When I first
Coming to Caldwell in July of 1959 was an exciting time for me, but not so much for my parents. I had just graduated from High School, but my father had lost his back in January. After futile efforts to find work, which included a trip to Columbus, He got the job at Camp Ann Bailey as caretaker. Dad didn’t tell mom that he was only going to get a hundred dollars a month until after we had moved. Even at that, the employment agency took his first paycheck.
Leaving the King Place at Dunbar meant painting, repairs, and looking for a renter. It meant saying good-by to neighbors of more than thirty years. For Dad, it meant saying good-by to the King Place that he had built up and improved from many years. It meant saying good-by to his hybrid iris. Never saw the place again except to return to make repairs. For mom, it meant leaving her church and the house she had kept spec and span. But, for me, it was an adventure. It was a move from between two chemical plants to the mountains of Greenbrier County
We made one trip to Caldwell to meet with the Girl Scout leaders. When we drove through Caldwell and turned into Camp Ann Bailey Road, I was the Pentecostal Church. I said, “Hey Mom! Look! There’s one of those Holy Roller churches.” I said to my self, “I ain’t going to be attending that church.” I had grown up in the EUB Church and had been active in the youth departments of both the home church and in the district. I would have to find another church. After we had made our move, my mother and I attended the big Methodist Church at Lewisburg. But, that was dryer that last week’s toast. After I went in the service, mom began to attend the Pentecostal Church and was active in the women’s auxiliary although she never joined the church.
Well, we got moved, and one of the first things we had to do was attend a supper at the lodge to introduce the new caretakers to the girl scouts. “Yippee.” There we sere, at the head table. Two old country people and an awkward 18-year-old boy who was 6 foot three inches tall and weighed 129 pounds. It was kind of like being the main attraction at the zoo.
Our first several weeks at Camp Ann Bailey were not easy. For the first couple of days we didn’t have any fuel for the cook stove. Mom cooked our meals on an open fire in the back yard. Then, we didn’t have any money to go to the store to buy food with. We brought canned goods from Dunbar and lived that first several weeks on creamed tomatoes and poor man’s fried bread.
But, I enjoyed the job. I was hired for 75 dollars a month to empty the garbage cans and to do other odd jobs around the camp. I used my first paycheck to order a new guitar from Sears. I didn’t get to play it until I came home from the army because I was in basic training before it ever arrived.
I don’t remember a whole lot about Caldwell at that time. I remember going to the Post Office. Ray Shafer had not been postmaster very long. I remember getting gas at the old service station. I remember driving through town in the Camp’s old 1950 ex-telephone truck. I remember that there were no fast food joints. (There wasn’t any of those until 1975) Since, I wasn’t attending the Caldwell church, I didn’t know folks and was to shy to meet people on my own. I wouldn’t have met anyone at the beer joint, because I had never been in one.
Squirrel season came in and I had permission to hunt at the camp. I did a lot of shooting but not much hitting. I went hunting with Bill Anderson and his dog once. That turned out to be running up on hill down the other and then back up again.
One of the things I remember was sitting on the fence post at the top of the hill after a rain and watching the mists on the mountain. I enjoy that more than anything else. I still tell the kids “Mr. Ground hog has his tea kittle on. “ While I was in Germany, I would often think about the mists rising on the mountain.
Fifty-three years will soon have passed. Folks, who were little children when I came to Caldwell, are not grandparents. Some were not even born. Some are long gone. Caldwell, then, was full of children…not so much now. The times were quiet…mostly. There were a few nightclubs that were not so quiet on Saturday night…like the one below Camp Ann Bailey that burned while I was in the service. But, mostly things were quiet as America’s best decade came to a close.