Sunday, January 29, 2012

Growing Up in West Virginia in the 70's

It was a dirty place with trash strewn everywhere and abandoned cars all over the place. I remember when Secretary of State, A. James Manchin declared war on abandoned cars and litter. People said he was crazy at the time. He said as long as WV looked like a trash dump then people would treat it as a trash dump. He was right. Now we have a beautiful state that not many can compare to and tourism is one of the biggest industries in the state. It is growing every year.

I remember driving to my grandparents house. On the way to their homes there was trash alongside the roads. It was in the river and creeks and all along the banks with plenty of old, rusty appliances thrown in for good measure. There were burning slag piles that burned 24 hours a day for years. I couldn't understand how the fires didn't spread but my parents assured me that it was OK, because those fires had been burning longer than I was alive (some of them had been burning longer than my parents had been alive). There were 3 working coal mines on the main road to their house and both my pepaws worked at them. Pepaw Brennan was a boss in the mines. Pepaw Farley went on to work as a deputy sherriff and ran a large farm.

There were a few abandoned mines that looked really spooky. We were told to stay out because if we ever went in we would get lost and never come out. It was a very effective way to keep us alive because we believed it. The mines were not closed off, they were just there and you had enough sense to stay out of them (these were working mines in the 20's and 30's and sometimes even earlier in the century). Then there were the slag ponds. You could just tell that they were pits of death. Again, we were warned away by telling us that they were like quicksand and if you fell in you would never come out. Since there was no sort of fencing around them, these warnings kept us alive too.

We lived in the "better" part of town where money wasn't a problem and neither was trash. My dad was a wealthy car dealer and our neighborhood was full of local businessmen and the people who actually owned the coal companies. Many were influential in WV government too. I did not want for anything, I had every advantage that a child of the 70's could have. I had trouble fitting in with everybody at school because I was "a rich girl". So, the other "rich girls" and I formed our own gang and we did fine. We couldn't win - either we kept to ourselves which made us snobs or we tried to hang out with everybody else and were teased because we had it so easy.

Coal was king. We were taught to ALWAYS respect the coal miners because they ran the world. The union was at it's peak back then. The union was necessary because of the abuses of workers by the coal companies but there came a time when the unions were also abusing their power. The miners used to go on strike at the drop of a hat. Sometimes over even minor things. When this happenned everybody would just buckle down and wait for the strike to end. My dad always extended as much credit (for cars) to the miners that he could because he said, "they are good as gold, when the strike is over they will pay every penny." And they did.

In the 9th. grade we studied American Government. Mrs. Triolo told us that the next time Senator Byrd came up for election, that if elected again he would have senority in the Senate. She said he would turn down the position of President of the Senate so he could be the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Then he would be able to funnel money to the state and WV would finally get the help it needed...the rest is history. She told us she would "never" tell us whom to vote for but the most intelligent thing a person could do was to vote for Byrd because in the Senate, senority is everything.

It turns out she was very right.

No comments: