Eclipse Virginia — A Town Lives Up To It's Name

The Virginian-Pilot
March 3, 1970

By Lawrence Maddry

[The Virginian-Pilot reprint']

ECLIPSE, VA. —It is only four days until the sun ducks behind the moon. On Saturday nature forgets herself for nearly three minutes at midday by tossing a black veil over the sky and letting the stars shine through.

Nowhere is this event being taken more in stride than in this tiny village on the shore of Chuckatuck Creek.

About 75 families make this community their home. Wage earners drive to work in places like the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, returning each evening to white frame homes or gaily colored Cape Cods with yellow or blue shutters and flowerbeds lined with tiny pebbles.

We found a native Sunday afternoon working on the carburator of his car. He explained why there's so little concern with the sun phenomena on Saturday. "We have an eclipse right here, 365 days in the year and it is nothing to get excited about," he said. There is very little in Eclipse to get excited about. In the summer folks go crabbing and fishing or wander down to watch the tar rise in the cracks on Eclipse Avenue, the village's main street.

Mrs. Margaret Forrest, at 85 one of the village's oldest inhabitants, said she is less excited about this eclipse than the one she witnessed in 1900.

"WE LIVED IN CHUCKATUCK on a farm back then," she said. "I remember standing on the porch of our house and watching the eclipse while holding my daddy's hand," she recalled.

"When it darkened I remember how my brother, who was in the fields plowing, tied his horses to a tree and stopped to look. The sun grew dark although the sun was still shining and the stars came out as pretty as you ever saw."

"The chickens started roosting in the trees when it grew dark. The cows in the pasture began mooing and huddling together. They didn't know what to make of it. It only lasted for a few moments. But, I remember standing there holding my daddy's hand. I remember how mother walked out on the porch with a lantern, looked at the sky and then took the lantern back inside the house."

Mrs. Forrest recalled there was very little publicity about that eclipse in 1900. "A lot of the farm hands were very surprised by it and frightened. They thought it was Judgment Day."

OUTSIDERS HAVE TRIED to make capital of the village's name in connection with the solar occurrence this time. Dr. Philip S. Sigler of Arlington, Mass., proposed a rock festival dubbed Eclipse '70 for Saturday.

Sigler, a professor of American history on leave from Boston University, found the community on a map and was delighted to find that it fell within the 80-mile wide path where the phenomena will be visible.

"It would have been a natural with signs advertising 'See the Eclipse in Eclipse,' Sigler said.

He said the local Ruritan Club turned thumbs down on the project. "We are still friends. We just couldn't see eye to eye on the details," he reported.

Sigler said the Ruritans didn't want a lot of hippies staging freakouts all over town and littering their lawns with beer cans.

He said getting the terms of the contract agreeable to both sides was impossible. "In their final proposal they wanted a provision that anyone advocating the violent overthrow of the federal government or who was disrespectful to the flag would not be admitted," Sigler said.

HE CLAIMED IDENTIFYING people like that by sight was almost as difficult as finding Eclipse on the map. The community is not even listed on the official state map of the Virginia Department of Highways. It's right off U.S. 17 near Crittenden.

We talked with George Causey, the postmaster at Eclipse, about all this.

He said Eclipse will survive without a festival.

Causey, who also operates Bunkley's Store in Eclipse, said stamp collectors from across the country have planned to send him letters that can be postmarked "Eclipse" on Saturday.

He claimed the town was named either for the Eclipse in 1900 or because "business was so gloomy in this section that when folks got to looking for a name, for the place, Eclipse seemed just right."

Causey leans toward the latter view.

He said no real celebrations are planned in the community Saturday since the plans for a rock festival fell through.

"Around the store here I might break out a Pepsi or a Moon Pie around lunch" he said, "but I'd probably do that anyway."

Go to — Launching the World's First Eclipse Cruise was Not Smooth Sailing

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