Growing up in the 30′s and 40′s in Speedway, West Virginia
Written by: Lillian Ruth Caperton Wimmer
Happy Mother’s Day Marcheta!
When we last heard from Aunt Ruth, her grandmother Ella had just moved to Ohio to live with Ruth’s Uncle Bob. The young Ford family moved into the Old Home Place, Ruth and her parents moved into the Old Allie House, named after Aunt Allie, who was married to Uncle Allen Caperton.
The “Old Allie House” had a kitchen, bedroom and bedroom/parlor room. The parlor/bedroom had a lovely old stone fireplace in it and I can remember the cheerfulness of the fire crackling in the fireplace, especially at night when it cast shadows upon the wall and ceiling. My sister and I shared a bed in that room and many nights before going to sleep I would watch those shadows upon the wall and ceiling and in my imagination would see different forms and shapes of people, animals, trees, etc.., forming and dancing on the walls and ceiling. It was very comforting to see the fire and hear the crackling of the wood. I can remember sitting cozily by the fireplace, curled up in a big chair reading a book.
I always loved to read. One of my mother’s favorite books, which I also loved to read titled Lena Rivers. (Footnote 1) I wish I could find that book somewhere now so that I could read it again.
My mother and dad later had the “Old Allie Place” torn down and built a more modern house in its place. The new house had an upstairs which was great. I had never lived in a house with an upstairs before and I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the new house however; I missed the fireplace and always wished that somehow we could have used the stones and built a fireplace out of them in the new house. This house consisted of kitchen, living room, 2 bedrooms downstairs, and 2 bedrooms upstairs, with several large closets. Another smaller kitchen and bathroom were later added and the old kitchen was used s a dining room. This house was built near the end of World War II and some problems were encountered during the construction of it as some building materials were scarce and hard to find.
This takes me to the time of the second World War. This war began on December 7th, 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. I was ten years old at the time. My beloved brother, Mark was in the Navy when the war began and we were all worried about him and anxious concerning his well-being. He was at the Panama Canal during much of the war, but was on a destroyer in the Pacific during part of the war. Mark was also stationed at Midway Island in the Pacific for a time. It was a blessed relief when the war was over and he returned to the States unharmed.
Times were hard again, during the war as many things were rationed or scarce. I can remember that we had ration stamps for meat, gasoline, kerosene, and shoes. Coffee, sugar, cigarettes, candy bars and other luxury items were either rationed or scarce. My parents loved their coffee. I can remember my dad trying to drink coffee with chicory added to it, or Postum. The chicory gave the coffee a terrible bitter taste, and he didn’t much like Postum, but for a time it was that or nothing. We each got one stamp a year for shoes and I can remember being terrified that my shoes would wear out during the winter and that I wouldn’t have a stamp to get another pair. We could buy sandals without stamps and would try to wear them during the warm months to save our shoe stamp for more sturdy winter type shoes.
We had no electricity at that time and had to use kerosene lamps for lighting the house at night. As I said before, kerosene was rationed and we had to be careful of the way in which we used it. One way of conservation was to go to bed early, but my parents usually arose early of the morning, so there again, we had to use the kerosene lamps, which offset going to bed early. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table doing my homework by the light of the old kerosene lamp.
Ladies silk hose were almost impossible to get hold of and when my mother and sister could get a nice pair of them they would be very careful with them, saving them for special occasions, such as weddings and funerals. The ladies always dressed for those two occasions in their best dress, hat, shoes, handbag, gloves, and silk hose. Sometimes you really needed a pair of nice hose desperately for the funeral or wedding. Usually the clerk at one of the stores in town would have a few pair hidden under the counter for those emergency occasions.
My dad was in town one day and came home “pleased as punch” with himself. There had been a man on the street selling silk hose by the package, several pairs to the pack. He bought a package for my mother and gave them to her with a big smile thinking he had really done something great! When she took them out of the package, she found that they had seams up the front and sides and there was only about one pair out of the whole bunch that was usable. He had been taken by a black marketer! Ha!
I can remember having a few blackout occasions where the authorities would blow sirens at night to have people put out all of the lights in preparedness for an enemy air attack. This was always frightening as we would not know it if it were just a drill or a real enemy attack.
Our generation was very patriotic. We gave the flag salute every day at school and we would have fought anyone that would have desecrated the flag in any way. We were always very careful when putting up the flag or taking it down from the flag pole, that no part would touch the ground. Many times our school would send all of the children out all over the neighborhood to gather up scrap iron, and bring it to a designated place to be picked up for use in war materials. We were always very conscientious to work hard to gather all the scrap iron and metal which we could find and felt that this was one small way in which we could help in fighting the war. I can also remember my dad giving me a quarter each week to buy a savings stamp for a war bond.
I am not proud of this now and know that it was wrong, but then we had a lot of hate in our hearts for the German and Japanese people. We would not buy anything from the store if it were made in Germany or Japan. I can remember my cousin and myself making onion and butter biscuits, taking them to an old club house (which had been built by her brother and my nephew) and sitting on the roof of the old log buildings, eating our onion biscuits and making up and singing hate songs about Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. We thought this was being perfectly patriotic to our country and something which was O.K. to do. We thought this was something we should do to support our country.
Good candy bars, like many other things were scarce and hard to come by. I can remember my cousin and I sitting on the knoll on Saturdays watching for the Miss Virginia Food truck to come to one of the two food stores in the community. Just as soon as we saw the truck come into sight, we would make a wild dash to the store to be there first in order to get a good bar of candy such as a Mallow Cup or a Milky Way. The truck would only have a few good bars as most of the good candy was sent to our soldiers overseas.
My dad smoked, but had a difficult time of getting cigarettes as they were also sent to our Army men. He bought a cigarette rolling machine and allowed my cousin and I to roll his cigarettes. This was a mistake on his part, we would roll a few and take out one or two to do a little puffing of our own. He was trusting and never knew we did this. When the war ended in 1945 we were so happy and elated that my dad got out his gun, as did other men in the community and shot many shots into the air in wild celebration of the war’s end. We children got together old tin buckets, cans, cow bells and anything else that would make a noise and went up and down the road whooping and yelling in celebration of the end of the war.
Some families in the community did not far as well as did ours concerning their soldier boys.
- Sidney and Eva Wimmer lost their beloved son, Bernard, during the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He went down with the U.S.S. Oklahoma which was docked there.
- Dean and Bonnie Snider lost their oldest son, Spencer. He was killed in France.
- Pearley and Ollie Pennington lost their son, Laten. He, also was killed fighting in the war.
After the war ended, the economy again prospered. There were plenty of jobs available for those who wanted them, and life soon settled back to a comfortable normalcy, not experienced during the war.
By this time I had just entered into my early teens and was beginning to think more of the social part of life. Our social and recreational activities centered around school with a very active 4-H Club. It also centered around Church and we had a very active M.Y.F. group. (Methodist Youth Fellowship) Speedway was a close-knit community with a bunch of kids in the same age group. We community kids were more like one large, happy family as we grew up. We were always gathering at someone’s home for a party, candy making or to pop corn. We would throw a party on the spur of the moment to celebrate anything from Halloween to someone’s birthday, and to this day I wonder how we were able to get the word out to all the community kids in time to gather at someone’s home to celebrate something as there were only two or three telephones in the entire area and they were two or three miles apart. However, we were always able to get the word out and would (literally) almost break our necks getting refreshments and things together for the party. All of the kids would show up on time as usual.
I remember several of us girls running to the store one evening, trying to get there before it closed in order to buy some things for the night’s party. I stumped my toe and hurt my hip so badly that I could hardly walk, but I got up and hobbled on to the store to help buy the goodies, then hobbled back home. I went to the party, spent the night at my girlfriend’s house, and hobbled home the next morning – so sore – that I could hardly move. It was Saturday, so I had the weekend to recover.
We had an apple orchard near our house with a large, level area in the middle part. In the middle of the orchard there was an outdoor furnace where we had many wonderful wiener roasts and picnics. We would also gather there for many Sunday afternoon croquet games, as playing croquet was one of the many fun things we all enjoyed doing. Later, a cousin and her husband strung outdoor electric lights over the area lighting it up so that we could play croquet after dark
Those were some of the best years of my life and friendships were formed during those years that will never be forgotten. Life was simple and uncomplicated, but lived and enjoyed to the fullest.
Later, as the kids became teenagers and young adults obtaining jobs, the first things which they bought were cars, therefore transportation problems were eased and we had a much easier time of getting out and around. Where previously we had to walk to church, now we usually all climbed into someone’s car and were regally carried on wheels. Also, we were now able to get to town to movies more often and usually a drive-in hamburger place afterward. Our favorite’s were Easter’s (later named Mooney’s, ) and there was one on Athens’ road named McCulloch’s that we enjoyed going to. A movie theatre opened in Athens, and this one was more conveniently located to the community of Speedway. It had an afternoon matinée and the local bus service scheduling about the same time, it became easier to see movies more often. The bus route was between Princeton and Hinton and came through our area twice a day, morning and afternoon.
You, who read this, may think that we were deprived youths, living a life of poverty, but we were not. Our lives were full of good things, such as happiness and love. We knew nothing of drugs, sex or alcohol and they had nothing to do with our lifestyle. We were good kids, deeply affiliated with the Church, with a deep and abiding faith in God. Our parents were loving and gave us warm and deep affection, training and discipline when needed, always tempered with love and understanding. They were always there when we needed them and there was almost nothing that I could not discuss with my mother. My father died when I was fourteen. My mother acted as both mother and father after his death, I grew up happy and secure with her love. She was always there when I needed her and no one could have had a more loving and caring mother than she. I hope that I was able to show her how much I loved and cared for her later in life when she became older and in poor health. There was nothing that I would not have done for her. No one could have ever turned me away from her or have caused me to neglect her or to have willingly caused her pain.
This article only touches on my early years, and if I had more time and energy I could easily write a book.
- Lillian Ruth Caperton Wimmer 1931-1996
Lena Rivers is a book written in 1856 by Mary Jane Holmes. It is available as a free download on Google Books by following this link - Lena Rivers.