My first apartment after graduating from high school in 1965 was an $85-a-month one-bedroom on the first floor of Grandin Road apartments in Roanoke, just down the street from the then-University of Virginia branch in the city and a short drive over to Campbell Avenue for my job with The Roanoke Times.
It didn’t have air conditioning, which was no big deal back in the 60s when humidity was low and temperatures weren’t that high. it did have a garage in the basement where I could park my ’57 Ford.
By graduation from Floyd County High School in 1965, I have lived first in Gibsonton, Florida, then Floyd for three years, five years in Farmville, Virginia, and then back to Floyd County for four more years before striking out on my own with the move to Roanoke.
The one-bedroom, furnished, unit I rented for $85 a month in 1965 now costs $575 a month for an unfurnished unit, an ad on apartmentfinder.com says.
A year later, I moved to another furnished unit — a “swinging singles” complex in Northwest Roanoke, just off Hershberger Road near Williamson. It’s proximity to Woodrum Field made it a popular choice for stewardesses based in Roanoke for Piedmont Airlines. It was air-conditioned and had a balcony that overlooked the pool where the “stews” sunbathed and frolicked during “layovers” from flying. It cost $95 a month.
It’s gone now. The vacant lot where it sat now has a “for sale” sign.
Gone too is the Jefferson Tower, a Victorian, multi-store apartment house with a view of Elmwood Park. I lived there for a while, across the hall from Fred Frelantz’s apartment. He was the top DJ at WROV at the time and his apartment hosted a lot of wild and fun parties. The corner of Jefferson Street was a block away from the Carlton Terrace Building, which housed a nursing school as well as the military services induction center where potential draftees reported for physical and mental exams. It’s gone too.
In late 2012, while I was a patient at the Carilion Physical therapy building in what was once Community Memorial Hospital, my room looked over the corner where the Jefferson Tower stood.
Sometimes, when I have time, I cruise the streets of Roanoke to find and visit the places where I lived in the 1960s. In five years, I lived in four different apartments. After moving to the St. Louis area in 1969, I lived in two apartments and then a townhouse with a view of the Mississippi River from the second floor deck off our bedroom.
Our townhouse on Third Street in Alton, Illinois, connected to an underground tunnel that history said was part of an “underground railroad” where slaves escaped to live in “free states” before and during the civil war. The home was built in 1835 and, legend said, was haunted. Maybe it was. Some weird things happened there before we left Alton in 1981 to move to the Washington, DC, area.
Our 23 years in Washington were spent living in a two-bedroom condo in a high rise in Arlington, although Amy also lived for a time in a Greenwich Village walk-up apartment on Charles Street in Manhattan while working on her acting projects. We rented it at first in 1981, then bought it and paid it off before leaving in 2004. It was, and remains, the home where I lived for the most years of a nomadic life that included a lot of travel around the world for work and pleasure.
Later this year, Amy and I will celebrate 14 years at the home we bought in Floyd County in 2004. Will it become the place where we will live the longest?
Time will tell.