This is one of my most viewed post and I want to repost for my viewers. There has been many searches for information on “West Virginia Coal Camps” and you may have missed my information.
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Brenda Woodrum Hudson
Some of the most interesting post on this blog begin with some of the earlier post. I would like to suggest that you go back and read through some of stories about country life, life in a WV Coal Camp and many stories about grandparents.
I will be picking up on some new stories that happened in the ’60’s in the next few days. In the meantime, look back and read some of the earlier posts.
I really invite you to leave comments. It is nice to know if any of your writing touchs anyone else.
School was a wonderful whirlwind, but the Senior year was coming to an end soon. I loved everything about school and all my wonderful friends (many are still friends). I had done well with my grades and was offered a full teaching scholarship to Marshall University. I was also awarded the Leadership and Achievement award at graduation.
I really wanted to take advantage of the teaching scholarship and needed some support from my parents. You have to remember this was an era when most women didn’t go to college, but were expected to marry and have children. Many of my friends were heading to Capital City Commerical College, some to jobs and a few to college. I got zero support from my family to go to Marshall and I had to turn down the scholarship and I regret it to this day. However, I did enroll at Capital City Commercial College and completed my studies there.
We lived about 25 miles from Charleston, WV and I didn’t have a car. My girlfriend, Carolyn and I got a ride with Mr. Prunty into Charleston each day. We both got jobs at Silver Brand Clothes and worked there a few days a week and went to school three days a week. My first job was typing addresses on a little silver stamping plate that was used to send out mailings to customers. It was loud and I hated it, but I was expected to have a job.
We would usually stop off at the Imperial Diner for a sandwich and Coke between school and work. This was truly a Charleston landmark and they had the best cream pie in the area.
I went to commercial college and passed the courses with flying colors, but I just couldn’t think I would be a secretary the rest of my life. Not that there is anything wrong with being a secretary, but something just didn’t click for me. I could see myself in more of a leadership role or planner. I thought….what have I gotten my self into…………
My special someone, Basil was always waiting for me after class or after work. This gave us an opportunity to see each other more and I had a way to get home from school. In looking back, I am sure this must have been an expensive date to drive me home each week. We were young, adventuresome, and we did care if it snowed oats. We were in love.
Grandpa McClure had worked at Wesvaco and on his farm for years. I think he just decided there were a few things in life he wanted to see before he got too old. Grandpa had always wanted to see the ocean and he decided on Myrtle Beach, SC. His son, James was now driving and could help with the drive.
Grandpa asked me if I would like to go too. Well, it took about 2 seconds to say yes, but I would have to see if it was okay with mother and daddy. I was so, so excited. I had never been to the ocean before. I started putting my clothes together and bought a pretty black one piece bathing suit. I had lost lots of weight and I looked pretty cool.
It seemed like we drove and drove and drove and we probably did. There were no interstate highways and it was state route driving all the way. There were fields of crops and cotton all down through the south and fruit stands everywhere. Granny had packed a big box of food and we stopped along the highway and ate at a park.
We stayed at the El Patio Motel on Kings Highway. There was a billboard with a big cactus out front. The motel was equipped with a big window air conditioner! Boy, we cranked that air conditioner up that night to keep everything cool. The next morning grandpa woke up with a terrible headache and his sinus completely stopped up. He said it was that old air conditioner. He had never slept in an air conditioned room before.
The first glimpse of the ocean just about took my breath. Oh, this is so awesome. The amusement park was right down by the ocean and James and I headed for the rides. Granny was always a worry wart and she kept saying, “Now, you all be careful”.
I can still see Granny McClure in her white hat, white sandals, a dress and an umbrella. She was afraid of the ocean when she was standing 200 ft back. Grandpa just stood in awe and cherished the moment of seeing the ocean for the first time. I am so glad I got to see this first time experience with him.
Memories with your grandparents last for a lifetime.
We were having a basketball game at school and Basil said he would like for us to go. Everything had to be cleared with my parents and they said okay. We sat on the bleachers and the game begins …..and so does Basil. This guy is not quite at ballgames. He was getting his money’s worth out of the game. He was screaming, “Kill them, Shoot Shoot, Umpire where are your eyes and Foul. Everyone was looking at us, so it seemed.
On Monday I went to the library for Study Hall and Mrs. Goode asked me if the boy I was with at the game was drunk. She said I know your parents and they wouldn’t want you to be with someone drinking. I was astonished that she thought he was drunk. I just tried to explain that he really gets excited when he goes to a ballgame and he enjoys cheering. She sort of laughed and was glad he wasn’t drunk, but had never seen anyone so excited at a ballgame. He is still like this.
I kept thinking about this guy and I sort of liked the way he wasn’t afraid to be different and not sit like a knot on a log.
The Thespian Dance was always one of the best social events in school. The Thespian Club was mostly the artsy fartsy kids who liked to give speeches, participate in theater and travel to NY for speech events. Once a year Mrs. V sponsored a nice dance and you were expected to not be a wallflower, but a participant in the events.
This sounded really exciting, but I needed a date for the dance. Darrell said he would ask Basil if he would like to go. Basil lived in So. Charleston and it was about 25 miles away. I didn’t know if he would come or not. Darrell said he would ask him and let me know. This is where it gets confusing. Darrell didn’t tell Basil this was a dance. He just said it was a school function.
The night of the dance soon arrived and I was getting excited about actually attending the dance with the cute guy from South Charleston. I had on a black silky dress with white puffy sleeves and looked pretty good. Soon I heard a knock at the door and there stood Basil in his casual outfit and his South Charleston school jacket. Both of our mouths dropped open. Darrell played a trick on us. He told Basil to just wear anything and didn’t tell him it was formal. Basil said I am so sorry and said he would understand if I didn’t want to go with him.
I didn’t know what to do!!!! I really wanted to go to the dance and just wondered if I could be strong enough to explain to my friends that Darrell didn’t tell Basil it was a dance. We decided to go to the dance and have a good time and we did. I introduced Basil to my friends and they got a good laugh out of Darrell’s prank.
He couldn’t dance then and 48 years later he still can’t dance, but I love him.
My studies at Duval continued and I loved each day of school. I always felt there were so many areas to learn more and extend my knowledge. It just seemed like there was something new each day. I was in the top of my class with grades and loved the challenge to make more “A”s than someone else.
Even in high school, I had a leadership role in the different clubs. I was class officer, President of FTA, President of FHA, member of Thespian and was usually chosen to organize events. I must have been a trusted student. I was President of Future Teachers of America and actually got to substitute teach in the grade school when a teacher was sick.
I also had a very mischievous side that came out at times. We always had an initiation each year for anyone who wanted to join the clubs. I got to organize the initiation and ask current members to help. We were actually sort of mean to a few of the girls during this time. They were blindfolded and lead to the bathroom. They were told to put their hand in the commode and squeeze. We had put a banana in the commode and they thought it was poop. We then flushed the commode and they screamed. Lots more of the same followed that night.
Hillary and I have a lot in common. I just never had to get off a plane and duck down to keep from getting hit by gunfire. HA HOO AHH SPOOF….SPOOF
Well, much of my elementary frolic and games has ended and it is time for a new era in my life. This was truly the “Fonzie” days in 1958. The guys had duck tail hair cuts, collars flipped up and pegged pants. Us girls had poodle skirts, saddle oxfords and a scarf tied around our neck. We were the coolest generation to hit the planet.
The only high we got was drinking a Coca-Cola and taking two aspirin for a headache. Slipping to smoke at a slumber party was a cute little sin and it made us feel untouchable. There would be twenty-four girls at Dawn R. house and the smoke would be rolling out under the bedroom door. I am sure my mom could smell smoke on my clothes when I got home, but I denied smoking.
All the teens from area grade schools entered Duval High School for the 9th grade. Everyone was tested and divided into three Freshman home rooms. We were sort of labeled as to smartest, smart and less smart with these group home rooms.
I always loved school and I liked this even more. I could already see there would be more of a challenge to learn and excel in new subjects. Ms. Tate was our Civics teacher and she required lots of research and an appreciation for the current news in the world. I suppose that is why I love CNN 50 years later.
Our lunch break was a time of “Rock and Roll” at the restaurant across the road. For .30 cents you could get a hot-dog and a cold Coca-Cola for lunch. All the kids that could dance would be on the floor dancing to the juke box that was playing Fat Domino, Elvis, Fabian or other great singers. Avis was a little guy, but he could dance like a pro. He would probably dance on “Dancing With the Stars”.
Hello, High School!!!
When you entered the 5th grade you were in the “big room” at Porter Fork Grade School. The 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades had classes in the same room. Betty Castle and Alice Morrell taught during those grades and I thought both were good teachers.
This was in the era where teachers paddled kids as a way of discipline. Stanly gave Mrs. Morrell a hard time and I can remember several incident of her making him lean over and she would paddle his rear.
Well, I finished up 5th, 6th and was in the 7th when my teacher suggested I be double promoted and go on into the 8th grade. All the classes were in one room and you could really learn a lot by listening to the higher class. I would listen to the 8th grade and take their test along with the other students. I was really excited when I was moved into the 8th grade and could go to high school with my friend, Sylvia.
Going to this school was not as bad as you might think. I love looking back at all the fun things we did and the freedom we had to pray, sing and speak. There was never anyone complaining that our morning prayers offended them and pledging allegiance was just part of the day. Schools today could learn valuable lessons from this old two room school.
On the last day of school everyone would go on a hike to Ragtown and have a picnic. Our teacher always made Ragtown sound like some mysterious place where munchkins may live in secret places. She would talk about Ragtown all year and tell us we could go on the last day of school. I didn’t tell her, but I was getting sort of scared and didn’t know if I really wanted to go.
The teacher gathered everyone together and we started walking up the dirt road with our lunch in a poke (bag) and excitement in our stomach. This would be a long mile and half walk up a dirt road that was in the creek part of the way. We would have to pass Old Ms. Grasses’ house and she was very scary and gruff. Her house was dark and the trees hung low over her porch. I tried to stay near Ms. Valentine as we walked past.
We got near the end of our hike and we had to walk up a steep hill and on top was a beautiful flat field and a hugh fire tower. This was Ragtown, but no one lived here and there were no houses. Ms. Valentine said people lived here many years ago. I began to think she was pulling our leg with all this Ragtown stuff.
In the center of the field was a hugh firetower. There were all kinds of metal steps that wove right to left and left to right. On top was a house with large windows and Ms. Valentine said you could see for miles. Everyone was wanting to climb the steps and go to the top. The boy’s had to prove themselves and they scampered up fast and swift to be the first to the top. I was scarred to death, but I wanted to see what was at the top. Carefully and cautiously, I went up….left to right and right to left until I was finally at the top. I could see for miles and miles and would have missed this view if I hadn’t been brave.
Coming down the steps was harder than going up and I almost wet my pants. Finally at the bottom and it is time to eat our lunch. Everyone gathered around and opened their pokes and began to eat lunch. Ms. Valentine had brought cookie for everyone too. We were talking all at once about all the fun we were having at Ragtown. Ms. Valentine just smiled and said she hoped we all had a good summer.
I wish I could have seen some of those people who may have lived in Ragtown, but I think only Ms. Valentine knew if they were ever there.