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In the early 1900’s William and Sally Sherwood ATHA, and John F and Carolina Keller HOFFMAN families were living on Armstrong Creek. They lived on small subsistence farms in an area known as Elk Ridge in the Allegheny Mountains near Armstrong Mountain in Fayette County, WV. There were some Cherokee Indians living with White families in the mountains; settlers learned from the Cherokees' how to cultivate the "three sisters" (corn, beans, and squash). These crops were supplemented with hunting small game, fishing and gathering  wild plants. Corn was their staple; they had corn-meal mush, corn muffins, or griddle cakes. Luxuries, such as white sugar and white flour, could only be bought at stores. Nature provided fruit orchards and berries. Women and children tended vegetable gardens; women canned or dried much of the crop for winter use. The men were self reliant and could do anything that needed to be done; they hunted, fished, and gathered wild fruits and berries to round out their  diet, and gathered wood for cooking and heating. Men and Women alike were masters of coping with extraordinary emergencies.

Coal Mining

 

 A Typical Fayette County, West Virginia coal mine circa 1900. Pictures left to right; tipple, entrance, miners with horses and miner with horse inside mine.

When the coal mines opened at Elk Ridge in the early 1900's a group of strangers joined together and formed the community of Elkridge. The community of Elkridge consisted of people from different backgrounds who migrated to Elkridge primarily for economic reasons. They were from small subsistence farms, European Immigrants, African American families, probably descendants of former slaves, and White/Indian families living in the mountains. This group of strangers joined together, learned how to share the best of their heritage and worked together to build a community. Elkridge became their shining city on the hill. As best as they knew how they worked to build a better life for themselves and develop core values for their children. These values helped them and their children survive and be free to pursue their own happiness. During its 50 plus years as a small coal camp Elkridge was an example of the awesome strength that built America. Our parents, the adult community, school, scouting and church taught us life values that helped us develop our own strength and find our purpose in life.

The mines at Elkridge

Coal mining was a hard, dirty and sometimes dangerous job. Injuries or death, due to cave ins or explosions were always a constant threat. Black lung disease, caused by lengthy exposure to coal dust, was another threat. Coal miners face dangers and hardships that most Americans would find unacceptable in their daily lives. Being a coal miner was hard on the miner, his immediate family and his extended family. Miners and their families live with dangers most people can't begin to imagine. Inside the coal mine or away from the coal mine-death or being crippled for life was always on the mind of the miner and his family. Each time the miner went to work at the coal mine, no one was sure he would return when his shift was over. Death and becoming crippled for life was always on the mind of the miner and his family, but no one talked about death or becoming crippled for life.

    

On left is one of the original Elkridge tipples. Center miners. Right new machine arrives at tipple in late 1940’s.

In 1946 the Koppers Coal Company was purchased by Eastern Gas and Fuel Associates in Boston , MA . The following pictures appeared in their publication.

 The Train as remembered by  Ernie Peters

One of my fondest memories of growing up in Elkridge was the train or more precisely the steam engine. I was always fascinated by these huge machines and their awesome power. The whole mining operation depended on these trains which brought empty cars up the holler and took out the loaded ones. Due to the many crossings along the track you could hear the train coming for miles.  The whistle seemed to echo off the mountain sides. It was a mournful sound which I loved. You could also see the huge column of black smoke long before it came into sight. Since laundry was hung on lines outside to dry, the ladies had to get it done before the train arrived or it would get covered in black cinders from the smoke. 

The train would leave the main line at Mt. Carbon backing up pulling a long string of empty cars. When it reached the coal yard at Elkridge (a place consisting of several acres where coal was sometimes temporarily stored) it reached a double track. It would then unhook, go back down the other track to get in front of the cars. From there, it backed the cars to above the mine tipple and parked them on side tracks. They were then dropped two or three at a time under the tipple where they were loaded with coal and parked on the side tracks below the tipple. After parking the empties, the steam engine would proceed back down the track to pick up the loaded cars and take them out of the holler. 

Below the tipple there were three tracks, the main line and two side tracks where the loaded cars were parked. The engine would unhook the caboose on the main line just before reaching the lower end of the coal cars. After the switch was thrown it would back up and hook on to the cars on one line, pull them past the switch, back up and hook on the second string of cars and proceed out of the holler. It was the brakeman's job to handle all the switches. After throwing the switch back to the main line, he would run to the caboose, release the brake and let it catch up to the train which did not stop.

As kids, we sometimes made this operation a little more difficult especially for the brakeman. Having nothing else to do, we would unhook the air lines between each car and drain the air tanks. The brakeman would have to hook them all back up and the engine would have to pump the air back up before they could be moved. This sometimes took an hour or more. Not a very nice thing to do but we did it anyway. Sometimes the coal cars would break loose from the tipple and wreck. By the time they passed where we lived they were flying. If there were no other cars parked on the track, they would derail and jump over in the creek. If other cars were already there, they would throw coal for a hundred yards and sometimes half cover some of those colored people's houses that were close to the tracks. Quite a show for us kids watching the big cranes they would bring up there clean up the mess. Usually took several days depending on how many cars wrecked. I don't believe any of us realized what a dangerous place we lived in.  What with the railroad, burning slate dumps and cracks in the mountain where the mines caved in, it is a wonder we didn't have a lot of fatal accidents but I can't recall a single one.  I believe kids had more common sense then than they do now.

It was a sad time for me in the fifties when the steam engines were phased out for diesels.  Nothing else smelled or sounded like a steam engine. As a kid I always thought running one of those huge, powerful monsters had to be the best job in the world. That nostalgic feeling remains with me today.

The Company Store

 

On the left is the gas station. The gas station was next to the Company Store.

The United States Post Office was located is a separate section of the company store. The Post Office was the only place mail was delivered to people in the coal camps. It was a place in the community where neighbors and friends came together. It served as a community bulletin board and a place where housewives gathered to discuss meals, children, and neighborhood gossip.

 

 Pay Day for miners Branham, Farley and Hoffman

Inside the company store

 

The coal company store was the center of life in Elkridge. The people cared about each other; they were like a big extended family. They would baby sit each other's kids, and house sit each other's dogs while they were on vacation. They didn't just loan a car tool, they would help you fix your car. We did not have much money, but we were not poor; we accepted the truism that the best things in life are free. The U. S. Post Office and coal company administrative offices were located in the store complex. Records were kept there; a miner's time, attendance, number of cars loaded that week, rent, light and coal deductions, doctor's fees and scrip advances. The payroll window was set up in the store and miners gathered there on Friday afternoons to collect their pay for work they performed two weeks past. Everything that a family might want or need could be bought in the store, from food to clothing, from hardware supplies and the miners' tools to furniture and appliances. Coal operators had captive shoppers and prices in the company store were high. A report issued by The United States Coal Commission said: “Had it been possible for New River district (Elkridge mine was in this district) miner's wives to purchase in the same stores as glassblowers' or foundry men's wives in Charleston (the state capitol, some 25 miles away) they would have saved 12 cents on every dollar's worth of food bought.” Mail order companies such as Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck and Company were major competitors to the company store. However shipping charges usually made the cost of merchandise more that the miner paid at the company store. The miner could buy anything desired at the company store with a good or better quality that was available elsewhere on credit through the company scrip system. Companies routinely paid their miners in "scrip," a form of money that each company issued in lieu of U. S. currency. Scrip could be paper, but was more often metal coinage on which the name of the coal company was imprinted.

As a general rule scrip could only be used at the company store. For the company scrip provided an easy way to pay the miners without the necessity of keeping large amounts of cash available. Scrip provided a means of easy credit for the miner. Some miners, especially those with large families, drew scrip from their accounts almost daily.  The company issued each miner a ‘scrip card’.  The card would be presented at the company’s administrative offices (a window was maintained just for issuing scrip), the amount of scrip desired was stated and the office worker would check to see if the individual had that much in his account.  If he did the card was annotated with the amount withdrawn, dated and initialed by the person making the issue, and the scrip handed over.  On payday, every two weeks if I remember correctly, the miners would line up at the company offices to receive whatever money they might have in their account.  Some miners never had anything coming to them on payday; they had drawn their entire earnings in scrip.  Money was always paid out in US currency on payday.  Some non-company stores or individuals would accept scrip as payment, but at a discount.  Then, they could redeem the scrip at face value at the company offices. Drawing scrip, which could only be spent at the company store, and then buying from the company store, could keep a family flat broke. Practically everything that a person needed was sold at the company store.  It was, actually, a fairly large and modern department store.  But prices were considerably higher than those charged in most non-company stores. Miners drew scrip advances for many reasons. Should he run short and need food before the next payday, scrip credit was available. If a miner needed cash; scrip could be exchanged, at a discount, for U.S. currency. If a miner needed a piece of furniture and did not have the cash, scrip credit would take care of it. However, drawing scrip meant that a miner would have no cash coming on payday, and the miner would have no cash on hand for emergencies.

In 1946 Koppers Coal Company was purchased by Eastern Gas and Fuel Associates, Boston, MA. The following advertisement appeared in the May June issue of their publication.

 

Growing up

Kids growing up in Elkridge during the 30's & 40's were taught from a very young age the difference between right and wrong and the things we could and could not do. For minor infractions we were confined to our own yard. For major offenses we got a whipping. Probably the number one reason for a whipping was talking back to your parents or any other adult for that matter. When we talked to adults we always used “sir” or “mam”. "Sass" was not tolerated.

The Mother was the disciplinarian

Also getting a paddling in school resulted in another whipping when you got home. The whipping at home was administered with a keen switch. This was simply a branch from a small tree with the leaves stripped off it. The switch was about four feet long and you had to go get the switch yourself. Usually the mother was the master of discipline, but it was also a community thing. If a neighbor caught you doing something they knew you weren't supposed to be doing, they would give you a few whacks and then tell your parents. Today that would probably result in a lawsuit, but all your parents did was “THANK” the neighbor for their help and then give you another whipping. You did not get a whipping without a good reason and one lashing would last a long time. There were numerous other things that would result in this kind of punishment; mostly dangerous things such as hitching a ride on the train. Boys would sometimes hitch a ride on the train for fun or transportation. 

This anecdotal story from "Buck" Darlington of Deepwater explains one of the  dangers of "hitching a ride" on the train. One late afternoon/early evening, several of us were sitting on the stone bridge that crossed Loop Creek near Lonsey’s Store. A train came off of the railroad yard and started up Loop Creek.  There were 3 or 4 flat cars in the train that had road  graders on them; two to a  car.  We looked at each other and without a word being spoken, we took off, running for the train. We climbed aboard. Each found his own grader, climbed in, and sat down. It was a great ride. We had glass all around, just like riding a car.  here was Loop Creek with its white water rapids and falls; high, Rhododendron covered rock cliffs; and the green mountains towering over everything. We were so caught up in the moment that we hadn’t noticed that the train had gradually increased its speed. We were well up Loop Creek, not too far from Robson (two/three miles), when somebody, George I think, decided that it was time to leave the train. He got off first, ran down a little dirt road and into Loop Creek with no problems except wet feet.  Tommy Treadway was next.  He stepped down with his left foot.  His left knee was locked and his leg as stiff as a fence post. When his foot touched the ground, he was pole vaulted over the creek bank to land on his face in a water hole.  Luckily, the water was deep enough so that his fall was broken and not his neck. Then, I got off.  I stepped down onto the ground all right but my legs wouldn’t move fast enough for the speed at which I was moving.  I dove head first down a gravel embankment and slid into some bushes.  That kept me from ending up in the creek with Tommy.  My entire front was ripped and bloody from sliding in the gravel.  Everyone else looked about the same as I did. Anybody not knowing what had happened would have suspected that we had survived an airplane crash or possibly an earthquake.  We had to walk back to Deepwater in the chill of approaching darkness and the dampness of dewfall.

Elkridge facilities were segregated by law. However, inside the mine black and white worked side by side. Black and White had the same Doctor. Boy Scouts fought forest fires black and white side by side. Charley Joyce, a black man, worked in the coal mine as a machine operator. He owned and operated an auto repair shop that was the center of activity in colored town. We were all patriotic. Black and White were drafted into military service; their service in the military was segregated. Black and White had the same ration cards for food and gasoline; we all saved tin foil from chewing gum and cigarette packages to help the war effort.

We had our own Doctor. The miner paid a pay roll deduction for the Doctors service. The Doctor's office was located on the property of his company house. When we were sick or injured we went to the Doctor’s office. The Doctor sometimes made house calls for serious illness.  The mother rarely went to the hospital for a new birth. An important part of the medical team was the midwife. The midwife was usually an older woman in the community; she delivered the babies and often would remain with the new mother for several days.

People of Elkridge 

Lillian Belcher, Farthing, Jane Kincaid, Nell Kincaid, Rosalie Peters, Rosa Gorta, Florence Hoffman
Thompson, Ruby Tucker, Rose Atkins, Julia Grigsby

Mine Foremen Midge Platt C R Stahl P P Reese


Girl Scouts of America Troop 18, Elkridge West Virginia

Margaret Keener Scout Mistress

Boy Scouts of America Troop 44, Elkridge West Virginia

John Peters Scout Master, Paul Hurley Asst Scout Master

Harry Prather, John Peters, Bill Stine, Bill Bass
Boy Scout Camp

Safety Team

Ed Akers, Bill Akers, Denver Fisher, Fred Norvell

Billy Loudermilk, Carl Peters, Bill Bobbitt

Theodore Turley, Fred Farley, unknown, John Peters

unknown, Bill Bobbitt, Carl Atkins

First Aid Teams

                                               

Margaret Bobbitt, Ann Lee Miller, Glenna Weed, Ruth Bobbitt

Helen Bobbitt, Sue Lundy, Lillian Peters

Leonard Tucker, Bill Akers, George Lockman, ?????

Charles Scott, Ray Williams, Fred Norvell

Bobby Lowe, Freddy Hoffman, Virgil Farthing, Ernie Peters

Carl Peters, Clifford Turley, Roy Atha

Winnie Mae Farthing, Gertrude Akers, Lillian Peters

Francis Hoy, Juniata “Piggy Redden”, Midge Bobbitt

Ann Lee Dawson

Margaret Bobbitt, Patsy McCardle, Walter Redmond, Nancy Hoffman, Lucille Redman
Lillian Peters, Garnett Hoffman, Myrtle Ash, Ruby Tucker, Lilly Birchfield, Pearl Lowe, Helen Bobbitt

HOUSING

Elkridge began where the Elkridge and Powellton branches of Armstrong Creek met. Shadid's Mercantile was located at this junction; the road to Elkridge branched away from the main road that continued on to Powellton. As you proceeded south toward the coal mine was a settlement called “Atha Town” for the purpose of this presentation “Atha Town” is considered as a part of Elkridge. The houses in “Atha Town” were privately owned. There were between 75 and 100 houses in Elkridge. The coal company owned most of the houses including the boarding house. Houses were built in open fields along the creek and near the railroad. Houses near the tipple were very dirty due to the coal dust and the slag dump with its constant fire was near by. The houses near the tipple/slag dump were assigned to the newest miners. Colored town was near the tipple and had some 10 houses; some of the houses had more than one family. Just below the tipple a middle age Slavic man that we knew only as “Up Tony” lived by himself in an abandoned chicken house. All houses were cheaply constructed, wide boards in a vertical position with about four inch boards nailed over the cracks. A single electric light hung from the ceiling in the middle of the room, no insulation and no inside plumbing. Often the only insulation was papering the walls with newspaper. Heat usually consisted of a fire place and a kitchen stove. The luckier people had a pot-belly stove. Even with the pot-belly stove the houses were still not warm. Standing next to the fire you would burn on one side and freeze on the other. The coal burning stove in the kitchen kept the kitchen the warmest place in the house. At night you "banked" the fires then went to bed under a pile of quilts. Coal was used for cooking and heating. Coal was delivered in company trucks was a payroll deduction. In the summer time you simply opened all the windows which had screen tacked over them to keep out the bugs.

     

Pictured above are company houses near the school house, the church and the store complex. The people in the picture on the left are walking north toward the church. The church is located just past the rail road crossing signal on the right. The lady is Carolina Hoffman a founder of the church.

 

Armstrong Creek was a fun place for kids to play. In the summer time the creek was dammed up to build swimming holes. A big rain would flood the creek and destroy the dam holding the water for the swimming pool, but kids would soon rebuild the dam. Some kids made play houses on the rocks in the creek. The creek ran parallel to the railroad track and the road. Sometimes houses were built on clear areas and were separated from the road by the creek. Access to these houses was by a walk bridge over the creek or by driving your car through the creek.

Coal was expensive and often families would walk along the rail road and pick up coal that had fallen from the coal cars. Rent and coal were deducted from the miner's pay.

There was an outside toilet located as far away from the house as practical. This facility was appropriately called the outhouse. In the summer the out house was hot and smelly and cold in the winter. Lighting was through the gaps between the boards by day and by flashlight at night. There was always an old Sears' catalogue available. There was a little screen- hook on the inside to ensure privacy. There were two holes cut in the wooden bench for seating. Since using the facility was generally a private thing makes you wonder why there were two holes, maybe the second hole was to give you a choice of left or right or for emergency use by others. For night use or when one was bedridden we had a porcelain bucket with a lid called the “slop jar” for use in the bedroom as a toilet. There were several of these containers around the house, each stored under a bed. Sometimes we had to hold our nose when we took the lid off. After the war bathrooms replaced outhouses and slop jars. This was a worth while home project. It was not expensive all you needed was running water and room in the yard for a cesspool, a strong back to dig the hole in the ground and gather rocks from the creek to fill the hole. The bath room usually was added to the back porch.

For patriotic and economic reasons some homes kept pigs, a victory garden, and chickens to supplement their food supply. In the fall produce from the garden was canned for use in the winter. It was common for neighbors to save food scraps to feed the pigs. When the pigs were killed those who gave you food scraps were rewarded with meat from the pig. Collecting food scraps and feeding the pigs and chickens was a daily chore for kids.

Food was cooked on a coal burning stove. Cooking was not an easy task; imagine learning to judge the heat temperature of the different places on top of the stove and the oven. The housewife got up, built the fire in the house and the kitchen, cooked breakfast and got the family up. Most of the time we had biscuits and gravy, sometimes we had oats or cold cereal. Next she would pack a school lunch for the children and the dinner bucket for her husband. During the day she shopped for food, cleaned the house, and washed the clothes. We used an ice box to store our food. Fayette Bottling and Ice made deliveries twice a week; the delivery man would cut any size you wanted the larger pieces lasted longer. The chunk of ice would be placed in the ice box. In the afternoon the wife would prepare supper, which was usually pinto beans, fried potatoes and corn bread; sometimes we would have meat. We never refused to eat because we didn't like what was on the table. We ate what was on the table and we were glad to get it.

During the depression laundry was done by hand. Doing the laundry was a chore that required water. Carrying water was a chore for boys or girls, if kids were in school the water would be positioned the night before. It took several minutes to pump each bucket of water. Clothes were washed by hand and the water was wrung from the clothes by hand. Clothes were hung outside to dry in the summer and inside the house on temporary clothes lines throughout the house in winter and bad weather. Since laundry was hung on lines outside to dry, the ladies had to get it done before the train arrived or it would get covered in black cinders from the smoke.

The wash tub was also the bath tub

 

Boarding House

  

The Boarding house was located across the road from the company store. The manager was responsible for keeping the rooms clean, preparing all meals, making sure there was plenty of hot water for the miners to take showers and the general maintenance of the property. Young girls worked at the boarding house full time during the summer and on week ends while they were in high school. Some miners lived at the boarding house permanently. Some miners and temporary workers lived there during the week and went home to their farms on the week-ends. Miners and visitors staying at the boarding house during World War 2 were required to give the boarding house their ration coupons.

The boarding house prepared a dinner bucket for the miner. The bucket had a covered tray that fit into the bottom. The upper tray was for sandwiches and desert. The bucket itself had water for rinsing the coal dust from the miner's mouth and for drinking water.

Church

Carolina Hoffman on the left was living at Elkridge when the mine opened. Carolina was instrumental in starting the Church at Elkridge. Carolina’s son Jesse was one of the first Elkridge coal miners, a Pastor and Choir Director of the Church. Jesse moved away from Elkridge in the 1940’s but returned as a visiting Pastor.

The church was practically on the railroad just south of the company store. Every Wednesday night was prayer meeting and church service was every Sunday night. New members of the church were baptized, in the summertime, in Armstrong Creek that ran along side the church. The church was used for wakes and funerals. A regular feature of the Church service was Aunt Florence (no kin) walking the floor and testifying. A steeple located on the front top roof housed the church bell. On Sunday mornings the small children would pull the rope and ring the church bell telling the community that Sunday school would begin in half an hour. The bell would be tolled upon the death of a resident, one ring for each year of life.


New members of the church were baptized in Armstrong Creek near the church

Craig Hollow was a primary burial site

The people of Elkridge became an extended family. Trust in each other was necessary for survival. Most members of the Elkridge community believed they were children of God, they believed in the love of God and the joy of salvation; some however lived in fear and the torment of hell. In either event they lived their entire life in the presence of God. The church was the gathering place for the extended family.

No one was allowed to go hungry. If a person was too sick to do their chores, neighbors brought food and helped with chores. When someone died the community helped the grieving family. The women of the church raised money by having box socials. The young women would make box lunches and pack them in boxes covered in bright paper and fastened pretty bows and a card with their name on them. The young men would bid on the box and share the lunch with the young lady who packed it. The church held this money in reserve for needy families. If there were insufficient funds they would hold a special offering at a church service. Most had a conviction that life was good; not evil. They demonstrated their love and concern for each other with their words and deeds. The adults were parental to all of the children.


Elkridge was not large enough to support a full time pastor. Sunday services were conducted by visiting Pastors. Pictured on the left are two visiting Pastors; Elinor Henley and Jesse Hoffman. Jesse Hoffman was Pastor prior to leaving Elkridge, he did return from time to time as a visiting Pastor. The church building was one large open room with bench seats for worship service. For Sunday school curtains were pulled to section off the large room into individual Sunday school classes. Sometimes the teacher in the next room talked too loud.

Kids were told about how Santa Claus came on Christmas Eve and left toys for good girls and boys. The church always had a Christmas Play; Santa would come to the play, kids would sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. The stars of the Christmas play were the children; this was also a time to teach about the life of Jesus. On Easter we had a traditional children's Easter egg hunt; kids were told about Jesus being crucified and ascended into Heaven.

Old Glory had 48 stars then

July 4th was a major holiday and there was a celebration on the Church grounds. We had plenty of fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad, ice cold lemonade, home made ice cream, hot dogs, watermelon, a variety of cakes and pies.


And a time to play. We had plenty of food, sack races, and 3 legged sack races. For the sack race each player got inside an old burlap potato sack, for the 3 legged race two players would put one leg in the same sack. The first person or team to cross the finish line WON the race. The picnic was a fun time. Everyone tried to come, they all brought something and we had food beyond belief. Adults and kids participated in the sack races and ring around Rosie. We gathered enough memories and war stories to last for a year.

There was a vacant lot at the mouth of the holler, near where the Elkridge and Powellton branches of Armstrong Creek met. The American Legion held an annual Memorial Day Service. Kids played sand lot games. Religious big tent revival meetings were held and this is where the carnival came.

Big Tent Religious Evangelist

At the road junction of Elkridge and Powellton there was a vacant lot at the mouth of the holler, near where the Elkridge and Powellton branches of Armstrong Creek met was an ideal location for tent Evangelist to have revival services a couple times each year for the communities of Elkridge, Powellton, MacDun, Columbia and other near by coal camps.

This anecdotal story describes how some viewed religious life growing up in Elkridge

Save Your Fork

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

"There's one more thing", she said excitedly.
"What's that?" the pastor asked?
"This is very important," the woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."
The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.
"That surprises you, doesn't it?" the woman asked.
"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor.

The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming...like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful and with substance! So I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder 'what's with the fork'? Then I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork....the best is yet to come.'

The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of Heaven than he did. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favorite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what
it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.

So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you oh so gently, that the best is yet to come.

Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us. "A friend is someone who thinks you're a good egg even though you're slightly cracked."

 Schools

   

   

We learned about patriotic values at school. We were encouraged to save our money to buy savings stamps. The teachers sold stamps and we pasted them in our stamp book until we had enough to buy a $25 bond for $18.75. We had a picture of George Washington above the blackboard in each class room. Our school day began with the pledge of allegiance to the flag. The class stood up, faced the flag, placed our hand over our heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
Of the United States of America,
And to the Republic for which it stands:
One Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all

In 1954 Under God was added between One Nation and indivisible

There were no school buses to our Elementary School, everyone walked to school and took their lunch

Dodge ball was played by both girls and boys. Teams were equally divided among those who wanted to play. The playing field was 30 by 60 feet, the same as required for a volley ball court. A volley ball was used. The object of the game is to eliminate all opposing players by getting them "OUT". This may be done by: 1. hitting an opposing player with a live thrown ball below the shoulders. Or 2, catching a live ball thrown by your opponent before it touches the ground. (The person throwing the ball is out when the ball is caught). When a player was declared out they must stand behind the opposing team. During play, all players must remain within the boundary lines. Players may leave the boundaries through their end-line only to retrieve stray balls. They must also return through their end-line. The first team to legally eliminate all opposing players is declared the winner.

By law Elkridge schools were segregated by color. The school for whites was located between the creek and the side by side dirt road and railroad track. There were two buildings. One building was for the 1st and 2nd grades. The other building had two rooms, one room was for the 3rd and 4th grade and the other room was for the 5th and 6th grades. Each class room had a portrait of George Washington above the black board to remind us of our country, the 5 & 6th grade room had a copy of the “Song of the Lark” painting by Willa Clark as an introduction to art. Starting back to school in the fall was a major event. Our school clothes came from the Company store, the Sears Roebuck catalogue or hand me downs from older siblings, relatives or neighbors. Clean clothes were a must for school. When we came home from school we had to take our school clothes off and hang them up to wear one more time before they were washed.

We were given cod liver oil at school, we had to bring our own spoon and the cod liver oil tasted awful, but it kept us healthy

In the 1930’s Teacher, Miss Hoover, got sick one day and they had to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital. Two brothers in our class, Robert and Donald Thompson, were in a real big fight in the yard when the ambulance started to leave. Miss Hoover stopped the ambulance and made the boys stop fighting. She took them into the school house and paddled both boys before she let them take her to the hospital. She had to have her appendix removed when to got to the hospital.

Our teachers were Mrs. Cavendish, 1st & 2nd, Mrs. Pash (Miss Wiseman) 3rd & 4th, and Mr. McMillion was Superintendent and taught 5th & 6th. Mrs. Cavendish was a nurturing person. Mrs. Pash (Miss Wiseman) and especially Mr. McMillion believed in immediate corporeal punishment. One nameless red headed kid sat right in front of Mr. McMillion's desk. One day Mr. McMillion had given us a chapter to read in a history book, he kept watching the red head kid. After several minutes Mr. McMillion told him, "I've been watching you for 15 minutes and you haven't turned the page.  I bet you don't know what's on that one page." The red head kid replied, "I bet you don't either." Needless to say, he shouldn't have said that. Probably couldn't sit down for a week.

One day we had a substitute teacher, some of the kids decided to test her out. We were not allowed to play on the other side of the creek and during lunch some of the kids went over there anyway. After lunch she got her paddle out and said, "Alright, who wants to be first?" One boy jumped up with a big smile on his face and marched up front.  He wasn't smiling when he came back. She burned his butt good. We didn't try to test her anymore after that.

A fun thing for boys was to run into the steam released by the engine. Many boys dreamed of being an engineer on the mighty steam engine. You could hear the engine coming for miles; their whistle seemed to echo off the mountain sides. We were fascinated by these huge machines and their awesome power. We though being an engineer on this powerful monster was the best job in the world. The whole mining operation depended on these trains. The coal cars joined the main line at Mount Carbon and from there went to destinations all over the United States . The steam engine and our dream were phased out in favor of the diesel engine in the fifties.

Black school room grades 1-8

Boy and Girl Scout activities also used this facility. Both Scout Masters insisted that the building be left as clean as we found it. The black High School in Montgomery had manual training and domestic science rooms in the basement: it had ten class rooms.

 Children from surrounding mining communities were bused to Montgomery for Jr. High and High School on segregated buses. Montgomery was 11 miles from Elkridge. The Elkridge school bus picked up students at the tipple, the company store and North Elkridge, all kids walked to these stops; some for a couple of miles.  For the most part kids from Elkridge and other coal communities were not able to participate in after school actives because of transportation problems.

Montgomery High School had 21 class rooms, a gymnasium, four inside toilets, four shower baths, an auditorium, library, and thermostatically controlled heating. Montgomery High School had 21 class rooms, a gymnasium, four inside toilets, four shower baths, an auditorium, library, and thermostatically controlled heating. The average graduating class was less than 100.s was less than 100. Kids at Elkridge rode the bus to school; if you missed the school bus transportation was a major problem therefore most kids were not able to participate in after school hours events. The dormitory was for boys and girls who could not travel back and forth to their homes during the wed and attend school. Some of the teachers who taught at the high school lived in the building.

Kids from Elkridge at Montgomery High School 1938; Back row Nina Nutter, Jean Lundy Center row Jeanette Farthing                Ruth Hubbard, Lucille Redman Front row ??? Juniata Redmond, Leogie Mascarri. Joetta Hubbard

     

    

 Simmons High School for the colored children of Fayette County

   

 Simmons High School was built in 1927 to replace the Simmons High School that was destroyed by fire in 1926. Simmons served the colored community of Fayette County, it was closed in 1956. Simmons was respected throughout the state because of their competitive achievements. Self-respect, self-reliance, self-control were their watchwords. Their creed was their daily guide; “We, the members of Simmons High School believe it is our duty to be loyal to our government and school; further we shall strive to maintain scholarship, honest work and fair play in all school activities, ever keeping in mind the best and at all times be true and loyal to Simmons School.