Friday, June 23, 2017

The Prince That Lived In King George, Virginia

For local historians, the Tayloe family has an important role in the early history of King George County. But did you know they had ties to one of the most famous impostors of the 20th century?

An early settler to the Northern Neck, the Tayloe family had ties to other major families like the Lees and Taliaferros and they held land in several counties. One of those pieces of land was Powhatan Farm in King George. As the land was divided over several generations, Powhatan Farm came to be held by Bladen Tasker Tayloe. Falling on hard times in April 1935, Bladen sold Powhatan Farm at public auction to John W. Walters from New York. Mr. Walters would eventually sell the farm in 1955 to the current owners, the Guest family.

While the Guest family may have real royal connections, there was a Russian Prince living at the farm before they purchased it. Prince Michael Alexandrovitch Dmitry Obelensky Romanoff. Don't worry if you've never heard of him. I only knew him from Miracle on 34th Street (1947) when the Doctor is trying to argue his case that Kris Kringle isn't a danger to society and he says:

"Why there are thousands of people walking around with similar delusions, living perfectly normal lives in every other respect. A famous example is that fellow — I can't think of his name — but for years he’s insisted he’s a Russian prince. He owns a famous restaurant in Hollywood and is a highly respected citizen."

That's right, Prince Michael Alexandrovitch Dmitry Obelensky Romanoff, or Prince Mike if you prefer, was an imposter.

Prince Mike went by countless aliases, false names, and false titles. He claimed to be everything from a Count to a Captain and a Vanderbilt to a Rockefeller. In the end, or really the beginning, he was Harry Gerguson. In 1935, with Mr. Walters as the new owner of Powhatan Farm, Prince Mike came to take charge of the farm. Using the alias John William Adams, and posing as a professor from Yale, Prince Mike took over managing the farm. Reportedly in ruins, he kicked out the sheep living in the house and made repairs, built roads, and cleared fields.

Prince Mike was apparently isolating himself so that he, acting as the Yale Professor, could write "The Philosophy of History." Despite his isolation, he did make friends; a horse named Betty and a cat named, of all things, Gerguson. He was friendly with the Tayloe family as well, even gifting them a small puppy that would end up bearing his name.

From Return to Powhatan by Roberta Love Tayloe

His self-imposed isolation only lasted a year. He made a trip to Richmond to see a show and was identified by a society reporter as Prince Mike. He would leave King George in an old, junky car and would turn up in Hollywood a few years later sporting a wad of cash, a fancy car, and a new restaurant.

Prince Mike would become Hollywood royalty after opening his restaurant. Here are a few names from the very long list of Hollywood types he associated with; Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney, Jack Benny, Barbara Stanwyck, Clark Gable, and David Niven. Prince Mike reportedly only came back to the Fredericksburg area once shortly after his re-birth in Hollywood as a restaurateur. He would eventually die in September of 1971, nearly a decade after closing his famous restaurant.

One parting ironic twist. Prince Mike's early childhood was nearly a mirror to that seen in Boys Town (1938) staring Mickey Rooney. As an orphan and runaway and petty criminal, Prince Mike needed a father figure in his life to set him on the right track. While he wouldn't find it until he left King George, both Prince Mike and Mickey Rooney would follow the same path, this time in real life, as they served as pallbearers for Errol Flynn in 1959.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

OPINION - The Newest Stoplight To Avoid

Welcome to your newest form of torture, the stoplight at Dahlgren Road and Caledon Road (Routes 206 and 218 respectively). Before you yell at me and tell me that the light is a necessary evil, I will forewarn you that I only agree that some improvement was necessary there. However, I feel a traffic light is not one of them.

Traffic circles get a lot of negative press, and even more than normal here in King George. But before you shove those fingers in your ears and start yelling "LA! LA! LA!" let me remind you that the science is there to prove traffic circles work at not only moving traffic faster through the intersection but also doing it more safely than a typical stoplight.

Before we continue debating the pros and cons of lights and signs and circles, let's take a moment to look at a potential solution. VDOT has installed the stoplight and we all know they’re not likely to remove it anytime soon. Maybe we can find a solution that will make some of you happy. Or at least less upset at driving through yet another stoplight on your daily commute. With nearly 10,000 employees, Dahlgren is the host to our area’s primary employers. Factor in Potomac Elementary School during the school year, limited capacity on local roads, and it's a recipe for a commuter's nightmare.

What I propose is an alternative route to Dahlgren. My proposal is based on a few assumptions so let's get those out of the way first. I'm assuming that most of the traffic comes from the Fredericksburg area. I'm assuming that most of the traffic is going to Dahlgren's Main Gate. I'm assuming that we are all driving the speed limit because, well, we all know that’s the right thing to do.

To measure my distances, I used two points; Sealston Elementary School and the Dahlgren Post Office. I measured various routes using main roads and secondary roads, counted the stoplights, and even compare distances that are two lanes versus four lanes. Below is the end result of what I found.

Route Used
Total Distance
Number of Stoplights
2 Lanes vs. 4 Lanes
Route 3 to Route 206
19.6 miles
7 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, St. Paul's, WaWa, PES)
11.0 miles vs. 8.6 miles
Route 3 to 603 to Route 218 to Route 206
20.7 miles
4 (Sealston, St. Paul's, WaWa, PES)
20.7 miles vs. 0 miles
Route 3 to Route 205 to Highway 301 to Route 206
20.7 miles
10 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, KGHS, KGES, Rankins, Hillcrest, WaWa, PES)
4.2 miles* vs. 16.5 miles
Route 3 to Route 206 to 611 to Highway 301 to Route 206
21.8 miles
7 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, Hillcrest, WaWa, PES)
7.4 miles vs. 14.4 miles
Route 3 to Route 301 to Route 206
22.8 miles
11 (Sealston, Hopyard, Post Office, KGMS, KGHS, KGES, Tractor Supply, Rankins, Hillcrest, WaWa, PES)
2.9 miles* vs. 19.9 miles
Route 3 to 694 to Route 218 to Route 206
23.2 miles
4 (Sealston, St. Paul's, WaWa, PES)
18.4 miles vs. 4.8 miles

*The distance from St. Anthony’s Road to Tinsbloom Lane, where Route 3 goes to two lanes, is approximately 1.1 miles.

It’s pretty easy to see that the shortest distance is the tried and true Route 206 (#1). But when you look at #2 and #3, you’ll see the distance is only another mile further. For the fewest traffic lights, you’ll need to use #2 or #6. For the longest distance on four lane roads, #3 and #5 are your best bet while #2 has only two lane roads.

After crunching way more numbers and datasets than I expected, after learning more about the differences between geometric mean and harmonic mean, I finally stopped my circular calculations and decided to arrive at a ground-breaking opinion.

I say ground-breaking because I’m going to disagree with my own data as well as my own attempt at weighting the different routes based on these factors. In other words, I’m going to go with my gut. And my gut says, use option #3 (Route 3 to Route 205 to Highway 301 to Route 206). I feel like this gives you the best option to drop off your kids at all the different schools, it allows you to safely make left-hand turns, and it gives you the best combination of faster roads and shorter distances.

Distance (miles)
4 Lane %
Stoplight Time (seconds)

*To determine the best 2 vs. 4 Ratio, I subtracted the 4 lane distance in miles from the 2 lane distance in miles. This would give the routes with more 4 lane mileage a lower number, which would better align them with the other scores.
** The Stoplight Time is based on an average of 70 seconds per cycle. I then divided each cycle in half (35 seconds) and multiplied by the number of lights on the route.
***The Mean and the Average only differed by a small amount in the Distance and the Total columns. Because the difference was so small, I felt it wasn’t important enough to include this math in the chart.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - June 1977 - Part II

When it comes to historical research, there are times where the content can be disturbing. I recently sat down with my mother to go through some old photos and she did a great job giving me dates and stories and names of people in them. But along with that great information came some horrible stories. While I don't want to white-wash history and make everything look great, there will be certain aspects of my research that I will keep private.

I want to make it clear that it's not an attempt to make my life look better or to make anyone else look better, or worse, than they're perceived to be by the rest of the world. Instead, I just want to preserve the privacy of those that are still alive and not force them to re-live their nightmare.

With that being said, here's my mother, her step-father Ted, and his dog Teddy. My grandparents always had a poodle of some sort for as long as I can remember them. So it's no surprise to see one in this picture. I don't have an exact date on the photo, but the month and year are pretty clear.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - June 7, 1977

Big surprise here, I had another ear infection. This appears to be just in my left ear. But as I learned from my mother, my dad didn't have spell check. So what he wrote as "serious" was actually "serous" which is essentially fluid in the ear. You can see my update on my last "serious/serous otitis media" entry on May 31, 1977.

Once again I saw Dr. Cho. This visit was a "recheck" a week after my the last entry at the end of May. My last recorded ear infection (but not serous otitis media) was on April 26, 1977.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - June 1977 - Part I

This is actually a bit of a deviation from my personal story as it's a letter to my grandmother Dorothy, but I wanted to include it because it had a wealth of family information in it. I thought by sharing it, it may allow other distant relatives find a familial link or fill in some empty spots on their family tree.

The letter is from Ruth who lived at 2205 E. Linden #29 in Caldwell, Idaho, 83605. It was sent to my grandmother, Dorothy Hollingsworth, who was living at 4001 Mockingbird Lane in Oxnard, California, 93030. Below is a transcript.

Thurs. P.M.

Dear Dorothy:

How I enjoyed your letter that came this A.M. I have certainly been thinking of the past!!! Ralph Jones was in your Mother's + my 8th grade picture!!! (I have it!) And Mrs. Kate (?) Jones (mother) was my Sun. school teacher for several years. And I certainly remember the sisters and the Butmans - Everyone would remember Jessie as she was very good and generous giving "readings" at any and all gatherings - I wish I had kept some of them - She was very good, too. Meeting the public where I was shy and kept in the background.

It is interesting that you should meet + get into conversation with Margaret -

Perhaps you have heard that I flew to So. Calif. with Bob the 13th of April. He was going down on College business. We went to Ontario where he picked up a rental car and we drove to Whittier. We called on Bob + Margaret and drove around town some, then he left me with my old (?) childhood chum and he went on to San Diego. Chris' niece lives in Corona del Mar + she came up to Whittier after me on Fri. A.M. and Bob stopped there that eve. on his way up to West Covina where my nephew (Howard Way, Jr.) lives. Bob had to go on to Las Vegas still on school business and I stayed in West Covina until Wed. A.M. when I flew up to L.V. to meet Bob for our trip home - (Are you still with me?) Dorothy Way + I drove up to San Bernardino

Del Rosa, etc. My! but every place in So. Calif. has grown!! It was a great fun week and I would like to go again and visit with you folks - Am not real sure about doing it but will think about it. Thanks for the invitation -

The Howard Way your Aunt Mildred (I met her once!!) spoke of was, no doubt, my nephew. And the baby you mentioned in the other letter you wrote was his grandson. My brother's oldest daughter, Katherine Kelly, died of cancer about three (3) months ago and was buried in San Ber- She lived in Sunset Beach.

Yesterday I mailed two paintings (by your grandmother) and frames to Bob + Marg. as it seemed the like an Ashton should have them. I showed them to Shirley

Ashton once when she was going to our college + said - Aunt Ida painted them + she had no idea who Aunt Ida was - (her great grandmother) I guess that is understandable, tho'.

Even tho' I am 84 I still drive and am as active as I want to be (??) I live in a one bedroom mobile home + take care of my own yard except mowing the lawn !! Bob's live about two miles from me but there are phones and lots of communications -

Tho't you might be interested in this picture - Have other things I know you and Cleta, too, would be interested in so come see me!!!
Love - Ruth

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - May 31, 1977

I was not sure where to enter this particular info but as it appears that everything was written on May 31, 1977, that is the date I will stick with. This entry has two parts, one that occurs on May 31, 1977 and another that's post-dated for May 29, 1977.

The first entry is yet another ear infection, this one labeled as "serious." I can only assume Dr. Cho worked his magic and I healed just like I did from the other ear infections.

The second entry is dated May 29, 1977 but is listed as a "NOTE:" directly under the May 31st entry. It states I went to the Emergency Room in Bountiful, Utah and saw a "DR Mathews for a gastrointestinal virus" and that it was "contagious." As a parent, I can imagine how much that experience sucked.

What I find interesting from this second entry is that I was in Bountiful, Utah. This is where my aunt and uncle lived for decades.

[EDITED June 1, 2017]
Based on some additional information from my mother, it wasn't a "serious" ear infection but instead "serous" as in "serous otitis media" as in fluid in your middle ear. In other words, typically what small children get tubes in their ears to prevent from happening.

Monday, May 15, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - May 1977 - Part II

This is the second part of May 1977 and will focus on our trip to New Mexico. While I'm sure it was part of the same trip we took to Arizona and Nebraska, I'm not entirely sure. But I am pretty certain everything happened in May.

We start things off with what looks like a rest stop picnic area where I'm just chilling out on the picnic table. This photo is labeled as May 1977 but it's the small details that helped link this to the New Mexico trip. The key evidence is my dad's hat and lack of beard.

For the visit to New Mexico, we saw my Aunt Lorraine who was married to my mother's brother Dan Lester. The green van would play an important roll in my life much later.

Monday, May 01, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - May 1977 - Part I

May of 1977 was a busy month. There was travel to Arizona and Nebraska and possibly New Mexico. Starting in Arizona, we paid a visit to Aunt Wilma and Uncle George. Make sure you pay attention to my mother's shirt.

After Arizona, came Nebraska where we visited with Grandma Bertha. At the time, she was married to Merle Yaryan, her second husband. When I first started looking at these pictures, I had assumed that Grandma Bertha had come to visit us in California. But then I noticed that the kitchen furniture was different and that there appeared to be a bottle of Dorothy Lynch salad dressing on the table. For those that don't know, Dorothy Lynch salad dressing is kind of a blend between French dressing, Thousand Island dressing, and Ranch dressing. But more importantly, it was almost exclusively found in Nebraska, even into the early 1990s. I remember on later trips to Nebraska when I was older, we would stock up on Dorothy Lynch dressing and Squirt soda because they were impossible to find on the east coast. And while Grandma Bertha could have brought it with her during a visit, the exterior shot of her, my dad, and myself, match an earlier photo I have of her posing outside of her home with Christmas decorations. I was later able to confirm from my father that it was the home of both Merle and Bertha during their marriage when they lived in Mullen, Nebraska.

The New Mexico portion of the trip will be in a separate post, partly because there are a lot of photos, but mostly because I'm not certain it was the same trip.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - April 26, 1977

Not even a week has passed and I'm back in Dr. Cho's office with an ear infection.

Today also marks the 30th anniversary of my grandmother's death. And while I know this #40yearsagotoday project is all about me, I just can't wait ten years without mentioning her. Just last year, I wrote about her and her visit to see me for my first Christmas. And just over ten years ago I wrote about inviting her to Thanksgiving dinner.

Photo from

Ten years seems like a long time sometimes. But when I think about my doctor's visit 40 years ago for an ear infection and then a short 10 years later losing my grandmother, it just feels like the weight of death is sitting on my shoulders.

Friday, April 21, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - April 21, 1977

In what would become a frequent occurrence in my childhood, I see the doctor for an ear infection, a sore throat, or bronchitis. Or in this case, a combination of all of them. This is the first record of an ear infection I could find (as well as bronchitis) in my notebook so I can only conclude that this is the first one I had. It wouldn't be the last.

It suddenly struck me as I was reading this entry how odd my father's word choices were at the time. While he's intelligent, I can only assume he's writing what the doctor is saying or putting in my chart. For example, he writes the reason for the visit is "Acute Pharyrgitis [sic]" which is actually "acute pharyngitis" or in more common terms, a sore throat. While it is frequently caused by strep throat, specifically the Streptococcus bacteria, there's no indication that was the cause behind my sore throat. Cultures were taken but nothing was written down for the results.

However, it was also noted that I had "Bilateral otitis media" (an ear infection) and "Acute Bronchitis." But to go back to the odd choice in words, my father then notes I "had bad infection in both ears."

The back and forth between simple words and medical terms is confusing but I can only assume my father is parroting back what the doctor is telling him then simplifying that. My assumption is based solely on how well I know him and the fact that I often do something similar.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - April 8, 1977

Once again, I'm visiting the doctor. This time Dr. Cho gave me a "well baby check" that I can only assume went well since there were no other notes.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

2017 Stafford Airport Runway Runaway 5k Race Report

I swear I don't sandbag my races. Seriously. I mean, I may sandbag a little during the race just because I sprint at the Finish line, but I've always done that. And maybe I sandbag about my capabilities just because I usually lack self-confidence. But I don't intentionally line up at the rear, claim to be a walker, then sprint past everyone in an attempt to win the race. That's not my style. Yes, I line up in the back, but that's to slow myself down because I struggle with slower starts and always want to rabbit out front. I also line up in the back of the pack because that's usually where I finish. And I'm okay with all of that. But I'm not that guy that passes you at Mach 3 only a half mile in the race because I'm better than everyone else.

Anyway, I bring this up because yet again competition during a race got the better of me. I'll break it down like this:

- Run 5k race at easy but steady pace
- Turn around and re-run 5k race course at slightly slower pace
- Finish the day with 6 miles

- Run 5k at way fast pace
- Run another 1.5 miles a little later at slower pace
- Finish day with 4.5 miles

So things didn't go quite as planned but they went better than expected. My coach's plan for me was just the 5k race. And that's cool but I missed a stupid 6 mile run last week and it's been gnawing at me even though I know it shouldn't and I wanted to hit that next mileage mark. Well, I missed the 6 mile mark but I walked away with a new PR and a little more distance tacked on.

Now, for the race itself. I forgot to do packet pick-up the day before so knew I'd need to get there a bit early. After getting directions the night before, and reading all the rules about running at an airport, I opted to go even a little earlier. So at 0500 I got up, got dressed, and headed out the door. I got some coffee and breakfast, drove down the road, got gas, and arrived at the airport terminal around 0615. Way earlier than expected.

It was dark so it was cool to see the landing lights and the beacon flashing but it was a little hard to figure out where to park. So I parked at the terminal. It was rainy and cold so I stayed warm in my car. Around 0645 I got out and got my bib and swag and went back to staying warm. Around 0715 I hit the head and repeated the process around 0745. On my way back to my car I ran into an old co-worker and we chatted a bit. It was great to see somebody else that has done well after leaving our previous employer.

I hustled to the Start line, tried to dodge the wind, and we were off. We hit the first mile mark way too fast and I could only assume the sign was backwards. As we looped around the first time, we passed the mile marker at a more respectable, and believable, time so I figured we were on the right track again. But I still wasn't sure if we had started by going the wrong way at the start.

While I mulled that question in my head, I enjoyed the tail wind down the stretch. We turned back around and did the same loop around a second time and this time we hit the second mile mark at another more believable time. Fighting that stupid head wind sucked and I made every effort to tuck behind people in front of me but most of the time I was rolling faster than they were or there was just an open gap in front of me. So I dealt with it.

Headed into the home stretch, we followed our outbound route back to the Finish and I looked at my watch again to see where I was. Seeing that I was close to my old PR time of 30:53, I kicked it. I made the last two turns and kicked it again to pass a couple more people before the finish. The one younger guy edged me out I think, but I'm not sure because my vision was so narrowly focused on the end.

Anyway, I came across, looked at my watch, and then tried to factor in the time it took me to cross the Start line. I knew I was close but wasn't sure until the times were posted. I ended up besting my last PR by 25 seconds giving myself a shiny new PR of 30:28.


Temps were about 35F to 40F. Wind was light to moderate (maybe 10 mph sustained). Sky was overcast with light rain that eased up the longer we were out there.

Fluids and Fuel:
Before the run I had coffee, two boiled eggs, and an English muffin. During the run I had plain water. Recovery was more coffee and two bacon/gouda sandwiches (which was after another 1.5 mile run where I had nothing to eat or drink).

Aches and Pains:
My wonky toenail on the right foot gave me fits the other day and instead of taking care of it, I ignored it. Well, it gave me fits again today and it serves me right. Nothing bad, just a toenail that has been a nuisance for years. Aside from that, I felt a little tight and crampy after the race but that's likely because I didn't drink as much as I usually do during a 3 mile run.

Wore shorts, thermal top, short sleeve shirt, gloves, BUFF, and winter hat. BUFF came off around Mile 2. Wearing shorts was perfect. Was chilly at the start but after a mile, my legs and fingers were plenty warm.

Today's Motivation:
Paying for a race is usually pretty good motivation. A new venue adds to that, especially one as unique as an airport runway (well, technically it was the taxiway, but still). As I neared the finish, that PR pushed me.

Naughty Neil:
I had some cheese and crackers last night and I ate them way too late. But I was busy watching HACKSAW RIDGE and felt the need to snack. Also stayed up a little too late (around 2330).

Start - 00:27
Mile 1 - 10:12
Mile 2 - 10:10
Mile 3 - 9:51
Finish - 30:28 (watch time was 31:00)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - March 1977

This photo came from the Aunt Wilma and Uncle George Estate and with it came some artifacts. In the envelope was a scrap of paper with my name and the date "March 1977" and a "Gift Check" for $200 to Las Vegas casinos. The "gift" was likely an insert from the photo developing company that was advertising for the Vacation Ideas company. That particular office is now occupied by Valley Construction & Repair.

Friday, March 10, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - March 10, 1977

For one final time, I see Dr. Melvin "Mel" Cheatham. I would officially be "release[d] from [his] care." The final analysis pretty much sums things up: "Will never know what caused problem or why." And forty years later, we still have the same conclusion as to what the problem was behind my big head.