Sometimes the Old Ways

I’m a “come here” in Richmond, Virginia, even though I’ve now lived in this city for over half my life. And so I have an outsider’s perspective on some of the Old Richmond traditions in a way that outsiders to any community do. I don’t think most folks outside of my birth state of New Jersey know what a proper hard roll is, and they probably wouldn’t understand why I care so much if they ate one. They don’t have years of life experience, family memories, and community nostalgia to support what might be an otherwise unremarkable thing.


Sidebar: the “hard roll” (not to be confused with the similar kaiser roll) seems to be so intimately linked to the pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich that I find it nearly impossible to find a useful link to explain them. Nearly everything I see from the past few years are worthless Pinterest lists or forum postings about Jersey natives lamenting the disappearance of our favorite breakfast bread. Some things can’t even be preserved on the Internet, it would seem!


I similarly don’t see much to celebrate around The Dairy Bar or Legendary Santa. I mean, I get why they’re special for people who have shared milkshakes with grandparents for generations or whose family has visited with Legendary Santa back to the days of Miller & Rhoads on Broad Street. But the rest of appeal is lost on me. This weekend, however, my wife and I shared a little bit of Old Richmond with our kids that carries as much wonder and joy for outsiders as those who grew up in the region: a movie screening at The Byrd Theater.

A friend of ours invited us at the last minute to catch a showing of The Lego Movie 2 late in the afternoon, and we were game for it. Both of our children were completely awestruck by the interior as their eyes adjusted to the low light, and my daughter kept asking whether it was a “play movie theater” (comparing it, I imagine, to the Carpenter Theater where she saw The Nutcracker this past December). Even better, and unexpected for the afternoon showing, was the performance from Bob Gulledge on the Wurlitzer organ coming out of the floor.

 Adapted  from Flickr  under the  CC BY-SA 2.0 license .
Adapted from Flickr under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license .

Valerie and I are no strangers to the organ or the theater—we’ve even participated in the pre-It’s a Wonderful Life sing-along. But it was a new kind of joy to share a little bit of this old town with my kids. I even forgot the terrible seats for most of the movie 🙂