Dr. Errett Callahan

In September 1971, Errett Callahan examined a piece of stone ahead of an experimental archaeology class that he was teaching in the Evening College of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. The course challenged students to use crude implements or primitive tools to learn how to build shelter and make rope, fire, pottery and weaving like early humans. Callahan was a graduate student in VCU’s art department.

Transit system needs

more public commitment

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

The headline on Wednesday’s RTD’s story, “Once ranked among worst transit systems, GRTC rides wave of success with Pulse,” is tragically misleading.

What’s been wrong is not how the Greater Richmond Transit Co. has performed, but how little it was allowed to do. Until 12 months ago, GRTC’s routes hadn’t changed since Richmond had streetcars. They were complicated and infrequent. GRTC was unknown to most of the public. The counties stopped its routes at the city line. It served no more than 25% of the metro city’s jobs.

But the company was good. GRTC is ranked at the top of its field nationally. The personnel are excellent. The equipment is well-kept.

The problem was with public commitment to a dynamic public transit system.

That’s what was worse than 95% of the nation’s cities, and most of that was due to the impasse between the city and surrounding counties. What was “worst” was our vision of public transit. But the company, left to operate in a corner, was run very well.

The great news today is that Richmond has committed itself to a dynamic, extensive and effective public transit system for all. The counties are joining in, some more quickly than others. Virginia Commonwealth University is on board. There is momentum. If the quality of GRTC’s operation had not been a solid foundation, this explosive change could never have happened in 12 months.

In the next few years, the system easily can be extended along the major routes in Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties, and from Ashland to Petersburg — if we insist on it. Then instead of being 95th in access to jobs, education and housing, we’ll be among the nation’s top 10 cities.

Benjamin P. Campbell,

Vice-chairman, GRTC Board of Directors.Richmond.

Callahan’s courses

left indelible memories

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

I thank you for your May 8 “From the Archives” photo featuring Dr. Errett Callahan making stone tools for his Experimental Archaeology class at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1971. Two years later I would be enrolled in his courses — which were but a few being taught anywhere in the world. His attempt to re-create actual lithic conditions and analyze the tools and waste data gathered was a wide-open field of archeology, and we students contributed through our projects to the research. We dug clay for pots, fired them and cooked in them, made stone tools for chopping trees for shelter or skinning a deer out, built shelters at Maymont and James River Park, slept in caves on the back of Old Rag, eating a diet of squirrel, Jerusalem artichokes, lichens and dried pemmican (probably not sanctioned by the authorities at VCU or the park). Later, Callahan would take his classes to Catholic University and teach seminars in Denmark, while establishing himself as one of the best stone workers in the world. His beautifully done pieces are highly collectible. Of all the classes I took at VCU, Dr. Callahan’s classes remain indelible. In this crazy digital world, I sometimes pause to heft one of the axes I made and remember the hours it took to manufacture. Unfortunately, he passed away on May 29 in Lynchburg. I hope he saw the photo I sent him, and I wonder how many ex-students look back fondly on our foraging days at VCU under Callahan’s pioneering tutelage.

Michael Jones.

Richmond.

Sanders’ call for ‘rights’

could lead republic astray

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

In George Will’s op-ed column, “Bernie Sanders is FDR’s unimaginative echo,” Will writes that Sanders considers human rights to be a decent job, quality health care, complete education, affordable housing, a clean environment and a secure retirement. Sounds great except for these two troubling questions: Where do these rights come from and who is responsible to fulfill these rights? Of course, Sanders believes it is the obligation of the federal government, i.e., you and me. Does every human right originate with the federal government? If so, then we would sacrifice our freedom to have these rights and give up our hard-earned wages through scathing taxes. In that case, the government would own us and the fruits of our labor, which hints at communism or an unprosperous and uninspiring system.

This same plan has been tried by socialist, communist and dictatorial regimes throughout history, only to miserably fail every time. Having lived in two communist countries, I can say firsthand that workers in a socialist/communist system lose all motivation for working because they realize getting ahead is no longer possible, which triggers low-quality work and a lower gross domestic product, not to speak of the incredible theft of “government” property that goes on every day.

Socialism or communism, whatever you want to call it, always requires an elite dictatorial class that strips the workers of their rights, confiscates their labor and depresses every economy where it has ever been tried.

Rights come from God, who is constant, not from governments that can change at the drop of a hat.

Let us stick to the tried and true economic system that has made the U.S. the envy of the world and not go off the deep end never to see prosperity and freedom exist again in our republic.

John McGeorge.

North Chesterfield.

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