Bruce A. Saunders
Bruce A Saunders is a descendant of West Ford, a slave for George Washington, who eventually owned property in Gum Springs. Mr. Saunders has been living in the Gum Springs area since 1932. He talks about the changes that have taken place from this time.
I've lived here every since thirty...two. I was born in Washington, but this was originally my mother's home.
They used to call this area Mud Hole Farm, because it was muddy and had a lot of springs. The reason they call it Gum Springs- because they had a lot of springs and a lot of gum trees. At one time when you left home when it was raining, you had to wear your boots out to the highway, and put them in the mail box where you put your shoes on.
Great, great grandfather West Ford was a slave of George Washington. George Washington used to carry him practically everywhere, just like a son. He even used to carry him to Christ's Church in Alexandria. That's where he attended church. He (West Ford) was more like a foreman. He used to repair wagons, wheels, and farm plows.
They say that Bushrod Washington, George Washington's brother, was his father. My grandmother once told me that George Washington was his father. They gave him Gum Springs. Some of the land he brought. If you search back the titles on most of the property around here, you probably go back to West Ford.
It's been quite a bit changed. It was hard to get financing; in fact, financing was impossible to get. People would build houses the best way they could. Most of the old houses and things have been torn down.
We used to have quite a bit of fires from those wood stoves, but all that has changed. They started this campaigning a couple of years ago with the Health Department, coming through condemning everything.
The people have changed quite a bit. They have a very active civic association. You don't have too many of the older people. Most of the people now are newcomers or either offspring from the older families in the area.
Now the biggest thing (in Gum Springs) is the gym, the recreation center, swimming pool, tennis courts, the ball diamond, and the new school. They only had a two room (elementary) school. Then they built another three room school. The elementary school down here only went to seventh grade. Luther Jackson was the first black high school in the area. Alexandria, I think went as high as the tenth -Parker Gray.
After you came over-the-top of the hill up there in Groveton, most all this down through here was woods. This (Fordson Road) was the Old Richmond Highway. I think it was thirty-four, they straightened it out because they used to have a lot of accidents on the sharp curve here and another curve by the Post Office. They straightened it out and now it's down through the shopping center area.
Alexandria was the only place that had a big market, there back of City Hall. An alley there, used to be like a farmer's market, where people coming from the country had stands and things. My grandmother used to have a stand. Every weekend they would take farm products and drive the horse and wagon to Alexandria.
A guy named David Crockett, that lived in Groveton, ran what you call a "Get Me" service. He had this big car and it picked up people, carry 'em back and forward to Alexandria, or either you had to walk all the way over to where the boulevard is now to catch the electric car.
Back in those times people farmed and didn't have to buy too much stuff. My grandmother raised everything they used. She had a cold remedy. She used to use a tablespoon of lard and onion. About a cup of molasses. Boil it until the onion was done. And she'd give it to us as a cold syrup, and it was very good.
A lot of times they didn't have money. They'd carry eggs, chickens, and things like that and trade ‘em off for sugar, coffee and tea. Sort of a trade, you know, a swap.
Back during that time we didn't have too many places to go. We used to get together at peoples houses or either at the church, cause it wasn’t any beer gardens or anything like that.
When I was coming up there wasn't too many restaurants. If it was, you couldn't eat in them. You had to go to the back door to get something. You could get a hot dog for...5¢. Shoot, I think a hot dog costs 65¢ or 75¢ now, soda 5¢. You could make a telephone call for 5¢. We eat down at the Village Chef a lot, now. They have a small place and they have good food.