Rufus and Lida Havens

Rufus and Lida Havens are on the porch of their home.

This is a combination of two interviews of Rufus and Lida by their grandson, Matthew Havens('96), in 1994-95. Rufus died in September of 1997. His final request was that his many grandsons hand dig his grave. They did and he is buried in the shaly hill above Shiloh Methodist Church in Hollybrook.

Rufus:The Early Years

Matthew: Where were you born?

Rufus: East of Hollybrook, Virginia on the property of John Burton. He was the owner. We lived there for, I was probably about three or four years old when we left from there, just young. W went to the Robinson place from there. We lived there about twelve years. But I didn't get to stay at home when I was little, I had to stay with my sister.

Matthew: Who was your mother and father?

Rufus: Shep Havens, I don't know when his birth was, but he died when he was about seventy-two years old, and mother was about the same.

Matthew: What was your mother's name?

Rufus: Lily Woods.

Matthew: Who were your brothers and sisters?

Rufus: Marvin Havens was a half-brother, Sidney Havens was a full brother, Alfred Havens was a full brother. Grace Havens was my oldest sister, Alice, I don't remember when she was born, she was next, Edna was next, then Sid came along, then I was born April 7, 1911 in Bland County, east of Hollybrook.

Matthew: What kind of chores did you do around the house?

Rufus: Well, we had to work in the garden pull weeds, carry wood in, just anything that come up to be done on the farm.

Matthew: What was your house like?

Rufus: Well, it was just a very common house, A- frame roof on it. I believe the old house had maybe four or five rooms in it, I don't remember, but either four or five.

Matthew: How did you heat it?

Rufus: Firewood. A fireplace and heating stoves.

Matthew: Did you cook on a cook stove?

Rufus: Cooked on a cook stove. A wood cook stove was all there was back then. You didn't have anything else but wood.

Matthew: What did you grow in your garden?

Rufus: Oh, all kinds of vegetables. Potatoes, beans, cabbage, lettuce, onions. Even growed peanuts one time.

School Days

Matthew: Where did you go to school at?

Rufus: I went to school at Hollybrook, at the Radford Schoolhouse, east of Hollybrook. It was right close to where we lived at, but when I went I wasn't old enough to go to school at that time.

Matthew: What did you study? What sort of subjects did you study?

Rufus: Oh, we studied reading, spelling, arithmetic, History, and Geography.

Matthew: What did you pack for lunch?

Rufus: Whatever we had, mostly eggs, bacon, bread.

Matthew: How did you get to school?

Rufus: Walked. Anywhere from a quarter of a mile to 5 miles, six miles.

Matthew: Do you remember any of your teachers names?

Rufus: Oh, yeah, Marie Baker Powers was my first teacher. I liked her, she was a good teacher. Then, a Bird was my second teacher. I kindly believe Marie might have been her name. She was pretty tough on us. She was very rough, very strict.

Matthew: Did you ever get into trouble?

Rufus: Oh, I stayed in trouble. Throwing paper wads, and made a little tank out of a spool and wound it up with a rubber on it. We'd send notes from one side of the school to the other. If the rubber unwound smooth, if the rubber got stuck, it jump up off the floor about six inches and come back down. Made a racket, that's what got me in trouble a time or two.


Matthew: How did you celebrate holidays, like Christmas? Did you have a tree?

Rufus: For Christmas we had a Christmas tree, Santy Clause for sure come. I remember one time I got up to see what he'd brought me. Oh, it was before twelve o'clock. I was in the room where the tree was at. Santy Clause had brought Alfred a little wagon and I stepped on the tongue and it had a lot of stuff in it and the wagon bed kicked up and fell back down. Oh, I almost got a whippin' for that. Oh, I went back to bed and stayed in bed.

Matthew: What about Halloween? Did you pull any pranks on anybody?

Rufus: Oh, on Halloween, a lot of times we got pretty rough. We didn't do any big damage. We'd lift people's gates off the hinges, and leave them off, leave gates open. Sometimes we'd get into their chickens and make 'em squall, and then when they'd come out we'd throw rocks at 'em and run 'em back in the house. I remember one time we got in Buddy Harmon's chickens, he was an old man. We carried them off and made them squall and he wouldn't come out. Somebody before that had throwed rocks and run him back in when he'd come out, so he's afraid the same thing was going to come. After we got the chickens out and he wouldn't come out, well I'd taken to the door and knocked on it and hollered at him. He answered and wanted to know what I wanted. I told him some old mean boys had got in his chickens and carried them out there and throwed them down, and I brought 'em back home to him and there they was. He said ajust put 'em down in the old chickenhouse. That's where we'd got 'em at and I took 'em back and put them in there and told him some old mean boys had took them.

Matthew: Did you do anything for Easter?

Rufus: We had an egg hunt for Easter. We'd always have a big lot of eggs and hide 'em, so we had plenty of eggs for Easter. Oh, two or three times before Easter I had so many eggs I had to go get them and take them to the store to buy groceries with.

The following interview was conducted at the same time as the above. It is with Lida Havens and is also done by Matthew.

Lida:The Early Years

Matthew: When and where were you born?

Lida: I was born March 13, 1910.

Matthew: Where at?

Lida: Oakvale, West Virginia.

Matthew: Who was your mother?

Lida: Elizabeth Betty Blankenship Hughes.

Matthew: Who was your father?

Lida: Jim Hughes.

Matthew: Who were your grandparents?

Lida: Tom Hughes was my grandfather and Mary Hughes was my grandmother.

Matthew: What did your mother do for a living? Was she a housewife?

Lida: Yeah, she was a housewife.

Matthew: What did your father do for a living?

Lida: He worked out on the Public Works.

Matthew: Who were your brothers and sisters?

Lida: Theodore Hughes, Lula Hughes, Clayburn Hughes, Carson, Doc; Leo is his name, and Nona.

Rufus: You had a sister that died.

Lida: She died when I was young, I just barely remember her.

Matthew: Where were you raised?

Lida: I was partly raised in Oakvale, West Virginia, and then on Wolf Creek.

Matthew: What were your chores around the house?

Lida: I didn't have none around the house, I had it in the cornfield. I never done nothing around the house. I done the farm work.

Matthew: What was your house like on Wolfe Creek?

Lida: It was just an old house, had three rooms in it.

Matthew: How did you heat it?

Lida: Heating stoves.

Matthew: Did you cook on a cook stove.

Lida: Cooked on a cook stove.

Matthew: What kinds of things did you grow in your garden?

Lida: Just like they do today, beans, about like they do today.

Matthew: Where did you go to school?

Lida: I went to school in Giles County and Bland County. (Probably the old Round Bottom School)

Matthew: How did your family celebrate Christmas?

Lida: Well, we didn't have nothing to celebrate with.

Matthew: What did you do?

Lida: We didn't do very much of anything. All of us kids would get out and we'd beat rocks and make us some fire.

Matthew: You didn't have a tree or anything?

Lida: No tree. They didn't celebrate then like they do today. I can't remember anyone ever having Christmas trees.

Matthew: Did you have any toys?

Lida: I had one doll, that's all I ever had in my life.

Matthew: How did teenagers court when you were young? Did you go on dates?

Rufus: Mostly at the girl's home. And most of the time the parents or the kids were there.

Matthew: You didn't go to town or anything?

Rufus: No.

Rufus and Lida Meet and Marry
Rufus: I was looking for a wife and went to Wolf Creek. I knew some people over there. Lula Tracy was her best friend and she told me about Lida. I went to the house and she went with me. Lida was out back of the house picking up chestnuts under the chestnut tree. That's where I met her at, under the chestnut tree. And I fell in love with her whenever she give me those chestnuts in my hand. I said this is what I'm looking for, this is her.

Matthew: Where were you married at?

Rufus: Down at Pearisburg, Virginia.

Matthew: Who was the preacher?

Rufus: J.E. Hurley I believe was his name.

Matthew: What was the ceremony like? Was it a plain affair?

Rufus: Yes, it was just a plain wedding. A private concern, and if I had another it would be the same way. I wouldn't want a great big church wedding, keep people starving to death waiting for something to eat.

Matthew: Did you go on a honeymoon?

Rufus: Yeah, we went on a honeymoon. We come home, and she had been over here before. We walked all the way from Wolf Creek to all the way over the Skillet. Her brother rode the old jenny and we walked.

Matthew: How much money did you have when you got married?

Lida: About a dollar and eighty one cents.

Rufus: A dollar and sixty five or eighty five cents, something like that. That's what we got our first groceries with. And that bought everything we needed besides bacon and flour, and you could buy a twenty four pound bag of flour for forty cents and you could buy fatback bacon for ten cents a pound.

Matthew: How many children did you have?

Rufus: We had six, five boys and and one girl.

Matthew: What are their names?

Rufus: Lewis Hale, Raymond Hershell, Edward Charles, Dane Clifton, William Garland, and then Marie was the only girl.

Matthew: Do you think that it was easier to raise kids back then than it is today?

Rufus: There wasn't as much going on then and they stayed at home, everybody stayed at home.

Matthew did this interview on May 26, 1995.

Matthew: Where did you live when you first got married?

Rufus: At Frank Newberry's, in the north of Walker's Mountain. Went to housekeeping in a big rock pile in a little two room house. You couldn't go out in the yard without stepping on rocks.

Matthew: When did you move to the farm here?

Rufus: 1937.

Matthew: Who did you buy it from?

Rufus: James Burton.

Matthew: What was it like when you first bought it?

Rufus: Well, it had a four room sawmill shanty on it, and we lived in that until '48, if I remember right, and we built this house.

Matthew: What kind of buildings have you built here?

Rufus: Well, the first thing I built was a place to keep a calf, so I could turn the cow out, so it could go out and graze but she wouldn't leave it, she didn't go off.

Matthew: Did you have a dairy or a spring house?

Rufus: Not then we didn't, we built the dairy later on. We built it out of old rocks, didn't take too long to build it. I just built one wall till I got it up out of the ground. Then I had to build a double wall in the front. I thought I'd never get that done. The first round of rocks, I laid the biggest rocks I had, then I had to find rocks to go between them, and take mortar and daub the holes and fix it up. It made an excellent place to keep food. It was damp. Sometimes the water would run through it. It never got up deep enough to damage anything, as long as I had a drain open. I had a drain with old quart oil cans, cut the ends out of them and put the concrete down on the floor and then covered them up with concrete, and then covered it up with dirt. It made an excellent place to keep everything.

Matthew: What kind of jobs did you have beside farming?

Rufus: Oh, I did a little bit of about everything. Carpenter work, that's what I shoulda kept a doin'.

Lida: He worked for Mont Miller in the sawmills.

Matthew: What was it like working in the sawmill back then?

Rufus: It was all hard work at the sawmill. I rolled sawdust to begin with and I thought that was the hardest job to do, cause I had to roll it out in a wheelbarrow. A man kept the saw going, he'd keep you pretty well busy. I'd push a wheelbarrow load out, time you'd dump it and get back, why you'd have to get two or three shovels full out for your wheelbarrow to go back down where it ought to. I thought that was awful hard.

Matthew: Did chainsaws change logging much?

Rufus: We never cut with those, we cut timber with crosscut saws. Mining props was going good in that day. They was bringing about twenty seven dollars a big truckload. I didn't just go out in the mountains and cut props, I clean cut it. By the time one load was gone we'd have another just about ready. We kindly lived hand to mouth, but we never got hungry.

Matthew: Do you remember the dinky railroads?

Rufus: Oh, yeah. They had done left when we moved here, though. They up through No Business across the mountain to Wolf Creek.

Matthew: What kind of farming did you do? What all did you raise to sell?

Rufus: Raised corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, beans. We raised just about everything that we ate at that time. We had chickens to begin with. Bunyon Morehead give us one old chicken hen at home, Lida had one old chicken hen, just hatched out and had little chickens. We brought them and got them started out pretty good. We was getting enough eggs to do us, and I'd say eggs was bringing eight, not over twelve cents a dozen. We's go out to the store, why the first thing I'd buy would be two pounds of dried peaches for a quarter, two pounds of prunes for a quarter, and then sugar was about five dollars a hundred pounds. Wasn't many people buy a hundred pounds to use at home at that time.

Peddling Produce

Matthew: Did you peddle in Bluefield at lot?

Rufus: We was peddlin' in Bluefield before we came over here. We continued it for a number of years, and then we finally quit.

Matthew: What was it like going to Bluefield back then?

Rufus: Well, if the roads was good it was Al right. When we first moved the roads out through the Wilderness was full of old T Model Fords and A Models and old Chevrolets. They had some other old cars, old Plymouths and one thing and another. You was lucky if you got through the Wilderness without getting stuck up in the mud or ditch or somethin' or other. Somebody didn't come along to help you push out, why, you just had to work till you got out.

Matthew: What was it like going over East River Mountain?

Rufus: Well, you had to go over the top, and if the roads was good, why it wasn't bad, but if the roads was slick, you was lucky if you got across and back without trouble. I never did have any serious trouble on that mountain, but a lot of people did. I think it was seven miles up this side of East River Mountain on 52. It wasn't quite that far down on the other side. It was a little less.

Matthew: When you peddled in Bluefield did you just go house to house, or did you have certain customers?

Rufus: Just went house to house. Finally the trade built up to where we didn't have much peddlin' to do, it was just deliverin'. I think we sold eggs maybe at twenty-five, thirty cents a dozen. At that time I think that was somewhere near it. But we had big ole eggs. One White Legger egg that we'd get would have as much egg in it as at the least three what they call large eggs today.

Great Depression

Matthew: What was it like during the Great Depression? Did it have a big effect on you?

Rufus: It was rough. We was married the twenty-ninth day of May, 1930. It was dry that year and thirty-one was still drier. Frank (Newberry) was payin' me a dollar a day and board and treated me just like they did their kids. Layton and Sib was all the kids they had. Then when I got married and went over there, why he cut my wages to a dollar. I worked for part of the year at a dollar and then the Depression got pretty rough and I worked two years there, almost two years there for sixty-five cents a day. A day was daylight to dark. I had to take care of the horses, the hogs, work like that. Days I didn't work I didn't get nothing for that, but I paid twenty-five cents a day for every day that I stayed there for seven years. And a house built on a rock pile, it didn't do him no damage at all.

Matthew: Do you remember when you got your first radio?

Rufus: We had a radio. I'm not sure, but I believe that Edward bought the first radio for us from Pete Newberry. I don't remember what he give for it. It wasn't much, it was used. It done very well.

Matthew: When did you first get electricity?

Rufus: It was a few years after we left Newberry's before we got electricity. Do you remember when we got it, Lida?

Lida: 1948.

Rufus: Yeah, I guess that's about right.

Matthew: How did it change life on the farm?

Rufus: Oh, it changed it a lot.

Matthew: How have times changed over the years? Has it got better or worse?

Rufus: Well, I'd have to say they've got better, but right now if anything they are holdin' their own or backin' up a little. Things are not getting any better right now for the farm.

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