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Published December 2, 2015

Remembering The Village Subway, Saving The Stories

Around three years ago, I had no idea the Village Subway existed. Thousands of local Raleigh-ites still don’t know! Why is that? How did this powerful nexus of Raleigh music and cultural history simply vanish from one generation to the next?

No stories. No compilation of pictures, unless you dig through the State Archives. No exhibits or primary sources, nightclub posters or autographs or ticket stubs. No preserved, public history–just faded photos tucked away in a few boxes in a spattering of basements across the Triangle area– such that my generation didn’t even know it existed. It was like a shadow lost in time.

I fantasized about exploring it, this lost piece of history. I wanted to touch those walls, to know those stories.

RELATED: The Raleigh Underground: An Abandoned Mall Right Beneath Our Feet.

Since I loved Raleigh mysteries and hidden history, I wrote about it. Thousands of people responded, and suddenly the stories came alive. Cameron Village invited people for a photoshoot, backdropped by its familiar peeling walls. I met people like Debby, Butch, Sandra, Jim, Alan. This old, dusty storage basement started to see life.

Remembering The Village Subway, Saving The Stories - 1
Heather Leah, Butch Smith, Jim Skinner, Debby Boozer, Sandra Simpson, Alan Hicks, and Taylor Quinn pose in front of the iconic wall, when filming in the Village Subway. Photo by Libby Leah.

“Over there,” Debby motioned towards a dirt and dust-filled corner with a couple of pillars around it, “That was The Pier!”

“This,” added Sandra, as we strolled on, “Was Deja Vu. Right here.”

These people filled the wide, empty basement with stories. I could close my eyes and hear Arrogance, Th’Cigz, and The Knobs.

Since then, the stories have flowed in: Interviews with musicians, store owners, WQDR disc jockeys, and people who just loved the Subway. People posted photos, stories, oral histories. Some old friends even found each other again. And this big dusty basement became more real. I heard passionate stories and intense nostalgia about an era that clearly made Raleigh spectacular.

There’s no reason in the world my generation shouldn’t know about the Subway. It was a gigantic, beautiful piece of Raleigh music history and culture.

So why was there no compiled history? No collection of stories or photos? Why did my generation not even know about it? Since the spirit has come alive again, I’ve strived to save every shred of history I could and put it where anyone could find it.

RELATED: The Cameron Village Subway Music Scene of the 1970’s.

Since I began compiling interviews, pictures, stories, and primary sources so they wouldn’t be lost, I partnered with the City of Raleigh museum to start on an exhibit to honor the Subway. Likewise, a large history publisher contracted me to put together a book. Together with Chris Seward’s incredible collection — and with the additions of many other Subway regulars — we hope to preserve those memories and images forever.

Remembering The Village Subway, Saving The Stories - 2

Photo by Libby Leah.

This book should absolutely be nothing but the stories and pictures, oral histories and scans of t-shirts and old ticket stubs — a collection and compilation of everything the Subway was. Historic preservation is vital to Raleigh, and the Subway is a place that deserves to live on.

You have made the Subway come alive again. People my age and under — we had no idea it existed. Now I’ve touched those walls and heard that music and heard so many stories. Thank you.

We want to preserve as many of the stories and images as we can, so Candid Slice and the City of Raleigh Museum is holding a “Make Your Mark On History” day on January 16th. Please bring your stories, your photos, your t-shirts and ticket stubs! We’ll have people on hand to record your oral history and scan your items to put in the museum’s archives and to potentially use for the Village Subway book.

This is your story. Like Alice in Wonderland, I just feel so lucky to have tumbled into it.

Check out our event! We hope to have lots of old friends there to mingle and hang out, a little food, and play some music from the era. Most importantly, you’ll be adding your voice to the story, and preserving a history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Remembering The Village Subway, Saving The Stories - 3

Photo by Bruce Andrews.

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  • heather

    Heather

  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. My resume. All my articles.

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