About admin

Dan Smith is an award-winning journalist in Roanoke, Va., and a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is an author, photographer, essayist, father and grandfather. Co-founder of Valley Business FRONT magazine and founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

New River Voice Running Again

The alternative New River Voice, which has been silent for several years, is back and with perhaps more volume than ever before. I got an email from my good friend Bill Kovarik, a professor of journalism at Radford University and a former newspaper journalist, announcing the comeback. Bill asked me (and a few others) to be on the advisory board and, of course, I’m all in.

Bill Kovarik

We’re looking for good news people who want to take part in this new online-only venture that could work its way into a profitable venture (though 501C(3) is the goal. Let Bill (bill.kovarik@gmail.com) or me know (pampadansmith@gmail.com) if you’re interested.

Here’s Bill’s release on the revival:

The New River Voice is up and running again, (https://www.newrivervoice.com), and this note is to ask for your help in several ways.
I would deem it a kindness if you could:
  • — Advise the Voice as we develop a set of founding principles (below);
  • — Be willing to serve as an advisor, board member or section editor yourself, as appropriate;
  • — Write news or provide photos or videos for the Voice
  • — Refer us to others who would be appropriate advisors or board members, especially by forwarding this email;
  • — Help with donations of media equipment or funding as an organizational structure is established this summer.
The current status is this:  Tim and Taryn Jackson, who established the Voice in 2007, are in the process of selling it so that we can create a 501 c-3 non-profit and other appropriate business structures to contain it. (A membership coop is one good idea). My role as publisher will be to organize and help create this structure for better public service information and in-depth journalism for the region, and to create vehicles for revenue through advertising and media services. The 501-c-3 will own the Voice as soon as possible.
Founding principles 
Here are some of the founding principles, and I would appreciate your reactions and suggestions:
1. New River Voice will uphold the highest ideals of American journalism, subscribing to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which advises:  Seek the truth and publish it; Minimize harm; Be accountable; and Act independently.  www.spj.org/ethics.asp.
2. New River Voice will publish regional news and information with an emphasis on public service, scientific facts, and appropriate context.  We will seek out the most interesting people and the best ideas from all frequencies of the political and cultural spectrum. We will focus on health, science, education, literature, art, architecture, planning, design and environment. We will be fearless and absolutely committed to the defense of democracy and First Amendment freedoms. We will observe and encourage the Spirit of our Age.
3. New River Voice will serve as a laboratory for generating media services revenue as an important supplement and/or alternative to display and classified advertising.  We will also develop novel structures for government and public information access (or what Walter Lippmann once called “organized intelligence.”)
4. New River Voice will draw in outstanding writers, editors, programmers, bloggers, photographers, videographers, outreach specialists, poets and political observers to provide a platform for the vision and social construction of our common future.
5. New River Voice will work with and apply for membership in appropriate professional organizations, especially the Virginia Press Association (as an online member), the Virginia Center for Investigative Reporting, and, nationally, the Local Independent Online News association.
The Voice has published several new stories in the past week, two from columnist Michael Abraham, and one recent article about 3-D printing for PPE coordinated by Virginia Tech engineering. Others concerning dam safety and COVID 19 are in the works.
I have a dozen other assignments for volunteers who would like to be involved at this point. Its pretty easy to cover the news these days — there are lots of public meetings online, so it just takes time and bandwidth, not a lot of traveling.

Greenway Closed? Not for These Old Boys

This brook trout was about three pounds.

Roanoke’s Parks and Rec Department couldn’t determine today if it wanted the Roanoke River Greenway closed as crews cleaned off flood debris, but a couple of old fishermen made a decision for the department.

Not only did they fish from the low water bridge–just feet from barriers–but they brought in two citation trout while I stood with them.

One of the old boys said he had earlier caught a three-pounder. The trout were returned to the water (below).

“I’m tellin’ ya,” said the first fisherman, “they put some big’uns in there.” Indeed.

This old boy fought his rainbow trout for 10 minutes before his pal helped him bring it in (below).


This trophy three-pound rainbow went into the ice chest for dinner.

A Little Help for Eddie

Neighbors gather around Eddie, who couldn’t get up. Those grocery carts, filled with whatever he could pick up, are his.

It’s easy to forget during times when the world seems to be falling apart that there are some very good people out there and there are some terribly vulnerable people who need their help.

The homeless drunk here is Eddie, a regular on the Roanoke River Greenway near Roanoke Memorial Hospital. As one of the neighbors said, “Eddie gets a little in his cups, but he’s a good guy.” When he fell today and couldn’t get up, the neighborhood showed up to help him with kindness and a gentle hand.

Eddie was not only drunk, he seemed to have suffered serious sunburn. Help from the city’s constabulary was on the way.

It was so very nice to see this simple act from good people. I was proud to be a Roanoker.

A Day in the REAL Church

The woods are that early-spring lime green that is so appealing. That’s me and my mask.

Oh, my! Talk about a perfect Memorial Sunday and the Church of the Living Outdoors. My friend Susan and I obeyed our Holy Master in Chief and attended church this morning, though I doubt that what we did had much to do with what Trump had in mind.

We celebrate spiritual awakening on Sundays and various holidays by going into the outdoors and absorbing one of the greatest of our gifts, up close and personal. Today, we both hiked and paddled at Carvins Cove, which is close to my home and not “blessed” with big crowds.

The walk over the lower end of Tinker Mountain, followed by a paddle on the Cove, which was two feet over the dam (and we couldn’t paddle on that end of the lake for fear we’d be sucked over) were simply marvelous. It was about 80 degrees with sunshine and some clouds, and a light breeze that bordered on the sensual.

Somebody’s happy to be on the water (that’s Susan’s boat behind me).

Susan finds a comfy spot in a cove.

The little guy just under my hand was quite a surprise. He says he lives under the bridge.

Susan said, “Pose on the bridge,” so I did.

The new boat launch is …

… really …

… cool.

Susan shot this cool black and white. I look almost normal size.

This was our reward for exercising.

This pleasant young woman delivered my strawberry ice cream and Susan’s peach shake.

Now, all we had to do …

… was to figure out how to eat it.

Susan called this young vision “the Princess of the Lake.” I couldn’t agree more. Ah, to be 40 years … Nevermind.

Re-Opening Downtown in Color and B/W

This is the back of several buildings on Salem Avenue.

This would normally be a black and white shot, but the fire escape is so distinctive, I had to let it keep its color.

We know well about the best-laid plans of mice and other warm-blooded beings.

Today was my turn. The goal was to shoot some black and white atmospheric shots of downtown Roanoke on a Saturday when people were beginning to fear COVID19 less than they fear being in the house for another day.

It just didn’t work out that way. Sometimes, it’s best to let things be what they are, so I have a mixture of color photos, black and white photos and black and white/color photos.

So, if you have a preference, it’s here.

This is the back of a group of old warehouses seen from Campbell Avenue.

This is The Park, which used to be called a gap bar/night club, but is now an LGBTQ bar/night club on Salem Ave. Guess how I can tell.

Outside the Samaratin Inn, where the downtrodden go.

City Market was given a little joy with this flower vendor, one of the few people selling anything today.

People looking for something to buy. Without success.

This young woman bent like a pretzel.

Stop and look at this old bank building. (Get it? Get it?)

Fire escapes and brick are great in black and white.

Wisdom of the parking garage wall.

And more of the same. The garage is on Campbell Ave.

This building is being renovated. Can’t wait to ee what it becomes.

Try this in black and white …

… or maybe this.

What it looks like to be blown away.

I like the homemade signs in this business.

Who could resist this?

Just a door. Made of wood.

Diners are creeping back outside.

We always wonder what’s behind the green door.

This modest building houses an executive car rental company. The cars look to be worth more than the building.

An old pal of mine used to use this former church to record music. Said the acoustics were nearly perfect.

A little bright spot on a side street.

The old Jefferson High School (now the Jefferson Center) is always stately, especially with its red doors.

This is the gabled roof of a downtown home.

It used to be Aesy’s Confectionery, but it didn’t have candy. So it changed its name to Aesy’s Restaurant.

This row of buildings on Campbell Avenue deserves every bit of its color.


Mama’s Girl Conquers the Playground

After scrambling on the playground set, Trinity gets a high five (low five for Lindsay).

Yes, the hair is RED!

Just spent a little playtime with my buddy, Trinity, and her mama, who is also my buddy.

Trin, like her mom, is growing into quite the athlete. Lindsay was a national-class gymnast when she was a teenager and I suspect Triny will be whatever the hell she wants to be.

You should have seen her clamoring the equipment at the playground. She’s like a spider. A red-headed spider with a great face.

Oh, and Trin calls me “Pampa.”

How the hell do you spell “precocious”?

Two beauties: Like mama, like daughter.

“Piece of cake, Mom!”


“I know, Mom, but I want to go this way. It’s harder.”

A Look at a Flooded City

This is the bridge between Wasena Park and Vic Thomas Park.

The flooded Roanoke River from the Wasena Bridge.

I simply could not resist jumping into Daisy (my VW Bug) a little while ago and taking a trip around Roanoke to see just how serious the flooding is. The only indication I had beforehand was the water in my flood-prone basement. There was a good bit.

But it wasn’t anywhere near the levels near the Roanoke River and various streams in the Roanoke Valley where flooding was the norm. Most dramatically, I think, was the water around Roanoke Memorial Hospital. It looked eerily similar to the Flood of 1985, when the hospital was inundated. When I was at RMH, the water had not made it to the lobby, but it was close and the rain was coming down hard.

Downtown Roanoke, which was badly hit during ’85 had no flooding that I saw, including intersections that used to be prone to overfill from the drains. It appears to me that all the flood work that has been done in the past 35 years is having some very real rewards in this flood.

Here are some photos I took, including one from the Mill Mountain Star. You couldn’t exactly call it a “view.”

Downtown Roanoke was wet, but not flooded.

Children normally play here in Wasena Park. Not today.

Roanoke River in Wasena Park. The river actually runs to the right and the left is the flood reduction cut.

Parking lot near the Wasena playground.

Vic Thomas Park bridge is at the right, partially underwater.

My buddy Marj Easterling’s Big Lick Screen Printing, near the river, is being flooded again, I’m afraid.

The river is lapping at the front door of Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

Roanoke Memorial and its river.

The lower middle part of this photo shows the Roanoke River Greenway underwater. The structure in the center is the top of a swing.

This is the “view” from Mill Mountain, overlooking downtown Roanoke.

Electrical workers restore power near Franklin Road.


How Lazy Is Lazy?

Robert and his string of rainbow trout from the Roanoke River today.

Sometimes the failings of the human species simply astonishes me. I ran into my new buddy Robert this morning as he finished running up his daily limit total and abandoned his fishing hole in the Roanoke River. Robert, a supervisor at Yokohama Tire in Salem, was fishing at Smith Park on Wiley Drive about a quarter to half a mile from where he parked. Parking lots along the greenway are closed right now.

He explained his catch. “I’ve talked to some guys I know who won’t fish here because they say they have to walk too far,” he said, grinning. “These fish were stocked here two weeks ago, but not many people were willing to walk to catch them.”


Robert’s been off work for eight weeks because of the virus and has been collecting unemployment and fishing. In this case, the early fisherman got the worm. (OK, yes, that was strained.)

Finally: Back on the Water, a Photo Essay

Motorized fishing boat roars by a sailboat at Carvins Cove earlier today.

This sailor didn’t seem to have a lot of energy.

The chill more than the virus has kept me and my boats off the lakes and rivers of Western Virginia this spring, but not this weekend. I was out yesterday and today, paddling to beat the cabin fever.

I wasn’t the only one with the idea today at Carvins Cove where the crowd was building quickly by late morning (I went early) and yesterday my friend Susan and I had Tinker Creek emptying into the Roanoke River pretty much to ourselves.

Today I saw a lot of floating craft, mostly people fishing from various boats, but there was one sailboat, sailed by a guy who looked thoroughly hung over, but also pretty relaxed.

Here’s what it looked like.

Susan on the Roanoke River.

Pampa the paddle boy.

I rescued this ball from Tinker Creek. Made a good hat.

These turtles were taking a long-awaited sun bath.

Lots of pollen in the river.

Sunset on the Roanoke River.

I stopped for a breather (and a pee) on the Carvins Cove island.

These women used paddleboards to get around the cove. They have my admiration.





A First-Time Walk Through Garden City

Garden City Greenway views are pretty much like this.

The old American Viscose Plant (Roanoke Industrial Park now) is visible from the trail.

The Garden City section of Roanoke is just far enough out of the way that many of us almost never go there and when we do, we’re simply driving through, paying little attention. I walked its greenway–little more than a wide sidewalk through the neighborhood–today and came away with an entirely different image of the little community.

The first thing to know is that Garden City is bracketed by Roanoke Mountain and Mill Mountain, one at each end.

The “greenway” is hardly that, but it doesn’t matter. It is a leisurely walk-through giving the walker an opportunity to take a close look at what I came away liking: a blue collar neighborhood with neat, manicured homes, enough local businesses to make GC convenient, and a real clarity of who they are. I like it.

Here’s a little bit of Garden City through the lens of a visitor.

The trail is briefly woodsy, but only briefly.

The “greenway” is at least plenty wide.

Some houses–like this one–captured my fancy.

Just guessing here, but the big tree on the front lawn fell a long time ago and has served as a sculpture since.

I got the distinct impression a witch lives here. Plenty of signs and a magazine on the front porch titled “Good Witch.” Could be a fun neighbor.