1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



An Open Letter to the Loyal Readers of the “Aldersonian”

Tom Dameron July 12, 2015

The little town of Alderson is quiet on this sunny summer day in July. The citizens are relaxing after months of preparation and the execution of another noteworthy 4th of July Celebration. I think a lot of folks, as is the custom each year, in town are reflecting on the recent festivities, the visits from friends and family from near and far as well as breathing a sigh of relief that it’s over. That sigh is not a bad thing, but a good thing that the collective preparation of the town’s people and especially the 4th of July Committee was another resounding success. Many, this author included, take a look at the calendar for 2016 to get an idea what day of the week etc., the 4th will fall on next year. As a matter of fact the 4th committee will have a meeting in August to begin the long and hard work of preparing for another celebration next year.

I would like to share with the readers a few observations and some insights for those of you who follow activities in your “home town” with great interest. The subjects here will be varied, but in no particular order so if you get tired of my ramblings you may read what is of interest to you and ignore the rest.

First: I would like to talk about the work of the many volunteers who are responsible for this celebration. The 4th committee under the leadership of Greg Eary did a great job. Everything seemed to go off without a “hitch;” however we all know that behind the scenes every moment probably seemed like chaos. There is not enough time or space to mention all of the “heroes” in this endeavor, but we all know who you are and thank you from the bottom of our “collective hearts.” I am sure that there is another dad who is proud of his son for this work and that is Greg Eary Sr., a long time friend of mine and a tireless worker in the 4th celebration for many years. There are so many dedicated folks who make this possible that I feel sorry that I have not mentioned every one of them. The list would be long, and their dedication is huge. Thanks to every one of you.

This year was the 60th anniversary for my class celebration, and we had a great time with each other; however as you might imagine there are some valued classmates and friends who are no longer with us. When thinking of the 4th it is impossible to forget one of our classmates and my best friend as well as my roommate at WVU. That is the unforgettable Thomas “Nat” Housby. There was never anyone in Alderson who worked harder or loved Alderson more than Nat. His years of service to his community make every one of us who knew and love him proud, yes “Alderson Proud.” We miss you partner. Our celebration brought 9 of our classmates together, and we had lots of stories to tell. Some of them may have been true but that is highly doubtful. As a class I am most proud of the work of this group from a few years ago. We collectively raised money and provided the work to build the Alderson Alumni Gazebo, naming it for our class president, and student body president, Tom Housby. A gazebo on the spot where it was erected was a dream of “Nat’s” and we are pleased that we could make it a reality. Ed Moody, who was at our celebration this year, came back to Alderson in 2008 for three months and lived in his RV and worked every day on the gazebo. Ed also hand forged the weather vane on top made of copper and the likeness of the Alderson Indian. Other volunteers who we have since made “honorary members of the class of 1955” were Gary Reed, Bobby Hoover, and Bobby Walkup. Without their help and hard work that gazebo would never have been constructed. Thanks guys for your dedication and sacrifice to make Alderson a better place. Thanks to all who contributed to this endeavor.

Second: I would like to say a few words of why the 4th is so personal to me and my family. Each of you will have your own thoughts and memories of celebrations now far passed, but remain in your memory as though they were yesterday. I suppose that this subject is so near to my heart for a number of reasons. Each year I reflect that my dad and “Bunk” Rowe’s dad won the three legged race at the field events in 1916. That’s kind of cool. I also remember that my oldest son, Tom, who is now in his 50’s participated in the greasy pole climb around about 1966, winning the silver dollar at the top of the pole. What was not so memorable was that my mother had purchased new shirts and shorts for my boys to wear during the 4th and Tom didn’t bother to change clothes before his memorable “or forgettable” climb. This year my daughter “Mary Beth” who ran in and won most of the races for her age bracket when she was a youngster returned from California with her two children this year because she wanted to share her experiences with them. Mary Beth took the children to the field events but could not persuade these “city kids” to enter the races. Not deterred, Mary Beth heard the call the women’s race for ages 41 and up. She immediately slipped out of her sandals, handed them to one of the kids, and headed for the starting line. Her kids were mortified that this 51 year old woman would enter the race. Mary Beth has always been a competitor and when she returned to the house she explained how “a 41 year old woman dressed in running gear and running shoes” had beaten her by no more than about 6 inches. As I looked at my grandkids I noticed a look of “pride” in their eyes that their mom had not embarrassed them, but that they were proud of her. I am sure that that the lady’s kids who won the race were equally as proud of their mom. That’s what the field events are all about!

Third: I would like to bring you up to date on some other things in town. The entire state of WV is gradually changing. Recently, I was privileged, along with others, to attend conferences in the state that address the issues facing us, and attempt to find solutions to problems within the state as well as look at issues facing us in the future. I am very pleased to say that more and more young adults are pitching in and making a real difference in our state. There are several initiatives afoot from “home rule” plans for towns and cities to “whats next WV” wherein folks from all over the state come together to discuss their individual plans and ideas. Alderson is no exception. We are “blessed” to have a group of very smart and dedicated young people moving here that love Alderson, and are striving to make it a better place. Examples are the Friends of the lower Greenbrier, the Green Grocer initiative, the Farmers Market, and other things that make our town better. New businesses have sprung up including the Artist Gallery (the old L. O. McClung building), The Bridgewalk shops (Johnson and Gwinn Hardware building), and The Presidio Graphic Arts business located in the old First National Bank building. The new owners (both young men) have dedicated themselves to the betterment of this community. Fritz Pharmacy from Fairlea has located a branch in Alderson, and on August 2, 2015 “Christ our Savior” Lutheran Church will hold their first service in Alderson. The Pastor, Rev. Richard Lohmeyer is a resident of Alderson and along with his wife Judy has been very active in community affairs for a number of years. They, again are examples of caring citizens in the community who continue to make our community a great place to live.

As many of you know I have been active in promoting the “depot” in Alderson. We had the building open last 4th of July (2014) and had it open during Christmas for activities. We also have entertained all classes of the grade school by giving them a tour of the building and talking about the town of Alderson. This 4th I was very disappointed in that we were unable to have the depot open. This was bittersweet in many ways, because the reason that it is closed is a good one. We just conducted the pre-bidding for the last phase of refurbishment of the building. The bids are due by July 24, 2015 and we hope to begin the project in August. This project will include repainting the building, completing the re-roofing that was begun a couple of years ago, installing a drainage system to move rainwater away from the building, and to repair any and all damaged wooden pieces on the building. Completion of this phase will conclude the work necessary to make the depot a structure that will attract visitors, and be a symbol of pride in our community.

For the past few years we have reached out to many sources to secure artifacts as well as documents that are of value to the rich history of our community. The railroad was an integral part of the Alderson story, but it was not the entire story. The railroad permitted many businesses to open and thrive in town, and the total impact of all of the activity is what we hope to pass on to future generations of visitors. We have been collecting material from early businesses etc. One example is a medicine bottle contributed by Trudy Halstead (widow of Phil Halstead) that was from J. Orr Nickell drugstore (he died in 1901), as well as many documents from Woodson- Prince, the Mill, the banks etc. We hope and plan to bring all of these treasures to the public by next 4th of July.

In a recent article in “The Aldersonian” the contribution of lanterns from Jim Thurmond was noted. Personally, I am delighted and grateful for this meaningful contribution. It will add much to our collection, and Jim’s generosity will enhance the value of our story of the history of Alderson. When I spoke with Jim by telephone he shared with me that he had an old “cream can” in his garage that was used by his father, but did not want to donate it because it was in such terrible shape. I encouraged him to bring it with him in that we are trying to accumulate these cans in that they signify several important historical businesses in town. First, the business of farming, second the business of transportation (the mail truck would pick them up and deliver them to town), third the business of processing. The creamery was across the street from the depot and it processed the cream, and forwarded processed cream to the depot to be put on baggage cars and loaded on the train for transport to Baltimore for final processing into ice cream and such. We have the original baggage carts and are trying to get the cans to go on them in order to complete yet another story of Alderson. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with David Fisher (class of 1957) who was here for a memorial service for his brother Dick Fisher (class of 1952) a friend who will be missed. He told me that he worked at the creamery cleaning out the tubs at the end of the day, a fact that I did not know. He also indicated that he had a can that he would like to send to us. I guess my point here is that we never know where these treasures are, and when folks know what can be done to preserve our history they are happy to help.

Unfortunately when Jim came to my home with his articles I was not here and he left them on the porch. Upon discovering them I immediately looked at that sad rusted can and saw our history unfold before my eyes. The brass plate on the can had Mr. Thurmond’s name, his account number used for processing, and C & O railroad as the hauling agent. I used to ride the mail truck to Smoot and back to see my grandparents and I would help the mail carrier (Roy or Russ Burns) load those cans. One of the stops was the Thurmond farm. I took the can to Joey (auto restoration shop in Alderson) and he is in the process of removing the rust, restoring the can and returning it so that we can have it as one of our prized exhibits at the depot.

In addition to my profound thanks to Jim I would like to ask any of you that have contacts with Alderson, family who had or worked at businesses to search your attics, basements etc., for artifacts that support the valued history of our town. In the commercial market these materials may have little commercial value; however for our history they are priceless and need to be preserved. If you can help us generations of Aldersonians will be in a position to share our heritage and the culture of this small community will be preserved.

Finally, I would like to speak to you about the Greenbrier Classic Golf Tournament held at the Greenbrier Hotel during the week of the 4th. A couple of years ago when it was announced that it would be that week we all felt that it would diminish the interest in our celebration. That did not happen. Both events have been getting bigger and better, again affirming the importance of our Alderson celebration and how much people enjoy it. The impact of the Greenbrier Classic Golf Tournament along with the new Tennis Facility and Football facility at the Greenbrier is making a big impact on all of our communities. The county has a bed tax which is imposed on hotels, motels etc., and has grown because of the Classic. The benefit reaches all of our communities, and the people in the county have responded by providing countless hours of volunteer work at the tournament.

If any of you would like more information concerning the depot or believe that you may have something of interest that could be displayed in the depot we would love to hear from you. Remember, you never know what you may have in your attic or basement that has some significance to the history of this community. You may reach me via email at andy6424@aol.com or my phone number 304 839-7178. Remember “the gem of the hills” and “Alderson Proud.

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