Digging into Galax's past

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By April Wright, Reporter

John Nunn of Galax remembers hearing about a drug store located at the old First National Bank in Galax. The owners kept ice in the basement that they chiseled away from the New River in the winter and used it to cool Coca-Colas — back when Coke was made with cocaine.


In the 1950s, Nunn recalls that Galax had more manufacturers than any other town, and there were more people working here than lived here, he said.

Center Street in downtown Galax was originally Main Street, and Main Street was Center Street — until residents realized that Center was too short to be considered the Main Street in town.

The building located beside what is now City Gallery on South Main used to play silent films.

It's fascinating information like that and old photos that are helping John Nunn, his sister Judy Alley and Galax Library Director Laura Bryant put together a pictorial book on the early history of Galax, expected to be in local book stores and across the nation by spring.

“It's things that we've forgotten, and this book will help us see what it's like to live and remember back then,” said Nunn.

Taking his own collection of old, scenic Galax postcards, a collection of pictures from the Jeff Matthews Museum, the Galax Public Library, The Gazette and a collection from people offering up pictures and information, Nunn is asking everyone with old pictures of Galax to bring them to him for the book, in hope of capturing the early history of Galax from the late 1800s through the 1950s.

It will include the picture, a caption describing the image's history and credit to the person providing the picture.

What sparked Nunn's interest was seeing books of history on other small towns around the nation. “I've been collecting postcards for a while, and I think it's just fascinating to see how Galax once was,” said Nunn. “And I noticed that there wasn't a book about Galax.”

A book broken into categories, Nunn hopes to get more pictures containing early Galax industries, businesses and buildings, homes, street scenes, scenic views and old postcards.

Right now, Nunn is shy of early homes, businesses, downtown businesses, which are especially critical.

To uncover the histories of businesses — such as old barbershops, hotels, restaurants, pool rooms, theaters — any information on old businesses or early pictures of signs or names on buildings would be valuable to Nunn's research.

Also needed are pictures of the train station and the Blair area.

Nunn, 74, has recovered much-needed information from his younger days and hopes to find those who are 10 to 15 years older than him to assist with providing information and pictures of early Galax.

Nunn, who has been working on the book for three months, has already compiled 600 images, but the tough part will be narrowing the selection down to 250, he said. And although he's received many photos, some have no information to tack to it.

Even if individuals have memories or information on the history of Galax and no photo to join to it, perhaps a picture can be found to go along with the memory, Nunn said, so any information helps.

“We hope to get as many pictures as we can to make a book on the history of Galax,” he said. “We'd rather have three shots of the same building than nothing at all.”

He wants others — even those living out of town who have a connection to Galax — to continue sending pictures. Even if the photo is in need of repair, Nunn can make repairs digitally using Adobe Photoshop and other forms of technology.

“Every little discovery of Galax's history is interesting,” he said. “And I think this book will preserve the town's history for later generations. It's interesting to see descendants perk interest who might have someone in the book.

“I hope people feel the urgency to go and hunt for those old photos, dig in the attic for those old pictures and help create this book.”

• To provide information or send a photo, send an e-mail to john.nunn@gmail.com, call 233-8613 or send mail to P.O. Box 1130, Galax, Va. 24333. Pictures can also be dropped off at the Galax Public Library or brought to The Gazette.

The photo will be scanned and returned to the provider.

Photos can also be sent by e-mail. Anybody who has information and pictures that will be used in the book will be given credit.