Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Very First Home

Yesterday Mom and Dad went to Clintwood to visit Mom's sister and her husband and invited me to tag along. I hadn't seen my aunt and uncle in over a year, so I braved the possibility of motion sickness (riding in the back seat of a vehicle for over an hour is always risky for me) and away we went.

Fortunately, Daddy took the best possible route and I didn't feel ill at all. The visit was really nice; they're awfully sweet people, and it was great to see them again. After we left their house, we drove up on Reedy Ridge, where Daddy and his family lived from the time he was almost 11 years old (sometime in 1944) until he married Mom in 1953. Then, he and Mom lived in a small house just up the road from his family. The house is gone now, but here is the site on which it stood:

It was a three-room house, with a living room, kitchen and bedroom. There was no indoor plumbing.

Here's a view of the road leading from the house back off the ridge. The house would have been in the field off to the left from this viewpoint:

Mom had to carry water from a house that used to stand in the approximate location of the gray garage in this photo. You'll note that there was a considerable hill to climb while loaded down with buckets of water. (See Daddy in the rear-view mirror.)

Off to the right of the road, Daddy said that he used to cut hay on this field, now reclaimed by Mother Nature:

This is the house where Daddy lived with his parents, his brothers, and his sister from about 1944 until 1953:

From Reedy Ridge, we drove to Clinchco, where Daddy spent his early childhood. While there we stopped to read the names on the Coal Miners Memorial.

This memorial is "Dedicated to Those Who Lost Their Lives in the Coal Industry". Here is a closer view of a portion of the monument showing the names of two of my relatives:

Willard Sweeney was Daddy's first cousin. James F. Trivett, Jr. was Mom's uncle. Actually, he wasn't a "Jr."; his name was James Ferrell Trivett, son of James Austin Trivett and Draxie Vanover Trivett.

After the visit to Clincho, we made our way back home. It was a good, if tiring, day.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Goodnight, and May God Bless

While waiting in a checkout line at Wal-Mart one day, I overheard two young mothers discussing their difficulties in getting their toddlers to go to bed at night. Leaning against my shopping cart, waiting my turn to make my donation to the Walton family fortune, I thought to myself that I don't ever remember Mom having any problem putting my sister or me to bed. She just put us in bed, and we knew we were to stay there until time for breakfast the next morning. No whining allowed.

Bedtime for us as young children came early, by current standards. We had to be bathed, in our jammies, and in bed by 8:00 p.m. No arguments.

The only exception to this hard and fast rule was Tuesday evenings. That one night each week we were allowed to stay up past our bedtime to watch Red Skelton. How we looked forward to Red's opening monologue; my favorite monologue characters were the two seagulls, Gertrude and Heathcliff. In the main sketches, Clem Kadiddlehopper was always fun, but Sheriff Deadeye was hilarious.

The best thing about Red's show was that he always seemed to be having a wonderful time. It was as though he was doing the show for fun, and just invited you along for the ride.

It was always a little sad to see him come out at the end of the show to say "Goodnight, and may God bless". We knew that as soon as David Rose's "Holiday for Strings" ended, it was bedtime. And it would be another whole week before we saw Red again.

Looking back, the period during which I remember watching the shows was in the early 1960's, a truly turbulent time in our country. On the evening news, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley would tell us about hippies, civil rights demonstrations, and the space race.

Red Skelton's television show was funny, but in a gentle way. There were no jokes of questionable taste. Children could be allowed to watch it with no fear of exposing them to anything inappropriate. How did such a tame show survive in such an edgy time?

I've no idea. I'm just grateful that I have memories of Red's infectious giggle as he tried to get through a San Fernando Red skit without breaking up.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Grapevine Gallouses

During a conversation with Mom and Dad while we were camping last weekend, the subject of overconfident young first-time employees came up. (Let's face it, they sometimes think they're MUCH more indisposable than they really are!)

Daddy said that when my grandfather, Curt, was working for Clinchfield Coal many years ago (when Daddy was a young boy) that a miner had expressed his displeasure with the Company to a supervisor. (This of course was before the union got involved in mining.) The supervisor had told the miner that if he didn't like his job, there was someone waiting outside the gate in his grapevine gallouses waiting to take his place.

I'd never heard the expression "grapevine gallouses" before, and was completely intrigued. I Googled the phrase and got no hits whatsover. I think it's very descriptive, though. First, for those of you who never heard of "gallouses", think "suspenders". At the time this supervisor would have used the phrase, gallouses would have been common attire. Imagine being so poverty-stricken that you had to use grapevine to keep your britches up. Very descriptive, indeed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I can't remember where the pup came from.

I know that previous pups had come into our family by Daddy bringing them home from work. I remember that once someone he worked with had found a box of puppies in the county dump. He brought them back to the car dealership where Daddy worked, hoping someone would want them. Two of those pups came home with Daddy, one for me and one for my sister.

I know that another pup was rescued from a large litter delivered by a stray dog under our neighbor's porch. He was the runt of the litter and would have undoubtedly starved if we hadn't taken him home with us.

But I can't remember how this particular puppy came into our lives. She was a small black and white mixed-breed terrier. She was sharp as a tack and fiercely defensive of "her" yard and "her" kids (my sister and me). She would chase balls tirelessly as long as we would throw them for her, zipping around the yard like a black-and-white streak. We named her "Playful", because she WAS playful.

At that time, all of our dogs had been outdoor dogs. (Indoor dogs came later.) They had good, sturdy, warm doghouses and plenty of nutritious food and water. Playful, like all other pets in our neighborhood, was not chained. There was no leash law. She would, on occasion, leave our yard to go exploring, but never stayed away for long and was always home by suppertime.

One Sunday afternoon we returned from a weekend visit to see my grandparents to find Playful absent from the yard. She didn't return for supper. She was still missing when my sister and I went to school the next morning. We were devastated when she wasn't waiting on the sidewalk when we returned from school that afternoon. She'd never been away overnight before, and this long an absence could only be due to some occurrence that would physically prevent her return. Though we didn't speak it aloud, my sister and I knew that this meant that either she'd been picked up by a stranger or killed.

Two weeks passed with no sign of Playful. It was time for another weekend visit to see my grandparents. Unbelievably, when we returned on Sunday afternoon, Playful was laying on the front porch waiting for us. Her left front paw was horribly mangled, and she was painfully thin. When Daddy took her to the veterinarian, the vet said that her paw had apparently been caught in an animal trap. (There'd been a recent outbreak of rabies in the area, and traps were more prevalent than usual.) During the time she'd been missing, snow had fallen in our area. The vet theorized that she'd probably been able to stay alive during the time she'd been trapped by eating snow. My heart ached to think of her trapped, in pain, cold, and hungry. Because the injured part of her paw was still attached, we knew that someone must have found her and released her. Somehow, even though half-starved and injured, she found her way back home to us.

The mangled paw would have to be surgically removed. The vet advised that since the paw must be removed, it would be easier for Playful to adapt if he removed the entire leg. And so he did.

We were amazed at how quickly she healed. Her appetite was good, and her heart-breaking thinness soon gave way to a sleek plumpness and once-again-shiny coat. The loss of her leg never slowed her down. She ran as fast as ever on the remaining three legs. We loved to watch her dig holes (her favorite past-time was burying things and digging them up again) after she healed. She would choose the spot for her newest hole, balance herself on the tip of her nose, and dig furiously with her remaining front paw. The she would stop digging, inspect the hole, re-balance herself on her nose, and dig again until the hole suited her. She would place whatever she was burying (bone, biscuit, new dog toy) into the hole and push the dirt back over it with the side of her nose. We could always tell when she'd been burying things....her head would be dirty all the way up to her eyes!

In spite of her ordeal, she remained a loving and loyal companion until her death several years later. Oddly enough, her having lost a leg had nothing to do with her death. One of our neighbors was having trouble with skunks and put out poisoned bait without notifying others in the area to tie their dogs. We found Playful dead, a victim of accidental poisoning, on the back step one morning. We mourned, and our neighbor was genuinely sorry.

We had pets before Playful and after Playful, but none touched the heart of the entire neighborhood quite like that little three-legged black-and-white streak zipping through the yard in hot pursuit of a tossed ball.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm a Dinosaur

I had a conversation with a coworker this morning that brought me to the realization that I am a dinosaur. I've been in the workforce since 1971, so I've seen a lot of changes in office technology. As my coworker and I began comparing notes, I thought of a lot of changes I've seen outside the office as well.

As a child:
  1. My family's first telephone number began with a word: Canal 51248. (Dialed as 2251248.)
  2. Our first telephone had a rotary dial on it instead of push buttons.
  3. Our first telephone line was "semi-private"....a line shared by two households. We'd applied for a private line but had to wait until one was available. Some of my friends had "party lines", with up to six households on the same line.
  4. There was no television cable or satellite. We got 2 stations: one NBC affiliate and one CBS affiliate. I can remember when we finally got an ABC station in our area. What a treat!
  5. The only dishwasher in the house was Mom, until my sister and I got old enough to be assigned the task.
  6. Mom had an automatic washer, but hung our laundry on a clothesline to dry. I still miss the smell of line-dried sheets.
  7. Only one mom in my neighborhood worked outside the home.
  8. On occasion, three or four families would gather on a summer evening in a backyard and make homemade ice cream. Peach was the most memorable. *drool*
  9. We ate what was put on the dinner table. Period. No special orders.
  10. Bedtime was 8:00 pm. No arguments, no whining allowed. One exception: once a week we were allowed to stay up past bedtime to watch the Red Skelton television show.
As a teenager:
  1. We all rode the school bus and didn't know we should be embarrassed by that.
  2. We didn't have video games....we played Monopoly and Canasta in the winter and badminton and croquet in the summer.
  3. If we were bored, we knew better than to mention it. Mom could always find something for us to do.
  4. We didn't go to the Mall. There wasn't a Mall.
  5. We did, however, make an occasional trip to the one McDonald's in town. Or the one Burger Chef. *drool again*
  6. If we were grounded for misbehavior, that meant no television, no phone, no visiting friends. No exceptions.
  7. No cell phones. There were actually periods of HOURS when we might be out of communication with the entire world.
  8. No instant messaging. If a friend didn't live in the local calling area, you wrote letters.....BY HAND....and put STAMPS on them....and sent them by SNAIL MAIL which was the only mail available. And it could take DAYS, maybe even WEEKS, to get a response. Letter writing was an art (at which I never excelled, unfortunately). Every girl had a box of nice stationery stashed away.
As a young lady in the workforce in the 70's:
  1. Typing was typing....on a typewriter. If you were lucky, you worked in an office that had an electric typewriter. If you were REALLY lucky, it was an IBM selectric.
  2. Deletion of a typing error was performed by use of a special eraser designed to erase typewriter ink. It had a brush on the end of it to brush the eraser crumbs out of the typewriter keys. (I actually have a typing eraser in my pencil holder on my desk as a bit of memorabilia.)
  3. There were no casual Fridays. You could wear slacks to work in some offices, but others still required more formal office attire.
  4. Xerographic copy machines were still not common. Duplication usually involved carbon paper. If there were hundreds of copies required, you used a duplicator machine or a mimeograph machine. End result was nearly always ink on a new white blouse and a slight buzz from inhalation of duplicator fluid.
  5. Electronic calculators were really expensive, so most offices still had manual adding machines. A good operator (and I was, admittedly, pretty good) could use the manual adding machine nearly as quickly as the electronics work today.
  6. "Word processing" was a non-existent term. I can remember typing 12-page leases with 4 carbon copies. No corrections were allowed, since it was a legally binding document. If, upon completion of the lease, the boss decided to add another paragraph on page 2, that meant that you retyped pages 2 through 12. There are some things about the "old days" that I do NOT miss.
  7. Personal calls were not allowed in the office. Well....maybe if there was a death in the family, but that was about it.
Like I said. I'm a dinosaur.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Going to Granny's on a Saturday Night

When I was a girl growing up in beautiful Scott County, Virginia, we often made the trip to Dickenson County on weekends to visit my grandparents. Though it seemed to me that we went every weekend, I know that we actually only went once or twice a month.

It was about 60 miles from our house to the home of my maternal grandparents (Granny & Pa Fred) in a small community called Darwin. It was about a 90-minute drive along narrow, crooked two-lane roads. Of course, if we were going to the home of my paternal grandparents (Granny & Curt) in Clintwood, that was another 15 minutes or so along even more narrow, crooked two-lane roads.

At that time, Daddy worked six days a week for the Chevrolet dealership in Gate City. On the weekends we were going to Dickenson County, Mom would have supper ready as soon as Daddy came home from work on Saturday. We'd eat, she'd hurry with the dishes, and we'd pile into the car to head to Granny's.

Sometimes, as a special treat, we'd stop for supper at the Dutch Boy Grill in Weber City. It was a drive-in restaurant situated right beside the Holston River. The Dutch Boy had great food, and we always looked forward to those special suppers.

Full of burgers, fries, and chocolate milk shakes, my sister and I would settle into the back seat, feeling cozy and safe. We listened to the Grand Ole Opry on the car radio as we rode through the darkness, making our way through Gate City, Nickelsville, and Dungannon.

As we left Dungannon, my cozy feeling turned to dread. Between Dungannon and Coeburn is a horrible stretch of narrow hairpin turns winding through an area known as Hanging Rock. In my entire life, I've never been across Hanging Rock without suffering from motion sickness. (In retrospect, maybe those stops at the Dutch Boy weren't such a great idea after all.)

The road from Coeburn to Darwin (and on to Clintwood from there) isn't great, but it's an improvement over Hanging Rock at least. By the time we'd arrive at Granny's, I'd be in misery. Being carsick is just about the worst thing ever, and I've suffered with it all my life. (The only thing worse is being homesick, I think.)

When we got out of the car in Darwin, Granny would have a glass of water and an Alka-Seltzer waiting for me, bless her heart. Soon I'd be tucked into bed, tummy settled and snuggled down into warm blankets. Sunday would be a busy day of visiting with relatives, but Saturday night was spent resting and recuperating from Hanging Rock.