Dave Collings in Locomotive Breath by Dave
About the Blue Ridge Grotto
The Blue Ridge
Grotto is a social grotto, with politics taking a back seat to good trips,
friendship, and good caving. We have monthly caving trips geared from the
beginner to advanced project trips. We are not a large group, about 65 members,
but we do have members from all over the state and the country. We are very
active in the region (VAR) and the NSS.
Most of the BRG Cave
trips are for sport, although we do have members that are into project caving –
work in surveying, exploration, photography, videography, cartography, science,
and others. We have members involved in WVACS, VSS, VAR, WVCC, CCV, and a
number of other 3 and 4 letter acronyms. So, whatever your interests are, there
is a place for you in the Blue Ridge Grotto.
History of the Blue Ridge
(From the BRG
The first meeting of the
Blue Ridge Grotto was called to order by Albert W. Stewart, NSS 9695 at the
Electrical Engineering Department of the Virginia Western Community College on
December 12, 1969. In attendance were 15
to 20 people who voted the following persons into office unanimously:
Chairman: Gary Gray - NSS 8415
Chair: Joseph H. Fagan - NSS 10666
Sec./Treas: Thomas G.
Speers - NSS 10999.
Dues of $1.50 a year were
also voted on and passed.
The program for the
evening was a slide show of local cavers, Virginia Region Activities, and a
recent NSS Convention by John Tichenor NSS 5670. This was followed up with a showing of
Paxton's Cave, the next day's grotto trip by Albert W. Stewart.
The meeting was adjourned
to a party at the home of Marie and Gary Gray.
Blue Ridge Grotto applied
for NSS Internal Organization Status on January 10, 1970. The application was
approved March 24, 1970, Bill Mixon welcomed BRG as an official internal
organization of the NSS, and we became the Blue Ridge Grotto of the NSS, G-180.
More History (lots of details)
By Mary Sue
(And Thanks to Evelyn Bradshaw for
finding all the historical stuff for me!)
(This was a report of the first BRG meeting, author unknown)
January 10, 1970
History of the Blue Ridge Grotto
The first meeting of the Blue Ridge
Grotto was called to order by Albert W. Stewart NSS 9695 at the Electrical
Engineering Department of the Virginia Western Community College on December
12, 1969. In attendance were 15 to 20
people who voted the following persons into office unanimously Chairman Gary
Gray 8415, Vice Chairman Joseph H. Fagan 10666, and Sec./Treas.
Thomas G. Speers 10999. Dues of 1.50 a
year were also voted on and passed.
The program for the evening was a
slide show of Local Cavers, Virginia Region Activities, and a recent NSS
Convention by John Tichenor 5670. This as followed up with a showing of Paxton’s Cave the next
day’s Grotto Cave Trip by Albert W. Stewart.
The meeting was adjourned to a party
at the home of Marie and Gary Gray.
The Charter Members of the Blue Ridge Grotto were:
Colin “Troll # 2”Ballard NSS 10633
Robert D. Barlow NSS 9401
Joseph H. Fagan NSS 10666
Joseph F. “Joey” Fagan NSS 11133
Susan R. Fagan NSS 11132
Jerry Lee Fink NSS applied for
Gary “Grasshopper” Gray NSS 8415
Marie F. Gray NSS 11821
Gordon S. Hamilton NSS 8049
Thomas D. Hale NSS applied for (12024)
Robert B. Journell NSS 10558
Don Laffoon NSS 10177
Tomas W. Lamons NSS 6007
Elizabeth N. “Betty” Lamons NSS 6705
John L. Sessoms NSS 11783
Margaret R. Smith NSS applied for
Thomas G. Speers NSS 10999
Albert W. Stewart NSS 8695
John Tichenor NSS 5670
David Warrington NSS 11699
Don Laffoon signed as a charter member on Dec. 12, 1969, but was not present at the January
10, 1970 meeting.
John L. Sessoms,
Thomas and Elizabeth Lamons failed to sign both
copies of the NSS Application for IO Status.
The Blue Ridge Grotto applied for
membership in the NSS on January 10, 1970, and was approved as a chapter of the
National Speleological Society, number G-180, on March 24, 1970.
Bill Mixon sent the following letter.
24 March 1970
I welcome the Blue Ridge Grotto as an
official internal organization of the NSS. Enclosed is your charter and one copy of your
I am sending separately back issues
of the Internal Organization Newsletter and the pages so far available of the
new Internal Organizations Manual. Also
in that envelope are forms for the 1969 annual report. Please fill out as much as it is appropriate
for a new group and return to me. This
must be done to obtain votes at the Congress of Grottos and your complimentary
copies of the News and Bulletin.
(Sadly, the copy of the NSS Charter
has been lost. If anyone knows of its
whereabouts, please let Al Stewart or Mary Sue Socky know.)
Elections for new officers for BRG were held at the December
1970 meeting with the result:
Joey Fagan Chairman
Bob Barlow Vice-chairman
John Sessoms Secretary-Treasurer.
By January 1971, BRG had 33 members:
22 Regular members, and 10 Associate members.
The Blue Ridge Grotto’s “CARBIDE
DUMP” was first published in March, 1970. The co-editors of the Carbide Dump were David Warrington and Joey
Fagan. The Carbide Dump was a quarterly
By October 1974 The Carbide Dump
(still a quarterly publication) had Dave Wickersham as the new editor. Dave published a nice booklet, and served as
editor for issues 0 – 12 (through October 1977).
October 1974. Around this time BRG
also acquired a large filing cabinet. Carol Wickersham, the grotto librarian, requested that anyone having
materials belonging to the grotto to please turn them in so they may be placed
on file for future reference.
By January 1976, BRG had 28 members: John Balascio, Barb Balascio,
Tom Beaman, Andy DeLeo, Joey Fagan, Joe Fagan, Sue
Fagan, Barry Ferguson, Lynn Ferguson, Jerry Fink, Jim Dawson, Charles Maus,
Janet Queisser, Gary Gray, Tom Hale, Gordon Hamilton,
Rudy Jennings, Ben Johnson, Charlie Karpowich, Dot
Lancaster, Leonard Rowe, Al Stewart, Bill Tanger, John Tichenor, Tommy Webb,
Dave Wickersham, Carol Wickersham, Steve Winfrey. Other local cavers: John Robinson, Ron
Salmons, Norm Soskel, Terry Verduin.
Even then, there were closed caves,
closed cave lists, cave owners fed up with inconsiderate trespassers, LOTS of
environment and ecology issues, and boycotts of commercial caverns selling
speleothems. Gating sacrificial caves vs. monitoring them and using a register
to contact and educate “casual pseudo cavers” was another speleo-theme. Two “hot topics” in the old DUMPS were
controversy over a “Super Rack” and the discovery and impending destruction of
Holy Terror Cave.
On May 16, 1976, Dave Wickersham and
Bill Tanger sponsored the 1st Annual Blue Ridge Grotto Cave Rally. The event was held at Glenvar Railroad Cave, Roanoke Co., VA. (Glenvar Railroad has often been called “the
ugliest cave in Roanoke County”; this was one of the reasons for its selection
as a cave rally site.) The cave rally involved timing how long each caver took to go
through the cave, visiting 13 checkpoints while carrying a raw egg. The egg had to be marked with a different
colored marker at each checkpoint. If an
egg was broken the contestant was allowed to return to the start and get a new
egg because a broken egg meant disqualification at the finish. When he started again, however, his time kept
right on going from his original starting time. Dave Wickersham reported that “Everyone
finished the rally panting and dripping with sweat. Several threatened to smash their eggs on
Bill and I. Lucky for us that a broken egg meant disqualification”. Results: Dave & Lucy Jamison won with 121 points, and Tom Beaman was
disqualified since he was so familiar with the cave, although he did have the
best point total.
Many vertical caves were visited by
BRG, and Dave Wickersham headed up the ROCKS project to map all the caves in
Roanoke Co. What kind of pack to use, what type of camera worked best in a
cave, and cave rescue call-down lists were other hot topics. Even decades ago
BRG members volunteered to be a part of CRCN and NCRC (cave rescue
Tom Beaman took over as editor of the
Carbide Dump for issue 13-16 (combined), published in October 1978.
The Carbide Dump, October 1979,
combined issue 18-20, saw Jim Richards as the new editor. Jim continued as editor for issue 21 and
issue 22, which appeared August 1980. The Carbide Dump went into hibernation after this issue.
1979: BRG listed the following grotto officers:
Dave Wickersham: Chairman
Terry Verduin: Vice Chair
Al Stewart: Secretary/Treasurer.
1980 BRG officers were:
Jim Richards: Chairman
Bill Tanger: Vice
Al Stewart: Secretary/Treasurer
BRG had grown in ten years, having 40
members on its rolls.
BRG, like most grottos, had favorite
caves and often made trips to them. Here
is a partial list of the caves (from trip reports):
Roanoke Co.: Glenvar Railroad, Millers Cove, McNeils (gating) Eakins,
Goodwins, Blankenship Cave, Garrison’s Cave, Bear
Hole, Dixie Annex, Poor Mountain Cave, Shepard’s Cave, Anchor Grill, Highland
Park, Bum’s and Wasena Park Caves, D.E. Custer, Newman’s Cave, Vass Cave. Walrond Cave,
Allegheny Co.: Paxton’s
Cave, Warm River Cave,
Bath Co.: Breathing
Cave, Crossroads Cave, Porters Cave, Withero’s Cave,
Bland Co.: Newberry-Banes, Buddy Penleys Cave, Repass Saltpeter Cave.
Botetourt Co.: Bug Chaw Pit, Eagle Rock Quarry Cave, Henderson’s I & II Caves, Holy Terror
Cave, Perry Saltpeter Cave.
Craig Co.: New Castle Murder Hole, Rat-Coon Cave,
Shires’ Saltpeter Cave,
Giles Co.: Clover
Hollow Cave, Giant Caverns, Links Cave, Maybrook Sinkhole, New River Cave,
Pig Hole, Smith Pit, Tawney’s Cave, Smokehole,
Aunt Nellie’s Hole, Mile One Twenty Three Cave, Old Mill Cave
Rockbridge Co.: Zimmermans Cave.
3-D Maze Cave, Lyle’s Pit, Mad Steer Cave.
Cave, I-81 Cave,
Bone-Norman Cave, Culverson Creek/Wildcat Cave, The Hole, McClung's Cave, Windy Mouth Cave.
Crossroads/Rimstone, Crowder’s Fletcher’s, Greenville Saltpeter, Haynes, Indian
Draft, Mott Hole, Organ Cave, Pattons, Piercy’s Mill, Rehobeth Church, Union Cave, Acme # 5 Cave,
Mystic (Luke Raine’s ) Cave, Nutt Cave, Schoolhouse
Cave, Sinnett-Thorn Mountain, Smoke Hole Cave, Trout
Cass Cave, Friars Hole, Steam Cave, Carpenter Swago,
Roadside Pit, Tub Cave.
Members of the Blue Ridge Grotto also
kept in touch through a short monthly newspaper called the BLUE RIDGE GROTTO
NEWS. Some are still on file. The 1983 (vol. 11) were edited by Linda Vest
and Keith Goggin.
By February 1984 there was enough
interest to start up a new Carbide Dump. Keith Goggin was editor.
The officers for 1984 were:
Keith Goggin President
Dave Socky Vice
Bob Alderson Secretary/Treasurer
There were 52 BRG members by February
1985: The BRG officers were:
Randy Winoker President
David Socky Vice President
Bob Alderson Secretary/Treasurer
Al Stewart became
Dave Socky reincarnated the Carbide
Dump, beginning with the Jan. 1985, Vol. 20 # 1 issue. Dave, with co-editor Mary Sue published the
Carbide Dump 11 times a year.
Dave Wickersham took over the Roanoke County Cve Survey in the
hopes it would be compelted by the end of the decade,
and a book on the Caves of Roanoke Co. would be published.
A classy, royal blue T-shirt with the
new BRG logo was designed by Chris Amundson (Alderson).
1986 BRG Officers were:
Bob Aldeson Chairman
Linda Vest Vice
Al Stewart Secretary/Treasurer
BRG Dues were $5.00 per member