1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


The Lumber in the Garage
John McCurdy 07

In 1962 after the birth of our second son, Robert, it became obvious that we needed a larger house. Reading the Hinton paper one night I saw an ad for, “Nine room house and five acres, Alderson City limits”. I immediately called the number listed. I was surprised to soon be talking to Ike Mitchell, our former principal at AHS, who was now teaching at Concord College and living in Athens.

The description of the house and the price seemed right and Ike said he’d be in Alderson the next day so we could look at the house. The house was the girlhood home of his wife, Mary Bess (Caraway) Mitchell, and she and Ike had lived there until they moved to Athens a few years before. It was a very nice two story house at the end of the street on top of the hill at the north side of town, it had four side by side lots in the city limits and an additional four acres of mostly wooded hillside that sloped down to and across Muddy Creek, it was ideal as far as we were concerned.

At eight the next morning Ike was knocking at our front door. Pearl was already familiar with the house from her baby-sitting days with the Mitchell’s son and after looking the house and the nine rooms and the large basement I was eager to own the property. We bought the house almost immediately and on very good terms.

The next month we spent painting, sanding the oak floors and getting the property ready for us to move into. In April of 1963 we took up residence in what was to be our home for the next nearly forty years.

The house had a separate two-car garage that Ike had said from the first that he would not be able to empty for ‘three to four months’ and that was agreeable. But later, after having a mower and other yard equipment sitting out in the weather, I was anxious to have the garage for storage and when Ike kept putting off moving his belongings. I finally asked him if he would give me a key so that I could, at least, get my equipment out of the weather. He agreed.

There were no electric lights in the garage, but I moved things around until I had enough room for the mower and a few other items, more time went by and Ike still had not moved his possessions, I became a little nosier and finally ran an extension cord from the house and looked around. The garage was full of antique furniture in varying states of disrepair, there were tables and chairs and corner cabinets that I lusted for. On the left side of the building, occupying a space about 16 feet in length by 6 feet wide and piled about 4 feet high, was a stack of lumber. Later inspection showed that the lumber was of different dimensions, 1 x 8’s,1 x 10 and even a few 12 inch wide boards, there were 2 x 2’s, 2 x 4”s and 2 x 6’s, all were dressed cherry or walnut boards and many of them had writing, in chalk, on them, barely legible, that said things like, “dresser drawer front, bed posts, table leaf. etc.”

I had earlier found that the shelves in a closet in the Living Room were made of cherry, as was the wainscoting in the upstairs bath, But it had been painted. The next time I saw Ike I asked him if he would give me some of the lumber to build a mantle in the living room, he refused, saying he was going to get the lumber and that he had made plans to have furniture made from it. In a week or so he made arrangements to have the contents of the garage removed, (I think after finding that I had desires for some of the lumber he felt he’d better get it out of my reach)!

He made arrangement with Frank Eary, the village drayman to take the lumber to the Mitchell farm near Renick. Frank told me that it was the fourth time that he had moved the lumber. Ike’s father-in-law Alf Caraway, who years before, had ran a planeing mill in Alderson, had, according to Frank, bought a grove of 23 cherry and walnut trees and sawn them into boards and stored them on the rafters of his mill. When Ike returned from USN duty in the Pacific after the war, he and Mary Bess had Frank take the lumber to Carl Clark, who was a fine craftsman, to make into furniture. Mr. Clark was a very independent and sometimes very cantankerous artisan who worked at his own pace. Two years after he had the lumber taken to his shop, Ike called Mr. Clark to ask how the furniture was coming, A big mistake! The next day Clark called to tell Ike that since he was in such a damn big hurry he better find someone else to do the work! He said that Ike should come get the lumber, that it was in the alley behind his shop, and that it looked like rain!

Ike, in agitation, called Mr. Eary and asked him to get the lumber and bring it up to the house and put it in the garage. Eary found the lumber was, indeed, in the alley but it was neatly stacked off the ground and had a canvas securely protecting it. Frank brought the lumber back up to the house, put it in the garage, and there it remained for the next twenty plus years. Frank made the acidic comment, “ It’s hard to tell how many more times I’ll move this stuff”!

Ike, Mary Bess, and their son Joe, are all dead now , and only some of Joes children remain to decide when the lumber will finally, if ever, be used! My guess is, that is in a barn somewhere, waiting still!