1928 - Alderson High School - 1968

 

 

Christmas in Alderson

Tom Dameron - November 25, 2008


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 Lewisburg).

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
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 Liquor
Alderson Advertiser December 27, 1929 

"The second 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!
 

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