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The life of an Appalachian child

Happy Trails and Many Tales

February 5, 2011
By Shannon Bennett Campbell

Growing up in Harmony Grove (Taylor County) was a wonderful life's beginning. Fresh air, crows in the cornfield, acres of green grass and my little pup, Sammy. It was any child's playground. The only intrusive event of the day was the yellow school bus coming down the road and stopping for a neighbor. I always waved to the bus driver. So it was for an Appalachian child.

Television was a very new event in homes everywhere. My favorite shows were "Ding-Dong School" and "The Mickey Mouse Club." I watched these religiously, as many watch TV today. This kind of entertainment could not be found on the lonely country roads. Habits were formed at an early age.

Dad worked at Comet Station, a natural gas utility center, and my mom stayed at home caring for me and my younger brother - doing all the homemaker duties of cleaning house, preparing meals and washing clothes. We had a modern washing machine in the cellar that would even allow one to wring the water out of the garment.

Article Photos

ON THE FARM — B.B. Hull poses for a portrait with his barn and farm behind him. Near Walkersville in the mid-1970s, a short time-out is taken on a Sunday afternoon. Feeding the farm animals and planting crops often takes precedence over rest and relaxation in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia.

We visited Grafton or Clarksburg at least once a week to get groceries. An occasional visit to Weston to see all the relatives took place every so often. For all intents and purposes, however, we were isolated on the farm.

How many of those who attended West Virginia University with me could tell the same story with only a different location? First generation college-completers who came for very simple means because their families considered education important and built their lives around their children's learning success - not just parents, but grandparents, too.

In many ways, these 1950 post-war babies could be called pioneers. They inherited all the frugal ways of their Depression-era grandparents and shared all the optimism of their bright and promising parents, who were still celebrating the end of a terrible and destructive world war.

And, as many of them now are retiring, they are planning what they will do in their second lifetime. They are not quitters. For many of them, purposes are at hand.

This column hopes to discuss the dreams of these true Appalachians. The ones who still remember poverty, scant monies to buy "5- and 10-cent store" items, who were taken to Sunday school every week and who filled summer 4-H camps throughout West Virginia.

Additionally, we will take some country roads and choose destinations where one can lose their heart to the people who live there.

As I have traveled to many West Virginia hamlets and small communities in my lifetime, I have found a charm in each one of them - unique as the Old World Charm they represent and which are steeped in our nation's history.

Readers will learn some state history. Our people played a pivotal part in ending slavery, in producing countless natural resources for use by the United States of America, and we have never been given enough credit for the multitudes of brilliant doctors, scientists, engineers, ministers, government leaders, artisans and writers who have contributed to the country's development and strength in this modern world.

The "poor Appalachia" attitude of many only goes to show that some do not know what to treasure. I hope my readership will rediscover many valuable things about where we live. I will take them to places where antiques, fine foods and homespun events flourish.

Wild, wonderful field and stream excursions will be the norm. I will bid them happy trails and many tales as I encourage them to travel Appalachian byways.

Join me, if you will. Pour a good cup of coffee or steep some favorite tea.

Find this column and immerse yourself in five minutes of provocative ramblings as I wander through this magnificent state and explain to you why we are endowed with the gift of living as Mountaineers.

(Shannon Bennett Campbell is a freelance writer/photographer and past Golden Horseshoe winner. She recently completed a 32-year school counseling career. She is currently active in children's ministry with her ventriloquist puppet, "Anderson." She has been involved in post-doctoral theological studies at Union-Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia, and Union Theological Seminary (interdenominational) in New York City. She is continuing her training at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.)



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