1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


 FRW Memories Chapter 5
Martha Stewart for My Other Home Town
John McCurdy 05

The thought occurred to me that my old English teacher in Lexington High School, Miss Gertrude Morrison would be very disappointed in me if I didn’t tell you Rockbridge County folks about the thrill of having Ms. Martha in our town, well not really “in” our town, but darn close, just beyond the town limits.

I’ve been a resident of Alderson now for over 50 years, just about ever since I left Kerr’s Creek and Virginia. I married here and the Federal Bureau of Prisons has supported my family in a fairly decent manner. I still however, am proud I was born in Virginia, in Lexington and in the only house that General “Stonewall” Jackson ever owned!   

Well, when we realized that Martha was likely to be a guest in our famous vacation spot for wayward females, much of the town was a twitter, and then, when we found she was going to arriving in a few weeks, things started happening around here, you can be sure. Betty Alderson of Alderson’s Store sent off and had a bunch of Tee Shirts made that proudly proclaimed, “ALDERSON, a good place to spend time”, cute, and they sold a zillion, E-Bay and everywhere! 

Our little two women, one man Town Hall was flooded with phone calls and couldn’t get the monthly Water Bills out for answering the telephone, then Tommy Roush opened a Media Center and thereby got a lot of visitors into the Depot Museum who normally would not have visited there. A lot of strangers who looked vaguely familiar showed up on the streets, the local motel was full, the only time except during the 4th of July Homecoming that it ever happens! The three restaurants in town were assured of a profitable year with all the take-outs and both of the convenience stores in town sold a lot of gasoline and junk food! 

My wife’s Bridge Club which meets each Wednesday at the Monroe Diner, was invaded by big-city newspaper and network TV folks. Even I was approached, while I was in the garden picking pole-beans, by a columnist from the Hartford (CT) Courant. I was glad for an excuse to stop and have a glass of iced tea with him on the back porch. He promised to send me a copy of the paper, but he of course didn’t, you know how Yankee's are!  My wife was mentioned in People’s Magazine, for goodness sakes! I talked to them too, but I guess they wanted a woman’s point of view.  

While the date of Martha’s arrival was known, the exact time and method of her arrival was not, the media didn’t take any chances on her slipping in and evading them. As many as a dozen large satellite trucks were parked half-in and half-out of the ditch along the narrow country road in front of the prison going to Glen Ray.  The talking heads or  TV commentators were well dressed from the waist up but from there down they were a muddy mess! An adjacent landowner was reportedly charging, and getting,  $750.00 for an hour or a week’s parking, didn’t make any difference to him! He probably was the only person sorry to see the folks go.  News photographers with big long lens cameras were skulking everywhere just outside the prisons perimeter, taking distant shots of the buildings and grounds for background stories, probably just for something to do if the truth were known.

            Martha fooled everyone by flying into Beckley, about 50 miles away and being brought to the prison by a local security service. She did not stop for an interview. Just zipped on in to the Front entrance.

            In talking with people presently employed at the prison, it seems they don’t think it’s anything special, it’s another days work. If “Squeaky” Fromme, “Tokyo Rose, and the other infamous inmates could take it, good old Martha can also. If she can stand us, we can stand her, that seems to be the feeling around here! 

           I thought you might like some comments from a local boy who was a witness to history!