Chapter 7: Memories of Retirement Years

Ashby’s Memories — Getting My Birth Certificate and Social Security

Before I could retire, I had to furnish proof that I was born and when and where. It was a difficult job to prove those things. I finally got statements from Salem College officials of their age records and Mother and Father’s Family Bible and other school records that allowed the Ritchie County Clerk to issue me a birth certificate as Ashby F. Randolph. Apparently, the death of my older brother, Harold, on the day I was born had caused Dr. Bee to forget to register my birth.

The getting of Social Security payments took a number of visits to their office in Clarksburg. It must have taken them six months to a year to get my payments straightened out. I got some extra checks but only had to give back one check. I do not remember the exact amount of the first check, but in January 1972 my Social Security check was $155.00 and my school retirement check was $306.34. Ruth got Social Security of $69.20 and no retirement for cooking. If she outlives me, as long as she lives she will get one-half of what my teacher’s retirement would be. Now, January 1982, my Social Security is $381.50, my school retirement is $416.06, and Ruth’s Social Security is $177.20.

Living on Retirement Income

You might wonder how we could live on our income. There are reasons and I will mention some. We own our home. We get 200,000 cubic feet of natural gas per year free because of a gas well on the original farm for this house site. We have only used more than the 200,000 cubic feet three times in our 53 years here. Two of the bills were under $3, and the other was over $11.

Another reason we can live on our income is because Ruth learned from her mother and my mother what they had learned from necessity about cooking and managing a household economically. Besides, she has learned a lot on her own.

You may have noticed earlier in this story that we kept pigs (one or two), two cows, and chickens. Before I was handicapped, we raised grain and meadow to feed our stock. It wouldn’t look it now, but we raised 2 1/2 acres of such things as corn, wheat, or soybeans; and I always either cradled or cut it with a scythe. Besides that 2 1/2 acres, we raised corn and Sudan grass on a 2-acre piece at the very head of our hollow. Then, of course, there was the 3 acre meadow in front of our house that I put up with horses or tractors.

After I was handicapped, Ruth tried to keep cows and take care of the hill meadow. She stacked one of the most beautiful haystacks on the hill that I ever saw. The cows were a pain in the neck (would be one way to say it). One of them (the beautiful Jersey that one of our very best neighbors, Bill Jarvis, gave us while I was sick) kicked so fiercely that Ruth had to tie her hind feet together before she could milk her; so we got rid of her. The other one got hurt. After much raising her up each day, she fell into the creek; so I shot her.

Ruth didn’t stop helping by a long shot. She has always raised two gardens of about one acre together. It is one of the best gardens in our region. She not only raises the garden, but she cans and freezes all that we can use and gives away the rest. We used to hire the gardens plowed and disked, but now she even does that with her Troy Built rototiller.

You might wonder what I do to keep out of mischief. I can’t stand to just watch Ruth work, so I try to help her all I can. I use my tractor to furrow the rows ready for planting; and I haul in her garden crops, water, fertilizer, lime, etc., with the tractor trailer. I also mow a good acre of yard, but Ruth does the real hard work–the trimming. I also do some leather craft such as handbags, billfolds, and belts. I have done some for pay (realizing about $2 per hour) but most for love for relatives and friends.

Visiting and Fishing in Rhode Island

This is enough about making a living during retirement. Now, maybe you would like to know of our pleasure–or you might call it recreation.

Our recreation mostly consists of visiting, fishing, playing cards and Aggravation, and watching television. The visiting and fishing usually go together.

We visited our daughter and son-in-law, Xenia Lee and Edgar Wheeler, in Ashaway, Rhode Island, for about a month in November 1966. Besides visiting their family, we visited and fished with our Salem College schoolmate, Everett Harris. We also visited and fished with Elsie and Kenneth Leyton. Kenneth and Elsie lived on the beach and had one of the best fishing boats we ever fished from. The four of us caught about 30 flatfish, and they gave us all they caught.

Each of the other days that the weather was the least bit fit, Ruth and I fished for flatfish at a salt pond of about 50 acres where Edgar kept his boat. We would go for about 3 or 4 hours and sometimes catch about 20 flatfish–sometimes 2 or 3.

November 21, 1966, Esther, our granddaughter (a really grand one), was born. We went back to their place when our grandson Ernie (and a really grand one he was) was born on February 1, 1968. Our fishing and visiting was about the same as when Esther was born.

Traveling through New York City.

Our trips through New York City were a real experience for us. On the first one we followed Route 1 from the Washington Bridge to Route 95 on the east side of the city. I remember going underground quite a way once. Another time I was blocked by heavy traffic from following our Route 1, and an obliging policeman helped us. We thought we could do anything after we survived that experience.

Before we went the next time, Joe Boyd, our son-in-law, told us how to go around New York City by the Saw Mill Road. We followed it a few years; then we started going by the Hudson River Parkway and the Merritt Parkway to I-95. That was beautiful scenery. On the far side of the Hudson were the steep Palisades, and on the river were boats and ships of all kinds. The Merritt Parkway was lined with forests, flowers, and rocks.

The last time we went that way, they played a trick on us. Beth was with Ruth and me, or we might not have made it. They had been directing us to the Hudson River Parkway until we got across the George Washington Bridge; then we could find no more signs saying we were on or how to get onto the Hudson River Parkway. Finally I stopped and tried to get Beth to get directions from people in another car that had stopped. But Beth noticed that the driver and probably his wife were having an argument about the same trouble. So we went on until we came to a pay station, where the collector told us that we weren’t lost; they had changed the name to Deegan Upstate Highway, and the Merritt was just a little way ahead.

Once after that we missed the way onto the Deegan Upstate and thought we would find it again, but we got lost at a dead-end road to a big estate. After wandering through all kinds of places (some of them scary-looking), we found a telephone crew working. The crew leader walked to show us how to get on a highway that led us onto the George Washington Bridge. After that, we always followed the Garden State to the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Merritt Parkway to I-95.

Fishing in Florida

The trip to Orson’s in 1970. In 1970 we decided to try our luck fishing and visiting in Florida. Ruth’s sister Susie Williams had been fishing with us often. She seemed to enjoy it so much that we asked her to go along. She was glad to go. A cousin, Lotta Bond, had retired; so we asked her to go along (which she was glad to do). The trip went fine until we got to Daytona Beach. We went by Cleveland, Tennessee, where ,my sister, Avis Swiger, lived. We stayed over night with Avis, Archie (her husband), and their family. What a visit we had before retiring. Archie and Susie especially kept us laughing so much that my sides were sore and I could hardly get to sleep.

About 9 p.m. we got into Daytona Beach and began hunting for 110 Azalia Drive, Holly Hill (which is a suburb of Daytona Beach). That was where Ruth’s brother Orson lived, and we were to stay at his place. We must have gone through Holly Hill three or four times, each time stopping at a different place near the corner of Mason and Ridgewood to get directions. Finally, after Ruth and Susie got hysteria, a man at a newsstand told us that Azalia Drive didn’t enter Mason Street but we would have to go back of the bowling alley, where we would find Gardenia Street, which would lead us to Azalia Drive. So, about 11 p.m., we found Gardenia; and Orson was there watching for us. All were happy at last.

Orson was living by himself, so we had a great time helping him celebrate his 80th birthday on March 7. We also fished off some of the bridges. Once we went on a large boat up the Halifax River; Orson and I both caught a few nice sea trout.

A trip to Ian’s in 1973.

In January of 1973, we went to Ruth’s brother Ian’s-who-had retired from being a medical doctor in Chicago and built a home in Ormond Beach, Florida. We were so glad that we easily located his home at 386 Military Boulevard. Orson and Ian were outside the house watching for us.

The house and the whole place were a dream retirement place. Pearl and Ian had planned the house the way they wanted it–spacious and handy kitchen with both a bar and a table for eating (so you could take your choice), a large sitting room with a cozy fireplace, and three bedrooms and two baths. Back of the house and yard was an orchard and garden (which Orson had helped plan) with a strawberry patch and different citrus fruits. We sampled them, and they were delicious.

We mostly went to a pier to fish. When Ian could, he went with us. I remember once he was with us when I was especially glad. I caught a blue, and the darned thing grabbed me between the thumb and the front finger with its sharp teeth. The more I tried to get it loose, the tighter it clamped down. Ian noticed my trouble and pried its jaws open with a doctor’s instrument that he carried.

Once Ian went with us on an ocean-fishing trip. Ruth caught about as many as we did, but she put in a lot of time on a couch in the cabin because of sea sickness.

After five weeks of fishing five days each week, going to the Daytona Seventh Day Baptist Church each Sabbath, and visiting on Sundays with such people as Mary and Kenneth Hulin and Kay and Lillian Bee or going sight-seeing with Ian, Pearl (Ian’s wife), and Orson, we packed our fish that were left and joyfully went home.

We kept up our trips to Florida each year until this year (1981-1982). We are staying home to write this life history. It is not easy.

Fish We Caught in Florida–and Where

I have been thinking that you might be interested in the kinds of fish and the amounts of them we caught in Florida. Maybe you would like to know where we caught them.

One of the most common kinds of fish caught off the piers of Florida is the whiting. We caught many of them. One day we caught 58–and most of them were between two and three pounds of extremely delicious meat. Many think they are the best-tasting salt-water fish. There were two older ladies from Ohio who caught two five-gallon buckets full–about twice as many as we did–that same day.

Another special day on this Ormond-By-The-Sea Pier, the blues were hitting on Sea Hawk plugs; Ruth and I caught 42 of them. They hit savagely about every cast. If one got off, another would strike–usually before you could get the bait in to the pier. One time Ruth thought she had a monster, but she landed two of them on one plug at one cast.

Fishing trip to Lake Okeechobee. Ian only fished with us two years in Florida because he died during an operation to repair a blood vessel that was in danger of bursting. The last year he fished with us, we had a special experience. Ian, Pearl, Ruth, and I went to Lake Okeechobee to try to catch bass over 20 inches long. (I had been trying for years to do that. I had caught some between 19 and 20 inches but none over 19 3/4 inches.)

We got adjoining rooms in a hotel at Clewston and arrived Sunday afternoon. We (Ian and I) hired for Monday a guide who we thought could get us the fish we wanted. Sunday afternoon we fished from the bank and caught a few bass. That night we played Rook until bedtime.

Monday morning finally came. Our guide outfitted us with three dozen six-inch shiners, and away we went in his power boat. At noon we had two channel cats about 20 inches that Ian caught, and I had one bass 21 inches. The girls had come back from sightseeing and shopping and had our dinners ready for us. We ate it in the park, and right back on the lake we went. I got two more 21-inchers, and Ian got one 18 inches. He had one on that jumped before it got under the boat and broke off (probably on the anchor rope). It seemed larger than any of mine. What a memorable trip!

Fish on the St. John’s River.

The first year Ian fished with us (the same year he saved my hand from that bluefish), we went crappie fishing on the St. John’s River. We paid $30 for that day and caught 14 crappies, each about 15 inches long. (The guide for the Okeechobee day cost us $50 besides the bait.)

Flagler Beach, Fall 1980.

The last year we went to Florida we stayed at a motel (Topaz Motel) at Flagler Beach instead of staying at Ormond Beach with Pearl. This Flagler Beach Pier was more economical. We paid $15 for fishing rights for the seven weeks (we had to pay $3 per day at Ormond Beach).

On the pier we filleted the fish and kept them on ice until we got them to the motel, where we put them in the deep freeze. Every other week we would take them to Pearl’s big freezer.

The number and kinds of fish we caught.

During the seven or eight weeks we usually-stayed in Florida, we would accumulate about 400 fish. The last year that we stayed with Pearl, we put 417 fish in her freezer. We didn’t bring them all back with us; we gave some to Pearl and other special friends (like Mary and Kenneth Hulin, Rev. Kenneth Van Horn, and Rev. Leon Maltby).

Some of the kinds of fish we caught besides blues and whiting were Spanish mackerel, jacks, drums, sheepheads, and sea trout. Others we caught and did not keep were hammerhead sharks, sand sharks, shovelnose sharks, occasionally a stingray, and many catfish.

Card Games and Other Recreation

For breaks, we play Aggravation and Rook. In playing Aggravation, we never aggravate each other unless there is no other possible move. When we play Rook, we use a dummy–we help each other keep Dummy from setting us. Also, we pass some time by watching television. There aren’t many programs we can stomach. The horror, supernatural, and crime stories are not for us. We do like news, Gun Smoke, Chips, and Little House on the Prarie, etc.

Sometimes we have mighty welcome company–all the company we get are extremely welcome!

I expect Rex, Phyllis, Bond and Ruby come most often. Others who come fairly often are Chris Boyd and her friend Laurel Sue Smith. Chris is a senior at Salem College this year (1982). Neighborhood children come to fish or sell something. All are very much appreciated.

I think these things will get us through this winter (1981-82) until we can catch trout–then go West to visit our in-laws and fish with as many as will go with us (especially our grandchildren and great grandchildren). Then back home to our garden, yard, and West Virginia turtle- and fish-catching.

{Note (inserted by Mae as this is typed in 1984.) Mom and Dad were not able to make the trip west in the spring of 1982 because Mom had hip-replacement surgery in April. She got along marvelously, and by July she was working in her garden again. The doctor said he had never had a patient improve faster than Mom did after this type of surgery.}

Bird Watching

I left out one of our most important winter entertainments. We feed the birds grain and suet in plain sight of our kitchen and TV room. Maybe you would like to know some of these entertaining friends that eat the food we put out in our grain feeder and the onion sacks with suet.

There are always downy woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees, and nuthatches at the suet. Sometimes hairy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, and a carolina wren will eat at the suet.

More different kinds of birds eat at our grain feeder. I expect cardinals and slate-colored juncos are the most common ones. Sometimes blue jays, morning doves, red-bellied woodpeckers, song sparrows, tree sparrows, white-throated sparrows, vesper sparrows, and (about once a year) evening grossbeaks and purple finches visit our feed box. Also occasionally a fox squirrel or a ruffled grouse will visit us.

This fall one ruffled grouse came in our TV room at a north window and left by a south one. We were eating when we heard the crash. When we looked, there was glass all over the TV room, and just outside lay a grouse (which was delicious as a grouse pie).

Ruth’s Memories — A Fishing Trip to New Jersey

We took sister Susie with us to New Jersey. Her son James lived in Bridgeton, and Edna Ruth’s lived some six miles away across the road from the Marlboro Church. James was a “craft” teacher. At that time one of his former students owned a small boat. He agreed to take us fishing on the bay. James said he had a toilet on the boat so we did not need to worry about that.

Going out, the waves were quite choppy, reminding me of a short-loping horse. I thoroughly enjoyed that, for short-loping a horse was a childhood game I loved. The wind did not let up. By the time we got out a mile or so, the waves were tossing the boat about enough to make Susie and me both sick. He anchored the boat, and we tried to fish. Part of the boat had a flat bottom. The front end (where the toilet was located) was a foot or so lower than the rest of the floor. Ashby sat on the floor near the middle to help keep it balanced. I would fish a little while, then have to lean over the side to “york.” I had to take my teeth out first, for I did not want to lose them. Ashby hung onto my coattail so I would not fall overboard. I finally caught a two-foot shark.

Susie was sick, but she did not “york.” She did need to go to the restroom. The door was so low one had to almost crawl to get in. There was not room enough to turn around, so she had to crawl out and then back in. After all that, we decided to go back to shore since we could not catch fish anyway. They were preparing to send a boat out to search for us. I was fine as soon as I got on land, but Susie was sick in bed the rest of the day.

Our Last Trip to Florida, October 1983

I must tell about our last trip to Florida in 1983. Right now we do not think we will go alone again.

It took 1 1/2 days to get to Flagler Beach. We had an efficiency apartment for six weeks. We got there about noon, got the key to the apartment, unloaded the car, ate a bite, then got our permits to fish from the pier for three months for $15, and went fishing. Fish were not plentiful, but we caught enough for supper. Then we had to go 17 miles to Aunt Pearl’s to pick up a cart and some ocean-fishing equipment we had left there. On the way back we stopped and bought a supply of groceries. It was getting dark when we got back to our apartment, tired but happy.

I took a load of groceries in, unlocked the door and put the things on the table (including the keys) and went back for another load. The window had been left open; and while I was gone, a big puff of wind blew the door shut and it locked. There we were–in a strange place, knowing no one, and tired as fox hounds–locked out of our house. We both wished we were back home.

We decided to go to the pier. A restaurant was connected to it; we thought maybe they would know where the lady lived who rented the apartment to us. They were busy waiting on customers, so I waited what seemed a long time before anyone came to help me.

I noticed three men sitting at a table visiting after a late sandwich. I told the lady the predicament we were in, but she had no idea how to help us. Just then two of the men got up and came over to us. one of them said, “Did I hear you say you were locked out of your car?” I said, “Mr, it is worse than that! We are locked out of our house.” He said, “I am a locksmith, and this fellow with me works for the city. His job is unlocking doors.” The Good Lord was in control!

Our apartment.

I must tell you about our apartment. The living room, dining room, and kitchen were one big room. The refrigerator had a big freezing compartment, so we had room to take care of our fish. There was a TV, a nice couch, two comfortable chairs, dining table, stove, and nice cabinets–real cozy. There was a narrow hallway with two closets. The bedroom had a bed and chest of drawers, with just room for me to go between the foot of the bed and the chest. Daddy had to sit on the bed and scoot to the foot and get up again to go to the bathroom.

The bathroom must have been about six by six feet. The shower took up about three square feet. It was impossible to get a shower without getting your head wet. When Dad took a shower, he had to sit on a chair, then onto the floor and scoot in. When he got in, there was not enough room to get his foot in since his knee could not bend that much. I had to wash his foot.

We really enjoyed our stay there. We made a lot of new friends on the pier. One little old lady watched for us. She would always come and push the wheelchair. She had a home there and also one in Jacksonville. We missed her when she left.

Caring for the fish.

When we had the freezer about full of fish, we lined a cooler with four thicknesses of newspaper dipped in water, then put the packages of fish in as close as possible, covered them with more wet newspaper, and put the lid on. We wrapped the cooler in more wet paper and put it all in a plastic bag. We took it to Aunt Pearl’s where we could put the whole thing in her freezer and have it ready to take home. By the way, when we got back home, the paper in the cooler still had ice in it.

Maybe I should tell you that we cleaned the fish on the pier. We filleted them to save space and put them in a plastic bag in the cooler. When we got home, we washed them, put them in a large flat pan with paper towels in the bottom and on top to get them as dry as possible. Then we wrapped six pieces in a plastic strip, then in aluminum foil, and put them in the freezer.

A Trip -to North Carolina with Rex and Phyllis

We had a wonderful trip with Rex and Phyllis to Holden’s Beach Pier in North Carolina in May 1984 for a week. Fish were not too plentiful. One day we did get 28 blues, but we had a bad storm that night. The ocean was too rough to do any good fishing the next day or two. We did have some fish to bring home with us.


Just before Christmas ’83 Dad’s knee gave away with him after walking from the kitchen to the TV and almost back to the couch. He managed to fall on the couch, but he must have gotten his fingers caught in his crutches. Besides cracking the bone between his little finger and wrist on his right hand, all his fingers were bruised and swollen. It was weeks before he could use his crutches at all. He could manage with a little help to get from the wheelchair to the bed or into the rocking chair.

It is now July, and he still cannot walk alone with his crutches, and he can only walk a short distance with help. I can manage to help him to his tractor or to the car, into the boat and out again, when I have to. Usually some kind soul is glad to give us help.

We have two good-size gardens and a lot of mowing to do. Dad does the mowing except the hillsides–so what do we have to complain about?

Right now (July 3, 1984) we have Ed, Xenia Lee, George, and Mae with us. We are expecting Walt and Ruth and family this evening, Verne and Betsy De and girls in the morning, Beth and Betsy Jo on Thursday, David and Chris Friday evening, Mark before morning, Joe Sabbath a.m., and all of Alois’ family by noon Sabbath. We love every minute. Ann, boys, and Gary will get in sometime Sabbath. We will enjoy it all and look forward to having other members of the family whenever they can come. WE LOVE YOU ALL!!

You can surely see that we have had an interesting life with our friends, work, and recreation.

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