My name is Max Nunley I am a
time traveler who spent the first 180 of my 230 years traveling
around, mostly in Greenbrier County and the surrounding counties in
the state of West Virginia. My sidekick on most of those ventures
was Joe Nicely. In the late 50s after we had gone to high school in
Alderson, West Virginia, we went out into the world, and worked for
NASA and several other outfits. Now that the statue of limitations
has run out for service in the national intelligence agencies we can
now reveal these” several other outfits” part of our 230 years on
ROCK AND ROLL AND HADICOL: In the early 1970s we went to work for
the CIA down in Uruguay in South America. The Tupamaros were a
socialist revolutionary group that was trying to overthrow the
government. Our mission was to engage the Tupamaros and turn them
into government supporters.
Joe and I could always tell when an earthquake was coming and the
magnitude by putting our ear to the ground. We also learned to
detect the presence of the Tupamaros by gauging the speed at which
tropical birds flew out of the jungle. The uppermost would start
dancing and raising hell and the birds would come zooming out of the
jungle at cruise speeds of about 30 miles an hour more or less by
Once we saw scores of tropical birds heading out of the jungle doing
about 44 miles an hour. We knew there must be a large group of
Tupamaros near the edge of the forest. We encountered the perimeter
guards for the Tupamaros. We let them capture us and take us to
their headquarters. They asked if we were CIA and we asked them, “
What is the CIA?” Then they asked, “Where are you from?” And we said
, “The state of West Virginia in America.” Well one of their
lieutenants wanted to know if we had ever seen Jerry West play
basketball and we said “No, but when we were young we listened to him
play on the radio.”
We lived with the Tupamaros for over 5 years. Over that period we
gradually turned them to the government’s side by introducing them
to rock and roll. But the real clincher was that we had unlimited
access to Hadicol and Geritol. For you young fers (aka fellers ),
Hadacol was marketed as a vitamin supplement. Its principal
attraction, however, was that it contained 12 percent alcohol
(listed on the tonic bottle's label as a "preservative"), Geritol
was introduced as an alcohol-based, iron and B vitamin tonic in
August 1950. We convinced them that these natural healers would make
them stronger. Well HADICOL and Geritol were the salvation of the
Uruguaiana people. Even today Uruguay accounts for 30% of the market
for Geritol brand products worldwide. Hadicol sadly is no longer
marketed . Some savvy Uruguayan entrepreneurs now market
“vayacondiosicol” that has the same composition and keeps the old
Tupamaros just as happy.
THE WALL MUST COME DOWN: Our next assignment was in East Germany
where we were charged with bringing down the Berlin wall. Our direct
contact was Werner. We never use Werner's last name because he still
does some work for Leon Panetta, head of the CIA. Werner was a time
traveler who became a secret agent for the Strasi, the East German
secret police. At a relatively early age Werner was sent to the
United States as a sleeper agent. He moved around from Florida to
New York and finally settled in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
where he went to work as a butler at the Greenbrier Hotel. His
mission was to keep an eye on the bunker at the Greenbrier to detect
what dignitaries visited the bunker and to determine how the Germans
could penetrate the bunker. He grew so enamored with the people of
Greenbrier County West Virginia that he eventually turned and became
a double agent for the CIA. Joe and I were the ones who turned him.
So it was like old homecoming when we met Werner in East Berlin.
We worked hard for many years to bring the wall down. On the night
when we finally completed the job and got the congratulatory calls
from President Bush and former President Reagan, we decided to go
have the best celebration we could with sauerkraut and German beer.
Werner broke down and got nostalgic. He said, "Boys you won't know
what words that I heard in America that meant the most to me."
Immediately I thought of the Declaration of Independence or the
Gettysburg address. Werner said “Does your husband / Misbehave /
Grunt and grumble / Rant and rave / Shoot the brute some /
Burma-Shave. “Finally Werner said, "Let’s have a toast to America
and to all my American friends. Like Earl Campbell said Skoal
brother.” Werner had become very American and always was a hoot.
NAM: Not all of our ventures were successful. President Kennedy sent
us over to Viet Nam to turn all the Viet Cong into supporters of the
South Vietnamese government based in Saigon. Although we spoke
perfect Vietnamese, we should have known from the start that our
disguises wouldn’t work. Actually Joe and I didn’t really have an
aptitude for languages but we were around so long and practiced so
hard that over time we became fluent in about 35 languages. Every
one of those cats could figure that we weren’t really Vietnamese.
You see we would wear those little black pajamas like they all wore.
The problem was that we were both well over 200 pounds and the
little black pajamas turned into big black pajamas.
In basketball there is the saying of “playing big ” which means with
conviction and aggressiveness a smaller player can out rebound a
taller and bigger opponent. In Viet Nam we had to learn to “play
small”. But no matter how much we tried to shrink within our
pajamas, no matter how much we bowed, smiled and said thank you and
no matter how many bowls of rice we would eat the Vietnamese always
figured it out. They would share a knowing wink which meant “those
boys ain’t from around here”. I ate so many bowls of rice over there
that to this day if you offered me raw fish or rice; I would take
the raw fish. Pretty early on we figured that this Viet Nam caper
was not going to work out. Finally President Johnson agreed to
reassign us to where we would be more successful.
One lasting good thing did come out of this period in our lives. We
started a discotheque on the outskirts of Saigon that is still in
operation today. We started it up with the objective of increasing
the camaraderie between the American and south Vietnamese soldiers.
It still bring tears to my eyes when I recall hardened South
Vietnamese soldiers belting out Conway Twitty and the AHS fight song
at the top of their lungs.
IVORY TOWER: After all of the excitement in Uruguay. Germany and
Viet nam we needed a calmer slower paced gig. We went to Boston
Massachusetts with out a job. One Sunday we saw openings for two
jobs in the classifieds that seemed promising, a day laborer and a
tenured college professor. We first went to apply for the day
laborer positions. When we discovered that these jobs weren't
permanent, we lost interest.
So we went to Harvard University and met with their President, Larry
Summers. We got to know Larry pretty well. He now works for the
President of the United States as an economic adviser. He used to
ask our opinions on major economic issues. But it is pretty clear to
us that those boys in Washington are not listening to anyone that
has any sense.
Larry said there are two kinds of tenured positions. The first you
must have a doctorate and be an accomplished scholar, teacher and
researcher in a real discipline such as mathematics or a science.
The second kind of tenure is for political agendas where no academic
discipline exists such as Serbian Studies or Appalachian Studies or
whatever Bill Ayres teaches.
Joe said, “We are from West Virginia" Larry said, "Boys you now have
tenure. You are now co chairs of the Appalachian Studies
Department.” We asked what we needed to do to seal the deal. Larry
said, "You need a birth certificate, a social security number and
need to swear eternal allegiance to the liberal elite which is all
knowing. In addition to tenure , Larry said that we would have first
amendment rights as long as we did not take moderate or conservative
political positions. This was the easiest gig that we ever had, but
finally we had to leave. In a small part we came to realize that
there was likely more clear original thinking at a confab at Ross's
Exxon in Alderson than at a Harvard faculty senate meeting. But more
to the point, Ed and I lived more than 200 years on earth and
developed so much restlessness that we had become nomads.
A BRIDGE and A SCHOOL: After we left college teaching we were in
between engagements and we decided to go back and visit Alderson
once more. The first things we went to see were the bridges and the
schools. Joe and I were the only people that I know that worked on
both of the Alderson bridges. The old bridge was so much a part of
the town and is part of many of the best pictures of Alderson. Oh I
guess I could kind of understand the new bridge because as we all
know an at grade rail crossing is pretty dangerous. And we know that
one certainly was. And the structure of the bridge just like people
deteriorates over time. The new bridge is a pretty impressive span.
There is inevitability to building” new bridges." But It is a
testimony to a lot of people's efforts that the old bridge was
saved. Progress doesn't normally save old bridges.
Joe and I on the other hand decided not to work on the new school up
at Fairlea. We never walked away from a challenge. But some how it
just didn't seem right for us to work on a new school that would
replace the Alderson High School. Again it is not really as much my
business as it is of those who have lived their all these years. But
I kind of feel strong about it because that is where I grew up. At
the extreme it was tearing the heart out of our town and so many
small towns across the country to consolidate. That word has an
onerous sound in the first place. Oh I am sure it calls up images of
efficiency, greater emphasis on college preparatory curriculums etc.
My current perception is that our schools are not doing the job for
some of the kids. There are a lot of reasons cited. But maybe, just
maybe, part of it is the disconnect between the community and the
school. I think community schools made the teachers a little more
committed to the kids. I know I had wonderful teachers like Marjorie
Craig and Mary Bess Mitchell.
FIELDS AND DREAMS: The last thing that we went to see on this trip
to Alderson was the old football field and the gym where the
basketball team played. Joe and I saw at least one high school
football game and one basketball game every season from the first
time Alderson High competed in around 1928 until the school closed
in 1967. Many seasons we saw every game. In fact we played both
football and basketball for the years 58-59, 59-60 and 60-61. The
hardest thing about being a time traveler is that when we signed up
it was with the stipulation that we could go through k-12 only once
on our time on earth. That meant that we could only play ball for
three years. Three years out of 40 seasons. It all seemed so unfair.
When we did finally play for Alderson High School it was little
dicey when we had to make up a fake birth certificate. Because we
were playing high school sports at the ripe young age of 180. But
with all the intelligence work over the years we had pretty much
mastered the fake document skills.
We were there when Coach McLaughlin coached his first game. We were
there when Huck Skaggs and Bill Simmons played against Hillsboro at
Hillsboro. We were there when Jim Rowe and HR Ayres played. As I
remember it we were there when David Shields, Delmore, Eddie Connor
and Bruiser played Green Bank in basketball. We were there during
the war, actually all of them (i.e. World War II, the Korean War and
Vietnam war) when the Indians would run out on to the field or on to
the court. We actually saw Mule Bennett the time traveler from Hinton
play against AHS. I am not sure but Tokyo Sallie may have been a
cheerleader for Hinton High. These are only a few of the games that
we saw over this period of 40 years and I am sure I left out some of
the highlights. But after 230 years it is hard to keep everything
straight in my head.
We were there when the Alderson boys split the atom. We were there
the day Jim Rowe moved to Alderson. The town was never the same
again. We were there when Rick Hughes learned to type on the
internet and The Aldersonian was never again the same. And yes we
were there in Detroit when Wire in pursuit of love gave away his
heart and his teeth. Memories can be elevating or they can be
depressing, if bad. At this point I like to remember all the good
times that Joe and I have seen and our sense that there are a lot of
wonderful people and friends that came from our little village in
PLACE MATTERS: Alderson was the world as I knew it when I grew up
and went to high school in the 50s and 60s. The horizons were
physical and defined by the mountains and the river .When I was at
the old field I thought of all the times the Alderson Indians
practiced and played on that field, and all of the fans that
watched. And long before that the American Indians that must have
hunted, played and lived on the same field.
I hear now that the kids that go to Greenbrier East High School
relate more to their classmates wherever they are from than to being
from Alderson. Now there are cell phones, texting and internet
social groups. For our generation the connection between who we are
and where we came from is stronger because of the physical
connection to the mountains, the river, and flat land, the human
connections to our families, classmates, and friends, and the
connection to houses, apartments, stores, and churches. Finally at a
spiritual level there is the connection to all the generations that
came before us and shared the same physical space, same physical
surrounding, and to varying degrees shared the same history
associated with all of that.
Oh I am sure the youngsters have their own unique experiences. But I
would put the variety and depth of experiences that Joe and I
encountered over 230 years, particularly for those years growing up
in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, up against any of them .