Nancy Tate

I remember the first Bland County Fair. It was in the year 1948. It was just a big thing. The whole community was here. I can’t describe it, but there were horses and lots and lots of people. I didn’t know too many people, but everybody was so friendly. I was really impressed with that, and that’s about all I can say. They always had the merry-go-round and music. The music was a merry-go-round. That was always it. I don’t ride rides; it makes me sick, but I was really impressed. That was the frist year I was married, and we came here. The fair was the thing of the year. Bingo was a big thing. The Cawana’s Club was also a big thing at that time. They met weekly and had a den meeting. They always had the Bingo, and then they also collected things for kids in the county for Christmas and Thanksgiving and things. That was a big thing here at that time, and of course, hunting. Everything was hunting then, but there weren’t very many deer here at that time. You had to go out of the county to go hunting. I was impressed with that because my family has always been a family of hunters, and they either had to go to Bath County or Augusta County over on Iron Mountain in Grayson. I was impressed with that. There were a lot of birds here and there. I also was impressed with that. They would hunt for grouse and quail at that time. There were lots of quail here at that time in forty-eight. Of course we had them a lot around our house. We could hear them in the evening. They would come out on a rail fence and sing. I was impressed with that. It’s the most beautiful place in the world. It’s sad that the quail haven’t been back, but the reason we don’t is because the farmers here are too good of farmers. They don’t let their fence rows grow up, and they don’t have the grain they used to have through here that they’d eat on, so therefore they have no cover. They domestic cats have done a lot of damage too. There used to be lots of quail up here. There were no turkeys when we came. They started stocking them, I guess in the sixties or seventies. I’ve forgotten exactly when they started stocking the turkeys, but we had lots and lots of grouse here. The reason I think we did, of what I can understand from the old timers, was that the timber people were in here along time before we ever came, which was in the twenties and thirties, so therefore the grouse had a lot of food, and now the timber people have gotten old, and of course the turkeys are here now, and they ate the same thing that the grouse did, so we don’t have the grouse.

At the fair they had farm crops. The FFA was a big thing here too, and it still is. There wasn’t too much hunting there, but we still always got our first day of hunting season. The whole county turned out, and they still do.

My favorite kind of food at the fair would be heart bulbs.

They had all kinds of exhibits at the fair. They had a lot of quilts and hand-crochetted tiding, and that kind of thing. They still have a lot of that. The quilts here were beautiful, and you still see some, but you don’t have the quilts like you used to. I was impressed with that, and the canned stuff. Everybody brought canned stuff because e verything was homemade, home-canned. They had a lot of that. They didn’t have parades like they do now.

We didn’t have television then, and this was a get together of the county, and it was something for the kids to do. That was the big thing. The kids all come. It was who was going to date who for the fair, and all the girls used to say, “What are we going to have something new?” I can remember my husband’s niece had to have something new to come to the fair to walk with the boys. I was impressed with that because when I first came here I was first married, and the kids were all so excited over the fair. Everything was “FAIR FAIR FAIR!!” It still is a lot, but television has taken a lot away from it, because they see so many things on televisions, rides and things.

I don’t remember any music here at the fair when I came. People came here to be with friends. At that time they had a lot of vendors that would come like Dunn Motors, who would have tractors, and people from Wytheville would bring their exhibits to sell their stuff. We don’t have that hardly anymore. I didn’t participate in any of the events. I just came to have fun, and to eat. We had to eat everybody’s cooking. The fair was always just three nights, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I don’t remember if it was just Friday and Saturday when I first came or not, because when I first came to the county I had just gotten married, and my husband was in ticket school. We would come in for the weekends and so forth, so I really don’t remember if it was more than Friday and Saturday. I don’t really remember.

There were always fights on Saturday night. There was always fights in Bland on Friday night for years. The boys came to town to fight. They did; it was entertainment. They didn’t really come to hurt anybody. The came to fight. I don’t really know why. In fact, it amazed me that when I first came into this county, girls fought. I wasn’t sort of used to that, but girls would fight at school, and I wasn’t used to that. They boys maybe. I shouldn’t be telling some of these stories. On Saturday nights, the police would always have to break up the fights downtown here. If they had a dance at school, there was always a fight at school. That was sort of the standard procedure. No one seemed to end up in jail or anything. They just had to fight. It was a standard procedure for a fight to be at the pool hall on Saturday night. There was always fights on Saturday night. Somebody would usually end up in jail on Saturday nights. I’m not going to mention any names. They had a state trooper one night that got into a fight with one of the drunks. They had an old pot-bellied stove in there, and they knocked the chimney down. They all ended up real black, and it was sort of fun. Nobody was really hurt. I didn’t know anything about it until the next day. My oldest son was just a kid. He was like maybe thirteen or fourteen, and he’d come to town and heard about it. He’d come home, and he was all excited about the big fight in town, things like that. I don’t remember any specific fights at the fair. Just usually by ten or eleven o’clock, the drunks was going to get in a fight. It was just sort of understood, and the police rounded them up usually. That was just part of it. I know people look at you strange when you say that, but that’s just the way it was.

There used to be quite a few bars in Bland County. It was funny some of tales that happened. They used to race down 42, and we’ve had some terrible wrecks up on Bob Davis’ curve. A lot of boys have gotten killed there. I know that when some of them got hurt, that wasn’t racing. They had had a wreck, and somebody had come along and hit them. That really hurt them really bad. It used to be really bad. There was no interstates through here, and of course it was a ?dialic? route, south 21, 52. We’ve had an awful lot of wrecks on the mountains when we first came here. People would be coming from Ohio through the section and they couldn’t drive in the mountains. They were used to flat land, and they couldn’t negotiate the curves. Usually once a week a truck would go off one of teh mountains, either East River or Big Walker. There was always wrecks. That road was the most direct route south. The traffic was really something through here, because that was the main road through here.

hen we first came, there was lots and lots of moonshine in the county. It was sort of funny that the revenues people would come and didn’t find anything. What so often would happen was they would just move it over into West Virginia until the people left, and after they had been gone about a week, they would just move it back in. It was sort of a joke, but no one ever thought anything about it.