There were several church’s in the community where we lived. The denominations included Baptist, Methodist, Church of God and Church of Christ. During the summer months some of the church’s would go together an plan a tent revival. A farmer would let them use one of his big fields and the men would put up a big brown tent. They would bring in folding chairs, sting lights for the meeting and donate song books.
There would be many people that would go to a tent revival that would never go to the church house. I suppose it didn’t seems as threatening to them. It was interesting to see how other church’s worshiped and as a kid I just observed. Some people would “get in the Spirit”, raise their hands and talk loud. Some older men would “shout” loud their praise and others would just wave their hands. Our church worshiped in a much quieter manner, but I learned to appreciate how others praise God.
The person doing the preaching was called an evangelist and he usually traveled to many town’s in WV to preach in tents. Their message was usually directed to Christians to improve their relationship with God and to unsaved to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. People would go to the alter during the invitation and have prayer with the minister.
This was an old fashioned way to worship, but I remember it as being very interesting.
I was had really mastered riding on the big 28 inch blue bike I got for visiting the dentist in Hamlin, WV. Wow, it was really streamlined Schwinn and had larger wheels than any of my friends. I could get on this bike and travel places in record time. My blue bike even had a bell that I could ring as I passed a house. I guess you could say I was getting a little cocky.
It was a really hot summer day and my mother said she sure would like to have a nice cold Coca-Cola. We didn’t have any soft drinks at the house, but my Uncle Denver had a little grocery store about half a mile up the road. I was very quick to volunteer to ride my bike and get mother some Coca-Cola. The Coke came in a six pack of small bottles and I didn’t think that would be any problem.
Up the road I went like a blue streak. I was peddling, ringing my bell and thinking how fast you could travel on a big 28 inch bike. I arrived at Uncle Denver’s store, bought the pop, held the little six pack under the right handle bar with my hand. This seemed easier before I tried it.
Down the road I went with the Coke that my mom was wanting on this hot summer day. I couldn’t ring my bell on the way back. I had my hands full. I was almost at our mailbox when a car coming down the road had a big smart driver that wanted to scare me. He got up near me and started blowing his horn and pounding the car door. The next few seconds are hard to remember. I started putting on my brakes, flipped over the handle bars and the Coke went flying on the rocks and gravel below.
Believe it or not, the bottles of Coke didn’t break, but I had blood running down my knees and my pride was injured for weeks to come. That was the last time I delivered “Coke on the rock” via bicycle.
Back in the 50’s Sunday was a time for worship and a big home cooked dinner. My parents taught us that God loved us and we should love Him enough to attend church and give him our praise. Everyone was expected to go to church unless you were vomiting or running a fever of 104. The men wore their suits, ties and dress shoes. The mother and kids wore their Sunday Go To Meeting dresses and dress shoes. We dressed in our best to show respect for the church and to God.
There were no restaurants nearby and every family usually had a big Sunday dinner. My mom would do some of the cooking on Saturday and put some of the kettles on before we went to church. I can almost smell the fried chicken, fresh green beans, real mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, chicken gravy, homemade rolls, ice tea and German Chocolate Cake. The other memorable meal was pot roast with potatoes, carrots and large noodles.
Rev. Stone and his wife lived some distance away and my parents invited them to eat dinner with us and stay the afternoon. Sometime they would come on Saturday evening and spend the night. Rev. Stone was a short chubby little man and I always loved having he and his wife spend time at our house. He loved my mothers cooking and she felt good in showing them hospitality.
In the 50’s I had no idea that I would marry a minister and we would be still married today after 46 years. The hospitality that my parents showed to other ministers and missionaries from foreign countries made a deep impression on me. Most ministers and their family have a “Martha and Mary House” where they can feel like family, kick off their shoes, get a good meal and take a nap.
I would love to experience another meal that my mom cooked. All I have are the memories and they are precious.
Grandpa McClure’s farm supplied his family with many fruits and vegetables during the summer and winter. He always raised corn, half runner beans, potatoes, onions, lettuce, apples, strawberries, pears, plums, watermelons, mushmellons and grapes. Eating the fresh vegetables in the summer was easy, but lots of work went into freezing and canning for the winter.
Grandpa worked a day job at Wesvaco and was a farmer evenings and Saturday’s. He raised big gardens and expected there to be no waste to the harvest. Granny had a big cellar that was full of canned food and more would be added during the summer. My mom always helped Granny with the canning.
Back in the 50’s people based their value on things very different from today. Women were judged by how many quarts of food they canned, did their laundry look nice and white when it was hung on the clothes line and how well they could quilt and sew. The men boasted of how well their gardens produced, could they repair anything that broke and they were the boss of the family (or so they thought).
Grandpa had a grape arbor and to me it looked dead. I thought he must be crazy to think anything would appear on these dead vines. Grandpa just kept on snipping, pruning and looking at this old dead vine. Before long leaves would appear, but it still looked hopeless. I just couldn’t believe what was happening. This old dead vine was starting to bear green grapes that soon turned purple.
I can still see Grandpa with a bushel basket under the grape arbor. He would gather the grapes and take them in for Grandma to wash. She would cook the grapes, strain them, ad sugar and Sure-Jel to the juice. She would pour the jelly into little jars and seal them. The next morning Grandma would make homemade bis-quits for breakfast and we would spread them with the grape jelly.
All the work that Grandpa put into that old dead vine made it possible for everyone else to enjoy the finished product. I think Grandpa must have used his God given faith in taking care the the grapevine and knew that something good would happen if he would just be patient. I learned this lesson and have applied it to much of my adult life.
During my childhood, Memorial Day was referred to as “Decoration Day” and it was a big event. All the little kids got to help make the flower sprays that would be placed on the graves of our loved ones. Mother would give us a pair of scissors and a box lid to take with us on our expedition. First, we would cut little branches of pine from grandpa’s pine trees. Everyone had some sort of flowers in bloom near the end of May and they would sacrifice them for “Decoration Day”.
We would carefully cut a stem of roses, peonies or wildflowers and put them in the box lid with the pine. When we thought we had enough to make about twenty sprays, we would head home.
Sometimes mother would make flowers out of crepe paper that had been folded in half and rolled to look like the bloom of a flower. She would dip it in hot wax, put a wire stem on it and let it dry. I always though these were beautiful, but only the dead people got to keep them.
Mother would help us lie down the pine on the ground, place the flowers on top and tie them with a pretty ribbon. We would keep the flowers in a cool place until the next day. We would get up early and head to all our family cemeteries. We would visit the McClure Cemetery first and seek out the headstones for all our relatives. Mother would carefully place a spray of flowers up near the headstone and make a comment about the person buried there. This cemetery was about 1/2 mile on top of the hill and once a year was enough for me.
Next, we would visit the Burton /Adkins Cemetery up Sugartree road. My dad’s mom, Garnett Burton Woodrum died when he was six months old and daddy always cried when he visited her grave. We had to walk through a creek and through weeds over our heads, but daddy found peace by paying his respects. Before we left, we would place beautiful flowers on the grave. I often wondered if the person in the grave knew we had visited them.
Some families would pack a big picnic lunch and have a picnic near the cemetery. It wasn’t unusual for someone to bring a guitar and have gospel singing after the picnic.
Our old house had wonderful air conditioning. Laugh. Laugh. Yes, we could raise the windows, put in a window screen and turn on a window fan to condition the air. Everyone had the same kind of system to condition the air in their home….if they were fortunate enough to have a window fan.
The screen kept most live creature like flies, bugs, lizards and mosquitoes out of the house. There is one thing that could get through these screens and that was a BAT. A live flying BAT.
My sister and I slept together in the back bedroom. I was about 11 years old and she was 4 years old on this particular scary night. We were lying in the bed talking and I hate to say it, but I was probably aggravating her. The moonlight was shining through the window and you could slightly see in the bedroom. I kept thinking I could see a dark shadow flying near the ceiling.
I screamed for my mom and told her something was in our room. She said to close my eyes and go to sleep. I really needed my mom and I kept screaming until she got up and turned on our light. Then mother started screaming, “Don, there is a bat in the kid’s bedroom.” That was all it took for me jump out of bed and run to the kitchen. Mother was telling daddy to hit the BAT with the broom and it was just mad chaos.
Something is wrong with this picture. I have a little sister that was in the bed with me. We forgot to get Beverly out of the bed and she is sitting up in the middle of the bed, the BAT is flying and daddy is swinging a broom. Finally, mother realizes that “the baby” is in the room with the BAT.
My very brave dad was the hero for the evening when he killed the flying BAT. A broom is good for things other than sweeping.
Following the excitement, Beverly went to mother and daddy’s bed and I slept with the covers over my head that night and many nights thereafter.
I was the kid that had to stay busy…..doing something. Mother could always seem to find little projects and I am surprised she trusted me to complete them. We had a wooden glider porch swing that was in bad need of a paint job. I was “Miss I Can Do It” and I was elected.
Daddy pulled the swing/glider out in the yard near a shade tree. I am sure they didn’t want to get paint on the porch and the drips would just go on the ground. Mother didn’t have a good selection of paint, but we found a quart of brown enamel paint that we thought would look good.
I started painting and I knew right away this would be a bigger project than anticipated. I had to keep moving the swing into the shade. By afternoon I was painting near the house and I sat the can of paint on the window ledge under the dining room window.
You see………my little sister was about about four years old and she was inside looking out the window. It was very hot and there was a screen in the window. The cute little sister with curls all over hear head………raised her hand……….hit the screen……….and the can of brown enamel paint……………………tumbled over and landed on my neck…..and all down my body.
I began to scream and ask her why she hit that screen. Mother came running out the house and I could see from her face that she didn’t know how to get this paint off my skin. This was enamel and we couldn’t use water. Mother grabbed us kids and ran through the field to Grandpa McClure’s house. Tommy Harless was drilling a water well and when he saw me…he started laughing and making comments. I just cried harder and sure didn’t think it was funny.
The only way to not stay brown the rest of my life was to remove the paint with gasoline. Yes, they put gasoline on a rag and wiped me down “head to toe”. I am sure glad Uncle Bill didn’t walk up with a lit cigarette.
I got to take an afternoon bubble bath and soak in the tub for a long time.
Well, no more Coal Camp for me. I am back in Yawkey, WV where I lived the first three years of my life. I didn’t know it then, but I will have connections with this area all my life. Yawkey is twenty-five miles from Charleston, WV and about twelve miles from Hamlin, the county seat. Everyone has big yards, barns, gardens and it is very clean.
Mother was glad to once again attend the Porter Fork Baptist Church at Yawkey. She went to this church as a girl & she met daddy there during a revival service. The church was one big room with curtains to divide the classes on Sunday morning. The handmade pulpit sat in the middle of the podium. The seats were not very comfortable because of the slats on the bottoms and I tended to squirm during the services.
I would usually sit with Granny Woodrum because she had chewing gum in her purse. I could usually choose from Teaberry, Black Jack, Dentyne or Clove. One stick was never enough and I would put two or three in my mouth at a time. Granny didn’t care if I chewed this much gum.
On Wednesday night we would have a Bible Study with a devotional leader at church. We always called this service Prayer Meeting and as a kids I found it boring, but I had no choice in whether I attended or not. I really did learn a lot by just listening to what people said. There would be a time of people giving their testimony and telling others how much they loved God and how He had blessed them.
Everyone would shake hands and go to the alter for prayer. Everyone prayed out-loud and I would try to hear what they were saying, but it all just blurred together. Finally. the last person to finish praying would say AMEN and everyone would go back to their seat.
The local funeral home gave all the church in the area hand fans. Usually there was a picture of Jesus knocking on a door on the front, the name of the funeral home on the back and a wooden handle. There was no air conditioning and these really came in handy during sweltering hot weather. When I sat beside Granny Woodrum I would lean on her arm and she would fan me. I love sitting with her.
One night we had a guest speaker and it was really hot in the church. The heat made the wasp start coming out of the ceiling and they were darting everywhere. The preacher was preaching real loud and one swooped down and almost got him. The next one flew down and got under his glasses. He tried to keep preaching and was pulling off his glasses. Needless to say, I started laughing and was trying to hold my nose and mouth to keep quite, but I gave out a big snort of laughter. I just did what everyone else wanted to do, but they were trying to be serious. I still to this day think it was funny.
February 12, 1943 I arrived in this world. Tonight I celebrated 65 years of life with my remaining family. No way! It just can’t be another birthday! I should only be about 40, but I can’t be. My son is 40! Maybe I am just 43. No way! My daughter is 43. Where did the time go and how did I arrive at this age so fast. I am not really complaining, but life is like a vapor.
Through it all, I have a wonderful life with a completely loving husband and family. I looked across the table at my little sister (she is 7 yrs. younger than me) and I just want to protect her. By my left side is Sharon, Basil’s younger sister and we feel the same about her.
On down the table is Matthew the only grandson and he is so smart, cute and has dimples. He was busy telling me how Martin Luther King made life better for the black people and how laws had to change. Lauren is the loving, kind and caring grandchild that wants everyone to be happy. Then comes Emily, the kid with beautiful lips, won’t take crap from anyone and is all giggles. Brian and Pam………….. I am so proud they are the parents of these kids and give them examples, good ethics and teach them about God.
The remainder of my family is in IL and we chat on the phone. Expressions of “Happy Birthday” and “We love you” make my day. I will glad to have them back and near their family.
My favorite man completes the picture. Basil and I love each other more now than the day we married. He has been there every birthday since I was 16 and I hope he is around 16 more.
It is good to be alive and to be thankful for another day.
Many of you have been reading my BLOG, but you haven’t posted any comments. I am interested in knowing if my articles have been beneficial to you. I know writing them has opened up a flood of good and bad memories for me.
I will be starting another series soon on “Reflections in the Mirror”, but before I move on I want to hear from you.
1. Were you familiar with life in a coal camp before reading my blog?
2. What was your favorite article?
3. Did you learn anything new from reading this series?
Please click comments and let me hear from you.