Written by Pearl Collins Spencer
My name is Pearl Collins Spencer and I'm the oldest daughter of Ervin Walker Collins and Lola LaVernia Spencer Collins. I am writting this to the best of my own recollection with no help from anyone else. Of course up to this time I can remember what I write was told to me by my father and mother.
Ervin Walker Collins was born at what was then called the "Crew Place" in Craigsville,WVa.,Nicholas County. Lola LaVernia Spencer Collins was born on what is now Fenwick Mountain but at that time they recieved their mail at Holcomb, WVa. Nicholas County. so it states she was not born too far from what is now called Collins-Spencer Cemetery.
I remember faintly of being at the Spencer Home Place. The one thing I do remember is Olive and I getting in the brown sugar which was in a big barrell and the sugar was in big lumps. We were not suppose to be in it but we snook around and got into it anyway. I remember very well about Olive ,my cousin, getting dynamite caps out of the window where they were placed and thought it was a safe place.She stuck a nail in it and hit it with a hammer. I don't remember if she was took to the doctor as in those days you didn't go to the doctor everytime something went wrong. I know they were very uneasy about her eyes but as luck would have it she was mostly scarred up on her hands and stomach.She had some signs of this still today, like a crooked finger.
I will go back to my father and mother being born. My father was born May 21, 1893; myt mother October 15, 1893. She always told me she was only 18 years old when she married and 20 years old when I was born. Some of their birth records were burned and they had her 2 years younger than she was. This she found out when she went to the Summersville WVa. ,Nicholas County courthouse for her birth record.
Mom kept her wedding dress til she moved to the farm. I was 14 years old and she gave it to me and I made a skirt out of part of it. Her dress was made out of cream colored satin with lace over it. It was indeed beautiful. The Rev. CE Simms married my dad and mom with Laura Simms and CE Smith as witness.
My dad worked in logging camps most of his younger days up until the time he and mother married. He has told me he would go into a log camp wearing cutter shoes and bib overalls. He would stay on the job without even going out for 2 months then he would draw his pay and take off. He said he was known around the camps as "Old 60 Days". My grandfather Johnnie Spencer also contracted a few logging jobs too.
My mother cooked for him in some of the camps, but my grandmother Hattie Bennett Spencer disapproved of her cooking in log camps so that didn't last long for her.
My father must have gotten himself a job in the coal minning town of Saxman, WVa. Since I've studied this, I believe he went to work in the coke ovens making coke,anyway, they moved to Saxman in a 3 room house.There were several of these small houses built along side, Big Laurel River on the left side of the river and this was called ShantyRow. It was near the coke ovens and right across from where they called the Power house. There was a boardwalk in front of these houses. Some people spoke of it as "over the boardwalk".It was here that my sister Versa and I were born.
I ,Pearl Collins, was born August 3, 1914 and Versa was born January 26, 1917. Our doctor who delivered us was Dr. E.F.Flora.
It must have been in early 1917 that my father built a house on the same ground as the homeplace is now. I can remember it as being a nice house, built in a L shape, with white weather boarding on it. My mother wasn't very happy at this place so we didn't stay very long.
The flu epidemic was raging while we were there. Olive stayed with us most of the time as the rest were down with the flu. We had a little burnside stove with a little flat rim around the top of it. Mom kept onions roasted on it all the time ,and Olive, Versa, and I would eat them. Mom would give us a little hot toddy to drink. It was made with a little whisky,water,and sugar. We were told that that would kept down the flu. It must have worked because the three of us didn't have it. There were a lot of people sick with the flu and whole families died.
It was about this time that my Uncle Jim Spencer went off to war. I remember him taking off walking on a log out of sight. He had to walk to Fenwick back then to enlist. Jim was killed in Germany and never brought home. He was buried in Flander's Field. The death of Jim nearly broke my grandma Hatta's heart.
My brother Howard was born on February 27, 1918. Aunt Lady Seabolt was the midwife. He was the only one of us kids that didn't have a doctor with. Mid wifes were good in those days. As well as I remember we stayed in the big house until Fall of 1918 or Spring of 1919, then we movedto Fenwick close to the Alix Stull family. I don't know if my dad still worked at Saxman or not while living at the farm at Fenwick. but I am inclined to believe that he worked on the farm steady while we were there. As to what he worked at while we were at Fenwick I do not know but it was a short stay there.
I got aquainted with the Stull children. I recall there was Curt,Roma,Myrtle,Wanita, and Ralph.There were probably others born after we left there but I can't recall.I do remember theior mother, Joanna, and believe they were the only family I remember of my stay there.
Then if dad didn't already have a job at Saxman he got one there because back to the town of Saxman we moved.This was our home for the next 8-10 years. There were no roads into Saxman,only the railroad. In fact at that time I don't recall ever seeing a car. I had seen buggies and rode in them. I recall my dad having a beautiful buggy with lights that burned kerosene oil, and of course you just had to light them.The buggie we had on the farmbut dad traded it off and I don't remember who got it.
Our furniture was moved on a flatcar and we rode the caboose into Saxman. There dad, mother, Versa, Howard, and I had to walk from Saxman store back down the railroad tracts to where we was to live.
I hadn't remembered anything about our wearing apparrel until our trip to Saxman. As we rode along on the caboose I noticed Versa and I haveing on black socks above our knees with garters holding them up.
We lived in about the 5th or 6th house down from the store. It was the last double house on that line of houses. There were a family of Kobilias (Polish) that lived in the lower side of the house we moved into.The houses looked large but there were only 4 rooms in each of them, a front room, a kitchen and two bedrooms.The front room had a grate in the fireplace in which to burn coal. Also one bedroom upstairs had one of these grates. There were two little closetsoff the kitchen where the stairs went up.In one closet we kept our flour, meal, and our groceries and in the other dad kept his dirty minning clothes. I would get in there and play around and come out lookin like a miner myself.
You know I found myself proud to be a coal miner's little girl.
Another thing about the closet or pantry . My mother kept an old coffee grinder that set on the top of the shelf. You had to grind your coffee before it could be put inside the pot to make coffee. The Mrs Kobilia that I spoke about earlier was polish and couldn't speak English. She would come over and get me to try to teach her some words in English. It was hard for me to understand just what she wanted me to do so my mother explained to me that when she pointed at an object to tell her what it was. She would have a basket of eggs and she would point to theeggs and I would say "egg". I would say eggs til I got so tired I would fall asleep. One day she sit me up in a high chair . It was thundering real hard. She would point up toward the sky and I would tell her "thunder". She would try so hard to say the word.
For a reward she would treat me to what she called blood pudding. Sometimes it would be link sausages that they made theirselves. They used the hogs intestions to make the outside of the sausages but believe me they were washed , and washed, and washed ....they were very very clean. I would come home with pudding running out of the corners of my mouth and my mother would grab me and wash it off my mouth and tell me she would whip me next time I ate it. It must have been good for I would go right back and eat it again.
It was late in December of 1919 when my baby sister Velva was born. As well as I can remember Aunt Ena ,daddy's sister and her little girl, Nellie, stayed with us and took care of mother and the baby as well as the rest of us.In those days the mother was to stay in bed 10 days after having the new baby and on the 10th day she was to lay flat on her back in bed and do NO turning. I always wondered why? Of course, this was still the rule when I had my first two babies.
Those were happy days. We played in the green from morning til dark only going home to eat a bite. The green was across the railroad tracks. It was a large level place always green in the summer and full of daisey's and clover bloom. In summer we picked the daisey's and clover bloom and weave them into our hats. We had our own little cemetery there where we buried every dead bugs, frogs and craw-dads,etc that we found around.
I was getting about ready to start school. I think I was seven when I started so that would of been September 1921.My first school was right across the river from where we lived. The teacher name was Mrs. Kirby. When the river was low my mother would take me across the river by walking on the rocks and put me up on the other side. This way I didn't have far to walk. When I couldn't cross the rocks I had to walk down to the store, cross the bridge, and walk back up the other side.It was a good walk for little legs. At this time the children that lived at Saxman,and Fenwick Mountain attended this school. I went there about two terms til they started tearing the school down. It was torn down and the lumber used to make a new school on Fenwick Mountain. At that time it was still standing but not a school but was a garage owned by a Mr. Lynch. In the meantime there was a new school house being built right by the Saxman Church and close to about all the children. I went there while the new school was being built. The teacher was Mrs Ada Vaught, we called her Mrs. Ada.
In November 1921 I got another new brother. His name was Ervin Walker Collins Jr. I don't want to leave none of the sibblings out. Then the new school was finished I was going into eight grade. After we moved to the farm in 1928 I still went another two years of school. I sure knew eighth grade before I was through because you had to continue til you were 16 years old.
Back to the new school being built. I was so proud of it. There were 4 grades taught in each room. Versa,nicknamed Buckie, and brother Howard went to school there too.Versa got the nickname of Buckie when brother Howard tried to say Versa he would say "Buckie" and it just stuck.I don't remember if Velva went to school here or not as in the last years we went to this school it had become overcrowded and they solved the problem by useing one of the houses from Shanty Row. I remember the teacher as being Wilma Sweeny Siebert. The best term I went to school there was to Blume Johnson from Mount Nebo, WV and Miss Evaline Rader taught the small grades.
On March 11, 1923 Nelma Beatrice Collins was born. It seemed from the beginning she had problems. The milk didn't agree with her. My mother worried about her. She wouldn't say anything but I could tell that she worried trying all brands of milk to get her lined out. Also she got the doctor for her. I believe that one doctor was Doctor Echols. He told mother to give her 3-4 tablesspoons of milk at a feeding which was every 4 hours. She would frit a lot. One morning, four months later, my mom got up at four in the morning and fed her and got my father off to work. She washed all the bottles and scalded all the bottles and nipples and boiled water for the baby. She fixed her bottles and went upstairs to feed her at eight o'clock and found her dead. I didn't know anything was wrong til I heard my mother sobbing. I ran and looked upstairs. She was sitting on the top of the stairs with her head in her hands and she kept saying over and over, "My baby is dead". I ran and got Dash Poole. She came and soon another neighbors arrived. June 12, 1923, it was a hearbreaking time for mother and all the family, but mother would suffer many more heartbreaks before she died.
From the time Buckie and I were old enough to walk to church Mother seen that we were in church every Sunday morning. We would walk to revivals and each one of us got big enough to walk we would be in Sunday school in the morning and that was from me down to my baby brother Eldon. She taught us to fear God and love him. That was our beginning to knowledge. She was very stricton us working on Sunday. In fact she didn't allow us children to but my father would work when he got ready on Sunday with her telling him that the Bible said to "remember the sabith and keep it holy".
On April 3 1924, I got another brother. His name was Lloyd Garland Collins. He was a pretty baby , fat ,plunp with brown hair and eyes.When he was 21 months old on January 26, 1926 Betty Jo Collins was born When she was about a year old all of us took the "Big Measles" from the oldest down to the youngest. My dad and mother really had their hands full. We were all in beds all over the house. They was around six weeks my parents didn't have a chnce to lay down. The neighbors came in to help. We were out of our heads, ran high fevers, etc. and everything that went along with measles. Lloyd"Bud" had took membranis croup. I don't remember if this was before the measles or shortly after. I think though that it was a complication of the measles. He was very sick having dry hacking cough and very croupy. You could hear him trying to get his breath clear down to the river bank. The outside privy were all along the river bank. I can remember going out there to keep from hearing him cough so hard. I was then 10 years old and I understood that something was bad wrong. The doctor was called ( Dr. William Nelson) The verdict was bad. He called it Membranis Croup. There was nothing to be done for it only give Anti-Toxin. This was a kill or cure.I remember there was a decision to be mad and it had to be made soon. It was talked over by mom and dad and even some neighbors. Dash Poole was one of them. Well Lloyd couldn't get well the way it was and with the new medication he at least had a chance, so the decision was made.The doctor gave him the medication and said it would take several hours before it would take effect.(24-48 hrs) I know things got very still, nobody spoke,just watched one another.As I understood it he would cough this thing up or pass it through his bowles. The doctor told mother what to look for(hard bony object, white in color)The watch started through the night. The clock was watched. My mother stood over the bed constantly never leaving his side.It seemed forever to me but it came and my brother got better.
Betty Jo took the measles and then pneumonia set in. She didn't last long. She was one year and 8 or 9 months when she died March 6, 1929.
Ervin took infantile paralyzes (polio). He was very sickwith it and I've wondered so many times how my parents held up.Polio, as it is now called, was raging among children killing lots of them. It was days before they knew just how he would be crippled. His leg wouldn't grow much. I remember my mother saying she wondered if it would grow any in length. Freda Clevenger came to stay with us. She was my first cousin. It was more than my mother could take care of with my dad haveing to go to work.Dad bought Ervin a carriage and everyday Freda would take along side of it. This was doctors orders. They rubbed his legs with all kinds of linament even buying it by the case. I remember one brand as being NOVACK LINAMENT, but to no avail, he was crippled for life.The leg did grow in length. It was somewhat shorter than the other one, but never got too much bigger in size around and not much muscle to it.He was very sturdy from the waist up but it didn't keep him from doing hard work on the farm, later being a forman on the mines, and marrying and raising a family.
This my mother always thanked God for. It was then the Fall of 1927 that my brother Gene Dale Collins was born. (September 20, 1927) It was a little past 6 months after my sister Betty Jo had died. There was a heavy weight fight between Gene Tunny and Jack Dempsey. My father said that which ever won the fight was what the new baby would be named. Gene Tunny won the fight and my brother was called Gene Dale, altho to this day he is called "Tunny". My mother got Emma Shoulders to stay with us while she was in bed with the new baby. Us older ones had to go to school so we weren't much help.
It was about then my father decided to leave Saxman and go back to the farm. He worked very hard . There we had a cow, chickens, and a big place for a garden but with seven children mother and dad had rent to pay etc. It took lots of eats and clothes for us. Howard ,Versa,and I were now bigg enough to help out on the farm so with some help from Uncle Clerance Collins (dad's younger, unmarried brother) and Alvy"Butch" Hinkle he began tearing the old house down I had talked about us leaving when we went to Fenwick and then to Saxman the 2nd time. He worked very hard in the mines durning the days and going after work to work on the house til dark. He worked every Saturday on it. It wasn't anything like finished when we moved into it.I remember having a quilt tacked over the window in the kitchen but it was fixed enough to be livable so Spring ,April 18, 1928 .School was out for the summer and wouldn't start again til September, so dad waited until school was out and then we left Saxman where mom and dad lived out the rest of their lives.
We just got moved in and BANG, what a terrible storm.The snow was deepand lasted several days. I recall wading snow up to my neck. We had no coal or wood on hand. Now we were really busy for a while just trying to stay warm.Uncle Tom Williams had a little small one room store which he kept just necessities in. We would go there to the store which wasn't far. We would buy slabs of salt bacon which mother would soak the salt out, and then roll it in meal or flour and fry it. You couldn't sit still and eat it. It was so delicious. Them was the good ol days though we older ones had to work awful hard . We were up early and to bed late. Dad was still working in the mines and walking it most of the time. He finally got him a mule to ride back and forth to work. My mother, Howard, and I worked outside feeding, milking, and tending to the garden, and everything else that needed to be done on the farm.
Versa took over the house, cooking, washing dishes, washing clothes,on a board and carrying water from the spring. My sistr Velva took care of the baby (Tunny) when she wasn't in school. He was 7 months 2 days old when we came to the farm.Velva was 9 years old.
We always had a cane patch to make molasses for all loved them, but work we did. There was never no end to it but one thing for sure when Sunday Morn came we were all up to go to Sunday School and preaching after. This was a Had to be thing with my dear precious mother.
The house was always full and running over with children, our friends, and others that would stop in for the day, and our tunny's were always full. I remember Hilda (Poole) Ayres. The first thing she would want to do was make candy. and candy was made for all. My father had began to ail,his blood was low. He had anemia and comming down with arthritis which finally crippled him In late 30's to the exact date November 5, 1930 Shirley Ford Collins was born. This was sort of a suprise to me as I thought my mother was through having babies and that there wouldn't be anymore.He was rather sickly from the beginning. He took sick when he was about a month old.Pneumonia followed and he passed away December 21, 1930. He was 1 month 16 days old. It was on Sunday night, Versa and I went after Uncle Jack Brewster. He was an eldery man good when anybody needed him to help. When morning came other neighbors came. The Rev. Hill Jones held a little service there at the house. He brought along three of his daughtersto sing. Carrie, Ollie and Dena. None of them were married at that time. They were wonderful singers and are to this day.Their father Rev Hill Jones was the minister that married dad & I (meaning Pearl & Archie Spencer)He was a real good minister, Methodist. He preached it just like I believed it ( that hell was long and hot)
Things began to change a little at home. I had began working away from home, mostly when somebody had a baby then you could work 10 days or more if needed. I stayed with Clerance and Emma when Kenneth Wayne was born. I had began to date boys. Then going with Archie at that time I then stayed with Ross and Nita Weese at Saxman when Phillis Jean Weese was born. They just had 2 children ,Eldon & Phillis Jean.
Versa kept busy. She stayed gone most of the time. Everytime there was a new baby Versa was gone. She was well liked and did her job well. I got married then in August 1932. My first child, Archetta was born June 23, 1934. I learned then the last of 1935 that my mother was pregnant again....
This worried me very much as she was getting up in years, 42 years old which I thought was too old to have babies, and it had been 5 years since the last one. I know she worried also. MY fatherwas able to work some and was working at Saxman. Archie was working with him. On November 25, 1935 the baby was born strong, and healthy. He was named Eldon Jermone Collins. Aunt Vergie (dad's oldest sister) stayed with them awhile. Dr. Ellis Frame was the doctor. He said it was the last baby as my mother had already went into the change of life. We often referred to him as the change of Life baby. I guess it really did change the lives of us. My mother and dad worshoped him. Velva took care of him fixing bottles etc. My mother didn't have to tend to him very much as he was the center of attention. He began to know that he was the baby, and let everybody else know it also. If he ask for the moon they tryed to get it for him. I guess we older children didn;t quite understand this for he sure got by with things that we didn't. He was spoiled, but he was mother's baby and she loved him ,and we did too.