It is just a couple of days before the Thanksgiving celebration and
yet as I sit at my computer my thoughts turn to the Christmas
season. Today, snow is lightly falling outside, and I feel
especially brilliant because this year I took advantage of a couple
of weeks of good weather to string all of the lights on the outside
of our home. In the past few years, after moving back to the house
in which I was born and raised on the beautiful Greenbrier River, I
have waited until the coldest days in December to accomplish that
task. So now I can relax, wait for the bridge lights to be turned
on, a ritual that officially opens the season in Alderson, and
simply enjoy all of the festivities that are amazingly available in
Alderson and in surrounding communities (when referring to
surrounding communities' I am not forced to utter the name
Linda and I are fortunate to
live on the river with a very clear view of the bridge. Today, as in
years past I still get a thrill each evening when the lights come
on, and usually spend a few minutes in the still of the evening to
enjoy the site and inhale the clean crisp air of a December day. Our
two little dogs seem to enjoy this time as well. They are so
fascinated by the various colors sparkling over that magnificent
bridge that we usually stroll to the bridge cross over and then back
just for the pure quiet pleasure of the experience.
As I recall we had the star on
the old water tower before we had bridge lights (a new star was
installed a few years ago and shines its bright and reassuring light
down upon the town each night during the holidays) and as a
youngster the lighting of the star signaled that Christmas was near.
These memories have evoked some
recollection of past Christmas seasons in our household, and I
thought that maybe others of you may find it interesting to share
your early memories of those majestic days while anticipating the
arrival of Santa.
Before I get too sentimental
about these stories let me clarify that most of us in Alderson were
of very modest means, and Christmas was mostly about dreams of great
things that usually did not turn out quite as good as expected, but
probably turned out a lot better than they should because our
parents has splurged on gifts that they could ill afford.
One of the absolute highlights of
seasons past was a trip to Lobbans to look at all the toys and
especially the trains. The two most treasured gifts that I ever
received came from Lobbans; first a red rider BB gun on one
Christmas (later used in those memorable BB gun battles in that
vacant lot in front of where the Alderson Hospitality House is
located) and then my trusty bicycle on which I delivered the Hinton
Daily News, Charleston Gazette and others papers for several years.
I had a couple of great train
sets that were both purchased used, (not from Lobbans) but had lots
of extra track cars and such. The only room in our house that I was
allowed to set it up was in the attic where lots of "stuff" was
stored. (In those years, like many other homes in Alderson, our dad
rented the upstairs as an apartment therefore my brother and later I
was relegated to the attic as our sleeping quarters). The only down
side of having all this track was that my transformer did not
produce enough power to get the train all the way around all that
track so I was continually battling different configurations in
order to maximize the use of that old transformer in order to allow
the train to make its "run."
Usually I would try to build
enough speed going into the "slow spots" to power the train through
them and then resume its journey; however as any of you know who
have ever had trains that was a risky play because they would
usually derail as they built up speed.
One of the most outstanding
train sets of my day was the one owned by Thomas E. (Eldrige) "Nat"
Housby. The Housbys had just built their new house (behind Mr.
Harrah's building - now the motel) and "Nat" had the use of the
entire basement and a very understanding Mom and Dad, both
circumstances leading to a crowd of kids there at any one time.
"Nat" had a great transformer that had the levers on both sides for
speed control, and he had the newest innovation in train technology.
The engine was designed to have
a capsule inserted in the stack so when it heated up actual steam
would come pouring out just like a real steam locomotive (or almost
like it). As you can imagine those capsules had to be purchased and
they were disposable therefore it was only on rare and special
occasions when "Nat" would break one out and insert it into the
engine for all to enjoy.
Sid Johnston also was the proud
owner of all kinds of innovative stuff and Sid was our genius of the
day for electronics. When we were in the sixth grade our teacher,
Mr. George Utterback, complained about the lack of proper
receptacles for some slide or movie equipment, and Sid rewired the
room to provide a receptacle for the job. Further, before those of
you who remember Sid complain that this was not his most remarkable
feat with electronics, I want you to know that I will not go into
detail about the other electrical device Sid build out of an erector
set, but it was awesome, and contained a reference to a chair.
In the days of my youth the town sponsored a "door decorating"
contest much like the contests that are still going on in town for
commercial and residential decorations. Bashie Kincaid, a great
friend of the family, and at one time a tenant in the apartment in
our home was very talented in the art of decorating so each
Christmas she and I would take on the task of decorating our front
door for the holidays. A prize of two dollars was awarded for the
best decorated front door. Bashie and I won the prize for at least
two years, and as you can imagine she bestowed the bounty on me and
I promptly used those winnings for a present for my Mom.
Now to the real meat of this
story. While thinking of Christmases past I couldn't help wondering
how it must have been at the turn of the last century in Alderson,
and I decided to search the pages of the Advertiser for some very
touching and meaningful story. Unfortunately, none were found. As a
matter of fact I looked for articles specifically in 1929 and found
only a couple of stories about shootings, stabbings, and one
horrible suicide in Pocahontas County.
One particular situation did
have a moral attached and a "kind of " happy outcome. It seems as
though a 16 year old boy in Jumping Branch was arrested and charged
with shooting at his brother-in-law as the latter passed along the
road near the family farm. The boy used a shotgun, but missed his
target leaving his brother-in-law free to enjoy the holidays. It
seems that the trouble was caused because the brother-in-law was
giving the boy a "thrashing" and the boy thought that it was
undeserved. I am not really sure what the moral of that story is,
but you must admit that it is kind of funny.
After trying not to lose the spirit of the season I did find two
stories written within a week or so of each other that I thought
might help lighten up the season with a little humor: Here goes:
315 Gallons of Liquor Captured at
Alderson Advertiser December 20, 1929
"What has been
termed the greatest liquor haul ever made here was accomplished last
Monday night when State Policeman Postem, assisted by Constable Roy
Brown, took into custody at Alderson a new Chevrolet truck bearing a
cargo of 315 gallons of liquor. The truck came from the east and
was headed west toward Hinton when the capture was made. The driver
of the liquor vehicle made good his escape.
It was shortly after eleven o'clock when Postem and the constable
were in the central part of town. The observed the truck passing
through, and Postem's suspicions became aroused as to the nature of
its cargo. He and Brown immediately followed the truck across the
bridge and passed it a short distance down the Hinton road.
Evidentially the bootlegger recognized the officer and when he
reached the alley that joins the Hinton road with Maple Avenue, at
E. R. Fletcher's residence abandoned the vehicle, leaving the motor
running and the truck going at full speed. The State Trooper was
unable to stop his car then because the truck was stalled in the
mud. Postem did stop his car as quickly as possible and gave chase,
but the man had disappeared. It was later learned that the driver
is thought to have gone east on No. 2 that night.
The liquor was
nicely put up in sixty-three five gallon cans, which completely
covered the truck's floor space. The truck bore West Virginia
license tags, and they correspond to those issued to A. L. Read of
Glen Morgan. The license, however, were issued for a Sterwart truck
while this one is a Chevrolet, and it is believed the tags had been
stolen by the rum runner. (No kidding - what great police work!) It
is also thought that the consignment came from near Roanoke, Va.,
and was being sent to Beckley and Hinton for the holiday demand.
The truck along with the liquor was confiscated. Now at this point
dear reader things were looking up for a great and happy holiday in
Alderson, but alas that was not to happen.
On Tuesday morning at 11 o'clock a crowd of about 200 people
witnessed the pouring of the liquor in the sewer in front of the J.
N. Alderson Clothing Company, During this process many sorrowful
expressions were heard and it is said that after the officers left
one or two thirsty souls made a vain attempt to secure a 'nip'
directly from a little which had backed up in the gutter."
Car Deserted Carrying 115 Gallons of
Alderson Advertiser December 27, 1929
major liquor haul almost within a week at Alderson was made last
Tuesday night when 115 gallons came into the custody of local state
police. The new Ford coupe, from which the bootleggers ran, was
found at the John Clay farm by Messerís. John Clay and Dana Ayers,
and they turned it over to the state police. (This is beginning to
sound a little fishy to me)
The two young men were returning to their homes on the Wolf Creek
road and when they approached the John Clay farm observed the car in
the driveway there. Upon inquiring what was wrong the occupants
replied that they had stopped to repair their chains. However, the
young men noticed that the chains were intact, and when they
mentioned this to the run-runners, of whom there were two, both men
fled in the darkness. This was the last seen or heard of from
them. Clay and Ayers then drove the liquor vehicle to Alderson
where it was turned over to the state police.
Yesterday afternoon the cargo was poured into the sewer at
Alderson. The other cargo caught last week here on the
Hinton-Alderson road consisted of 315 gallons, which makes a total
of 430 gallons of Christmas booze taken this year in this vicinity.
It is believed that the bootleggers stopped where they did to repair
a leak in one of their whiskey cans."
I really hope
that these little stories have helped brighten up your Christmas
season. At the risk of being politically incorrect in today's
upside down world I would just like to say:
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!