1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


The Meaning of “A Good Days Work”
John McCurdy 2006

Our grandson ‘Cully” works for the West Virginia Parks and Recreation, and several months ago he attended a Conference near Roanoke, Virginia. While there the group had a day trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cully was happy to be in the vehicle of a colleague from Virginia who he had known for some 10-12 years. It was a seldom-offered opportunity for them to catch up with each other’s careers and family and to swap experiences and stories and lies. The maintenance of the park, the ecological problems of the impact of hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly were among the subjects of their day of being together.

They discussed how difficult the construction of the parkway must have been back in the thirties, with little in the way of modern machinery and with a virtually untrained work force of local men. That is why the Parkway was built, you know, to provide jobs to the men of the area who were caught up in the depths of the Great Depression. The work was accomplished be men using picks and shovels and drilling holes with hand tools in the rock for dynamite. It was truly a great feat and a source of pride to those men, as well it should have been. The Blue Ridge Parkway and the Skyline Drive have more yearly visitors than any other National Park. Every week or so some older man, with grandchildren in tow, will greet a Ranger with the proud words, “ I helped build this road!” The Rangers note carefully the man’s name and where and when he says he worked.

Cully’s friend Bill told the group in his vehicle that in the spring he had been on road patrol and had come upon a pick-up truck parked near a point where the rock-wall beside the road had deteriorated and started falling away. No one was at the truck but he could hear someone down over the side of the road, on looking he discovered two elderly men lifting and raising, a foot at a time, up the hill; the rocks that had fallen from the wall. When he asked the men what they were doing and why, they replied, “we laid this wall in 1938 and it should have lasted longer. We’re going to do it right this time”. Knowing that he was witness to a remarkable event, Bill talked with the fellows a while, until he knew he had worn his welcome out and he was keeping the men from their job. He left.

Now there are no provisions made for that kind of a happening in the minds and the regulations of the Federal Government. Without Health Insurance, overtime pay, OSHA, EEO, and all the many safety measures that are in place to save us from ourselves. Bill was a remarkable young man and he knew he was experiencing something special. He also had a remarkable man for a boss.

When he reported that evening his wise superior said, “I like a fellow that guarantees his work“. “We’ll just sleep on the problem and I’ll tell you in the morning what we’ll do.

The next morning his boss said, “We won’t do anything about it, if fact we won’t know anything about it, now you keep an eye out for those fellers, and if you see they need anything see it shows up overnight! If it means that much to those old gentlemen damned if I’ll tell them they can’t do it“. With the exception of the “Slow! Men at Work” signs placed at each end of the job, no recognition was made of the men’s long summer of work.

It was as if they did not exist, except for the friendly waves from passing vehicles and the sand and cement and water that mysteriously appeared overnight. Finally the job was complete and the old men left the mountain as they had came, without a work to anyone.

Over the winter months at the urging of the Chief Ranger a Bronze Plaque was purchased with private funds and placed, with the appropriate governmental permission, in the wall. The inscription read:

“This Stone Work was done by

Willis McGahey and Thomas Fitzgerald

Master Stone Masons


I936 until 2005"

The following summer in a quiet ceremony the plaque was dedicated, Mr. Fitzgerald had passed away in the spring. But Mr. McGahey was there and said, “you fellers weren’t fooling anyone, we knowed you were keeping a close eye on us, Tom told me, “ guess they think we was gonna steal a rock or two.”