1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



  "The Meaning of “A Good Days Work” 
John McCurdy, ‘06

Our grandson ‘Cully” works for the West Virginia Parks and Recreation, 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 others 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 labor. 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 mans name and where and when he says he worked. 

Cullys 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 witnessing 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.   

Over the winter months at the urging of the Chief Ranger a Bronze Plaque was purchased and placed in the wall. The inscription read: 


     “This Stone Work was done by    

    Willis McGahey and Thomas Fitzerald 

   Master Stone Masons 


The next summer in a quiet ceremony it was dedicated, Mr. Fitzgerald had passed away in the spring.  But  Mr. McGahey was there and said, “you fellers weren’t fooling anyone, we knew you were keeping close tabs on us, Tom said, ‘guess you thought we was gonna steal a rock or two,   Heh heh‘!

 Old Tom, Danny and Me

John McCurdy ‘05


There was not a lot to do the summer of 1945, it was the doldrums. The crops had been harvested or were not ready, and it was difficult for parents to find any work that would occupy their kids and keep them out of the mischief that every parent knew was just below the surface in the minds of their young folks , that’s  just the way the world works! 

At Fitzpatrick’s store during the week, my pal Danny had asked me if I knew how to “work on a tom-cat”? Naturally, I told him I did, even if  I had no idea , although I knew what he was talking about. He then explained that his old pet tom-cat was roaming the neighborhood at night and returning when-ever, covered with blood and cuts and other injuries. Danny was afraid that on one of Tom’s nocturnal gallivants he would meet up with another tomcat or a dog that would chew him up a lot worse than he had been so far. Danny needed help.I told him I’d be over Saturday and bring an old dissecting kit that had been the property of some uncle of mine.  

Bright and early the next day, about 10:00, (it was summer, remember). I rode and pushed my bike up the road and over the hill to Danny’s house, after inspecting Danny’s pet raccoon, house and water tub sitting under a Forsythia bush in the corner of the yard, we got down to the  business that we were about. 

As is always prudent, we first made certain that neither his Dad or his Step-mom were anywhere about. Tom was fast asleep in the corn-crib, tired from his previous night’s adventures. We discussed how we would go about the operation, checked our equipment, scalpel, heavy gloves, and a bottle of turpentine and an old rubber boot. Danny managed to get Tom into the boot head first and then the fun began.                                                                

It was my job to hold Tom in the boot and allow Danny to perform the surgery. As you may or may not know,  holding an angry tom-cat in a place he does not want to be is not the easiest of jobs. Both of a fellows hands were required just to keep the boot tight and prevent Tom from escaping and several other hands were needed to keep his hind feet occupied with some-thing other than clawing anything within reach, which in this case was me! 

We were just about to give up when Danny had one of those brilliant ideas he was so well known for, although for a change, this one was a winner. The threshold of the wood-shed had been used for decades to split kindling wood, and the middle of the threshold was cut in two and the beam below was even notched out several inches. Old Danny proceeded to put the boot and Tom in the notch and then close the door, it worked, only Tom’s hind-quarters were visible. I held Old Tom’s legs and Danny made a tentative little old dinky cut and all hell broke loose. Tom, up until then had only just been playing, now he was scared and mad, someone was messing with his family jewels and he wasn’t going to let that happen. He managed to get loose and inside the wood shed, he several wild trip around the inside, squalling and generally expressing his hostility. Nosiness finally got the better of us and we made the mistake of opening the door just a crack. Tom went up me and down Danny scratching and clawing every inch on his way to the mountain. He finally after months, would allow Danny to be in the same field he was, but when I visited he always had urgent business up toward the Fire-tower!