The Sandston Seven
Betty Booker writes about one enduring group of friends from Sandston, Va.
To have friends, be one. That was poet Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice. The Sandston Seven epitomizes it.
The subject of friendship landed in my inbox recently when June Banks Evans emailed to report that the “Sandston Seven” were now in their mid-80s.
Theirs is a story that leaves people agape: Seven women who grew up together in Sandston, most on the same block, who have remained tight friends since first grade. For more than 80 years.
SHARING SO MUCH THEY FEEL RELATED
How did they sustain this remarkable accomplishment? Let June and Earlene tell the tale. June Banks Evans is a retired New Orleans high school teacher who moved to South Hill in 2009 after Hurricane Katrina. Earlene Muire Rubin of Richmond is a retired law firm receptionist, homemaker and volunteer.
Email, by the way, was how they preferred to be interviewed. I figure, at eighty-something, if you don’t want to face a camera and reporter again, you’ve earned the right not to.
“When we entered the first grade in 1935, Sandston was a small village of about 200 homes, so we walked to school each day and had a lot of time getting to know one another,” June Evans wrote.
“Five of us lived within about a block, and the other two easily walked back and forth from a few blocks away, so the bonding began quite early.”
The Seven also include Alice Taylor Baldwin of Highland Springs, a retired C&P Telephone Co. public affairs specialist; Patricia Teasley Mulligan of Virginia Beach, a retired high school teacher; Barbara Alexander Foster of Quinton, a banker and retired Henrico County employee; Joy Wood Frizzell of Sandston, a retired C&P Telephone Co. employee; and Marjorie Dyer Saulsbury of Greeneville, Tenn., a retired college physical education professor.
After elementary school, they waited at the bus stop together for the short ride to Highland Springs High School. They knew each other’s parents and siblings. They went to various churches together.
“It was only after high school that any of us ventured away for any length of time, and by then we had shared so many ideas, thoughts, explorations and experiences that we felt somehow related.”
NURTURING GENUINE FRIENDSHIP
Rubin and Evans conclude “this seemingly familial relationship has allowed us the capacity for being considerate and supportive of each other while sharing days both good and bad, yet respecting our inevitable differences. That has been the bond of sustaining these 80 years of friendship.”
This story of sustained childhood friendships will resonate with those of you who are fortunate enough to have grown up in a compatible small community, whether a village, a suburb, a city block – or a close-knit clan.
What about those who don’t have this enviable experience? Our culture makes it difficult to replicate. We work too much, leaving little time for the easy, unstructured experiences that build closeness. We move more often. Fewer of us are married – more than half of American adults are single, whether never married, divorced or widowed – often making traditional links to friendship through children and spouses unavailable.
Lots of folks who read this have friends galore. We keep up with them via FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, text messages, emails and cell phones – and whatever communication methods I’ve left out or haven’t been invented yet. We even write real letters or do real face-time by sitting across from one another.
The Sandston Seven also adopted some of these methods, but none can substitute for the following: It takes time to develop closeness, so nurture friends like precious gifts. Schedule informal get-togethers. Show up when times are tough. Don’t give unsolicited advice. Make sure everyone stays in the loop on important news and life changes. Supply practical assistance you know is needed. Keep in touch by whatever methods work for your busy schedule. Show up for significant celebrations and find honorary roles in them for friends. Listen without judgment.
That’s unsolicited advice worth sticking to.
Betty Booker is a retired Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter and columnist. She may be reached at Betty@TheBoomerMagazine.com.