Jimmy and Joann Hammons were relaxing one day in the rockers on the front porch of their personal, circa 1950s, store building. A car went by on the 2-lane, back country road, slowed down, backed up slowly and turned in. A lady emerged from the vehicle and walked toward the porch. Friendly souls at heart, the Hammons welcomed her and asked if she wanted a cold drink.
“I wanted to see if the people in the chairs were real or dummies,” she said.
True to character, the Hammons responded, nearly in unison, “well, I guess we’re a little of both!”
I didn’t catch the dummy part when I visited in mid-June. I found them to be a salt-of-the-earth kind of couple, enamored with the 1950s and surrounded by simple, quality, tastefully decorated homes and grounds that embrace our heritage.
Joann was born and raised on this land. Around their home, barn and rental house are rose bushes, neatly mulched flower gardens, some vegetables ready for harvest, a bridge over the creek, outdoor antiques and signs and just as neatly mowed grass. Joann created and manages the gardens, and they share the mowing. Some 40-odd head of cattle and her treasured seven donkeys graze the hillsides. It is bucolic and pastoral to the max. And that’s just the outside.
Built in 2011 to house their vast collection of 1950s memorabilia, the store sports a Goodwins Ferry VA sign over the porch roof. “This was Goodwins Ferry until the Newport Post Office was built,” Joann explains. The New River lies two miles beyond the Hammons’ place and used to be a ferry crossing. This is referenced in a 1944 paper on “Industrial Dolomites and Limestones in Virginia” published by the Virginia Geological Survey ~ The sector between Eggleston and Goodwins Ferry shows a synclinal fold.
Old license plates, model cars, Vogue picture records, a working Wurlitzer juke box, guitars, display cases filled with 1950s memorabilia, signs and all things rock ‘n roll fill the black-and-white tiled floor space. Calendars on the walls rest on 1950s months and years, and the pristine white and aqua 1958 Chevrolet BelAir is parked below several framed, cross stitched cars made by Joann. She even designed and completed one documenting the restoration of the car. “I did that on my break times,” she states, referring to her 43 years with Celanese in Narrows.
A small rental house built in 1935 is set way back from the road and took them three years to renovate and restore. “We found the wood floors under the linoleum, and we rearranged some walls to cover a crummy-looking fireplace, enclose the old porch for a breakfast nook and spruce up everything,” says Jimmy. Together they finished the attic space into an attractive bedroom and sitting space. Joann furnished it in lovely antiques, adding that “it doesn’t have a dishwasher, because they didn’t have dishwashers in this era.” Joann also painted the immaculate exterior with the help of a chair attached to Jimmy’s tractor, so she could be raised, lowered and moved side to side.
The perfect little house was the perfect little place to host their friends, Lyle and Nancy Brown of Ballground, Ga., who visited in June. “Their son owns the stone house my parents built,” says Joann, motioning to the house next door. “We were delighted to be able to offer overnight lodging.” Certainly Lyle and Nancy enjoyed every moment in their antique-filled accommodations.
Their house, built in 1956, is tastefully furnished throughout with family and acquired antique pieces. “This Hoosier cabinet was in my dad’s house,” Jimmy points out, “and the white china cabinet on the opposite wall.” A beautiful wood bed with wood pegs dates to the 1800s. Another bedroom set sports hand carving in the black walnut headboard, footboard and matching dresser.
“I do not like carports,” Joann says, as we step down from the dining room into a large living room with slanted ceilings, wood beams and a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. Not content with just a carport-size parlor, the Hammons added two more bedrooms and a bathroom designed specifically to accommodate a claw foot bathtub.
From here, Jimmy escorts us to the garage where a beautiful, luscious cream, 1958 Chevrolet Impala with 35,000 miles on it sits behind a white 1976 Corvette Stingray. “Somebody got divorced, and the new girl friend didn’t want the guy to keep the Corvette. She didn’t want anything to remind him of ‘before her’. That’s how I came to own this one,” he relates. On the garage wall, he has all the Virginia license plates from 1915 to this year. Also a native of Giles County who worked in Virginia Tech’s Department of Crop & Soil, Jimmy is on the lookout for the earlier ones (1910-1914) at a reasonable price.
Shangri-la is defined as “a remote, beautiful, imaginary place where life approaches perfection.” The Hammons place looks like it would fit right in, with one exception. It’s a labor of love keeping things trimmed, mowed, weeded, dusted and so on … and labor only occasionally trumps the love. With seven decades of Giles County life under their belts, Jimmy and Joann have yet to slow down, though you’ll find them often parked in those rockers on the front porch of the store.