Tag Archives: RVA

Bach Welcomes Richmond Babies

St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond has a lovely tradition of playing the first four measures of Johann S. Bach’s “Minuet in G Major” every time a baby is born. When it’s twins, it is played back-to-back so today, and today there were twins. Those 15 notes echoed through the hospital campus to alert everyone to a new little life.


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Holiday air travel leaves flyers high and dry

By Lynn R. Mitchell

A childhood friend’s daughter was trying to return to Chicago from Richmond after the Christmas holiday. This was not the way it should be and, unfortunately, it’s like this for far too many people. Here was the nightmare scenario with a humorous spin that was posted on Facebook Tuesday afternoon:

Can you beat this airline adventure? Because of past experiences at the RIA airport, we left for the airport at 5:15 AM  Monday so Kate would have plenty of time to navigate lines for her 7:30 AM flight. She texted 10 minutes later and requested that I come pick her up. Flight had been canceled and she had been reissued a new 5PM ticket to Chicago via Charlotte.
She did fly out at 5PM to be told in Charlotte that the 2nd leg was canceled and the earliest she could get out of Charlotte was Wednesday morning with no provision of any sleeping arrangement for 2 nights. After speaking with several supervisors, she was sent back to Richmond Monday night with a ticket in hand for an 8 AM flight this morning (Tuesday).
Due to no pilot, the 8 AM flight was delayed until 1 PM which is now delayed to possibly 2:30 PM but they are in need of a stewardess. Kate has offered to change careers.
Please pray they find someone they consider qualified for that job! And please also pray that she can reconnect with her suitcase which DID GET TO CHICAGO LAST NIGHT FROM CHARLOTTE!
I love every minute she is home but know she meant to be back at her job yesterday morning.  So appreciate her spending Christmas with us!!!!!! I think right now she is wishing she was a suitcase!
This tale makes me grateful to be within driving distance of those I wish to visit.
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Olde Richmond’s Christmas of yesteryear … Miller & Rhoads holiday windows and Legendary Santa

By Lynn R. Mitchell

How I do miss the department stores of downtown Richmond from years past. The Nordstrom and Macy’s of the day were Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimer’s, multi-story buildings that faced Broad and Grace Streets and sold clothing, toys, household items, and more.

Every year at Christmas, those stores became magical as they transformed into winter wonderlands, destinations for thousands of Virginia residents who traveled to Richmond to look in awe at animated displays inside the huge plate-glass windows, and visited inside for shopping, dining, or to visit Santa.

It was an annual event as my mother would dress up my sister and me in our Christmas dresses that she had sewn, usually matching miniature versions of hers and usually velvet, bundled us in our coats, white furry muffs and hats, and off we would go along with our Aunt Ruth for a special day in downtown Richmond.

Once downtown, we joined the crowds standing on the sidewalk and watched awe-struck as the animated, moving soldiers, woodland bears, miniature trains, animated dolls, and busy elves in workshops moved and twirled. Each window had a different theme. The two stores would compete with one another for the most entertaining and elegant windows … and the public was the richer for it.

Entering the department stores was a holiday wonder because everything was so big … the ceilings, the bright lights, the Christmas decorations, the escalators that took us up, up, up to the floors above. My sister and I had two stops on our agenda: the toy department and Santa Land.

Miller & Rhoads had the “real” Santa, so real-looking that many of us grew up thinking he was the real deal. His whiskers were real, his Santa Land was perfect, his Snow Queen was one of the most beautiful ladies I had ever seen and, best of all, Santa remembered our names every year!

We would try to get there in time to see Santa come down the large chimney behind his chair. The noisy crowd would shush when the snow queen or elf would alert everyone that it was almost time for Santa so to listen for his sleigh bells. We would all strain our ears as we leaned in closer … and then ever so faintly, then growing louder, sleigh bells could be heard and we would all be wide-eyed as Santa dropped down the chimney and emerged with a huge, “Ho, ho, ho! Hello, boys and girls!” Oh my goodness … we were in the presence of the man who knew everything we had done, good and bad.

The line crawled because Santa took his time with each and every child, and he had a microphone so those in the weaving line were entertained by each conversation. Mothers fussed with their children’s appearances, brushing hair, smoothing down dresses, and a last plumping of hair bows.

When my sister and I were finally at the beginning of the line — anxious, excited, and a little scared all at the same time — and as Santa talked with the child currently on his knee, the Snow Queen would chat with us and ask our names. Unbeknownst to the kids, she had a microphone and Santa had an earpiece — we’re talking a long time ago — and when it was our turn and we walked across the stage to his chair, she would tell him our names.

“Well, hello, Gail and Lynn!” he would boom out as we approached his chair after our long wait in line. We were always in awe. “He remembered our names!” I would say to my mother afterwards and that, in and of itself, was the main reason I believed he was he real Santa. Who else would know our names!

It was always a wonderful experience and we have photos from those years sitting on Santa’s lap and passing along our Christmas wishes.

A visit with Santa was followed by lunch with him in the Miller & Rhoads Tea Room on the 5th floor. Santa’s table was set up on the stage and, as moms and children from across Virginia ate, long-time Richmond entertainer Eddie Weaver would play Christmas carols on the piano. The Snow Queen and elves would sit at Santa’s table, and Santa — again wired for all to hear — would ho-ho-ho and talk with the children sitting at tables with their parents in the packed dining room. Afterward, everyone got a piece of Rudolph’s cake. Santa would always explain that Rudolph made it himself, mixing it with his paws (he demonstrated as he talked), and it never occurred to me to wonder if Rudolph has washed those paws before mixing up that cake.

The memories are rich of those years but they are the memories of a child so a few years ago I asked my mother to fill in those memories with her own. They are in the next post.

I took my own children to visit the “real” Santa before Miller & Rhoads ceased to exist. The photos are priceless, showing them sitting on the knee of the same Santa I visited as a child.

Christmas in Olde Richmond … it provided wonderful childhood memories.


Mom shares her memories of taking my sisters and me to visit the “real” Santa throughout the years in downtown Richmond….

Mom’s memories of the Miller & Rhoads Christmas windows and the “real” Santa

By Eula Lucy

[Editor’s note: My previous post was a remembrance as a child of the Christmas windows of downtown Richmond in years past and visits to Miller & Rhoads to see Santa. A few Christmases ago I asked my mother to fill in the memories for me and this is what she wrote.]

The “real Santa” was at Miller & Rhoads and their 7th floor was Santa Land. Do you remember that the line of children moved up and waited for Santa by the Snow Queen who sat to Santa’s right? She greeted every boy and girl and chatted with them – and always asked each one his or her name. Santa had an earpiece on and as a child was leaving him, the Snow Queen would say the next child’s name and tell each one to go over and talk with Santa … so the name of each child was passed on to Santa by her.

He would hold his arms out and say something like, “Ho, ho, ho, if it isn’t Lynn & Gail!” The children could not believe Santa remembered all of their names! Even the parents were enamored with how well it all was done. That was one of the things that made Miller & Rhoads’ Santa so special and no other store could ever compete with it. The expressions on the faces of the children when Santa called out their names was priceless and even we parents were thrilled.

After we visited with Santa, we went to the Tea Room on the 5th floor and stood in another long line to be able to eat lunch with Santa and the Snow Queen (and elves). They had a special table up on the runway that the models used for their fashion shows — so all of the children could see them while they were eating.

The children could hardly eat for waiting on Santa. Then, everyone had a piece of Rudolph’s cake for dessert. All the while, Eddie Weaver was playing Christmas songs on the organ. It was a very festive time and they always had crowds of people. Ruth [my mother’s sister who passed away in 1997; she never had children of her own] and I looked forward to going to see Santa every year, just as much as any child. We went before you all were born and watched the children talking with Santa.

Ruth loved Christmas as much as I did and and she never missed a single time going with us. It really was a special occasion for all of us. Ruth always bought the pictures of you all with Santa because they were so expensive we could never have bought them. Besides, you had to pay for them at the time, without seeing them, and they mailed them to you so you never knew what they would look like.

Ruth also paid for us all to have lunch in the Tea Room. If she was talking with someone in the lines near us and they asked the ages of her children, she would tell them – without batting an eye – so they thought you all belonged to her. She used to say she appreciated it when I let her claim you all because it made her feel like a mother, too.

The “Legendary Santa” from 1957 to 1966 was Hansford Rowe II, who graduated from John Marshall High School with Cal. He later married Ales Rowe, who graduated from Thomas Dale High School a year later with me. They had two sons, Hansford III, called “Hanny” and Blake. I just talked with Ales to be sure I have my facts right before I answered your email.

She said Blake was 6 or 7 when he figured out that his dad was Santa. They were standing in the line and could hear Hansford talking to the children when Blake told Ales, “I believe Santa is Daddy because it sounds like his voice.” Ales told him all children thought Santa sounded like their fathers. Later, when they were closer, Blake had her lean down and told her he was sure it was Daddy. She admitted it was but told him not to say a word. When he got up to Hansford and was sitting on his lap, Hansford (who, of course, did not know that Blake had figured it all out) asked him what kind of boy he had been that year and Blake said, “PERFECT!”

Hansford Rowe II became an actor and played at Barksdale Theatre, Virginia Museum Theatre, Swift Creek Mill, etc., before going to New York where he had some off-Broadway parts. He later went to California, and Cal and I have seen him in several movies. He is bald headed, not terribly tall, and usually played the part of the butler. Son, Hanny, also was in New York with his father because he wanted to be an actor, too. When Hansford stopped playing the Santa part at Miller & Rhoads, his older brother Dan took over as the Legendary Santa and he STILL does it – at the Children’s Museum in Richmond.

Miller & Rhoads had the most beautiful windows at Christmas, and Thalhimers was next. Other shops along the streets decorated their windows but they never came close to the two big stores. On the Grace Street side of the stores, people would spend hours on a nice day standing at the windows and walking up and down the streets.

Christmas music was piped out onto the streets around M&R and Thalhimers. Some of the windows were full of animated people and things, especially M&R’s windows. Their big window at the corner of 6th and Grace, which faced both streets, always had Santa’s workshop and it was beautiful. It truly looked like the North Pole and was a beehive of activity. There was so much to see and so such continuous activity one could stand there for an hour. Elves were making things, painting, carrying, etc. … all kinds of things going on and continuous movement.

It was absolutely fascinating because at that time, not many people had seen that sort of thing. M&R’s window facing 5th Street and Grace Street was full of trains and that, too, was wonderful! We loved watching all of those trains going in every direction – and I still love trains.

Downtown Richmond was beautiful in those days and was absolutely fantastic at Christimas time! Before you all came along, Ruth and I would dress up, with our hats and gloves, and go downtown on Saturdays. We would spend the whole day shopping and lunch, then would head home about 4 o’clock. Those were fun times and I have such wonderful memories of them and of times after you three came along when we would all go with Ruth to do things and see the sights. We are all so fortunate to have had her in our lives. We did not have much money but those were the best years of my life!

The importance of family comes out in our remembrances. Thanks, Mom, for the memories.

Update: One of Santa’s Snow Queens for 20 years has written a book about her experience in Santaland … Christmas at Miller & Rhoads: Memoirs of a Snow Queen.

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Merry Christmas, Stacy … wherever you are

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Christmas ornament hand-painted by 10-year-old Stacy in 1975.
As I was growing up, a tradition in our family was for my parents to give us ornaments each year from places they had traveled. My husband and I continued the tradition with our children … so we have a number of “special” ornaments that are placed on the tree year after year.

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Emmett Hanger elected co-chair of Senate Finance Committee

Emmett Hanger 2By Lynn R. Mitchell

Augusta County’s State Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) will be co-chairman of the powerful state senate finance committee when Virginia’s General Assembly convenes in January, sharing duties with Senator Tommy Norment (see Virginia Senate Republicans end power struggle with compromise):

Members agreed to make Norment co-chairman of that committee with Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta), although they will not formally vote on committee assignments until the General Assembly convenes in January.

Read more in the Roanoke times (see Thomas Norment to remain senate majority leader, share key chairmanship with Emmett Hanger).

Congratulations to Senator Hanger.

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Veterans Day is every day for Pham family

Tony PhamBy Tony Pham
General Counsel, Richmond Sheriff’s Department

Maybe it’s personal for me. My life has been shaped by the sacrifices of veterans who picked up arms and gave of themselves. From our entry to this great nation 40 years ago to becoming citizens 30 years ago, these opportunities were secured by men and women in our armed forces who fought for our country.

Maybe it’s the 58,000 who did not come home or the many others who went missing in action or how our veterans were treated when they did come home, all while I enjoy freedom that makes this personal for me. Maybe it’s the understanding that these brave men and women leave their families to fight so we can enjoy ours.

Ronald Reagan once said that “freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” I, for one, am grateful we have our veterans fighting for our nation’s freedom so we don’t have to one day tell our kids what it is like to live in the United States.

So to all of my veterans, today and every day, is your day. The Pham Phamily sincerely appreciates each of you. Without you, there would be no us. I cannot speak for others, but Veterans Day is everyday for us.


Tony Pham, a General Counsel for the Richmond City Sheriff’s Office and the GOP nominee for the Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, lives with his family in Henrico, Virginia. Born in South Vietnam, he and his family immigrated to the United States at the fall of Saigon in 1975, and became American citizens in 1985. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, he earned his J.D. from the University of Richmond’s School of Law. In 1999, Mr. Pham was initiated into the Upsilon Nu Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, a historically African American fraternity founded on the campus of Howard University.  He was named as one of Style Weekly Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40” and Virginia Lawyers Weekly’s “Leaders in the Law” for his work in criminal law and the Asian community.

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RVA played host to the World, displayed charm of historic buildings, cobblestone streets, Southern hospitality

Bicycle race RVA 2

Photo by Dean Hoffmeyer, Times-Dispatch

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Richmond, Virginia, hosted the World, and by Sunday afternoon at 3:30 it was over. The UCI Road World Championships were held in the United States for the first time since 1986 when they met in Colorado Springs and we — Virginia — were the lucky ones to get it.

Oh, sure, there were grumblings about road closures and the financial costs to prepare for the World to come visit and businesses that saw a drop in customers due to limited access because of street closures. On the other hand, there are sure to be other businesses that reaped huge financial rewards — hotels, restaurants, tourist destinations.

Worldwide television coverage offered the opportunity through well-placed (and often) TV ads to show off everything that is wonderful and special and unique about Virginia — our mountains, beaches, history, restaurants, universities, entertainment, outdoor activities and, of course, Richmond itself with the mighty James River that flows through the city. I even heard the announcer proclaim as riders passed the Shockoe Bottom flood wall that it was the longest one in the world with a $150 million price tag to protect the city’s vulnerable riverfront locations. (If you’ve never seen the wall, it’s quite an engineering accomplishment.)

But none of that mattered today with the excitement of the Men’s Elite, the final road race of the week-long event. Huge crowds lined the route that snaked along city streets and cheered on cyclists as they passed, shouting and applauding and ringing cowbells as television cameras caught it all. NBC’s coverage couldn’t help but show off Monument Avenue, Libby Hill, Broad Street, Governor Street (announcers kept calling it “Governor’s Hill”), Carytown, the Fan, and downtown RVA — and throughout the week, cyclists were on streets in the West End, Hanover, and other surrounding areas.

In the end, Team USA’s highest placing was #12 with Alex Howes. Slovakia’s Peter Sagan came in first place to the roar of the crowd (see Slovakian Sagan wins elite men’s road race by Vic Door Jr). The race had begun at 9am; it was now almost 3:30pm, and it would seem that someone who had been pushing himself on a bicycle for that long would be ready to collapse. But he didn’t. He smiled and waved at the crowd, kissed his girlfriend, hopped back on his bike, popped a wheelie, and headed off down the sidewalk.

I don’t know who was responsible for pitching the idea and then selling it to all who needed to be on board but it came together and captured national and international interest in the fall of 2015. Thanks, RVA, for having the dream and the vision to bring the World to Virginia. It won’t soon be forgotten.

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Easter 2015 … faith, fun, family

By Lynn R. Mitchell

??????????Easter with family … pics of our day together.

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Eric Cantor, Jeb Bush to host fundraiser in RVA

Jeb Bush, Eric CantorBy Lynn R. Mitchell

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) will benefit from a fundraiser being hosted by former Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush later this month at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. The long-time friends will team up for the February 16th event that was first mentioned by Cantor at an event in January (see Virginia Republicans look to the future).


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McDonnell denied bond by Judge Spencer

Bob McDonnell

Bob McDonnell (photo by Lynn R. Mitchell)

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Once again the judge has struck down a request by former Governor Bob McDonnell. Reporter Frank Green with the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote (see Judge denies McDonnell bid to remain free):

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Small Business Saturday is today

???????????????????????????????By Lynn R. Mitchell

It’s Small Business Saturday in Virginia … shop local. Check out the mom-and-pop businesses that flourish in our communities. Here are two Bon Air shopping trips from past years: Buford Road Pharmacy and Papeterie Stationary and Gifts in Stony Point Shopping Center. Happy shopping, y’all!


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How safe is your favorite shopping mall in RVA?

Stony Point Fashion ParkBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Ever wonder how safe the malls are where you shop? Those from out of town who may make the drive to Richmond to shop the larger retail areas are not necessarily tuned into RVA crime statistics so here’s a list of the most popular malls in the capital city, and where they rank on the crime meter beginning with Stony Point Fashion Park, ranked the safest:

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7th Annual Salisbury Turkey Waddle

??????????By Lynn R. Mitchell

It was a wet race this year in Salisbury subdivision in Midlothian for neighbors who participated in the 7th Annual Turkey Waddle, a 5K course held on Thanksgiving Day through the neighborhood beginning at Salisbury Presbyterian Church. A shorter, two-mile route is popular with parents with small kids or babies in strollers, grandparents, and those walking dogs. The begin at the church on Salisbury Road, then down Starcross, onto Kingslynn, and right onto Kingsmill Road and back to Salisbury Road and the church. Last year there were 900 runners who ended the race with hot chocolate and cookies to start their Thanksgiving Day.


??????????Mom and son …

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Phyllis Galanti will be laid to rest today in Arlington Cemetery

Phyllis Galanti, wife of Paul Galanti, Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired), will be buried at 1:00 p.m. today at Arlington National Cemetery. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Galanti family as they lay their loved ones to rest. Below is my post about Mrs. Galanti when she passed away in April….


Paul Galanti 1Richmonder Phyllis Galanti … quiet POW crusader passes away, leaves legacy
By Lynn R. Mitchell

“Lonely the days and nights, my love, that we have been apart. It seems almost forever since I held you to my heart. The moments are as restless as the waves that move the sea, but every second means a step nearer, my love, to thee.”

— POW Paul Galanti’s words to wife Phyllis after his release as a POW during Vietnam War, a poem he had shared with her before they married

Phyllis Galanti burst onto the world stage when her husband, Paul Galanti, a Navy fighter pilot shot down over Hanoi in 1966, became a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. She had never wanted to be in the spotlight, this quiet and unassuming lady, but in 1971, five years after her husband’s capture and imprisonment at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” she took her battle to have him released to the people of Virginia, America, and the world, and became a national celebrity.

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RVA: A day of urban hiking on James River’s Belle Isle

By Lynn R. Mitchell



It was an overcast, somewhat cooler but muggy day in Richmond last Sunday as we headed to Belle Isle located in the James River. Seven of us — my husband and our two adult children along with my sister, her husband, and daughter — parked and began our trek across the footbridge located under the Lee Bridge. We were not alone. Bicyclists and hikers of all ages were crossing the bridge to enjoy this urban wilderness in downtown RVA.

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