Mallie Tibbs is interviewed by Mary Beth Belcher (rghs 00) on December 21, 1998.
My name is Mallie Tibbs. I was born in Ceres, Virginia on May 11, 1918. My father was Roger Arten Repass and my mother was Eula Kitts Repass. They were both born and raised in Ceres. Daddy was a painter. He painted houses here and there. And a farmer. I think he had the first truck in Ceres, and he hauled stuff to Rural Retreat. He went across the mountain to get to Rural Retreat then. My mother, she taught school a few years and was just a housewife after that. She just helped him out on the farm and things. My father was a very lovable person, and he was always working with the people of the community. He was always doing things for them. We had a store for quite a few years in Ceres. Then he was in the produce business. He was just into a little bit of everything.
I don’t really remember my mother that much. She passed away in 1932, when I was thirteen. My grandmother, Amanda Kitts, had always lived with them, and she raised my brother and myself. She was more like a mother to us, then what my mother was. She was always out with Daddy somewhere and Grandmother always kept us. My grandmother raised me. My grandparents on my father’s side was Ardelia and Digsby Repass. They had a little store there, and the store building is still standing there, and it has a lot of the old signs and stuff in it that used to be in it. I never knew my Grandfather Kitts. He died when my mother was eight years old, so I never knew him.I have one brother, Arten. After my mother died, Daddy married Litey Repass, and they had a boy and a girl, Freta and Bruce. So I have a half brother and half sister.
There wasn’t much of anything for fun to do. You didn’t get to go anywhere. When I got up in high school, there was a tennis club up there. Of course we didn’t have any electricity. I don’t think there was any up until 1938. We played on our outdoor basketball court. we played tennis here. We played until it was dark, and then we sit on the back and sing. That is the way we entertained ourselves. I few got to go to Bland or Wytheville. We thought we was in seventh heaven.I don’t remember any games or toys that we used to play with. I know we used to do a lot of sleigh riding in the wintertime. I never did enjoy it. I always froze. I went with a bunch just to sleigh. Mostly in our group our thing was singing. We enjoyed that. We lived close to Sharon and Lutheran Cemetery, which is a historical cemetery. It’s got a lot of Sluss’s that were massacred up there in Ceres. They are buried in there, but nobody knows where. It is German on stones in the cemetery, and for fun on Sunday we would go up there and try and read the names on the stones. You can find a lot to do when you can’t get in a car and go somewhere. I remember my mother giving me a doll. I can’t remember toys very much. I remember after getting a little bigger, having a cameron board and games like that. I think we had about the first radio around up here. It was about as big as television is now.
I must have been lazy growing up. I remember helping with the washing. We had to carry water because we lived on the North Fork of the Holston RIver. Not too far up from the house to the river. We carried water from there and poured into a kettle, and heated it to wash. I remember doing that and especially helping carry water from the river. The spring was down along the creek, and we had to carry our drinking water. Well, all the water we used in the house, we had to carry from down there. So that is about the main thing I remember doing. I was a daddy girl. I had to be out on his heels, wherever he was. I think grandmother always done all the housekeeping. So until she wasn’t there I didn’t do a whole lot of it.
I was born in a six-room house. We moved down to the edge of Smyth County on Tillson Farm. I think for four years. My brother was born down there. Then we moved back to Ceres because Daddy bought the old one, and remodeled it, and we moved in there. Most of the rooms were twenty by twenty, big rooms. When I moved into a small house, I was lost. One room up there would fill two or three in a little house. It was a cold place. We moved there in thirty two, and we moved over here to Bastian in 1955. So we lived in that old school house that length of time. The house was heated by wood and coal. We cooked on a wood stove.We always had a garden. We planted beans and stuff in the cornfields. I remember planting beans in the cornfield to hull out for our winter beans. When I was small it was kind of on top of the hill, and they would go up there and pick their beans. Then beat out with the sack, and then if the wind was blowing, hold them up to blow the shaft and stuff out of them.I don’t really know if I have a favorite meal. Grandmother was a type of person, she cooked the meal, put it on the table, and you ate it. You didn’t say, I don’t like this, it don’t look good. You tasted it.
I went to school in Ceres. When I started, we lived down at the edge of Smyth Coutny. And the schoolteacher rode a horse. I rode on the back of that house until Christmas time. She stayed down ther after that. It was about three or four miles from where we lived. So I didn’t get to go to school after that. Then we moved back to Ceres. I was within walking distance. then When we had bad roads and snow we went on. We didn’t miss, we went on. We walked. I don’t ever remember being our of school because of weather. I graduated in 1936 from Ceres.The school was the center of everything when I was growing up. You didn’t go somewhere else. Your activities were right at your school. Of course, we lived right in sight of the schoolhouse after we moved in the old one. So anything that was going on over there I tookit in. I didn’t have any trouble getting there.We studied the regular things. We had the same English teacher, Manuela Young. She came there in thirty two, and stayed there until we graduated in thirty six. You know how she is with English. You learned it. I especially like math in school. I like History too. I sometimes wonder how I got through.We didn’t have the same teacher for all of the subjects. She just taught English. Mr. Wagner was our principal, and he taught math. I don’t remember who the history teacher was. They had each class.There was sixteen that graduated the year I graduated. There were only five that graduated the year before. It began to increase.I didn’t take a lunch. I was in sight of the schoolhouse, so I went home, and ate my lunch.The students somewhat behaved. Well, we all get into a little strangeness once in a while. Some funny ones and some bad ones. This friend of mine from high school. Well she still is my friend. She lives in Wilmington, Deleware now. We would get into some little mischievous things, and we always set right in front of Mr. Wagner’s desk. He knew when we were into something. He usually put a quiet on us before we got through. One day she had her brother’s tee shirt on, and it had a zipper on it. One of us didn’t have a book, so we set in front of one another, and one of us turned around to use the other’s book. I reached around and pulled that zipper up and pinched her neck. You know how you giggle then. Mr Wagner couldn’t figure out what tickled us so. He finally moved us. He put one of us on one side of the room and one on the other. Of course, that didn’t help a bit. I don’t ever remember being in any bad trouble in school. We both played basketball. Of course, we played outside on a dirt court. My knees show the scars. The last game we played against Bland. The year I was a senior. It spit snow all during the game. It was cold. You wouldn’t be playing outside like that now. Of course, you play football at any kind of weather. Basketball was the main thing we played. We played it during the fall so as we could be outside.I have always been interested in sports. Of course basketball and tennis was the main thing back then. Then we had those little board, like Cameron, where two to four could play. In Cameron, it has a little thing you knock into a corner with your finger. Little round things you moved with.When we lived down on the river, we would go swimming. There was a deep hole down there, but it isn’t there anymore. Mother would take us down there about every day, and we would go in the creek swimming. We fished along the river. After we moved up Ceres, we lived beside a very small branch. Of course we would still get out and play in the water. There was no place to swim though. Mother taking us down to swim is some of the things I remember about her.Then when I got older they all played rook. The neighbors would come in and play with mother and daddy. About once a week, they would have a rook game. So that took up a lot of your time. Card games did. I don’t remember playing rummy or anything like that. I can remember when they were trying to teach me to play rook. All I can remember is those rook cards being in the house.
I just can’t remember much back about holidays. I don’t think they were celebrated in school. We did have things for Christmas. I do know that Ray, my husband, said that in his family they always got a bag of dried fruits and stuff like that. Oranges and things like that were the main things they got for Christmas. The only thing I remember is my mother waking me up on Christmas morning, and saying Santa brought you a doll. She gave that doll. That has stuck in my mind as being special. I don’t remember until later years about having a Christmas tree and decorations. We might have had one. I don’t know I am just blank on that. I am just blank.
We always went to church. We had to walk, of course. We were about a mile from the church. We went every Sunday. We had to cross the river. There were three places we had to cross, and there was foot logs. I was always the one that was afraid of the foot log. I was afraid I would fall off of that foot log. We always went to church. Mother played at church. I took piano lessons. I am not sure what age I was when I started, but I started playing in the church when I was eleven years old. And I am still playing in church. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. My mother had one of those pump organs. I never had a piano until I was out of high school. Daddy got me that. We had that organ all the time. I learned to play on the pump organ. There has been quite a bit of music in my family. My daddy was a tenor singer. His sisters would get together at my house and they would all sing, sing, and sing. His brother sang base, on sister sang alto, and the other sang soprano. So when they wanted to sing they had a real quartet. They wore me out playing for them. Daddy played the mandolin. He still has Daddy’s mandolin. We all had guitars.
In the wintertime, when we lived down on the river there was a steep hill behind us. We didn’t have sleds then. We had these boards we rode on off of there. I guess we lived up in Ceres a while before we ever had a sled. We came off and it flattened off down there. We had a good place to ride down there. Snowball fights, rolling in the snow, and every thing else. I always froze.
We didn’t go on many dates, because you didn’t have any way to go. Of course when I was in high school, they was getting a few cars around. Every now and then we would get to go somewhere. This fellow I went with most of the time while I was in high school rode a horse, when he came up home to see me. He came there to the house to see me. you very seldom went anywhere then. About the time I graduated, there started to be a few more cars around. Around the thirties. Daddy took grandmother and us and we would go once or twice a month to the movies Wytheville. Which was a great treat to get to go to the movies. My grandmother was a great fan of Shirley Temple and Will Rogers. Every time one of them was on she had to see them. We saw a lot of them. I have been married twice. My first husband Jimmy Berg was killed. We were married in forty one and he was killed in World War II in forty four on the drive in St. Lou in France. He is buried in the National Cemetery in France. After I started dating him, after high school, we always went to a movie on Christmas. He had his daddy’s truck. Of course I married Ray in 1948 after he came back from service. We had been raised up together, but I had never dated him until a couple of years before we were married. We were raised up with in a half a mile of each other. By then we had vehicles to go most any time we wanted to. My mother passed away in 1932, and I was fourteen on the eleventh, and she passed away on the fifteenth of May.Daddy had a store there so I went to helping my daddy. I helped during the summer, and when I got out of school. Let him get out on the farm and doing something else. I did that up until me and Jimmy got married. He had a little restaurant in Wytheville, so we lived there for a while. When he went in the service in forty two, I came back home. Daddy sold the store in 1944, and I went to work as postmaster in the post office. I did that until I moved to Bastian in 1955. I believe it was 1958, 9, or 60. I got on as part time flexible clerk up here at Bastian post office. I worked there until I retired in 1985.
The boys in Rocky Gap were very interesting. We played basketball against Rocky Gap. The banquet the year I graduated was held at Rocky Gap. I think it was. For all the ball players. The boys and girld. It seemed like the girls from Ceres from the Ceres team ws moreinterested in the boys from Rocky Gap rather than the ones at Bland. I don’t know why. Since I have lived in the Bastian area you would not believe the ones that say I played basketball against you. Some I remember and some I don’t. I remember Nannie Rose, she jumped center against Cathleen, this close friend of mine. There have been a few others. I remember Pete Sands. He played at the same timeI did too. There was a couple of Coon boys that played. The girls I remember some that guarded me. I always played forward. Over here at Bland there was two girls the Megenisk girls. They played rough, but I guess I was rough too. I remember ones I was in contact with more.There used to be a 4-H club, and we came down there along where the BP is. There used to be a swimming hole and a house down there. We would come, and camp for the weekend. Of course the ones here in Bastain would come down there and see us. One person here in Bastian, I dated a few times, and we moved to Bastian and of course my last name had changed. It went on for a couple years before he realized who I was. I knew who he was all along.. He was going to work one day, and I was going up to Blessing’s store to work, and he said I just found our yesterday who you was. He hadn’t recognized the name. O f course you change your looks, and I had put on a lot of weight. I used to be skin and bones.
We didn’t have any proms and dances and stuff like that. The main thing we had was a senior play. We were in the senior class play in thirty six and the thirty five because there were so few of them. So we got to be in theirs and then our so we got to be in two years of plays. That was actually the main thing. You just didn’t have elecricity then. We had a generator, but sometimes you would have lights and sometimes you wouldn’t. They started having things like that after they got electricity. I graduated two years before we had electricity.
There used to be in Ceres three stores, a little restaurant, and the post office. They had the Masonic Lodge and Odd Fellows both there. Now there is one still standing, but not open. Well, there is one right above Ceres that is open now. The old school house welived in is torn down now. It doesn’t look like the same place. The only business in Bastian was the garment factory, but I can’t remember what name it was under. Blessing’s produce was also up here. I think that was about all when we moved over here.
I don’t remember any floods back then. I remember snow, but we went on to school. Lesley Umbarger that lived up in the Red Oak section, he got a truck and made a bus out of it. He brought the ones from up there when he could get out. The furthest I ever walked to school was about one mile. When we moved to Ceres we lived in sight of the school. So there was no problem getting to school in Ceres. I can’t ever remember school being closed because of weather. It may have been, but I don’t remember it.
School was from nine to four. It may have been three I just don’t remember. On Halloween, we would get out and did more damaging things then they do now. We would turn over out houses. There is a building on up the road there that they were always playing tricks on. I didn’t know about tricker treating in Ceres. The first I heard about that was when I came to Bastian in1955. You didn’t have any way to go except to walk. Valentine’s Day was celebrated at school. We exchanged Valentine’s. I just can’t remember anything about the holidays in school. We always celebrated our birthdays. On Christmas we always went to my grandmother Repass’s for dinner. Most of the time they didn’t exchange gifts with in the group. They exchanged them with the family. Christmas wasn’t celebrated that much back then. You didn’t have that much and when you went throughout the depression you had even less.
My grandmother like Shirley Temple and Will Rogers and the rest of us did too. Clark Gable was big back then. I have no idea how much a movie cost back then. It wasn’t much though. Not anything like it is now.I don’t know when I got my first radio, but Daddy had one of the first radios there was in Ceres. You had phonographs that played records. He sold those records in his store. You wouldn’t believe the records he sold. People would come to our house to listen to the new records he would get in. I still got some of them old records here. By being in the store he was the first ones to have one of them. Same thing about the radio. They have the soap operas on the TV now. Then they had Amos and Andy on the radio They came on in the afternoon. You set down and listened to Amos and Andy just like the soap operas are now. Most of the people around then liked country music, string music. You would get together with a group of people and usually there was someone playing the guitar or the mandolin or the fiddle. My life was based around music. My father was very talented with music and my mother was too. It has just been more around music then anything else.
Things have definitely changed around in Bland County. I cannot believe the changes that have went on over all these years. It is not anything like it used to be and in the last few years it has grown by leaps and bounds. The whole country has. I used to know everyone that lived around Ceres and when I left up there I don’t know anyone now. The same with Bastian when I retired in 1955 from the postal system. I knew everyone, but now I can go in there and I don’t know anyone. There are just so many new people around. Yet there is still some of the old faithfuls around. I have lived beside a lot of different neighbors since I have lived in Bastian. They have all been good to me. Even a colored family lived up here beside me and I haven’t ever had any better friends. They are just as nice as can be.I have spent all my life in Bland County. I haven’t regretted a minute of it. I have had a very lovely life, I think. Ray Tibbs and I were married for forty seven years. He passed away right after our forty seventh anniversary. We have got friends all over the county. I have been too lucky to know different people. Back when we had youth groups in the Methodist Church, and we had an organization. Of course Rocky Gap was in a different district. We were in Wytheville district then and Bland, Hollybrook, and Mechanicsburg and all them would go to different places once we got cars. We had a county youth outfit, which was very active. Of course now all of Bland County is in the Tazewell District. The youth being that way we were not thrown with the youth of Rocky Gap. It was a way to get to know people all over the county. I enjoy meeting people and getting to know people. I have always tried to take part in activities. I was involved in so much in Ceres that when I came to Bastian, I said I wasn’t going to get involved in so much over here as I was up there. And I haven’t. I still get involved in a lot of things. Not to the extent I was up there. I think anybody could put their roots down in Bland County and be proud of it. You might have to drive out of Bland County to work. There is more work in Bland County than it used to be. I think more will come in, and I hope so. I think Bland County has a future and we all need to stick by and stay around.
Narration By: Jessica DeHart
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