I have been asked by my children to write a brief autobiography, to the end that “when I cross over to the other side of the river to lie down and rest in the shade” something will be known of my youth.
I was born, the eldest son of Missouri Woolford(1908-1990) and Michaux Raine, Jr.,(1908-1975) on April 4th, 1936, in Richmond Virginia, although at the time my parents lived in the Chuckatuck District of Nansemond County, Virginia.
My mother was the youngest child of Arthur Woolford(1869-1933) and Missouri Kilby Withers (1873-1925) of Suffolk, Virginia. Her older brothers and sister were:
Austin Withers Woolford(1895-1969) (Uncle Woo), Nancy P. Woolford(1897-1957) (Tee), Arthur Thompson Woolford(1900-1948) (Uncle Arthur) and John R. Woolford(1901-198-) (Uncle Jack).
Mother basically lived her entire life in Suffolk and Nansemond County. Her mother died when she was 13 years of age, but notwithstanding such she completed Suffolk High School, matriculated to and graduated from Agnes Scott College in Georgia. I never knew either of my maternal grandparents.
My father was the “middle son” of Michaux Raine, Sr.,(1880-1945) and Lillah Allen Raine(1885-1974). He was born in Danville, Virginia where my grandfather (“Peg”) was a Presbeterian Minister. Lillah was born in Ford(?), Dinwiddie County. Daddy’s siblings were:
Peter Woodward Allen Raine( 1906-1957)and Dudley Allen Raine, Sr.,(1913-199-). There was another child (I believe) who died as a young girl.
During my father’s youth, the family moved to Petersburg, and he graduated from Petersburg High School and then matriculated to Hampden Sydney College, as did his father and two brothers. Daddy did not graduate from Hampden Sydney.
My grandfather, “Peg”, was one of 12 children of Charles Anderson and Elizabeth Caldwell Oliver Raine. Lillah lived with Daddy and Momma during the last years of her life..
Momma and Daddy were married in 1933 and bought a farm in Nansemond County, in approximately 1933 also. This farm was located approximately two dirt (2) miles from Sandy Bottom, on the South West side of the Nansemond River, approximately two water miles from the Rt. 17 bridge (Mills Godwin) leading to Churchland. For several years they/we lived in the “clubhouse”. This farm was known as and purchased from “the Pinners”. My earliest memories were living in the house Momma and Daddy built on the farm.
My brother, Arthur Woolford Raine, was born also in Richmond, Virginia, on March 15th, 1938. Additionally, Momma had two other boys, one was “stillborn” and the other, Charles Anderson Raine, lived only a few hours.
You must remember, in 1936 and for years thereafter, there were no jet airplanes, no TV, no atomic energy, new cars were not made between 1942-1945, no stereo’s, no DVD’s, no astronauts, space ships or men on Mars or the Moon; really invention has blossomed since the end of WWII. Gas was +/- 25 cents a gallon, Cokes were 5 cents, cigarettes were 1 cent apiece or 20 cents a pack, ice cream cones were 5 cents a scope, there were no two car garages, basically there were no garages. There were no computers, mail was usually by 1 cent postcard, postage for a letter was 3 cents. Diesel fuel, never heard of it.
Times have changed, mostly for the better. Daddy cut our hair for years, always on the front stoop. Vicks was the great “medicine” for colds or the flu; iodine cured every cut and then there was castor oil! Never heard of cancer during my youth, you either died of a heart attack or old age! Or an accident.
My life as a child was spent on the farm, in the woods, and on the water. Momma said that both Arthur and I could “swim before we could walk”, as we were constantly in the creek or the river, twelve months a year. Our formative years were during WWII, and we spent many an hour along the riverfront scavenging for “war things”, i.e., rafts, shell casing, K-rations, etc. The riverfront was especially attractive after a storm, as we would find boats, chairs, etc., in addition to the usual.
We didn’t have much snow in Chuckatuck, but I recall one winter, probably 1942 or 3, when the river froze; the wind blew, whipping the water, which froze, creating “ice-bergs”. Arthur and I managed to get onto one of the “ice-bergs” and play; during the excitement of our play we failed to realize that the “ice-berg” had broken away from the other ice, and we were off, stranded on an “ice-berg”. No problem, Momma and Daddy rescued us.
Arthur and I began muskrat“trapping” at an early age. We bought traps and with the help of William set them all over the Creek. Of course, the idea is to check the traps by boat, to keep the scent of humans away and also to keep dry. We tried, but it seems that before we completed the mornings work, we always seemed to fall in the water. We caught numerous muskrats, would take them home, skin them, then take the meat to Mr. Chapmans store and sell it for 25 cents. At the end of the season, we would collect our “skins”, take them to Archie Fronfelter in Chuckatuck and he would sell them for us for approximately $3 each. We were rich, as we would sell maybe 25 skins. Of course you trapped muskrats in late fall and winter
We hunted week in and week out, twelve months a year. We never recognized “seasons”; however, one rule was that whatever you killed you had to eat. We killed duck, squirrells and rabbits mostly. There were no deer or turkeys around at that time. One day we were out squirell hunting with Austin (Darden); Our game plan was that one of us would carry the 22 rifle (to shoot up into the squirrell nest to make the squirrells run) and the others would carry the shotguns to shoot the squirrells as they ran from the nests. Well, Arthur, being the youngest, usually didn’t kill as many squirrells as we did, but on this day he did shoot a squirrell, and as it fell from the tree, I noticed that it was moving, and desiring to put it out of its misery, I walked over and hit the squirrell in the head with the butt of the 22 rifle. Arthur was furious, as he wanted to kill his squirrell all by himself; the next thing I knew, BOOM, he had shot his shotgun into my legs. Luckily, I was some distance away and had on rubber boots.
We had to walk “to the end of the lane” to catch the school bus, 9/10 of a mile. At the end of the lane we would usually meet up with the Cutchins kids, whose parents were tenant farmers on the next farm. One morning while waiting on the bus I began to “pick on the Cutchins”; the oldest, a girl of about my age, finally had enough and attacked me and eventually pulled me down the lane by my hair. I never picked on her again.
Of course, what went up the lane had to come back down the lane, so in the evening the school bus would let us off at the end of the lane and we would walk back home. Often we took routes thru the woods, climbing trees and jumping streams along the way. Seldom, if ever did we get a ride either up or down the lane; however, whenever we had a substitute bus driver, we would do our best to convince him that the bus ran down the road all the way to our house and turned around, thus giving us a ride home. Occassionally we succeeded in pulling this off and getting a ride home.
Once, on the way home from the end of the lane, Arthur and I took a side journey, and explored the woods on the other side of the lane. We came across “a facility” that we had never seen before, lots of barrels, connected by pipes draining into each other, with a very pungent smell. When we got home we told Daddy about our “find”, and he immediately knew what it was, a bootleg still! Daddy told us that it was a “still”, an illegal operation, run by shady people, who were probably hiding in the woods watching us with guns—scared us to death. We never went back there.
Again, hunting, we would go rabbit hunting and upon killing a rabbit, would take it home, skin it and Momma would prepare it for supper. Lillah protested vehmently, saying that wild rabbits were infected with “tulyarema” and that it would kill us. We ate plenty of rabbit and never died.
Christmas was much different then than it is now. More family oriented, with presents, but many less in number. We would always go out on the farm and cut a “christmas” tree, which was always a cedar. We’d decorate it on Christmas eve and as early thereafter as possible, Arthur and I would head upstairs to bed—the sooner Santa could come. Arthur and I were up within minutes after Daddy and Momma had gone to bed. I would usually get up first, go down and take a peek, and then go get Arthur. Many of our gifts were “second” hand, i.e., bicycles, newly painted, etc. One year, after the war, Arthur got a brand new bicycle, and I slipped down early and moved this “new” bicycle into the “middle”, meaning it was a gift for both Arthur and I. I fooled Arthur, but I couldn’t figure out how Momma and Daddy knew that this bicycle was only Arthurs and not intended for us both.
The world was a different place then. Sunday was supposed to be ONLY a day of worship. Peg and Lillah believed, and tried to convince us, that on Sunday you couldn’t do any of the normal things, go to a movie, a party, dance, etc.
I remember that whenever Peg and Lillah were to come to visit, Momma and Daddy would move all the whiskey from the kitchen and take it to the basement, and hide it until after the left.
Periodically we would go to Richmond to visit Peg and Lillah. This was a long trip. Peg and Lillah lived at 2505 4th Avenue. At this time, the street had street cars running along street car tracks. Arthur and I would get a penny or two from Peg and put them on the street car tracks and wait for the street car to come along and mash them, then we’d go and retrieve them. What fun! We’d always have to go see Aunt May, Aunt Lottee and Uncle Frank—Lillah’s family. Although it was boring cause we’d have to behave and be fairly proper, Aunt May and Aunt Lottee always, health permitting, took us shopping at Miller & Rhodes and Talheimers. What a treat. To my recollection Peg and Lillah never had a car, their only means of travel being by street car, bus or taxi. Peg loved to go out back and sit on the steps and smoke his pipe. Sometimes we’d go from Richmond to the Dogwood, a farm out in Dinwiddie County owned by the Allen’s, Lillah’s kin. In fact this was where Peg was originally buried, but later Lillah had his remains re-buried in Richmond at ______________cemetary.
We didn’t have a telephone until after I was in high school. Whenever an important message needed to get to Momma or Daddy, people would call Alex Moore’s store and he was kind enough to come down to the farm with the telephone message. I vividly remember the night, in 1945, that Alex came to the house about supper time and told Daddy that Peg had died. This was my first encounter with the death of someone I knew and loved.
A real treat was to stop by Williams house and have something to eat with him. Often Arthur and I would go to Williams house and eat beans and franks with him, warmed on his sole source of heat, a wood stove. William Wynn “came” to us in about 1940; and stayed until long after I left. William was totally uneducated, but a real jewel. In these days we had a tractor and a mule, “Dick”. William could walk behind Dick and plow all day, talking only to Dick. He also milked and each morning, as we were eating breakfast, William would come into the kitchen and talk, talk, and talk some more. Each cow had a name, Jumper, Mean One, Big Boy, etc. The cows would frequently get out, and after rounding them up and fixing the fence, William would announce, “Mr. Range, I got them cows paralyzed now”!
Basically, we were poor (literally) farmers; everything broke down every day. Fences were repaired with string, farm equipment was repaired with baling wire and everything in between was “jerry-riged”. We raised peanuts, tomatoes, corn, hay, pigs, cattle (both milking and beef), potatoes, had some goats for awhile, raised strawberries and of course carrots. Basically we ate some or part of everything we raised.
William, as I indicated, loved to talk. He told us of his youth, in Georgia. He told about slavery, how the “Masser” would have a rope tied around the waist of a Black and tie the other end to a tree, then have a foreman begin to whip him on the right side and he would then run to his left to get away; the foreman would keep on whipping until the rope wound around the tree, then the foreman would whip him on the left side, and as he ran to escape the whip, he would unwind himself. Once he had unwound himself, the whipping would stop. William had a nick-name around Sandy-bottom, “Will-shoot”. Supposedly he caught a man fondling his Mothers brest, and shot, shooting off his toe.
William also told about his one foray up North, to Detroit. He said he would go to a house about dinner time, and the man of the house would come out and talk to him until someone inside the house had finished eating, and then he would come out and talk to him while the man of the house went back inside to eat. He was never asked if he wanted something to eat. So hungry and cold, he went down to the railroad station and hopped a freight train, and ended up in Baltimore, cold and very hungry. He left the train to try to scavenge something to eat. He stopped at a house and knocked on the door. A pretty little white girl answered the door and seeing William hollowed back into the house to her father, “daddy there’s a niger out here who says he hasn’t eaten in two days”. Her father shouted back, “tell him to come around to the back of the house” and upon arriving at the back door, the door opened with the man of the house delivering a huge plate of food. When William finished this plate, the man asked if he wanted more, William replied “yes”. Again, after finishing this 2nd plate, William was asked if he wanted more and upon replying “no”, the white man asked, “niger, did you come in on that freight train? William answered “yes”, and the white man said, “niger, you get your black ass over to that freight yard and hop the next train out of here, and don’t let the sun set on your black ass”. William said they were the sweetest words he had ever heard, he knew he was back home, in the South.
I remember the beginning of WWII; Momma came running into the house shouting to Daddy, turn on the radio, we’re at war!
The war years were great years for Arthur and I. Of course we lived in the Hampton Roads area, and security was greater than in other parts of the state. Everyone had to have blackout shades over their windows so that no light showed at night; also all automobile headlights were painted black on the top half. Gas was rationed and many taken for granted items were unavailable-chocolate for instance. Down the “hard-surfaced” road a few miles was the little community of Eclipse, which was directly across the river from Hampton Roads and the Newport News shipyard. The army had a detachment of 8-12 men stationed there, under the command of the “Major”(a/k/a “the professor”). Someway he became acquainted with Momma and Daddy and Tee. Actually I think it was Tee. Anyway, just about every weekend Tee would come down to spend the week-end with Momma (and Daddy), and the “major” would come over in his jeep with “his sergeant” driving. The Major always brought a box (24 count) of Hersey’s with almond candy bars. Momma loved them, but due to the war, could not buy them. The Major would come in and tell his sergeant to stay outside with Arthur and I. We had a ball. Rode in the jeep, shot the sub-machine gun, even dressed up in mini army uniforms, helmets and all. The “sergeant” always brought Arthur and I “some war things”, belts, canteens, holsters, insignia, hats, helmets, etc.
Of course the war offered other benefits to us. Scavenging! Golly, what a bounty we got. Just about everything that washed or was thrown overboard, from balson wood rafts, shell casings, k-rations, rubber rafts, parts of uniforms, anything that was discarded or lost overboard.
Another time on a Sunday, as we were returning home from church, we noticed several Navy airplanes above in a simulated “dogfight”. They collided over our farm and both crashed in the marsh. Both pilots were killed, and in a matter of a couple of hours our farm was quarantined. Navy shore patrol limiting access to the farm. Of course we were allowed entry. This moment was made for Arthur and I. As the Navy tried to figure out how to get thru the marsh to the crash site to recover the pilots and the plane parts, Arthur and I were there. We were the first to arrive and the last to leave. The Navy would search all day, and as soon as they left, Arthur and I would begin hauling off anything that wasn’t tied down. Arthur and I retrieved airplane radio’s, sheet metal, propello parts, engine parts, insigna, lights, antenna, you name it. We hauled it all back to the “clubhouse”. Later, Daddy told the Commander we had “found some parts” and asked if the Navy wanted to look at what we had found. The Commander came to take a look and shook his head, saying he was in awe, 2 little boys had recovered more parts of the airplanes than the Navy. The bodies were never found.
Everything was scarce during the war, and being on the farm we always sought ways to perhaps make a little money, so Daddy decided that we would raise rabbits–for food. We started small, one male and one female. Have you ever heard about the rabbit habit? How rabbits breed? Overnight! Starting with two, we soon had four, then forty-four, then it seemed like hundreds, black ones, white ones, gray ones and mixed ones. They were all over the place, and so were the foxes! Rabbit meat was good, more meat on a rabbit than a chicken, but we could only eat so much rabbit and we only sold a few. I’m sure some of the rabbits in the woods around Chuckatuck are the decendants of our rabbits.
We also raised baby chicks. A family, during the war, rented the middle house, and they had a little girl, Jackie. Arthur was raising some baby chicks and had them in a small enclosure near the “clubhouse”. Jackie came over one morning and painted all the chicks “green”; Arthur was livid, and took bricks and crushed all the chicks.
Another “job” was to gather the eggs each morning from the hen house. One morning I went to the hen house to gather the eggs, and routinely reached into the nest for the eggs, without looking. What I got was a hand-ful of black snake! Had to run back to the house to change my pants!
Yes, we were raised that if you misbehaved you got punished. No one ever thought about a parent abusing a child by inflicting corporal punishment. We were told, time and again, not to climb on the barn roof; however, it was a great place to practice parachuting, with one of Momma’s sheets. When we were caught, which was about every time, the routine was go to the bedroom and wait for Momma to arrive with the old wooden hairbrush. When she arrived, the same routine, pull off your pants and lay across her lap, and receive a real spanking, which left your butt red and stinging.
We didn’t have horses or pony’s to ride, however, we did have plenty of cows, and ride them we did. Of course when we got thrown, always, where do you think we landed? That’s right, usually right in the middle of a “cow pie”.
I mentioned that William named all the cows, and I also mentioned “jumper”. How do you think that “jumper” got her name? William said that she could jump over any fence, any gate, any stall, could even jump over the trees! Impossible to confine her.
Nick Wrights bridge used to be a toll bridge from Chuckatuck to Driver. Arthur and I thought it would be a good idea if we hid in the trunk of the car as Momma drove across, thereby saving some money. So, before crossing the bridge Momma stopped the car and we crawled in the trunk; Momma then proceeded to the toll booth to pay the toll for car & driver only. However, Momma ever trying to teach us a lesson, whispered to the attendant, and the next thing we knew, the trunk lid flew open and we were exposed! Scared us to death.
The Nansemond river used to have a deep channel and was regularily used as a “river highway”. The Lone Star cement company dug “marl”(a combination of dirt and sea shells accumulated over eons) in Chuckatuck, transported it by little train to the port, at Cherry Point. From here it was loaded on barges, pulled by tug-boats, and from there down the Nansemond River to Norfolk. These tug-boats passed the farm several times a day, constantly churning out the channel. Also, many commercial boats used the river to transport goods up the river to Suffolk. Navy ships also used the river, mainly to park ships while awaiting docking at Newport News or Norfolk. After the war, the river was used quite often by pleasure yatchs, and so I am advised is now relatively shallow.
Speaking of “marl”, after digging the marl, hugh “pits” were left, which filled up with water. These were know as “the marl pits”. All of Chuckatuck, and many from the surrounding areas, young and old alike, swam, played, picniked, etc., in and around these. The marl pits were “bottomless”, generally containing cool, clear water. One pit down near the river, was salty, all the others were fresh water. In digging these pits, high cliffs down to the water(some seemed as high as 50’ from the water) were left. As you jumped off the cliff, it seemed an eternity before you hit the water, and down deep you went, struggling back to the surface, gasping for air. Arthur knew no fear, Momma couldn’t restrain him, and as a very young child would jump off cliff’s that many older people refused. Today potable drinking water for the City of Suffolk is obtained from these pits. I don’t believe that I knew of a single suit that ever emanated from use of the pits as recreation places. Think of these open pits today, liability aplenty!
The river, during our childhood, contained lots of raw sewage. We would be swimming and observe sewage floating nearby, just swam under it and kept on going. We cut our feet often on the oyster shells, but the salt water disinfected any cut. Also, stinging nettles were plentiful, and a few water mocassins.
We used to have the” Suffolk” kids come down to play. There was a mud flat just to the left of our house and Arthur and I loved to lure those “city folks” into the “mud”. Nearly lost a few of them, Carol Godwin for one. Literally had to pull them out after tiring of their hollowing and screams.
We never had “store bought” ice cream or butter; both were made at home by “churn”.
We had plenty of chickens tho. Nearly every Sunday we had fried chicken, Momma could really fry chicken. Catching the chickens was a treat. You’d take a piece of wire, put a crook in the end and run thru the barnyard and snare a chicken with the crook in the wire around his/her leg. Then the real treat, cutting off the chickens head and watching it run around with no head, throwing blood all over. Have you ever tried to run thru the chicken yard with no shoes on?
I should point out, Momma had some health idea that if you didn’t put shoes on childrens feet until after they were 4 years old, their feet would better serve them thru life. Many is the day that Momma took us to town, barefooted in the snow;often a complete stranger would come up to Momma and offer her money so that she could afford to buy some shoes for us!
Momma was a born and bred Episcopalian, and even tho Daddy was raised a Presbeterian, Arthur and I grew up Episcopalians, and I might add, NEVER missed Sunday School or Church. One concession Momma did make tho, was that on communion Sundays(once a month then) we could leave Church and go over to Austins’ to play. Momma would come over after Church, have a drink with Taylor, Frank and Tee, and then we’d go home. One Sunday Arthur got lost, we looked all over for him and finally found him, asleep on the back steps of Taylor and Franks house. Again, I want to add, before Daddy died he was confirmed in the Episcopal Church—Momma won out after all.
As a young adult, we had an inboard boat. One day Daddy and Momma went out for a boat ride and to fish. As was normally the case, the boat had a little water in it, so Daddy opened the drain plug at the stern to drain the water as he and Momma rode along. However, Daddy forgot to replace the drain plug, and after fishing a bit, the boat began to fill with water, in fact so much water that the boat would not “plane” and thereby drain the water. Fearing that the boat was sinking, Daddy “opened it up” and headed for shore with Momma on the bow waving and shouting for us to get out of the way. He beached the boat at full speed!
Uncle Jack and Aunt Jo negotiated with Momma regarding the “middle house”. Uncle Jack wanted to buy the land, but Momma said “No”, but we will let you build on it and “own” it for as long as you live. For years this was a satisfactory arrangement. Every summer Uncle Jack and family would come down for several months, bringing not only John and Jeanette but a butler and maid. Immediatedly upon arriving and unpacking John would strut up to our house, determined to remind Arthur and I and anyone else around who was boss. Arthur and I and usually Austin, would prepare for John’s arrival several days before his actual arrival. We would pick all the crabapples and quince’s and store them in the upper loft of the chicken house. Once John arrived and began his strut, we retired to the upper level of the chicken house and waited for that moment which had been a year in waiting. We had even marked a line across the road, which upon John’s crossing meant that he was in range. Once John crossed that line, we bombarded him with crab apples and quinces.We made our point, but soon our ammunition began to run out and we had to resort to our alternative plan, escape without getting killed!
Uncle Woo and Aunt Lucy, for a time, lived in the first house at the end of the lane on the creek, known as Barretts Creek. Their house was unheated, except by fireplasces. Later, the Rippeys, Captain Bill and Mildred, lived in this house. Catherine was their daughter(along with two sons, John and Bill and another daughter, Betty). Catherine is/has been a lifelong friend, especially of Momma’s. Captain Bill was the agriculture and shop teacher at Chuckatuck High School.
No one lived on the Thompson farm and Arthur and I played over there often, climbing and exploring the “cliffs” along the water-front, and duck hunting. We would walk the river-shore from our house all the way around the Thompson farm and to Nick Wright’s house exploring and scavanging. I might add, at one time Bill and Mildred Rippey, and children lived in Nick Wright’s house, but I believe this was before our time.
Down the creek and around the curve lived “the Soricks: we didn’t know them well and didn’t have much to do with them. Across and to the left of our house lived the Wilkerson’s, George Frank and Mitzi, his wife. Their daughter, Marion Clark, a red-head, was Polkey’s age.
Of course we, as any other farm, had fences all over. On day Arthur, Austin and I had been playing over at Uncle Woo’s. Weather we were disturbing the cows, chickens or what, I don’t know, but Uncle Woo came out hollowing at us. Naturally we took off running, and began to climb the fence at the “middle house” to escape. Naturally, Arthur being younger, was slower than Austin and me, and we got over the fence easily, but poor Arthur didn’t make it. Uncle Woo caught him and put his head in a “hammer lock” with his “nub”. Arthur screamed and Austin and I ran to Momma, who came out in a flash. She grabbed Arthur from the grasp of Uncle Woo and lit into him. Although Arthur was thereafter always scared and freightened of Uncle Woo, he never, ever again threatened or touched either of us in any menacing manner.
Uncle Woo went to VMI, and lost his arm, below the elbow, during WWI.
We never really knew Bunny during our youth, as he was several years older, and joined the Navy in about
1943-4. In fact Bunny wasn’t ever around us much until some time after 1948, when Uncle Arthur died. Bunny had
a step-brother, Marsden, who was about the same age as Bunny, but who was never around. Bunny was the adopted child of Uncle Arthur and Mary(big Mary), Uncle Arthur’s first wife; Uncle Arthur married a second time, also to a Mary. Margie is Bunny’s 3rd wife, the 1st being “Teeny”, the mother of Lannie, and then the 2nd was Virginia.
Aunt Jo, Uncle Jack’s first wife committed suicide in approximately 1950; they had 2 children, Jeanette and John. After Aunt Jo’s death, Uncle Jack married Mary, the mother of Mary Ann and mother-in-law of Jody Strubb.
Tee never married, although she was “engaged/in love” with someone in New York for several years. Tee was a nurse in New York for some years, and after her love died? She moved back to Suffolk, lived in the Virginia Apartments and never worked again. She was Momma’s closest friend. Upon Tee’s death, she left her entire estate to John, Jeanette, Polkey, Arthur and I, with some specific bequests to Bunny. Bunny never got over this “slight”.
Uncle Woo was married to Lucy Bacon from Detroit. Polkey was their only daughter. Uncle Woo and Aunt Lucy had a strained relationship(?) for years. Polkey has never married.
My first cousins on Momma’s side are: Bunny(born approximately 1927), Jeanette(born approximately 1930), John(born approximately 1932), and Polkey(born approximately 1934).
We didn’t have as much to do with Daddy’s side of the family, primarily because Momma’s family was mostly from Suffolk, whereas Daddy’s family was from further away, although we did visit fairly often. Allen married Virginia Moore from Buckingham County and they had 3 daughters, Francis Blunt(1935), Whirtley(1939) and Edith(195-); both Allen and Virginia were school teachers in Newport News. Whirtley lived with us for a summer or so while she was interning at Lakeview Clinic with Momma, in Suffolk.
Dudley married Dorothy(Dot)(____)from Charlotte County. They also had 3 children, Dudley Allen, Jr.,(1940), “Mutt”, Betty(1942) and Alexander(1948), “Sandy”. Dudley worked for the Dept of Agriculture in Norfolk,and Beltsville, Md., and retired to Amherst County. I have no recollection of Dot working. After “Peg” died, Daddy always said that he loved to visit Dudley, cause it made him feel so at home(Dudley had much of “Peg” and Lillah’s household furniture.
For years Daddy worked at the Ford plant in Norfolk, but quit this job to farm, then quit farming to go into business with Jimmy Brasfield. This didn’t last long and Daddy returned to farming. Shortly, in 1949 or the early 50’s Alex Moore, who ran a country store in Chuckatuck got sick and his wife asked Daddy to run the store until Alex could return. Alex died shortly thereafter and Daddy bought the store. I thought this was great, as I wanted to be in “town”. This was a pure country store, with lard sold by the pound, cigarettes by the cigarette, ice cream in bulk, etc. Everybody had a charge account and paid on payday, Friday or Saturday. Groceries were delivered on Friday and Saturday evenings. We had a “red 1947 hudson” (the red hornet) pickup truck which was used to deliver the groceries. About every kid in Chuckatuck probably at some time worked in this store. I would deliver the groceries and after all were delivered I would hang around “Foots” Spady’s until 10PM or so and then drive the “red hornet” home. One night as I was coming home by way of Ferry Point, the “red hornet” just stopped running. I tried everything, but couldn’t get it going, so a-walking I went. I aroused Daddy and he and I returned on the tractor to get the truck. Lo and behold, as Daddy drove the tractor up the road to turn around, he found the “red hornet’s” gas tank lying in the middle of the road! No wonder it stopped running, the gas tank fell off.
Arthur and I both went to Chuckatuck school, which was elementary and high school combined.We only had eleven grades, but yes, we did have an eighth grade, we were just allowed to “skip” the twelveth grade, cause we learned all they had to offer in eleven! Once we completed the seventh grade, Kingsfork and Driver elementary schools were consolidated with Chuckatuck, and we all matriculated to Chuckatuck High School together. This is how Arthur met Eloise, she went to Driver elementary.
Nothing remarkable about grade school, other than Ms. Grant, my teacher in the sixth grade-she made me sit in her lap! Oh gosh, how embarassing. And I might add, corporal punishment was alive and well. In fact, if you got spanked in school, you always knew you were going to get another one at home. Something about a small community, everybody knew everything about everybody else.
By the time I started High School things began to pop. Chuckatuck had just two years earlier started football, six man football that is. My freshman year we also started eleven man football, so we played two schedules. Turnbull Gillette was our coach. Lew Morris was a teacher and coached basketball. He subsequently became Principal also. My freshman year was a learning experience, and then my sophmore year Everette Bagnell came to High School as a freshman.He was from down the road in Crittenden. This was “no good” –for the school! If anyone was ever an instigator of trouble, Everette was! We stayed in trouble—an in Lew Morris’(principal) office, in fact, my senior year my home room was the Principals Office. We got caught standing at the Library window and dumping bath powder on everyone as they walked below—punishment was to dig a hole at the rear of the school and haul the dirt to the front of the school every day at recess. Once we had dug the hole deep enough to suit Mr. Morris, we then had to haul the dirt back and refill the hole. One year of recess time. Another time we were on a basketball trip and Everette and I decided to get off the bus at Sam Perry’s. The bus drove off and Everette and I went inside, sat down an lit a cigarette! Unfortuntunatly, I sat with my back to the door and did not see the bus return or see Lew Morris enter Sam Perrys. That was the first time I ever ate a cigarette! And it was lit.
During my senior year, Gordon Presson and I were out on the playground, and two underclassmen started fighting. Instead of breaking up the fight, Gordon and I kept anyone attempting to break it up away, so that the fight could continue. Again unbeknowst to us Lew Morris came up, stopped the fight and sent everyone back into the school building. Then, the bell rang, and everyone was instructed to go to the gym. Gordon and I were called forward, each handed a pair of boxing gloves by Mr. Morris and told to fight until he saw BLOOD! Yes, blood. And you want to talk about corporal punishment?
Also, during my senior year I got a job as a school bus driver, paid about $35 per month. Everette rode my bus! Several times I had to stop the bus, call Everette off the bus and whip his butt—!
Oh yes, Eurcele Beale, who ran the lunch room, was also a favorite of mine. I could sneak over to the lunch room about 2:00 PM, and Eurcele would fix me a grilled cheese sandwich and watch for me while I snuck a cigarette. Saw her in October of 2003, my 50th class reunion.
Seems as tho Lew Morris knew what I was doing before I did it. How many times did he catch Everette and I—and others smoking? Don’t know, but he did catch Everette, Joyce Smith and I outside the gym at a school dance smoking and drinking a beer. And yes, Everette and I did go to the Junior-Senior together, but we did each “pick-up” a date at the dance, and took them, the girls, home.
Lew Morris loved to hunt and often he would come down to our house to duck hunt. We had a unique situation at home, as, we could stand in the kitchen, stay warm and dry, and see duck at the rivershore; we would then get our clothes on, get our guns and slip out the basement door, and crawl thru the ravine down to the river shore. One day as we were crawling to the river shore, Lew Morris in front, and me behind about 50’, my knee, upon which the butt of my shotgun was resting, fell into a hole and the sudden jolt caused the gun to discharge. Guess I am about the only student to shoot his principal in the ass while on a duck hunt! Fortunately no harm was done.
Before I leave Lew Morris, I don’t want to omit saying, “he was a wonderful person”. After I graduated from college, he hired me! As an eighth grade Math and History teacher, as a football and basketball coach and as a SCHOOL BUS DRIVER! What a broad minded person.
During the summers during our elementary years, Arthur and I stayed at home and worked on the farm, chopping peanuts, picking tomatoes, chasing the cows, gathering the eggs and everything else. As we got older, and after Daddy bought the store, we worked at the store, doing everything from stocking the shelves, filling orders, delivering groceries, to sweeping the floor and listening to the BS of all the regulars.
We obtained our drivers licenses at age 15 and that summer I got a job with John Kelly, who ran a local trucking/hauling/etc., business. This would have been at the end of my sophmore year. My first assignment, was to take this dump truck, a colored boy, two shovels and get a load of sand at the sand pit. Can you imagine two people, with shovels, loading a dump truck with sand? It would have taken a week. We arrived at the sand pit, as instructed, and began loading sand. Shortly, a deputy sheriff came up and arrested us for stealing sand! It was a mistake, but nevertheless—-.
My main job that summer was to load potatoes. We would arrive in the field at 5:30 AM, and shortly a tractor trailer flatbed unit arrived and to work we went. Two of us to a side of the trailer as it moved slowly thru the field, one “breaking” down the sack of potatoes and then the two of us heaving it up onto the trailer. By 4:30PM that afternoon you were tired, weak and hurting. Slept good at night.
One day John Kelly was caught short-handed, and I got to drive the tractor trailer, not only in the field but to the market in Norfolk. I was big stuff! Drove on down Ferry Point road, across Kings Highway bridge, thru Driver and on to Bowers Hill; got onto Rt. 460 and after about 4 miles ran into a traffic check. Oh Lord, 5 tickets, ranging from, no chauffers license, no name on side of truck, overweight, no bill of lading and improper load distribution! No moving violations though. This was my first and only tractor trailer driving experience. For the rest of that summer and the next, I continued to load potatoes, sand, plain dirt, hay in the fall and anything else that could be transported by truck.
I remember one night we were out drinking some beer, Conrad Haas was with us and the driver(?) asked Conrad to throw an empty beer bottle out. Conrad was in the back seat and threw the bottle. From the driver came the admonishment, “damn Conrad, open the window first”! (See the bottom of this biography for another view).
An aside, I never “knew” that I had a name other than “Shack” until I looked at my High School diploma upon graduation!
During the summers, work or not, we were on the water, fishing, oystering, crabbing, what ever. Capt. Hicks, a black oysterman would take us fishing just about anytime. He kept his oyster boat in the creek at Uncle Woo’s house. At other times we would “catch” oysters at low tide, with a bateau and a pair of tennis shoes, by feel, pick them up and throw them into the boat.
Taylor Darden and Daddy jointly owned a 16 foot boat with a 16 HP motor. Was the biggest motor I’d ever seen, took the two of them to carry it from the house to the boat. This boat was the infamous “Bean”. Often on Saturdays and or Sundays the eight of us, Taylor, Frank, Momma, Daddy, Dar, Austin Arthur and I, would go out on the river to swim, fish or play. The grown-ups would tie a rope around our waist and throw us overboard—thus the phrase, “swim or sink”. Also the grown-ups would very often drink while we were out. The Bean had a cabin, and on one occasion, while boating and drinking, Taylor and Daddy decided that there wasn’t enough room to fish, so they proceeded to tear the cabin off the boat. Needless to say, it was never replaced.
I was in the 4-H club and raised a hampshire hog as a project. This hog won 1st place in the “hog raising contest” at Smithfield, Not only did Smithfield buy my hog at a premium price, but I was given a guernsey hiefer by Roundtree dairy! I raised this heifer, had her bred and she bore us a registered guernsey bull! In the spring, my cow ate too much green spring grass and bloated. Daddy had to “stick” her to relieve the gas. What a mess came ozzing out. She died.
For a number of years Daddy and Uncle Woo ran a dairy operation on the “Thompson” farm(now or formerly owned by Nick Wright). Of course this was before any auto milkers, pasterizing, etc. Arthur and I were forced into helping with the milking—can’t you see Uncle Woo milking with only one hand/arm. The raw milk was poured thru a “cheesecloth strainer into a vat This was pasterazation! Once the milking was completed, it was bottled—whole milk—and then delivered by Momma, Arthur and me. We had customers all over Chuckatuck, just left it at the front door. I remember running up the front steps of Corbell Cotton’s house with two bottles of milk, tripping and falling, breaking both bottles of milk and cutting my nose. Still have the scar.
Golly, I teased and picked on Arthur unmercifically, but he probably deserved most of it. Momma would often take us to Suffolk on Saturdays, give us 15 cents each before we left home and we’d go to the movie(10 cents, popcorn 5 cents) while she did the shopping. Arthur always left his money home and I’d have to pay his way. He never would pay me back. I know it was intentional! Including interest he owes me over a million.
Austin joined in the teasing of Arthur also. One day, during the war years, Austin and I were teasing Arthur and calling him “Tojo”. He got so mad he couldn’t stand it, went into the kitchen and got a butcher knife and chased Austin and I all over the house. We knew that if he caught us he surely would have cut us severally.
Of course during these years there was no TV and nightly entertainment consisted of listening to the radio, playing games, etc. One other sport that Arthur and I engaged in was “sliding”. We would get a cardboard box, get up at the top of the stairs and slide all the way to the bottom, out of control. Another sliding sport was to roll up the rugs and in your sock feet run thru the living room and slide down the hall. These were pine floors, soft wood, and we would get giant sized splinters in our feet. We got our first TV during my Senior year in High School; about all we watched was “wrestling”.
I was too young to remember it, but there was always a hole in the ceiling in the hall. This came about as Uncle Woo was demonstrating to everyone his firearm prowerous. Momma was holding me nearby, and the shotgun discharged just over my head, into the ceiling.
Smoking! Polly Johnson, Arthur, several others, and I snuck some of Daddy’s cigarettes and went out to the greenhouse to smoke them. We, about 6 of us, smoked a whole pack in about 30 minutes. Polly turned “green” she got so sick. Needless to say Momma caught us.
Just before we graduated from High School, geese started flying in at Nick Wright’s. This was designated as a “game preserve” so you couldn’t risk shooting them as the noise would surely arouse the game wardens. So one night Austin and I determined, after a few beers, that we would arm ourselves with baseball bats, slip into the field and knock them in the head. As we entered the field, you never heard such a racket in your entire life, 1500 geese squawking at one time. We took off thru the woods before the game wardens arrived.
Moving on, I graduated from Chuckatuck High School in June of 1953, one of 33. I was accepted at Hampden Sydney College, just outside of Farmville. I matriculated, just barely 17 years of age, a country boy who had barely been outside of Nansemond County and had never really been away from home over one night at a time, much less for months. I competed with boys from Richmond, Lynchburg, Danville, and even many from “up North”, both in the classroom and in the social swirl, pledging the KA fraternity and genuinally enjoying my “new life”. I quickly “dropped” chemistry and ended the semester passing 3 courses and failing Math. The next semester was about the same, and showing my new maturity, decided that I was not ready for college at the expense of Momma and Daddy. I joined the US Air Force in August of 1954, took basic training in New York and was sent to Charleston, SC. From there I was sent to Tokyo, and from there went to Okinawa, Korea, the Phillipines and Formosa. While in Tokyo, I ran into Marvin Winslow(from Chuckatuck). I was sent back home and stationed in Nashville, Tenn. Although my enlistment was for 4 years, I applied for an early discharge, which was granted and I was back home in September of 1957. I applied for re-admission to Hampden Sydney and was accepted for admission in the fall of 1958. In the interim, I was employed by the Va. Dept of Highways as a road Inspector. I was sent to Newport News to act as Inspector during the construction of the J. Clyde Morris boulevard. Oh gosh, J. Clyde Morris boulevard was built 3’ off center, but a few adjustments and moving the sidewalk from the South to the North side took care of this.
This year, out of the service and not in school, gave me an opportunity to get my life adjusted. So one night Marvin Winslow and I went to Norfolk to test the “Night life”, and test it we did. I decided that I couldn’t drive home, but Marvin thought that he could. So home we go, heading thru the Norfolk/Portsmouth tunnel, Marvin decides to pass a car in front of us; I shout” No!”, but Marvin passes anyway. You guessed it, we were stopped at the end of the tunnel, Marvin was asked to get out and I just sat in the car, on the passenger side. Shortly, a police officer came to the car window and told me that Marvin had been arrested and would I please move the car out of the traffic lane. Realizing the police ploy, I politely refused, knowing that if I moved the car I would be arrested and charged with DUI. The Officer then advised that they would have to call a towing company to move the car, but that I was under arrest for “drunk in public”. So I joined Marvin in jail, where we spent the night.
During the winter of 1957 Marvin and I played in an adult basketball league. The summer of 1958 was fun, seems like a lot of my age people were back around Chuckatuck. We had river parties nearly every week-end. Then it was back to Hampden Sydney. I had the G.I. bill and this virtually paid my college tuition. I was approximately 6 feet tall and weighed about 235 pounds, so I decided to play football. I made the team and worked myself up to starting defensive tackle. I remember after one game that Daddy and Dudley attended, and of course they were drinking, they made their way down to the sidelines, each with a cup in their hand. Dudley offered me a drink, which I never refuse, and little did I know, but this sip was caught on the game film. Monday as the film was shown, I was very proud of my play, until the “sip” appeared. I ran laps for weeks as punishment.
During Christmas of 1958, Marvin asked me again to play in the adult basketball league, I accepted, and after the 3rd game “messed up my knee” and spent the remainder of my vacation in St. Mary’s hospital, in Portsmouth. Really, was probably a stroke of good luck, as Betty Woods came to visit me several times. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was Momma’s room-mate at Longwood. Upon returning to Hampden Sydney in January of 1959, I continued rehabing my knee. During the summer of 1959 I attended Univ. of Richmond summer school taking Biology to complete my science courses.
Returning to Hampden Sydney in the fall of 1959, I again played football. We played in the Shrine game against Emory & Henry, in the rain, the last game of the season. After the game we went to all the bars in Richmond and at Tom’s Tavern I met your Mother. I might add, Arthur & Eloise, who were now married, had a wreck that night and Eloise sustained facial lacerations which are visable today as scars.
Notwithstanding having met Brenda, I dated her roommate, Betty Woods several times before I dated Brenda. Brenda and I dated for the first time in February/March 1960, and continously thereafter. Again, during the summer of 1960 I attended summer school at the Univ. of Richmond taking Latin, worked at the Country Club of Virginia, lived in the KA house and spent every week-end at Brenda’s. We got engaged that summer, and the rest is history!
Meanwhile, another perspective of the beer bottle story ……
For umpteen years I had told my wife, Marie the coke bottle story. John and Emma Mae Kelly took some of us home from a Church Softball League game in Suffolk one summer when I was in high school. John played second base for Oakland Church and I pitched for St. Mary’s Church in Suffolk. I don’t remember who was with us.
On the way home, about the time we passed by Oliver’s Store on Route 10, I finished drinking a coke and pitched it out on Emma Mae’s side of the door window thinking it was open. Only the window was rolled up and it splattered glass all over Emma Mae. They were very nice about the incident. She never let me forget it as she reminded me every time she saw me in later years. … And that’s the rest of my story. Only the Lord knows the correct version or parts thereof.
By Conrad Haas
Who notes: Shack probably drank more beer in one night than I did in my entire lifetime.
Anyway, we had some fun times together playing football, basketball and being high school classmates. I was lucky to visit with Shack several months before he died August 1, 2010 near Rocky Mount, Va. where he was a well-respected attorney noted for his wit in out of the courtroom.