After Mom and Dad married in 1937, Dad returned to West Virginia University to complete his degree in agriculture. Mom remained in Summers County and taught in one-room schools. At some point, she received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Concord College. (There are blanks for dates and locations and jobs — those questions I never asked until it was too late.) In 1945, after graduation, Dad was county agent in Clay County, and I was born that year.
When I was two we moved to White Sulphur Springs where Daddy taught agriculture techniques to returning WWII veterans. The next move was to Spanishburg as county agent and then to Williamsburg where he taught agriculture. Mom taught in Cold Knob, a one-room school in the area. She then taught home economics at Williamsburg High School. My sister Sandy was born in 1951.
We had vacationed in Florida over the years and went to Daytona Beach in 1953. Daddy would drive straight through to Florida. I don’t remember us staying in motels along the way.
During this visit, the Florida State Agriculture Teachers’ Conference was going on. One day, Dad was sitting on a bench when a tall, red-headed man asked if he could join him. That meeting changed the direction of our lives. He was Buford Galloway, principal of the 1-12 school in Fort White. They chatted, and by the end of the conversation, Dad was offered a biology position with the promise of an agriculture position the following year. No paperwork, just a handshake, and we were moving to a climate more conducive to Mom and her asthma.
The moving van picked up our furniture. The stuff we needed more quickly was put in a trailer pulled by our car, and we were on our way. Our dog Brownie rode in a custom-made box on the tongue of the car. When we arrived in Fort White, we roomed in a house until our rental house was available.
We stayed in Florida for Christmas that year. Mother, the artistic lady, decorated a prickly holly tree with berries. Santa’s gift, a bicycle, was hard to ride in the deep, soft sand that was our driveway.
Finally, summer came and we followed US 301 and/or US 41 north to West Virginia. We passed many Mom and Pop motels along the way as well as cars with the yellow and black WV tags. Back then, there was usually one tag and it was easy to recognize a car’s state. We honked the horn and waved to any WV car that zoomed past us. Daddy always drove through the night. Our travel was before interstate roads and rest areas. Our rest areas were the rural churches along the way. They usually had water and an outhouse.
Finally, we crossed the state line from Virginia into West Virginia, went through the tunnel and on to Bluefield, Princeton, Athens, Pipestem, and Hinton. We made the 90-degree turn and started up Elk Knob Road past Hilltop Cemetery. The car grabbed the hairpin curve as we drove until the road plateaued. There, on the right was a store and then the house of Aunt Vera and Uncle Rathburn (Daddy’s brother). Our treat was getting to pick out a candy bar in the store. Back at their house, we relaxed and tried to identify Aunt Vera’s plates that hung on the wall.
Finally, back in the car, we made our way to Chestnut Mountain. We passed the cutoff down to Hix and Marion and Virgie O’Bryan. Hix was our destination for another day. Now it was up and up the mountain, to the top and the Chestnut Mountain Church.
We turned left and wound our way over the dirt road to Mom’s childhood home. We knew we were there when we felt the rumbling under us. Granddaddy had made a cattleguard at the property line. Quickly, we were in a large grass area with a large barn to the left and a smaller one to the right. Up the hill on the right, we saw the large barn near the Bragg Cemetery. On the left was the hog pen and closer to the house was the spring.
There on a small knoll was home. The white house’s porch had a swing and a white picket fence surrounding the front yard. On the front porch sat Grandma and Granddaddy and aromas of freshly baked bread and newly mown hay. We were home!