February 1, 1967 was an exciting day. I had packed my Camaro convertible with a few pots and pans, some linens, my guitar and stereo and headed to Charlottesville, my new home. It was a beautiful day, in the low 80’s and I put the top down on my drive over. This Virginia is a special kind of place, I thought. Two weeks later it snowed 16-inches, but on that first day of February, all was well.
I was coming to Charlottesville to train as Manager of the Men’s Department at Leggett Barracks Road. This was Leggett’s attempt to break away from work clothes and three-dollar white shirts and try its hand at fashion, and I loved clothes and fashion. At Carolina, I hung around stores like Julian’s and Milton’s and wore the very latest. Later, I gained more experience at Yarid’s Men’s Shop in Lewisburg, and now I was on my way.
I had about $200 in my pocket, and had no idea where I would be staying or living. Call it faith, or maybe stupidity, but I figured it would all work out.
I arrived in town late that morning and bought a Daily Progress, scanning the want ads for apartments. One caught my eye, it was a furnished basement apartment at 1506 Broad Avenue, just off of Cherry Avenue. It belonged to a fellow named John Bosely. It was a hundred dollars a month but that included electricity and water. If I found a room-mate, it would be half that, so I gave the Realtor a hundred dollars – thank goodness he didn’t ask for a deposit – and I had my very own apartment.
My apartment was no Taj Mahal. It was a dark place with a handful of resident roaches, and in a genuine basement, with only a couple, small windows. It had a living room of sorts, a pretty nice kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a bath.
I made the bed as best I could, got out the few pots and pans Mom had donated to the cause, hooked up my stereo, put a Chuck Berry album on the spindle and cooked myself a hamburger.
I met the crew at Leggett’s the next day and everyone was friendly and welcoming. It was like a big family, back then. I quickly made friends and even found a roommate, Andy Meade, to share the rent.
Once everyone found out I had my own apartment, I became a very popular guy. I had a small party the first weekend and 1506 Broad Avenue quickly became “The Place” to go on a weekend night. It was like the movie, “The Apartment”, with Jack Lemmon. It was a social magnet.
Occasionally, John or Mrs. Bosely would tap on the door and ask us to hold it down a bit – after all, they had three small girls upstairs – and we did our best.
Charlottesville has changed quite a bit since the days of that first apartment. There was a drive-in theater at the site of Kroger’s at Hydraulic Road. There was a dairy farm where the Post Office is now located and occasionally cows would wander out on Route 29. Folks would get out of their cars and shoo them back through the gate. Downtown Charlottesville was filled with bustling stores like Miller & Rhoads, C.H. Williams, the Young Men’s Shop and Leggett’s Downtown. There was a carnival each year at the Polo Grounds. University Hall was brand new. McDonald’s, Hardy’s, Burger King and others had yet to sign leases. The only fast food joint was The Biffburger. Gus’s Steak House had the best ribeye in town and Lane High School drew more fans to football games than the Virginia Cavaliers.
Those apartment days were really good days. It’s fun to look back and remember.