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My Waterford Virginia Years



My Waterford Virginia Years

contributed by William Benton Virts

 

Imagination and improvisation were early learned by Waterford youngsters in the thirties. The creek became a mighty river upon which to sail our self constructed boats. Fallen trees became ambush sites or perhaps pirate ships. The old mill race at the foot of our property became a trench form which we waged warfare with imaginary Indians or maybe Yankees. Across the street from the house was an old stone mill which had used the same race for power. I’m not sure what was produced there, but in my youth it was the site of Tom Corbin’s blacksmith shop. I can recall the smell of soft coal and the hammering that accompanies that work. Tom earlier had shoed a lot of horses and repaired farm implements, and at one time operated a store there. Later as farm activity decreased and the throw away generation evolved, Tom began making trivets, flower stands, and various wrought iron items which appealed to the new generation just then engulfing the town. Tom lived with his brother Earnest and tow sisters, Lena, and Mrs. Edith Hough. All were in their seventies when I was young. Earnest had returned to Waterford, leaving his job and family in the Washington, D.C. area. He was a handy man type, afflicted with Epilepsy. Lena was the youngest and Edith the one who seemed to hold things together. She was the final survivor. At her death in 1946 the property was sold to Ed Beans who separated it into two parcels. The house was sold to Mrs. William Ashbrooke, later to become important in my life, and the Blacksmith was converted to a combination antique shop, residence operated by Mrs. Fox who previously lived in the Clara Devine house. Stuart reports that Tom carried on a twice a week, twenty year, romance with a Mrs. Clara Mock. I don’t remember too much about that but I do remember that long term romances were the rule in the country. Harmony was not always the rule at the Corbin’s. On at least one occasion Lena came rushing to our homes seeking sanctuary where she was taken in by Aunt Emma. Apparently she thought that Tom was out to do her in but after several of these forays our father told her she’d have to find relief elsewhere. Aunt Emma is a shadow character to me but is remembered affectionately by Stuart. He reports that she was active in church, teaching Sunday School and singing in the choir. An excellent cook, seamstress, always willing to help those in need. She also pushed him to excel in his school work and he has vivid memories of her reading from the book “Titanic”, which I still have. Money was not plentiful in Waterford in my youth. It was primarily a survival society, but as John Devine told Stuart, Connie and I on October 8, 1987, at his home in Leesburg, “Hell, we were all poverty stricken, we just didn’t know it”.

 

Food is always foremost, and in our largely cashless economy most was self provided. We had chickens, a cow, and usually two pigs, which made up most of our protein intake. A large garden and plenty of fruit trees combined with wild blackberries and an occasional rabbit satisfied most of our needs.

 

Fall butchering was a big time with Uncle Flave and his wife Lucy coming to help. Lucy was my father’s sister. Uncle Flave would come down from his farm near Rehobeth Church, shoot, scald, and clean the pigs on one day. Hang them to drain overnight, and cut them up the next day. The shooting part was never very pleasant for me who had slopped them since spring, but I managed to eat the meat during the winter. My father would buy the pigs from a spring litter, feed them until November, when they had reached butchering weight of about 200 pounds. The hams, picnic shoulders, and bellies were preserved by either sugar or salt curing. they were hung in the smoke house during the process. the bellies were separated into bacon and salt pork. They usually hung or were stored on racks until used. The loin, rib and tenderloins were cooked off, cut up and stored in the cellar to prevent spoilage. The intestines were turned inside out and scrapped clean on a special metal tube jig, woman’s work, which I was not permitted to do because of fear that I would cut the skin. As I recall Aunts Emma and Lucy wouldn’t permit my mother to do this either because she was not skillful enough due to her genteel upbringing. All the scrap meat was ground into sausage, cooked and packed in similar fashion to the loin meat. After it had been stuffed into the intestines, that is. Lard was rendered in the old black pot, and the skin scraps were pressed into cracklings. Definitely the forerunner of Doritos. Souse and ponhaus were made from the jowls, and nothing was wasted. So we had 4 hams, 4 picnic shoulders, about 40 pounds of bacon, and salt pork, about 36 quarts of assorted cooked meat, and about 10 gallons of lard. And that was our pork inventory for the winter. Eggs also were a big part of our diet. No fear of cholesterol in those days. Diet was important to our father who had become ill with diabetes at about age forty, and was ultimately hospitalized in George Washington Hospital under the care of Dr. Mallory. His illness had gone undiagnosed for many years and finally diet was prescribed to control the diabetes. However it was not until Dr. John Gibson of Leesburg introduced insulin, then in the experimental stages, that he resumed a normal life. He was required to take two insulin shots each day which were administered by mother. He hated them but she would not let up and forced him to submit. Although mother tried very hard to keep his blood sugar level balanced, occasionally it would get off. This was critical as he could quickly go into shock, with the real possibility of death. I remember most vividly low sugar caused by excessive insulin, or lack of food. He would act as if intoxicated, resisting any advice or suggestions. The solution was to force a high sugar substance into his mouth and force him to drink. Mother most often used orange juice fortified with sugar. After about ten minutes he would usually calm down and go to sleep. This experience was very hard on him and he was usually bedridden for several day thereafter. Our mother administered those two shots daily and cared for him from the time that he contacted the disease in his forties until he died in 1949 at age seventy. Greater love has no man, or more properly in this case, woman. These events made a great impression on me as a child, and I have always been in horror of this disease. We always had a large garden. It seemed immense to me as a child when I was forced to hoe and weed, but it produced. We would get 20 bushels of potatoes, which were stored in the cellar of the old house. Tomatoes, corn, string beans, cherries, berries, pears, apples and other items were all picked, peeled, shucked, canned and stored for winter. Wood and coal were ordered, and stored. The fodder from the garden was tied and racked for the cow, but there was not enough of this so supplementary purchases had to be made. Our father had many friends in the town. The wonder bread delivery man was a Mr. Fogel, whom Father knew from his many years in the corner store. Mr. Fogel would stop and sell us bread at cost. He would often leave it in our mail box, and I would be dispatched to fetch it to the house. Rosey, an old black man, stopped by when the peach and apple harvest was complete in July, and November. He drove and old model T ford truck, and always left several bushels of each fruit. It was then peach and apple pie time. Plowing in spring was an anticipated event. This usually occurred in April, when the ground had dried sufficiently. For many years this was done by Uncle Charlie Mallory and his horse Colonel. When Uncle Charlie became too old other local farmers performed the task. One of the last was Ray Peacock. We then had to break up the remaining clods, smooth and plant. This was not a highlight with me. About one bushel of potatoes were retained from the prior years harvest to use as seed stock. These were cut, usually into quarters, and planted about two feet apart. We had a hand operated plow and with it we made twenty rows the length of the garden. Our father’s rule was one bushel of seed potatoes and twenty rows produced twenty bushels of potatoes. A dipper of water was inserted, the rows were covered and hilled. Seed was purchased for the other items, excepting tomato and cabbage plants which came from Bruce Eamich’s greenhouse. This was located next to the colored school house on Second Street. Mr. Eamich would grow the plants from seeds in his greenhouse. Our father would go, pick them out and they would be planted in a similar fashion to potatoes. Mr. Eamich was an enormous man, around three hundred pounds, with an odor to match. He had two sons, Walton and Mervin. Walton was six or seven years older than I but he and I played around together at the conclusion of World War II. He had the car. Walton was plumber, learning the trade from Paris Coleman. He was know as “Gump”, a some what indelicate handle given to him by the girls in grade school. One of my first real jobs was weeding for Mr. Eamich for the princely sum of ten cents per hour, later raised to twenty.

 

Uncle Lloyd Curtis was a great friend of our father. He was the son of a former slave, and the town cobbler and caner. His shop was in the front part of his house located on the big hill across from the Methodist church. His work bench was under the window looking out on the street, and I recall my father taking me there to get my shoes half soled, which seemed to occur frequently to a small boy. I would sit there in my sock feet, while Uncle Lloyd attached my new soles, and he and my father talked about the old days. I always liked the smell of the new leather, but my shoes pinched for a while until I could get them broken in properly. Not as bad as new shoes though. I hated them, although as I recall there were never very many pairs.

 

Cash was always a problem, but more later that in those early years. Then our father would work occasionally as a clerk for Piggy Paxson in his store on Second Street. Piggy was a local character. He had peddled ice, coal or anything that he thought he could sell from a huckster wagon prior to entering the store business. He lived with his wife Mary and children Harold, Dorothy, Virginia, Taylor and Francis, who later married Leo Merchant. Piggy would go on “Toots” translated as prolonged drunks, sometimes for weeks at a time. Our father would cover the store during those times and generate a little money. Also Uncle Charley was a sometime carpenter and brought in some cash. A big boost was provided by the new deal work programs, PA and CPC projects. Road repair and construction was funded by these Federal programs and Charley obtained work there. For a while things were better but then this all changed due to three events. 1) Charley fell off the Methodist Church roof where he was working, injuring himself severely. 2) Piggy Paxson went on one toot to many and never returned, ultimately causing the store to close, and 3) our father developed cataracts on his eyes which required an operation at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This combined with and actually caused by the diabetes, was too much for him and he seemed to give up. So the burden fell totally on mother. She kept body and soul together in several ways. By now it was the mid thirties. Aunt Lucy had died in 1931 and was buried in Leesburg Cemetery. Uncle Flave took up with another woman which pretty much removed him as a source of help. Ultimately his farm, which had come to Flave and Lucy via the legendary “Bachelor Billy Virts”, went to the other women. Aunt Emma died in 1935 and was buried in Hamilton Cemetery. So to generate some cash mother became a Zanol salesperson. Zanol was somewhat like Avon. She would trudge around the countryside knocking on doors peddling soap and whatever. She would hopefully collect the money, return home, order the products and when they received, trudge back and deliver it. I primarily remember the trudging part. Stuart reports that he often was on the delivering end as mother would appropriate his red wagon, load it up and hitch him to it. Mother was pretty good at hitching rides also, and would often be returned home courtesy of the person to whom she had sold the goods. More often than not she would have a bag of tomatoes or something else as well. She solicited her family. I’m sure that this was painful but she was good at it. At one point following Charlely’s death, she took in a boarder, Miss. Clara Devine. Miss Clara had previously lived in her home near us on High Street. She was the owner of the famous cow “Babe”, that for a time was driven by Stuart from her pasture, twice a day, to Miss Clara’s house to be milked. Babe was pastured where ever Miss Clara could get the best deal, so the drive might be 100 yards or a mile. Babe would only allow herself to be milked by Uncle Charlie Mallory, this attested to by both Stuart and her nephew John Devine. For this fourteen times per week operation Stuart received $1.25 per month.

 

And so it was tough, but as John Devine said, we didn’t even know it. Mother painted, wrote poems, taught Sunday School Class, belonged to a homemakers club, and ultimately in 1938 with the help of Mrs. Josephine Carr of Waterford became a member of the Blue Ridge Chapter of The Daughters of The Confederacy. Mrs. Carr took us back and forth to get the documentation together. I had frequent bouts with croupe as a youngster. Dr. Caldwell was the local Doctor. His usual solution for me was a bilious appearing green pill which could only be swallowed with the help of honey or some such substance. There was some castor oil and gallons of cod lever oil,. Mother was convinced that enough of that would solve any problems. She also discovered “Ipecak”, a horrible tasting substance which calmed the hooping, and of course there was Vicks and mustard plasters liberally applied around the neck at bed time. Couple this with a hot iron wrapped in an old blanket at my feet and the germs didn’t have a chance.

 

A wonderful gift of nature is that we are permitted to grow up when we are young. Our accumulated experiences certainly help in avoiding mistakes, but they also most certainly stifle inquisitiveness. As a youngster growing up in Waterford in the early 1930’s I had no such inhibitions. I realized that we didn’t have certain things that others did, such as an automobile or an indoor toilet. But those deficiencies surfaced only at specific times. For example on Sunday afternoons when all the car owners took their families for a ride, or on a cold December evening when a trip to the privy was required. There was not tarrying then when a brisk north wind whipped up through our standard one holer. But spring was better at our privy. It was shielded from the house and general view by an enormous lilac bush, at least 10 feet high. The fragrance from that bush is with me to this day. As a matter of fact any time that I smell lilac fragrance I think of that old privy. Such are the associations that we make. Some of my other memories of those days. Our postman was Louis McGavack. He drove a model A ford, a two seater. Even in those pre-auto transmission days he was proficient at driving from either seat and on either side of the road. Everyone gave him a wide berth when he drove into view as he wasn’t noted for looking before he turned. Our mail consisted of, letters from Mothers relatives, hopefully with checks enclosed, packages from a big fan of Monkey Ward, and bought everything from my cod liver oil to a kerosene oil cooking range from them. She believed in buying my clothing at least two sizes too large and everything was rolled up for the first few wearings. I never heard of Sears, Monkey Ward was it. Only two bills came through the mail. The electric bill which was about $1.00 per month, and the Real Estate Tax which I think was about $1.25 per year. There was no mortgage, the house was owned outright. The mail box was used by others also. The bread man would leave the bread there, and often there would be fruits, vegetables, church bulletins, almost anything. Sometimes there wasn’t room for the mail, and Mr. McGavack would blow his horn so that someone would come and unload. He lived on a farm out to the west of town and had a beautiful daughter named Betty.

 

I previously mentioned Tom Corbin the blacksmith. Attached to his shop was this old store. It was fascinating to me. The show cases were still there with merchandise on the shelves. The place was dust covered with stuff everywhere. I remember many old guns sitting around, chamber pots, implements of all sort. It seems that they just closed the doors one day and never touched the place again. I don’t know why.

 

I mentioned Dr. Caldwell, the local GP, but there was no Dentist in town. My father had false teeth. His originals had been removed years before in Frederick, Maryland, and he replaced them periodically with the mail order variety, probably from Monkey Ward. When the time came for Mother to get teeth she went to a Dr. Detweiler in Herndon, Virginia. There she had all of her teeth removed, and both uppers and lowers fitted in one day. Today that process would take six months if one could get it done at all. I often wondered why she bypassed Leesburg and selected Herdon as our dental department. Stuart straightened me out on that. He says that Dr. Detweiler came via Uncle Flave and Aunt Lucy. Uncle Flave, “who was so tight he squeaked”, had determined that Detweiler was the cheapest, and he and Lucy used him. So Mother made her reservation by mail, and off we went courtesy of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad. Going to the dentist was an all day event and not a very pleasant one at that. The train ran from Rosslyn to Bluemont, Virginia. One trip per day, down in the morning, back to Bluemont in the afternoon. We had to get to Peaonian Springs, a distance of about 3 miles, to catch the morning run at 8:00 a.m. That required hitching a ride. Mother arranged it. The train was a one or two car affair, powered by electricity, similar to an urban streetcar. It seemed to stop at every farm in route to pick up something, but usually milk or cream, which was contained in 10 gallon galvanized cans. This was unloaded either in Leesburg or Alexandria, to be processed into butter or other milk products. The farmer would have contracted his production previously with the plant and the train crew was responsible to get it to the proper platforms. The train also handled mail and other freight, so we usually were stopped longer than we were moving. Anyway we finally got to Herndon, and walked to the Dentist’s office. That operation hasn’t changed much over the years, excepting that either was used for serious events. Filling teeth was not considered serious. After that it was back to the train station to reverse the morning trip. As I recall the afternoon train arrived in Herndon about 3:30 p.m. Flave and Lucy’s cousins Cable and Mable Stevens lived in Herndon, and we would visit them on occasion, during the trips.

 

1932 arrived and I was off to first grade. First though shots were required, duly administered by Miss Gully, the county nurse who arrived on schedule to perform this fearful task. Not a happy day. Waterford then had eleven grades culminating in a high school degree. It served a surrounding area of about ten square miles. I don’t recall the enrollment, but it was probably under two hundred. My teacher for the first three grades was Miss Harley, who I believe lived in Round Hill, Virginia. She arrived in style each day in her Model T. This was a radical departure from custom as teachers usually boarded in the towns where they taught. As Stuart reminds me, on every possible occasion, I arrived home on the first day with a bloody nose courtesy of Charles Mitchell, son of either the Baptist or Methodist Minister. I announced that was it for school so far as I was concerned, but Mother arranged an amnesty and life progressed. People were not as mobile in those days. I began school and graduated with, Morris Nix, Eleanor Livingston, Dorothy Russell, Francis Arnold, George Rollison, Mary Frances Hickman, Jimmie Comphor, Freddie Donaldson, Arthur Peacock, and perhaps others that I’ve forgotten. Lupton Simpson was the principal. He had lost the use of his legs from polio and was required to use crutches, but as Stuart can attest there was nothing wrong with his arms when he wielded a paddle and dished out retribution. Spare the rod was not yet part of the curriculum. I was pretty good at school. I learned to read early, and enjoyed adventure and action stories. I still do. This is a legacy from my mother. Mary Francis, Eleanor, Morris, and I sort of became the top the class. We and Dolls, and the Minuet. Not a highlight with me, but Mother loved the ladies class and one of the members of that group was Mrs. Nix. The Nixes had arrived in Waterford, I suppose around 1930, and purchased a farm which lay on the West flank of the Catoctin mountain range about three miles northeast of Waterford on the Taylorstown road. The family consisted of Captain Nix, a retired Army officer, Mrs. Nix, and three children, and older brother Robert, middle sister Mary, and youngest child Morris, who was my age. He and I were first buddies. While I could walk to school Morris needed transportation, and this was provided by his faithful pony Trixie. No carpools in those days, which in part was caused I recall by the condition of the drive way into the Nix farm from the main road. By any standard it was impassable, and many Waterford vehicle undersides bore testimony to that fact. Morris and I visited often and I can recall many happy times at his farm. Their home was an old, high ceiling’s Colonial, complete with pillars, a entranceway staircase, library and formal dinning room. I recall vividly Captain Nix in his study, and the formal meals where various topics of the day were discussed. Everyone was expected to participate, and I remember being intimidated, as a six or seven year old, by this extreme contrast to the situation in my home. I do believe though that these early experiences helped shape my interest in wide ranging subjects, and in leisurely discussion filled meals. However at the time my interests were more focused in two other directions. The Nixes had indoor plumbing. Huge, high ceiling bathrooms, with exposed pipes, and a footed bath tub. No matter that the ever present hard water rings were present. I was issued a towel, and expected to draw and take a bath. A bath at home consisted of heating water on the range, or drawing it from the reservoir which was part of each of these stoves. The pouring the water into our galvanized tub which consisted of a seat and lower portion where the water was contained. As a child we sat in the lower portion and as we grew, on Saturday night, and positioned in the middle of the kitchen. The bath then was completed in less than complete privacy. Imagine the culture shock that ensued from finding myself in a large, usually cold room, with copper knobs that delivered the hot water. Mrs. Nix solved my initial lack of technical expertise by having Morris and I share the tub. She claimed this was to save. water. I suspect it was to assist me in getting up to speed on the procedure. Anyway it added to my store of experiences and expectations The other area of great interest to me was the farm itself. It had been the location of several Civil War engagements and the trenches were still visible. Captain Nix was not a vigorous farmer and much of the land was wooded. This suited Morris and I fine and we engaged in many Tarzan, and other adventures on those hillsides. I had learned the Tarzan yell from Stuart, and could practice with reckless abandon. Occasionally we would use Trixie in these activities, but Mrs. Nix gave Trixie the weekends off, and that generally eliminated her as a partner. About this time I attended my first movie. It was a school event and we were carpooled to Leesburg to see Treasure Island. The real one with Wallace Berry and Jackie Cooper. Although Stuart had been attending movies for some time, that’s where he learned his Tarzan yell, and had duly reported their wonders, I was unprepared. The suspense was unbearable, and for weeks afterward we constructed ships, fashioned swords, pistols and muskets, and engaged in pirate and good guy activities. My ship was a large tree which had fallen on the lower part of our property. I removed some of the limbs, used others for masts, and mounted discarded sections of iron pipe for cannon. This pipe was about four inches diameter, three feet long, with connection flanges on one end. They served the purpose admirably. My dagger was a silver serving knife which I had surreptitiously removed from the dinning room server. It was unceremoniously reclaimed by Mother when she discovered it’s absence.

 

We were Presbyterians. I’ve wondered about that. The original Wurtz were Lutherans. Our Grandfather Abraham and Great Grandfather William are buried in a Methodist graveyard. My Mother was Episcopalian, and our parents were married in that church. Yet here we are Presbyterians. I suppose she made that election because she couldn’t get to Leesburg where the closest Episcopal congregation was located. While I do not recall this, Stuart says that our Father served as deacon and was active in this local Presbyterian Church. He was also registrar for the Jefferson voting district and served at the polls each election day. I recall Arthur Godfrey coming to our house to register and listing his occupation as farmer. The going fee for this service was $1.50. This is the famous poll tax later much debated by press and court. Didn’t seem like a bid deal to me at the time.

 

Churches were an integral part of the social fabric in small towns and it was so here. The annual church picnic was highlight. In early years it was held in the woods at the top of the hill leading to the Donaldson farm. The Waterford Cornet Band picture was taken there. Then we graduated to the Braddock Heights, Maryland amusement park. Here were many other delights. I would save my money for this event, and remember swinging out with reckless abandon to retrieve the gold ring from a bronco on the merry go round. As always we had to hitch a ride, and I recall one trip in the back of Smoot’s truck. It was very hot and Mother got sick. This may have been following her teeth extraction ordeal. One other occasion we went with Doug Myers. Doug was the Sunday School Superintendent, and in charge of the event. We stopped in Leesburg to pick up the Dixie cups and pack them in large insulated bags, with dry ice. We were told not to touch the dry ice because it would burn. Forty years later, at FFK, the same style bags are still in use. So much for technology advance. A Deciding the picnic location was a exercise in democracy. A vote was taken, and the majority ruled. While I had no vote, I always lobbied for Glen Echo. I had heard that it was wonderful place, and my first visit did nothing to dispel that view. A roller coaster and rides of all sort. We only went there a few times, it apparently didn’t appeal to the congregation, but it was a magical place to a small boy from Waterford.

 

Another church activity that was fun was the annual Church camp school at Massanuttan Springs, near Harrisonburg, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. This was a big journey, almost one hundred miles. I believe that the stay was one week, although it could have been two. We were housed in barracks type buildings, and were responsible for certain chores, etc. A counselor chaperon accompanied us, usually Freda Myers, Doug’s wife. There we were with children form other areas. We attended bible classes but there was great deal of sports activity thrown in, and the competition was keen. One of the highlights was the evening campfire sessions, where we would compete with yells. I remember one of our winners was,

 

Chicka Racka, Chicka Racka, Chow, Chow, Chow,

 

Booma Racka, Booma Racka, Bow, Wow, Wow,

 

Sis Boom, Sis Boom, Sis Boom, Rah.

 

Pawnees, Pawnees, Rah, Rah, Rah.

 

Obviously I was Pawnee.

 

The creek was a big draw for a small boy. Stuart and Hendrix Hickman were adept clubhouse builders. They constructed one on the Catoctin tributary below Doug Myers house. It was magnificent affair on an eddy in the creek which had dug out a hole deep enough for swimming. That was my first swimming pool. Unfortunately a heavy summer thunder storm flooded the creek and carried the clubhouse downstream. The next step in the swimming process was to the chute. The chute was part of an elaborate engineering project designed ultimately to deliver water to the grist and flour mill on the northwest end of town. It apparently was built in the early days of the town. The meadow surrounding the mill area is flat, and even though the Catoctin Creek is near, with adequate water volume, the fall is insufficient to generate enough speed to turn the wheel. It was necessary to go up stream about two miles to find adequate elevation. A straight line mill race was desired to reduce the amount of digging. That straight line intersected the tributary that was mentioned previously. So two dam structures were required. One on the main Catoctin, to provide adequate volume of water and a second on the tributary, to act as a holding or pass through dam. This second dam was called the chute. Both of these structures were of local stone. There was an intake gate above the main dam, the mill race ran for about a mile down to, and dumped into the tributary, and was held there by a second structure. The chute had a series of wooden gates which could be adjusted to regulate flow and bleed off water in time of flood. There was a wooden spillway over which the water shot, hence I supposed the name chute. The last miller was Mr. Smote, who lived in the large house overlooking the mill subsequently owned by the White’s. The mill operated I my younger days but I don’t remember much about it. I remember the chute as the swimming hole. It was deep, accommodated diving, and was the scene of many Saturday and Sunday outings. At that time the meadow and creek in which the chute was located was owned by Ed Beans. He permitted the chute to be used Sunday’s could see many vehicles parked there as the owners cooled off. The Stabler’s owned an adjacent meadow which was used by the local baseball team, but more on that later. Graduating to use of the chute was a big step and a milestone in a small boy’s growing up.

 

My fourth and fifth grade teacher was Miss Orrison. She had replaced the legendary Miss Minnie Russell, who brought fear to every students heart, but who also taught a lot of English and Arithmetic. Miss Minnie would walk through her classroom looking for talkers and dreamers. When she spotted one she would crack them across the knuckles with a wooden ruler that she kept at the ready. Stuart, in a sudden fit of genius, cut and brought her a large stick one day. As is to be expected he was the first recipient. At least that’s the story that he tells. Miss Orrison was our teacher and it seemed to me that she had trained at Miss Minnies knee. She was a heavyset, maiden lady, who drove into Waterford each day in her ford coupe from her home in Milltown. She taught me to concentrate and stick to whatever I was trying to accomplish.

 

Of course we a had a gang. Mine was comprised of George Rollsion, whose father was the local watch maker, Arthur Hawes, who's father operated a store on Front Street directly across from Uncle Spence and Aunt Nina’s house, Obbie Hough, whose father was a carpenter, but who also doubled as a sometime preacher and lay leader of the local Methodist Church. Occasionally the group would include George’s cousin Phil, whose father ran the local garage, and Hendrix Hickman, whose family operated the corner store. George became a contractor and still lives in Waterford, Obbie became a minister, and Arthur died many years ago. Other characters on the local scene included John Henry Furr, the Donaldson brothers, Bobby and Freddie, the Myers girls, Doris, Janet, and June, daughters of Leslie, Ellen Faith, daughter of Doug, and the Livingston girls, Eleanor and Phillis. John Henry had one deformed arm, the result of an improper break set when he was a child. It did not inhibit his ability to play ball and he was a star on the local team for many years. I played with him, and he introduced me to the wonders of Saturday night in Leesburg, which often included a jug of Muscatel wine. We would often walk home from Leesburg, a distance of seven miles and think nothing of it. But all this was much later. The Waterford tradition was to overturn outhouses, remove gates so livestock could escape, and remove property so the owner would have trouble locating it. Those who preceded us left a weighty tradition. Installing a buggy on the roof of Harvey Parker’s blacksmith shop was probably the greatest achievement of those who went before, but we struggled to keep up. The residents of course were familiar with this fun filled activity, and would remove their gates for safe keeping. Some of them guarded their property with a shotgun, which called for caution on our part. We did get our share of gates though, and released the brakes on a few old cars so that they would drift down the hill. But overturning an outhouse was one of our major goals, and by the time I was eleven or twelve years of age we had one in our sights. It was located at the rear of the Livingston home, now know as the Shawn House, on Second Street. We scouted it out prior to the big night and were all set. We arrived on the scene sometime after dark, and put our shoulders to the task. It didn’t budge. We tried again with the same result. Fearful of discovery, but still wanting to accomplish the task and get our names in the record book, we opened the door. They had filled the outhouse with bricks, and were storing bricks there, or if they filled it to foil us. Anyway we never got it overturned. All of this activity, which we would now call vandalism, seemed to be taken in stride by the residents. They didn’t like to go looking for their property, or repairing the damage, but they seemed to accept it as part of the growing up process. No outside authority was called upon to protect anyone’s rights. No one was sued. It just blew over.

 

Rattle banding and snipe hunting were other examples of this tolerance. Newly weds were regularly harassed on their wedding night. It was a great game to locate where they would spend that night, get together a group of people, and serenade them with wash tubs, drums and anything that would make a racket. The noise did not cease until they appeared and provided food for all present. Snipe hunting involved taking an innocent person out at night to capture an imaginary snipe. The system was to go to some dark, remote place where snipes were alleged to reside, give the victim a burlap bag, and instruct them to hold the bag so that the rest of the party could drive the snipes in. Then we would spread out in the darkness and make weird noises for awhile, ultimately leaving the victim alone, to slowly figure out that they had been duped. Almost everyone was caught by this gag, I know that I was, but no one seemed to resent it. We didn’t get mad, we just got even. Perhaps it was cruel, but it seems to me that it prepared us to take action on our own behalf and to look for solutions within ourselves, rather than look for big brother to solve all of our misfortunes. Anyway that’s the way it was in Waterford in the 1930’s.

 

The first public haircut is a big event. Mine was administered by Mr. Fry. He was a painter, in addition to barbering, and ultimately went into the preaching business. He conducted his hair cutting operation one night each week, Saturday I believe, and the room was filled with customers and observers.

 

Preaching is always good business in the country, and Mr. Fry started the local Nazarene branch. Their demonstrative worship procedure did not set well with many of the more conservative residents, but he developed a constituency and the church seemed to flourish. We youngsters used to peer in the windows hoping the worshippers would roll on the floor, as holly rollers were supposed to do, or that the women would bear their bosoms, as we had been told they would do. But alas they never did and ultimately we tired of the game and left them alone. I’ve since wondered why there was such local resentment which, I add, included our Mother. I can only conclude that it was fear. Fear of something different, which would mean a change. In some ways the Nazarene procedure resembled Negro worship of that day. Very demonstrative, and somehow threatening.

 

Waterford had a population of about three hundred, fifty in my youth. Half were Negroes, who were definitely second tier citizens in that community. They were not treated with disrespect by the whites, merely with difference. I can’t recall hearing the word nigger until I went to New Hampshire at age seventeen. The primary word used when I was a child was colored. Since we have progressed through negro to black. The issue then, as today was access to economic opportunity and precedent, with precedent coming first. In our community one was either in or out of the economic opportunity arena. Entrance into that select group was usually by birth, but could be forced by an aggressive few. No blacks made it to my recollection. Few whites, including us, made it either. Everyone in their place and no boat rocking. You see it everywhere in the world today, it has always been so, and will not change. Privilege is not surrendered gratuitously.

 

I recall a camping trip to the Skyline Drive when I was about nine. Mrs. Clendenin and Miss Eleanor Chamberlin lived on a farm on Route 662 about one mile south of Waterford. They were sisters of Edward Chamberlin who owned adjoining Greystone. Stuart had worked for the two ladies who lived there, and our Mother knew them also. Their grandson came to visit occasionally during the summer, and I was dispatched by Mother to provide companionship. Here I was introduced to a new environment, the landed rich. While the Clendenins apparently were not rich, the Chamberlins definitely were. Edward was the patriarch of the clan and his brother Roy lived nearby. They had a stable of fine riding horses, hunting dogs, the first private swimming pool and tennis court in the area, and had a triple A financial rating, or so it seemed to me. The Chamberlins had entered our lives previously. Our Mother was employed by them as a governess for Eleanor, Edward’s daughter. She came there upon her return from England when she was eighteen, and it was from there that she met and married our father. All of that was of no consequence to me at the time. I had discovered a new world. We camped at Big Meadows on the Skyline Drive. The Drive was still under construction at the time by the Civil Conservation Corp., one of the New Deal make work projects. We cooked out, hiked up Old Baldy, fished and had a great time. Back at the farm we explored, rode the farm wagons and horses, swam and played tennis. I remember that Laura Chamberlin, later to play a part in Stuart’s life, taught us to ride. I had all ready mastered swimming at the chute. I later worked during one summer break for Edward Chamberlin, Jr. He, by then, had married and was running Greystone. I was in the lawn care business, and acquired the job from Ira Jones. As I recall, Greystone took two or three days per week and I had other accounts including Dr. Bran’s in Leesburg. Dr. Bran now was our Dentist, and I got the job initially to work off a bill. Dr. Detweiler and Herndon seem to have disappeared. No that I think of it I believe that the reason for that was that the W O &D had ceased to function.

 

A big event in our lives was our first radio. It arrived from Montgomery Ward sometime in the early thirties courtesy of I believe Cousin Georgia. At that time I was performing after school chores which included hauling out Aunt Nina’s slop bucket and replacing her wood and coal supplies, and the same activities for Ed Myers, Doug and Leslie’s father. Fortunately the Myer’s had indoor plumbing and I was spared the slop jar routine at their house but I fear that I was lax in that department. All of this work interfered with my after school sports activity, but fortunately my buddies had the same problem. All that is except Arthur Hawes, who never seemed to have to do anything except watch his father’s store occasionally. That was a big mistake on the part of his father, as Arthur spent most of his time eating those little individual fruit pies and drinking R.C. colas. We would get a free one infrequently as Arthur was afraid that his father would notice if the inventory became too depleted. When the radio arrived it was installed on the round oak table. My listening schedule began at five thirty each afternoon, and concluded at six forty five when Mother and Father took over to listen to Lowell Thomas. Hearing his broadcasts from all over the world was a daily highlight for them. In my wildest dreams I would never have imagined that a few years later I would be sitting in a ski lodge in New Hampshire drinking hot buttered rums with that same Lowell Thomas. But in those days I was more interested in my adventure programs, which included, Buck Rogers in the Twenty First Century, Jack Armstrong the All American Boy, Tom Mix, and Flash Gordon. Once a week Mcgee and Molly, Jack Benny, and Fred Allen. Our father’s favorite were Curley and Slim, country singers who broadcast over the Monacacy Broadcast System in Frederick, Maryland. They put on a show at the High School Auditorium once which was a big event for Waterford.

 

Sports were high on our list of priorities. We all dreamed of being a major leaguer. My favorite teams were, the Washington Senators, then housed in Griffith Stadium on Georgia Avenue, the Washington Redskins, and Notre Dame, not necessarily in that order. Cecil Travis was my favorite number one Redskins, but the entire 1937 team of Riley Smith, Cliff Malone, Wayne Milner, Turk Edwards etc., with Ray Flaherty as the coach, were aces with me. The Redskins had moved to Washington from Boston at the conclusion of the 1936 season. The Notre Damers all seemed to have multi syllable Polish names none of which I can recall at the moment. Waterford fielded a baseball team while the high school was in place, all though it was never very successful. Due I suppose to the small enrollment. John Henry Furr would attend school just enough to be eligible to play, then disappear. After a while, Mr. Simpson called that off. I never attended high School in Waterford, so I had no opportunity to add to that dubious record. The town did have a team, which played each Sunday, against teams from surrounding towns. This was source of civic pride but on very shaky grounds economically. There were no uniforms unless the individual could supply their own. It was tough enough to acquire balls and bats. James Hamilton provided the sariatorial highlight for the team. James father Harry was operating the Burch dairy farm adjacent to our property, having moved there from Purcellville, Virginia. James was a star player who had attended the Ben Blue baseball school near Washington, D.C., hoping to make it professionally. He didn’t make the pros but he kept his uniform which had Ben Blue displayed across his chest. The other players had bits and pieces of uniforms, but that in now way diminished enthusiasm or support. Some of the players were, Herb Edwards, catcher, Doc Merchant, pitcher, Leo Merchant, first base, John Henry Furr, center fielder, and James Hamilton, short stop. Enter Vincet Zoll. Vincent was the fiancée and later husband of Moselle Virts, second daughter of Nina and Spence. Nina and Spence spent the summers in Waterford, which led to my previously mentioned slop jar activity, and Moselle would visit them on weekends. Vincent got into the local scene. Vincent had to be center stage where ever he was, and the Waterford baseball team was right up his alley. He would arrive with a dozen new baseballs, bats and even provided some uniforms. His car was available for transportation, and he provided verbal support. All this got him elected manager, which role he fulfilled for awhile until his interest, and or finances waned. At that time he was about half way through a twenty year courtship of Moselle, which apparently didn’t wane, although Moselle’s sister Marian said on many occasions that she wished it had. I thought that he was the greatest thing around. I had never seen a dozen baseballs in one place before.

 

Waterford in those days had four grocery stores, Hawes Piggy’s, the Corner Store, run by the Hickaman’s and James Meat Market, run by Minor James and his wife Clara. They had one son, Dick who took over the store when Minor died. Minor and Dick were great hunters and fisherman. Minor also used to do some slaughtering, primarily calves and hogs, at the rear of his property. As this was upwind from town all were treated to the aroma. Minor was a heavy drinker, in addition to being handy with a gun, and this combination kept the citizens at bay for awhile, but finally a delegation convinced him to cease this activity. Not without some anxious moments however. I learned about mountain oysters from Minor and Dick. They comprised the local Boar Hog castration team, which was undertaken when the animal got too cantankerous. I assisted them in one such action and then gave up that career. One career that we pursued for a time was as a hunter. There were several old ladies in town who liked frogs legs and squab. Hendrix Hickman and I went into partnership. We shot frogs during the day with 22 caliber rifles, but hunting was better at night. For one thing more frogs were out, and they could be gigged using flashlights. This was a surer method as we would sometimes lose them using a rifle. Squab hunting was easy if the odor could be tolerated. The only problem was to locate a barn, where a lot of pigeons roosted. Unfortunately the nests were always a the very top of the barn and guano covered every rafter on the way up. Once there we would put the baby pigeons in a sack and deliver them to our customers live. The frog customers only wanted the legs so that’s all we delivered. As I recall we got twenty cents a pair. We also hunted squirrel and rabbit but only for our own consumption. There was no market for them. There was a market for game birds, quail primarily, but an occasional pheasant also. We ate a lot of rabbit caught in traps by our father. He would set the traps up in the garden and the rabbits could not resist the enticing carrots that he would place inside. Rabbit fever was a big thing and he would examine the liver for enlargement. I guess it worked because we never got sick. But then I cannot remember him ever throwing a rabbit away either. We did some trapping, Stuart more than I. Mink were scarce, so it was primarily muskrat and skunks. This required a trapline, either on the creek for the rats or near a grain field for skunks, which had to be serviced every day. The catch was disposed of, brought home, skinned and stretched on a board. Our father usually got the skinning duties. They were not cured, simply left in the cold for preservation until they could be sold. Stuart reports that he and Walton Eamich were in this business for a while. Walton’s father Bruce acted as their sales agent. Max Davis, a junk and miscellaneous dealer in Leesburg was the buyer, and negotiations were brisk. No. 1 all black pelts bought $3.00. No. 4 with striping $1.00. Stuart did most of this and we had some lively odors around the house for a while. I did more night hunting. We would use hunting dogs to trail and three the quarry. There was some coon hunting, but we primarily went for skunks. There were more of them. We would get to the hunting area, give the dogs the scent from a sack or pelt, and turn them loose. You could tell by the dog’s bray what type prey they were on, and when the continuous wail broke up into yelps we knew that they had treed. It was important to stay close to the dogs because skunks are not tree climbers, and would be brought to bay on the ground. The dogs were so excited that they would get too close to the skunks, attack them, and damage the pelt. A more likely occurrence was that they would get sprayed which would end that dogs skunk hunting career. Dogs will not track skunks once they have had a taste of that perfume. Our system was to take the skunks alive. When we caught up to the dogs and located the skunk the tricky part began. A skunk cannot spray when it’s feet are off the ground. But all four must be off. If the animal finds purchase on anything, a branch, pants leg, even a twig it will let lose and heaven help you if your are in the way. Society won’t accept you for weeks. The system was to get the dogs on a leash so they could be controlled. Then one person would hold the dogs and direct a flashlight at the skunk. The animal would face the dogs and be blinded by the light. It could twirl in a flash however. The other person would circle, approach from the rear, and pick the animal up by the tail which was raised in the attack position. This was no time for indecision. You had to pick that rascal up right now and get all four feet off the ground, all complicated by the fact that the skunk would usually barricade himself in underbrush. Assuming all this went satisfactorily the next step was to get him into a sack, and not let his feet catch the sides in so doing. Once confined in the sack the skunk would not spray. This hunting was done in September, October, and early November. The idea was to feed them up in captivity and let their winter coat develop prior to selling. Seems cruel to me now but at the time I never gave it a second thought. They were a means of improving economics.

 

Fall was also cider item, and I mean real cider not the bland stuff now found in the stores. Cider was produced by the orchard owners and there were a lot of them in the Waterford area. They would press the apples and age the juice in wooden casks usually stored in the basement of the farmhouse. A relatively stable temperature of around forty degrees was fermentation. Raisins were widely used. They added flavor, had the sugar and were relatively cheap. Unfortunately there was no way to impede the process. Once fermentation started it continued until vinegar was developed, so most of the cider was consumed by January or February.

 

I mentioned Ira Jones before. Ira and his wife Alice lived in the little cottage adjacent to the grist mill. It had two rooms down, the living space in front and kitchen, work space in the rear. Sleeping was in the loft. Ira was the resident expert in wine making, and liquor distillation. I could never handle the corn liquor, favored by many local residents, but he could distill that cider into a fine brandy which he called Jack. He made wine from almost anything. Grapes of course, but also blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries and dandelions. All this is Alice’s kitchen at the rear of his cottage. My mother was great friends with Alice, although I don’t believe that she was a wine customer of Ira’s. Years later, in 1977, I visited Waterford during festival time, and there was Ira sitting on his front step with Alice. My mother had been dead for twelve years and they didn’t know it. Alice took me into the familiar rear room and there on the wall was a picture that my mother had painted and given to her many years before. She prized it highly. The next time that I visited Waterford they were both gone.

 

Another career that I had in those pre-high school years was as ice man. Actually I was an assistant. Refrigerators were not common. Most people had ice boxes, as we did, which needed regular replenishment. A. A. Painter provided the delivery service, or rather his sons did. A. A. had operated a woodyard, complete with saw on our property in the early thirties. I recall the howl of the saw as it cut through the wood. But back to the ice. He had an old model T black truck with an open wooden bed. On the side of the cab he had lettered A. A. Painter - The Honest Man. The locals had some doubts about that statement claiming that his scales were at least five pounds off in his favor and some had their own scales to check up on him. To me it seemed to be how business operated. In any event the system was to go to Leesburg ice plant in the morning and load the truck. The ice was covered with canvas to retard melting. Then we would run the route selling off the back of the truck. The ice was in blocks of I believe fifty pounds, and if the customer wanted less we were required to split it out. Then it would be weighed on the famous scales hanging on the rear of the truck, picked up by tongs and delivered to the ice chest

 

Other people that I recall in no particular order. Dr. Burger, husband of Happy Russell, who sewed up my mouth with eighteen stitches when I fell off the school house privy one Halloween night. Bob Compher, Jimmie’s and Ross’s father. Margaret Hickman who married Ross. Callie Comphor, Bob’s brother who lived on the Taylorstown road. Junior Cooley, whose father was assistant sheriff for Loudoun County. Brooke Stabler. Andrew Mcgavack, Doug’s predecessor at the Loudoun Mutual Fire Insurance Company. The Dulin’s, The Hutchinson’s, The Rust’s, Jim and Josephine Carr and their children Albert and Emma, Charley Virts, John Henry’s grandfather. Also “Tots” Edwards and “Scoopum” Mallory.

 

I remember that Stuart got fifty cents to mow Leslie Myer’s lawn, and Janet told us they now pay fifty dollars. Some of our Relatives are buried in the Quaker Meeting House graveyard, I’m told. I don’t know who. Mrs. Maggie Brown often provided taxi services for our mother. I recall that she always called mother Mrs. Virts and mother always called her Mrs. Brown. Not the famous “Book Club” which included in it’s membership the local “Rich and Famous”. The home Ec operation was kind of a second tier deal. Mrs. Brown was twice widowed, having married Luther Brown upon the death of her first husband, Wally Comphor. Wally, Bob, and Callie were sons of Bumble Bee Comphor, who had acquired several farms in the Waterford area and who’s name Bumble Bee attested to his skill in stinging his business opponents. Mrs. Brown’s farm came to her via Wally. They had four children, Millard, who committed suicide in 1956, Marvin who became a Presbyterian minister, Johnnine who worked the farm, and Marie. Actually Fenton Pollard, a black man, ran the place for them. Johnnie was called “Stinger”, a tribute to his inherited gift from his grandfather. Their farm was located a the intersection of Rt. 662 and Rt. 9. Apparently an inheritance came to the children at age twenty one, and the manner in which they spent it became a matter of much local discussion. My most vivid recollection of Mrs. Brown is that she weighted about three hundred pounds and made the worst pie I had ever eaten. She would give me a big hug and I would be squashed barely able to breath, against those monstrous bosoms. The pie was solid lard. Their farm was purchased by Author Godfrey upon her death. The Raymond Peacock farm adjoined Mrs. Brown’s. Raymond was the father of Arthur, who was in my class. I recall going to the Peacock’s place with Mother to pick tomatoes for canning. The Roland Legard’s lived on a farm north of Rt. 9 on the Brunswick road. For some reason they attended church at Waterford Presbyterian. I believe that one of the sons, Robert later became sheriff of Loudoun.

 

During the late thirties the Chamberlin’s began buying and restoring homes in Waterford, the beginning of the Waterford Foundation. Apparently they obtained the idea from The Rockefellers, who were then engaged in mechanism, available under new deal legislation. They began on Main Street with, I believe, the Arch House. This was important to us as it was next door to the house in which Stuart was born. The plan was to restore the house as nearly as possible to it’s colonial condition, and either sell or rent it to a suitable person. We had our own little urban incentives. And as has occurred repeatedly since, the result is to dislocate the existing residents, who in this case were local blacks. However Martin Luther Kings was not yet on the scene, so that issue wasn’t given much concern. The local response was primarily positive. It provided work. I recall Maurice Hough working on those homes, repairing mantles, replacing plaster, etc. The blacks got some work, and all in all it was a good deal. What it meant to me at the time was that there was some activity in town, but I believe that the seed of my personal philosophy on work versus public hand out germinated in tha



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