin, Randolph Hearst and The Chief trump Otis Campbell all day long.
So, up to the mountaintop Star overlook I went to gauge public sentiment on the ingenious project proposed in this column two months ago. The answers and comments were intriguing. And, it was quickly clear many people were already talking about my concepts, while others added insight on what had already taken place over a century ago.
There was a large number of overlook-goers on an early-May Saturday when I casually brought up the Mount Rushmore lookalike. Several individuals commented they had heard the rumor and wondered aloud if it was serious and where it would be situated. Another elderly gentleman, who identified himself as Clarence, gave a more in-depth historical angle on the whole thing, which after some research, proved he knew what he was talking about. My earlier proposal of the Star Line Trolley taking visitors to the top of Mill Mountain wasn’t as nutty as many claimed a couple months back. Read on.
Beginning in 1910, and way before the Mill Mountain Star was conceived as a holiday decoration, The Mill Mountain Incline Railway took visitors from a depot at the base of the mountain to the summit where the present Star is located. The electric-hoist cars, which ran in both directions, took four minutes to complete the trip each way.
Opening day on August 10, 1910 saw an estimated 1,500 passengers buy a 25-cent round-trip ticket. Clarence added that it showed how Roanoke has gone backwards since that inaugural day, noting that today it would take nearly 15 minutes to make the same trip by car. Cool and astute observation.
The incline railway was a major attraction for Roanoke, but the popularity of cars led the line to be sold to a real estate magnate who decided to build a toll road up the mountain. The toll booth arch remains intact today, albeit tolls have been sparse since the winding road was blocked off years ago. The effective result was the closure of the incline in 1929 and dismantling for scrap by 1934.
Another blow for the mountain tourism occurred in 1947 when two hikers were mauled, one killed, by a rogue bear, causing virtual panic on the idea of heading up the big hill. In 2007, another proposal by City Council to revive the incline died on the vine. Now, the opportunity exists to revive history and put the wheels back in motion.
Also, it should be noted by historical records that the term “The Roanoke Star” is interchangeable with “The Mill Mountain Star,” which should definitely make The Chief happy, along with putting the name “Mount Star” back on the table as a natural for the five publishers.
Yes, you always learn something when you read this column.
Now, we’ll take a break from transportation history to look at what’s taking place on the local sports scene.
The Salem Red Sox close out the month of May with an 8-game home stand beginning Monday, May 20th. Wilmington visits Haley Toyota Field for four straight followed by a four-game set with Winston-Salem. Fifteen home games dot the calendar for the month of June. Catch the stars of the future as Salem looks to make a run in the Carolina League race.
The Roanoke Valley Sports Club has a pair of exceptional speakers lined up for its May and June meetings at the Salem Civic Center. Monday, May 20 brings Massanutten Miliary Academy head basketball coach Chad Myers. Myers has led the Massanutten program to the National Prep Tournament each of his five years, including two squads ranked #1 in the nation for over 10 weeks.
Virginia Tech fans will be excited as new Hokie basketball coach Mike Young will be the guest speaker for the Tuesday, June 18th get-together. Young had a record-setting 17-year tenure at Wofford before taking over at Tech in April.
Everything gets underway at both meetings with a 5:45 social, followed by dinner and the program. Contact Maggie Drewry at 540-353-1103 or visit the club’s website at www.roanomevalleysportsclub.com for more information and to make reservations.
Special congratulations go out to a pair of “Big-11” athletes on winning the 69th edition of the B’nai B’rith Athletic and Achievement Awards. Patrick Henry swimmer Shelby Stanley won the girl’s title, while Cave Spring’s Crawford Enyart took home the trophy on the boy’s side among candidates from 19 high schools. Enyart was a first-team Class 3 All-State basketball player for Cave Spring.
The awards are based on excellence in athletics, academics and citizenship. Enyart also won the Artie Levin Personal Life Award, which reflects the nominee who scores highest in the citizenship category. Both winners are headed to lofty colleges, Stanley at Davidson College and Enyart at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The 36th annual Scott Robertson Memorial Junior Golf Tournament tees off this weekend at Roanoke Country Club where a field of 165 junior golfers from 26 states and 14 foreign countries will compete in four divisions, boys and girls ages 14 and under, and ages 15 to 18. The public is welcome to watch many of the best junior golfers from around the world, and the future stars of the PGA and LPGA Tours.
Now, back to the drawing board for The Chief’s Incline Choo-Choo. I think I can sell him on financing the whole idea if we charge $3 for an UP ticket, then once we get riders to the mountaintop, charge ’em another $3 for a DOWN ducat. Post the story about the rogue bear and there won’t be many DOWN walkers to deal with. The wheels are definitely turning.