Mack Wayne Rollins
 
 
Interview December, 1999
By Beverly Rollins
 
 
 

Growing Up

"I was born in Wolf Summit on February 19, 1939, at home.  Of course, back in those days most people were born at home.

I can vaguely recall living in Wolf Summit, we lived in a house on a hill.  We had neighbors, the Criss’s, who lived down across the road.  Our house had an outhouse and also a chicken house, where I think we raised chickens and tried to grow a little garden.  That’s my first recollection.  We lived in Wolf Summit probably until I was 5 or 6.

The war was on, and both Jack and Ted were away.  Frankie was in and out—I don’t remember much about her being around the house, I guess she was busy at school.  And I think she did a lot of work for our neighbor, Mrs. Furner.  I can’t remember a lot about Frankie until we moved to Adamston.

I remember my mother having friends over, mainly Mrs. Criss.  But there were another two or three people who would stop by quite regularly.  People would come to our house and listen to the radio because they wanted to hear war news.  We had this old, tall radio.  I don’t know how we ever managed to get one as poor as we were.  But people would come to our house, and in turn, we’d go to their houses and listen on occasion.

I remember Jack being in the army.  I thought he was a big deal when he came home in his army uniform.  I remember his wife, Frances, being in the picture a lot.  I think she bought me a wooden wagon one time.  I really thought that wagon was something.  Frances was very kind and good to me, she would always give me some kind of a nice toy.

I remember the day the war was over.  I got pots and pans and banged them together.  Everybody was doing something.  I was outside in the street and it was a happy, joyous time.  It was one of the most memorable times of my life.

I remember Franklin Roosevelt speaking on the radio, and I also remember when he died.  Everybody was in a state of shock.  I was only six years old then.  We didn’t know what to expect from this Harry Truman-guy.  I can remember standing around our big radio and hearing the description of when the atomic bomb was dropped.

For holidays, we'd celebrate.  We always had a Christmas tree.  And we always had a nice Christmas dinner, as much as we could throw together.  We would go to people’s houses, too.  We would go to Ted’s or Jack’s or somebody’s house.  Or they would come to ours.

My life was a little more settled than my brothers’ and sister’s, we didn’t move as often.  I  remember living in two houses in Wolf Summit, and then the family moved to Adamston.  After that we moved into a log cabin on Chestnut Street in Clarksburg, and then to an apartment over Strother’s store in that same area.  We actually lived in a log cabin.  It was cool;  I liked it.  It had an upstairs that we used as a bedroom where I could play.  It had a real slick floor.  I’d make it slick and then slide across the room.  Just have a big time.

There were times when just Mom and I lived together, but sometimes Ted and Frankie lived there, too.  I think we lived in Adamston when Frankie got married and went to Mississippi.  But even when she was living at home, she wasn’t there that often.  So I don’t really remember her being around until after she came back from Mississippi.  I must have been in second or third grade.

The houses I remember living in always had indoor toilets and electric lights.  Maybe our houses in Wolf Summit had outhouses, but when we moved to Adamston we had indoor plumbing, such as it was.  I remember, though, taking a bath in an old galvanized bathtub.  Mom would heat water on the stove and dump it in.  I’d have a bath every Saturday night, whether I needed it or not.

I think we got our first telephone while we lived in Adamston.  The number was 597J.

After World War II things started changing.  Everybody was in the same boat up until that point.  Almost nobody had anything.  Everybody was poor, everybody was just making do and getting by.  After the war, things started to improve a bit.  Everybody was working.

By the time I was in school,  the Depression was over.  I was pretty much a loner—in a lot of ways I was like an only child.  My mother was older, I may have been a change-of-life baby.  I don’t know how old Mom was when I came along, but she was up in years.

I had paper routes when I was younger, and then when I was 14, I got a job shining shoes.  I think Mom kind of engineered that.  I worked for a guy named Angelo.  For a kid, I made quite a bit of money.  I kept all of my tips, and Angelo gave me a buck a day.

From there I went to one of the $.05 & $.10 stores in town, W.T. Grant.  I worked as a stockboy.  I used to stop in the morning and wash the windows in the front, empty the garbage, mop behind the soda fountain, and get the store all ready to do business.  Then after school I’d go in and do whatever stocking and cleaning that had to be done.

I remember shining shoes as a kid, on Friday nights and on the weekend.  The sidewalks were lined with people and the streets were full of traffic—people were working and they were dressed up.  People used to dress up and wear ties and get their shoes shined.

This kind of lifestyle continued for years.  It wasn’t something that happened and went away in a day or two.  There were lots of glass factories and coal mines.  People were prospering, they had cars, many of them for the first times in their lives.  Things were good.  You could always make a buck.  And I did.

I started school in Adamston, and went there until the second grade.  In the second grade I got sick and had my appendix removed.  I had an emergency appendectomy, and that started of all the problems that I’ve had in my abdomen.  From that appendectomy, adhesions have caused me to have a blocked bowel.  That has happened twice, and will probably happen again if I live long enough because adhesions beget more adhesions.

After we left Adamston, I went to Monticello, a grade school in the Chestnut Hills section of Clarksburg.  Then later I went to Central Junior High, seventh and eighth grades, and then Washington Irving High School. I never thought about quitting high school, it never crossed my mind.  It was a foregone conclusion that I was going to have a high school education.

I was 18 when I graduated high school, that was in May.  I went away to college in Fairmont that fall.  After I left college, I came back home for a while, maybe a year.  Not too long.  Then I got hooked up in radio announcing.  I was a DJ.  I moved around a bit doing that, to Parkersburg and Grafton.  I didn’t live in Grafton long, maybe four or five months.  I went to Parkersburg after Grafton, and then moved back to Clarksburg and back in with Mom for a while.  I must have been around 20 then.  I stayed with Mom for a year or two until I got married.

There were two radio stations around that the kids liked,  WHAR and WBOY.  I worked at both of them at one time or another.  I wanted to be a disc jockey because I thought it was a glamorous job.  I used to see DJs and think, “That’s the way to get all the girls I want.”  I’ve done things that you can’t imagine when it comes to the crazy stuff of the 50s.  I had a crew cut, and I also had a D.A., duck’s ass, hair style.  Then there was the long, trashy-looking hair.  I bleached my hair totally white, platinum.  With peroxide.  All the kids did it, it was the rage.  I think I was in high school then.

We really thought we were hot stuff.  And we had those pegged pants.  We had to take the pants to a tailor to get them done.  I used to get mine pegged to 12½” or 13” at the bottom.  That’s real small, 12½” around.  It was difficult getting it past your foot.  We wore Levis, Levis were cool.  Everybody had to have Levis.  And I had a leather jacket, one that I worked to buy.  We had sock hops.  We had a Moose Teen Hop in Clarksburg—that was the happening place.

The 50s was a time when things were changing.  It was the advent of rock and roll.  I can remember when the first true rock and roll song, “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets, came out.  At least people say it was the first rock and roll song.  But I recall that first song being “Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)” by Georgia Gibbs.  And there were some rhythm and blues songs that could have been called rock and roll in that same era, that actually were a few months—maybe a year—ahead of “Rock Around the Clock.”  I remember all of that unfolding.  It was exciting and stimulating, wild and crazy.  It started happening in the mid-50s.

People were starting to have a good time after the war and the Depression.  I remember seeing my first TV.  When I lived on Chestnut Street there was a little place called the “Fix-It Shop” and they had a TV in the store window that worked once in a while (I think atmospheric conditions controlled everything).  People would go down there on Friday or Saturday nights and watch the Gillette fights, boxing matches, in front of the store.  The whole neighborhood would just stand there and watch.  I think the owners had speakers hooked up on the outside so we could hear it.

After high school, I had fast cars.  I bought a Thunderbird, a 1956 T-Bird with a fiberglass top that could be left in the garage, and a ragtop in case it rained.  It was a nice car.  It was black when I bought it, but somehow it ended up being white.  I don’t remember painting it or anything.

I bought Mom her first black and white TV.  I was a DJ in Parkersburg when I came carrying that thing home to her.  That had to be in 1959.  She loved it, it tickled her to death.

My Parents

I don’t remember my father at all, except maybe one time when I was sitting in a chair and he was cutting my hair with a pair of old hand clippers.  But someone may have told me about it, and that’s why I remember it.  I was only 2 years old when he died.  He may have given me my first haircut, or my only haircut at that time.  I really don’t know.  Otherwise, I can’t remember a thing about him.

My father was sick with tuberculosis a long time.  I know he was sick for the two years after I was born.    I remember Frankie telling me how our father would brag about her and say how pretty she was.  He probably spoiled her to death since she was the only girl.

Mom worked alot.  When she first worked, I think she only cleaned houses and things like that.  Her first real job that I recall was at the Empire Laundry.  I was old enough by that time that I didn’t need someone around to take care of me.  I would go play at friends’ houses while she was gone.

Mom married my father when she was 14 years old.  I’m told that wasn’t uncommon back in those days.  I think Mom went to the third grade.  I have no idea how far my father went. Mom’s father and mother were good people, and they did the best they could to make her happy.

My influence came from my mother and my brothers and sister.  I remember Mom being a strong influence in making sure I was good, and right.  That’s what I recall about my mother.  She was a good person, and she wanted everything to be good for me, and right for me.  She did everything she could.

Other Relatives

I was close to my Uncle John, he used to come and spend time with me.  He was my mother’s brother.  And Uncle Dale, another of Mom’s brothers, would come around occasionally, but not nearly as often as Uncle John.  They were both railroaders, and their time was limited because they worked long hours.  Their kids were older than I was.
 
We were kind of close with Uncle Dale while we lived in Adamston.  When we left there, we didn’t see him as often.

I remember Uncle Doc, my father’s brother.  I used to like to go see him.  His wife, Aunt Ann, could really cook.  She made the best potato salad.  Uncle Doc always treated me real nice.  He was a funny-like guy, always jolly.

I remember Mom’s sister, Aunt Sno.  We used to go to her house in Stealey on occasion, not often.  We’d visit with her and her husband, Warren.  But we really weren’t close with them.

I don’t remember ever seeing my grandparents.  I don’t think they were even alive when I was born."

 

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