Residents share tales of growing up in City Point
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Sep 23, 2013, 14:25
HOPEWELL — From stories of days down by the river, to spending afternoons at the Beacon Theatre, to playing with friends at the “big field,” current and former residents of City Point in Hopewell gathered at the Beacon Theatre to share memories of their childhood and growing up in a part of Hopewell that is about to turn 400 years old.
Last Wednesday morning, the ballroom in the Beacon was enveloped in laughter as three members of the City Point community shared their memories of childhood in the neighborhood by the rivers in “Memories of Growing Up in Old City Point,” an event put on by the Four Centuries Committee. George Elder grew up in City Point during the 1930s and said the community was “tightly knit.”
“There was always something to do in the afternoons after school all year long,” Elder said. “The river provided an enormous amount of activity and fun for all of us and still does.”
Elder also spoke about a landmark of the past that will become a part of Hopewell’s future, The Beacon Theatre, which is set to finished with renovations by the end of the year.
“The Beacon Theatre was a huge part of all our lives, from Saturday afternoon cowboy shows to, as we got older and got dates, would come on Friday nights,” Elder said. “And then like so many movie theaters, you know the story, closed for quite some years and really became in a state of disrepair.”
Elder, a current resident of City Point, moved away from the city in his early 20s and had stayed away for almost 40 years until his life brought him back to Hopewell and City Point 15 years ago.
“I cherish those memories,” Elder said. “It was an absolutely wonderful place to grow up, to see everybody constantly.”
After school, the children of City Point spent their afternoons down by the river or in the “big field,” which is now filled with houses, but they spent their days in the classroom at Patrick Copeland Elementary, which was formerly located in City Point until being demolished and built off Mesa Drive.
“Those here who remember the old Patrick Copeland School,” Gus Robbins III said. “It was a frame structure and it was nothing but a shoebox. We loved it. We had great teachers.”
Robbins also recalled how much has changed for children in school nowadays. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, he said the bathroom was located about 200 feet from the school in the back in a separate building.
“Rain, snow, 95 degrees, when it was time to raise your hand that’s where you went,” Robbins said, to which the room broke out in laughter as many remember having to make the trek to use the restroom during the school day.
GUS ROBBINS III
Jim Enochs, another current resident of City Point, spoke of life down by river in City Point. He painted the picture for those in attendance by recalling stories of what he called “characters” of City Point such as “Catfish Wyatt” and “Captain Fisher” and “Captain Fred,” who tried to keep many of the children of City Point from swimming off the dock at City Point. Enochs said when he and his friends would go swimming and take off their clothes, they would hide them so “Captain Fred” would not find them, however one night they were unsuccessful.
“He found our clothes one night and he took them home with him,” Enochs said with a chuckle in his throat. “So there were four or five of us dripping up behind Ramsey Avenue without any clothes. We found someone’s house and got refitted.”
The three men who spoke that morning have a friendship that dates back to the early days of City Point, as Elder, Robbins and Enochs referred to themselves, along with others, as the “Ramsey Gang,” which derives the name from Ramsey Avenue located in City Point.
“All of us had a rowboat and in the summertime, once your chores were done, you’d head down to the river and you’d meet somebody somewhere and you’d either go fishing or swim or play around or whatever and kill the day,” Enochs said.
All three men also spoke of the “Big Field,” a popular spot back in the day to gather with childhood friends and play games. Robbins spoke of how the “bigger kids” would be captains of the baseball teams, where girls were not allowed to play, and the big bonfire that would take place every year before the Petersburg game.
“What was special about City Point?” Robbins pondered before he began to share his memories. “I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you didn’t grow up down there then you don’t quite know the feeling that people did have.”
Mary Nix, a former resident of City Point but a Hopewell resident, recalls growing up in the neighborhood until she reached the eighth grade.
“We would walk to church, we walked home from school and we walked to the river,” Nix said. “Things were so safe back then.”
The stories shared that morning in the Beacon brought many together again, a reunion, a collection of memories, a time to share and take a step back in time before celebrating a milestone in the city, the 400th anniversary of City Point.
Suzanne Jackson, chief executive officer of John Randolph Medical Center, was in attendance Wednesday morning. Jackson, who is relatively new to the community, was able to hear stories of the area where she now works, and said she was happy to hear the stories of days passed.
“It is powerful to hear stories about people who have lived through such transformation from the 1920s to now,” Jackson said. “Just think about technology and how that’s changed but that there’s still this sense of community and home and caring about people still continues to be what brings everyone together.”
It was clear from the speakers that morning, that once someone is a resident of City Point, they will always be a resident of City Point, regardless of their current address.
“We had a lot of fun and a lot of adventures. ... It was a great place to grow, a great, great area to grow up in,” Enochs said. “The guys that I was with, went off to other places to make their careers and they all did very well, but inevitably, we’d all get back together and talk about City Point and that it was just a great growing up time.”