Aunt Laurie's mother,father, and brothers.
Aunt Laurie Newman is interviewed by her niece, Nicki White, and talks about her life in Rocky Gap and up Laurel Creek.
Aunt Laurie: Well let's see, I lived on Laurel and at the age of eighteen I went crazy and married. And I lived there twenty seven years and then I moved to West Virginia. I stayed there about a year, I come back then to the country. Well there wuttin cars back in them days. Nobody in the country had a car. So about six of us women about every three months we'd walk up East River Mountain down the other side and go in town. Well we done our shopping, bought our lunch, and walked back. One day I was awkward, and fell down tore a hole in my new dress. That ruined me awful bad, but mommy fixed it and I could still wear it to church.
Nicki: What year were you born ? What year were you born?
Aunt Laurie: I was born in nineteen hundred and five.
Nicki: So you're how old?
Aunt Laurie: I'm eighty-nine years old. Was February.
Nicki: How many kids did your mom and dad have?
Aunt Laurie: There was eight of us, They are all gone but myself and one brother. I had one son. He's past away: and one grandson.
Nicki: What were the names of your parents?
Aunt Laurie: Hattie May Willis and Thomas Willis.
Nicki: Did you know your grandparent's names?
Aunt Laurie: Uh, yeah dad's, dad's dad was Samuel, Samuel Willis, Mommy's mother was uh Ruthie, Ruthie Willis.(This is wrong. It is really Ruthie Martin)
Nicki: Do you..(interrupted)
Aunt Laurie: Oh when we was kids we enjoyed coming them big deep snows, getting out and making snow men, sleigh riding, we enjoyed so much. And I miss my home up Laurel. Nowhere has ever seemed just exactly like home.
Nicki: What was your house like inside? Were there a lot of rooms or just...?
Aunt Laurie: Our houses? Our houses were just planked up. Narrow strips nailed over the cracks of the house on the outside so the rain and snow wouldn't come in. You know you can imagine two planks together with a strip over the cracks. Everybody's house nearly like that. And finally the Akers, they got well off enough they put weatherboardin' on theirs. They was kindly well off. Then I came on down to my uncle and he built a real nice house. He weatherboarded.
Aunt Laurie: Well, it was just a, it was a papered house. We papered, everybody papered then. It was solid plank and we papered it. I love papered wall, better than painted, or...
Nicki: How many rooms were there?
Aunt Laurie: In my home or where I lived, after I married?
Nicki: In your home?
Aunt Laurie: Let's see, living room, company room, two bedrooms, dining room, and a kitchen.
Nicki: Did all the kids have to sleep together?
Aunt Laurie: No, mommy usually had two beds In each room for the boys and one for me and Tiny. And uh, I think the boys two rooms for them. She had beds for them. Of course by the time Sammy John was a baby, Walter done left home. He left when he was fourteen years old and went to Bluefield and went to paintin'.
Nicki-. What kind of food did your mom fix? What kind of food did ya eat?
Aunt Laurie: Well, we always had plenty to eat. That's one thing we had. We always raised a big garden, and dad bought a beef in the fall, and he bought a hog in the fall so we'd have plenty to eat for winter. And then we raised all kinds of the garden stuff and we canned a lot so we could always fix a good meal.
Nicki: Did you and uh, did you and grandma , help her a lot? Did you and grandma help her cook a lot?
Aunt Laurie: Oh yes, oh yes. Mom learnt us to cook , wash our clothes on the washboard. Wuttin no washin machines. No electric irons, you'd heat your iron on the wood stove.
Nicki-. Did ya can a lot? What kind of foods did ya can?
Aunt Laurie: Well, we canned apples, peaches, beans. We made kraut, and about all the kinds of berries that they was, we would can em and make jelly to fix us with our food. We never went to no store to buy no canned stuff, cause we had it all canned. We raised cabbage and you dug a ditch in your garden, like you was digging a ditch for something. You put the cabbage down in that ditch and pulled that dirt over them and just left the roots sticking up, and your cabbage kept as white as snow. I've always went to the garden of the evening take hold of that stalk, and pull your cabbage up. I bet you couldn't do that now. I have no iddie Nicki how winters now is not like they was back then. We had snows that would come over the top of the fences. That you wouldn't knew, if you didn't know where the fence was you couldn't hunt it for the snow. See we don't have that now.
Nicki: What kind of chores did you have to do? What kind of chores did the boys and the girls have to do?
Aunt Laurie: What did they have to do?
Nicki: Kind of chores around the house?
Aunt Laurie: Around the house, well of course after they got big enough to hunt, they loved to hunt. Dad kept a good hunting dog all the time. As soon as them boys got big enough to go to them mountains they loved to hunt, They enjoyed fishing till they got big enough you know to get out on public work, Yeah, they loved fishing. We used to catch mud turtles, frogs, had to go to Clear Fork to catch frogs that you eat. Did ya ever see one honey?
Aunt Laurie- Now they were good.(Chuckle) They are white. Their bout that big Priscilla and they got black spots on em, they're pretty things, and you don't eat nothing but their two legs. You can buy em at the restaurants.
Nicki: Um-huh. Did ya have a wood stove?
Aunt Laurie: We had wood stove. We had tin, we had a tin, tin heater, what ya call a tin heater. I don't guess you can buy them now. And then of course, just a plain ordinary cook stove. There was no electric appliance whatsoever. Oil lamps, a lantern If you went anywhere after dark you had to have your lantern cleaned, full of oil. People didn't have no flashlights.
Nicki: What kind of furniture, furniture did ya have in your house?
Aunt Laurie: Well, we had wooden beds at that time. These iron beds hadn't come out. And we had a nice dresser, and wooden beds, mom had a trunk, a nice eatin table, we call it a kitchen cupboard. I don't know what they call her now. It was a great big,oh,it was that wide and real tall,full of shelfs to keep your dishes and things. And we had a can house on the outside to put your canned food in. We built them and then you layed them out about that fer apart. Say, here's the first row around, then the next one would have been about like that. And you fill this, banked it with sawdust. And then you put the other on that side of the plank. See that sawdust kept your stuff from freezing. They always called them the apple house with apples, and potatoes, and canned stuff in em. Now everybody didn't have that, but the ones that wanted could. They certainly had it,
Nicki: What about decorations and furnit. .., and uh curtains and uh, did ya have paintings and uh pictures?
Aunt Laurie: Well, we had pictures yeah and uh we didn't have no rugs. We had plank floors. Yeah we had pictures, rocking chair, dressers, and all wooden beds. How crazy we was for wooden beds. Lord, I'd give anything if I'd a kept mine, I got one over the house of mommies. When those iron beds come out, everbody wanted one, Lord, I wish I'd kept mine. Wish I'd kept it, Most the people had fireplaces in their living room.
Holidays and Indoor Plumbing
Nicki: What holidays did you celebrate the most? Which holidays were the most important to you?
Aunt Laurie: Well, I reckon Christmas.
Aunt Laurie: We had no electric lights. Dad would go up the mountain and cut us a pretty pine tree. Oh,thats a big story to tell about that. He'd cut a pine tree and he'd make some kind of a thing, I don't know what they made to put that in. And, uh, we had no electric, had no lights. We bought paper, I don't know what the name you would call it, but you cut in strips about like that and make it curly, curl it and it would curl up together like when you were gathering material . And we'd get red, white and blue and put that all around the tree. Then we'd pop popcorn and we'd string that and put that all around the tree. I well remember that. Done that all back before I was married. And I was the first one up Laurel that had a bathroom, Walter was a plumber. He bought the land, built our house three years after we was married. I got the bathroom the.-..
Nicki: That was up Laurel too?
Aunt Laurie: That was up Laurel. Lived there twenty-seven years then I moved from there to Bluefield. And I thought I was awful well off you know, to have a bathroom. (Little Laugh) And from that, I don't know why bathrooms weren't invented for people. Now why didn't people know that to begin with? You reckon they, didn't knew no better.(A visitor comments, I don't know.). I'm wondering myself, I'd never thought of us not having nary'un. And water in the house. We had wells in our yard, you went out and you put your bucket down in and crank it up, your water. How easy it was to put your water in your bathroom in your house. I don't know how many Walter did put in, I was the first one to have one.
Nicki: What other holidays? How bout Halloween?
Aunt Laurie: Halloween? Oh, honey we didn't have no costumes. We, we put on a big, some kind of an old big relic of a thing. We blacked our face with soot out of the stove, and took crayolas and painted our lips red- (Chuckle) We looked liked clowns. (Chuckle) Oh yes, we'd gang up and go out on Halloween, Sometimes then we would put something black over our face and cut out our eyes, our nose, and our mouth, you know and take them crayolas and paint em. We was right scary looking, (Chuckle) On Easter we boiled eggs and colored them all color and gave all the children, neighbors wanted to come, we have egg hunts. We enjoyed that I used to go over to Mary's, She has a great big field below her house, you know. Wuttin no weeds or nothing in it. I'd color eggs for Pete. She'd color for her children, and we'd pull grass and hide them eggs you know, They'd have a terrible time a finding them. (Chuckle) And we was taught that Santa Clause come down the fireplace. It was a real saying that you had to go to bed pretty early so Santy wouldn't miss ya when he come down the fireplace. And it was a long time before I knew any better. Wuttin that awful, Law mercy. Children would get up in the daylight to see what they had, you know.
Nicki: What kind of things did you got for Christmas?
Aunt Laurie: Yeah, we always, always had. Poppy usually got the boys a wagon, and them ole toy guns, and candy. Stuff like that you know If they needed any clothes, get us a new outfit.
Nicki: Did ya have dolls?
Aunt Laurie: Oh, I got a doll I had ever since I was three years old, You'll have to keep her. I called it after mommy, Hattie May. (Rrrrringgg) Well we had a Easter egg hunt always we called it on Easter. We children enjoyed getting out and hunting eggs. Thanksgiving Day we usually had turkey dinner.
Nicki: Did the whole family come around?
Aunt Laurie: Oh yes, we had company. We feed as high as eighteen on holidays for dinner, Mommy cooked the awfulest lot of stuff. The neighbors didn't come to see ya, they sat down and eat with ya. They didn't do like they do know. There was hardly ever a Sunday that went by, but what there wuttin two tables full for mommy to cook for. 'And thereafter I married and left home, I had a whole lot. But see everybody knowed dad and they loved him, and they'd come and they'd bring their families you know. So mom knowed always to put on something for she never knew how many or who might come. Always had company- I guess neither one of them had an enemy. Now you, you never saw dad. I wished you'd a saw him. He was a lovable person, but mom was too. Mommy was too. Dad could play the fiddle you know, he'd sing and he always had some kind of funny jokes to tell people. They just loved to here him. Yeah, I can well remember that.
Death, Hard Work, and Molasses
Nicki: Do you remember when the new roads were built?
Aunt Laurie: Un-uh. I don't remember what year it was but I remember. Now I don't have the years pegged. After grandma died, mommy's mother, they kept ya. When you passed away you stayed at home until the day you was buried. There was no funeral homes you was took to. And you had a white handkerchief, and kept it wet with camphor, they brought camphor, and you laid that over their face and they never changed colors. Just as pretty as they was when they died, and that's what people done then.
Nicki: And people just came to your home and seen them? And then you buried them?
Aunt Laurie: Yeah, yeah. They stayed right at home, had their funeral at home and stay until they was took to the cemetery. Oh ain't things changed? And back then you never heard tell of a nursing home. We wouldn't have known what ya was talking about. We never heard tell of it. People, my uncle laid in bed seventeen years, Aunt Maria's husband. Dad's dad(should have been dad's brother), and he laid sick in bed seventeen years. She didn't have no children and she waited on him. I had to go help her with everything as soon as I would get up and eat breakfast I would. She raised everything in the garden, potatoes, and cane, and corn. All kinds of stuff. And I'd work all day long for twenty-five cents a day, twenty-five cents a day. She'd sell milk, and butter, and eggs. You know or she wouldn't have had no money. And that's all the poor thing had. Now you think of that. Now people wouldn't open your door if you didn't pay them hard. Twenty-five cents a day. I'd come home with everyone of my fingers with big white blisters on them. Oh, we digged all day long in the cc.. corn field, and cane field, and potatoes. Now you had sore hands, I well will never forget that. When we, we had a molasses, We had a great big molasses mill. And a horse someway just went around, and around, and around, and around; and you set in the chair took the cane stalks between these two big round hankies. They went around and around, and that cane would go through. Have ya a container to catch the juice. It was green as grass. Then, take ya all night long to boil the molasses off. Had a building built out and it was rocked up about that high or a big pan. When you made your molasses in that you had to boil them till all that green left them and get them thick. Now them's the best days of our life, I'm telling the truth. Sounds to you that'd be awful but we looked forward to it. We loved it. And then, we'd all go to the cane field. And the first thing we'd do, we'd cut the blade, pull the blades off. Put them on a sled and haul them to the barn with the cows. Then we'd take a knife and cut the tops off, cane seed. You know they would be about that big longways, just the seeds. We'd cut them tops off, take them to the barn. Then we'd cut the stalks, take them to the cane mill.(Chuckle) Oh, we looked forward to it.
Riding the Dinky
(We take a break and resume talking about a timber company that came into Rocky Gap whereupon we are visited by Faye Tolbert.)
Aunt Laurie: They call them the Anglish-Latt, Anglish-Ott, and that' s where I met Walter. Whole lot of their men followed them here to Rocky Gap. And they was here for three or four years till they cleaned out all the Big Ridge and all up through there with all that timber. That's when these houses was built, Mr. Tuggle owned all of this and he allowed the men to build houses. He had a sawmill and he allowed the men to take the lumber and build houses to move their families. And then when they got through with the house they all went back to Mr. Conley. And then he went to sell all the houses, lot by lot. That was That was let's see nineteen twenty. They come here in nineteen and eighteen, I forget though where they came from, but Walter followed them, and a lot of other men followed them. Then they would come and move their families in. Oh, we rode the Dinky a lot It was real fun. We could ride to go to the head of Laurel to Miss Guys. She's the last family that lived on Laurel, the head of Laurel. And we could ride the Dinky up, they had one little off step and benches in it so people could ride you know, a lot. So we rode it a many of a time And then, after I was married I moved up there, next to the head of Big Ridge. The company built me a house. And I didn't like it. I told Walter I wouldn't stay up there atall in them mountains. Of course there was a lot of other people up there, but I didn't want up there. So he let on like he was, I forget what he said he told his boss. He had to be off one day, and he went to town job hunting and that's when he got on at the plumbing shop And he got a book to read and they gave him some training, and he was a plumber then for years. But I didn't stay up there too long. I didn't like it up there in them mountains. Nobody much was on higher than us. I was about a mile above the Guy place, then they was all up that holler.
Faye Tolbert. And you rode the Dinky line up there.
Aunt Laurie: Rode the Dinky up there and back. Yeah, yeah that ole Dinky people miss it when they got through and went out of here.
Inventions Change Lives
Nicki: Do you remember when the telephone was invented?
Aunt Laurie: Yeah. I don't remember what year, wish I could. hung them on the wall. They was about that big and about that long and you had rings. Every fellow had a different ring. Ours was 32...
Faye Tolbert: You had to crank it up.
Aunt Laurie: Yeah we had fun. Dad always got everything that come along. Yeah, he did that.
Faye Tolbert: Yeah, mommy and daddy got electricity in 1945. I was four years old. And I thought that was the grandest thing that ever was when dark come you could see the house.
Aunt Laurie: Oh ain't that a sight on earth. Now we appreciated it, we appreciated something when we got it.
Faye Tolbert: Yeah,yeah.
Aunt Laurie: Oh, let's see what all "Miss Jones" can think of.
Faye Tolbert: And I remember the first washing machine mom ever got, Nicki. Daddy got it at the company store.
Aunt Laurie: Ohhhhh lord that's an old picture.
Faye Tolbert: And it was a wringer type. Of course you know what they are today, but back then see the women you know, that was something new. You know that you plugged it in the wall, and it worked you know on electricity when they got it. And mommy got her "boobie" hung in it, and I could hear daddy saying,"What in the world are you doing in there?" She said,"Lord I'm in trouble in here." He said, "Well let me run it backwards. (Big ole laugh) To release it, you know.
Aunt Laurie and Walter
Nicki: Did you and Walter date for a long time?
Aunt Laurie: Almost a year. He had an awful good name when I married him. He worked, he didn't drink, he banked his money, and everybody thought he was fine young man. And I was as green as a gourd. I thought I would have a big, fine mansion cause he was a good man, worked, made money and banked it. I thought I would have me a home to live in. (Big ole laughs) I remember that.
Faye Tolbert: Aunt Laurie said that's the biggest mistake I ever made.
Aunt Laurie: Oh lord, Walter was a fine looking man.
Nicki: How old was he when you met him?
Aunt Laurie: Well let's see, Walter's eight years older than I am and I was eighteen. Twenty...
Nicki: He was twenty-six. What did you guys, what did you do when you went out on dates?
Aunt Laurie: We didn't go nowhere, only to church. I never went out with the boy in my life.
Aunt Laurie: But where I met him at, I can tell you where I first met him. Right out here, school lot, had a ball game. And me and Elsie Akers walked down to,.watch them play ball on Saturday. The dinky wuttin running on Saturday or we would have rode it. And uh Walter was an umpire in the ball game. I'd never seen him, laid eyes on him. Well he was talking to a girl lived on up in the camp, was fixing to get married, I heard later. Didn't know anything about it then course. I'd never seen him. Didn't like him at all, thought he was the hate fullest thing I ever looked at.
Faye Tolbert: She told me that a thousand times.
Aunt Laurie: Me and Elsie was a sitting there you know, and he'd come up every chance he'd get and go to pitching his jib at me, and I thought I don't like you at all. Now I don't like ya. Of course I tried to act as nice as I could you know and talk about everything. Plume despisable. I got up there where I got off of the dinky. Why he asked me if he could walk me home. I said, "No! " (Everybody laughs) Then the next place I met him was at church. He found out I went to church and he got to coming to church.(Chuckle) I said I wished that girl would have married him. I hate awful bad I come to the ball game.(Everybody laughs) Oh lord, Faye.
Faye Tolbert: Oh, Aunt Laurie.
Aunt Laurie: I'll never forget that. He was, he had seven gold teeth, and he was straight, and he shaved. He was a fine looking man. Certainly was. Everybody liked him. He didn't drink, he didn't smoke, banked his money. Dr. Davidson told me if I could get him to take me for a wife he said you would certainly have a fine husband if you could get him. And I said, "I don't want him."
Faye Tolbert: Wrong, Dr. Davidson was wrong, wuttin he.
Aunt Laurie: He learnt before he died he was wrong.
Faye Tolbert. Right.
Aunt Laurie: He learnt before he died. He apologized to me after he heard poor ole Walter was so mean to me he said," Laurie all the news I had about him he -,was a fine young man. I hate that I told you what I did because I thought he really was a good man. Jealous, jealous, lord have mercy if a man, if Walter was living I couldn' t set this close to you. I had to quit going to church because sometimes there would be a man want to sing out whole like I was a singing and stand beside of me. Why he'd be so mad he'd throw the awfulest fit when he got home there ever was. Now that ain't much of a husband.
Faye Tolbert: No, nope.
Aunt Laurie: I said, "Walter if they wuttin no woman spoke to you I wuttin have you at all, you'd have to leave or me one.
Faye Tolbert: That's right.
Aunt Laurie: "I'd think I had something nobody wanted,"
Faye Tolbert: That's right honey.
Aunt Laurie: I said, "I think they have to be nice and friendly with everybody.
Faye Tolbert: Right.
Aunt Laurie: Now that's how jealous that man was.
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