Jeanie Gore was interviewed by her grandson, Terrence Gore during the 2001-2002 school year. This narration is taken from two separate interviews. Jeanie's motherinlaw was a Charlton. Willowton is just over East River Moutain from Dry Fork. The railroad ran along the otherside of the mountain and residents of Dry Fork could walk over and work on the railroad or in the coal fields.
I was born at Willington, WV to my parents, Helen and Moten Richardson. My daddy was a miner and my mother was a house keeper. My grandaddy was a full fledged Indian and my mother had seven children, two boys and five girls. My oldest brother was Weldon Richardson and my oldest sister was Geraldine Smith. I had another brother by the name Jewel Richardson, who has passed now, and then I had Linda Walker, Marva Alexander and Carol Hayden and Joan Ferguson. We enjoyed growing up in Willowton; we really enjoyed it. We were kids and we had plenty to do and we went to school. We were just like other children. It was in walking distance of the New River, but the river that run by our house was called East River. My earliest memories were of becoming old enough to go to school. That was my earliest memory. When we were small, for fun, we had wagons and we had dolls. We had a great big doll that was bigger than I was. My grandmother gave it to me; it walked around. It was bigger than me, and I guess I would say that we had what kids back there then had . I don’t know what people back there then had really. I know one thing: we had big Christmases and we had good toys.
There was storytellers in my family, but they mostly told us ghost stories to scare us. To make us be good or whatever. That was it; they always told us scary things and of course they told us about our fore-parents. I had chores when I got bigger. When I got older my chores were to see that the beds were made and when I got so I could make the beds; keep the house clean, which we did automatically and my last one was just doing anything ‘cause I liked to play.
We had a very nice house . We had 5 bedrooms; it was heated with coal and wood, and it had a long porch across the front of it with a swing on it, and a rock wall that went down to the railroad tracks from my home. We did not have running water at first. Not when I started remembering. We didn’t have no running water; we had a spring. We had spring water and we carried water from the spring. We had just a ordinary cook stove, but anyhow we had a cook stove that we made a fire in, and you used wood and coal in it too. At first we washed our clothes in a tub with a board with a washboard and hung them on a line but then as I got older got in school they had washing machines like everybody else. Because I am a girl, didn’t nobody cut no hair, but the boys, they had people in the families that cut hair, and someone cut they hair. Somebody that could cut hair cut everybody’s hair, okay. We had outhouses. Everybody had outhouses at first. I can’t remember that, how that was, but I know that we had them. That’s all I know about that.
Garden and Food
n our garden we grew corn, and beans, onions and squash, and we had sweet potatoes. It’s hard for me to say what my favorite food was because I loved sweet stuff. I loved everything sweet, but we had beans and cornbread and chicken and dumplings and we had just ordinary food. Me, I liked cakes and pies and things that my grandmother made. She was a real pastry cooker; she could cook. We had some home remedies for illness. Well for constipation we all took castor oil. That was sort of children’s laxative that tasted real good; now you can’t find it, and for colds they used Vicks Vapor Rub and mustard.
My family celebrated Christmas with a fresh green Christmas tree, because they didn’t believe in artificial Christmas trees. They didn’t believe in artificial nothing. They had to have a fresh green Christmas tree so we would all go to the woods on our places because everybody had a place. Because we all owned land, down in Willowton, down in Glenn Lynn, and we would go on those places and cut us all down the prettiest Christmas trees we could find. We’d bring it home and dress it up and fix it up and they would have a program. Everyone in the community went to the program because every time the church doors opened, everyone went, because that was like a big celebration to us. But course we had church any day in the week because at that time, trains run through down home, and if anybody was hoboing or anything on the train, they got off. They said they could preach to them, so they opened up the church doors for them and we all went to church to hear them preach and hear them sing. It was a wonderful time for us because we didn’t know a better, more beautiful time.
The children didn’t do anything on Halloween, they just dressed up and looked ugly. They went out but the grown people enjoyed Halloween. They turned over peoples out houses because at that time they didn’t have bathrooms. They let them roll down hills, and people would have to build them new out houses. They’d mark up peoples windows; if you had a shed outside or anything, when you got up the next morning, everybody would be running to see whose shed or whose out house or what was turned over and be laughing and enjoying themselves. People would build them back and they didn’t seem to mind it, but that was back then.
War and Tragedy
I was at home when I heard that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I was at home when I heard it, and well, we were young and we didn’t know the seriousness of it. Our parents did, but we didn’t. They tried to talk about it to us, But it didn’t register that much to us. Our young men went into the service. My brother went, both of my brothers went into the service. They were both in the army; all the young men that were able went to service but life went on the same.
Oh, we loved President Kennedy. The day President Kennedy died I was working. I was in Mrs. Shott’s kitchen cooking when I heard it on the radio, and I ran to tell her that the president had been shot. And me and her cried, because we loved President Kennedy. We thought he was the greatest president that we had ever had so me and her cried. I remember Nixon and Watergate, I remember that quite well, but I never did quite understand what Watergate was, and I don’t quite understand what it was today. But I know that he resigned afterward so I know it had to be pretty bad because it was all the talk on the news.
I went to school down there in Willowton in Kelley’s Tank and we had a school. It was a school there that went from the first grade to the eighth, and all of us went there. They had different classes for different children. We studied the basics, like reading and arithmetic and history, and language and science. We had things like that down there in school. We studied everything, even writing because that was in English class. We didn’t have to pack lunches. We could walk to school; everybody walked to school. We didn’t have to ride or nothing because the school sat in the middle of the community and everybody walked to school okay. I had one teacher named Mrs. Bell, and I had one teacher named Mr. Martin and my first teacher was named Mrs. Perry. I got in trouble in school. The teachers had a paddle in school and they paddle the students with this paddle if they wasn’t good. And if they didn’t paddle you they sent you home with a note and then your parents spanked you, and most of the time that’s the way I got spanked. My parents spanked me for something I had done. I didn’t get any paddlings in school too much. When Easter come, we drawed different flowers like tulips; we colored them and we had all of this construction paper that we made beautiful things that we had strung all over the classroom. That was pretty to me, very pretty to me. When schools put on programs we had to learn poems from prose and poetry; it was our English book, and it was poems in there from Longfellow, and all of them. And we had to learn them, these long poems and our parents came and we recited poetry to them. Then we sang songs, weird songs. It was very interesting. We did a lot for fun as kids. We played horse shoes and baseball and hide and go to seek. We swam; we went swimming and every thing. In my home all the young children knew how to swim because we learned how to swim ourselves. We had a great big creek down there called a blue hole. It was called East River, and it ran through there and we fished and we swam and we hiked the mountains because we picked cherries and apples and fruits. We’d go places in the community on mountains and people’s places and pick buckets of cherries and peaches and apples. And then when the berry season come in we would go to the mountain and pick blueberries, just a crowd of us. Our parents and all the children, we went in the woods to pick blueberries. We called them huckleberries, and then when blackberry season would come, a whole bunch of us would go pick blackberries. No one ever went nowhere by themselves. There was so many of us when Memorial Day came, we took our baskets and went out in the woods and picked all our wild flowers. We would have baskets full of flowers and go to the cemeteries. Everybody went to the cemeteries that our parents had cleaned off, and then we decorated the graves. To this day, we do that.
I was rather smart and bright in school. I skipped two grades and got in the grade with my sister because I could work my arithmatic that they couldn’t work. Then I went to high school. We rode a bus; we first had a bus of our own, and then they put us on the big bus with the Celenese riders. Then, before I finished high school, they put us on a bus with the Elgood children, and we went to Princeton and changed buses in Princeton. We went to Genoa my last year and I finished in Park Central, and that was the first year that Park Central school became useable. In Bluefield West Virginia, during that time, I met my husband while he was going to school. I was in Bluefield at these schools, Genoa and Park Central, and he became a good friend of my brother Jewel. He and my brother were the best of friends and they went to work on the Northfork and Western railroad. He would come down there on weekends with my brother, and I don’t think he really came to see me, I think he came to see my sister Bootsie, who’s name was Marva. But she wasn’t old enough. My mother and them wouldn’t allow her to have friends then, so he had to see me instead. Anyway, that’s how I met my husband, and with my husband we had one son. His name is Aubrey Dolmer Gore and we moved to here to Rocky Gap. That’s where I have been to this day.
My mother and them wouldn’t let me work so I didn’t get to work until after I married and my husband worked in the extra gang. Every fall of the year they would get laid off and he would draw unemployment, and when his unemployment would start to run out, I would go to one of the ladies over here in this place, and they offered me her job. She was quitting and goin’ to another one. Her name was Naomi Wilson. I took her job and I stared working, and I have worked up until three weeks ago. I quit working and now I am retired.
My nickname is Jeanie. I go to church at Tynes Chapel AME ZION church. I am an African Methodist Episcopal Zion. Black people up Dry Fork did their shopping down in Rocky Gap, they had three stores down there. The first one that’s owned by Sutphins was owned by Kitty and Jean Shufflebarger. The second one was owned by Carol, Mrs. Carol. And the third one was owned by Charlie Taylor and It was located where Toler’s is now. Just a little bit below is where it was located, a big old rambling store. And the roads were all different than. The road that came from my home to over here. You came the old way by that old house down there that comes by Toler’s Store, the first road down there at the bridge, you came that way route 61 I suppose. But anyway, these other roads weren’t there then, and they had a river that run through from Rocky Gap to Bland that we fished. It was perfect until they made that big road to Bland, and then they ruint the river.
Dry Fork is a Pretty Place
There were some black owned businesses up Dry Fork: they had a little store up the road. And Reverend Saunders had a little store then that was up there where his old house is down on the road there. The building still stands. Anyway, I think the building still stands, but I’m not sure. Then, Andrew and Violee Furguson had a store right over here where Mary Barskile lives at right there. They had a store and they sold things. And the people up here farmed and it was so beautiful and you could see for miles and walk anywhere you wanted to. Wasn’t any bushes and trees and things like it is now. There was trees, but all the ground was cleared and it was so pretty over here then. Now I don’t know, I mean I often wonder how this place grew up like it did, when I could go anywhere I wanted to and I could just walk and see where I was going and the ground was a just beautiful pretty place. It’s still a beautiful place though.
I remember that playground down the road. They had an old church down there when I came over in here. Of course, before I came, it was more churches than this, and there wasn’t but two churches here. There was a Baptist church here down across the creek, about a yard from the Methodist church, which was on the left on the road down there. They had a school house that the kids went to that set down on the ground in front of the (Tynes AME) church, and they had teachers come from different places. The last one that was over here was old, Nellie Cecil. She was over here while I was here, and then her brother took over after she quit, and his name was Alonzo. After them there was no more school. The school closed over here. And the church still sat there, that little one room church with a pot belly stove and we served the Lord in that church. And then the Reverend Porter was the pastor when I came here, and he stayed here for years, 40 some or 42 years I suppose. Anyway, he left here and they had remodeled that church some, and the Masonic Lodge of Bramwell came here and laid the head stone at that little church over there. We had conferences and bishops, and we went to conferences. We went as delegates for many years and we had a wonderful time.
Past and Future
I am sure it was easier to raise children then, because back then children didn’t have so much activities, and I don’t know about anybody else, but it wasn’t no problem raising my son. He was an only child. My husband was an only child, and his grandparents were so tickled to have him. It wasn’t any trouble. I don’t know what trouble is raising children, and back then they didn’t have nowhere to go but to church to school. They could go to Sunday school picnics or things like conferences. We went everywhere, even to Beckley to that park at Pipestem, and everywhere. There was a park we went to and took our kids. We hired buses and took our kids and they had plenty fun. They didn’t have nowhere to go that we didn’t take them, so it was easier because we were with them all the time. No drugs and gangs. Nobody hardly dranked, or some people dranked but they weren’t among us and we were church-going people. We took our kids to church because that was the greatest thing we could ever instill in them---that it’s nothing no greater than God.
I though our country was in pretty good shape until Nine Eleven and then I wonder will it ever get back to where or to halfway where it was that day because it seems like that threw us into a sure enough Depression. Now they said we had a Depression way back then but I don’t remember that Depression, maybe I am not old enough because I knew that even though we wasn’t rich and we didn’t have, I never had a day that I went hungry or didn’t have anything I wanted. What a wonderful world now, I think that we are in a Depression. I think people are going to suffer because they are taking away too many jobs from them when people can’t make it for themselves. Life becomes unacceptable. Things have changed for the worst. I don’t know if it is going to stay that way, I hope not, but I don’t know whether it is the president or if time has just bought us to this factor.
Life in Bland County has been good to us in this way that we have met the people here and we have become one of the people here and we have accepted all the people here and they have accepted us. So I assume that we have become one big family. The advice I would tell young people today is to listen to your parents. I know that you think they don’t know what they are talking about, and that you are so much smarter than they are, but don’t ever forget that they lived before you and that life was just as complicated and hard for them then as it is for you. Know only they have come through that and you got it still yet to go through; you cannot know what you have never been through and they know because they have been through it, so always listen to your parents. They can always tell you the right way to go, even if they don’t do it or fail to do it they know it.
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