"Ted, Frankie, and I were
raised during the Depression. At that time, people got whatever job
they could. If a person didn’t have a job when the Depression hit,
he didn’t find a job.
In the summertime our family raised a big garden. Although we never lived on a farm, we would always have a garden someway. We raised gardens, and we'd can. We’d can at least 500 quarts of all kinds of vegetables and stuff like that. Mom would do that. That’s what we ate all year. Mom or Dad would ask people who lived nearby if we could put a garden on their land, and we’d raise corn and other things.
Boy, Dad made me work in those gardens. He and I would plow. Ted, who is three years younger than I am, would be out with us and before long would say things like, “Oh, I’m sick at my stomach.” Dad would pick him up and let him ride the plow horse. I’d be hoeing the corn, and Ted would be up on the horse. He was small, a little guy. He didn’t start growing until he got in high school.
We rented the houses that we lived in; we never owned them. Once I counted that from the time I can remember until I was 18 years old, we lived in 18 different places. We usually didn’t have inside toilets or things like that. We had inside toilets in a couple of the places we lived in Clarksburg, but none in Reynoldsville or Wolf Summit.
We lived all over Adamston. I was born just outside of Adamston, on Cabell Avenue. We moved to Reynoldsville when I was in the seventh grade. I went to seventh and eighth grade in Reynoldsville, and then we moved to Wolf Summit. Then, instead of going to Bristol High School which was closer, I hitchhiked back and forth to Adamston to complete my freshman year. I didn’t have to hitchhike to go to school, but I wanted to go to Adamston. But for my sophomore, junior, and senior years I went to Bristol.
I was the senior class president. I dated all the pretty girls, I was popular with them. And I played baseball.
I got together with Frances, my wife, because I didn’t have a car and she lived in Wolf Summit within walking distance of our house. We went together almost two years before we got married. Frances was my high school sweetheart. We were married seven years before we had any kids.
Our family had Christmas when I was little, but we didn’t get much. We always had a Christmas tree, one that we would find and cut down ourselves.
When I was young, very few people had radios and automobiles. To get around, we walked, or took a streetcar, or hitchhiked. I never had trouble—I got everywhere I needed to go. My mother’s brother, Uncle John, had an automobile. And Uncle Doc always had an automobile. The first car we had in the family was when I bought one in 1941. A Model A Ford. Mom never had a car, she never drove.
When we lived in Wolf Summit
we received our mail, rural route. It was delivered to a box in front
of the house, so we didn’t have to go to the post office to get it.
And we never had telephones. The only things we had were kerosene
lamps, coal stoves, and well water. We had a pump for the well.
To do laundry, we would heat water on the stove and use a washboard.
Mom did that. It was a whole different lifestyle. The young
generation today would not live that way—they wouldn’t know how to live
We didn’t have a radio until I was 15 or 16 years old. That was just about the beginning of popular radio. I guess that was about 1936 or 1937. I think the only radio station around was WMMN in Fairmont.
It seemed like everyone was happier then than they are now. It was family. We talked—people would come to visit and talk, especially our neighbors and some relatives. That’s what people did. And we read—we’d set the kerosene lamp on the table and read. My parents probably did the same thing for entertainment that we did.
People worked then. It wasn’t like it is now. People didn’t work a 40-hour week—they worked from daylight to dark. And when they got home at night, they couldn’t take a bath, so they washed themselves off the best they could, and went to bed. There was nothing else to do, no radio, no TV, no nothing.
I went to church because I didn’t have anything else to do. I don’t remember going to church socials, but sometimes I would go to meetings on Wednesday and Sunday nights just to have someplace to go, something to do. I’d go to anything that was close. I was just a kid—only 14 or 15 years old. Sometimes I would go with some of the older guys in the neighborhood.
I remember when Mack was born. I got the doctor and Aunt Ann, Uncle Doc’s wife. Mack was born at home, we all were. I remember when all of the kids were born. Even Ted—and I was only three years old then.
Mack went to Washington Irving High School. He was born in Wolf Summit, and then the family moved to Adamston. From there they moved to Chestnut Street in Clarksburg, and after that Mack and Mom moved in with me on North Avenue. Mom lived with me for one-third of her life—27 years. She moved in with me in 1954. Mack was still living with her then.
Frankie went to Bristol until the middle of her junior year. That’s when Mom, Frankie, and Mack moved back to Clarksburg from Wolf Summit. Ted and I were in the service. After they moved back, Frankie went to Victory High School, where she graduated. Frankie was a hotshot at Victory, people still talk about her. She was everything. Frankie was the Homecoming Queen, the Princess of this, the Queen of that. She was a cheerleader, too. I was seventeen when Dad died, so Frankie was eleven. She remembers Dad.
Mom would buy our clothes—usually
a pair of blue jeans or a shirt. She’d go into Clarksburg and buy
us something at G.C. Murphy or someplace. When I was a senior in
high school, I was friends with an old coal miner who had a bill at Conklins,
a men’s clothing store in the area. The coal miner had credit there.
At the store, people could buy things on credit and pay for them a dollar
a week. I told the coal miner that I needed a new suit. He
asked if I could pay for it, and I told him I could. So I bought
a new suit on his credit and got all dressed up. I paid a dollar
a week. When I got back from the service I still owed about $20,
and I’d forgotten about it. The store sent me a big bill, and I had
to pay it. But when I went to the service Ted got to wear the suit.
He wore it out. I left all my clothes at home when I went to the
service and Ted wore them out.
I worked in a service station when I got out of high school, and then I went to Baltimore, where I worked at Glen L. Martin, an airplane factory. Then I went to the service. I was married by the time I went in the army, but I didn’t have any kids yet. I got married in May, and went to the service in December. I went in on December 8, and they wouldn’t even let me come home for Christmas.
I remember Dad very well. His name was Oliver Manuel and he was born in 1892. He left Wood County when he was 15 years old and came to Harrison County where he went to work in an oil field. Later, he drove teams of horses and after that he started driving trucks. Dad came to Harrison County because he wanted to get away from home. I think he went to the sixth grade.
Dad was the right age to fight in World War I, and they would have gotten him if the war had lasted longer. But he didn’t have to go because he was married.
Mom grew up in Harrison County. She got married very young—she wasn’t quite 15. I think she went to the sixth or seventh grade.
Mom and Dad were married 9 years before I was born. I think they got married in 1913 or 1914. Mom said they met in church.
I remember when Dad got sick with tuberculosis. That was about 1938. He was sick for three or four years. I remember when he went to Hopemont Hospital, the hospital where they treated people with TB. We never went to visit him, we had no way to get there. He was at Hopemont for 6 or 8 months, but wouldn’t stay. He got lonesome and came home. Back then, when someone got TB it was pretty much a death sentence. There was no cure for it. Dad lived three or four years after he came down with it.
Up until he got sick, Dad owned his own trucks. The last truck he owned was a 1936 Chevy dump truck. He worked for the State or anybody who needed something dumped. I remember he hauled coal in it. Dad would buy coal at the tipple for $2.00 a ton, and deliver it for $3.00 a ton. He’d make a dollar a ton. I remember he used to haul coal for St. Mary’s Hospital—he would take it there and dump it in the coal chute.
I went with Dad in the summertime to haul blacktop when Route 73 from Bridgeport to Morgantown was being built. Dad also hauled dirt when new Route 50 was built from Clarksburg to Wolf Summit. He did different things with the truck. After he got sick, he didn’t have it paid for, so he lost it. Mom had to go to work after Dad got sick, and she worked in a Sewing Room through WPA at the Court House.
Mom did not go back to work
for a long time after Dad died. There wasn’t any work then.
And she had Mack to raise. He was only two years old when Dad died.
Mack was born in 1939, and Dad died in 1941.
I remember both of my dad’s parents, and I remember my mother’s mother. Mom’s father died the year I was born. We were never close to any of our grandparents because we didn’t live near them.
Dad’s father lived to be 90-some years old. I don’t know where he was born. I know he lived in Wood County, and then in the late 1920s or early 1930s he came to Harrison County. While he lived in Wood County he was a farmer. After he came to Harrison County, he worked in the Zesing-Spelter plant, the zinc plant down in Zesing.
Grandpa and Grandma Rollins lived with Aunt Fanny in Zesing after Grandpa couldn’t work any more. They had one room there, with a hotplate. But I think they had their own place in Spelter before they moved in with Aunt Fannie.
Dad’s father’s first name was William. The woman he was married to, my dad’s mother, was a Metz. She may have been his second wife. Although we would go visit Dad’s parents, I was young when they died, so I didn’t get to know them very well. But I remember Grandpa Rollins smoked Prince Albert in a pipe.
Grandpa Ritter was a coal miner. After he died my Grandmother Ritter remarried and moved to Wallace. Wallace was a long way away back then, so Mom didn’t see her mother very often.
In Dad’s family I remember Uncle Doc, Aunt Elsie, and Aunt Fannie. I had a cousin, Dick Rollins, who I ran around with some in high school. Dick’s sister, Virginia, and I were also fairly close. Their father was our Uncle Doc, I knew him very well. His real name was Huey Emmett Rollins. At times we lived near his family.
Uncle Doc was a mechanic. Aunt Elsie and Aunt Fannie never worked, but their husbands worked in factories, or coal mines, or whatever was available.
Mom’s brothers were all railroaders.
In her family, there were John, Dale, Chet, and Oke—four boys. And
there was Aunt Ethel, Mom, and Aunt Sno.
Aunt Sno dated her husband, Warren Rush, when I was a kid. I remember them taking me places—not far, just around the neighborhood. Aunt Sno was 14 years older than me.
We still have relatives in Wood County, at least we did a few years ago. One was Uncle Harry Rollins. I think he was a half-brother to Dad.
I was drafted, wounded, and received a Purple Heart during World War II. I was in the Ardennes Forest when I got wounded, when the Battle of the Bulge started. That’s where the Germans knocked the living daylights out of the Allied Forces. The Germans pushed us back and back and back. It started on December 16, 1944. A few days after Christmas the Allied Forces finally stopped them, and pushed them back. This lasted until about the middle of January. The Allied Forces got it all back.
I was on the front line for about five or six months. I got hurt, then was sent back. I was hurt two times. After the second time the war was almost over so they didn’t send me back. I was shot and got hit with shrapnel. I got it in my left arm and face. A land mine. But I never got hurt bad. I was in the Army, 99th Infantry Division.
I was at Remagen, too, I was a platoon sergeant by then. I got across the Remagen Bridge with about half of my platoon. We were across the bridge all by ourselves, about 15 or 20 of us. The Germans were shelling the bridge. It was dark, about 2:00 in the morning. But the Germans didn’t come after us.
When we started to cross
Remagen Bridge a combat M.P. told us that there hadn’t been a thing going
on all night. Mine was the first platoon to go across. The
M.P. had no more than said that when we heard this whirring sound going
through the air. The enemy had big railroad guns. They hit
the towns, and bricks flew.
We got across the bridge and turned to the right, and then toward the town. We said, “we’re going to stop right here until somebody comes along.” We were over there a couple of hours waiting, and eventually here came I Company."