1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


Vanishing Americana
Herman King 12-09

There really was a time when folks sat around a pot-bellied stove in rural country stores (yes, I know rural and country is a redundancy but it reinforces the image). The last time I experienced one was not in West Virginia but in Mathews County. I moved from my beloved mountains to Hampton Roads in 1962. I forget the year, but I was working at WGH and dating this girl whose family had a waterside home in Mathews. We were returning to Newport News when suddenly I  was thirsty...for a cold beer. I stopped at a small store (I believe it was in the Cardinal area) and went inside. Land alive, for an instant I thought I was back in the hills. People were sitting around a pot-bellied stove (it was kind of chilly) and the atmosphere was folksy and friendly). One of the men stared at me. I was wearing a Nehru jacket (trendy at the time) and a white turtleneck shirt (I liked them because they could be worn either for work or in lieu of a tie, which I have always hated...perhaps because I was hanged in a previous incarnation). The man exclaimed: "You must be from Newport News!" as if I resided in Manhattan or perhaps Mars. 

I admitted being from Newport News and said something to the effect that a cold beer in Mathews tasted as well as one in Newport News.  My attempt at diplomacy went over well. The man beamed and his "You're welcome here anytime!" was, I am sure, sincere. I enjoyed the beer and chatted for a few minutes. Had this little incident been a Hollywood film, the man would have been a thug and would have ridiculed my attire, inviting fisticuffs. Thank Goodness it was not Hollywood so I left unscathed and lived to drink another beer, though if memory serves not in Mathews. I wonder if that quaint little store still exists. I hope so. It was a quintessential part of an earlier Americana which is disappearing.  And not always replaced with something better. I hope Mathews will never become "sophisticated" or politically correct. We need those cul-de-sacs of sanity mid the stormy and turbulent seas of multiculturalism. In Mathews they still say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays."  Hurrah for Mathews County.