From the book about West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle and also Northwestern Maryland
First Books, First Cars and Baby Brothers
Submitted by Dottie Hughes of New Creek, West Virginia
My First Book
One day I was going through a large brown envelope filled with mementoes. I opened a little, worn book and began to read Wonderful Tony, about a rooster who was friends with a duck. Tony was sad because he couldn’t swim like the ducks. He began to help Mr. Robin dig for worms. When Mr. Robin became full, Tony ate and ate. Tony grew and grew until one day, Mr. Hawk picked Tony up, but the farmer shot Mr. Hawk and Tony fell into the pond. His feet touched bottom, and he walked out.
The date in the little book was December 25, 1947. I was seven years old when this little book was given to me by a cousin of the same age. This was probably my first book that belonged to me.
I remember those days in a one-room school when a new box of books would come from the county office. Oh, the excitement of choosing a good book!
There was no television and for several years, no radio in our home. My sister, brother, and I would settle in a corner and to some faraway place on an exciting adventure tour, we would go.
It has been 67 years since that little book was given to me. The desire to read is still great. Luckily, I chose a mate with the love to explore in the land of books. Without intending to, we have passed this love of books to our three children, our grandchildren, and now to the great-grandchildren.
My father treasures books, as his mother did also. My father had the talent of making books and their characters come alive in our imaginations.
I have a desire to visit some of the western states because of the places I’ve been in Zane Grey’s books. Janice Hold Giles takes us to Piney Ridge, and we spend a few days with those wonderful hill people. Corrie Ten Boom, Catherine Marshall, David Wilkerson, and Norman Vincent Peale are some very inspiring Christian writers, but the greatest book of all, the Bible, feeds the soul and guides our life. My oldest son tells me that he remember when he shared the rocking chair with me and his baby brother as I read Bible stories to them.
Books are good friends to be cherished, treasured, and shared with others.
The Night My Brother Walter Was Born
I guess one of my first memories was the night that my brother, Walter was born. I remember a bed made for me on the kitchen table. I guess little three-year-old Bea was there, but I don’t remember. Later that night we were taken to the barn by Odell and a bed was made in the feed bins of the stable. It was cool that November 6, 1945 night. I can remember Vance Harris coming to the stable that night. I don’t remember Bea going to the stable with us, but I am sure she did.
Later, we were taken back to the house. There was a step down from the kitchen into the living room; they always referred to that room as the house. It was years later that I learned that this room should be called the living room. I remember that right inside of the living room, close to the step down from the kitchen set a table with a kerosene lamp on it. On the table set a pan of water. Grandmother Minnie Michael was sitting in the chair holding a little baby and giving it a bath. I can imagine that Bea and I looked at this little one, wondering about it. Our mother lay in the bed over in the corner of the living room. Grandmother Michael was a small, quiet lady with her wire rim glasses sitting on her nose.
The picture of Thomas and Rebecca (Harris) Rotruck was watching all the happenings of that night. Thomas and Rebecca were the parents of Grandmother Lulie. It seemed like their eyes watched us through the growing up years. Is that why when I first began doing genealogy in the very early 1970s, I chose them to begin with?
It was the custom in those days for a lady who had just given birth to be in bed for ten days. It was during those ten days of bed rest that Herbert arrived back from the service, bringing a wife with him. Mother had been moved to the bed in the little bedroom.
I remember Bea and I were out behind the house playing when we looked up and saw them coming. We hurriedly ran into the house to tell them that someone was coming. There were two more people added to this already full house. I don’t remember much after that, but I do remember a few arguments and Judy wanting to return to her home. She was from the city, and it had to be quite a change to come back into these hills with people that she was not used to and did not know. Later, they moved to the Serie house down under the hill from where we lived. Four of their six children were born in that house.
Memories of those very early years are scarce. I remember some time, and it may have even been before brother Walter arrived, but the O’Briens who lived down in the Serie house at that time were there one night. They were hiding candy or something from me in the old sewing machine drawer, and I was to find it. I think Mother bought the old Serie place from the O’Brien family in about 1943. Mother used the money that Daddy sent her from the service to buy those 47 acres.
Years later when I began doing genealogy, I wondered why it was called the Serie place. I went searching in deed books to see who the different owners had been. I saw where often times in deeds it was referred to as the Sarah Rinker place. I remember Odell used to call a sister of Judy’s who was named Sarah “Serie.” Then I realized that was the way the older hill people pronounced the name Sarah.
My First Car
I have often wondered whatever happened to my little ’51 Chevrolet. After I traded it in, I used to look for it like someone would for an old friend. I would look at the cars on the road, in parking lots, on used car lots, and on the street. I never once saw it. Now I hope it is someone’s antique car and goes to antique car shows.
I bought my little ’51 Chevy in 1959. It was a two door all black car. A spotlight was fastened to the side by the mirror. It was against the law to spotlight deer, and it was never used. It was a straight stick, meaning there was a gearshift. In those days, most cars were like that. The dimmer switch was on the floor and there were no signal lights. I used arm signals when turning.
I bought it from Ludwick’s in Moorefield. Galen Whittaker, Gene’s brother-in-law had been looking for a car for me. I went to the Grant County Bank and borrowed the $350.00 needed to buy it. It needed the motor overhauled. Gene and his brother, Russ did that for me.
Galen delivered it to Petersburg High where I was going to school. I was not used to driving and very unsure of myself. Judy Bible, a fellow classmate, drove it to her home on Thorn Run, and I drove it the last eight to ten miles to my home.
I have often wondered and felt that God must have helped me drive that car. I made several stupid mistakes that taught me a lot about driving, but not I or the car ever got hurt. One time coming out of the ridges, they had just plowed the roads. I got over too far and slid into this deep ditch. Grandmother was riding in the back, and she fell on the floor. She did not get hurt. Later it was very funny. I had to be pulled out of the ditch.
There was the time that Kathy took the bottle of baby aspirins in the later summer of 1961. Gene was not home, and I went up and got in my little car that we seldom drove. I couldn’t get the garage door all the way open. I was scared and needed out, so I decided to back into it. I did not hurt my little car. I got it across the road and ran out of gas. Dovie Rohrbaugh came along and helped me push my car out of the road and took me out to where Gene was to get help.
I traded my little car in on the trailer when we bought it in the summer of 1962. I remember when they brought the trailer and were taking my little car down the road. I watched it go and wanted to cry. I told Gene I felt like crying. He said, “While you do, look out at the trailer.” I traded my first car in on my first home.
The Crooked Tree
I can remember back in the late 1940s and 1950s as I walked this road to attend either the Popular School or to catch the bus to ride to Maysville Grade School and later Petersburg High School, we would pass this tree. It was small but nevertheless crooked. Probably at times, we would climb onto the seat and sit a while, pretending it was a horse.
Today the tree has grown much bigger. No children walk by it to catch a school bus but many people drive by, as the people who once grew up in the ridges are returning to build homes there. I look at it each time I drive into the ridges, and I marvel at its beauty as the memories come back.
This tree sits on the curve below the area that was known as the Old Shed. It was always called that because an old shed had sat there at one time. When I was growing up, I heard the story of a man being killed there when he was loading logs on a wagon. In my searching of genealogy, I cannot find out who it was. Even May did not know. If I just knew the year or even a name would help, but when Grandmother was talking of these things, I was not interested and did not remember. Oh, how foolish I was.
The road at the Old Shed would go down Emmie Hill, which was very steep and rough, to the old Alfred house. We would pass it and keep walking and come to Aunt Mag’s house. The old goose would meet us at the gate, announcing our arrival. I was afraid of the old goose. Emmie Hill was named after Emma Likins, the mother of Alfred. The ridge people always stuck an “e” on the end of names.