Imagine a marriage conducted back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The circuit preacher pronouncing the couple Man and Wife followed by this custom: you will now “jump over this broom on the ground before you.
“Jumping the boom stick” was an old world custom most likely originating in Africa and eventually brought to America. It became popular in the frontier of Appalachia maybe as early as the late 1700s. The purpose of a married couple concluding their marriage ceremony (which was very simple in early times) with jumping together over a broom to symbolize “sweeping” away their past to begin anew as husband and wife. Not a bad idea using that meaningful process. However, I have known a few men who claimed to have “jumped the broom” more than once. It was done in Catawba with both the white folks and more so, the black community. As a minister, I have performed a number of marriages but not any that involved a broom.
It was a saying around Catawba for years even though the couple referenced did not do the act. For instance, men would be sitting around Keffer’s store in Catawba during a Friday night and just sharing information. Now with women folk, I would say gossiping, but for men it would be sharing information. But I reckon it would be gossiping either way. So, someone would say, “I hear old John got married last week?” Someone would answer, “Yeah, he and Maude finally jumped the broom stick.” I have used the expression myself throughout my lifetime, raising some eyebrows in the process.
Shivaree is definitely a “ horse of another color.” Shivaree is an old world term which we Appalachians have substituted the word “Serenade”. Before the movement of the settlers from Europe to the Appalachian mountains range, they had practiced the event of shivaree after a couple got married or jumped the broom if you will.
Custom has it that after marriage and a honeymoon a couple would be serenaded or celebrated by a group of friends and kin. They would come unannounced, to the house of the newlyweds with a great revelry of noise awakening the couple, forcing them to come outside demanding candy, sweets, and cigars. Sometimes the groom would have to push his bride around in a wheelbarrow, and the groom would be carried on a rail around the house several times while the crowd banged pots and pans, sometimes shooting guns to create an extremely loud environment. It could get to the point of the serenaders entering a house and removing the bride and groom from their bedroom. Folks, you could not make up the kind of stuff.
Back in 1958, a just married young couple in the mountains moved in with the groom’s mother and father. A week or so after the marriage all four residents had retired for the night, and all lights were off. Their sleep would be interrupted by voices yelling, the beating of spoons on pans, a cow bell ringing, two or three “cherry bombs exploding, a blast from what sounded like a 16 gauge shotgun. Unsure of whether or not this was a nightmare or reality the bridegroom looked out an upstairs window and saw a yard full of familiar faces waving and shouting, “come out here this is a serenade! His Pa and Ma were awake, so he asked them what to do. They advised him to get dressed and get outside before all of Catawba was awakened. The bride and groom quickly dressed and stepped out the door into the yard with the noise escalating as multiple voices were proclaiming; “this is a serenade, demanding cigars and candy treats. The newlyweds stated they had no such items in the house. Not the right answer as several of the young men swooped in and grabbed the bridegroom and lifted him upon an eight-foot-long chestnut rail and had him straddle it. Holding him on the rail as if he was on a horse they ran around the house with the rider hanging on for dear life, bouncing up and down on that narrow piece of wood. The noise and yelling got even louder as the rail holders completed the third trip around the house. Again, they demanded candy and cigars, candy and cigars. Someone in the crowd volunteered to go out to the nearby Keffer’s store getting the operator to open up and purchased a box of cigars and a box of Hershey bars. Finally, mercifully, after one more rail ride the groom was allowed to touch the ground. Then it ended. Another Catawba marriage and another serenade occurring. I will not name any names, but it was “painful” for me to write this story.
Three months ago we released the first Echoes From Catawba book called Volume 1 Growing up in Catawba Valley Appalachia. Each book that is published will have a “volume” number. The next book to be released later this year will be Volume 2, then Volume 3, etc.
We printed a limited number of the hardback books which are First Edition books for release three months ago for the book signing and sales following that up until now. These hardbacks are the Collectors Edition. All of the first edition printing of any worthwhile books are an investment due to it being a limited number and first printing. They will increase in value as the years go by. The Volume 1 book is available on Amazon but that book is the paperback version only. So what does this all mean to you?
If you purchased the hardback edition already, you are fine and have a first edition copy of Volume 1 and on track to build a valuable set. If you have not purchased a hardback copy yet, and you want to build a set then you may want to consider getting one now.
We held some Volume 1 books back to have for sale this year but they have continued to sell and our supply is slowly dwindling. I want you to be aware of this so you will have an opportunity to still get one.
Hardback books can be purchased in three ways: www.echoesfromcatawba.com website, The Emporium in New Castle, or the Salem Museum in Salem.
Our Blog continues to grow in popularity, spreading out to many states reaching Catawabians everywhere. After the recent article about the Catawba Sanatorium, we have had 1,174 views and 980 visitors through four days.
Without warning, that which came into the Appalachian Mountains referred to as the Silent Killer or the White Plague, would leave our family without a father and even worse, a provider. Such was the case in that year 1943 when our Dad Clarence Carroll, would be diagnosed with the dreaded Tuberculosis (TB) disease that would take away the family breadwinner for nine years. Daddy was at age thirty-one at the time and was employed by the Catawba Sanatorium as assistant store manager since the late 1930s’. The irony is not lost on the fact, that Daddy would still be going to the Sanatorium, not as an employed store-keeper but as a patient “on the cure” to reside there, indefinitely.
Our mother, Elizabeth Garman Carroll was twenty-eight when Daddy departed and had four children to care for; Jeanie, Teddy, Barbara and Nancy all age nine and younger. Jeanie was the baby at eighteen months. I cannot remember the specifics of that day when he left although I knew something was wrong in the Carroll household. Sister Barbara, age five at the time well remembers the day he left us. She said “Mama was ironing Daddy’s pajamas on an ironing board by the side of the bed. Jeanie, just a baby at the time was lying on the bed. As she continued ironing, Mama was crying, and we did not know what was wrong”. Looking back, it was obvious she was packing Daddy’s clothes for his stay at the Sanatorium, which would be measured in years.
Our situation, by any reckoning, was not a good one. First and foremost, Daddy’s battle with TB was one of a very long process, and there were no guarantees of his survival and return to his family. Secondly, we as a family, with a mother in her late twenties who had four children to feed, clothe and raise. We had just moved into a newly built house on one acre of land beside the Catawba School. We had a roof over our head, but that came with a monthly mortgage. We had no vehicle, nor anyone licensed to drive one. It was a dire situation even by Appalachia standards. The Catawba Sanatorium built in 1909 was the first built TB sanatorium in Virginia. This facility was specifically for TB patients and was within walking distance of our home.
Daddy’s only hope-The Catawba Sanatorium
The good news that existed through this situation was that we had a facility that was already in place and had been in operation for about thirty-four years when Daddy was admitted. What would be the chances that the first TB sanatorium to be built in the Commonwealth of Virginia would be in Catawba, Virginia? And to be within a ten-minute walk from our house? My answer would be “divine intervention” with regards to our family’s thinking, and there would be more “divine intervention” as you continue to read.
The Roanoke Red Sulphur Springs Resort Becomes Catawba TB Sanatorium
Catawba Valley is thought to the first settlement in what in what would become Roanoke County. James McAfee appears to be the first to receive a land grant in Catawba which records show him acquiring two tracts of 350 acres in December of 1740. James McAfee and his sons would acquire more land in Catawba in 1749. They would get wanderlust in 1771 and head off to Kentucky. The McAfees would own the land that would eventually become Catawba Sanatorium, although it would change hands and others would own parcels that totaled 700 acres in the 1850s’. The owners were businessmen from Salem and would invest in a resort that would be charted by the Commonwealth of Virginia as the Roanoke Red Sulphur Springs Company in 1858. This property contained limestone and Sulphur springs on it, and the intent of ownership was to market the resort as a “healing” and rest resort for the elite. The Catawba location at the foot of North Mountain drew many wealthy folks to enjoy the peace, tranquility, fresh air, beauty, quietness and of course the springs that would have healing qualities. At the height of its success, it would have about 300 guests present in the main hotel. This would continue until the Civil War caused the resort to close its doors. The Roanoke Red Board met in 1864 and voted to dissolve the corporation.
In 1876 it was sold to Josephus Flavius Chapman who along with his son purchased the Red. They ran it as a resort, also, marketing it as a “healing” place. Chapman bottled the water and sold it as “Catawba Iron or All Healing” water being valuable in the treatment of lung diseases. The Chapman children would, in 1901 sell it to the Commonwealth of VA. Additional land was sold to the Commonwealth by the Chapmans in 1908. The first ever TB sanatorium for TB treatment in Virginia would be the Catawba Sanatorium. That is where our daddy was going for treatment.
And our family was facing how to survive in the years ahead.
Our status was that our small wood frame home was about three years old setting on a one-acre lot beside the Catawba Elementary school. The lower half of our property faced South boarding along the old Catawba Mountain Road which would be the new Rt. 311 in the early 1950s’. That area was fenced and had a barn with a milking stall, a small feed room and a small area for hay storage. We had one milk cow and several chickens. A garden spot was in the front part of our lot below the grapevines and near the house. We had indoor plumbing but had to heat the water for dishwashing and bathing.
There was a single coal-burning furnace in the middle of the basement floor with a heat register above it to heat the house. You had to stand close to this one register to get warm. The house was usually cold, and snow would sift through the windows on occasion during a windy snowstorm. There were two small bedrooms and being the only male, I slept in a fold-up, rollaway bed. Later, plywood flooring was laid on half of the attic area where I got a bed and a small dresser. It was like sleeping in a refrigerator in the winter. I did get to sleep with a bed pig some, and the girls did too. A bed pig is a porcelain or clay hot water bottle shaped like a pig that was used as a bed warmer. The bed pig was brought over from Scotland by our ancestors. I got so used to being cold growing up that I can handle cold weather very easily now. I liked sleeping with that pig.
Food, clothing and other necessities of life.
We had a milk cow which provided milk, butter, and buttermilk. Mama milked the cow until I was seven or eight and then she let me milk once a day. I always liked to milk and squirt milk from the teat to the cat who was always there at milking time. Mama caught me one time and stopped that. We would get rid of the cow a few years later trading her for cash and a rabbit hutch and two rabbits. I did not like taking care of the rabbits, but that was one of my jobs. I assume we sold some and ate some, although I can’t remember Mama telling us we were having rabbit for supper. Talking to my cousins at times they would say that their mothers would cook up meat that they did not know where it came from. In the mountains it did not matter; food was food and eat or go hungry. Our rabbit raising lasted less than a year because they took up valuable time and the rabbit food pellets were a wasted expense. I did not cry when the rabbits left.
We had a garden that we ate out of and Mamma canned all kinds of food. We grew European Concord grapes that came from the Old Country, they were planted at most all houses in Catawba and all over Appalachia. They made great jelly. We picked berries of all kinds from the fields and mountains. We gathered walnuts, hickory nuts, chestnuts, and chinquapins. Chinquapins are like the American chestnut but much smaller and very tasty.
We raised chickens for eggs and meat. Also, at a young age, Mama taught me how to kill a chicken for frying. First, I would chase a reluctant chicken, catch it and take it to a wood chopping block. I would lay it down on the block with the head and neck on the block and with a hatchet or ax cut the head off. Then I would throw it under an overturned bushel basket and let it a flop for less than a minute and it would go limp. After that, we would put it in a container of scalding water, remove it and pick all the feathers off. If Barbara was nearby, I would chase after her with the headless chicken before picking the feathers. I believe Mama put a stop to that like she did with my squirting milk in the cat’s mouth.
Kinfolk of the Carroll and Garman families would help us out as well as other folks in the valley. Catawba people would help each other in time of need and no one was going to go hungry for sure. As hard as we had it we always had something to eat. We could buy what we needed from Keffer’s store on credit and often someone would put money towards that bill. We will never know this side of heaven, who all helped us during that very trying time. Helping others in need still goes on in Catawba today.
Our mother was the youngest of the Garman family of seventeen and as a result, spoiled rotten. But in that time of her childhood and youth, she worked and learned how to survive. She was prepared to care for us during that time. Cooking and sewing were learned growing up in Appalachia. That would come in handy after Daddy was gone. Mama had a Singer sewing machine and she was an excellent seamstress. She made dresses for the girls and I remember her making me a shirt or two. She made aprons, curtains, and other items all on that old Singer sewing machine. Almost all the time in those early years the cloth needed to make things came from feed and flour sacks. We would buy feed from Keffer’s store and use the cotton sacks to make clothes. The sacks had pretty designs on them and would make attractive clothing. Cloth would be bought at times, but the sacks were always utilized. This was true for all Catawba households.
The Long Journey of being Cured.
Dr. J.B. Nichols was the Director of the Sanatorium and had been in that position since 1917 when Daddy arrived. He would remain in the director’s position and retire in 1953, the same year Daddy was released to live at home permanently. Dr. Nichols was an excellent director and a fine man. All our family thought highly of him, and he helped us greatly to get through this difficult time. There were five resident doctors on staff at the time including a Catawba resident, Dr. Lula Woods Garst who lived near the Sanatorium. We were often guests at her home. Dr.Garst, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond was among the first women doctors in Virginia.
When our daddy entered the Sanatorium, he was quarantined in a room so that the status of his TB infection could be observed. This is normal for newly admitted patients and was strictly enforced due to passing on the disease through coughing, etc. In the early stages of confinement, Mama had to talk to him from outside his room. We children could wave at him when he came to the window. I’m not sure how long Daddy was in quarantine, but over time he could with us interact in person.
Most patients that arrived at the sanatorium had already been infected with TB. The symptoms at the outset are coughing, fever, generally feel bad, which could have led folks back then to feel like they had a cold or flu. Regardless of the degree of infection, the process of the treatment was the same; rest, nutritious food and plenty of fresh air. The quality of the Catawba air was perfect for curing this disease. Exposure to the outdoors, both winter and summer was critical. No one could stay in a room, due to lack of ventilation. Daddy, along with others, would sleep on the long porches that were screened in. Patients did this in winter time in the cold and snow. Daddy told us that the blowing snow would “sift” through the screen and fall on their bed covers. Those top covers would be removed come morning and the snow was shaken off. This does not sound like something that would be true, but it was. The only way to cure TB then was fresh air regardless of the temperature.
During Daddy’s stay in the 1940s, streptomycin became available which helped by attacking the bacteria and hastening the overall treatment of TB. But the process of curing someone and allowing them to get strong and healthy to return to their homes was still lengthy.
By 1937, the sanatorium had 340 beds, a store, post office, school, barbershop, and a chapel. Patients who were not bedridden had the opportunity to learn basic secretarial skills, including typing. There was an excellent library which over time would have several thousand volumes. Leathercraft was also an option for patients, and our daddy learned how to make wallets. I saw some that he made and they were very professional looking.
In 1928 patients were provided with radios; each person in each building was given headphones.
Church services were conducted twice a week in the chapel. The chapel was constructed of Catawba stone at the cost of $8000. Later an amplifying system was installed in the chapel for services and other programs to be broadcast to bed patients.
Some Interesting Facts About Catawba Sanatorium.
As the Catawba Sanatorium grew in size beginning in 1909, it would employ a significant number of Catawbians (a few from Craig and Botetourt) people providing the local folks to have a better standard of living. Catawba natives have always enjoyed a reputation for being reliable, honest and hardworking employees, so it was a natural for the Sanatorium (and later on when it became Catawba Hospital) to employ them. It benefitted Catawbians in many ways, most notable to not have to cross Catawba Mountain twice a day to work in the Roanoke/Salem area. Living in the Valley near the Sanatorium/Hospital was a huge convenience. The health care and retirement benefits were welcomed.
The Sanatorium property included a fire and a weather station. The Sanatorium had its own fire company of two trucks which were skillfully manned by their own employees in case of fire. A fire threat was real with the original wooden buildings and no fire department nearby. The sanatorium also had its own weather bureau and accurate weather records were kept in the office of the business manager.
A farm was set up in the first decade of the TB Sanatorium’s existence with a barn constructed in 1918. The farm would become a source of milk products to the Sanatorium when the pasteurization and bottling of milk began. The farm had over thirty dairy cows and two bulls. Hogs were kept in a free-range environment on the wooded ridge opposite the farm feeding on mostly acorns and food scraps. No vegetables were grown for the Sanatorium because the Catawba growing season was too short and it was cheaper to buy them at the Roanoke Farmer’s Market.
My grandfather Elbert W. Carroll managed the farm in the 1930s until he was killed in an accident on the farm in 1941. Daddy worked on the farm until he took the job at the Sanatorium as assistant store manager. I worked on the farm during the summer, but not as a paid employee. I mainly worked in the haymaking time and did other odd jobs. There were three generations of Carrolls connected to the Sanatorium farm.
Life Without Daddy Continues for the Carroll Family.
I mentioned divine intervention and promised more evidence of that. As I stated earlier, being within walking distance of the sanatorium was an act of God. But there would be more. Before his being admitted for TB treatment, Daddy would drive us all to the Catawba Valley Baptist Church which was five miles from our home. One of the oldest churches around, this was the home church of Daddy’s family, and we really enjoyed going there. But his absence left us with no way to get to that church. However, there was a Catawba Methodist Church just across the road from our house, and we would attend that one for many years. When Daddy returned home for good in 1953, he would go back to Catawba Valley Baptist church and was serving there as Superintendent of Sunday School at his death in 1972. We continued at the Methodist church with Daddy going there on special occasions and us going with him to his church on special occasions.
We also had the Catawba School grades 1-7 right beside our home and Mama worked there for several years as a cook. Minor Keffer’s store and the post office was a three-minute walk away when we needed food, feed, ammunition and everything else that we needed for country living. Praise God for all those places that did not require transportation.
We had good times and experiences regardless of the struggles.
We were able to visit relatives (especially on the Garman side) quite often. There was always someone who would pick us up and take us to Grandad and Grandma Garman’s house, or to Aunts and Uncles homes to visit with our cousins. Homemade ice cream and playing games were our entertainment. Sometimes we would spend the night. Saturday night dances and music by the Garman brothers and others were held at the old mill, which is now part of the Grace Assembly of God campus. I can remember going to Lakeside, a rodeo, and a circus in the Roanoke/Salem area. Extended family and nearby neighbors treated us like their own children. Barbara and I spent summers with Wilma and Gene at the Garman homeplace. These were really fun times!
Each summer on the 4th of July all of Daddy’s family (Carroll’s) would come over to our house for a picnic. We would get our first watermelon of the summer. We children would set in the yard and watch the old, winding Catawba Mountain road for their cars to come. This was an exciting day for us, and they all would visit Daddy at the Sanatorium afterward. The Carroll family helped us financially to keep our home.
We had an old radio and listened to it a lot with some of our favorites being the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers/Dale Evans. I liked listening to Country Music on WCKY Cincinnati 1, Ohio at nighttime especially the WCKY Jamboree. This AM station had a powerful signal at nighttime and came in very clear in the Easter U.S. including the Appalachian Mountains. I was not the only one listening as most mountain folks that had a radio were tuned in, also.
We played croquet during the summer in our front yard. My vivid remembrance of this game was when sister Barbara hit me in the forehead with her mallet. I still have the scar. She stands firm to this day that she committed this assault to punish me for cheating.
Other (non-violent) games we played included Uncle Wiggly, Rook, Monopoly and Checkers. Putting puzzles together was a fun and challenging thing to do.
Barbara recalls the time during World War II and experiencing frightening thunderstorms
“Daddy was hospitalized during World War II and I am sure that was difficult and a little scary for Mama. I can remember going to Minors (Keffer store) with ration stamps for sugar. He had a big jar on the back counter where he would put the stamps. I believe the amount I received was one pound. It was like gold at the time.”
“There were ‘blackout times’ which were drills that were taken seriously. The reason was so that if enemy planes flew over, they would not be able to see lights. Electric lights had to be turned off and lanterns had to be snuffed out. Each locality had an air raid warden who would come to your house, knock loudly on the door, and yell ‘black out, black out’. Bill Bishop was usually the person coming to our home, scaring us with the warning. We would cut all lights off and go on to bed or huddle together on the floor. Sometimes we would cut the radio on. Sometimes the president would speak.”
“Sometimes we would have bad, summertime thunderstorms which would frighten all of us and Ted’s dog Skippy. Skippy would hide under the back porch. Mama would sit in her rocker in the living room and gather us four around her as we sat on the floor. She would read to us as the thunderstorm roared outside. On one night during a storm, lightning struck a large locust tree in the back yard and ran into the house. The house did not catch fire but the floor we were sitting on got very hot. We jumped up off the floor because of the heat. The tree that was struck split down the middle. After that, Mama became very fearful of thunderstorms and from then on when one started, she took us to a nearby neighbor’s house. The Keffers, Fringers and Uncle Kermit & Aunt Virginia always welcomed us in until the storm passed. Another thunderstorm stuck the Catawba Sanatorium main barn and burned it down. That was about one-half mile from our house, and we watched it burn to the ground. The blaze was huge and scary. For years we all were frightened when a bad storm came through. The experience was one that we all would never forget and Mama would share it many times in the future.”
Daddy finally comes home to stay
Our daddy would come home for brief visits later in his confinement years. At first spending one night on a Friday, then two nights and finally the whole weekend. We would wait in the kitchen and get really excited when he came in the back door. He would always bring us a roll of Necos (thin wafer flavored candy) and a carton of six Dr. Peppers. Those were wonderful times, especially for me because I would not be the only male in the house!
After nine years our Daddy would come home to stay in 1953, almost a decade since he left. He would be cured of TB but the wear and tear of the disease would shorten his life, leading to his death by cancer in 1972 at age 60.
I reckoned I would die that night, sleeping in the back of a pickup truck parked alongside Barbours Creek in Craig County. The only question in my mind was how I would perish. There were three options: Freezing, by fire or gas fumes. I was definitely in prayer mode and focused on the apostle Paul who said in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” I wondered if Paul (who dealt with many adversities) had ever slept in the back of a pickup in sub-freezing weather? Then I made a mental note to ask him since I would be in his presence soon.
You folks are wondering right now: What is Ted talking about? That’s a reasonable question and I will answer it. Tina and I had left Greensboro on a Friday morning heading north and I had Craig County on my mind. What about Catawba you may ask, as in Echoes from Catawba? Well, we are going through Catawba to visit adjacent Craig where I have many good memories. To me, Craig and Catawba have always been interchangeable due to kinship, location and having so much in common. Also, at the recent book signing of my first book, I had several folks from Craig who purchased books and at the same time asking if I wrote any about Craig County? I thought why not since the similarities were many. Thus, as we were traveling up Route 220 north, I reached into the inside pocket of the back of my mind to flush out some decade’s old Craig memories. And those memories came pouring forth like the water that was hurrying down Barbours Creek that cold November final day of deer hunting season.
A Hunting We Will Go
It all started with planning to hunt on that final Saturday of the season. I was a freshman at Virginia Tech at the time and we had Saturday classes. Choosing to play hooky that day to get some venison for the freezer, I accepted Jim Camper’s invite to go to Barbours Creek to hunt. I had hunted that area before and had always seen deer. Jim wanted to go down the night before and said we could spend the night near where we would hunt. I assumed he had found a cabin where we could stay. I did not ask questions about the sleeping arrangements. I should have asked questions about the sleeping arrangements because when we arrived at the hunting sight, he pulled off the road and parked the truck. Quickly, I found out about the sleeping arrangements. He pulled a tarp out of the truck bed and pulled it over the pickup truck frames, tying everything down. I looked inside and there were two sleeping bags on a thin mattress that smelled of mold. Also, inside the bed was a kerosene lamp. Jim said the kerosene lamp would be at the foot near the tailgate and we would sleep with our heads up behind the cab. We would sleep in the sleeping bag with our hunting clothes on but removing our boots. I chose to keep my boots on. Darkness fell quickly, and we settled down as temperatures would drop into the low twenties. I got settled in by sleeping on my back staring up at the tarp.
It was apparent that it was going to be a wintry night, but that was not the main concern. The lamp at the foot of the truck bed was brightly burning, making me wonder what if something caught fire or would the fumes put us to sleep forever. Freezing to death seemed the most likely outcome as the clock started ticking down the minutes as I shivered while trying to sleep. How I survived that night I do not know. Probably the longest night of my life.
Finally, it was time to get up and the moving around outside the truck warmed me up a bit. Into the woods we went and took up separate places to spend the day waiting for that special moment. All day I stayed on that same ground munching on a candy bar from time to time. I was hunting with my granddaddy Carroll’s 12-gauge pump shotgun that my daddy had hunted with before he got TB and had to go to the Catawba Sanatorium. About an hour before dark, I started getting thoughts that this would be a failed hunt being as I had not seen anything resembling a deer. Then out of nowhere, this buck bounded up over a bank coming face to face with me about fifty feet away. The deer stood motionless as I raised the gun and fired. Down went the deer and my day was a success. Jim and I gutted the deer and took it out of the woods to the truck. A day to remember but a night to forget.
The Swimming Hole
We did not have our own swimming hole growing up in Catawba because Catawba Creek was too narrow and too straight to ever have a place where the water would be deep. Straight down the hill at the end of the parking lot at The Homeplace Restaurant, there was a slight bend in Catawba Creek that had a 4-foot bank on one side. You could sit in the water and that was about all you could do. So, I discovered that where the water left the bend, we could build a dam. We then got rocks and logs and placed them across the narrow most section of the creek. We succeeded in getting the water to rise in the bend area to a level of 3-4 feet. It was a success——for about five minutes at which time the water pressure of a deeper pool would burst through the dam and our swimming hole was gone. Being young and hard-headed we rebuilt the dam time after time with the same result. Catawba did not have a swimming hole! But the good news was that Craig County had numerous places that had traditional swimming holes. Problem solved.
It was customary practice to go down to Craig on Sunday afternoon in the summertime to swim in the usually chilly waters of Craigs Creek. The Blue Hole was one option although it was deep and dangerous, especially when you were alone or even with just two or three. I had always heard that one side of the pool was bottomless. It was scary, and I do not remember many trips there. The most popular spot was an accessible area that had a rope tied up high in a tree that was right on the bank. You could swing out over the water and drop into the water which we would do time after time. The opposite side of that area had shallow water where the older boys who had cars could drive into the creek to wash their vehicles. That worked very well in this all-purpose swimming hole. It was a popular place to go and stop at Roe Abbotts store afterward for a treat.
I will never forget the most memorable swimming area in Craig as it was where I would learn to swim. To know how to swim was a must in the mountains because there were creeks everywhere and going into them to swim, or in many cases to bathe, was a safety measure. At an early age, I was afraid of the water, but Mama was determined that I would learn to swim and get over the fear. That was good, and later I was very thankful as I turned out to be a strong swimmer. But the process of getting there was not a smooth one.
It was a typical Sunday afternoon and we were at a good spot to swim and picnic on the creek bank. We had been there for a while and Mama had coaxed me to come into the water. I would try to be brave, but I would cut and run out of the water at the last moment. Mama did not have a lot of patience and what little she had was wearing thin. Some of the older boys and girls were playing in the creek splashing each other and having a big time. I was standing about three or four feet from the bank’s edge having a big time watching them. I remember to this day that before I knew what was happening, I was lifted up and sent flying through the air, landing in deep water going under on impact and flailing away as I came up. One of the older boys grabbed me and got me into an area where I could stand up with my head out of the water. It seemed that the fear had left me and from that day on I would quickly learn to swim. That was kind of the way it was done in the Valley. You learned by whatever means it took and the end always seemed to justify the means.
Cow Pasture Baseball
Growing up in Appalachia there was not much time for sports, and when there was time, there was no money for equipment. I guess the two sports that existed in the thirties, forties and fifties would be basketball for both men and women, baseball for men and softball for women. But baseball seemed to be the most popular with men starting out playing as young boys and playing into their forties or beyond, after that, the menfolk turned to pitching horseshoes. All things considered, baseball was big, especially in Craig County. Baseball was America’s favorite pastime back then and remains so today. There were skillful players who were just country boys without coaching or instruction but with loads of raw talent. Back in the early to mid-1900s, the biggest difference was equipment. Some had the money to buy decent equipment but most improvised. It was amazing how much mileage we got out of one baseball. Even after it was soiled and scratched we continued to use it. At some point in time the cover would come off and the inner part would unravel. The naked baseball would be taped with black tape and we would use it for our batting practice.
During a game, we started with one new ball. When it was fouled off into the brush, the game stopped while players and fans looked for the ball. The game resumed until the ball went into the brush again. The gloves that were used were small, raggedy and contained little padding. Although store-bought bats were used, some bats were made on wood lathes and heavy to swing. Home plate was made of a board and sometimes painted white. The bases consisted of a burlap feed sack with sawdust in them. Most of the time the bases were way too big, and players would trip over them. The bases stayed on the field all the time, and I can remember at the Catawba field, finding fish worms under them to use for fishing. It was always wet under those bases.
The ball field we played on at Craig was flat, it also served as a cow pasture. The field had a chicken-wire backstop and a smooth infield. However, we had to shovel cow piles off the infield before the game. The outfield was just pasture land with broom sage grass, cedar seedlings, black snakes, ticks and chiggers. Other than that, playing outfield was no problem. Sometimes the cows would wander too close and we had to run them away. We would clean our shoes off when we came into bat each inning. Regardless of the circumstances, we played each Sunday afternoon weather permitting.
As Tina and I rode along heading down the gap towards New Castle I had covered some memories. But New Castle was coming up fast and we were looking forward to getting over to the Old Brick Hotel and the Craig County Historical Society. That would be a real highlight of our trip.
We pulled into the parking area at the Old Brick Hotel at one o’clock to meet with Diane Givens. Diane, whom we would soon find out is a dedicated steward of the history of Craig County and its people and places. The Craig County Historical Society (CCHS) is an organization that has been active for many years preserving the culture and buildings of this mountain county’s great history. My interest was to find out what the CCHS was involved with and tour the Genealogy Library and the Old Brick Hotel/Museum as well.
One question I have been asked before “why we should be concerned with old buildings and go to a lot of expense and effort to restore/preserve them?” Many people state that the old days are gone, and we live in a post-modern world. There are many reasons why we need to preserve our heritage. Preservation of buildings is important because it provides a sense of identity and continuity of our towns, cities, and nation, in a fast-moving world for the benefit of present and future generations. The culture and heritage of the generation that preceded us reflect who we are today through the values, beliefs, and aspirations that they forged. We need to remember those things so that we can pass them on to the future generations. Old buildings and landmarks remind us of our locality’s culture. Once they are gone, they can not be replaced, and we have lost more than bricks and mortar. I am writing Echoes from Catawba for the sole purpose of preserving and maintaining the values, beliefs, and culture that our forefathers of Appalachia (Catawba/Craig) gave to us.
The Genealogy Library of the CCHS is in a recently built room off of Main Street and it is a gold mine of information regarding people and places throughout Craig’s vast history. It is a place where one can go to and utilize the results of a dedicated effort to assist folks in researching families. Shelves are loaded with books and documents for those doing research regarding Craig County. The Genealogy Library is attached to the historical area of the Old Hotel and Museum. Cabins and the Jeffersonian Architecture Courthouse built in 1852 when the county was founded are located nearby. It is very impressive.
From the Genealogy Library, we walked into history. Maybe over 170 years ago!
We walked out of the Genealogy Library through a hallway right into the Old Brick Hotel. The actual date of the construction of the hotel is not known because during the Civil War the Union General David Hunter’s army passed through and destroyed the county’s early court records. Evidence gathered through resident’s testimonies have served to establish a date of the 1840s as the time the first stage of the hotel was constructed. Examination of the building’s construction shows three stages of building. Records show the hotel would end up in the Looney family who would sell the hotel to the CCHS in1983 for $21,000. The intent of the CCHS was to restore the hotel for a museum, meeting place and office with a library of history/genealogy books and records, craft shop and other uses for public benefit and enjoyment. From what I saw the CCHS has met that intent and more.
The first floor of the hotel holds the Genealogy Library, the former Star Saloon and Inn Room (once the hotel office). The rooms on the first-floor are filled with paintings, photos, memorabilia of all sorts, wartime uniforms, maps, pottery, baseball items, and many, many more interesting things that would keep you spellbound gazing at them. My favorite first-floor room was the dining room and working kitchen. Restoration efforts have resulted in an oval oak table from the boardroom of the original First National Bank. Antique quilts & dishes along with other objects of interest all combine to give the room a look of elegance. Dinners are held here for special occasions. Many items have been donated by local folks.
The second floor consisted of hallways adorned with a WWII Honor Roll, antique desk, wall phone, and a unique church bench. As usual, these and other items were donated.
The Display Room caught my eye with vintage instruments, lace, inkwells, and writing instruments and an 1880’s painting of Zulu Farrier. Four front porch rooms portrayed different themes. A “Man’s Room” containing a barber chair, “sick chair,” photos, signs, and a history of the CCC Camp # 1368 in Barbours Creek. Also included were old tools. Other rooms had portraits, an old phonograph, a typewriter, plus old toys and handmade toys dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. An interesting bedroom furnished with belongings and photographs of Marshall and Virginia Lipes Reynolds along with Marshall’s desk, chair, and clothing. Another room contained antiques, including a flax wheel, doll chest, and a vintage guitar.
The third floor continued with theme-oriented hallways and a half dozen rooms. One can enjoy a self-guided tour, although we enjoyed a bonus with Diane interpreting for us.
The Little Cabin That Could and the Community That Would. – The Holstein Cabin
“The Little Engine That Could” is an American fairytale that came out in 1930. The story is used to teach the value of optimism and hard work. I cannot think of a better analogy to describe the journey of the Holstein Cabin.
This historic cabin was built in the early 1800s located on Craig’s Creek about a mile from New Castle. The cabin was the residence of the Henry Holstein family. Henry Sr. was a farmer and a road surveyor during the 1780s. His son Henry, Jr., was a minister and signed many early marriage certificates. Through the years other families would occupy the cabin.
In 1990 the cabin was dismantled and donated by the owner to Roanoke’s Explore Park. It would remain stored at the Explore site due to lack of funding to restore it for viewing. Explore Park opted to return the cabin to Craig County in 2017 subject to certain conditions. It would have to be reconstructed and made available to the public for educational purposes.
The Craig County Historical Society accepted the offer and the challenge of bringing the cabin home to stay. The new home for the “Prodigal Cabin” would be next to the Old Brick Hotel. Master builder Roger Davis would be in charge of restoration, overseeing the entire project. As of December 2018, Roger was busy cutting and shaping stone, and the cabin should be completed in 2019 and ready for viewing. The cabin inside will be furnished with Craig artifacts to reflect what life was like on the western Virginia frontier. Costs of restoration have exceeding first estimates. For anyone, not just local folks, wanting to see this exceptional building become a reality would be making a meaningful investment through a monetary contribution.
Keffer Cabin/Log House
Another interesting site to visit is the Keffer Log House located on Market Street in New Castle. This would be the first of the three cabins built on the grounds around the Old Brick Hotel. This cabin belonged to Hillary Jackson Keffer and wife, Elizabeth Mills Keffer. It was moved from Happy Hollow on Sinking Creek in March 1999 and rebuilt by Roger Davis of Montana, Master Cabin Builder, and Robert Echols (1913-2013) of Happy Hollow. Mr. Echols lived next door to the Keffers when he was young. The Craig County Historical Society sponsored the rebuild and restoration and held a dedication ceremony on October 10, 1999.
The Hawkins-Brizendine Cabin was built in 2000 of logs from the funeral home given by Buddy Boitnott and from the Hawkins homeplace on Route 614 given by Ashby & Flo Eakin. Volunteer workers on this one-story cabin included Bob Echols, Edwin and Curtis Abbott, Wes Carper, George Field, David and Shakey Boitnotte, and Lewis DeQuino, as well as useful advice and equipment from many others. It is next door to the Old Brick Hotel.
For an interesting trip back in time, visiting the Old Brick Hotel and cabins is a must see. Find more information about Craig County and the Old Brick Hotel here: http://visitcraigcountyva.com/
I believe the mountains that surrounded Catawba Valley, my birthplace, were talking to me long before they started calling me back after I had left in 1962. Like the Cherokees who called Catawba their home before the McAfees and other first settlers, I felt a special connection to this beautiful land that was a part of me and me a part of it. After one’s birth in the Appalachians, one goes from being a baby boy to a man in short order. I cannot say at what age that happened to me, but the mountains adopted me early in my life. As I look back now, I can understand I spent more time in the mountains along Catawba Creek and on farms than I did most any other place. It was in my blood, probably in the very marrow of my bones. The heartfelt feelings that a person has are sometimes hard to communicate, but maybe that is the way it is meant to be. After I had left Catawba, life itself would have its demands and those experiences growing up in Appalachia Catawba would be set aside, but always a part of me.
Over the years, in my physical absence from the Valley, I could hear the mountains calling to me. It seemed to always occur at times when I needed it the most, reminding me of my life growing up and the lessons learned. My Daddy used to tell me when a country boy leaves the farm he will always get homesick every time he hears a donkey bray. Back then in the nineteen thirties and forties we experienced a culture handed down to us from then Scot-Irish ancestors who forged a way of life that gave to the sons and daughters of Catawba, an identity, values, and strength that we could call upon throughout our lifetime. The following generations would have the opportunity to inherit that. This culture has been grossly misunderstood by non-Appalachians right from the beginning. And it has been that way for over a hundred years.
I had been away from the mountains for five decades and had been unaware of the absence of anyone preserving our heritage. A wave of guilt and shame came over me as I reflected on those five decades that the mountains were calling to me to come home and fulfill what had most likely been my responsibility all along. My first-grade teacher, Lucille Brillhart Garman had told me in the 1980s that someone needed to be writing about Catawba, and its people, places and times. “Teddy, you are the one to do that,” she said. I failed to take the initiative on that. In the 1990s a mentor of mine challenged me to write two books: One of a nonfiction subject and the other of my Appalachian mountain heritage. Again, I failed to respond, and the mountains kept calling me. I remained silent until the third and final calling came. This one would be from God. I would finally start listening to the call of the mountains, but it would happen in an unusual way. But according to Scripture, that is the way God lays out a servant’s path. It is a pleasure to share this time in my life. Read on, folks.
As a teenager in Catawba I felt that God was calling me to be a minister and although that did not happen back then, it would many years later. I would feel, strongly, that call again in the 1990s and move from Roanoke to Greensboro to pursue the necessary training through the Baptist Seminary Extension (off-campus) program. Ordained in 2004 and called to pastor a church in 2005 I began my ministry.
Jesus, in his walk here on earth, used symbols and metaphors referencing agriculture terms that people, in those times would relate to, since most lived off the land. I would incorporate some of my Catawba Valley, rural experiences to emphasize sermon points, using agriculture terms. People started asking me about my upbringing in the mountains during fellowship gatherings. That led to them asking me, “Why don’t you write a book about those times and places.” I would hear that at times over the next few years. People seemed to be genuinely interested in my life and times in the Catawba Valley area of the Appalachian Mountains.
Early in 2018, I realized that my mother Elizabeth, who was the last living member of the Will and Luemma Garman family of seventeen, was in physical decline. She passed away April 24, 2018 and begin her eternal life with her family in Heaven. About thirty days prior to Mama’s passing, my wife Tina and a couple of folks from my church were encouraging me again to write. As we always do, Tina and I discuss every meaningful decision. When I ask her what she thought I should do, she stated very plainly, “just write.” That was it, I got it and realized those echoes from Catawba needed to be recorded, not just for me, but for many. Finally, I responded, feeling this was what God wanted me to do.
The Journey Begins
Most everything Tina and I do, we do as a team, and this would be no different. In April 2018 we set up a simple website to post articles and photos about the life and times in Catawba Valley in the 1900s. We laid out a plan of people and places within Catawba that would be subjects for our articles. I decided to honor the Garman family, William and Luemma and the seventeen children (which includes my mother) through article coverage. Echoes from Catawba was born.
Within a couple of months, we had the idea to compile these posts into a book and publish it in November. The upstairs of our townhome became Echoes Central! We purchased a couple of desks and comfy office chairs for our loft. We upgraded our simple website to be able to include a store, photo albums and other bells and whistles. We set up a work table in our all-purpose room where we store books and supplies and put together packages to mail.
After selecting a family to write about, we gather information from the living descendants. For instance, when we wrote about Carra Garman Shepherd, we talked with her four children, ages 85-91. We traveled from our home in Greensboro, North Carolina to homes where we would talk, laugh and cry our way through conversations of reminiscing and viewing pictures, traveling back in time. These visits were highlights for us and the time and expense we put into the effort made us feel blessed in a way money could never buy.
Once we gather our information, Tina transcribes the tape-recorded interviews and I begin to write. At times during writing, the interviews continue, sometimes over the phone to answer specific questions. We go to extremes to get our facts right, and if we find a mistake, we correct it. After I put the first draft together, Tina proofreads it, checks spelling, grammar and formats it. The final process involves Tina picking out the pictures that will be used and placing them in the story. Then it comes back to me for final proofreading. We then post the story to the website, and it is announced to Echoes From Catawba followers through email notification and Facebook.
Today, we own the trademark for Echoes From Catawba and we’ve sold almost 200 books in less than 60 days after we published on November 18. Our website began in April, 2018 and to date it has had almost 7,000 visitors and 15,000 views.
The book Echoes From Catawba Volume 1 covers a variety of people and places, which worked out great in 2018. We have decided to duplicate this format and publish a volume each year, forming a collection of books, each different but all with the similar theme of growing up in Appalachia.
What a wonderful Blessing Tina and I received at the County Connection annual concert benefitting Operation Santa Claus for needy patients at Catawba Hospital, on December 16, 2018. They are very talented musicians and vocalists carrying on the talent passed down by their ancestors. I thought the musical arrangements were outstanding in every sense of the word. The Mountains were alive with the sound of our kind of music and we thought we would share it with you. Enjoy and Merry Christmas. Thank you County Connection, we are looking forward to hearing you again!
“And now Teddy Carroll will say his Christmas piece.” I slid off of the church pew and slowly walked to the area in front of the pulpit knowing that this was not going to go well. It was the annual Christmas program at Catawba Methodist Church when all the children would participate by reciting a “piece”. A piece was something in the Christmas scripture that we had been given to memorize in preparation for this moment during the Christmas program. The older children would have longer pieces to say than the younger ones like me. The girls always remembered theirs and said them perfectly. My mother was in charge of the program and had coached me for the past two weeks to get up, say my piece and sit back down. Easier said than done! My piece was from Luke chapter two verse eight. It had twenty words but Mama shortened it to six. I stood there fidgeting as a packed congregation waited. Mama was standing off to the side as she was directing the children’s program. She had a copy of each child’s piece enabling her to cue kids like me who got stage fright. I glanced over at her and she gave me that “wait until I get you home” look. This was definitely not going well at all. Finally, she prompted me:
Mama: “There were”.
Teddy: “There were”.
Mama: “in the fields”.
Teddy: “in the——–”
I received a soft, sympathetic applause as I walked back to the pew. As I passed by Mama she whispered, “wait until I get you home.” I was hoping the program would last longer.
This Church Christmas program format would be repeated at all the Catawba Valley churches the Sunday night before Christmas or on Christmas Eve, with mostly identical programs. There would be a large freshly cut cedar tree that had been decorated mostly with handmade ornaments and such. There would be presents under the tree and each child would get one. At the end, we would all get small, brown paper bags full of edible goodies. There would be an orange, hard candy, bubble gum, and nuts. Let me tell you right now, that was a big deal. I got my first orange at my first Christmas program and that would be the only orange I would get that entire year. Oranges and bananas were rare in the mountains. Now don’t get me wrong, we had fruit in the mountains: apples, pears, peaches, watermelon, cherries, berries, etcetera, but no citrus. Except at the Christmas program at our church. I will never forget those little brown paper sacks each Christmas. That was the only time during the year we all got an orange.
Christmas Comes to The Mountains
Christmas trees were introduced in Williamsburg in 1842. Christmas was declared a National Holiday in 1870. The practice of Christmas trees was introduced around 1900 in Appalachia by teachers who came to teach in the one-room schools sprinkled throughout the Mountains, including Catawba. It is believed that decorated trees in houses did not occur until the 1930s. I would assume the celebration of Christmas, Santa Claus, and gift-giving would have gotten its start at the same time. Once Christmas came it is for sure the celebration would be centered first and foremost in the churches and homes.
It was not unusual to have snow at Christmas since the snows came early in the mountains. They were usually deep and stayed late into the Spring. Getting one at Christmas was a real treat, but not as big as getting that juicy orange at church. The mountains are especially beautiful in the winter when snow is present and ice cycles hang down on buildings and trees, sometimes two or three feet long. Nature did her own Christmas decorations. I can remember the many snow fences that were placed along highways to prevent big drifts blocking travel. I guess they helped some.
Most families celebrated Christmas in the same manner when it came to gift giving. There was usually not much money in most families to spend on Santa Claus giving, although the priority would be focused on the children. We did not have any money in our house in the early years for toys, dolls and such. Oh, we believed in Santa Claus and wrote our letters to Santa each year hoping the Roanoke radio station would read them on the air. Dreaming about visions of sugar plums we would fantasize about all the many things boys and girls would desire to have left under the tree. I was one of those dreamers, but reality set in when we went to the living room where the Christmas tree was on Christmas morning. There would be presents for all, some wrapped, some unwrapped. Instead of a doll or a BB gun, there would be socks, underwear, jeans, mittens, scarves or some other article of necessity. I was heartbroken at times, as were my sisters although deep down we knew what was coming. Things would get better in the years to come but most of the children in the Valley in the 1930’s and 1940’s got things they needed, not things they wanted. Christmas was still a happy time as we would have a big meal, visit with kinfolk and do fun things. I had always wanted a train set but that was definitely a “dream”. I did take care of that at age 56 when I went to K Mart and got a train set to run under the tree. I used it for a few years after that, too.
Looking back, as a child growing up in those hard times I have never felt I was deprived or missed out on anything. We made do with what we had and we all pretty much had the same things. I learned lessons that serve me today knowing that I did not miss out on anything of value. After all, how many people can say they grew up in Catawba!
One of my cousins fondly remembered a typical Christmas. She wrote this:
“My early memory of Christmas was always going to Shiloh Church on Christmas Eve to participate in the program. I was nervous and excited to be a part of this special event but always happy when it finished, and I didn’t forget or mess up my part.”
Author’s note: Now, I want to point out a comparison between cousin Sandra’s experience and my experience, at a church Christmas program. Notice she says she got to participate while I had to “say a piece”. And she was “excited” while I “dreaded”. She was “happy”. I “doubled-dreaded”. She finished by saying, “I didn’t forget or mess up!” As for me, I bombed big time. My point: Those children’s Christmas programs back then should have been ‘girls only’. Boys should be there of course, so we could get an orange. Now that I have said my piece, er, made my point, I will let Sandra continue: “
— I loved when we drove home and we were in sight of our house, seeing the beautiful blue candles that Mama always placed in the windows. The family, usually, came over and we had so much good food and opened gifts, too. I am ashamed to say, but I was always anxious for everyone to leave so I could go to bed knowing that Santa was on his way. I was never disappointed because I always got everything on my list and more. I was one fortunate little girl, not because of the presents but all of the love that surrounded me in my home at Christmas time in Catawba”. By: Sandra Abbott.
Christmas Traditions from others:
There were Christmas traditions that different ethnic groups brought to the Mountains. The English settlers brought the tradition of hanging stockings on or near the fireplace. On Christmas morning they would be filled with goodies to eat or perhaps a small gift. In some cases, there would be coins in one’s stocking. The German settlers, (and we had some in Catawba), believed in a tradition called setting a table for Santa. Everyone’s plate was placed upside down on the table in their usual place and the table was moved to between the Christmas tree and a window. The next morning the plates were right side up and filled with candy, sweets and a small gift.
[Author’s note: If you recall in the Taylor-Made article in the Echoes From CatawbaBook-Volume 1, there is a comment about two young sisters who substituted live chickens for doll babies. I got a lot of comments from readers of that story about the ‘chicken dolls’. With that in mind you will enjoy this comment on Ole Time Christmas].
“On Christmas Eve we went to Shiloh Church for the annual Christmas program. When we got home, Daddy and Mama made us go to bed so Santa could arrive. On Christmas morning we rushed to the tree, where usually we had some candy and fruit, but this year there were two dolls, one for me and one for my sister Lola. We were so excited and happy since we now had dolls to carry instead of chickens! (Imagine how the chickens must have felt.) I was around 9 years old at that time. Years later, we learned that the dolls were given to Mama for us by our Uncle John Garman, who worked at Heironimus Department Store. What a wonderful and happy Christmas it was. (Yes, there was a Santa Claus- Named John.) By: Peggy Halsey
Catawba’s “Live Nativity Scene” Lives on. By: Betty Munsey
A simple idea suggested by a bunch of Catawba guys and spearheaded by Ted Carroll over sixty years ago has dominated my Christmas Eve plans for over forty years. Let me explain further. Members of the Catawba MYF(Catawba Methodist Youth Fellowship) thought it would be a good idea to build a simple wooden lean-to structure on the lawn in front of the Catawba Methodist Church and create a replica of the first nativity as it occurred in Bethlehem. The guys quickly constructed the nativity shed while others sewed costumes for church members who would serve as Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, and even the wise men. A doll wrapped in a white sheet was laid in a roughly built manger filled with straw. As cars stopped to view the scene, we were reminded to stay rigidly still and never talk. Visitors commented on the scene reflecting the true meaning of the season. Many left with tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces.
So now the rest of the story: Shortly after moving to Bland County where my husband and I have lived for over fifty years, I mentioned to our small rural congregation how Catawba Methodist held an outdoor live nativity scene to reenact Jesus Christ’s birth. The next year after time devoted to sewing robes and constructing a simple wooden nativity shed, our church’s first nativity was held on our church lawn over fifty miles to the west of the first I ever experienced. It has continued through the years regardless of the weather and is still attracting a steady stream of visitors on December 23rd and 24th. Every Christmas Eve you will find our family and friends helping with the nativity and in many cases holding the donkeys from our farm that have learned to stand as still as the Biblical characters.
Christmas Eve always held a special place in our small community as the Catawba Methodist Church youth gathered to go caroling in “downtown Catawba”. The church lot was the gathering place as cars filled with youth heavily bundled in winter clothes to offset the evening’s cold temperatures. We carried small, wallet-sized paper songbooks of favorite Christmas carols, usually starting with “Joy to the World” and always ending with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. Most residents were aware of our caroling tradition and had their porch lights on to welcome visitors. Sometimes we walked the side road, leaving our cars in the Store parking lot with Roy and Ellie Baugh’s house as the turn-around point. We looked forward to Ellie’s snicker-doodle cookies and Madeline Edwards, later Crawford’s hard candies. The evening usually concluded at the Tuck Garman house where Sue and Pam’s mother had delicious hot chocolate and more cookies waiting for us. One particularly memorable evening some of the youth group guys had shot fresh mistletoe from a tree on Catawba Mountain and used it to share Christmas kisses before we left to celebrate Christmas with our families. By: Betty Munsey
The Catawba Blizzard of 2009 and The Christmas Samaritan. By: Ted Carroll
It was exactly one week before Christmas 2009 as Tina and I departed our home in Greensboro, North Carolina heading to Catawba and Mama’s house. We drove separate vehicles, me in my pickup and Tina in the car. Our plan was to spend the night and Tina return to Greensboro on Friday morning while I would remain in Catawba until Sunday. I would be house-sitting and dog-sitting as Mama was in Williamsburg, having traveled with Barbara and some of her family. So, on that Friday, December 18, 2009, I was at the house with a big chow dog named Heidi and a major snowstorm on the way. I finished putting up outside Christmas lighting and loaded my pickup bed with firewood from the basement that I had intended to do before. I needed to get some weight on my truck for the anticipated snowfall. At 2:20 p.m., it started to snow through the afternoon, into the evening and was still falling as I went to bed at 10:15 p.m. The snow at that time measured seven inches.
Saturday, December 19, 2009, at 6 a.m. I crawled out of bed and got the coffee maker started. Opened the door to go outside and the storm door was blocked with snow. After pushing the storm door open with my feet, little by little I managed to open it wide enough to get outside. I looked out over the yard and was astonished. Having grown up in Catawba I was used to deep snows but that was in the 1940s and 1950s. Catawba did not have snows like this anymore, until that December day. I used the same level spot that I measured the evening before and took a reading. Seventeen inches and well over my boots. My first emergency was where to take the dog to use the bathroom. I had a good snow shovel that I had kept at Mama’s house for snowfall situations. I dug a path out into the yard so the dog could care of business, which she did. Back into the house, I fixed breakfast for me and Heidi while contemplating what to do next. In the meantime, I discovered Mama’s phone service was out.
The driveway was blocked and I could not get out and no one could get in. Mama would be due back the next day and not be able to get down the driveway. I wanted the driveway opened after she got back home and after I headed back to Greensboro. In case of an emergency, a vehicle could get to her. So I prayed to God to help me, not knowing at the moment what that might be. I could not shovel that driveway out by hand for sure. After a brief rest, I went back outside and the wind was blowing hard with snow starting to drift in places. I gazed across the road looking up at the Methodist Church Parsonage. I remembered that a lady was renting the house and she had two small children. I walked up to the Parsonage, which was not easy because of the snow depth. The lady answered my knock on her door and assured me she and her children were fine. Feeling better about that I trudged back to Mama’s house pouring myself another cup of coffee. I sat down in the kitchen and looked out at the winter wonderland being thankful that the electricity was still on, although phone service out. I then heard a noise that sounded like a vehicle on the road but quickly dismissed that thought until it became very loud. I stepped down from the kitchen area into the garage and looked out the garage door window. There was a large truck with a big blade attached to the front, push snow to the right looking like a huge ocean wave. All the way down to the end of the driveway near the grape vines. The driver backed up and started pushing snow off so as to clear a parking area near the house. Back up to the road the vehicle roared while widening the driveway and throwing a wave of snow that still hid the driver of the truck. It was something to behold and, I will admit, tears welling up in my eyes as I began to believe that God had sent me a driverless truck to clear away the snow. As I stepped out of the garage and the mist of snow finally settled I could see inside the truck cab. A young boy was in the passenger seat and the driver was exiting the truck on the far side. I recognized the driver who walked towards me with a smile on his face. It was Greg Duffy, whose father Paul I had gone to school with. He asked me if I was okay and I answered that I was now. He turned to walk back to his truck and I asked him, “how much do I owe you, Greg?” He turned back around and said: “just tell Mrs. Elizabeth I said Merry Christmas”. Off he sped, to push another driveway.
Greg Duffy went to be with the Lord on July 19, 2018, at age 54. Long before that day, he had told my mother that he was going to take care of her in any way he could over the years. And he kept his word. He was, as fine a person as I have ever known.
In Luke chapter 10 we read about the good Samaritan who came upon a man who was lying beside the road bleeding to death from being robbed and beaten. The Samaritan was just a regular person who would be unknown to most people but was a kind, thoughtful, humble person that would be the first to help someone in need. The Good Samaritan was not named in the Bible. The one in Catawba was named Greg Duffy!
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR
Echoes From Catawba
Ted & Tina Carroll
Like articles like this? Then you would love Echoes From Catawba Volume 1, Growing Up In Catawba Valley, Appalachia.
I am planning to do a post on the echoesfromcatawba blog about celebrating Christmas in Catawba as a child during the period 1935-1955. I am asking anyone who would like to share a comment about their “old timey” Christmas to do so. It can be on the kind of gifts you received, cutting a Christmas tree, Christmas activities in your church, etc. All folks participating will have their names put into a drawing with the winning name drawn receiving a $50 gift card. Deadline to submit your story is December 15th.
Keep it within 100 words. At the bottom of this post, under “Leave a Reply” share your story in the comment section.
Your stories will be included with my article I will be publishing before Christmas.
The 4 a.m. call I got that rainy Tuesday morning on April 24, 2018, informing me that my mother had passed away was not a surprise at all. The caller, my sister Barbara, had alerted me a few days earlier that it would happen at any time.
After the call I sat down with my thoughts, processing the loss which had been on my mind for the past few days. It was not just the loss of a mother, but the end of the largest family Catawba Valley, Virginia had ever known.
William and Luemma Garman had produced seventeen children starting in 1890 and ending in 2018 spanning a total of 128 years. Mama was the last of that line. Out of the seventeen children, there would spring sixty-six grandchildren. There was a wonderful story and history regarding this family that had never been told. I had arrived at that conclusion thirty days earlier in late March when Mama was obviously in her last weeks if not days. I sensed now a loss of not only a mother but a family dynasty whose story would most likely never be recorded.
I felt guilt and shame that I had not addressed this decades earlier when members of my family were alive and alert with tons of stories to tell. The last three: Mae Garman Peters, Earl Garman Taylor, and Elizabeth Garman Carroll Eakin had lived over 100 years each, with two of them knocking on the door of 109 years.
Twenty-five years earlier Lucille Brillhart Garman (my first-grade teacher) had told me: “Teddy someone needs to write about Catawba and the Garmans, and you are the one to do it. I heartily agreed, and then did nothing about it. The feeling of my letting the Garman family down had become a burden that was difficult to carry.
As always, I turned to God, and HE immediately put on my heart that it was not too late and I could write about this family and all of Catawba——just start writing. Lucille had said the same thing—just write. Next, I sat down with my wife Tina because nothing happens in our lives until we have prayed about it and discussed it together. Tina said, with authority, I might add—–just write. And I would! My life was going to change!
I was one of twenty-four grandchildren alive at that time (out of original 66) and there were multitudes of great-grandchildren, great, great grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren, etc out there that would know little about the families they descended from. They would know even less about Catawba and maybe zero about life in Catawba as experienced by their ancestors. The story of Catawba Valley, Virginia, its people, places, and events would have wide range appeal to non-Catawbians, rural and urban audiences. There would be a need to do this, and I was not going to let it slip by this time.
Thankfully, my wife Tina has computer skills and knows how to build a website and use social media. I would do the bulk of the writing and she would handle the publishing, marketing and technical oversight of this project.
She suggested setting up a blog for publishing monthly posts about the people and places of Catawba. Together we would interview people in Catawba to build our stories, and we would publish those stories in monthly posts to our Echoes From Catawba blog.
After many hours, many interviews and many miles the first book ever about the people and places of Catawba Valley, Virginia has been born. The echoes from the past have trickled down through the generations and present voices have carried the torch forward, passed on to the future generations to unveil the life and times of our nineteenth-century ancestors. Those ancestors came from mostly Northern Ireland but also Germany and England to find a better life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. In the early 1900s, they would create a unique community in this mountain-walled valley that would forever be called Catawba. On November 7, 2018, over 6,000 visitors had viewed the Blog site creating 13,000 views in seven month’s time!
Echoes From Catawba Growing Up in Catawba Valley, Appalachia contains all the posts written in 2018. The book is 6″ by 9″ with a hardcover and high quality throughout. We have used some blog pictures as well as some different ones that blend well with the printed stories. My writing style is different than most writers and I have no formal education on How to Write a Book. I gather information from Catawba people as they recall their childhood days growing up in a totally different world we live in now. I then used my personal experiences growing up in the mountains in the 1940s and 1950s as well as calling upon my memories of hearing what the previous generation conveyed to me. The echoes grew loud and clear.
After gathering information from interviews and research I would compose the stories with heart and humor so as to transform the reader back into those early times of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Any fiction that may crop up is strictly accidental and not intended. It may sound like fiction to some (that’s okay) but it is history put forth in stories written to induce a smile, maybe a tear and retained knowledge of rural life in the early 1900s.
This book puts an end to the erosion of knowledge of the people, their times and places that they left for us. There has existed a potential loss of great magnitude of our heritage in this postmodern world we live in now, especially to the younger generations. Echoes from Catawba Volume One puts an end to the lament of folks saying, “we need to be documenting the life and times of our parents and grandparents before it is all forgotten.” The coming together of Catawba people has created a groundswell of interest, effort, and support to document and preserve our great heritage. In the past seven months, I have witnessed an amazing spirit amongst those telling the stories as well as those reading the stories. That spirit lives within all Catawbians regardless of where they are now. Many have lived in Catawba all their lives. I hasten to add that this book has drawn the interest of urban people who have no connection to Appalachia and never experienced rural living. These are stories that should appeal to any reader.
I am hopeful that every Catawba household, regardless of where that may be, will have a copy of this book and all future volumes. We owe that to the people of the past and of the future. The stories are enlightening, interesting, heartwarming and inspiring.
Echoes From Catawba book release will be held at the Catawba Valley Holiday Market on Saturday, November 17 from 9 am to 3 pm.
The Holiday Market is held at the Catawba Valley Community Center at 4965 Catawba Creek Road, Catawba, Virginia. The event will have 30 vendors with items created by local crafters and artisans. We hope to see you there!
If you can’t make it to the market, order books at the Echoes From Catawba Trading Post. Books will be shipped the week of November 19. Pre-orders are already being received.