It doubtful anyone is as proud of the city of Manassas as its mayor Marvin L. Gillum.
Born, raised and a longtime businessman in Manassas, Gillum spun some tales about his life and the early history of the community to a meeting of the Commercial, Industrial, Land Exchange on Thursday morning at the City Tavern Grille banquet room.
“As a boy growing up, my life centered around the church and family. We never locked our doors and respected and trusted one another,” he said, adding, “we had no television and no credit cards. It was good town and is a good city now. I am proud and delighted to have spent my life here. Manassas is my joy.
“Cockes Pharmacy was the local gathering spot and the center of activities in the 1930s and 1940s and for entertainment I went to the Pitts Theatre for 10 cents and occasionally grabbed a roast beef sandwich at Smiths Bakery for 25 cents.”
Gillum remembers working after school, washing windows at Rohrs Five and Dime for 25 cents a week and said the biggest event of the year was the firemens carnival where you could get “a 5-cent bottle of pop.”
“Back then your word was bonding and a handshake a contract,” he recalls.
Gillum, a former dentist and now a stockbroker, said the town really began to change with the coming of IBM in 1969. At that time, the town had a population of about 8,000 and grew to more than 28,000 by the 1990s and to nearly 36,000 now.
“We were the fasted-growing city in Virginia from 1970 to 1990 with IBM employing 5,000, but the early 1990s saw the closing of IBM and a recession which resulted in the city government tightening our belt, but today we are a vibrant, progressive, exciting and historic city,” he told the gathering.
He listed some of the citys assets as:
Economic: 2,300 businesses, with such major firms as Lockheed Martin and Micron Technology and the Gateway Business Park for future growth.
Transportation: The completion of the Va. 234 Bypass and the elimination of the truck route through the city, plus the Virginia Railway Express that carries 12,000 passengers from Manassas and Fredericksburg into Washington, D.C., daily.
Healthcare: The Prince William Health System, which is building a new birthing center, emergency and operating rooms to keep up the demand for its services.
Manassas Regional Airport: The largest general airport in Virginia with 150,000 landings and takeoffs a year and is a tremendous asset to the city.
Public Safety: The police department is only among 2 or 3 percent of those in the country that are fully accredited.
Cultural Advantages: The Manassas Museum System, the Cramer Center, the Center for the Arts, the Prince William Symphony, Manassas Dance Company and the restoration of the Candy Factory, old courthouse and Mayfield Fort Site were cited as excellent additions to the community.
Higher Education: The Prince William Campus of George Mason University and the Freedom Aquatic Center, the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College along with a high percentage of Osbourn High School students going off to college gives the area a strong, educated work force.
He also cited the work of Historic Manassas Inc., the building of a Boys and Girls Club, the coming of Eli Lilly, new elderly housing projects, the citys great infrastructure system and the citys excellent bond rating.
Gillum said, however, that the greatest asset the city has is its volunteers whom he said “are working together to build team spirit and continue to make the city successful, by serving on committees, attending council meetings, running for office and helping others.”