Oral Histories – People

The following are oral histories that have been collected of individuals and groups of people.  Click on a name to listen to their history.

Preston Blackwell Oral History taken in February 2021 by Sylvia Taylor, Historic Vienna, Inc. Board Member. They discussed Preston’s growing up in Vienna, his career as a Fairfax County Police Commander, being the first African American Commander at the Mount Vernon District Station, his membership with the Moose Lodge, the involvement of his mother, Lillian Blackwell, in the community, and his thoughts on race relations past and present.

Marjorie Blank was born in 1932. She lived in a stone house that her father built on Maple Avenue, now converted into a jewelry store. It was a “small country town” at the time. There were only a few stores in Vienna proper (including the Vienna Inn, formerly Feezers, and Doc Bradfield’s pharmacy.) She remembers riding the W&OD train to her grandparents’ farm at Clarks Crossing.

Carter & Minor Family This interview brought together James & Gloria Carter, Ronald Honesty, Jean Minor, Ted & Lorraine Thomas, and Daniel Bunaugh. The group discussed a wide array of subjects, including attending Louise Archer (formerly known as the Vienna Colored School), their early memories of home and family, starting their careers, the community of their churches, and their experiences of segregation.

Barbara Chaudet was born in Washington, D.C. in 1932. After growing up and attending college in that area, she moved with her husband Norman “Norm” Chaudet to Herndon, Virginia in the early 1954. Then, in 1960, Norm got a job as James Madison High School’s first athletic director prompting a move into Vienna. Although she recounts many memories of the small businesses in town, Barbara still considered Vienna to be absolute “country”.

Joseph Marshall Ellis, Sr., formerly a resident of Vienna, was raised in a large family of 11 children. He is the tenth child, and the seventh of eight sons of James Thomas Ellis and Mabel Henderson Ellis. Joseph and his siblings were part of a loving family that was highly respected by the Vienna community. His parents left an abiding historical legacy which includes the renaming of the Vienna Colored School to Louise Archer School, and the construction of a log cabin built in 1937 that was inhabited until 2017. Unfortunately, this landmark could not be preserved due to the deterioration of the logs, and was razed in 2019.  In this oral history, Joseph shares his remembrances of growing up and working in Vienna, attending Vienna Colored School (before it was renamed Louise Archer School) and Luther Jackson High School, and fond memories of his family life. It was taken in July 2021 by Sylvia Taylor, Historic Vienna, Inc. Board Member.

Richard C. Kirkland After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Kirkland joined the Army Air Corps and was trained to be a fighter pilot. During the war, he served in the famous “Flying Knights” fighter squadron, which included Major “Dick” Bong, the great flying ace. Kirkland discusses some of his flying missions and time living in New Guinea, including his brief encounters with Charles Lindbergh and, later on, with General Eisenhower.

Frank Lancaster came to the Washington DC area in 1947, and secured a job as a librarian and documents expert for the Central Intelligence Agency right out of high school. Frank and his family moved to Vienna in the late 1950s, to ease Frank’s commute to the new CIA headquarters in Langley. Frank helped with the beginning of the Pig-Tail/Pony-Tail softball league, volunteered at the local library, played Santa Claus and gave tours at the Freeman Store. In these twelve clips, Frank recounts some of his favorite memories of life in Vienna.

Paul Lyons was born and raised in Washington, DC. He came to Vienna in 1957 with his wife, Bernadette, and their children, and the family moved into a Yeonas house. Paul worked as a film editor in DC, and was also very involved in the local government. He served as the town’s first public information officer, was on the council for 9 years, and ran for mayor in 1976. His work in the film industry allowed him to meet several presidents, and in 1984 he traveled the country from coast to coast following the Olympic Torch with a film crew.

Shirley Martin was born in a little house on Maple Avenue in 1925. She grew up in Vienna, where she lived with her mother, older sister, aunt & uncle, and two cousins. Shirley recollects how her mother kept her business going in the midst of the Great Depression, and typical activities in 1930s Vienna from riding the auto-railer to free movies in town hall. She explains her brief college experience, working at Cherry Smash, and how she met her husband. She talks about the mood in the town during World War II and some of the activities to help the war effort. Shirley also discusses segregation and integration, and how the town has changed as it has grown.

Harris C. Miller was born 1918 in Wollaston, MA.  He graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Chemical Engineering.  He started his career in Niagara Falls, NY, at Hooker Chemical Company, later known as Occidental Chemical Corporation where he worked for 44 years until being transferred to Washington DC, as Director of Government Affairs. After his retirement, Harris pursued his true passion…painting.  He became well recognized in the Virginia area for his artistic skills and was very active in the Vienna Arts Society.  His paintings have been exhibited in Vienna,VA, Old Greenwich, CT, Niagara Falls, NY and Wolfeboro, NH.  Perhaps his best-known work, his mural in downtown Vienna, on Mill Street, continues to be enjoyed and admired by all that pass by.  Harris was a long-time member of Vienna Presbyterian Church, where he took an active role, and was also a member of Westwood Country Club where he spent countless hours enjoying golf with his friends and family.  Mr. Miller passed away on July 5, 2021 a few days shy of 103rd birthday.

Roger Neighborgall recounts his time on Country Club Road, emphasizing Vienna’s change in size over the years. He also describes the landscape, the commute to Washington, DC, where he had an office in the Pentagon working as a defense contractor, and institutions (the theater, the country club) and celebrations (former Mayor Charlie Robinson’s 4th of July Celebrations) of Vienna’s past and present.

Maud Robinson has long been a part of the town of Vienna. Maud and her husband, Charlie, became very involved in the Town Council, fighting zoning battle after zoning battle. Charlie was elected Town Mayor in 1976. According to Maud, three things drove Vienna’s growth: the building of the first storefront library, the creation of the Vienna Community Center, and the increasing responsiveness of the town’s government.  Maud credits the engagement of Vienna’s citizens as the driving force behind why Vienna is what it is today.

Florence Roseborough and her husband bought two houses for the price of one in Vienna, and spent many years renovating the larger. During her time in the Town, Florence became the president of the Ayr Hill Garden Club, and was very active in Town planning and zoning issues. Both her and her husband often attended Town Council meetings. She recounts the enormous change Vienna has undergone over the years, which admittedly left her feeling “shocked.”

Gloria Runyon and her family have lived in Vienna, Virginia, as she puts it, since “before it became Vienna.” Her roots in the town grow at least as far back as her great-grandfather, a Cherokee Indian, who built the home in which she still lives. Gloria Runyon’s family has always been deeply involved in the Vienna community, and her life and work is no exception.

Jane Seeman Born and raised in Hays, Kansas, Jane Seeman arrived in Vienna in the late 1960s. In these 10 clips, Jane discusses what it was like to come to the DC area from the Midwest, and adjusting to life in a small Virginia town. She describes what the town was like in the 1970s. Jane also explains how she became involved in the town government and the experience of being mayor since 2000. She chronicles Vienna’s growth, including the building of Route 66 and the Metro, the development of Tysons Corner, and the changes in local businesses and homes.

Howard J. Springsteen has been a resident of Vienna since 1997 and was first elected to Town Council in 2009. He has a long history of community service and neighborhood involvement.  Before his election to Council, he served on the Transportation Safety Commission for eight years. Howard recently retired, after nearly 30 years of service,  as logistics manager for the Fairfax County Department of Vehicle Services.  He has been a member for more than 30 years of the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department and, over the years, has served as president, deputy chief, EMS captain, and board member.  Howard led the successful effort that rebuilt the fire station from 2003-05, was assistant Boy Scout leader for Vienna Troop 152 from 2007-13 and he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, West Africa.  Howard received a bachelor’s degree in American history from Farleigh Dickinson University and a master’s in public administration from New York University. He and his wife, Anne, live in northwest Vienna and have an adult son and daughter.

Clarene Vickery In 1956, Clarene decided to teach a group of 14 kindergartners in her family home on 201 Park St. SE in Vienna, Numerous expansions, two relocations, and 64 more years, Parkwood School thrived.