Chapter 14 – The Salem Years — 1914-1925

April 6, 2009 - 1,317 views

I bought a house and lot of Leonard Jett and borrowed the money to make a down payment. We moved on the first day of April, 1914. This changed our place of residence from Ritchie County, where we had spent nearly all our lives, to our new home in Salem. We never moved back to Ritchie as our home. We had a small house, but large enough for us. This saved us paying room and board for Brady. There were four children—Brady, 17; Ashby, 12; Avis, 10; and Elmo, 6 months. Brady was in the Academy, and Ashby and Avis were in the grades in the college.

Flinderation School: I was to write insurance, but it did not work out as the insurance men fought us both fair and foul. So I got the school at Flinderation that winter. When the district superintendent proposed my name as the teacher, one of the board turned around and asked if I thought I could hold Flinderation down. I told him I did. The fact is I thought I could hold anything down, but I have had some doubts since. When virtually all of the patrons, as well as the children, do everything they can to be mean, it is hard to make a success in any school, as I found in Taylor County a few years later. Flinderation proved to be a very nice school. Every one seemed to be entirely satisfied and wanted me to teach it again. I thought they would ask the board for me, and they thought I would ask; so I did not get it.

I got a job of Uncle Preston the next summer. He was building a house, and I had all kinds of work to do. I can tell you he was hard to please. I then worked at other places after I quit him.

Black Lick School,  A Bout with Rheumatism: I taught at Black Lick in Doddridge County this winter. I felt miserable most of the late fall, and by Thanksgiving I felt so bad that I let Brady teach a day or more as it was vacation for him. By the first of the next week, I was down with rheumatism. For two weeks I lay on my back and could move but one foot a little bit and neither hand. They fed me for five weeks because I could not get either hand to my mouth. The pain, at times, was terrible—but not all the time, for we found a remedy that would stop it in an hour. (Ring a woolen cloth out of very hot water with a tablespoon of Epsom salts for every quart of water, changing it as soon as it begins to cool. This may be of use to someone.) I did not get to go back to school till late in January; even then I felt miserable. This was not a very interesting school, for the most of them were not very bright students .

I did not get steady work the next summer for two reasons: I was not very able to work, and work was very scarce. I got some work about town and went out in the country and did some harvesting.

This winter of 1916-17 I taught at Buckeye, three miles out of Salem. This was a fairly good school, and enjoyed it fine.

Working for Virgil in New York, 1917

When school was out, I went up to New York to work for Virgil as I feared work would be scarce in Salem. I started about March 20. I had a cold when I left; by the time I got there, it had developed into grippe. I was not able to do anything for two weeks. We put out a crop of oats, about ten acres of potatoes, and an acre of corn for ears. Virgil had a bottom that would mature corn; but oh, it was so hard and flinty. Virgil told me later that the acre produced 125 bushels of corn.

Soon after I got there, World War I started. Potatoes were over $2 a bushel; flour went out of sight, but it soon went down some. They asked everyone to plant all the potatoes they could as they would be needed. Virgil feared there would be so many raised that they would not be worth raising. He need not have been scared; they started off in the fall at $1 a bushel and soon went up to $2. In the spring they went still higher. The farmers, both grain and stock, made big money during the war. The next year the price went way down and did not go back up on farm products until about 1940—twenty years later. I’ll tell you, it was hard times for the farmers. No wonder the farmers rose up in their might and crushed the party, in 1932, that had ruined them and that it has not returned to power in twenty years—but I am getting in ahead of my story, so I had best go back.

I worked fairly hard that summer but did not hurt myself. I did not get wages like others were getting because I began work before the war started. Elizabeth was at Virgil’s that summer. We had a great time together. She was a fine friend and did everything she could to cheer me up when I’d get home sick and lonesome. Vida came out a while that summer and was very nice to me, which I will never forget.

We had a near neighbor who had bad spells with his heart, which scared the family very much. They would come after Virgil in haste, and he would go over and stay for hours sometimes. He was a very good neighbor. One day they came after Virgil at noon, and he wasn’t at home. So I went and stayed till he got better. They told Virgil I was very helpful, which made me feel good. It is really very good to feel you are useful.

Mary was a fine motherly woman who was as good as any could be. Winston did nothing of any amount for he was not strong and did not dare do much.

Back to Salem, Fall 1917

I came back to Salem the last of August so I could go to Teachers’ Institute and got steady work at three times the pay I was getting. I was very glad, for we needed the money very much. I got a lot of work at the lumber yard.

I taught at Dewey Town that winter. It was one of the coldest, iciest winters one need ever want to see. It was a very rainy fall; in fact, once or twice it would rain till I would be wet from my waist down. My rubbers and shoes would be full, and I would wring out my stockings and put them back on. By 4 p.m. my clothes would be about dry; by the time I got home, I would be wet as ever. Between Christmas and New Years it got very cold. For six weeks it was seldom above zero and as low as 17 below. Most of the time the snow was covered with ice, so you were constantly in danger of falling and crippling yourself. I boarded over there the last week of the severe cold weather. All my eighth grade got promoted, which was very good.

When school was out, I got a job on a farm at Glovers and Kings for the summer. They were very good to me except Mrs. King, who hated me, and there was no love lost. She had two girls whom she was trying to bring up to be as big snobs as she was.

I taught at Flinderation again this year. The flu broke out after I had taught a short time, and all schools were closed for about six weeks.

Railroad Work at Grafton I got a job working on the railroad at Grafton. A train came to Salem at 6:45 a.m. and was supposed to come back at 6:45 p.m. We got pay from the time we were supposed to leave Salem until we did get back. We got time and a half after 10 hours, and we always got 11 hours. Once we got 13 besides the extra time. This wasn’t the worst of it; they wouldn’t let us do half work. You wonder why? The railroad companies were running the railroad for the government, and they wanted to make it cost the government so much the government would have to give it back to the railroad companies.

I will give one example of the way they worked. One morning when we got into Grafton, we found that McAdo (the big boss) was there, and he was mad. He told them there were men enough on the job to have done three times the work they had done. That was really an understatement, but I suppose he didn’t want to be too hard on them. The super came out and told us to get tie hooks and go to carrying ties. He said, “Any one found loafing while the government men are here will be fired.” Of course, that meant when they left we could loaf all we pleased.

The men began to carry ties, three hooks, six men to a tie. I was left without any hook or buddy. There was one hook and two men extra, so I told them to catch back a little from the end and I would carry the back end. I could carry my end, but it was heavy. The second tie we carried a boy ran up and grabbed a hold. On the third tie a man came, too. This made me so mad that I let loose, and my end of the tie dropped to the ground. They were pulling down instead of helping. Just then the super came back and told us to carry some old ties. I started for them, and three more came after me. When I got there, I tipped a tie on end, put it on my shoulder, and walked off with it. Several began to curse and rave. I stopped and told them that I didn’t object to help in carrying ties but I’d be hanged if I’d carry the ties and drag two or three with it. Some of them talked saucy, but no one laid hands on me, so it soon died down.

Sometimes they would go over into town and stay for hours. One boy from Salem slipped out at noon and didn’t come back till 3 p.m. They fired him, but he came back the next day and worked right ahead. I’ll bet he got full pay for the day they fired him. It was the greatest swindle I ever saw. I got over $4 a day for six to eight hours play; the rest of the time we put in on the train, part of the time going and part of the time on switches waiting for a train to pass us.

A few weeks after I got my pay, a man came to me and asked if I had got all my pay. I told him I got what they gave me. He said there was more at the depot. I went down and got enough to make me about $5 a day. This was the best job I had ever had.

Teaching Again

About the first of November I began teaching again. This was the great flu year of 1918. I had a very nice school, but it got quite small and they sent the scholars to Bristol the next year. I never taught in Harrison County again. The chief reason for this was that the board of Ten Mile decided about this time to hire no one unless he had as good as a Normal certificate.

The summer of 1919 I worked on Evander’s farm for Brady and Ashby and for Wardner Davis on some city jobs. This was a fairly good summer, but not as good as I had a couple years later.

Teaching in Ritchie Again: I had no school until late in the fall, when they sent for me from Ritchie to teach the Upper Otter Slide School. This was a new school; the district was formed and the house built late that fall. The Moonrise School house had burned down the fall before, and the school had been taught in an empty farm house. This fall they got the board to cut off part of Upper Otter Slide and a part of this district, build a house, and form a new district on the head of Otter Slide with me as teacher. I found it one of the best schools I had ever taught, although they said it had been no good at all the winter before. In fact, the large girls told me they had acted so badly that they were ashamed of themselves every time they saw their teacher that summer.

There were 26 scholars, made up of the following families: 7 from Lee Campbells, 6 from Port Campbells, 2 from Jack Hudkins, 6 from Elva Maxsons, 3 from Dow Maxsons, 1 from Art Brisseys, and 1 I can’t remember. One of the Campbells and two or three of Elva’s girls went through high school, and Maynard went one year.

I stayed at Uncle E. J,’s and worked nights and mornings and Sundays to pay for my board. It was a very good winter except Jennie had a very severe sick spell. I went to see her and found her getting better. A few weeks later Conza said a friend from Salem told them that Dr. Bond said she was going with T. B., so I went home to see about it. I went to see Dr. Bond, and she said there was no sign of T. B., which made me feel very good.

The first trip I made in a pouring rain. I was wet from head to toe. I waded several creeks to my knees. I did not know when the train ran, so I walked very fast and was tired when I got to Tollgate. I had to wait an hour. The station master said I was the wettest, worst bedraggled man he ever saw. He built up a good fire, which dried me out a little. I got quite cold on the train, but it had no bad effects.

Before school was out, the scholars got up a petition to the trustees asking them to hire me next year. I told them before I left that I would try to come back. Some of them were in Salem to a church meeting and came to see me about teaching, and I told them I would. But before time for me to go, Jennie got quite sick and had to go to the hospital for an operation. The surgeon said she would be no better until she had another operation in about a year, so I couldn’t go. I went three years later and taught two terms, but I will write of it later.

Selling Books in Pennsylvania: That summer I sold books in Pennsylvania. I went up there with three other Salem boys. I did quite well in the small towns but could do nothing in the country. You couldn’t sell a $5.00 gold piece to a Pennsylvania farmer for $4.50. They were the sorest, worst disgruntled, sourest people I ever saw. They said the young people had all gone to the factories; they had to pay two prices for anything they bought and could not get half price for what they raised. They were just mad. This was in 1920.

Before the season was nearly over I had to come home, for Jennie was quite sick. She got some better so I could go out for a few days. She soon got worse and had to go to the hospital for an operation. The surgeon performed only part of this then, and she had to go back for a second operation a year later.

Buckeye School and Picking Apples: I taught at Buckeye that winter and had a very nice school. Before the school began, I worked in the lumber yard for Evander a while. Then he sent me to pick apples. He had a man picking peaches that he thought was the fastest picker in the country. He got the peaches picked by noon and came to pick apples that afternoon. I was then 48 years old, but I still thought I could pick as many apples as the next one. So I went to work.

Now the trees were medium sized young ones, loaded down with fine, large, smooth Ben Davis apples. The Ben Davis is not the best eating apple; but when it comes to picking and filling a bushel measure, they are hard to beat. I had plenty of bushel boxes handy to fill, so I went to work. I would stand on the ground and fill the picking bag I had over my shoulder. Once I wanted to see how soon I could fill a bushel box; so I got under a limb that I thought had at least a bushel of apples that I could reach easily, looked at my watch, and went to work. In just two minutes I had a bushel box of apples picked (pretty fair, wasn’t it?). When we quit, I found I had picked three to his two bushels all afternoon. Pretty good, wasn’t it?

This was on Friday before my school began. Alexander asked me to pick apples for him Sunday, so I went out and worked for him all day but did not get done. He asked me if I could find some way to finish them, so I started to school early and picked a while and then picked after school was out. That way I finished picking them.

I saw Elmus Bee one evening as I came from school. He told me he had picked all the apples that were easy to get at and that I could have the rest if I would gather them. So I did and got several bushels of fine apples which lasted till way in the winter, for which we were very thankful.

Cutting Filth and Blackberry Picking: It was in the spring of 1922 that I began to do a lot of work for Lee Davis. I hoed some corn and did some other work for him. Then he wanted me to cut a big field of filth for him where there were lots of blackberries. I was to have all the blackberries on the patch I took to cut. We agreed on what I was to have for cutting a part of the field, and I picked the first day of July. I found I could pick six gallons of berries a day, which was about all I could carry into town, four miles away, and I could get 65 cents a gallon. I soon asked for more filth to cut so I could have more berries to pick. We agreed on a price (a little too cheap), but I was to have all the berries on the entire field. I picked every day and carried into town until my arms ached all the time. I would carry a three-gallon pail in my right hand, a two-gallon pail in my left hand, and a one-gallon pail fastened to the suspenders of my overalls. My arms would ache that winter from carrying my dinner pail, but it paid. I cut the filth on the whole field, which with the berries I picked made me about $100, which isn’t hay!

I taught the Long Run school that winter, and they all wanted me back. But a girl slipped to the board and got it away from me.

The next summer I cut the same field of filth of Lee, built a lot of woven wire fence for him, and worked for some others. So I had another busy summer and a fairly prosperous one,

Trouble in a Taylor County School: I had more trouble getting a school than I had ever had, but I got one in Taylor County and never taught near Salem again. In fact, I never spent a winter there again. This was the hardest school to teach I had ever struck. The children were taught, the most of them, that they had a right to do as they pleased. I only saw two of the trustees when I went to contract for the school. They told me they had been having no school for several years and that they wanted me to teach it and see that they behaved. When I saw the other trustee, I found that he was a ruffian and didn’t want the children controlled.

I got along fairly well until the first of December, when I found the children in the house and the door locked. They refused to open the door, so I went to the trustees (I boarded with one of them). They said that they thought the children should have a little fun. I told them they said they wanted me to teach the school and let no one else run it. They said that they forgot to tell me that the children were to have some fun before Christmas and lock me out. (If they had told me about that, I would have told them to keep their school.) The next morning they did not try to keep me out, so I went on with the school.

The week before Christmas, I found the door fastened again. That evening the trustee where I boarded and I went to see the other trustee, a very nice old man by the name of Taylor. He said that he thought it was all right for the children to have some fun and that they had been locking the teachers out for fifty years. My reply was, “Mr. Taylor, when you were first married, you would get on a horse and Mrs. Taylor would get on behind you when you went anywhere. But now you have an auto.” Mrs. Taylor was in the kitchen listening, and she spoke up, “That’s so, and you men had better go over there and stop those children acting the fool.” They came over the next morning and found the door with one end of a rail against the stove and the other against the door. They opened the door and told the children not to lock the door anymore.

I gave them a treat at the end of that week (they knew I was going to treat them when they locked the door the second time). I hoped that would stop it, but it didn’t. The other trustee put the children up to being mean and came to the school house after school was out and told me I didn’t have sense enough to teach school and that I must never punish any of his children in any way.

Shortly after this the spelling class his girl was in missed every word in their lesson. They didn’t try to spell but would look at each other and grin when they missed. So I told them they would try it again in the morning. It was the same in the morning, so I told them to stay in at recess. The girl said her father told her not to stay in. I told her she could stay in or take her books and go home and stay till she would mind. Just then her father came roaring in. He dared me outside (he was about 35 and I was 50) and said he would be there and get me that night and that he would follow me till he did get me.

I called the two trustees in, and they told me to have him arrested. I dismissed school and went to Grafton and took out two warrants for him, one for assault and one for breach of peace. The squire told me if I could prove what I told him, he would step on him. When I left he told me to go back to my school and take care of myself. I asked if he meant any way, and he said, “Any way.”

I had known I was going to have trouble, so I told the trustees the week before that I was going to quit, for the children would tell any lie. They said they wouldn’t believe anything the children told, but I told them someone else would try the case so I thought I would quit. When I got home, I told them I had quit. Ashby was teaching out in the country, and I told him when he came in that I had quit. He told me, “Dad, you’re not quitting. You have taught the worst schools in the country, and you managed them. You are not quitting this one.” I said, “All right, kid, if you say so, I’ll go ahead. But there will be trouble.” And there was. Just the same I have always been very glad that he told me to go back and that I did.

McDonald was the man’s name (this was the second McDonald I had had trouble with in school, and I could not trust one of that name as far as I could throw a bull by its tail). He did not come back to the school house, but he went over to Mr. Taylor’s and bragged about what he had done. He said I had started the ball rolling and he intended to keep it rolling and that he was going to follow me till he did get me. In fact, he told everything he did, so Mr. Taylor was the only witness I needed. But I took the other trustee and his boy, 12 years old. McDonald took his mother to go his bond, if necessary, his children as three witnesses, and the best lawyer in Grafton. We also got a good lawyer.

I told what happened, and Mr., Taylor told what he knew. When they cross-questioned me, they asked if McDonald whispered. When they questioned the boy, he got along well till they asked if the defendant was mad. This stumped him for a minute. Then he said. “He did not whisper.” When we rested, the lawyer moved to quash the warrant. The squire said, “No.” The lawyer said we had not proved what they expected, so they would have no witnesses. The squire said he would render his verdict. He turned to McDonald and said, “You have done entirely wrong, and I won’t stand for it. I will fine you $25 and bind you over to keep the peace for a year and a day under a $200 bond.” So you see, it didn’t pay him to get extra smart. I finished the school without any more trouble, but I feel it was one of my poorest terms.

Why This School was Called Robinson: I think it might be well to tell the story of how this school came to be called Robinson School. A man by the name of Robinson and his wife lived in a house near the school. They got in debt and borrowed some money of McDonald, the father of the man I had trouble with. Robinson gave him a deed for his farm with the agreement if they could pay the money back within a year that they could redeem it. They scraped and saved and got the money. When they went to redeem the farm, he said, “No, I have the deed for the farm, and I am keeping it.”

McDonald lost a dog and accused Robinson of killing it. Every time they met, he would throw it up to Robinson about killing his dog. One day Robinson said to him, “The next time you say dog to me, I’ll kill you.”

Sometime before the year was up, McDonald came down and ordered Robinson to move out. Robinson told him he would move out the day the year was up and not a day sooner. McDonald came down the morning he was to move and found him loading up to move. “Well,” McDonald said, “I reckon I can keep a dog now.” Robinson got his gun and shot him dead.

They sent to Grafton for the officers. When they came, Robinson was in the house and refused to let them in. He told one of his friends who was with the officers that when he was ready they could have him, but not till he was ready. He also said he had a rifle, a shot gun, and a revolver in the house; and if they thought he couldn’t shoot, to put a penny on top of a post 25 yards away. In a half minute the penny was shot off. They waited around till evening. Soon after the lights went on, they heard a shot. They went in and found he had shot himself. A man may be so annoyed that he will do awful things.

Two Pupils in Robinson School: I believe I will write a little about two of my pupils in the Robinson School before I forget it. The family where I boarded moved away about two months before school was out, so I boarded with her brother’s family the rest of the term. The name was Stark. There were two little girls—Ruth was 8, and Jinnie was 6 about the middle of the winter. Jinnie did not come to school until the last two months. She may have known her letters; if she did, that was all. Neither of the girls came in bad weather, for it was a long trip and Ruth was not strong.

One rainy day when I came from school, Mrs. Stark told me Ruth had tested Jinnie to see how many words she knew at sight anywhere. I told her about 100. She said Jinnie knew 125. Pretty good for a six-year-old girl in less than two months! I think she was a little above average in ability, and she really tried. Ruth was a very sweet little girl. She wrote for two or three years but finally quit. I think I just forgot to answer one of her letters.

Summer Work in Salem: I came home Monday evening, finished my school reports, and went to work for Guy Davis on the school house at noon Tuesday. I leveled off the dirt floor in the basement, cut two holes for sewer pipes through the 18-inch wall (Guy said it was the hardest concrete he ever saw), and laid a concrete floor. I had worked on this school the year before when they were building it.

After finishing the school house for Lee and Guy Davis, I went to work on farms and did not lose any time for rain for six weeks. One rainy morning at about 8 a.m. Lee raised the window of the school (it was right below our house) and wanted to know if I wanted to work. I went down and cleaned up and carried lumber for them. Then for some time, whenever it rained, they would call me down. Then for a while I got no work., Then one Sabbath evening Guy came to me and asked if I could work the next day. He said a man had promised to come Friday but didn’t, so he was through with him. After that I did all the common labor for them. Besides the other work I did, I got a job teaching some children at night who had not passed their grade. I made over $1200 that year, which was a little the best I had ever done up to that time.

Besides the Central School building, I had also worked on the East School building. In 1920 I had worked for several weeks on a glass plant at Bristol. I am telling this to show I had worked on a number of big buildings in Salem. I am sorry to say I was not the contractor or head man on any of these jobs, but I did a lot of common labor on each of them.

My Last Teaching in Ritchie County—1923-1925

The summer of 1923 went by rapidly. In the late summer I was offered the Upper Otter Slide School, so I was fixed for the winter. I boarded with Guy and Mamie that winter. I had plenty to eat and was treated very nicely. In fact, I had a very nice winter. Harold Brissey, Jesse Kelley and some of the other boys would go out hunting at night. We caught several possums and a few skunks. When I left in the spring, the patrons petitioned the board to hire me again. All but one of them signed the petition, and he went to the board and told them he wanted me. They hired me, so I was all set for the term of 1924-25.

This year I did not find as much work about Salem as I had been doing.

As there was a big gas line being laid in Ritchie, I went out there the 4th of July and worked for Elva till they got the line near enough to walk back and forth. I got $4.08 a day, and my board cost $l.35 a day. This saved me some, as I worked for Elva on Sundays. Digging ditches is hard work, but I liked it fine except for a few days when it was so terribly hot. One day I had to go to the shade for over an hour, but they did not dock me any.

I dug in the ditch till we got to the center, where the Italians were supposed to meet us but didn’t. Then I went back and filled in till a mile beyond the center. Our super said he could take 100 Americans and lay more line than 175 Tallies. I finished the job just before time for school to begin.

Jack offered to let me live in a vacant house he had. This was a real good four-room house with a bed and bedding which he said I could use. He didn’t charge me anything for it. He also gave me some beans and apples, which he said he would not pick. Of course, they were not high quality, but they were good enough for me. I surely enjoyed them very much. I helped Willie Jett fill his silo, and he let me have a lot of corn beans. So I had beans for a long time.

I will mention right here that Jack, May, and Ova were very nice to me, and I won’t forget them.

Elmo Stayed With Me and Attended School: I stayed by myself and did my own cooking until I went home to vote. When I returned, Elmo came with me. We had a grand time. Jesse Kelley and I had been hunting some, so we went out in a short time after Elmo came. I could see that Jesse did not like very well for Elmo to go, but I would not go without Elmo. About 11 p.m. the dogs treed something, and we had no ax. Elmo said to give him the lantern and he would go to Jesse’s (which was about one-half mile away) and get an ax. He was back in a little while. After that Jesse was glad for Elmo to go every time. We had lots of fun and got lots of possums. We had a few to eat. Elmo enjoyed them very much.

The girls liked Elmo and got along with him just fine, but the boys were inclined to be jealous of him because he could beat them at almost any of their games. When they played “hide and seek,” he would lie down and be still. They would pass by him, and he could come right in. When they played “keep away” with the volley ball, he could beat them, which made some of the Campbell boys mad. They tried to do Elmo the same, but they didn’t have any success.

When we went home for Christmas, Elmo wasn’t sure if he would come back. When the time came, he was anxious to go back. We bought a quarter of beef of John Meathrell and had beef about all winter. We bought potatoes of someone there and plenty of groceries from the store. We lived fine, and it didn’t cost nearly as much as they (Jennie and Dow) asked for board for me only. They wanted $20 per month, which at that time seemed rather high.

I did not have quite so good a school this winter, as several of the boys decided they were too big to study or behave. The most of them did well, and several got diplomas from the eighth grade.

This finished my teaching in Ritchie (24 winter terms). In fact, I have been in Ritchie but little since the spring of 1925.

Summer Work at Salem—1925

This summer I took a job of filth cutting of Lee Davis. Before I finished it, Leonard Jett came over and wanted to help. He had been working for the city and got his hand badly mashed. He wanted to work some to get able to do a day’s work, and then go in with me and be able to make something. I took him in. After finishing that job, we helped Alexander in his hay. We took a job of cutting four acres of hay with scythes and also helped him put up all his hay.

Work was getting scarce, and we had heard that they were going to build a concrete basement for the Ritchie Church. We found what the sand and stone would cost and what the lumber and labor would cost. When we got there, we found Amos Brissey thought it could be built for less than we could build it. I made a bid, but I have always been so glad we did not get it. There was a big racket over it, and there would have been a much worse one if we had got it. And I hate a racket.