By: Paige Cline
In pre-war Wyoming County, life was obviously different from today. But to assume that ours was a backwoods section full of nothing but uneducated dullards would be a huge mistake.
To be sure, there were many of the older generation with only a few years of formal education. Still, in most homes, education was valued and it was pursued for years after the boy or girl had quit school because he/she was needed at home or on the farm. Our mother, for instance, was taken against her wishes, from the eighth grade and taken to McDowell County to help care for an older married sister who was expecting another child. Mom cooked and cleaned and helped care for her sister and her family until she was able to do it herself. She would rather have been in school, but she didn’t question her parents’ decision. That’s just the way it was back then.
Our mother, like others, continued learning the rest of her life as did our father who was working in the coal mines in his early teen years.it always amazed how they could discuss subjects from history to art with each other or with folks with formal educations many years past theirs. And, their grammar was surprisingly good, with just enough of the local idioms sprinkled in to make it interesting.
Up to her ninetieth year, my mother, had it not been for crippling arthritis in her fingers, could work the crossword puzzle in the Beckley paper as fast as me.
Anyway, I just wanted to stress the point that knowledge is not a modern day phenomenon which was only for wealthy and for city slickers. It was valued, even treasured, back then.
In 1939, the paper reported the results of debates and literary discussions between the county high schools. Try that now. Students could be recognized for accomplishments other than athletics. many did it for both.
Speaking of schools, in 1939 Baileysville High School graduated its first class. It consisted of six scholars. Up the river, Mullens High was graduating sixty students. That was the largest class ever to
graduate from a county school.
The Baileysville grads were Janis Trent, Bessie Fortner, Nellie Fortner, Estil Harman, Paul England and Burbridge Swope. J.W.Houck was the principal.
On the front page of a 1939 paper there was the story about the passing of Aunt Jane Sizemore, a beloved member of the community. It seems like every woman who lived to be older than fifty was called Aunt by everyone except her family. Well, in this case, Aunt Jane was called that by our family because she was our grandpa’s sister.
In those days it was customary to have actual or active pall bearers and, as a matter of courtesy, a list of honorary pall bearers. Aunt Jane had 96 honorary casket bearers. That’s right, 96. And they were every one listed in the newspaper story. There were doctors, lawyers, druggists, judges, police, singers, miners, laborers, merchants, politicians, court house workers, teachers and others.
Also in the paper that year, it was reported that little three year ol David Cline was struck by a truck on main street in Pineville. fortunately the injuries were not permanent. young Master Cline would later become editor and part owner of the Independent Herald.
Also that year, we were all reminded of our own mortality when a childhood friend got sick and died of a brain inflammation. One day Jimmy Buchanan is carefree and playing with his buddies, and in a few days, he is gone. Hard for little kids to understand.
Just a small glimpse of the passing parade that was the everyday events and the folks who lived them in an earlier, simpler time.