I grew up in the Greenbrier County
section of the town of Alderson, West Virginia in the 1940s and 50s. Many
tales have come out of that town from that period. I would like to tell a
better version but not necessarily a more accurate version of one incident
that happened on a summer night way back when in Alderson. The other
version did not put me in a very favorable light.
I was at the Snack Shack with two of my friends Rick Hughes and Darrell
Light on a humid summer night. We all attended Alderson High School and
played ball together. Around 9 pm I indicated to the boys that I needed to
get home as it was getting late. They asked that I stay around and we
would see what we could get into. I told them no in no uncertain terms
because I had to get home in order to get up early the next morning to
deliver the Charleston Gazette, be an acolyte at the Methodist church and
help my Mom and Dad with chores around the house all day. They were not
pleased but they let me go.
I walked up Monroe Street towards Maple Avenue where I lived. I wondered
what the boys were up to but I soon focused my thoughts on all my
activities for the next day. Unbeknownst to me, the boys had decided to
stake out a life of crime. Apparently they had illegally obtained a straw
and a bottle opener with the intention of getting a free Pepsi out of the
pop machine at Elvin Keadle’ Esso Station. This facility located near the
old Alderson Bridge is now known, I believe, as Ross’ Exxon. As the boys
began to carry out their dastardly deed, one of them recognized that there
was someone inside the station.
About this time I had crossed over from Monroe Street onto Maple Avenue. I
was almost to my house when Curtis Shawver raced by in a vehicle at
breakneck speed and turned left onto Monroe Street. I realized immediately
that something was up and I began to run back towards town, running as
fast as I ever had in my life. During my senior year in high school no one
ever caught Allan Galloway from behind when he ran for his many touchdowns
for the AHS football team. On that night I believe that I ran fast enough
that I would have caught him.
When I got to the station Elvin Keadle, Curtis Shawver and two cops were
there. Rick and Darrell were being held. Both had the look of sheer terror
on their face. Curt said something to the affect, “Let this be a lesson to
you boys. A free society is dependent on obeying and upholding the law.
For this serious offense I can see you boys spending many years in jail”.
I pulled Curt off to the side and said something like I understood that
the rule of law was basic to a free society and it separates America from
liberal lawless countries such as California. But I have heard how the
hardened prisoners treat young prisoners and the families of Darrel and
Rick would be devastated by the shock and shame of having the boys
incarcerated. Curt said “I see what you are saying but somebody will have
to put up bail for these boys even before they get tried”.
I said,” Officer Shawver I will agree to work 150 community hours to pay
for their bail”. A tear came into Officer Shawver’s eyes and he said
something like, “But Alex you have to deliver the Charleston Gazette,
acolyte at the Johnson Memorial church, help your Mom and Dad with chores,
play ball and keep up with your studies. How can you do any more”? I
replied, “For my friends I will find more hours in the day”. Curt said “If
you agree to do that and keep an eye on the boys the rest of the time they
are in Alderson, I don’t see why we can’t let the boys off. But this will
be secret that we will take with us to the grave “. I agreed to Officer
Shawver’s request for secrecy.
When Curtis Shawver told the boys that they would get off, I thought Rick
Hughes was going to faint from sheer joy.
Rick Hughes and Darrel Light became wonderful contributing members of
society. But I often wonder what would have happened to them if fate had
led me to growing up, say, in Rupert. There is not a time that I pass by
the service station that I don’t remember how lucky that Darrell and Rick
were to have me as a friend and how fortunate they were that I did not get
home 10 minutes earlier when I would have most certainly missed Curtis
Shawver’s police cruiser racing down Maple Avenue.