Gary High School 1914-1978

The Coaldigger





Ambers Haga, Barbara Sims, Connie Lovelace & Gene


Country road  in WV

As I reflect back on my childhood days in the mountains of West Virginia, I realize that it was a wonderful time in my life. I'm reminded of a slower pace and how much happier people seemed to be. Yes, times were certainly different then. Children could just be kids and do the things that bring joy to childhood and leave happy memories. Of course we were taught values, manners and what close family relationships and respect for our elders meant. Learning responsibility started very early. And for that I am truly thankful.

Coke Row in  Pageton

Our playgrounds was the coal dirt road that was in front of our house on coke row in Pageton, the railroad tracks, the Coke Ovens and in the mountains at the back of our house, I remember my Sister Nancy and I, and our friends, we loved to play on the slate dump and pick blackberries all over the mountains. Our mother would tell us to be careful of Miners Cracks and snake holes, we used to swing on the grapevines in the mountains, and never even thought of being afraid, and we always had plenty of friends. And everyone knew everybody; we made up our own games Tin can alley. Go Sheepy Go, Hot tail, Bunny Hop, Hop Scotch, Red Rover, Paper dolls, Jacks, and many more.

How I wish that children today could experience some of the simple joys we knew then. Mothers stayed home and took care of the home and the kids, and Fathers was the only one to work. Everyone had the same Mommy and Daddy, no divorces, I never heard the word until I married and left home.

Nancy Sims, Carl Arrington, June Lovelace, John Novak, Edna Goins

I remember only Good Times in the 50ís with my friends, There was June, Connie, Betty, Gloria, Frances, Dickie Joe, Danny, Paul, Carl, Fred, I canít even begin to name them all, it would take more than the pages here. But these were special friends. I remember my sister Nancy and I going to June Lovelaceís and Betty Helmandollars house and dancing, which wasnít allowed at our house., our Dad was really strict when it came to anything that he thought was a sin. No dancing, playing cards were allowed. On the weekends there were times when Iíd go to Chilhowie, VA with June and Connie Lovelace to their Grandmothers house, and weíd go Roller skating, and to Hungry Mothers Park and being teenagers in the 50s was a great time. I loved going with June and Connie to Chilhowie, which was a special time. Of course we liked looking at the cute boys too, one in particular was Ambers Haga, and he could roller skate, and thatís what I liked to do.

My Hero, Mr. Lovelace

My Hero  Tom Lovelace


I remember the summer of 1956, when it was so hot,  a bunch of us wanted to go swimming, and there was a special swimming hole that we used to go to on Elkhorn Mountain, It was where the Pageton Methodist Church used to baptize their members and thatís where we were suppose to go, it was called the Baptizing hole, however one of the boys, Fred Boggs or Danny Dillon mentioned, lets go to Crozer Dam, so we walked to the  Dam, and the walk from Pageton may have been 3-4 miles. When we got there I had noticed not too far from the area we were at, was a Man and boy fishing, and I thought at the time, we were going to make too much noise for him to catch any fish. But as kids, we jumped in the water, and was playing around, and Danny said lets go to the other side, we all started to the other side. I realized that I couldnít move my legs, and the rest of them were already there. I panicked, and called out HELP, but they thought I was playing and started laughing and telling me to come on, I remember Danny started to come out there, but Fred said sheís going to dunk you when you get there and he turned and went back it seemed to me I had gone down and up more than 3 times, I kept hollering HELP, and the next thing I knew, Someone grabbed me, and I was fighting him, and he slapped me to calm me down. I remember seeing his face, and it looked like my Grandpa, who was blind. And my Grandpa was already dead. He carried me out of the water onto the side, and He told me ďDonít you go back into the waterĒ, I realized then that the Man who pulled me out of Crozier Dam, a Dam that had no bottom to it, thatís what we had always heard. Was Tom Lovelace, He was the man fishing there with his son Tommy and June and Connieís Dad. He said to me youíre Steve Simsí girl arenítí you? I shook my head yes, He said you kids have no business being up here without an Adult, this is a dangerous place to swim, and Iíll bet your Mom and Dad donít know that youíre here.. I remember telling him ďMr. Lovelace, please donít tell DaddyĒ. all He said  way you kids should go home.

My friends started playing in the water again, and I wanted to go back in,however, my sister Nancy, was almost in tears telling me not to go back in, so I didnít go back in, and probably if I had gone in, I could swim today, but I canít, and of course Mr. Lovelace and Tommy stopped by the Pump House on their way home, where my Daddy worked, and told Daddy he had to pull his daughter out of Crosier Dam,. When Daddy come home from work, I wasnít home, and Mr. Lovelace didnít say which kid it was so I donít know why Daddy thought it was my sister Patty., but he bawled Patty out and Patty told him it wasnít her it was me, He didnít say anything else until I got home, and he said, I donít want to catch you in any water over a cup full. He said if Tom Lovelace hadnít taken his son Tommy fishing, you would have drowned. Everyone in the family from that day forward never let me forget that. I always thought of Mr. Lovelace as MY HERO. And thatís a memory that will always be with me

I can see and remember all the good times back home in West Virginia. Walking the country roads, riding up the hollers, sitting on the front porch in the swing, breaking green beans with our Mother, watching trees fall when lightning struck them, hearing the tipple running all day and listening to the whistle blow in the morning, lunch and time to get off work, waiting for the mail truck to pass the house so we could walk to the Post Office.

Thank God for all those memories, because no one can ever take those from me and whenever I am lonely and homesick for the Mountains,. I can go back, if only for a little while on the West Virginia Websites and the memories come back.

  "I've come to realize, after many years, If you're born in McDowell County it seems as if it becomes part of you and you're never the same living anywhere else. You can take the girl out of the Country, but you canít take the Country out of the girl. Itís always there with you.

Country Road in WV

I have lived in several States and different Countries, and I still think the country roads of West Virginia are the most beautiful.

I realized how fortunate I am. Truly blessed by God growing up where you could hear the sound of whippoorwills and crickets. And catching Lightning bugs and taking the light out and putting on our fingers for rings. And to tie a string on a June Bug and let it fly around making a buzzing noise. The Coal camp children knew how to have fun the W.VA. Way..

In my senior yearbook, beside my picture says ďThis little Kitty plans to move to a big cityĒ Well that I have done, and my heart still belongs to the hills of West Virginia. I have a lot of wonderful memories of Southern West Virginia, and especially of Pageton and McDowell County.

 WEST VIRGINIA, Maybe it was the original GARDEN OF EDEN, after all, it's ALMOST HEAVEN

  Barbara Sims Copyright (c) 2009 -2012 thecoaldigger/ All rights reserved.