Friday, August 05, 2005

Roanoke Memories Revisited: Part 3

Mill Mountain Star: Roanoke, Virginia Posted by Picasa

On each of the star's three levels, there are three tubes - red, white, and blue. Normally, the star shines all white, and all red on days when there is a traffic fatality in the city. Since September 11, 2001, the star has been shining red, white, and blue.

On Nov. 23, 2005 the world's largest man-made star will be 56 years old. In 1949, it was built as a Christmas gimmick, a ploy by merchants to get people to shop downtown. No one expected it to become such an icon. People get engaged there. Get married there. Take their babies to the zoo there.

This leads to my story of Mill Mountain in Roanoke, Virginia and my childhood memories of the "STAR".
Xanga Entry: Friday, March 11, 2005 – 8:44 PM

We lived in Roanoke, Virginia for six years give or take a few months. At first we lived in a garage apartment but I don't remember that, I've just heard the stories from my mom and dad. But I do remember the little house on Clifton Avenue.

Roanoke has a mountain called Mill Mountain. Back in the 50's the road to the top was winding and narrow. On top is a very large lighted electric star that can be seen for miles. Much of our family history is wrapped up in that star. My dad asked my mom to marry him on top of Mill Mountain, under that star 53 years ago. Later when we moved back to Roanoke my grandparents would take me up to the children's petting zoo and we would ride the small train in the park there.

I could see the star from the window in my room on Clifton Avenue. Most nights it burned with a white light, but if anyone had died in an automobile accident in the area it would shine red. I checked every night feeling comforted by the white shining star and saddened when it glowed red...did some child's mother die or father or a baby?

In the late 50's the Soviet threat began to heat up. I don't know if I heard it or if I heard an evangelist preaching about the "last days" and Revelation and the "moon turning to blood", but I had it in my head that if the moon looked red it meant that the Russians had landed there and had painted it red to match their flag. As we know, there are times when the rising moon looks red near the horizon. When I saw that as a small child I thought for sure the world was coming to an end.

About that same time, Roanoke obtained new police cars for the town. Instead of the familiar long wavy undulating wail of the sirens, suddenly there were these short bursts of whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop! It scared me to death in the summer nights...I thought for sure that must be the sound of Martians and little green men landing in Roanoke and coming to take me away.

If I had known how to write then, what tall tales I would have told.....

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