The Soldier and the X-ray Tech

 by Mike Peters

The old and faded newspaper clipping is from the Jackson Herald.   The headline reads, "Wandalea Coleman Marries Shelby Peters In Ceremony."   It tells us about a wedding that occurred at the home of the bride's parents in Jackson County, WV.  It tells us that the bride "was attended by her cousin, Miss Arbutus Coleman," and that another of the bride's cousins, Stanton Boggess, served as the groom's best man.  The bride is pictured above the headline. While informative to the family historian, the newspaper clipping doesn't tell us everything. It doesn't tell us about the soldier and the x-ray tech.

The soldier was home on leave from a base where he was stationed in French Morocco, a country more famous for a city called Casablanca and a club named "Rick's Cafe."  The soldier was not too far removed from his participation in the Korean War.  He walked down the hall of Charleston's Kanawha Valley Hospital toward his mother's room.  She had been taken there from her home in Naoma, Raleigh County, WV.  The soldier's cap was under his arm.

The x-ray tech watched the soldier as he walked up the stairs.  Spit shined shoes!  Medals and ribbons!  Dark eyes!  Dark hair!  She liked the look of a man in uniform.  She sighed and went about her work.  The x-ray tech was not too far removed from Jackson County's Ripley High School, where she had graduated in 1954.  She was also a graduate of the Charleston School of Commerce.  Her radiology training came via a program offered by the Kanawha Valley Hospital, the hospital where she was now employed.

The x-ray tech approached the room of a familiar patient.  She would say hello to Sadie and possibly husband Burton, who usually traveled to the hospital by bus from Raleigh County to visit his wife.  The x-ray tech opened her mouth to say something, tripped over a pair of outstretched legs and into the lap of the soldier. "Hello Wendy, " said the soldier's mother, grinning.  "How are you doing?"   The soldier picked up the papers the x-ray tech had dropped and introduced himself.

The soldier would ask the x-ray tech out that day.  Their first date was a lunch of hamburgers and Cokes.  They returned, the soldier to his mother's room and the X-ray tech to work.  After work, the X-ray tech showered and got ready for the second date--dinner and a movie called "Son of Sinbad."

The soldier and the x-ray tech learned a lot about each other in the next couple of weeks.  His stock was Raleigh, Boone, Fayette and Wyoming Counties.  Her vintage was Jackson, Kanawha, Putnam and Mason. He was coal mining.  She was dairy farming.  He attended Clear Fork High in Raleigh County for a brief time, before dropping out of school to join the service and help support his parents and younger brother.  She was a high school graduate. He had seen the world.  She had seen the state.

The soldier and the x-ray tech got married on 28 March 1956 as was documented in the Jackson County newspaper.  The marriage would last eleven years, cut short by the soldier's untimely death in July of 1967.  In those eleven years together, he came to know the farms of Jackson and Kanawha.  She came to understand the mines of Boone and Raleigh.  He graduated high school.  She saw the world.  One child, a boy named Michael, was born on 15 May 1957.

It has been said that genealogy without documentation is mythology.  With that, I'll most definitely agree. But we should never neglect oral legend.  For it is oral legend that adds the spice to our bland courthouse research.  Family is so much more than the black and white of old documents.  The stories told by elder family members add much color to our family portrait.  Their eyes sparkle and sometimes there are tears, when they tell us the stories.  As  was the case when my mother told me about a hospital that no longer exists and a chance meeting that occurred there almost 50 years ago, between a soldier and an x-ray tech.

Thanks for listening and as my Grandma Coleman, the mother of the x-ray tech, used to say, "Ya'll Come!"


Mike Peters

Shelby Hollis Peters and Sharon Wandalea "Wendy"Coleman

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