Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Farewell Column

For several years, I've written a monthly column for "Two-Lane Livin'" magazine, which is distributed to 15,000 readers in central West Virginia. I'm thankful for that opportunity, but my stint in the Peace Corps will interrupt my column for the next two years. Here is my "farewell column" which was just published in the July issue of the magazine:

Farewell For Now

If you have read my columns (or visited my blog) the past few years, you know that I am a proud West Virginian, and that I love traveling around my native state. With the exception of three years working in Washington, DC, I have lived my entire life in the Mountain State. It will always be a defining part of my existence.

However, my life is about to take a two-year detour. I retired from my federal job at the end of May, and left the country in June. I was selected to serve in the Peace Corps, and so I am spending my first two years of retirement teaching students overseas. I have been assigned to serve in the Eastern Caribbean. You can follow my adventure in my new blog at

I had considered joining the Peace Corps while a student at WVU, but didn’t do it at that time. As I neared retirement age, I realized that the Peace Corps would be an excellent way to transition into retirement. I feel fortunate to have been chosen for what has been touted as “the toughest job you’ll ever love!”

The Peace Corps was created in 1961 by President Kennedy. It has three main purposes: 1.) to provide assistance to developing countries; 2.) to help the foreigners we serve to better understand America; and 3.) to help Americans better understand other cultures. I look forward to doing my best to be a good teacher, ambassador, and communicator in order to accomplish all three of these objectives.

In some respects, it would seem that going to an island in the West Indies will be completely different than living in wild, wonderful West Virginia. However, I am eager to see what underlying similarities there may be beneath the obvious differences, and to analyze them in my new blog.

In the meantime, I hope that I have inspired some of you to get out and enjoy the many great places we have in West Virginia. I promise that I will be returning in a couple of years. Despite all my travels around the state, I still have some West Virginia destinations that I haven’t fully explored yet, such as Tomlinson Run State Park, the Sinks of Gandy, the Coal House in Williamson, Lost River State Park, and many more. Following my stint in the Peace Corps, my retirement will give me the time to cross these locations off my list, plus allow me to make return visits to many of my favorite tourist spots.

So as of now, I will need to sign off as a contributor to this fine publication. It has been a lot of fun taking you with me on my journeys around our state. Perhaps I will be able to resume this column when I return in 2017. But in the meantime, please get out and explore all that the Mountain State has to offer. More importantly, please continue supporting this independent publication by spreading the word and patronizing the advertisers.

To close, I’d like to paraphrase one of our state songs: “[although by sea] I roam, still I'll think of happy home, and my friends among the West Virginia hills.”

The mountains on St. Lucia are a bit
different than the mountains back home!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Loving West Virginia

For the past several years, I have been sharing my West Virginia stories in “Two-Lane Livin’” magazine. Most of my stories have been about interesting places to see or exciting things to do in our state (with a few historical stories thrown in for good measure). Some of you might have wondered where I got my interest in traveling around West Virginia.

I come from a long family line of West Virginians. I’m proud to have a few ancestors who joined newly formed West Virginia volunteer units of the Union Army during the Civil War. In a sense, they were helping to fight for our independence from Virginia (because if the Confederacy had won the Civil War, there is no doubt that the fledgling new state of West Virginia would have been reabsorbed into the Old Dominion). Even with the South’s defeat, the Virginia government still challenged the legality of our statehood (as well as questioning some of the counties that were included within our borders) in a case they brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. Fortunately, in that case of Virginia v. West Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled against Virginia.

Most of my ancestors settled along the Ohio River, from Pleasants County to Mason County. Although my father’s family moved to Akron to work in the defense factories during World War II (my grandmother was a “Rosie the Riveter” building Corsair fighter planes), they moved back home to West Virginia after the war. I’m very thankful they did, so that my parents could eventually meet and I could grow up as a West Virginian.

My family was always interested in and proud of our state. North Bend was our nearest state park, and it served as a frequent destination for family picnics and other activities. Over time, I came to know the place quite well. [Not surprisingly, North Bend State Park was the subject of my very first column in “Two-Lane Livin’” magazine.]

Later in my childhood, my family acquired a small camping trailer, and spent many weekends over the years exploring other state parks and attractions around West Virginia. I have many fond memories of those visits to other parts of our beautiful state. My memories are not just of the state parks themselves, but also of the small towns and rural scenes we would pass by as we traversed the two-lane highways to get to our destination. These trips gave me a good sense of our state.

The enjoyment I got as a youngster exploring my native state never has left me. It is my state, and it always will be my state. I’m grateful that my parents passed along their love of West Virginia to me. I trust that I have helped to instill that same home state pride in my daughter (and perhaps even with some of my readers). I hope that many of you reading this story will cultivate a love for West Virginia with anyone you might influence. Indeed, West Virginia is a state worth loving.

Fireworks over the West Virginia State Capitol during the Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2013 (taken from the riverbank at my beloved alma mater, the University of Charleston).
[This story appears in the June 2015 issue of "Two-Lane Livin'" magazine.]

Friday, May 1, 2015

Contentment along Route 60

When I was a child (prior to the interstate era), our summer vacations often involved traveling east on U.S. Route 60 to visit relatives. Following the Kanawha River upstream, between the large hillsides on each side of the river, we passed through many small communities, such as Cedar Grove, Glasgow, Boomer, Smithers, Alloy, etc.

The real excitement began once Kanawha Falls came into view (a small portion is shown above). The wide expanse of whitewater tumbling over the rocky cataract signaled the beginning of the ride out of the river bottom. First, we would pass the historic Glen Ferris Inn, sitting by the riverside as it had since the stagecoach days. Then we’d cross the Gauley River Bridge, while glancing over to the old bus situated on a large rock island at the confluence of the New and Gauley Rivers. After bouncing across the railroad tracks, we’d gaze quickly at the beautiful Cathedral Falls (pictured below), and then begin the climb up Gauley Mountain.

The goal was to avoid becoming carsick as Dad weaved his way up the twists and turns, always hoping to catch the slow moving tractor-trailers at one of the few designated passing zones. Although it was best to try to focus out the front window to avoid carsickness, there were opportunities for incredible views overlooking the steep hillside into the canyon below—if you dared to look out the side windows.

Eventually, we’d reach the plateau at the top of the mountain, which was first signaled by the iconic “Mystery Hole” (a West Virginia landmark which has to be visited to be fully understood), followed soon by Hawks Nest State Park. Finally, we’d enter Ansted, the first small town along the highlands of Route 60.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time at each of the aforementioned places along this scenic stretch of highway. This past summer, I added Ansted’s “Contentment Historical Complex” to my list. When I was young, this was just an old white house with a long front porch overlooking Rt. 60 on the western edge of Ansted. Built in 1830, the house was purchased by former Confederate Colonel George Imboden in 1872. His wife named it “Contentment” because of all the happy times they enjoyed there.

Today, it serves as the Fayette County Historical Society’s museum. During the summer months, docents provide tours of the home, refurbished with household items from the 1800s. In the backyard, they have relocated a former one-room schoolhouse and filled it with ink-well desks, a pot-belly stove, etc. Another building was added in the backyard that houses lots of old antiques and memorabilia from Fayette County. For example, there are old pictures, tools, and other items related to coal mining and railroading in Fayette County.

The day we visited the complex, our tour guide provided a fascinating explanation of the historic keepsakes at Contentment. The Fayette County Historical Society has done a wonderful job of preserving these important possessions and sharing them with visitors. If you are ever in this area during the summer months, add the Contentment Historical Complex (pictured below) to your list of sites to see along Route 60.

[This story was featured in the May issue of "Two-Lane Livin'" magazine.]

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Earth Day

Tomorrow is the 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day celebration, which took place on April 22, 1970. I was a sixth grader at Park Elementary School at that time, which was a pivotal year for me. After five years at a small single-story school in a bucolic setting along a dirt road in Murphytown, the “country kids” were bussed into town to spend our sixth grade year in a big old two story (plus basement as well as a separate gymnasium) school at a major intersection in town.

Life was different going to school in town. Whereas rural Murphytown had acres of green grass playground along Stillwell Creek, Park School had no grass on its small gravel playground in the back of the building. Also, the first few times a fire engine or ambulance screamed by on the busy street outside, it was the country kids who just couldn’t keep themselves from jumping up to look out the window. During my time at Murphytown from first to fifth grade, I don’t think we ever had an emergency vehicle pass by on the dirt road that ran in front of our school.

Murphytown had one classroom for each grade, and so I had always been together with all my classmates—until we went to Park School. It was so large, there were three different sections of sixth grade! Many of my friends were assigned to the other two teachers instead of being in my class.

However, I ended up enjoying my year at Park School. I made many new friends that year, some of whom I’m still friends with after all these years. My principal, Mr. Hasbargen, was still a principal with Wood County Schools when I served on the school board from 1992 to 2000. My homeroom teacher was Mrs. Kellow, who was a wonderful teacher (even if she did criticize me about the creative flourishes I added to my cursive writing—she wanted our cursive writing to be exactly as she taught it!). Our classroom was on the front left corner of the school’s top floor. All six classrooms on this upper floor were devoted to fifth and sixth graders.

While most of our time was spent learning from our homeroom teachers, we also rotated to other classrooms for certain topics. Mrs. Prince taught us science in her room on the left side of the building’s back end. In between on the left side was Mrs. Armstrong (another sixth grade teacher), who ran the library that occupied the center of the upper floor. Miss Downey taught us art in the classroom on the right corner in the front of the building. Miss Barr (also a sixth grade teacher) taught us music in her classroom on the back right side. Mrs. Boso was the designated gym teacher, and had the classroom in the middle of the right side. [At least, this is how I remember things after all these years.]

I am very grateful to the teachers at Park School who decided that we should join in this newfangled “Earth Day” holiday. Concerns about the environment were rapidly coming to the forefront at that time. The space program had provided incredible pictures of the planet earth, looking like a fragile blue marble against the dark black void of space (earlier that school year, I can remember watching the launch of Apollo 12 on TV in the auditorium at the center of the first floor at Park School). Air and water pollution were becoming accepted as major menaces. Even our national symbol, the bald eagle, was thought to be disappearing due to DDT pesticides.

It is against that backdrop that our teachers decided to do something to observe Earth Day, and I’m glad that I took part in the very first one. Every Earth Day since then, I think back to that sunny spring day when our teachers sent us out to clean up the school grounds. I can still remember reaching my hands into the prickly shrubbery that formed a perimeter along Seventh Street and Park Avenue, separating the children from the sidewalks and the busy streets. I remember we were normally required to stay within the shrubbery on the school grounds, but for this special day we were allowed to pick up trash along the street sidewalks as well. We may have done other activities beyond litter clean-up, but my most vivid memory is tearing up my hands and arms reaching for trash in the hedges.

We helped to beautify our school grounds that afternoon, just eight days before the big May Day celebration, when we would weave our way around the maypole in the school’s front yard (do any schoolchildren today even know what I’m talking about when I mention the maypole?).

Sadly, just like maypoles, both Murphytown and Park Schools have died off, too. Both were closed in the wave of school consolidations shortly before I was elected to the Board of Education. Park School was torn down and replaced on that busy street corner with a CVS Pharmacy and a Wendy’s Restaurant.

Park School may be gone, but I have one picture of it taken shortly before it was closed (see below). Plus, I have many good memories from my one year there! And each year when Earth Day is commemorated, I always think of reaching my hands into those prickly hedges to pick out discarded papers on the very first Earth Day.

My classroom was at the top left. If you look close, maybe you can see a country kid peering out the window at the passing fire engine.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Take on Taxes

As the April 15 tax deadline day looms a week away, many people are grumbling about paying taxes. Maybe I’m weird, but I look at paying taxes in a similar fashion to the way I look at voting—it is one of the rites of citizenship, and I’m proud to support my country. There are things I’d like to change about the way our government (on all levels) spends money, but you won’t hear me grumbling about the need to pay taxes. It makes more sense to grumble at the elected decision-makers than at the tax collectors.

When I was teaching Constitutional Law, I always made sure my students learned that Americans wanted an income tax. The 16th Amendment was approved over a century ago after the Supreme Court initially overturned a federal tax on incomes over $4,000 (about $110,000 in today’s dollars). The original idea was that those who were prospering in our country should help pay for our country.

In today’s world, there are new problems related to paying taxes. A friend of mine in Ohio recently submitted his state income tax electronically, only to be informed that someone had already filed a tax return in his name and claimed the refund. The state tax department required him to answer a series of questions intended to confirm that he was the real person. Unfortunately, these personal knowledge questions—old addresses, mortgage payment amounts, previous cars, credit card accounts, and others—are not always easy to answer.

Because of the rising number of tax returns submitted by identity thieves, tax departments are using the identity quiz questions developed by the major credit bureaus. If you have ever attempted to get your Congressionally-mandated free copy of your credit report (which I highly recommend, and which can be obtained by visiting, then you’ve probably had to answer the same type of questions to confirm your identity. Sometimes they involve facts that many of us did not think we would need to retain. Failure to correctly answer those required by the tax department might result in the need for you to fill out additional forms, and perhaps even make a trip to the local tax office to verify your identity in person.

My tax strategy in recent years has been to fill out my tax form myself on paper—the old fashioned way. Then I take the hard-copy forms (along with a photo ID) to the local IRS office, where a courteous employee reviews my return, confirms its accuracy, and (with a quick inquiry on her computer) assures me that no identity thief has yet tried to use my name to file for a tax refund. If by chance a tax thief had already done so, I would be able to immediately prove my identity and begin the process to correct the situation. Then I walk up the street to the West Virginia Tax Department office and go through the same process. I’ve never had to wait very long and my dealings with the tax employees have always been pleasant.

I enjoy bucking the trend towards electronic tax submissions and instead dealing face-to-face with a real person! They even provide me with free photocopies of my submitted tax forms! Plus, I didn’t need to pay for postage stamps and worry about the delivery (or worry about hackers breaking into my home PC and perusing any tax software for identity theft purposes).

Another identity theft precaution that people should take is to register with the IRS—as well as Social Security—for their personal online accounts, before any identity thieves try to establish themselves as you. I was able to establish my IRS account by going to and following the directions. Similarly, I set up my free online Social Security account at Note that it is essential to create very strong passwords for these important accounts!

I learned about these precautionary actions because I pay attention to computer security issues. There are many good websites providing identity theft advice, but if I had to pick just one, I’d recommend the blog of former Washington Post reporter Brian Krebs. Check out this recent example related to this topic--

Of course, if I somehow became the U.S. President, I have a solution to this identity theft problem—which would also benefit one of our country’s other problems. I would wait until after April 15 before sending any tax refund checks. This would stop tax identity thieves because they always try to submit their fake returns early, before the real person submits their actual forms. If more than one return is filed for the same name, then the IRS could investigate prior to sending a check. It would also encourage everyone to submit their tax returns before the April 15 deadline. Plus, the U.S. budget deficit could be reduced slightly because of the additional interest that would be earned by not immediately sending back tax refunds (not to mention saving the money now lost to identity thieves).

Some folks would grumble because they wouldn’t get their money back as quickly as they did before. However, one thing I have learned during my stint as an elected politician is that it is impossible to make everybody happy, and that sometimes you just have to get accustomed to the inevitable grumbling.

I wish you a happy tax deadline day and many happy returns!

This is a picture of me riding a two-wheeled Segway in front of the U.S. Capitol a few years back. It is more interesting than a picture of me doing my taxes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lincoln Walks at Midnight

The statue “Lincoln Walks at Midnight” (sculpted by Fred Martin Torrey from Fairmont) prominently adorns the front of the West Virginia State Capitol, which I visited recently. However, many West Virginians don’t realize the historical significance of this eloquent work of art. It speaks to the quandary in which Lincoln found himself with regard to the creation of the new state of West Virginia. He had to deal with our complicated statehood issue on top of dealing with the Civil War. It’s no wonder he had trouble sleeping! For many years, western Virginians were taken advantage of by their eastern counterparts. There were major cultural differences between the established planter society in the flatlands, versus those who had settled in the rugged mountains. We sent our taxes to Richmond, but saw very little in return (except for the lunatic asylum).

The Civil War’s underlying issue was slavery, but it was also about whether the southern states should be allowed to secede from the United States. The western counties dissatisfaction with Richmond came to a head when the Virginia Legislature chose to join the Confederacy. Seizing their opportunity to split from Virginia, the western counties first established a “Restored Government of Virginia” with Wheeling as its capital. The federal government recognized this loyalist faction as the legitimate successor to Virginia, as opposed to the other government of Virginia, which now cast its lot with the rebels.

Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution states " new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state...without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress." In order to form a separate new state, the “Restored Government of Virginia” voted to allow West Virginia to be formed from its northwestern counties. The wartime Congress was quick to grant its consent as well, sending a statehood bill for President Lincoln to sign in December 1862.

So this meant that Lincoln, who (after the Confederates attacked and captured Fort Sumter) had authorized the military to put down the rebellion and refused to recognize a state’s ability to secede from the Union, was now faced with a request for statehood from a portion of an existing state. While those pushing for a new state of West Virginia claimed to have garnered the necessary Constitutional “consent” from the existing state’s legislature, the truth was that the “Restored Government of Virginia” controlled less than half the area bounded by the original Virginia state borders. Lincoln was put in the position of approving our “secession” from Virginia, while telling Virginia (and other southern states) that they weren’t allowed to secede from the Union.

The strife and division caused by the Civil War made it possible—indeed, preferable—to allow West Virginia to become its own state, but it was “a bit messy” from a legal viewpoint. Fortunately, we have survived for nearly 152 years now. West Virginians should all be grateful that while Lincoln contemplated our fate during the cold December evenings, he ended up approving our birth.

[This story appeared in the April issue of “Two-Lane Livin’” magazine.]

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Beverly Heritage Center

I think everybody is familiar with Elkins (the county seat for Randolph County), but most folks don’t know much about Beverly, a smaller town a few miles down the highway. Beverly was the original county seat, but eventually lost that title to Elkins (formerly known as Leadville) in 1899, which had suddenly become a railroad hub just ten years earlier. How this happened (and how close it came to becoming a bloody intra-county war) is just one of the interesting stories explained in different display areas at the Beverly Heritage Center, which I had the pleasure of visiting recently.

An example of the nice signs inside the museum.

Another major component of this museum is Beverly’s involvement in the Civil War. Many people don’t realize how much western Virginia (prior to statehood in 1863) was in the national spotlight during 1861. One of the most significant early battles was fought near Beverly—the Union victory at the Battle of Rich Mountain. This key victory helped to drive the Confederates out of northwestern Virginia, protecting the vital B&O Railroad and setting the stage for West Virginia’s statehood. Later, the town was briefly raided by the Confederates four times over the course of the war. This museum has lots of artifacts and interesting displays about both the Civil War in the region as well as West Virginia’s statehood.

Beverly got its start as an early community along a route that became the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, an important road across the Appalachian Mountains from the Shenandoah Valley to the Ohio River. The history of transportation in the area is another focus at the Beverly Heritage Center. They cover the evolution from horses and stagecoaches, to the massive changes brought by the railroads, and finally to the automobile and how it changed American culture. The old Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike (which followed a path that is now covered by U.S. 250 from Staunton to Elkins, U.S. 33 from Elkins to the community Linn in Gilmer County, and Route 47 from Linn to Parkersburg) still runs through the heart of the town and in front of the museum.

The Beverly Heritage Center also focuses on the town of Beverly itself. This museum is actually four adjacent buildings (the 1808 Courthouse, a bank built in 1902, a former store built in 1912, and a residence from 1850) that have been combined together, forming an intriguing interior space filled with high quality displays telling about life in a small town in the old days, along with the other topics previously described.

While the Beverly Heritage Center provides a perfect place to capture the interesting history of this town and its surrounding, there is so much more to see there! After spending an hour and a half enjoying the displays, I didn’t have time to take the self-guided walking tour or to check out the Randolph County Museum diagonally across the street. Plus there are numerous antique shops and historical markers to read. I need to come back in warmer weather and check out the entire town as well as the nearby Rich Mountain battlefield.

The front of the museum along the highway through town
(the entrance and parking are around back).

[This story appeared in the March issue of Two-Lane Livin' magazine.]

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Perfect Prank

It was the spring semester of my senior year—the capstone of an enjoyable (as well as educational) four years at the University of Charleston. After spending the fall semester working as an intern on Capitol Hill in Washington, I was living those last collegiate months in the top floor of Benedum Hall, in a single room with a beautiful view of the West Virginia Capitol Dome.

As winter relaxed its icy grip, many of us (especially those of us with “senioritus”) were eager for spring break—just to relax from our studies and have some fun. In that era, not everyone disappeared for spring break, either because of lack of money to go back home (much less somewhere exotic, as many students today seem to do), or due to athletic team commitments, or just because we enjoyed being at our school.

There was a freshman who lived in our section of the dorm. He was basically a nice guy, but also someone who liked to kid around a lot (as well as talk a lot), and his nickname was “McChicken.” When he went home for spring break, some of us got together to pull off an epic prank that became a legend.

For some reason (notice that I did not use the word “unknown”), the key to his dorm room was available. It was decided to do something special for McChicken—a group project in which those of us staying on-campus over the week could participate. We came up with the idea to fill his room with wadded-up newspaper pages. It would be hilarious but harmless.

First, all electrical items such as lamps and the clock radio were unplugged—we certainly didn’t want to fill the room with tinder and then have a short circuit or some other calamity accidentally burn down the dorm! Then we started work gathering newspapers (e.g., some students were required to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal for business classes). We’d meet periodically in his dorm room and simply wad up the pages before tossing them towards the back of the room.

It wasn’t long before we had expended what newspapers we could find on campus. At that point, one guy who had a huge, early-1970s Chrysler Imperial (with trunk space large enough for the Mafia to carry numerous bodies) took some of us through the residential areas of Charleston, going door-to-door claiming that we were doing a recycling project and asking if we could take their newspapers off their hands. It was amazing how many folks were eager to contribute to this worthy project as we filled that Chrysler’s trunk!

With the supply of paper replenished, we were able to keep ahead of the wadding process. A party-like atmosphere soon grew around these nightly efforts (the attached picture shows a few of the participants about halfway into the process). It would surprise you how long it takes to fill a dorm room from wall-to-wall, from ceiling-to-floor, and from the window at the back to the final few inches next to the door. The last paper wads were forced through the narrow gap between the door and the door frame. We had succeeded in packing the entire room—all of the interior volume—with newspapers!

McChicken (I think the nickname had to do with his love for fast food from McDonalds, because he was not a timid, fearful person) had not returned from spring break over the weekend, but instead had waited until Monday morning to arrive. Given the number of students who participated in this stunt, as well as its audacity, it was hard to keep it secret.

Although I purposely tried to avoid seeing him that day, from what I heard he soon became suspicious because of the way people were reacting to his arrival. Despite his concerns, he had little idea what awaited him when he put the Schalge key into the knob of his dorm room door!

He had to use some force just to get it open far enough to see the problem. Even then, at first he couldn’t fathom that the wads of newspapers extended throughout his entire room. I was over in Riggleman Hall, innocently attending class when this happened, so I wasn’t there to see the initial reaction, but I remember hearing that he was impressed with our efforts. He was a good sport about the whole thing!

Eventually, with the help of push brooms, all those newspapers were swept down to the very end of the section hallway, beyond the side staircase. When I finally arrived at the dorm, the gigantic pile of newspapers had become a landing zone. Guys were running full-blast down the hallway, and hurling themselves into the forgiving newspapers, which were sloped at a 45 degree angle against the end of the hallway.

The best part was that if you were careful when getting up—extricating yourself just right—you would leave an exact imprint of how your body landed in the paper pile. Fortunately, I got a few turns at jumping into the pile—it was awesome! No one had anticipated that extra benefit when we had concocted the crazy idea of filling his room. It was a good example of a serendipitous result.

It seems to me that this was the perfect college prank. It involved lots of reading material, required community interaction, inspired our curiosity, and even provided some exercise activity—and yet this is just one of many treasured memories from my college days!

[If you have any connection to the University of Charleston, I would like to invite you to attend the “Close the King” celebration at UC’s Eddie King Gym this coming Saturday, February 28. Many of us will gather there that day to reminisce over beloved stories such as this one from our college years. It will be awesome, too!]

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Memories of the King!

Next Saturday, I will be returning to my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Charleston, for a very special alumni event. February 28 is “Close the King”—the last regular season basketball games (it is a double-header with the women at 2:00 and the men at 4:00) in UC’s Eddie King Gym. Later this year, the old gym will undergo a complete renovation and expansion. Among other changes, the basketball court will be reoriented 90 degrees (becoming perpendicular to the river rather than running parallel with the river). It will have a completely different “look and feel” after this season.

The old gym is long overdue for replacement, but it will be important to see it one last time. I have lots of good memories in that place, and it has changed little over the decades since my student days. Heck, it even still smells the same—not a bad smell, but just that old wood and varnish smell that permeates many old gyms.

I was never much of a basketball player, but I was a big fan in those days. UC didn’t have a football team at that time, and so basketball was clearly at the top of the athletic hierarchy. I loved going to the games and cheering loudly with all my friends. We’d go around to the student entrance on the river side of the gym, show our IDs to the old guys in green sport coats who controlled access, and scramble into the pull-out wooden bleachers close to the court.

Often, the TKE fraternity would have their big old church bell there in the corner, and we’d take turns yanking on the cable to ring the bell for every point scored. It was great to see the guys (as well as the cheerleaders!) whom we knew from our classes, the dorms, the cafeteria, etc., take the court against other WVIAC foes.

This was in the era before ESPN, when local communities would come out to support their hometown college teams. Even the students were more supportive of the teams than today’s students, who too often stay in their rooms playing video games (or whatever). This was in the good old days before three point shots, alternating possession jump balls, shot clocks, and long shorts that look more like pajamas. It was great entertainment!

We cheered not just for our men’s team, but we also had pretty good crowds for the Golden Eagle women’s teams. In my era, UC was the dominant women’s team in the conference. During my year as student government president, the Student Government Association (SGA) promoted “Women’s Basketball Appreciation Night” when we had a big game against WVU (yes, WVU came to Charleston to play in the Eddie King Gym). I’ll never forget the large crowd we had that night. Best of all, it ended up as a thrilling victory, with Cathy Penczak hitting a last second game-winning shot from deep in the corner.

Speaking of SGA, I will also remember the hassle of getting a large parachute hung inside the Eddie King Gym, along with the mirrored disco ball. Then, we spent many hours pinning to the parachute a hundred or so cardboard stars on strings that other volunteers had covered with glitter as decoration for the big Fall Festival dance—the only formal dance held in the gym during my days. It took a lot of volunteer effort to set up for that dance!

Another even bigger SGA event in the Eddie King Gym was the concert by the rock group Pablo Cruise (their hits included “Love Will Find A Way,” “A Place In The Sun,” and “Whatcha Gonna Do?”). Their opening act was James Taylor’s younger brother Livingston Taylor. For years, students had wanted to host a concert in the gym, so we finally got the go-ahead to give it a try. A big time concert was not easy to set up in the Eddie King Gym (not to mention meeting all the contract requirements and other hassles). Their stage took nearly a third of the floor, and the acoustics were terrible. But we gave it the old college try and pulled it off (and almost broke even).

Although I wasn’t a basketball star, I played various intramural sports in the gym, in addition to the physical education classes I took there. In my later years, the UC volleyball coach would invite guys who she thought were pretty good in her volleyball class to come scrimmage against her volleyball team. That was a lot of fun for me!

One of my final memories of the gym from my college days was that we held graduation practice inside the gym, which was also the alternate graduation location if it rained. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and we were able to hold the traditional UC graduation ceremony on our beautiful riverbank, with the West Virginia Capitol in the background.

As you can see, I may not have been a varsity basketball star, but I have a lot of good memories in that old gym. It is important for me to see it one last time in its current configuration. Best of all, there will be many of my fellow alums there, which is what really makes it special. As important as the building is to me, the people I knew in that era are even more important. We are getting older (one of our friends recently died unexpectedly) and so seeing each other again is very important. When we get together, we don’t see each other as being old—we see each other as the college students we once were we when first met each other. We talk until our throats hurt, we smile until our cheeks hurt, and laugh until our sides hurt. It may sound painful, but indeed, it is fantastic!

Especially if you live close by, please support this event, because many alums are coming from far away to be there, and they want to see old friends. Come early to chat with fellow alums (I plan on hanging out in the student union beginning around 10 AM until they open the gym doors for the game), wear maroon if you can, and stay afterward for a free reception in the student union. It will be a wonderful day! Go Eagles!

[A view from the home side seats taken with a fish-eye lens.]

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fort New Salem

Fort New Salem is a collection of relocated log structures on a wooded hillside near Salem University above the junction of U.S. Route 50 and West Virginia Route 23. It began in the early 1970s as part of what was then known as Salem College. The original intent was for this to be an educational component of the college, but hard times befell Salem University, and by 2005 Fort New Salem no longer fit into their financial plans. However, community members from the area wanted to keep it going, so an independent 501(c)3 organization was formed.

The good folks who run the independent Fort New Salem Foundation work very hard to maintain this outdoor living history museum. Most of them are history lovers who enjoy passing on their passion for the past to the younger generation. My daughter enjoyed the Christmas-time visit we made back in the ‘90s when she was young, and I’m glad that Fort New Salem has been able to continue as a tribute to the frontiersmen (and women) who settled West Virginia for new generations of youngsters.

I recently attended their “Spirit of Christmas in the Mountains” which is held the last weekend in November and the first weekend in December. The cabins were open for visitors as docents explained various trades or other activities. Nearly all of these cabins had a warm fire in the hearth, and the fragrance of wood smoke surrounded the compound.

There was a blacksmith shop, a tinsmith, a print shop, the apothecary, the tavern, and more. A few of the cabins were demonstrating fireplace cooking. A dulcimer band in one building provided a musical background that could be heard throughout this little village.

Despite its name, Fort New Salem does not have the wooden stockade surrounding its perimeter that is often associated with the frontier forts. Aside from the lack of an exterior wall, Fort New Salem is somewhat similar to Prickett’s Fort State Park near Fairmont, WV. Both have numerous small cabins (14 at Prickett’s Fort, 18 at Fort New Salem) devoted to different activities where visitors get a first-hand experience with history.

Unlike Prickett’s Fort State Park, the folks who banded together to save this “museum” don’t have the financial backing that comes with being part of the state park system. The volunteer board members work hard to get some grant money here and there, generate some funds from admission fees, and use a lot of donated labor. Fort New Salem is only open for the special events that are held there, usually one weekend a month from April through December.

Life on the frontier of western Virginia two centuries ago was not easy. Although the challenges are vastly different, trying to maintain an outdoor history museum on a financial shoestring isn’t easy either. I’m grateful that folks in the Salem area stepped up to save this valuable resource. I hope they are able to keep it going for many future generations.

[This story appeared in the February 2015
issue of Two-Lane Livin' magazine

Monday, January 12, 2015

Selma and my Congressman

The movie “Selma” covers a number of individuals who were involved in the civil rights movement, but not every thread could be woven into the story. I’m glad they included Unitarian Universalist minister James Reeb (killed by white thugs after traveling from Boston to support the march) and Viola Luiza (a white woman from Detroit who was shot by the KKK shortly after the march).

One of the many story threads that didn’t make the movie was the only member of Congress who marched in Selma with Dr. King. This Congressman had been invited on a junket to watch a Gemini spaceflight launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but decided instead that he should go participate in the march.

This resolute Congressman was not from a state known for its progressivism. It is doubtful that any of his constituents were at the march. However, his conscience led him to take a stand against the discrimination that prevented American citizens from being able to exercise their right to vote. He knew he had to be there that day—not for any publicity, but because it was the right thing to do.

His name was Ken Hechler from West Virginia.

Ken Hechler was the first congressman I knew about as I grew up. His district originally ran up the Ohio Valley from Huntington to Parkersburg. I can remember my grandmother went on a trip to Washington and came back with some very neat publications for me about the Constitution, the American Flag, etc., all stamped as coming from his office.

I was still very young during the ‘60s, but Ken Hechler helped form my expectations for Congressional service. One of the practices he had was when Congress was on break, he would come back to the district and work various jobs to get a better sense about the lives of his constituents. One week he might be working at a bakery, and the next he might be mowing lawns. He was a bit like today’s TV star Mike “Dirty Jobs” Rowe. I may not have understood complex policy decisions at that point in my young life, but I could appreciate a Congressman who “worked” during his vacation.

Ken Hechler set a high bar for me, because I grew up thinking that was what all members of Congress did. Nowadays Congressmen seem to spend all their free time raising money from the “fat cats.” Few (if any) of them would agree to get their hands dirty or break a sweat while working among “commoners” during their vacation. Indeed, it was his desire to see “what things were really like” that inspired me to visit all of the county schools, the bus garages, and other locations during my tenure as an elected member of the Wood County School Board (some of you know the story about how my desire to see the schools and the controversy that ensued).

Although not a native West Virginian, Ken Hechler had landed at Marshall University as a professor in the 1950s. He had served in WWII (and later wrote the book that became the Hollywood movie “The Bridge at Remagen”) and then worked for President Truman in the White House. A popular professor once he arrived at Marshall, his students urged him to run for Congress in 1958 and he won.

The Democratic Party power brokers in West Virginia were never very high on this “egghead” professor who was originally from New York. When the decline in population after the 1970 census meant that West Virginia had to cut down from five to four congressional districts, Hechler’s district was the one that got chopped up. Parkersburg got moved in with the northern panhandle’s district, but Huntington was added to the southernmost district. This meant that this Marshall professor would have to run against the established incumbent (James Kee) from Bluefield. Despite the party bosses’ efforts to gerrymander him out of his position, Hechler was able to pull off an upset. He continued in Congress until 1976, when he decided to run for governor and lost to Jay Rockefeller in the primary. In 1984, Hechler was elected Secretary of State, and served in that position for 16 years.

Another interesting tidbit about Hechler was that he didn’t ride around in big cars like many politicians. Instead, he drove a small red 4-wheel drive Jeep (similar in design to what he drove in WWII) which enabled to get just about anywhere in rural West Virginia.

In 1999, a 90 year old woman from New Hampshire set out to walk across the country to call attention to the need for campaign finance reform (which ultimately was passed as the McCain-Feingold Act). Doris Haddock (known as Granny D) had made it across Ohio by December 1999. As she approached Belpre, she was joined by Ohio’s Secretary of State (Ken Blackwell, a Republican). West Virginia’s Secretary of State Ken Hechler met them in Belpre and, along with nearly a hundred others, they all crossed the bridge and into West Virginia. Granny D was a wonderful woman and I had the honor of walking with her from Belpre that day. I also walked with her the next day from the Wood County Courthouse as far as the Route 50/Interstate 77 interchange as she headed east to Washington, DC.

Ken Hechler was good friends with Dr. Evelyn Harris, my mentor at the University of Charleston whom I wrote about yesterday. They were both academicians who had migrated from New York to West Virginia. During my time as a political science student at UC, Ken Hechler came to campus a couple of times, and was always a fascinating speaker.

When I started teaching American Government and Constitutional Law as an adjunct faculty member at WVU-Parkersburg, I liked bringing in a guest speaker for my students. On two different occasions, I was honored to be able to bring Ken Hechler to speak with my students, just as he had done when I was a sitting at a desk as a student. He had so many experiences to tell my students, and they enjoyed hearing them.

I can’t say that I knew Ken Hechler all that well, or that I necessarily agreed with him on all his political positions, but I definitely admired him. He turned 100 years old last September, and is currently the oldest living former member of Congress. I was fortunate enough to get my picture taken with him several years ago (shown below) when he came to speak where I work at the U.S. Bureau of the Public Debt in Parkersburg for a Martin Luther King Day presentation.

I’m glad that he was my first view of what a Congressman is supposed to be. I’m very proud that he was the only congressman to have marched in Selma—even if it didn’t make it into the movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly encourage you to watch “Selma” and witness this important chapter of American history.

I only wish there were more inspiring politicians for youngsters to emulate today!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

“Selma” and Dr. Harris

Anna and I went to see “Selma” today—it is a very powerful movie. One of the initial scenes involves the character played by Oprah Winfrey attempting to register to vote at the county courthouse. Whites would get a few easy questions for their voting test, but blacks were given ridiculously difficult questions. Oprah’s first question was to recite the Constitution’s Preamble (which she nailed), the second was an obscure question that she got right, but the final question was impossibly hard—and thus she was denied again.

This scene reminded of my American Government and Constitutional Law classes. I always expected my ConLaw students to stand before the class and recite the Preamble—and despite their initial grumbling each semester, all of them did it. I hope my former students (many of whom have friended me on Facebook) will see this movie, and will remember the night that they—just like Oprah—had to recite the Preamble written by our Founding Fathers.

This “voting test” used by southern states to keep blacks from voting was another part of ConLaw classes, and it was a direct result of the most inspiring teacher I had in college. Her name was Dr. Evelyn Harris, and she had come to Charleston after WWII when her scientist husband (who had worked on the Manhattan Project) landed a job at the Union Carbide. She taught at the University of Charleston for about 60 years with great success, influencing many students along the way. In fact, the late Senator Robert Byrd (who took classes at UC while in the state legislature) always referred to her as his favorite teacher of all.

I had kept in touch with Dr. Harris after graduation, and she was very supportive of my adjunct teaching experience at WVU-Parkersburg. One of my “tricks” was to give AmGov students a “quiz” their first night, composed of questions from the U.S. Citizenship Test. I wanted them to realize how hard those who want to become students must study, and I wanted my students to realize how lucky they were to have been born in the U.S.A.

While on a visit to Charleston, I told Dr. Harris that I was now teaching ConLaw as well, but hated it that I could not give the citizenship test, since many students signing up for ConLaw had already taken my AmGov course, so it would not have the same impact. It was her idea for me to research voting test questions that had been given by southern county clerks to prevent blacks from registering. Luckily, I found some of those questions that had been given in Alabama, and used it as an “extra credit” quiz for my ConLaw classes. Seeing the difficulty of naming the current FBI director or the head of the state’s National Guard (just 2 of the 15 questions on my quiz) gave my students a better idea of what segregation was like in the south.

Thus after seeing this thought-provoking movie today, I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite teacher. I found a photograph recently of the two of us talking together while on a cruise up the Kanawha River on the sternwheeler P.A.Denny. It may be the only picture I have of the two of us, and I had forgotten all about it. Here we are seeking shade next to the pilot house on the upper deck, as she “talks with her hands” making some sort of point to me.

If any of my former students enjoyed my class, this is the woman they should thank (although she passed away a couple of years ago). I was merely trying to pass along the inspired teaching style that she used to teach me. The noblest way for me to really thank her was to “pay it forward” to future generations. I tried my best to do so, but I still think she was a better teacher than I was.

Although the travels required by my current job preclude me from teaching, I still like to see people become enlightened (just as Dr. Harris did). That is why I’d like to encourage everyone to see the movie “Selma”—it will make you realize just how things were during the 1960s. And Dr. Harris would have loved this movie!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Fortunate '14

2014 was a big year for me! It was the last of the traditional working years for me, as I plan to retire in 2015 (if all goes well). Knowing it might be my last year with my largest career income, we took several major trips and did lots of activities. Here are some of the highlights that I will treasure for a long time. [The links in the rest of this story provide additional information about these activities, in case you'd be interested in reading more.]

This was a big year for my interest in auto racing. The pinnacle was my first trip to the Indy 500. However, I was able to hit a trifecta of racing landmarks by stopping at Daytona Speedway the day after the Daytona 500 (on our way back from our cruise) and driving on the beach. Plus, during our trip out west, we stopped at the incredible Bonneville Salt Flats. Indy, Daytona, and Bonneville--all in the same year!

I also made a nostalgic return (after an absence of over 35 years) to Martinsville Speedway, visited the Wood Brothers museum, drove at racing school again, attended the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour at their stop in Charleston, and made another visit to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

I alluded to our Caribbean cruise when I mentioned Daytona in the paragraph above. We had a fabulous time during February on a cruise that included a trip into the Panama Canal. We also had an interesting journey to get to the cruiseport when Amtrak cancelled our train due to weather conditions.

I also mentioned our western trip with regard to the visually stunning Bonneville Salt Flats. I got to add two more new states (Idaho and New Mexico) to the list of those I’ve visited in my life, but this trip also included Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and a few feet’s worth of Arizona.

Another state I was able to cross off my list this year was Maine (the final state that I needed to visit in the eastern half of the U.S.). I wrote a separate story about riding the train from Washington to Boston, from where we rented a car to explore the fascinating state of Maine (plus a quick trip across the border into Quebec). We really loved Maine and I highly recommend it as an interesting vacation destination.

One of the early major trips in 2014 was going to Nashville for Anna’s doctoral graduation, which included some interesting stops in Kentucky along the way. We also took another one of Lisa Starcher Collins’ bus trips to New York City, and brought Anna’s teenage niece along for her first visit to the Big Apple. Finally, even though it wasn’t an out-of-state trip, our first ever visit to the luxurious Greenbrier Resort is worth noting as a major event for us.

Traveling around our home state of West Virginia is one of our favorite activities, and we did a lot of it in 2014. Although I did some bicycling, motorcycling, and kayaking, this year turned out to be a major year for ziplining. With my daughter and with Anna’s niece, I did two separate trips on our state’s longest zipline. I also got to check out the unusual zipline at Moundsville. Although it isn’t exactly ziplining, I did another trip attached to the safety cable under the New River Gorge Bridge.

On July 4, I returned to Nelson Rocks for the first time since writing my story about their “Via Ferrata”. This time I was there to try out their zipline adventure, but the bigger adventure might have been the “climbing downhill” hike that Anna joined me for that day. That July 4 weekend also included camping at Sherwood Lake, the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament, exploring historic downtown Lewisburg, enjoying the Jimmy Buffett concert with close friends, and checking out a pair of nearby state parks.

2014 was also an interesting year for honoring coal miners. We visited the memorial for the UBB victims and attended a ceremony remembering the Everettville disaster. I also made yet another visit (via the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine) to Homer Hickam’s hometown of Coalwood.

Of course, 2014 had plenty of special memories related to my two alma maters—UC and WVU. I was fortunate to see the UC basketball team win the state championship game, plus I watched a couple of football games including the big homecoming weekend. I also wrote about Governor’s Cup alumni reunion weekend and had a great time with friends at the Blues, Brews, and BBQ concert on the riverbank—which was the night before the half-marathon (the highlight of my diet and exercising efforts this year).

I went to many WVU sporting events this past year, including two road trips to Mountaineer football games. Perhaps the most memorable event for me this past year was that the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences honored me with one of their alumni awards—a beautiful cobalt blue Blenko glass vase—given at a dinner that my family was able to attend.

Finally, the year 2014 got off to a great start when Anna and I attended the New Year’s Eve party put on by our friends at ShadowboxLive in Columbus. We also convinced two other couples (dear friends from my college years) to join us for an overnight trip to Columbus to see their first “sketch comedy and rock ’n’ roll” Shadowbox show. Although we had to drive through a blizzard to get there (something we will remember for a long time), we all had a great time. I was also able to make it back to Columbus after the Indianapolis 500 to join Anna and another UC friend at Shadowbox’s annual outdoor tribute to Woodstock. In addition to these special events, we were able to attend most of Shadowbox’s shows this year, including our trip last weekend to see the Christmas show (with Anna’s sister-in-law).

These are just a select few of the many wonderful times I enjoyed during 2014. I am grateful for my relationship with Anna, my parents, my sister, and my daughter. The coming year will see many MAJOR changes for me (anybody want to buy my house or motorcycle?). It will be interesting to see what my life will be like this time next year.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Riding the Durbin Rocket

I caught one of the last runs of the year on the Durbin Rocket recently. The Durbin Rocket is a steam powered excursion train operated by the Mountain Rail Adventures, which also runs the Cheat Mountain Salamander diesel train that I rode last year out of Elkins (and wrote about in an earlier article for Two-Lane Livin’). The old town of Durbin sits astride U.S. 250 (part of the old Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, which is the name still used in their mailing address) less than an hour south of Elkins.

This coal-fired locomotive was built in 1910 and designed for the steep grades servicing logging operations, featuring driveshafts and beveled gears powering all of the wheels for maximum traction. It sat puffing smoke and hissing steam as it calmly idled prior to our trip—its rhythmic pulsing made it seem as if it were breathing. Whenever the throaty steam whistle was blown, it reverberated off the nearby mountainsides.

Unlike its glory days hauling timber off the mountains, this remnant from the past merely takes a few antique passenger cars and a caboose down the narrow valley of the upper Greenbrier River. The roundtrip journey only covers about twenty miles, but it is very scenic. The clear waters of the Greenbrier River allow one to see the scattered flat rocks along the river bottom, in a variety of irregular polygon shapes. Whitewater rapids interrupt the river’s flow at various points. A beaver dam was visible on one side-section of the river. I also saw deer raise their heads, perk their ears, and stare at the “iron horse” that noisily rolled down the tracks. A kingfisher on a branch overlooking the river opted to fly further downstream to escape our commotion.

There were four passenger cars this day—a completely open car directly behind the locomotive; an old enclosed railway post office car with some seats and windows; an open car with conventional seating plus a roof; and a traditional red caboose. Both the caboose and the enclosed car had coal-fired stoves to provide some heat on this cold day. I chose to ride in the caboose, where I could climb up the ladder and into the cupola to see in all directions. It was a unique spot in which to sit.

The train stops for about 15 minutes on the far end of the line to allow passengers to get off and take pictures and/or explore the river. It also made a brief stop on the way back at a creek bridge to lower a siphon hose and take on water from a pure mountain stream. This was apparently a common method in the old days, but I was more familiar with the elevated water towers that once provided steam engines with refills.

Eventually, our slow and steady pace brought us back to the station in the heart of Durbin (just because it is nicknamed the “Rocket” doesn’t mean it runs fast). I had a great time going back in time and riding the rails that day! There is just something exciting about the sights, the sounds, and even the smells of an old coal-powered steam engine. It truly is a living fossil from a bygone era.

[This story was published in the January issue of Two-Lane Livin' magazine.]

Friday, November 28, 2014

Coalwood: Then and Now

I grew up during the “space race” of the 1960s, and was always interested in the space program—even building and flying my own model rockets. I was even fortunate enough to work for NASA for a few years during the 1980s, before moving back to my hometown in West Virginia.

Given my love for my native state, and my interest in the space, it should come as no surprise that I was captivated when Homer Hickam’s book “Rocket Boys” first came out in 1998. Everyone should read this book! I enjoyed the entire Coalwood Trilogy (“Rocket Boys,” “The Coalwood Way,” and “Sky of Stone”) as well as the movie version entitled “October Sky” (plus I saw the new musical version performed onstage at Fairmont State). Although I wasn’t born until after Sputnik, I could readily identify with the Rocket Boys and their adventures (see for more on this topic).

One of the historical markers in Coalwood.

We had driven to Coalwood about ten years ago to attend the Rocket Boys Festival when it was still being held there. In recent years, the festival location has moved to Beckley’s Exhibition Coal Mine. This year, they offered a bus ride from Beckley to Coalwood with one of the original Rocket Boys. Roy Lee Cooke is now in his 70s, and was the “ladies’ man” of the Rocket Boys. He is still quite a character!

Roy Lee telling us all about the launch site.

We loaded onto the bus and he regaled us with his stories all the way from Beckley to Coalwood, through the beautiful mountain scenery on a glorious fall day. For example, there is a long, winding hill crossing a ridge that separates Coalwood from the county seat of Welch. He told us about being so familiar with this curvy stretch of West Virginia Route 16 that he would drive it at night with his headlights off just for the challenge. [That is not the smartest thing to do, but that is what they did for fun back in the late ‘50s.]

When we arrived in Coalwood, Roy Lee gave us an entertaining guided tour, pointing out all the highlights of the town as it was nearly 60 years ago, including the launch site outside of the town. He also told us about acquiring the moonshine that was a critical ingredient in their homemade rocket fuel.

The company's clubhouse with the church just beyond.

Unfortunately, what had been a proud and booming coal town has been on the decline since the mine shut down. Nature is reclaiming much of land that is no longer being used. Unfortunately, hoodlums are destroying some of the vacant buildings as well. It seemed even more run-down than when I had been there a decade ago. I wish I could have experienced it in its glory days!

Some of the local residents provided lunch for the bus tour group in the basement hall of the Coalwood Community Church. Not only was the food good, but it was interesting to talk with them about the problems they face today. Life isn’t easy in Coalwood without good paying jobs nearby—a dilemma faced by too much of West Virginia. It makes one wish we could go back to the “good old days”—or does that make me sound like a grouchy old man?

A picture of our tour group, with Roy Lee on the right (hugging the young newspaper reporter). That's me with my University of Charleston shirt. Notice that this was taken under Roy Lee's street sign. By the way, this story appeared in the December issue of "Two-Lane Livin'" magazine.