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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Virginian aristocracy

Though Clifford went into the chaos of Washington, D.C., everyday, Virginia found peace and companionship among the gentility of Seminary Hill, Virginia. She compares the old aristocracy with the nouveau riche in Birmingham.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

There was a paved road from Alexandria to Washington, but from Alexandria out to Seminary Hill was just a gravel road. And they had a bus that ran twice a day. It was isolated, but it was a real neighborhood. Virginia, you know, has got marvelous manners-the people in Virginia have the most beautiful manners in the world, I think. Everybody called. They were the days when people called.
You mean called to visit, not call on the telephone?
Yes, they came to visit in the afternoons. You were supposed to be prepared for visitors in the afternoons and have iced tea ready and cookies and have on a light dress and be prepared to receive visitors. I could write a whole book about visitors from Seminary Hill because some of them were just absolutely incredible.
Well, tell us about them.
Well. There was one old gentleman . . . The trouble is it was so long ago now that I'll have to look up my notes to think of the names and maybe I'd better not tell the names anyway. One day, night, we would take a walk . . . You've never seen Seminary Hill but it's just a perfectly beautiful place with the old brick buildings of the Seminary, the brick buildings to the Virginia Episcopal high school, and this is where the gentility of Virginia had gone for generations. They never would refer to it as . . .They would say "The High School," "The Seminary," and "The University." That meant the Virginia Episcopal High School, the Virginia Episcopal Theological Seminary, and the University of Virginia. But nobody ever said that. They would say, "The High School," "The Seminary," and "The University." And you were supposed to know what that was. So we would take a walk after supper at night and just walk around if Cliff was there. And even if Cliff wasn't there, Ann and I would take a little walk after supper in the grove and people would be strolling in the grove. One night we heard a conversation going on, it sounded like a very one-sided conversation. And we came up on Mr. Jim . . .The names will come back to me eventually. I'll just have to look back at all these various names. But they had an old house up there on Seminary Hill that they'd lived on for generations. He was talking to the trees. So we stopped and spoke to him, and he was extremely courteous and told us his name and where he lived and he said that he came out every night to talk to his trees, his friends the trees. Nobody regarded him as insane. They just said he was a little queer. Mr. Jim was just queer and he liked to talk to the trees and he'd come out every night and chat with them. He had favorite trees that he talked to. And you were just supposed to take this as a matter of course.