Bunce Brewer was raised down Wolf Creek but has lived up Dry Fork for many years. She is interviewed by Megan Freeborn. RGHS '97
Megan: This is Megan Freeborn interviewing Juanita Brewer. More known as "Bunce."
Megan: O.K. Where were you born?
Bunce: I was born in Bluefield West Virginia, February the seventh, 1924.
Megan: Who was your mother and father?
Bunce: My mother was Alice Coburn Shrader, my father was William Clovis Shrader.
Megan: Where were they born?
Bunce: They were born in Bland County at Round Bottom.
Megan: What did they do for a living?
Bunce: My father was a plumber, my mother was a housewife.
Megan: What was your father like? And your mother?
Bunce: My mother was very happy-go-lucky... she liked to sing and dance.I would say she was full of it, but ... ! She was a fine good mother, she was an expert housekeeper, wonderful cook.
Mom. Sounds like she was fun too.
Bunce: That's what she was, she was full of fun.
Megan: And what about your father?
Bunce: My dad was a little short man that was about five foot seven, eight inches tall and he liked to dance and sing, and the Shrader family was well noted for singing. My grandad, my daddy's daddy was a sing master and a school teacher.
Megan: Did you sing in a choir, with the family?
Bunce: I never sang in a choir but my dad did, he sang with his family.
Megan: Who were your grandparents?
Bunce: Well, I had a grandma Nicatie Shrader, she was a family person who kept house and raised seven children I think. And my Grandmother Coburn, my mother's mother was my favorite person. My parents separated when I was seven years old. My mother got married again. My dad eventually got married again but before he got married I left Bluefield when I was 13 years old and came over here to Rocky Gap School and came in at Christmas time, in the eighth grade.
Megan: Where did you live at in Rocky Gap?
Bunce: I lived down Wolf Creek at Round Bottom with my grandma Coburn and my Aunt Bess. She had one daughter so we was more like sisters than... See I had stayed over there, I had stayed over there in the country all summer every summer. I woulda stayed if they would have never let me gone home. I liked it there. But my Aunt Bess was more like a mother to me.
Megan: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
Bunce: Yeah, I had one sister named Josephine and she lived in Bluefield behind, she lived in the west end for awhile and then she had three children and that was after I was married after I finished school down here I was married. She had one son then and she had two before that. My sister had three children. Yeah, this is kind of like a family tree. Now what else is on there?
Megan: What did you do for fun in Rocky Gap when you were small? What did you play?
Bunce: Oh, in the school?
Megan: Well, with your friends or in school.
Bunce: We got out and rode the horses bareback with not bridle or saddle and I can't tell you everything we got into. The neighborhood children was teenagers all of them, you know, and we used to get out and take the dogs and go coon hunting with a kerosene lantern. We just had a big time, and at Christmas we always had dances and we went from one house, farm to the other for square dances. Boys played music, we had our own music. It was a good time.
Megan: What kind of toys did you play with?
Bunce: I climbed trees and played marbles and got out and rode horses and played with the dog, I never was much of a doll person, you know? I was old enough to do a lot of farm work, we put up hay, and hoed corn and milked thirteen cows, by hand, morning and night.
Mom. Twice a day.
Bunce: Yeah, I always liked to milk. So you learn many things that you don't think about till after you get older and look back on it.
Megan: What other chores did you have?
Bunce: Well, we milked and fed the animals before we went to school, and afterwards. I had an uncle that was a finish carpenter and he did a lot of carpentry contracting and he was gone a whole lot of the time. So we did most of the ... always had a whole lot of cows, pigs, chickens, grandma kept old geese till they all died. But I think we tried to make them die, I despised the geese! We had ducks and geese and hogs and dogs, cats.
Mom. You had to feed them all before you went to school?
Bunce: Yeah, we had to feed all the animals before we went to school.
Mom. What time did you get up?
Bunce: Four or five o'clock. So nobody had to rock you to sleep at night. Yeah, we just get up and hoe corn before the sun come up.
Mom. Did you work in a garden or did you help can the food?
Bunce: Grandma wouldn't let you work in the garden she was too particular about it. We worked the fields. Yeah we worked a little in the garden, but our Aunt Bess did the canning.
Mom. She wanted it done just right.
Bunce: It's just that she didn't think we was old enough to do that. But we learned.
Megan: What was your house like?
Bunce: We had two big chimneys that had fireplaces but they had closed the fireplaces up and hooked in heating stoves that you burned wood in, which was one of our chores which was carrying in wood. And dragging wood out of the mountains with horses when we got a little older that was fun, it really was, work horses.
Megan: What did you cook your food on?
Bunce: A Majestic stove in the kitchen with the main place for food and everything was cooked on that, you know? Old hot stove and it had a water tank that heated up the stove from the wood in the stove on one side, so that gave you some hot water. For a long time we didn't have any hot water tank. We did have water in the house, a spigot in a sink in the corner of the kitchen, which is why country people on the mountain didn't have that. Had a spring house.
Megan: Earlier you said you had a garden, what did you grow?
Bunce: Oh dear, we growed potatoes, beans, sugar corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, about all of the foods.
Megan: Did you help out a lot with that?
Bunce: Well, I did a lot of the picking, my grandma wouldn't let us in the garden, we mostly helped pick and of course they had to plow the garden with the horse and we had a farm hand that did that.
Megan: Was it a large garden?
Bunce: Yeah pretty good sized garden, about twice the size of mine out there maybe three times. And they would always put a corn patch out too, you know, sugar corn. For eating purposes.
Megan: What was your favorite meal?
Bunce: Oh dear, country ham and biscuits. Country ham and biscuits, my grandma made the best apple dumplings of anybody I've ever eaten from. My aunt Bess started her cake up without a recipe and I've never tasted no yellow pound-cake like what she made. We had a lot of good food. We had a big spring house that we churned our own butter and had our own sweet milk and butter milk and we used to send cream off in the can that was part of the farm income.
Megan: You went to school in Rocky Gap?
Megan: How old were you?
Bunce: I came over here when I was thirteen at Christmas time, then I had a birthday and stayed till I graduated from high school, we didn't have but four years then I went to beauty school. Am I getting ahead of myself?
Megan: Oh, no. what was school like?
Bunce: When I came down here to school, what is now the oldest part of the school was the high school and there was a white building house that they had the grades in. Then they built the little, what used to be the auditoriums, a couple little school rooms. But that was all. That was the main part of the school when I came over here and was for a couple of years.So there was heat in the school, the building was heated with pot-bellied stoves the first year I went in. And we did have water in the building. But we didn't have any bathrooms, we had to go to the Jonny-House. Had outside toilets for the first couple of years of it.
Megan: What did you study?
Bunce: Very little. Let me see I haven't thought about that for a long time. I think I had four subjects and a study hall, maybe. Lets see, I had just plain old math, English and Literature together. Lets see, Math, English, Literature, History, and we worked our spelling in with our English. Geography, History, see that was four periods and a study hall.
Megan: How did you get to school?
Bunce: School bus. An old Ford school bus.
Megan: About how many people rode on the school bus, do you think?
Bunce: Well we came off of Wolf Creek, lets see, I'd say we had twenty, twenty five, at least twenty-five students on there. That's a rough guess but ... I've got some pictures of the that old school bus.
Megan: Do you remember who your teachers were?
Bunce: Well, when I first come here, Hagen Graham was Principal that year, and Mrs. Jane was an English teacher. Garland Oa ... no. What was his name? Mr. Stafford was our home-room teacher the freshman year, and I believe Garland Oa... no, Margie Bumpkin she was from (inaudible) and she's dead now. That was my teachers the the first year, four teachers.
Megan: How did the teachers get the students to behave?
Bunce: Very strictly. I'll tell ya'll. You could be punished with a paddling and you could be sent home from school for not minding. Not minding was what we called it, you know for not recognizing your teachers as an authority. I've seen several people ... I never did get a whipping but I got put ... (laughter), but I got called down several times. I'm trying to be truthful.
Megan: What did you get in trouble for?
Bunce: My mouth always! I was bad to talk a lot when I was supposed to be listening. One mouth and two ears and your supposed to listen twice as much as you talk.
Megan: How were holidays celebrated at school?
Bunce: We usually had a Halloween Carnival.
Megan: And for that you dressed up?
Bunce: No not really. We would look bad enough! Well honest to goodness back then about every dressing stuff we had was hand sewn. And when we got home we would take the dresses off and put on a pair of bibbed overalls. We didn't have jeans then, we had bibbed overalls. At that was about two or three years in high school. At home we would wear bibbed overalls. We had two pair of shoes. A good pair and a sorry pair. And we had to walk about two miles down a mountain, down a path to catch the school bus and we carried a pair of shoes and wore the old pair and stuck them under across the plank where we crossed to get over on the railroad track. So we very seldom had new, we outgrew things like all children do. But we never had no 15 or 20 dresses, you know. Like girls do now. Or like Sally did, she had to have a new dress for everything, when she was going to school! We had to make do a lot.
Megan: How did teenagers court when you were young?
Bunce: (Laughs) Well we had to do a lot of walking for one thing. Didn't have time to do much meanness because you had to do a lot of walking. We either rode horses or walked to one anothers house. From one farm to the other when we had things for Christmas. But we had dates and we had a little Roundbottom church. We had a youth group and Mrs. Mabel Pruitt, used to teach down here, was our leader for the youth group, and we had little picnics in the summer time and at Christmas time we usually had maybe a singing or go from one house to another, caroling. Then nearly all of the farms were close enough together because everyone was kind to everybody else. So we had square dances and the boys played the string instruments. That was most of our fun, we had a lot of chores to do, and we thought it was the greatest thing that ever was when we could have a dance at Christmas.
Megan: Did you ever go to the movies?
Bunce: No, that come later, when I was a junior we started us dating. Aunt Bess would let us date together and go out to a movie, and we was allowed to stay out till 12 o'clock.
Megan: Did you go to town?
Bunce: Yeah, we had to go to Bluefield to go to the movie. And I remember the first drive-in movie in Bluefield had come. So we was allowed out till 12 o'clock. Other than that you had to be home by 10:30 or 11 o'clock for anything but if you had to go to Bluefield you know. That was the third and fourth year of school.
Megan: How did you meet your husband?
Bunce: He and I went to school together for four years. No lets see, three years because he was one year ahead of me and he graduated and we only had four years of school, yeah. And we just about was friends for the first two years then we got a little more serious with it you know.
Megan: Where did you get married?
W. B. In Bland, VA.
Megan: What was the ceremony like?
Bunce: Short and sweet (laughs). Lasted forty-five years. We was married over at Bland, while the fair was going on. Lets see September the 5, 1940.
Megan: Did you go on a honeymoon?
Bunce: Yeah, over at my mother's house in Bluefield. (Laughs). We was going to keep it a secret, and we went over there and the Bland fair was going on so you know it was a big secret. Everybody that saw us knows.
Megan: What was your husbands name?
Bunce: His name was Homer, Homer Brewer. Horace H. Brewer.
Megan: How many children did you have?
Bunce: Well I actually had seven children and I kept three of them. I had two miscarriages. Then I had three children. So was five. And my children was Bill, and Sally and Randy Brewer. And then I had two little boys that had muscular and they were infants and I lost them, both of them. That' s the last two little boys I had. So I had a total of seven pregnancies but I raised three children out of seven.
Megan: Do you think it was easier to raise children back then than it is today?
Bunce: Very definitely, yes.
Bunce: The form of discipline was never questioned. You never heard of anyone ever getting a whipping, that was ... I never had anyone I had hung around with or was friends with that was ever whipped too hard. You got to whip them with a switch, but it was ... you took your discipline for granted. I think we did. We didn't really have any time to get into things. Because when you got home you had to fix the feed and cows to milk and chickens, you know, put up. By the time you got through with your chores which most was done by hand. And when you went somewhere it was done by leg. You know you had to walk. So I believe everybody appreciated everything a lot better than they do now. we didn't have anything that you all have now days. But we had a good time with what we did have to do.
Megan: What was Rocky Gap like when you were growing up, such as businesses?
Bunce: Had Carroll store and Honaker had a post-office I can remember. And its just about what it was back then but it's gone down hill since then because of the we had the post office and then Honakers had a store. There where Howard Stowers is now. And then on down Wolf Creek in the summer, I time we went to Mr. Wanns and they had a store. Down at Niday VA. That is just before you get to the Giles line. So we rode the horses in the summer time. we didn't have any mail delivery for the first two years I stayed up there. Finally, they started a mail route up to Narrows down through here.
Megan: What was there to do for fun in Rocky Gap?
Bunce: Like I said we rode horses and sometimes we had baseball team down in Wolf Creek. Country baseball teams. We played baseball in the summer and rode horses and went swimming in the creek. Not supposed to mention what meanness we go into down there! We did a lot of things but we won't talk about that!
Megan: What was the weather like? Do you remember any bad storms or floods?
Bunce: Yeah, I remember ... yeah I've seen Wolf Creek get up to where it run over the bridge. One of those flat bridges, you know? And I've seen it up in the road. Yeah we had high water, and sometimes in the wintertime we had some big snows. But they never stopped us, you know? We was used to the bad weather. I never knowed them to call off school. I never do ... now that's true.
Megan: How did your family celebrate Christmas?
Bunce: Well we usually, everybody got one, not more than two presents, you know, something that they especially wanted. I wanted a saddle for a couple of years so daddy come across this man that had a set of riding pants. You know the ones with the boots that laces over, boys thought we was hot stuff! That's the best Christmas I remember having after I growed up. That Christmas he bought us the riding pants and boots and the jackets to go with our ... and bought me a saddle. Now it was an army saddle, it was a rough rider saddle, but we didn't have but one saddle. So I rode bareback till he got me that saddle. We were, me and Leliah both liked horses. That was a whole lot of our best thing to do, you know?
Megan: And you had a Christmas tree?
Bunce: Oh yeah, mostly strung popcorn, you saved every little thing you could to make an ornament, you know. Yea we made our own ornaments. I even made ornaments up here after the kids. We got little old balls and painted them. Didn't have anythin but watercolors, we didn't have all this paint and stuff you have now. Then Holly trees grew down and around in the mountains, so we used the green stuff for decorations and we went up and cut a cedar tree and strung stuff on it, popcorn. It was a good Christmas we appreciated it a whole lot because we wasn't used to having all that extra stuff!
Megan: What about Halloween? Do you remember any pranks or ...
W.B.I don't whether I can talk about it. Yeah, I can, we got out and pulled tricks. There never was no treating. No treating, we pulled tricks.
Megan: What kinds of tricks did you play?
Bunce: You turned somebody's Johnny House over. We put an alarm clock on an old cow one time and she nearly ran herself to death. You know, the things we did was so little meanness that we could laugh about it afterwards. Now we wasn't destructive, the old cow was all right she run down, her and the alarm clock both run down. But that was about all we got into. We never did do anything really destructive. If you turned the Johnny House over they would just turn it and set it back up. It was an unspoken word, the Fanny House'. Because that was the outside bathroom, we called it the Johnny House.
Megan: What other holidays were celebrated?
Bunce: Well, we celebrated Easter. That was usually done in church, and we walked two miles down the mountain and about two to where Roundbottom Church is. We went to Roundbottom Church every Sunday. When my Aunt Bess wanted to punish us she wouldn't let us off the hill to go to church. That was the worst place, but that's where everybody met and had a good time, you know?
Megan: What about Valentines Day?
Bunce: We had Valentines Day at school a whole lot, yeah. We had Valentines Day.
Megan: Did you exchange cards?
Bunce: Yeah, we did. Ugly ones and nice! You know they used to make some old comic Valentines that was ugly. if you didn't like somebody (?). Well that's better than going out and shooting somebody, you know? That was the ugliest thing we did.
Megan: Who was the first president you can remember?
W.B.Oh shucks, I think really the first president I ever paid any attention to and that served three terms was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was the best and we ain't never had one since! That's my old-timey opinion.
Megan: Were there many automobiles when you were a little girl?
Bunce: No, I'll tell you the automobile I remember the best, when I was a little girl, was a T-model Ford truck that my dad had. The East River Mountain Road was still dirt. And we came from my grandmothers of course. The road through Rocky Gap was dirt too. We used to come over there. And that old thing would come over the mountain good, that old truck. It was an old T-Model Ford, but when we went to go back across the mountain, you know, it's a steeper pull on this side. It was then, but see they changed that mountain road it's a better road now then it ever was. There was a place up there, about where Woody's house is that the water come down over the mountain. Maybe above Woody's, but anyhow, that old truck, every time we'd go back home, the old truck would stop. My daddy would get out and you'd have to crank it to start. That's how old of a model it was. He'd pour that cold water in to cool it down and so when he would get back there and crank it, it would start. well, he would call it everything! I'd better not tell ya'll. But anyhow I thought that was how it would start, you know. I was about four years old. I thought that was what made it start. Remember that T-Model Ford of his, as well as I can just shut my eyes and see it. It was the awfulest thing you'd ever see! But it was all the transportation we had, nobody else had anything better.
Megan: Who was your favorite movie star?
Bunce: I don't know, Buck Jones, I believe. They don't know Buck Jones!
Megan: Who was that?
Bunce: He was a cowboy movie star. That was when I was a child, I always liked Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and they were both dancers, that's why I liked them so good. Right off of the bat I can't think of ... I always liked Ponderosa, it was my kind of movie. When we got television, but that's another day in time.
Megan: Do you remember the name of the first movie you went to see?
W.B.Yessir, I do, as strange as it may seem. It was "Sonny Boy" Al Jolson, and that was way back in the silent movie's days, and it was "Sonny Boy" and it was a musical is what it was.(Singing) I remember my music good! Sally got her music from me.
Megan: Do you know how much it cost?
Bunce: Well, will tell you back then we used to go to... That was a real good movie and probably paid about thirty-five or forty cents for that one. But we could go to the Rialto for a movie for a dime, and stay in there and look at it and watch it three or four times! And we did, you know. No television or anything, but I believe when I come over here the entrance to a movie wasn't more than a dollar.
Megan: Do you remember World War II?
Bunce: Very vividly, yes.
Megan: What do you remember about it?
Bunce: I remember that I got married in the September of 1942 to Homer Brewer and he went in the army. We was married two months and he went in the army and I graduated from beauty school. And he stayed in the service in the medical corp from 1942 to 1945. Then he came home just before Christmas of 1945, and never was back home, he stayed in the army in service. He never got a leave.
Megan: I'll bet that was hard, since you had just got married.
Bunce: We wasn't married but two months. We bagged it out though!
Megan: Did anyone else in your family have to go?
Bunce: Yeah, my brother-in-law went, Homer's brother was in there, he was a full time service man. He was regular army. Yes, and I had some cousins that went, it was a long drawn out affair.
Megan: Do you feel that your family supported the war?
Bunce: I don't think we had any choice. You know, Franklin Delano and them, finally Hitler got so bad we just all had to band together. Yeah, I think it was a have-to thing.
was a polio victim, you know.
Megan: When did you get your first radio?
Bunce: I came over here in '36, I got that radio in 1933.
Megan: What was it like?
Bunce: Wonderful! We didn't have anything but a Victrola that you wound out for music. Oh, we were pleased, we were tickled to death with that radio. McGee and Molly and Amos and Andy, and...
Megan: What was your favorite show, or some of them.
Bunce: We listened to every one we was allowed. We listened to Amos and Andy religiously. Fibber McGee and Molly, and then of course it improved from there. The radio improved, but we had big bands then. The radio was a wonderful thing, I couldn't believe we would have anything like television.
Megan: When did you first get electricity?
Bunce: Now I lived in the city of Bluefield before I came over here. We always had electricity over there. They had electric, Appalachian Power Company had electricity in Bluefield from way back.
Megan: Do you remember when they got it here? Or was it here when you came?
Bunce: It was over here when I moved back over here. I don't remember how... it took several years for them to ... Where I was raised we never had no electricity, while I was there, you know. We used kerosene lamps and lanterns and a battery radio, had a little radio that we played that we had to buy batteries for.
Megan: When did you get a telephone?
Bunce: Now, that, we moved up here in 1950, it took us about 1955 or 1956.
Megan: How did it work?
Bunce: It was just a wall phone, similar to this one in here. it didn't have no push buttons, it was one you had to dial.
Megan: What were party lines?
Bunce: Oh, terrible, terrible! You had eight people on there you never could get the telephone. Eight parties on one line when we first came over here. But that was for awhile, then later on my husband went to the telephone company, because he had to work by the telephone, and he went to the telephone company and we got a private line.
Megan: And that was a lot nicer.
Bunce: Yes, more expensive, but nicer.
Megan: When did you first get television?
Bunce: Hmmm... I'd say 1970. This is about my third television, and I've had it twenty-five years.
Megan: Do you remember some of the shows you watched?
Bunce: I'd have to think, yeah. Used to have a lot of westerns on, we liked that a whole lot. Then we liked the country music, you know. The first television, color television we had, we bought the saucer, and you could get a hundred and some ... it didn't take long for them to get rid of that though! For free, you didn't have to pay anything. Yes, I believe that was about, I'd say that was 1960 some.
Megan: Do you feel that T.V. has changed things?
Bunce: Yes, yes.
Bunce: There's some things on it that I don't think ought to be on it. of course I'm old fashioned, you know. I think it has some smut on there that it don't need to have. But as a rule, I think if you watch the regular programs, I think they do pretty good.
M. F. Do remember where you first were when you heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor?
Bunce: We had done moved up here. No, no, no. That was when the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, I was staying with Josephine in Bluefield. I was living in Bluefield with my sister.
Megan: What was your reaction, and how did people feel about it?
Bunce: Everybody was just flabbergasted, I don't know what a good work would be. Everybody was just ... couldn't believe it, it was hard for us to believe, you know. Because they had been having some meetings with the president up there, you know. And all the time they was sneaking like a bunch of snakes. They was over here talking to the president and over there bombing our people, our service people. Yeah, that was when we knew the jig was up then. It was already... into it with Germany then, you know. Yea, I remember it, I was ... I'll tell ya'll it really got me.
Megan: It was upsetting for everybody?
Bunce: Oh, yes.
Megan: Did any of your family have to fight in World War II?
Bunce: Yeah, my husband. My husband stayed over there, stayed over seas in Germany field. He stayed over there three solid years. You know, we talked about that before.
Megan: What was it like at home during the war?
Bunce: Well I think we covered that once, we had ration cards for sugar and there was a lot of things you couldn't buy. Sugar was scarce, and tobacco was scarce. of course they wouldn't want to hear that! But gas was rationed. Yeah it was a time when we wasn't used to ... of course when you lived in the country you didn't miss things because you raised about everything you eat.
Megan: Where were you at when you first heard that Germans had surrendered?
Bunce: I was at Narrows at the beauty shop. Right out in the middle of the street (laughter) and people was out in the middle of the street a crying and a tears a rolling and singing songs and everybody was so happy they was crying to know that it was over.
Megan: What was your reaction when you heard that the Atom Bomb had been dropped, and the Japanese had surrendered?
Bunce: You know, I really at that time I was so disgusted with the Japanese I thought, God gave them what they richly deserved. But I've changed my mind drastically about that. Because that was horrible. All those people that they killed, and some of them died later, and suffered death before they died. If you've got any kind of feelings for people you ... yeah, I believe that's what I'd have to say. At the time it happened I was so mad that we had to go over there and fight, and the mean things they had done and the people they had murdered, our soldiers, blowed up and everything. But I realized after I got a little bit older than I was, I knowed it was a bad thing.
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