|Edna Sarver 325
Edna Sarver Interview with John Sarver
Narrative by Heather Looney
My name is Edna Sarver. I was born in Smith County, Chatham Hill, Virginia, in 1922. We lived there in Smith County until 1936, then we moved to Bastian where daddy was working at the lumber company.
We had plenty of things to do for fun when we were growing up. We swam, we played ball, dollhouses, road horses and cows too, and we also played in the barn lofts. We would have little cookouts, hot dog and ice cream parties.
We had very few toys to play with when we were growing up. But I remember when I was 10 or 11, daddy made us a set of furniture, and we would take it out to the corn crib at the barn, which was our play house. We had dolls. We would play Anna-Over-a-House, where you would have some one throw a ball over a house, and you would have someone on either side of the house to catch and throw the ball. Whoever dropped the ball first would lose. Then of course at Easter time, we’d take a skillet, some eggs, and some bread, and we’d go out in the fields up on a big hill from Grandmas’ house and we’d have an Easter egg cookout.
My mother was Dora Coulthard and my father was Marion Clem Buchanan, but everyone called him Jack. They were both born and raised in Smith County in a place where they all called The Cove.
Mother’s parents were Marco and Nancy Coulthard. Father’s parents were Itura and Benjamin Flavus Buchanan. My Grandmother Buchanan, to my knowledge, was half Indian. She was dark copper red. I’m not sure what tribe that would be. Grandma Coulthard was born in Rural Retreat over in that area. That’s not what it was called at the time, but you would know it as Rural Retreat. I’m not sure where Grandpa Coulthard came from. But they moved down there in The Cove.
Grandpa Coulthard was a shoemaker. I didn’t find out until recently that Grandpa made shoes. My brother remembers him. He died before I was born, but they say that he made shoes. And I often wondered where my mother got the idea to half sole our shoes, and then put new heels on them. But I guess she got that from her daddy. And I don’t think that Grandma Coulthard did anything but housekeep.
I have some childhood memories of running along the creek banks and jumping the creeks from high places just to see how high we could jump. We would find the highest place and jump off of it across the creek on to the other side. I also remember when I was younger, I got the book, Little Women, written by Louisa May Elcot, for perfect attendance in school. I don’t know where that book is. I can’t find it anywhere. Another memory that I have from school is when we used to go visiting at lunchtime. A bunch of us, probably eight or so, would go in a class, and we would all take off to go fishing down the creek bank, and we wouldn’t come back until it was almost time for class to be over. We would get back and the teacher would be sitting out on the porch waiting for us. She would make us spell Nebuchadnezzar a hundred times. But I still haven’t forgotten, to this day, how to spell Nebuchadnezzar. I can’t remember a whole lot from school, because we went to different schools. We attended New Cove School first, and then we moved up to what was called Cussin Hollow, from down the lower end of the cove up to the upper end of the cove. That was called Cussin Hollow, and then we changed to Old Cove School, where I finished seventh grade. The Old Cove School was a one room school house and I tell you something else, I’m not sure whether I should tell you this or not, but we caught our teacher smoking. Back then, it was a rarity for women to smoke, but our teacher, I won’t give her name because she is still alive, but she was smoking. She would go down to the toilets on the outside setting on the creek bank, and she would go smoke her cigarette. The cracks in the toilets were about an inch and a half wide. And me and 3 or 4 other boys and girls would go down there and get a bucket. We would liked to have drowned her in the toilet, we were putting the fire out, because we thought that the toilet was on fire. And ol’ Terri, my sister, she set the schoolhouse on fire one day. She crawled up under the schoolhouse, and where the leaves had gathered under it, she set them on fire. We had some wild fights. We used to fight. Ada and I used to fight a lot of other girls and boys coming and going from schools.
I had 7 sisters and 3 brothers. I have 5 sisters still living, and 1 brother. The others are dead. The oldest one was Marco Buchanan. He had a business of Industrial Welding in Marion. My brother Estel or Peck, he drove for Mason & Dixon for about 35-40 years, and he lives in Marion now. He lived in Kingsport and worked somewhere around there. My sister Vivian, she married Melvin Webb, and they lived in Bastian when they first got married. Then they went back down to Smith County on Chatham Hill. She was a seamstress, she sowed a lot nad made quilts and worked in sowing factories and Melvin was a farmer and a sawmill man. He worked when we first married, he worked up here with Daddy where the Virginia Harwood Lumber Company in Bastian. Melvin worked with him there then but they went back down there and they started to used to raise tobacco. We would go down and help them cut tobacco and grade tobacco when it was in. Now you could have had them about as much as you wanted out but now they’re quoted. And then… okay, Sip, Bill Wright, my brother Bill is dead. He married my husband’s sister and they lived, well, he worked a lot around for power companies and earlier years of his life, he was a trucker. He hauled logs and stuff like that with trucks. And Osie-Belle, she married Jap Walker and they lived in Bluefield for many years, but now they’re living up at the old Walker home place in Bastian. And they’re not doing anything now, but Jap was a truck driver. He worked for many companies. He worked in the mines a little bit, but not much. Then I married, then my other sister Ada or Florence, she’s never been married, and she lives in Bastian. She worked for years at Blessing Brothers Grocery, and then when it went out of business, she went over on the hill and worked at the factory up there… And Terri married Bill Hixon, and they lived in Pulaski when they first got married. Bill drove a Coca Cola truck in Pulaski. Then they moved to Tennessee, and set up his own business down there as a mechanic. He called it AAA, and he specialized in transmissions. He worked for many years in the city of Nashville, but he’s retired now. And, let see… Cecil, she married Manly Andrews. They had 5 children. Manly worked for Betsy Ross Bakery and Cecil worked at umpteen different sewing factories. She was at Narrows, and here in Gap, and over in Bluefield Virginina, and then over in Marion, and up in Bastian too. So, she did that. And Goldie or Dora Gladys, my youngest sister, she was the youngest one of the family. She married Tommy Turner, and they lived in Newport News… in Hampton, Virginia. She worked for the railroad for some years… and then he started working for Reynolds aluminum. When he died, he lacked 10 days having his 90 day work period up at Reynolds. He had an abdominal aneurysm, and he died. And… I guess that’s all of us.
In the mornings, when we first woke up, we would build a fire. We had fireplaces and cook stoves, and then we had to take turns washing dishes. Mama would always do breakfast dishes because we had to go to school. Then of course, there weren’t very many dinnertime dishes because there were just two of us who had to do dishes for dinnertime. But then for supper, we would alternate supper dishes, cause that’s when most of them were home. There was ten of us, and of course there was a big bunch of dishes.
Going up to the mountain and dragging out firewood to cut, make, and keep the fires going, was my least favorite chore. I hated that worse than anything under the sun. But we did that for, I guess starting when we were 7 years old, until.. after we moved to Bastian. When we moved to Bastian in 1936, we had to go up in the mountains and cut wood, bring it, hall it out, cut big trees, and pull them down to the house. We would do that on the weekends because we had to go to school, so we knew we always had to get enough wood in, cut it up, and put it in the wood shed to last momma a week. So, that’s the worst thing that I can remember. Of course, we had wash days. We always had to help with the washing bought a washing machine when daddy worked for Adam and Thompson’s Lumber Company and we lived in a little lumber company house. You had to turn backwards and forwards and we had to take tuners about washing a load of clothes that way with her. But that was your washing machine, you didn’t have no electricity. Everything was oil lamps and all like that. I can remember when we lived up there, and I would have earaches a lot when I was little. And mommy would put me on the train that would come down out of the mountain and she would put me on the train and send me up with the engineer for Daddy to blow smoke in my ear rather than smoke herself. She would send me up there and the men would bring me back.
We had a good and loving Christian home. We were brought up going to church. That was one thing that mother always made sure of. She hardly ever went with us, but she made sure that we all got out and went. The house was heated with wood stoves and fireplaces, and most of them was two story houses. I can remember only one house that wasn’t two story. It was in Bull Lot, and it was just a big house flat on some ground like this is, but wasn’t like this, but it was just that many rooms.
We carried any water that we had. We had springs and we kept our milk in what we call spring boxes, and dad would make a box, put the milk and butter and stuff in it to keep it cool and firm, and we always kept in inside. Winter and summer.
We cooked on a wood stove, that way we had to cut so much cooking wood. I remember most of them we had thought we was doing good because it had a tank on it, and could fill it up with water and have some hot water , and we had to have a fire. But I remember us having, we did have it… it didn’t have a water tank. It was just an old stove. It opened up in the front and had a flat top on it and cooked on it, and that’s what we heated the house with. We had an old stove like that when we moved up to Bastian. That the kind of heating stove we had. We had to take the ashes out and keep it clean.
We scrubbed our clothes on a board, and hung them on a line to dry. We had an outhouse, and momma cut our hair.
Sunday dinner was our biggest mean ever. Sunday, we would either have someone at our house, or we would go to Aunt Ad and Uncle Ed’s house (that’s mother’s daddy’s sister) or we would go to Aunt Edna’s. We didn’t go to Aunt Edna’s very much. I don’t know why, but we never did. But daddy worked for Uncle Bill. He hauled timber for him. Uncle Bill was a lumber man. Billy Marry Buchanan. We used to have to go down there and take the little red wagon, and we would go down there and get our groceries and stuff. Aunt Edna kept what we called a smoke house. We could get beans and meal and flour and stuff like that that we didn’t grow. But we grew most everything.
I didn’t like brown beans. I guess my favorite food was potatoes and eggs. And must. We loved mush. It’s like grits. Momma would take a big old iron pot, and she put her some water in there about half full, and then she would bring that water to a boil, and she would pour her corn meal in it. It had to be sifted, so you couldn’t put that unsifted meal in it, it had to be sifted. You would bring it to a boil, and let it get thick, and if we would beg mom hard enough, she’d give us some at night. But usually she’d fry that mush for breakfast with fat back, and that’s what we had for breakfast. Eggs and mush and gravy.
We grew lettuce, onions, that would be first things. Then we would put our potatoes, cabbage, green beans, and then we’d plant some and let them dry and make dry beans. We had corn, and what they call now the new kind of peas with the jackets on them. Not the Shelly pea’s, but meat peas, I think that’s what they call them now. Mommy always liked those kind of peas. So that’t he kind of peas we had. And we didn’t grow any carrots and we didn’t grow any cauliflower, and radishes. We had radishes and cucumbers. We had just a little bit of everything in that old garden. I mean, it was a big one. It was bigger than this house, so about 50 ft by 50 ft. It was a whopper.
We lived in a farming country and Mommy would always get somebody big to plow it. You know, turn plow, but then when ever it grew up, she had a lay off plow what we call now, but it was just a regular old plow. We had youngens pull it through the garden, and we’d take hoes and hoe it out.
We’d always grow our own seeds, or she’d order cucumber seed and stuff like that from Berpee, but otherwise we’d save our beans and corn and stuff like that.
I liked the Baby Ruth candy bar the best. We had a lot of gum drop candy. Aunt Edna would buy a great-o-big bag, I’d say it held 10 or 15 gallon. She would buy them big things and she’d give us our candy for Christmas.
My friends and I would having out on the front porch or out in the yard. We never did get to go very far. Our friends were mostly cousins, actually… there’s wasn’t no mostly to it, all of them were cousins.
We walked about 3 miles one way and 4 another when we went to New Cove. It was 3 when we went to the Old Cove it was 4.
I remember some of my teachers. We had Nora Hubble, Mary Clear, Elizabeth Bernop, Nanny DeBoard, Gladys Stephenson (one of our first cousins), and we did go to Mrs. Kate, Hazel Oakes, and I guess that’s all that I can remember.
It was a two-room schoolhouse; one of them was a one-room school, the Old Cove School. And all the grade was in it together, but the New Cove had a petition in it. That’s where we had our church. We didn’t have regular church building, we used the school building. We would have two teachers. One teacher would be on one side, and the other would be on the other side. The little grades like from the primary up to 3 or 4 grade, was in the first room, and then after you got in the 5 and 6 grade, you went over to the bigger room.
We had about 8 or 9 students in my class. We studied Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Grammar, History, Geography, Spelling and Physiology.
For lunch, we would take apple butter biscuits, and we’d take some corn bread and milk. And sometimes Mommy would have us a salmon cake every once in a while to take. But most of the time, it was either apple butter and biscuits or sometimes we’d have peanut butter, but not much. I can remember mother used to give us Ovaltine. That’s coming back now, but we had Ovaltine. I don’t know where she got it, whether Aunt Edna got it for us or what, but we used to have Ovaltine all the time when we was younger.
We got into plenty of trouble. The day that we slipped off for instance. In the 4 or 5 grade, we had this teacher that every time you missed a question, you would get smacked on the hand with a paddle. And I remember telling mommy one time that I had missed some questions and I was bragging about how I told mommy “that didn’t hurt.” And mommy whipped me good then. She said you’re going to respect your teachers. That was my mother, she was strict.
We had Christmas programs, we had Thanksgiving programs, and we had Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day we would make our own valentines. We hardly ever had any bought ones. We made them, and we’d give them out. We had a box, and we’d put them in it at school, and then right after lunch on Valentine’s time two people would get to open up a box and pass out the Valentines. Everybody put their valentines in the box, whoever they wanted to have them. They were hand made.
Our programs were just like the ones for Christmas. We’d have a Christmas play, and we’d have a Halloween one. We had Halloween programs to where we could dress up, we didn’t have any costumes like they do now. We’d black our faces with charcoal or something like that, then at school we’d have little programs like that where we’d dress us. For Thanksgiving, we’d dress up as pilgrims and just what we could do from what we could get at home. We didn’t go out and buy anything to make it.
It was mostly just school children that would come to the plays. There wouldn’t be but 5 or 6 in a program, and then the other children would get to watch us. And when we practiced, we’d have to practice during recess while the other children was outside playing. I was nearly always in everything at school.
I remember plenty of stories and pranks that we pulled on Halloween. Mother would never let us get out much on Halloween, she just wouldn’t let us do it. But we’d go out and soap the neighbor’s windows or something like that. But Mother used to never let us go out on Halloween, she made us stay at home.
We had our share of snowball fights. We would roll each other over in the snow and see how much snow you could roll on top of them. Make a snowball out of them.
I don’t remember ever dating. I didn’t date until I was 18 or 19 years old. I was almost through high school.
We didn’t have movies. We go to music, our Daddy’s and dad and some of his brothers and cousins and some different men would get together and play guitar and banjo. We’d sing and have fun that way.
I guess the first movie that I can remember was when I was in Norfolk. It was “How Green Was My Valley.” And that was during World War II. I can’t remember, but I believe that the movie ticket was less than 75 cents.
I listened to string music, and the Grand Ole Opry, Jean Autry, Roy Rogers, Amos and Andy. Amos and Andy was the funny show we’d listen to on the radio. And lets see, Little Orphan Annie, that’s just about it.
My favorite singer was Roy Rogers. We had a hand turning phonograph, and Ada’s still got it.
When we moved to Bastian, we lived in my husband’s father’s rented house up in at Bastian. That’s where the school house, Bastian Elementary School is now. All of that in there, he owned all of that. He’d come over, I guess I met him while he was plowing the fields or doing farm work, cause they put out wheat crops and corn, crops and all that our in the fields and I guess that’s where I met him.
We were married at Bastian at preacher, E.G. Smith’s home. It was a regular old, “Do you take this man” ceremony, the same words that they use now. Aunt Blanche went with us, Charlie’s sister (Blanche Neal), and then Granddaddy went with us. And that’s all there was, we just went to their house and got married, and went to Bland and go the license that you have to have. We didn’t go on a honeymoon.
My husband’s name is Charles Sarver. We have six children. There is Buck, Harry Lee, he was born up Clear Fork up on the Mountain at the Sarver place. Debra, she was born at Bastian, at the home that we lived in where the school property is now. And Buster, or Charlie, he was born at that house where my mom an dad moved to, my Granddad Saver’s house when we moved to Bastian. But Granddad had given Charlie and me that house at that time. So he was born there. And then Eddie was born after we moved to Rocky Gap and he was born at Kegley Clinic. And Tippy was born at St. Lukes in Bluefield.
I would say that it was easier to raise children before than it is now. Because when we, back then, the teacher had some say in what children did. And the parents could rely on the teachers. If their children didn’t behave, and didn’t do their work and things, the parent could rely on the teachers to get ahold of them and let them know what the child was doing, and she had the right to correct them. Which I think is bad thing for schools today, because children need correcting, I don’t care where they are. And their teachers, no more than they are at home, and they have so much more to distract them, they didn’t have to get down and dig and hunt and barrow, and talk over there with fellow students about some of the problems they had at school. They could just talk to them, but no, they don’t seem to be doing that. They’re not allowed, and it’s just terrible, I think.
As far back as I can remember, we always had a Christmas tree. We’d string popcorn and go out and get holly and decorate it. Mommy would always pop the popcorn. We grew our own popcorn, and at Christmas, we’d always have our dinner at home. And then we’d go, like if Christmas was during the week, that Sunday we’d go to one of our Aunt’s and their family, or they would come to our house. It took about a week to get Christmas over with, because everybody liked to visit and tell what they got.
When we were growing up at Christmas, we didn’t get toys and things like you all did. We would get a sock. Mom would hang up a sock for each one of us. Then she’d… Santa Clause would leave us an orange, an apple, a candy bar, and a few nuts. That was our treat for Christmas. But they were all just about alike, but I got a vase the last Christmas that I was at home in Bastian. It is about 6 or 7 inches tall, and that’s what I got for Christmas. We didn’t get but one or two things. Our brother bought us a doll that year after he was married. He and his wife brought us a doll, and we tried… We wanted a colored doll, so we took our dolls out after Christmas and went out. We had a play house out in the smoke house, and we took… some of us had got a little lamp, just a little oil lamp, and we lit that oil lamp and made colored dolls. Blackened them up. That was one Christmas.
On Easter we always had a church program that we went to. The Fourth of July was just another workday. We never did anything then. But now, I can remember whenever I was staying with, I babysitted from the time I was 9 years old, and I started staying with one of my first cousins during the summer and until we’d start school, which wasn’t until Labor Day. And the Fourth of July, we’d go to the park over at Hungry Mother, it was just a little old thing then, it didn’t have but one area to it, and just had one building. But that’s what we’d do for that.
My uncle had a sawmill, and that was Mother’s brother-in-law. And then Dad’s brother had a store. It was just Uncle Joe’s Store, that’s all it was called. And Uncle Bill’s Sawmill.
I don’t remember so many snowstorms, but we didn’t get out of school like they do now. I can remember Daddy, whenever I was, lets see, He’d carry Ada in the front, and I… Wait the bigger ones would walk in front and Daddy… He always took us to school, he never turned us loose and said “you all go to school”. In bad times, he couldn’t work in the mountains then, so he’d take us to school, and I ride his back pockets and he’d carry Florence, and then Osie-Belle and them had to walk. They come along behind us and he make the roads to the school for us.
The depression was… we just didn’t much to begin with, so the Depression didn’t mean that much. I can remember Mommy saying “Oh, if old Hoover would just get out of there so we could have something more to do.” So maybe the work wasn’t, there wasn’t much building going on or anything during that time for the lumber people to make money out of, I guess that’s what she meant.
I thought the New Deal was pretty good. If it hadn’t been for old Franklin, why we wouldn’t have Social Security, we wouldn’t have anything. You just think our children should appreciate him greatly because they’d have to take care of us, they’d have to furnish everything just like when say, my grandmother got sick, well my mother, she’d have to go home and take care of her, and we’d have a family. They’d have to take time and go stay with them, and take care of them. But now, with Social Security where we’ve worked all these years and put in to it, then our children should greatly appreciate the New Deal, I think, and Social Security, when he started that, though we fuss about it now. I’m sure he helped the country during hard times.
Roosevelt’s programs like the WPA, PWA, and CCC helped the people of Bland County. I met my husband at the CCC camp. People supported Roosevelt because they could see that he was doing good for the people. That he really did care what happened to people, he wasn’t for himself only and for the government only, he thought of the people.
I don’t remember when Franklin died. I think I was working in Bluefield then. I remember when Kennedy died, but I don’t remember when Franklin died.
We got our first radio before we moved to Bastian. We lived down there in Cussin Hollow, we had one down there in Marco. It was in the CCC camp and he got Mommy a radio, it was run by batteries because we didn’t have electricity.
I didn’t get electricity until after I was married. We were living up Clear Fork, at Charlie’s dad’s house. And Charlie Jarrell wired that house up there for us, and then when we moved to Bastian, well, Charlie and I had that house wired. Charlie Jarrell did that one for us too, but that was after Debra was born, I guess it was. After Buster was born.
We got our first telephone when we lived here. It was just like it is now, plugged into the wall, I had it back yonder in that bedroom.
We got our first television when Tippy was born. We bought it from Henry Ratliff in Bastian.
TV has definitely changed. There are too many commercials now, you could listen to program, and then not have any commercials all through it. But now, you’ve got 10 minutes of commercials and 5 minute programs.
I’ll never forget the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Me, Florence, and Stella Kitts were playing out in the field and heard Momma scream. She was listening to the radio on Sunday evening, and we heard her scream. We didn’t know what had happened, so we ran to the house to see what was the matter with Momma, and she said them old Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor, and that’s the first I remember of that. That terribly upset mother because she new there would be another war and she had three boys. She knew that they would probably have to go, and then her brother was in it. Uncle Bob fought in World War I, and she remembered that, and I think that’s what upset her so.
I had family members in the war. Marco was in the Navy, Peck was in the Air Force, and I was in the Cadet Nurses Core, but Bill Wright got exempted from it.
Everything was rationed. Sugar, coffee, oil, gas, I guess that was the most things that were rationed. Whiskey was rationed, and you couldn’t buy anything that had any metals about it because it was all used for that.
Pretty much everyone supported the war. Everybody did pretty good with the war, that’s when the United States started getting richer was during World War I.
I was married and we lived up on the Mountain. I was listening to the radio and heard about the Germans surrendering. Because Harry was in the service during the war too, and we knew that he’d be coming home, because he was over seas during that.
There weren’t as many people who cared about the Korean War. It wasn’t much of a war, and it didn’t spread out into the community. I imagine bigger cities had more of an intake on that, then it did out in the country, like we are.
My son Buster was in the Korean war. Buck was in the service but he didn’t get any war during his. Eddie was in the Saudi war, Desert Storm war.
Everyone liked old Ike, because he was in with the boys in the military during World War II, and everybody respected him.
Times weren’t really that good in Bland County during the ‘50s. There wasn’t anything in Bland County at that time, lets see, there was a sewing factory, and a hosiery mill in Bland.
I can’t remember where I was when Kennedy was shot. I was probably sleeping because I worked at night, but on the reaction to that, I don’t think anyone should have shot him. But I still think that was not a thing from the United States, I think it was a foreign affair that got him.
Nobody thought much of Lyndon Johnson.
Buck fought in the Vietnam war, Jean Webb was in that one where Steve Hixon… He was in the Marines, but I don’t think he ever had to go overseas.
I thought that Watergate was just a dirty mess as it could be, and could have been ignored.
I think that conditions have improved in our country. We have more conveniences; we have more freedoms than we used to have. We used to have to spend all of your time working, now you can have vacations, paid vacations and all that. And years ago you just worked, you didn’t have a special time.
I think the school systems have changed in Bland County, and I think they did better when they had more school, you know in different areas cause more children could go to school. Of course, they have to go now, it’s a mandatory thing. But when we were younger you didn’t have to go to school, you could go if you wanted to, but now start at an early age, we didn’t start until we were 7 or 8. But now they’re starting them at 4 or 5 years of age. Which I think is bad, because I think the children should have some home life, because once they get started to school, that’s the end of being with their parents and all.
Advice that I could give is to watch who you associate with. Pick out a good crowd. I think church groups are nice, where they have different churches and all. And it the children would listen to their church leaders, they’d be a lot better off then what they would be without them. I think church groups have a whole lot to do with a child’s upbringing.