Monthly Archives: June 2013

Marge Says

Seniors get exercise and catch up with friends during a water aerobics for arthritis at South Run RECenter.

Seniors exercise and catch up with friends during a water aerobics for arthritis class at South Run RECenter.

Oh, we all have our aches and pains, our pacemakers, joint replacements and health problems but they seem less significant when we are there together. Besides, none of us is particularly stunning in a bathing suit at this point in our lives anyway.

Marge says to me, “Why don’t you write a story about us, George? We’re a unique group.” Indeed, I guess we are. We are the ten o’clock water aerobics arthritis class at South Run Park. Of course, far from all of us are in that class because we suffer with arthritis. I mean, when you are a senior, who wants to rush to get up and get to a class at 8 or 9 in the morning? Coffee and the newspaper are much more fun until you can get your body going, and we all agree that it takes longer and longer for that to happen. Oh, we all have our aches and pains, our pacemakers, joint replacements and health problems but they seem less significant when we are there together. Besides, none of us is particularly stunning in a bathing suit at this point in our lives anyway.

The first task of the day is counting the men. Are there four or five of us today? Maybe six. Where is Joe? Haven’t seen Dave since last week. We have a new guy. One day we are going to outnumber the women. Bill, the lead counter, is 89. If only I could live to 89, I should do half as well as he. Bill is an amazing gent. He travels all over the United States visiting family, makes several annual trips to Florida on the auto train and is in a perpetually positive and humorous state of mind.

There are scores of interesting folks, Anna, who talks frequently of her sick cat, and though in her 80s leaves class and invites all of us to meet her and friends at McDonalds for lunch every day, who says McDonalds appeals only to young folks? Sam, who says he is trying to overcome 45 years of inactivity, May, always with tales of the wild kindergarten grandchild and those teachers who reminisce about their experiences in the classroom. Politics is outlawed and that is good for all of us.

Don’t get the idea that water aerobics is not serious business, it is. However, first we need to find out what Pete has planted in his garden, how tall the corn is, if there are any signs of tomatoes yet. How Shirley’s and Fred’s trip across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary went. Who is reading what book and will they share it when they finished and a dozen or so other equally important things.

In a fifty-five minute class surely there is time for a little bit of chatter before, Carolyn, the instructor says, “If all you are going to do is talk, then move to the back corner.” All gets quickly quiet for a few moments and we attempt to follow the instructions all the while amazed at Carolyn’s energy level and how easily she can move her body in ways that most of us couldn’t even twenty years ago. She is patient with us as she yells out, “Watch your posture, stand up tall, you’re leaning.” Or our favorite, “faster, faster.” I am always certain that I am the only one that is leaning forward. But I know I am not the one going slow.

After about twenty-five minutes we grab our noodles and ride them like we did our pretend ponies when we were little kids. What fun! Who can paddle without their legs touching the bottom of the pool, who touches and who cheats doing a combination of both. On occasion, we take the noodle in one hand and swing it wildly in the air making certain that as we do it splashes the water periodically so someone will complain they are getting their hair wet. Of course we stretch the noodle in every possible uncomfortable position.

In the end, Carolyn wishes us well and tells us that we are finished for the day. Whew! We are tired but it is time for our reward. Out of the pool, we grab towels and rush to the hot tub to finish our conversations, relax, check on everyone’s weekend, children, and grandchildren and just soak in the warm water. It seems that we have plenty to say. We bid our farewells and then it is off to our own activities until Monday, Wednesday or Friday, whichever one is next.

Thinking about us, I am reminded of the quote from Margery Williams “Velveteen Rabbit”: “When someone really loves you, then you become real. Generally by the time you are real most of your hair has been loved off, your eyes droop and you get loose in the joints. But once you are real it lasts forever.” A collection of grandmas and grandpas, we are about as real as it gets and in spite of our lack of hair and loose joints, we can always count on having a really good time.

Written by George Towery

Sully Antique Car Show: 40 and Fabulous

The antique car show at Sully Historic Site has been a Father's Day tradition for 40 years.

The Sully’s antique car show has been a Father’s Day tradition for 40 years.

There have been quite a few changes through the years as the Sully Historic Site Antique Car Show gets ready to celebrate its 40th anniversary on Sunday, June 16. But one thing never changes: a guaranteed good time for the entire family at the Father’s Day event co-sponsored by the Fairfax County Park Authority and the George Washington Chapter of the Model A Ford Club of America.

More than 400 antique and classic vehicles from the Model  A to Corvettes to Jaguars manufactured through 1988 will be on display at the largest car show in Northern Virginia. And if owning a classic car is your dream, you can purchase one in the Car Corral.

“It’s the best opportunity for car enthusiasts to see the broadest range of vehicles in Northern Virginia,” said Barbara Ziman, historian and events and marketing coordinator at Sully Historic Site.

Each year seems to bring a record turnout, with between 5,000 and 6,000 people expected this year. Holding the show on Father’s Day brings out families and, no doubt, has contributed to its success. 

Organizers “probably had hoped for a good run when it started, but it’s hard to imagine it’s still going strong,” Ziman said. Each year the “end date” for entry moves up, and there is always something new to see, Ziman added.  

In recognition of the 40th anniversary, there will be a special section of cars from 1973 and a ruby red symbol on the plaques given the winners. It’s fitting, given that ruby is the symbol for the 40th anniversary and a ruby red Jaguar won the Sully Staff Award for the favorite car show car last year, Ziman said.

Serving again as meet chairman is Bill Worsham, who has been involved since the show’s inception and has seen the many changes through the years.

“It used to be that everyone was over 70,” but younger people are getting involved, Worsham said. The show has attracted more families over the years, and now sons are taking over from their fathers.

It’s also easier to get to the show since the widening of Route 28 beginning in the late 1980s and the construction of new interchanges. Worsham said that was a big improvement.

Another big change was the addition of foreign cars to the show. Worsham said people want to see them, and they like vintage Corvettes, which have gone from two or three on display to upwards of 30.

Highlights from past years have included the landing of the Concorde and a flyover of the space shuttle.  Mother Nature has been kind to the show as well; Worsham remembers only two real rainy days in 40 years.   

While classic cars are the big draw, of course, there are plenty of other activities to keep young and old happy.  Jumpin’ Jupiter will play hits from the 1950s, while the New Old Time String Band offers traditional vocal and instrumental bluegrass. Food will be available for purchase, or you can bring picnic food to enjoy.

Watch a Model T take-apart demonstration, or shop the Craft, Antique and Auto Market for all things related to vintage cars from parts to license plates.  In the children’s tent, kids can play with old-fashioned toys and games, be the first to use the new Antique Car Coloring Book, and create a special classic car picture for dad.

Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 for children, which includes a guided tour of the first floor of the 1794 home of Richard Bland Lee, Northern Virginia’s first congressman. Parking is free.

Worsham says the event shows no sign of slowing down, and he has no plans to retire. The Model A club has lots of people coming up to keep things going and “lots of people like old cars,” he said.

Ziman echoes that sentiment. “The Model A club does a tremendous amount of work, and it’s been a wonderful partnership for 40 years.  There’s no reason to think there won’t be a 50th or 75th anniversary.”

Sully Historic Site is at 3650 Historic Sully Way in Chantilly, Va.

Author Lori K. Weinraub is a volunteer writer for the Park Authority and, previously, a national journalist.

The Wild Side of Frying Pan Farm Park

A Great Blue Heron stalks its prey at Frying Pan Farm Park.

A Great Blue Heron stalks its prey at Frying Pan Farm Park.

Among the parade of rolling strollers, excited kindergarteners and working farm staff, a patron visiting Frying Pan Farm Park could find themselves bombarded by truly “wild” animals. The culprits are acrobatic Aves, known far and wide as gymnasts of the air.

As a budding naturalist, I chased jobs and toured across the country. I naturalized in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Tennessee and now Virginia. It can be challenging to leave a lovely place and adjust to the next; however I never acquaint myself to new surroundings alone. When acclimating to unfamiliar areas, I simply look for old friends: northern cardinal, blue jay, or Carolina wren. At Frying Pan, I find familiarity in a new land. Each morning, before the bevies of elementary schoolchildren disembark from their buses, I take to the woods for a period of calm discovery amid the park’s wild inhabitants.

A tree swallow rests on a bluebird nesting box at Frying Pan Farm Park.

A tree swallow rests on a bluebird nesting box at Frying Pan Farm Park.

The wild side of Frying Pan is quite diverse for a relatively small natural area. Out in the grassy field, I often observe both tree and barn swallows carving the sky. It is fantastic to watch the way they veer swiftly and precisely. These daring creatures rely on their well-adapted wing and tail shapes to snatch unsuspecting insects out of the air. The field also offers opportunities to watch incoming turkey vultures glide on air pockets while they sniff out their next meal.

The forest provides habitat for a variety of birds and animals.

The forest provides habitat for a variety of birds and animals.

Past the fields lies a wide strip of forest dominated by hickory and oak. As I walk, I find trees of varying height and girth indicating a healthy and maturing second growth forest. The area includes larger grandfather trees, short saplings, and standing dead trees or snags. When left standing, the snags provide inviting opportunities for a variety of woodpeckers. As the trees decompose, insects begin to devour the nutrients in the wood. Woodpeckers drill their heads, bill first, into trees creating cavities to slurp out insects with their long, barbed tongues. Several types of warblers, flycatchers and thrushes also reside in the woods.

Most recently, I explored the wetlands to the east of the park. In an effort to compile a well-rounded list of birds, I knew I’d need to find some type of waterfowl. With hopeful anticipation, I headed out in search of some kind of duck. Instead, I was delighted to find a large great blue heron standing stiff-legged and motionless in the middle of the first pond. It is amazing how still and patient they can be while on the hunt. I think I can learn something from this great blue bird. In addition, I found a pair of green herons displaying similar behavior and throngs of red-winged blackbirds.

A green heron perches above the wetland.

A green heron perches above the wetland.

I encourage, even challenge, you to take a step away from the predictable bustling of farm enthusiasts and drift into the untamed.  Search for your neighbors, too: the sparrow, the mockingbirds. See what you can discover. There is so much to see.

Author Patrick McNamara is a staff interpreter at Frying Pan Farm Park.