Virginia Capitol Connections Winter 2022

Virginia Capitol Connections, Winter 2022 22 Alice’s Adventures in Park Land BY BONNIE ATWOOD When Lewis Carroll created Alice, the girl encountered many strange things as she slipped through the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Instead of seeing the Mad Hatter or the Queen of Hearts, a present-day “Alice,” now over 50 years old, takes on adventures, too, as a group of old hippies, having witnessed campus unrest, travels of all kinds, as well as funerals, weddings, births “Alice” was an underground newspaper at Virginia Tech, and it was published, purely without establishment blessing, by a rag-tag group of radicals who are still close friends today. These beautiful people included Vietnam vets and counterculture “freaks,” who were often at odds with the college administration. They were sometimes suspended or expelled. They ripped up a few draft cards, marched on the U.S. Capitol, and were briefly familiar with the inside of jail cells. They were resisters, not common criminals, but that was a little hard to explain to the parents and judges and college presidents. At one point, perhaps in the 1980s, they decided to reunite, and have done so once or twice a year since then. They have created their separate lives, but maintained their deep affection for each other, and their core values, challenging “The Man,” when their consciences are stirred. Through these many years of joys and sorrows, I have been privileged to have been included in those first turbulent years, and the reunions that now follow. Words cannot describe our packing more than 20 students into a one-bedroom apartment in D.C. in 1969 to prepare for “The Moratorium” against the War in Vietnam. That was our base of operations, and I know—because my name was one on the lease—that it was followed by a stern letter from the old apartment manager to get those “big nicks” out of the apartment or face immediate eviction. I still have the letter. Space was so limited that even the bathtub became a bed. But we were earnest. We were committed. Some of us were veterans, some were pacifists, and all of us still take pride in those history-making activities. The years went by. We started families. We had good times and bad, but somehow the closeness was still there.We were the first ones the ICU called when one of us had a life-threatening bicycle accident. Sometime in the eighties, a few of us felt a calling to plan a fullfledged reunion. At first it was just tent camping, moving around from one person’s yard to the next, covering Virginia from north to southwest, and up to Maryland and Delaware. Each year produced a glorious plan, splitting up responsibilities for meals, hiking, exploring, and spending long evenings under the stars, reminiscing. My personal favorite was the late-night crab fest in sea side Maryland. Then we added Christmas dinners, and even a group trip to New York City. There came times when some of our beautiful people died, and we, as a group, attended funerals. Sometimes it was weddings, and other important dates. By the turn of the Century, our aches and pains had set in, and we no longer looked forward to sleeping on the ground. We stayed in people’s guest rooms, and nearby cheap motels. A few years ago, the formula changed, and we were ecstatic to visit Virginia’s wonderful state parks. Shenandoah State Park, Westmoreland State Park, and Bear Creek Lake State Park have all been part of our new and exciting routine. Each park, reasonably priced has a big and picturesque lodge with a number of bedrooms and a large common room and porch. The lodges have served as “ground central” for our meetings. Other, smaller groups, have opted to stay in the nearby cabins. All these beautiful lands are near Virginia’s breathtaking mountains, lakes, and nature trails. I especially loved our visit to Westmoreland State Park, located in Westmoreland County on the Potomac, the spot where the first Atwood set foot on American soil. This Park, like many, was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was a voluntary public work relief program that operated in the 1930s and 1940s. The volunteers, mostly unemployed, young, unmarried men, created treasures that we enjoy today, such as our state park system. The parks are located in every corner of Virginia, and are marvelously constructed and kept up. Most of them have a big lodges that groups such as ours can rent. They might have four or five bedrooms and a large common living room, kitchen and porch. We rent a big lodge which becomes our central gathering point. Those who want smaller cabins, e.g., one or two bedrooms, can rent those nearby. Costs are reasonable, and those who live in-state get a discount. They book early, though—as much as a year ahead. Congress closed CCC in 1942. WorldWar II was raging, the draft was in effect, and the need for work relief declined. The beauty of the CCC work is still ours to enjoy. Carroll’s Alice had unforgettable adventures in her rabbit hole, but I think she had nothing on us. Where have all the hippies gone? Our Alice has gone to the Virginia State Parks. For more information, see:;; the Bonnie Atwood collection, fourth floor of VCU’s Cabell Library. Bonnie Atwood is a lobbyist, writer, and editor. You can reach her at