"Our family moved a lot, but I donít know why. We lived in Clarksburg until I was in the fourth grade, then we moved and I finished the fourth grade at Adamston Junior High. We next moved out to Reynoldsville, and I went to the fifth and sixth grade there. Then we moved to Wolf Summit, and I went to Bristol High School until I graduated.
That was during the Depression, and there were a lot of people who didnít have much. During that time, I think the unemployment rate was about 20 percent. But there were still a lot of people working. The people who had jobs, boy, they lived in high cotton. In Clarksburg, there were a lot of glass factories, three that I can think of. And there were coal mines, the railroad, National Carbon, some Public Works, and a lot of stores.
I didnít live in a place with inside plumbing until I went in the service. At home, we took a bath in a big washtub. It was in the house all the time. We took a full bath about once a week. After I got in high school, I showered at school because I participated in athletics. A shower was much better than the washtub. In between washtub baths, we would take sponge baths. After I came home from the service we had inside plumbing.
We didnít have too many social activities. When I was old enough to want a social life, I went to parties at peopleís houses, and also to wiener roasts, marshmallow roasts, and those sorts of things.
I played with kids in the neighborhood, and I went to the movies in Clarksburg. A movie only cost a nickel or a dime. Iíd hitchhike to Clarksburg, and hitchhike home.
In the summertime we kids went swimming practically every day. There were two or three swimming holes around. Weíd walk home dead tired because weíd been swimming all day without anything to eat.
Weíd also play ball in the meadows. We had a baseball team in Wolf Summit when I was a kid. They had an adult ball team, but I was too young for that. I played on the junior ball team.
I canít remember any special friends in Clarksburg, and I canít remember any friends that we had in Reynoldsville. But in Wolf Summit there were some, like Guy Bee. I generally palled around with whoever was in the neighborhood or whoever was in my school class.
We had a radio in the 1930s. But we didnít have any other modern things, no washing machine or refrigerator, nothing. I think we had an ice box, but we didnít have any ice in it. All we ate were canned goods.
Mom canned some, when she had something to can. When we lived in Wolf Summit, we had a garden. And Uncle Doc, who lived close by in West Milford, had a garden. Weíd go over there and work and get stuff out of it. We helped put the garden in, and helped take care of it. Uncle Doc had a horse weíd plow with, and he had a cow or two and sometimes weíd get milk from him. When Mom was pregnant with Mack, I had to go down to Uncle Docís everyday and get milk.
Jack helped Dad paintóhe
did that for a couple of years. Occasionally, I would help, too,
but not very often. Frankie tells a story about me bribing her to
get up and put water on the beans. We would listen to soap operas
on the radio because the radio was a big deal back then, there was no television.
Weíd listen to the soap operas and weíd take turns going in and putting
water on the beans to make sure they wouldnít burn. Soup beans. As
for holidays, we usually had chicken or something like that. But
I think we had a big meal, Mom would fix something special. I canít
remember any company coming, but I remember us going different places,
like to Uncle Docís house.
We had a Christmas tree at Christmas. We got Christmas presents, but they were pretty sparse. We always got a little something, not much. Nothing big, nothing greatóbut it was big to us. We all helped put up the Christmas tree and decorate it.
None of us ever got into trouble with the law. We were popular in school, very popular. Out at Bristol, where we went to school, people were either poor, or they were farmers. Nobody had a heck of a lot.
I participated in sports in high school. I was never a good athlete, but I was good enough for the team. And I played in the band. Mom was always able to dig up a dollar a month to pay rent on a trumpet. That was during my sophomore and junior year. In my senior year, I was allowed to play the baritone horn, which was furnished by the school.
Jack played some sports, too. He played baseball. And I think he may have gone out for the junior high football team in Adamston. Jack was popular in school. We all were.
As kids in Wolf Summit, weíd jump on the cowcatcher of a streetcar when it was going slow or at a stop, and weíd ride to the top of the hill. When we got to the top, weíd pull the trolley ropes off the electric wiresóthatís how the streetcars got their power. We would have gotten into trouble if they could have caught us, but they couldnít catch us. We werenít supposed to be on the cowcatcher either. We didnít do it everyday, though.
Milton Furner was never married, he was just a big kid. He had an old car of some kind. In the winter we would be out on the road with sleds and Milton would have us grab hold of the bumper and pull us to the top of the hill. We would then sled back down again. Milton would wait for us at the bottom of the hill and take us back to the top.
Weíd do ornery things on
Halloween. Jack and our cousin, Dick Rollins, and maybe some others
upset a bus stop building where kids could get out of the rain. Dad
and Uncle Doc found out that they were involved and made them put the building
back up. Jack and Dick worked their butts off doing that. The
building went down over the hill and they had to drag it back up.
I learned to square dance when I was young. I donít remember ever square dancing at our house, because we never had room. But we square danced at Aunt Elsieís and at Beeís house up on the hill. Aunt Elsie, Dadís sister, lived down at Chiefton at that time. There were a lot of people who could play a guitar or a fiddle.
Dad was born in Ritchie County, which is on the east side of Parkersburg, between Clarksburg and Parkersburg. He grew up in Wood County. I think his father was a farmer.
Dad left home when he was very young. He told me the reason he left was that he didnít like to be disciplined, and his father was very strict. But all kids are that way. Dad was youngó16 or 17, somewhere in that neighborhood. He told us he ran off to Clarksburg and started working.
Dad was 22 when he got married. He was 8 years older than Mom. I donít know how they met. Dad had a lot of common sense. He didnít excel at carpentry, but he could do some. He was a real good truck driver, exceptional truck driver. Iíve heard that he was also a good teamster, but I never witnessed that. People have said that Dad was good with horses, he loved horses. He owned his own team when he was younger. He owned his own trucks, too. When he got sick he got rid of his trucks, he couldnít work.
Dad was a good worker, and he had a tremendous personality. Everybody liked him. He was outgoing, a friendly person. Good-hearted, too good-hearted. He would give drunks and anybody else anything he had. He was just too good-hearted. If he had money, he would help people with their bills.
I donít remember Dad very well before he got sick with tuberculosis. He was sick a long time. I can remember back in 1936 or 1937, we moved out to Reynoldsville and Dad got sick about then. He died in 1941. As long as I can remember, Dad had a terrible cough. He smoked, but I donít think he was a chain smoker. I guess it was that old TB working on him.
Dad was in Hopemont Hospital for a while, a sanitarium for people with TB. But he wouldnít stay. He left on his own accord, and came back home. Mom must have worked the whole time he was away. I never went to visit him while he was in the hospital.
Dad was laid up in bed in later years. At first after he got sick, he was able to do a little bit of work. He and Jack painted for our neighbor, Noke Furner, who owned a lot of houses in Wolf Summit. Jack and Dad painted those houses basically for our rent. But Mr. Furner paid Dad a little bit of cash, too.
Dad insisted that we graduate from high school. Thatís strange because Uncle Docís boys all quit high school. Uncle Doc encouraged Dad to have Jack quit. He said Jack could go to work and help support the family. But Dad wouldnít hear of it. He did not finish high school, I think he went to the sixth, seventh, or eighth grade. But he had high ideals along those linesóhe wanted his kids to amount to something. And he wanted us to be good kids.
Dad played the harmonica, and he was pretty good. After he got sick, however, he couldnít play because he didnít have the wind. I never heard him play for a dance, but he told me that he played a lot of times at a dance all by himself.
Dad fox hunted. People who fox hunted were dead serious. They had their dogs and treated them real good, fed them good. Theyíd build a big fire on the hill, and turn their dogs loose. The dogs would jump foxes, and chase them. The sport was to see whose dog could track the best. The men would sit there and listen to the dogs barking in the distance. And they would shoot the bull. They would listen to the barking, and identify the dogs. They could tell which dog was in the lead.
Dad died in 1941, in the spring. March, I think. I was 15 going on 16 when he died.
Dadís people came to West Virginia around 1800. Moses Rollins was the granddaddy of all of our family and he came from Culpepper, Virginia. He was in the Revolutionary War.
The Rollins side of my family was not very affluent. My grandfather on my Dadís side was a farmer in Walker, which is in Wood County. I remember my Grandfather and Grandmother Rollins a little, but not much.
Dad had two brothers, and three sistersóAlonzo, Doc, Ivy, Elsie, and Fannie. I think at least one of his siblings died in infancy. And his brother, Alonzo (Lonnie), was killed in a sawmill accident.
Dad was close to Uncle Doc and his sisters, Aunt Fannie and Aunt Elsie. They lived in Harrison County, too. Uncle Doc was a very good carpenter, but I donít think he made a living at that. He was also a mechanic. He worked for the Harrison County School Board for a long time, and also for the Carnation Company.
I played with Uncle Docís kids. I also played with Aunt Elsieís and Aunt Fannieís kids somewhat, but not that much. They didnít live very close to us, except once when we lived near Aunt Elsie for a year or two.
Mom was just a country girl. She was a mighty good mother. She wasnít a tremendous housekeeper, but she got the job done, in her way. She took care of her kids. She made sure we had clothes and food, and when Dad was sick, she had to work. She would make clothing for needy people.
Mom must not have worked a great deal after Mack came along. Mack was born in 1939, and Dad died in 1941. He was sick that whole time.
Mom wasnít strict with us. She would say, ďIím going to tell your Dad when he gets home.Ē But most of the time she wouldnít do it. She was soft-hearted.
Mom was a reserved person, but she was likeable. Dad was very outgoing. Everybody liked him.
I donít know a great deal about my Momís family. She lived at home until she got married at 14. Her home was near Clarksburg, but she lived out in the country for a while, too, out around Marshville.
Momís father, George Ritter, worked at various jobs. One of the census records Iíve seen listed him as a coal miner, another listed him as a night watchman, and another listed him as a farmer. I think he was a jack-of-all-trades. Mom had four brothers and two sisters. Her parents may have lost some children in infancy, but Iím not sure.
I didnít know my aunts and uncles on my motherís side very well. There was Okey, John, Ethel, Chet, Dale, and Sno. I donít remember Uncle Chet much, he died in 1936. And Uncle Oke, I donít remember ever seeing him. He lived in Cumberland, Maryland. I canít remember his real name, and I donít know what took him to Cumberland. Uncle Oke was a shoe repairman, a cobbler. He only had one leg, having lost one when he was a young boy. I think maybe he got it cut off bumming a freight train.
I guess Mom was close to Uncle John, Uncle Dale, and Aunt Sno. I donít remember my Grandmother Ritter much, either. I never saw my Grandfather Ritter, he died in 1922 before I was born.
I didnít have any relatives who were wealthy, or who became rich and famous. They were just ordinary people. We had a couple of doctors on Momís side. Momís uncle was a doctor. And there was a Doctor Ogden on her side. "