Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's Christmas Time in the City

"Silver bells, silver bells, it's Christmas time in the city.  Hear them ring, ting-a-ling....soon it will be Christmas day."

To begin please click the link below.  My talented daughter in law created a short video to express the real meaning of Christmas.  That's me on the vocal.

Like so many others, Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  We no longer have children at home to wake up on Christmas morning hoping that Santa has been by, but we have thoroughly enjoyed watching our own children's excitement as they prepare Christmas for their children who are, of course, our grandchildren.  As a family we never lose sight of the fact that we celebrate the birth of the Saviour on this day. 

I have attempted in this blog to present a flavor of Christmas in our town of Culpeper.  It is a fun place to be during this season and the people I have encountered were happy.    
Let's jump in:

Christmas in Culpeper is about decorating houses and businesses.  It is about house lights......

And decorated mailboxes.....

And more house lights........

And wreaths in the windows of businesses.....

And about shop owners who provide products to enhance our enjoyment of Christmas.  This is Shirley Kinneman the owner of "Designers Choice."  This store may be the most fun of any in the Pepper during the Christmas season.  Shirley has owned it for sixteen years.  It is on Davis Street.  It is the part of town where Christmas comes alive.


Christmas is about helping others........

The Salvation Army has been about its business of helping others since 1865!  I respect these men who do their part in the cold.  They are Stuart Clatterbaugh and Jonathon Brooks.

Toys for Tots is a program that is run nationally by the Marine Corps reserve and provides gifts for needy children.  Bet you didn't know that!  It has been in existence since 1947!  Below is Connie Carpenter who accepted my donation. 

Christmas in the Pepper is about toys for good girls and boys

There are stacks of American Flyer riding toys at Clarke's Hardware.  They are my favorite since they were around when I was boy.  We bought a great American Flyer rocking horse there.  It has provided hours of fun for the grandkids.

And there are rows of toys at the department stores.

And everywhere are parents with their kids checking out the toys.  Here are Michelle Ragland,  son Shay Rayland and daughter Sayvonn Linsay with the almost endless variety of dolls.

Here are Beth and Mary Stephens looking at Elmo and other fun toys.

Christmas is about finding just the right present. 

Here great grandmother Lucy Creel and grandmother Gloria Phillips making sure that they will make a grandchild smile. Isn't that just sooo cool!!

Jackie Smith wants the kids  in her house to get just the right snow sled from Santa.  Christmas is just fun!!

Christmas in the Pepper is about Christmas trees and wrapping paper. 

Marie Thompson and her daughter pass through the display of Christmas trees at Target.  I have sadly noticed that there are few Christmas tree lots this year.  That is too bad.  That said, I am thoroughly enjoying my artificial Christmas tree.

Heidi Welch gives her daughter an early start on learning how to pick gift wrapping paper.

And Christmas is about "waitin on a woman."

If you have never heard the Brad Paisley song, "Waitin on a Woman" then you have really missed out.  Next time you go shopping take notice of the men hanging out at the doors or sitting in the chairs provided for, you guessed it, men who are waitin on a woman.  They don't provide those chairs for the female folks, you know.  Even during Christmas shopping I found a man patiently doing that kind of waiting.  His name is Jack Clatterduck and in this case he was waiting for his granddaughter.  He is a good sport.

Christmas is about wreaths on the gates of historic houses, street decorations, rows of poinsettias and a Christmas tree made out of purses in the window of Pepperberries.

Christmas has become a time to shop for electronics.

Billy Samuels is getting some excellent  assistance from Staples store manager Karen Douglas as he looks for a photo printer.

One of the truly great things about living in Culpeper is the early December "Parade of Historic Homes."   So in the Pepper, Christmas is about touring historic homes!

Bill Reighard portrays a confederate soldier in the front yard of one of the homes.

Katrina Negley is a Southern Belle

John Ruf is the owner and provides historical information on the house and what life was like when it was first built.

As  we left there was a group gathering for the next tour.

Let's not forget that Christmas is also about Santa Claus.

I went to Belk on Saturday  because I knew that Santa Claus was going to be there.  Unfortunately all of the young children had come and gone by the time I got there and I needed to have someone on Santa's lap.  This sweet lady readily agreed and she sat on Santa's lap and whispered in his ear.  He never told me a thing, but from the way these two look.......I think she was a naughty girl this year.

Then this young girl also agreed to be with Santa for a photo.  You can just tell that she was nothing but good all year long.

Christmas is about giving and being happy to do so.

Just like in the song, "Silver Bells," Designer Amy Schilling is "rushing home with her treasures."

So here in Culpeper, Christmas is a lot of things and it is a great season.



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Friday, November 26, 2010

Voting and Pizza


This edition I decided to combine two very diverse topics and talk about my voting experience and also about pizza here in the Pepper.   Sounds like an odd match I know, but hang with me and let's work it out.  First things first.


I am sure that everyone knows that November 2nd was the day to vote in the United States.  However, not nearly everyone exercised that right and opportunity.  It is what makes us what we are as a country and allows peaceful transitions of power, but lots of people just ignore it.  Too bad.   However, I decided to go to the high school to cast my ballot fairly early in the day. I landed there about 9 am to find a nearly bare parking lot and only one candidate representative greeting people and doing some last minute campaigning.  He was wearing a number of "Cantor" stickers and so I thought that he would be perfect to exemplify the kind of person who dedicates their time to a particular candidate.  However, he was camera shy which disappointed me, but I trudged in and here is what I found.

I am always impressed by people who exercise civic duty and/or opportunity.  Almost everyone working at this poll was a volunteer and many had done it for several years.  The first two here were working their fourth straight year at this voting site.  They are Mary and Mac McPhillips.

The next thing I knew several people were standing in line waiting for the opportunity to cast their ballot.  Here is George Golden, a voter and Carolyn Davis who is the Chief Officer of the poll.  She has been doing this since 2003.

I know Duane Konold and when I saw him standing in line wounded I had to ask him about it and kid him a little.  So I asked about the crutches and foot boot.   He told me that he had hurt his foot teaching his son to jump rope.  I immediately suggested that he find a more macho explanation for his injury.  I proposed that he was injured teaching his son to sky dive or bungee jump.  He thought he would stick with the truth....good choice!

These two ladies have been providing their services to voters for a long time.  Freda Katochvil on the right has helped for twenty years and Shirley Price for ten years.  Thanks ladies!


As I prepared to leave I saw that the number of people who had come to vote had grown considerably.  That was good to see.


One day as I was driving down 29 I noticed three pizza places within the space of about 1/3 of a mile.   It made me think about all of the pizza outlets that exist in Culpeper.  There are quite a few.  It made me wonder why anyone would open one after the first few were in business.  It has to be the most, or certainly one of the most, competitive businesses around.  In addition to the places that actually specialize in pizza, there are lunch counters and fast food restaurants that have pizza on their menu.  Everyone agrees that there is lots of competition.   Interestingly in addition to a small number of national outlets, there are several that locally owned.  I asked each of them why a person would choose their product over the others.  Some mentioned that their pizzas were "homemade" while others mentioned the ingredients, service, delivery and prices.  Before I started this blog I had already eaten pizza from all the the places but one.  I quickly and happily corrected that.   Honestly, I thought this would be turned out to be a lot more interesting than I originally thought.  I will note that those who had the owner on the premises or a long time manager had an advantage in describing the business.  Let's see what we've got.


Ah, I have to start at Mamamai's (that is a lot of "m's" and "a's")  first.  When we first moved to the Pepper my son, whom I have noted many times lives here, suggested that we get a pizza from Mamamai's.  It was good advice although I had to work harder for this picture than all of the others combined.  It was hard for me to get to the restaurant when the owner was present.  Of course I expected a somewhat portly, sixtyish Italian woman.  What a surprise to meet thirty one year old Ayman Hanson who is the owner and who opened this establishment in 2003.  He is in the process of opening or expanding another restaurant in town.  Ayman is almost a life long resident and is the tall guy in the back.  The rest of his crew who were there that day are, Michelle Eaton, Mo the manager on the left and Issa who is the cook on the right. 


When I stopped at Domino's I found Heather Bauer, who is a CCHS grad, and Robert Bickers.  They were sure that the flavor of the pizza's and the quick delivery were what kept people coming back.


I stopped next at Mama' was very close.   It has been in business for ten years.  These guys were fun and chatted with me for a while.  They believe that the ingredients are what make their pizza's special.  We have Oscar Montesinos on the right who is the cook and who has been with Mama's for all ten years, and Roger Thompson who has worked there for five years.


Things got interesting at Papa John's.  If public relations is important in the pizza business.....and it is...then Papa John's has a leg up because of Dustin Jacobs who is the general manager. Dustin is all personality.  He is a guy who was born and raised in Culpeper and he knows the pizza business and its history here in the Pepper.  He demonstrated tossing a pizza which no doubt is a skill and explained that at his place nothing is frozen.  Working with him is a former Navy man Ed Rabideau on the right.  Dustin saw to it that I had a free pizza under my arm when I left.  Thanks again.


Just in case anyone notices that I left Pizza Hut out of this blog.....
it is because they have a corporate policy that does not allow pictures inside their restaurant.  


This is probably the newest of the pizza places in Culpeper.  It received publicity in the local newspaper when it opened because of the heartwarming story behind it.  This restaurant is dedicated to memory of Jeff Brown's father.  What a special tribute.  Jeff, of course is the owner.  I had a chance to chat with him just the other day.  Before he opened "Pop's," he was the manager of "Ruby Tuesdays" for four years.  He knew he was opening in a tough economic time, but says it has been worth the risk.  Nice guy.


Pete's has to be the oldest privately owned pizza restaurant in the Pepper.  Several people told me that I really needed to talk to Pete.  It was kind of saving the best character until the end.  What a cool guy.  His parents are Greek and immigrated to the United States in 1965.  He was drafted into the Greek army for two years just as he was preparing to come to the states.  He came in 1967.  He has been in this very restaurant for the last 35 years.  To say that he is a Culpeper legend is no exaggeration.  He introduced subs to the Culpeper area.  No one had them before he came.  He and his wife are delightful. He demonstrated his prowess at throwing a pizza.....amazing....cooked it up and sent it home with me.  It was HUGE!!!!!  Pete's last name is Katrakilis and his charming wife is Eleni.

All of this makes me hungry.  That's if for now.  If you would like a copy of one of the pictures  just let me know.  Also please send any suggests, comments or corrections to me at:

Be sure to watch for my feature, "Rich Crowley's Snapshot of Culpeper"  weekly in the Culpeper Times.

Happy Holidays!!!



Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pancake Office and more!

OK, OK!  I know that I am a little bit late on this post, however my wife and I went to New England for a few weeks and we loved it!  What a spectacular place.  However, now that I am back I want to get a post out asap.  This week my "Rich Crowley's Snapshot of Culpeper" piece in the Culpeper Times will come out before this blog so you will see one of my pictures in the paper before you see it in this blog.  It is no big deal, but it is a first.


Let's start this edition by talking about the Saturday ritual at my house.  Every Saturday morning my son, granddaughter and I go to IHOP for breakfast.  We call it our "Breakfast Club" but my three year old granddaughter refers to it as the "Pancake Office."  Pretty cute.  Sometimes we are joined by another son and his daughter and once in a while a daughter in law and/or Grammie will attend..... occasionally even our baby grandson.  We are pretty well settled into this routine and have not missed a Saturday at IHOP in over a year.

These two ladies greet us going and coming at IHOP.  Sarah Farina sees that we get the best table in the house (shhhh, don't tell the others) and Jacqueline Karis collects our money...... however she does it so nicely that we really don't mind parting with it.

One thing that is obvious at IHOP is that it is a gathering place.  By that I mean that groups of one kind or another select it for a friendly place to meet.  Last Saturday I observed a couple of extended families having breakfast there and at least one group of friends.  At the table right next to us was the Melton family.  They seemed pretty cool.  They came from several places, for example  the grandparents had come from North Carolina to visit the young couple on the left who it turned out were the only residents of the Pepper from this  family.  So while they were here,  where did they go for breakfast?  You've got it..... the Pancake Office!!

On the way in, I met a group on their way out.  You have to admit that I find the most interesting people.  Now this group of friends, if I understood them correctly, had members from Alexandria to Richmond including Culpeper.  They had decided that Culpeper was a central and convenient place to meet.  I chatted with them long enough to learn that they were sort of an official group.......well....official enough that they had named themselves.  They told me that at first they considered calling  the group "The Cougars" (young men beware), but since they are all married it was decided that the name really did not work for them.  So......hang on for the big finish..... ta dah.....may I present to you, the "Divas!" They include Mary Jo Gaskins, Jean Wilkins, Dyce Lamonds, Renee Beck, Laura Horner, Charlene Thorpe, and Pam Cooley.  Nice folks.


Since moving here just over three years ago, we have discovered that one of the major pluses of the Pepper is the movie theater.  We have four theaters in the complex and since going to the movies is one of our favorite things to do.... we go pretty regularly.  Since we are retired we have the advantage of being able to go to matinees and/or the earliest showing.  We have never had to deal with a crowd.  During the summer they have free morning movies for kids.  I took granddaughters there twice....whew!  It is a great service they provide, but was a most unique experience for me.  If you have not participated yet, plan on doing it next summer.  I would offer just one word of advice.... get a good night's sleep.
These two ladies were working the last time we went to the movies and I put them in front of the popcorn popper for their picture because I have consumed a fair amount of that product.  Jessika Warner is on the left and Sydney Tinge on the right and they were very professional, polite not to mention, fun!


The other afternoon I was driving my car and listening to Kenny Chesney's recent hit, "The Boys of Fall" which is about his experience playing high school football.  It motivate me to run over to all know that I live nearby..... and take a couple of shots of the team practicing while it is still warm, there is lots of daylight and the fall colors are out. is the offense running some plays.  

As I was pulling in I saw a man in a cart trailing some of the kids who were running.  At first I thought he was the cross country coach or something similar, but after I got a chance to talk with him I learned that he is Michael Wills and he is the new Athletic Director.  He was just hanging with the kids to make sure everything was alright.  I could tell right away that he is a true professional educator.  As we talked, I learned that he and his wife have both been principals previously.  He quickly shared with me that he thought the CCHS kids were very special and unique.  I could tell that he was sincere.  I think if we have people like Michael leading and shepherding our kids that we are in good hands here in the Pepper.

Also near the athletic field I saw this man.  His name is Rod Stewart ....... yep it really is and I asked him to sing a little "Maggie May" or "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" but he graciously declined.  He must get sooooo sick of hearing those questions and variation of them,  but I just could not resist.  Now I am a little sorry that I did it, but not too!  Rod is the assistant JV basketball coach and also coaches little league football.   He played for Culpeper High School in 1983.



There is a new face in town that comes with a new business.  The face belongs to Greg Garr and he has opened the Shenandoah Garden Spot.  It is his second store....the other one is in Elkton.  You simply cannot miss the Garden Spot.  It is right next to the 7-11 on Main Street and has tons of mums and pumpkins in front that create a huge splash of brilliant color. (Hey! I should write ads.... that was darn good!)  It is a fun place, stop by and check it out.

It is never a happy time when you go out to start your car and the battery is DEAD! A call to AAA resulted in a battery truck belonging to DB Towing being sent out.  A mountain of a man climbed out of the truck and said to me with a big smile, "This is going to be a great day."  It reminded me of when I tell my granddaughters that it is a zip a dee do dah day.  Then I sing the song with them.  This guy spared me singing a song, but he was so positive that it was infectious. His name is Keith Hawkins and somehow I don't think he would be offended if I said that he is a good ol boy.  I have a friend who says that there is a reason that we call them good old boys.  Keith is a Culpeper boy, born and raised.  He graduated from Culpeper High in 2003. 

And now for the big finish.  Here is the Club family. John is just recently out of the military and back from his recent tour in Kosovo.  He may be the newest deputy in the Culpeper Sheriff's department.  Jenn is the pretty wife and they are holding their little girl.  Have you ever seen prettier eyes than those of the little one?

That is it for this go around.  Remember if your picture appears here and you would like it, contact me at

If you have comments, corrections or suggestions for future postings be sure to let me know at the above address.