Column – A bigger and better Suffolk

Published 4:41 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

1972 saw a continuation of the Vietnam War, despite multiple attempts at peace talks. In March, the U.S. command said it was sending home 4,940 American servicemen — the second-largest troop withdrawal since de-escalation of the Vietnam War began in 1969. Simultaneously, officers ordered B-52s on 13 bombing runs in the northern section of the country, marking the highest point in air attacks against suspected Communist positions in more than two weeks. On the ground, one American soldier was killed and eight wounded in skirmishes near Saigon. Two South Vietnamese were killed and seven wounded, and Communist casualties were listed at 44 killed in the 24-hour period.

Violence wasn’t limited to Vietnam, however. In August, the Federal Aviation Administration, declaring an emergency exists, ordered airlines to search any passenger who fit the “profile” of a hijacker. The FAA also began placing metal detecting devices at air terminal gates. The order followed the year’s 28th hijacking. FAA Administrator John Shaffer said airlines would be required to prevent from boarding a plane any ticket holder who fits the FAA’s “security profile” unless he submits himself and his luggage to a search. FAA officials refused to disclose what constitutes the profile, but a spokesman said, “We don’t rely on the fact that someone thinks a guy looks sneaky.” 

The world took notice of the rising conflicts in September at the 1972 Olympics. A front-page story detailed the violence while also announcing that the games would go on. “The 18 ½ hours of terror began at 4:30 a.m. when seven members of the extremist Black September Movement, their guns blazing, burst into the apartment complex of the Israeli team in Olympic Village, fatally wounding two members of the Israeli squad. It ended at Fuerstenfeldbruck Air Base, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization installation 28 miles from Munich, just before midnight, when a carefully laid ambush by German forces exploded into a bloody shambles. Although four of the guerrillas and a Munich policeman died in the shooting, one of the terrorists exploded a hand grenade inside a helicopter that had brought them and their hostages from the village. The explosion killed all nine Israelis.”

Email newsletter signup

The world seemed to be moving faster and, according to a story in June, it had in fact moved too fast. “Time will stand still for one second at midnight, June 30. The pause is necessary to bring radio signals from the Royal Greenwich Observatory, which are used to set clocks all over the world, back to true Greenwich Mean Time GMT. By the end of June the signals would be almost a second faster than true GMT, which is measured by the position of the sun relative to the Greenwich Observatory.”

Locally, big things were happening. Nansemond became a city on July 1, 1972. It  included the areas of Holland and Whaleyville in the new city.

In November of the same year, voters in both Suffolk and Nansemond voted to merge into a new city of Suffolk to come into being Jan. 1, 1974. In Suffolk, more than 86% of all voters approved the merger plan, while in Nansemond, the percentage of approval was 72%. Only one precinct in either city, Ebenezer, voted against it. 

Former Gov. Mills B. Godwin hailed the merger vote as “the right decision.” “Now,” said Godwin, “we can unite to build a bigger and better Suffolk.”

Bigger and better was in the works. A seven-store shopping mall in the center of downtown Suffolk was rapidly nearing completion. The first shop, a woman’s accessory establishment, opened in September. The mall was expected to benefit from pedestrian traffic taking a shortcut to and from other downtown shops. 

Just west of downtown Suffolk, Ramada Inn, a “102-room luxury motel,” was expected to open in the spring of 1973.  

Earlier in the year, Virginia Tourism took issue with a song called “Virginia is for Lovers.” Travel service commissioner Marshall E. Murdaugh asked the Attorney General if there was some way the song could be kept off the market, or at least its name changed. The title, of course, is also the Old Dominion’s official tourist slogan. 

The slogan was intended by its authors to convey to tourists the message that Virginia is for lovers — lovers of history, beaches, mountains, and of other things related to the Old Dominion. Jim Richard and Bobby Abshire of Roanoke, the promoter and writer-singer, respectively, of “Virginia is for Lovers,” however, expressed a different idea. According to the story, “the tune includes such priceless information as the availability of “moonshine to please you, whether day or night,” and “We’ve got a history of the Civil War that will warp your brain.”