I was born on Harts Creek in Logan County, West Virginia at the end of the " Great Depression." My favorite people were my Dad, who always danced around with me in his arms or held me on his lap while he was eating a late supper. He always sang to me and the song was always the same: "You are My Sunshine." My paternal grand parents and my Aunt Amanda lived nearby and they played a very special role in my life. I loved them all dearly and they pampered me constantly. I was the "baby" in the family.
My Mother was the one who was the most influential person in my life. She was a strict disciplainarian, but she also had patience with me, but I never realized it until I was older. She told me stories and taught me to read, long before I was old enough to start school. She taught me nursery rhymes and told me stories about her ancestors and how special her own mother had been.
I had a little pony, his name was Dapple Gray
I lent him to a lady, to ride a mile away
She whipped him, she lashed him:
She rode him through the mire
I wouldn't lend my pony now,
for all the lady's hire!
This was my first lesson in empathy, although I didn't know it until I was in Graduate School at the University of Michigan, studying Family Therapy. Mother always sang to me too. She mostly sang hymns, but my favorite was not a hymn, it was "Have I told you lately that I love you?" (now playing in the background, in memory of my Mother.) Being in the country, we didn't get a lot of customers at our store nor many postal patrons, so I watched Mother cook and bake and sew and work in the garden We didn't have a blade of grass in the yard, but there were flowers everywhere!
When Mother was crocheting, she sat in a big oak rocking chair, very similar to the one made famous by John F. Kennedy, many years later. I sat on her lap and we rocked and sang together. When she was sewing, I sat in my own little oak rocking chair (very similar to her big one) and rocked to the hum of the old treadle Singer sewing machine. We always sang then too. Sometimes I got spanked for being "bad," and had to sit in my rocking chair. That was when I felt sorry for myself and thought nobody loved me, but at those times, I sang, "Yes Jesus Loves Me." We stayed up late on Saturday night and listened to the Grand Old Opry. We had a big battery operated radio and a large floor model "Victrola" (phonograph player) and there was always music. Guess that is why music has always been such an important part of my life.
My memories of my mother are too numerous to mention here, but of all the people in my life, my Mother was the one who instilled in me my most basic values. She wanted me to be a teacher, and in one way or another, that is what I have always been, even though I did not want to be a teacher. I realized this when I was conducting my first therapy session with my very first client. A therapist IS a teacher.
My mother did not drive and we lived in the country, about fourteen miles from the town of Logan. I thought Logan was a big city. Mother used to take me to town while my Dad was at work and my sisters were in school. We would stand at the end of the lane until a logging truck came by and the drivers would stop and give us a ride over the rough mountain road, that was barely passable in places. There were lots of logging trucks in those days, and I hated them. I did not like the big gruff "loggers"- they scared me. The trucks were like mud caked monsters, hauling the timber to the "Logan Planing Mill" in town to be made into lumber. It was during those years that our beautiful mountains were being stripped of the hardwood forests to provide lumber for the rest of the country.
My mother owned a little country store and was the Post Mistress. The official Post Office address at that time was Whirlwind, West Virginia. The local United States Post Office for the area was located in the corner of our store. There was no electricity.
In the above picture, our store was right at the end of the lane (foreground). Our house set to the right and was directly across the yard from the store. In the background, where you can see a tree, is where Grandma and Aunt Mandy lived. At the other end of the lane (right) the lane ran into the creek. There was no bridge, so cars had to go through the creek to get to the house and the store. There was a "foot log" for foot traffic. The "foot log" was the trunk of a large tree that had been hewn so that one side was flat, and then the tree was laid across the creek to form a foot bridge.
We burned kerosene lamps at night and went to bed early. We had a well, because there was no running water on Harts Creek during those days and no paved roads. At the end of the day when Mother and I had gone to town, Dad would pick us up in town after he got off work and drive us home. We always sang on the way home and Dad let me help him "drive." Dad worked on the "tipple" at Whitman in those days. He hated the coal mines and refused to work underground. Nearly every family had lost friends or relatives in mine disasters.
I loved going to town and going to the "dime store." Logan was a thriving town in those days because of the coal mines, and there were three "dime stores." Mother and I would "hit" them all when we went to town. My favorite was the G. C. Murphy Company. They had a booth where you could sit and when you put a coin in the slot, a camera would snap a picture. I hated getting my picture taken. I thought I was ugly because my sisters always told me that I was. I learned many years later, that this was "low self esteem." It never bothered me much, because I knew from my Dad's song to me that I was supposed to be "sunshine" and I was. That was the role that my Dad assigned to me in my formative years, and of course Mother always sang "Have I told you lately that I love you?" So I always knew that I was loved.
The other two "dime stores" in Logan were both Woolworth Stores. There was the "upper dime store" and this was my next favorite, because there was an upstairs. I loved going up the long wooden stair case and browsing . This was where they kept the clothes. I used to look at the dresses and pajamas and dream that some day I would have some "store bought clothes." I never did like the "lower dime store." It was small and they didn't have a lot of inventory. All three of them had big candy counters though. All of them had a smell that only "dime stores" had. I can remember the smell to this day, but I do not have the words to describe it. K Mart and Wall Mart are great, but they can't compare with my childhood memories of the "dime store."
My next favorite place to "shop" was a country store that was down the road from our house. This was owned by one of my Dad's older cousins, Jim Mullins. His store was bigger than the store that we owned and he had a larger variety of merchandise. We just sold non perishable groceries and feed, but Jim Mullins (everyone always used his full name) had shoes and hats and dry goods and a few articles of clothing. I loved going there to browse, but was never allowed to buy anything. After all, he was our competitor! When I went to Jim Mullins' store with Grandpa, he always bought me a stick of hard candy though.
Below is a picture of Jim Mullins' store, that I always thought was bigger than ours, but I realize now that I only thought it was bigger because he carried more variety than we did. As far as I know, this building is still standing. Ron and I were there in the 1985 when this picture was taken. A cousin, who has a lovely home on the property said there is some of the old inventory still inside. She specifically mentioned shoes.
We moved to Logan when I was five and life has never been the same. We no longer lived near my grandmother and my Aunt Amanda, and Mother went to work outside the home, but she took me to work with her. We had an indoor bathroom, electricity, running water and gas heat, We had a nice house with carpet over hardwood floors, but I missed the country. I still do to this day.