|Back in our day . . .||
I was born in Charleston General Hospital in Charleston, WV. I was the first baby in my mom's family and I came into her life about ten months after her father passed away. No one knew how great an impact I would have on her life but it turned out that I was her only successful child and brought into her life the things that made her happy. We lived in a very small coal-mining town called Ameagle. It was named after American Eagle Colliery and my grandfather was foreman of the mines. My dad worked there as well when he left the navy after WWII. He had the job of picking slate and filling up railroad cars. He was afraid to go into the mines after my grandfather passed away in his front yard after a shift at the mines. He had heart disease and died of a heart attack. He was my mom's favorite parent and they were very close. After he died, my mom was severely depressed and when I was born, she couldn't stop crying. Every time she would get upset in her hospital room, I would cry in the nursery. Now that I have had 3 children of my own, I can understand the impact that delivering a child can have on your body, especially after a traumatic event like losing a parent. It is extremely stressful. Funny how you understand your parents better when you grow up than you ever could have imagined as a child.
I went home to a little town back in the mountains, and I would grow and develop a sense of freeness that nothing else has compared to. Life would prove to be extremely difficult for me, but not until much later on. As a child, I went where I wanted, and developed a sense of such wildness and freedom and loved the world I knew and the home a child could never forget. My grandmother, my mom's mother, was a huge factor in my life. After my dad married my mom, they moved into my grandmother's house and that's where I lived the first 8 years of my life. She and my dad didn't get along, but she had just lost her husband and my mom would not leave her sitting alone while she and my dad shared time together. It was a mistake, but I can understand it too. So. to prevent further problems, my grandmother went to her mother's house where she only had to cross the street to the hospital in Charleston and she worked as a nurses aide there. She also at one time worked at her brother-in-laws restaurant, and on the weekends she'd come see us and bring us a lot of really wonderful food from the restaurant. Her brother-in-law told her to take what she wanted in order to not waste what would otherwise be thrown out. It was good food but left over the weekend would not be fit to serve, so he gave it to grandmother. She would also bring us clothes and help my mom to do things around the house and shopping. When mom was pregnant with my brother, grandmother would leave her job and move home to help her do the things she couldn't quite manage as she got bigger and bigger.
I was a talkative child and picked up things quickly. My mom's neighbor across the street would come and get me and take me to their house and teach me manners that were unusual for a 2 year old to have. I would ask at dinnertime "Please pass me a loaf of bread". I'd forget I only meant a slice of bread. I talked in sentences by the time I was a year old. My mom was thrilled with me, and when she had my brother, and no longer had time for me, I was devastated and I took my revenge out on my brother when he got older. I wanted to still be the favorite. I was 3 when David was born. I tried to stand on my head, and I did all sorts of tricks in order to regain the attention of my mother. She still loved me of course, but my brother was sort of sickly and had croup and had to have special medicine and so on. As he got older, he developed a mean streak and would throw things at me at the table and would slide down in his chair and kick me under the table. He had to have special shoes and they had steel toes and he left scars that I still have on my shins. He often pinched me and pulled my hair and one day I just got tired of it and I crawled behind the couch and when I got to the end I spied his fat little legs and I bit him to get even. My mom was so surprised and even though I didn't get a spanking for doing it, it gave me little comfort because it didn't change a thing. So, I went about my days playing alone in the backyard or with my cousin Sandra who lived at the end of the road.
I started school at 4 and I turned 5 in December. They didn't have Kinder-garden back in those days and I was put in first grade. I would walk to school with my cousin Sandra who was 3 years older than I was and after I got older I'd walk alone. In the winter months some of the neighbors would pick up a load of children and take us to school. But I often walked home and once I remember not being able to get over the two top steps that lead to the road home and I threw my lunchbox over the top and crawled over the iced and snow encrusted steps and pulled myself over it. I was an independent little cuss and I wasn't afraid of much of anything! Once a couple of girls were threatening to fight me, so I threw my books down, put my hands on my hips and told them to "come on then!". They changed their minds and turned around and left!
But there was a freedom back in the hills between the mountains, and I found it. I loved the changing of the seasons, and I loved exploring around the small town. I would often get money from my mom and I'd go to our "soda-fountain" and buy hot dogs, ready made and delicious! I walked the short trip to our local church and attend summer Bible School where I'd read about Jesus and make things for my mom. My parents took me to church on Sunday and Wednesday night prayer meetings, and I can still remember those experiences. Once they had a foot washing ceremony after the regular sermon one Sunday night and when we got home, my brother threw a fit because he wanted his feet washed! My parents had to do it for him before he'd calm down and go to sleep! I remembered everything that happened and although my parents stopped attending church when we moved to Huntington, I didn't forget what I'd learned. My grandmother was a Christian and loved going to church and even when years passed by and we were in Kodiak, she still attended church every chance she got and I'd go with her. It was there that I gave my life to Jesus. I truly needed a friend that Sunday and when the Pastor asked if there was anyone that wanted to have Jesus for a life-long friend, I went forward in the church and accepted Christ as my Savior. I was 12.
The mountains surrounding us were covered in all sorts of trees. Some of the trees had fruit and daddy would take me exploring. One of the fruits was called a "Paw Paw" and they were like mangoes, but had no huge pit in the middle. They were sweet and juicy and I loved exploring with my dad. On some days, he'd take David and me walking while mom made dinner and we'd walk by the river where there were beech nut trees and all you had to do was run your hand down the stems and you'd have a handful of beech nuts to eat. There was a railroad track there too and there was a hand car and my dad would put us on the car and move the handle up and down and we'd move down the track a bit. There was a sand house for the kids to play in as well, and all the kids would gather there. When we'd go home for dinner, you could smell the good food and mom always laughed when I'd show up for meals no matter where I was playing. The roads were just dirt but it was soft like sand and I went barefoot in the summer. I remember once that dad had been building a screen door for the summer weather so we could leave the heavy door open and let the air in. I was outside playing and got a piece of wire in my foot. Later on that day, grandmother was going to take us to Ohio to get ice-cream cones and they stopped briefly and I ran in to the doctor's office and he took the wire out of my foot. He gave me a band aid and a lollipop and I was quite content. The ice cream that I liked was black walnut ice cream and it was one of about 20 different flavors they made. The trip was fun and often we'd go with grandmother to the river and in the shallows, she'd park her car and we'd get out and wash it, and then ride inner tubes in the river. Summer was fun, but once I got a wasp sting in my back and that was quite painful! My dad took me in the house and took the stinger out of my back and put medicine on it. I was my dad's favorite.
I can remember clearly the day my parents were talking about moving to the city. I was 8 years old and was sitting on the sofa reading the Sunday funnies and I heard what they said. I didn't know if I'd like it or not, having always lived in Ameagle. Little did I know that would be the first of many "moves" and would never feel quite at home. The mines were closing down and a lot of people had to move. Now the place is a forest and no one lives there nowadays. We moved to a little red house that wasn't big enough for us. We weren't there very long and moved into a bigger two story house and we were there for about a year. Then we moved again....several times in 3rd Grade and I was in about 5 different schools that year and ended up in the school I started out in. Then we moved to Washington Street and my brother and I attended Washington Elementary school and we were there for several years. We lived in an old fashioned Victorian 2 story house with a widows walk and a huge yard with an apple tree. My dad put a swing in the tree and a huge swing on the porch for the adults. I can remember sitting in the swing in the summer and on weekends and read and read. I'd sit straddled on the swing and just gently swing from side to side while reading. My brother would be off playing with his friends which I was thankful for. My baby sister was born while we lived there. She had strawberry blonde hair at first, but it turned dark later on. She was a pretty baby and I'd come home for lunch every day when I was at school, just so I could hold her and feed her. Once she wet on me and I had to change clothes before I could go back to school! But I loved her. I was 10 years old when she was born. I regret that we were so far apart that we weren't very close. Years later when we tried to be close to each other, it just never worked out. We were as different as night and day. To this day we never talk or see each other and it is something I regret and wish I could have made it work out. Just too many years between us.
The weather was something I loved there. The cold snowy winters, the balmy breezes of spring, the hot humid summer with it's thunder storms and hail, and then the fall when all the hills and valleys turned colors. Here in California you don't have seasons and if I could change anything that's what it would be. I'd add seasons here and it would be the perfect Camelot of my dreams. I have a wonderful family though and I could not ask for more. I will be quite content with my California sunshine and I am at home once more. I've lived here longer than any place else, and it really has become my home. I'll wrap this up for now and go and make some delicious hamburgers for dinner. It's a quiet evening and some of our favorite TV shows will be on later, so I hope you've enjoyed this little excursion into the past with me and that you'll find enough here to keep up your interest and will come back for more. So Jack, I hand the pen to you and leave you to your memories and experiences of your young life. Best wishes to all and I hope you leave a comment as to whether you have enjoyed your excursion into the past.
This is for the grandkids, the family, close friends, and anyone else who can keep a civil tongue in their heads! It amounts to an interactive book of memoirs, but only if you interact... so get to it!
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California has been my home since 1965. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I'm home to stay!
What is there to say about a ten-year old turning 65, besides, what the hell happened?!??