It was with more than a touch of sadness that I marked the death of Virginia Reeves last month. She was 91, so I feel justified in saying it was in the fullness of her years, as the old Southern saying goes when people want to say someone had a long and good life.
I don’t know if many people remember Virginia and her husband Emory Reeves, who died in the fullness of his years in 2009 at the age of 87.
But if you remember when Crabapple was just a collection of old buildings and the Crabapple Baptist Church jumbled together at the five points intersection of Broadwell-Birmingham Highway at Crabapple-Mayfield roads with Mid-Broadwell Road trying to creep in the mix, then you probably met Virginia and Emory.
It is hard to think of Virginia without thinking of Emory, or vice versa, because I don’t think I ever saw them apart. It is still hard to separate them in memory.
It was funny in a way, how they came to symbolize what Crabapple was in the 1980s and ‘90s. They lived in Buckhead, which was about as far away culturally as well as geographically that you could get. But they owned some property in Crabapple and moved their Buckhead antiques store to Crabapple. I guess antiques just looked older in Crabapple. And you could always find them most any day in their store.
Crabapple was famous for two things then. First, it was the only collection of truly historic buildings north of Roswell that were still standing. Second, it was the only one of the many unincorporated communities that still had an identity.
The reason so many people knew about Crabapple was of course the Crabapple Antiques Fair, which has been recently revitalized.
They didn’t start the Antiques Festival, but Virginia and Emory put their whole energy into it and made it into something that drew crowds of more than 10,000 to that little crossroads that didn’t have a traffic light for many years.
Of course, when there was no antiques fair going on, you could sail right through Crabapple with scarcely having to slow down.
“Whenever you saw a car, you always waved,” Virginia told me once. “Because if they were coming down the road, it almost had to be someone you knew. Dogs and children could play in the street and you didn’t have to watch them much.”
I enjoyed going to Crabapple just to feel the ambiance of small-town life lived at a small-town pace. I don’t really collect antiques, but I like to poke around the shops and talk to the people.
But I already knew Virginia and Emory. They were very active in trying to protect Crabapple as well as improve it. They were vigilant at rezoning meetings down at the County Commission.
They served on all of the numerous committees that seemed to abound in those days; looking at the plan for a bypass was a big one. (It never got off the ground.)
So I would always include a quote from Emory to illustrate the Crabapple side of the story. But Virginia usually was quiet at meetings and such. No, if you wanted to talk to Virginia – and she did love to talk – you had to go into their store and wait to be invited into the back room for a Coca-Cola.
There, she would pour you out 8 ounces from one of those classic hourglass-shaped glass bottles of Coke.
Back there, she would sit back and talk about as long as you had time to listen.
Back then, everybody in Crabapple knew everybody – pretty much. And everybody minded their own business – pretty much.
I spent many an afternoon in that back room listening as Emory would talk in that staccato way of his, with his hand over his heart and punctuating every sentence with, “Don’t you think so?”
Then Virginia would laugh and add her two cents in half the words but with her lilting Southern drawl.
Emory was often referred to tongue-in-cheek as the mayor of Crabapple because he was always the lead dog in all Crabapple affairs. But I thought the better title for him would have been ambassador of Crabapple.
But Virginia? Well I always thought of her as the queen.