Snake Hill to Spring Bank: An Oral History

The mid-1970’s were a time of innovation in Fairfax County Schools, a good time to learn and a fine time to teach. At Groveton High in 1975, students could elect their English courses and teachers had choices about what to teach. That’s why it could happen: three volumes of oral history, Snake Hill to Spring Bank.

Teacher Marian Mohr was familiar with the Foxfire (magazine), student-written oral history of Appalachian customs and lore. Teacher Bev Byrne had just sent her journalism students to interview old Mrs. Popkins, owner of a former dairy farm adjacent to the school. Mohr and Byrne were stumbling onto the same idea at the same time. Unlike Foxfire’s recording of folk magic, “haints”, hog-dressings, snake-handlings and other lore, we could record memories of our own place, with historic land turned to new uses—homes, stores, roads and much more.

Groveton student interviewers guarded their own tape transcriptions as gold, with every word and sentence as spoken retained. The publication party was a proud celebration. Hands-on English had produced a book. Ms Mohr went on to oversee two more volumes of Snake Hill to Spring Bank and would be happy to know that all three are now online.

-Bev Byrne

Snake Hill to Spring Bank, Volume 1
Snake Hill to Spring Bank, Volume 2
Snake Hill to Spring Bank, Volume 3

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