The pages are soft and faded, like the memories and images they hold tight.
Temp Norris wasn’t around in 1902, but his name was. On June 4-5 of that year, the community and its people celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Town of Salem.
Norris’ father was one of the 500 children who took part in the historical extravaganza titled “Enchantment.”
The pageant was staged on the lawn of the Roanoke County Courthouse. It was the center of the town, and people were mighty proud of what Salem had accomplished in its first century.
The names of Norris’ family and neighbors pop up like summer flowers on the pages of the program marking the event.
“That’s my father’s name right there,” points out Temp Norris, who is William Templeton Norris Jr. “He was a grasshopper.”
A few lines over is the name of his dad’s aunt, Emma Templeton. “I think she was here visiting,” he said, noting she had played a fairy.
Someone had penciled a star next to the two names.
“Everyone in town got in it,” the 86-year-old said, referring to the pageant. “I knew some of these people. The participants were all from fairly affluent families in Salem and many of the names are still found in the area: Harveycutter, Whitescarver, Wiley, Brown – of the Brown House that today is the home of the Salem Museum – McClung, Chapman, Logan.
“A lot of older people would recognize these names,” Norris said, pointing out the name of Gerald Brand, father of famed businessman Cabell Brand. “He was in the chorus of gnomes,” Temp said.
The plot of the play revolved around Titania, the Fairy Queen, and, as Salem Museum Director John Long explained, “her henpecked husband, a purloined scepter with magical powers; Puck, Titania’s banished court jester trying to get back in her favor, and Uglio the ogre, played by himself, according to the cast of characters.”
About 2,000 people saw the first performance, Long’s research found, and an equal number the next night. The play had no historical connection to Salem, other than it was performed here and involved the children of the community.
Perhaps even more intriguing is the collection of businesses which paid to have their names and services printed in the program:
Earlier this year Temp Norris’ wife, Laura, discovered the program for “Enchantment” in a box of papers that had come from the Norris family home on North Broad Street in Salem where he grew up. The box was labeled simply, “Salem History.”
Museum Director Long says the program, which the Norrises have presented to the museum, seems to be the only copy that survived. At least, it’s the only one he’s seen, and Long has seen a piece of just about everything related to Salem’s history, Temp Norris believes.
The house where he grew up – and which is still standing – had a simple-to-remember phone number: “It was 40,” he said. “We often got calls for the Salem florist, J. Shartzer, which was 41.”
Other ads call up favorite memories, such as Hannah’s Barber Shop, across from the Old Hotel, which proclaimed its services as a “tonsorial artist.”
That was later Skaggs Barber Shop, and then Skaggs-Dalton, Norris said.
Barbering for students was a specialty, according to the ad. “I wish that barber shop was still there,” he added.
He particularly enjoys an ad for The Crawford Hotel which, he said, became the Fort Lewis Hotel. “It cost $2 a day and you got free baths,” he said, smiling.
Many of the ads were for Roanoke businesses, including the Hotel Roanoke and the Ponce de Leon Hotel in Roanoke.
The ad for John M. Oakey – today’s John M. Oakey & Son Funeral Services in Salem – was not only for Oakey’s undertaking parlor and embalmer services, but for the business’ furniture.
“They were furniture people, who sold wooden coffins in the back room,” Norris pointed out.
His interest in the history of Salem is entwined with his family’s roots and his own memories of the town that grew to be a city.
“I remember Mr. Thornton, former owner of the Salem Times-Register, who built next to George and Barbara Bell on North Broad Street.
“I used to write up Boy Scout Troop 51 news for the Salem Times,” Norris added.
In the past, he was active in the founding of the Salem Historical Society. These days, he’s content to sit back and watch others carry on the interest in finding out more about Salem and its people.
“I’m getting to be one of the older people in town,” said Norris. “For years, I was one of the kids.”