Sometimes we have a hard
time trying to understand why it is! We see children grow up, have
children of their own and even grandchildren. Yet we have trouble
accepting the fact that we are aging, too. For instance, nave you
noticed how your neighbors have aged so much faster than yourself?
When we were young we used
to have to sit and listen to the "old folks" relate events in detail
of what to us was ancient history. As we, ourselves look back--has
it been that long?--we now find a storehouse of memories, too.
As I grew up in
Alderson, W. Va. I remember most the wonderful people and events of
my home town. Yet many recollections could apply to just about
anywhere in that golden age of fifty and more years ago. So relax
for a while, let your own thoughts go back and see if you, too,
When the "younger generation"
was surely going to hell?
When the Post Office was on the ball? You could mail an order to
Montgomery Ward on the evening train Sunday and pick it up at 7:30
There was a Railway Post Office car on the train. Mrs. Pearl Scott
at the money order window? How she would tear off the stub with a
little dog-leg notch?
All day preaching and dinner on the grounds?
Greenbrier Velvet ice cream? It was the best then and has not been
F. G. Lobban's horse-drawn hearse?
When Alderson had five doctors? Beard, Mahood, Fawcett, Argabrite
How the doctors had horses to make house calls miles out in the
country and had problems getting paid?
Ramps? How the kids from up the river would eat them before coming
to school and get sent home for stinking up the room?
Bob Watkins, the gentle black man who lost his feet to a train? How
he sold Mikado pencils?
The first, second and third grades in the old building on the hill
and Haynes store across the street where we could buy penny candy
(if we had a penny)?
When passenger trains were big and sometimes needed two engines
going over the mountains? How we would go over to the station to see
who got off?
The loud exhaust echoing off the Woodson, Prince building as they
The excursion trains to Washington and Buckroe Beach? It cost $3.50
round trip. You left here Saturday night and returned some time
Monday morning. The C & 0 used every piece of old equipment they had
and trains ran for half the night.
The Gypsies who came through and camped somewhere in the area? How
they were accused of everything from petty thievery to horse
stealing and kidnapping?
The summer when skunks took over the town? Under houses, under
The tramps who went through the country? No one was afraid of them.
They slept in barns and they had secret marks for places to avoid
and where the best handouts were. It was told that one of them ate
sixteen buckwheat cakes at the Knapp's farm!
The Herod boys, Lyle, Blaker and Warren?
The Baptist parsonage was a hang-out for half the boys in town.
The weekly newspaper: "The Alderson Advertiser"? George Werkheiser
was the editor and Bernard Rowe was the "printers devil". Duncan
Johnston was the last editor.
Dr Ambrose Huffman, the dentist who went into the area homes taking
impressions and making false teeth?
The Chautauqua? They would set up a tent and provide cultural
Alf Carraway's planing mill and the whine of the machinery?
Julian Dearing's store across the street?
When the Federal Correctional Institution used to have fall fairs
and the public was invited?
The carnivals and circuses at Maple and Virginia? How we would watch
three men drive tent pegs? How good the hot dogs, hamburgers and
The Greenbrier Milling Company? When they were running the
flourbleacher it made so much static you couldn't listen to the
radio in the day time.
When Jimmy Williams made it all the way to Chicago in the Golden
When Acme Limestone would detonate 50,000 pounds of dynamite to blow
down a huge wall of stone? People came for miles to watch.
Infantile paralysis, the dreaded killer disease of children?
Marbles? How we played for keeps? Steelies that would bust up the
glass agates? And how about kimmydiddles, the little ones made of
The golf course at Pence Springs? The "clubhouse" is still there
next to the spring house.
The golf course in the dairy
field back of the Baptist Church?
The dust bowl in Oklahoma when millions of tons of soil were blown
away and carried around the world? The glorious red sunsets as a
When the Simmons's, Sharps and Willis's had dairies and delivered
milk in horse drawn wagons?
Gus Moss and Walter Rogers who delivered ice? The card you hung
outto let them know how much you wanted? And how good the chips of
ice tasted?When a seventh grader could go to summer school at the
Alderson Baptist College and skip the eighth grade?
When airplane pilots barnstormed? And one time they used that ridge
in front of the Alderson Junior College for a landing field? How the
plane couldn't stop and hit a Model "T", breaking the plate glass
windshield and cutting a baby on her mother's lap? To look at that
ridge now, you wonder if a helicopter pilot would try it!
When Ralph Nash, Noel Ellis and Ernest Godsey had airplanes,
including an autogiro, at Glenray?
Jim Tolley at the Pence
Springs airport where many of us took our first airplane ride?
When a flight of twelve Martin bombers flew over the town on the way
to the Logan County mine wars?
How the State Police would apprehend a load of moonshine as the cars
eased over at the railroad crossing? They poured the contraband down
a storm drain. It was reported that some of the frugal citizens
would hasten over the river bank to retrieve the precious liquid as
it came out.
How a coal train might stop to take on water and then, as it was
slowly gaining speed, some men would climb aboard and kick off
enough lumps to keep the home fires burning for a time?
When Alderson had no water purification system? How we carried
drinking water from the Baptist Spring or from Hamlett's pump? That
was sulphur water and the door lock required a penny.
When coal was delivered for $3.50 a ton?
When people went about whistling the popular tunes? Can you imagine
anyone whistling that stuff on the radio now?
How the tannery at Marlinton dumped poisonous waste into the river,
killing the fish and making the water unusable?
How Acme Limestone would wash out their settling basins from time to
time and how muddy the river would be?
When Ambrose Ayers was put up to run for House of Delegates against
Jim Mitchell? He campaigned riding a white mule and carrying a white
rooster under his arm. He boasted he would ride his white mule up
the capitol steps.
Nicknames? "Pike" Fletcher, "Chick" Ballard, "Tick" Reed? All
Leonards thus became "Chick" and all Glens became "Tick", too.
How "Toby" Keeney got his nickname? A travelling tent show called
The Beers Players set up on the show lot and had a comic character
named Toby with a red wig in one of the plays. And Toby Keeney was a
little red-haired boy.
"Squire" McNeer and the town band?
J. M. Alderson's
electrical sign and the debates over whether the lights really
turned? How the store burned on Thanksgiving morning in zero
The Allegheny Collegiate Institute in south Alderson and later Dr.
McClung's hospital in one of the buildings? The actresses, Dorothy
and Lillian Gish attended the school.
Percy Hullings and the "Merry Melody Makers"? Findley Russell, Buck
Shott, Courtney Pugh, Robert Hedrick, Lee Tate, Leonard Ballard and
Dodie Vaughn.. The Saturday night dances at Riverside Inn.
"0llie" Walker with one leg and crutches and his butcher shop?
Hamburger was fifteen cents a pound and steak was twenty five cents.
Gasoline engine powered Maytag washing machines?
Crosley refrigerators powered by a kerosene flame?
The wonderful old time radio programs? How everything came to a stop
for forty five minutes while we listened to Lowell Thomas, Amos and
Andy and Lum and Abner?
"Silas Green from New Orleans" and "Florida Blossoms" minstrel shows
and their parades through town. Their bands played for dances, too.
The Palestine Roller Mill? High water washed out the dam on Muddy
The old Edison phonographs with the "morning glory" horns and
When the farmers drove their sheep through town to the railroad
"High water marks"? In winter with smoky stoves and fireplaces
everything in the house might get grimy, including the kids. They
would wash their faces to go to school but a gray neck showed the
extent of the soap and water.
The Russell Theater and how Jim Russell brought us "Gone With The
Wind" before any other theater in the area? How the tickets cost
Jarret--Massey Hall on the third floor of the Alderson National Bank
Separate waiting rooms for men
and women at the railroad station? And the brass spittoons?
Swinging bridges across Muddy Creek?
"Comic" valentines? They were more crude and cruel than comic.
How some of the boys would swipe a certain chemical they called
"high life" from the chemistry lab and how every dog in town learned
to low-tail it out of there when he saw a couple of boys with evil
grins on their faces?
Before we had a liquor store, how rub alcohol at ten cents a bottle
at Townley's five and dime was a big seller? The customers had their
celebrations on an island in the river they called "Alcotrash".
Covered bridges over Muddy Creek and Mill Creek?
When livestock feed came in pretty print bags? Many women washed the
bags and made dresses and other apparel from the material.
When margarine first came around and we had to mix a little packet
of color in it? How you could hardly cut it cold but if you left it
out at room temperature you had a dish full of oil?
Connors Drug store and later Hoyes's in the Alderson National Bank
The Hoye's who lived next to the Methodist Church and their talking
parrot? How one warm Sunday they hung the parrot's cage in an open
window next to the church? How the preacher erupted in a
particularly loud shout? How the parrot responded almost as loudly,
"Ha, Ha, that was worth a quarter!" It almost broke up the meeting.
William Jennings Bryan's daughter, Ruth Bryan Owen Rohde, who
restored "The Cedars", former home of Mr. and Mrs. Alex McVey
Miller? How her Danish husband, Captain Rohde, would race his sports
car around town to the displeasure of the citizens?
When people stole clothes off clotheslines?
When the town had a curfew law? The fire alarm siren would sound at
nine o'clock and the youths were to be off the streets.The flag pole
on Keeney's Knob? Later, the fire tower with its awe-inspiring view?
"Rook" parties when
friends gathered to play "Rook"? The cards were different so "Rook"
When the river would freeze over and ice skating was the thing?
When the minimum wage was twenty five cents an hour? And many people
were glad to get work for less?
"Wings" cigarettes at ten cents a pack?
"MAIL POUCH" tobacco signs painted on barns? "Chew Mail Pouch--treat
yourself to the best." Some called it "West Virginia Coleslaw."
The Ku Klux Klan? The burning cross? The marching in their hoods and
robes? How some individuals could still be recognized by their
Real country butter, buckwheat cakes and maple syrup?
When everyone scrounged everywhere for scrap iron to sell to the
Japanese in the late thirties? And how it was returned to us?
The WPA and the structures they built that dotted the countryside?
When the Saturday Night Fights were between the Alderson boys and
the Hinton boys at "Tunnel Hill"?
When people didn't bother•to lock their doors?
Lye soap? I mean the old-fashioned way. Let spring water seep
through wood ashes in a v-shaped hopper to make the lye. Use fat
from butchering and boil in a big iron pot outdoors. When cooled the
rise to the top.
"BURMA SHAVE" signs along the highways? For example: "Don't take a
curve--at sixty per--we hate to lose--a customer--BURMA SHAVE." Or:
"Spring has sprung--the grass has riz--where last year's--careless
driver is--BURMA SHAVE."
1932 when the first Ford V8's came out?
The blacksmith shop and the ring of the hammer on the anvil?
The hitching lot back of the Methodist Church?
Pence Springs Ginger Ale?
Before the days of dial
telephones the switchboard was on the second floor of the Alderson
National Bank Building? The Vaughn girls were the operators.
How train wrecks inspired song writers to compose tributes to the
brave engineers? Two of them, George Alley and Dolly Womack, are
buried in Alderson cemeteries.
The severe drought of 1930-1931? How half the people said it was the
fault of President Hoover and the rest said it was caused by all the
radios people were using?
The Saturday serials at the movies? How the hero was surely killed
at the end of the episode but next week was alive and well?
When the slightest hint of profanity was an absolute no-no on the
radio or the movies? The shocked gasp when Rhett Butler said,
"Frankly, my dear,I don't give a damn?"
When Eleanor Roosevelt would visit the Federal Correctional
Institution and the towns-people would go over to see her get off
Long before the days of "Playboy", etc., the boys got their kicks
from the Sears, Roebuck catalog corset pages? And when catalog pages
had a final, practical use?