AmeriCorps Volunteer leads group down memory lane
AmeriCorps Volunteer Roxy Todd made a stop at the Pocahontas County Historical Society Museum on Rt. 219 in Marlinton, on Monday night for the society’s monthly meeting.
Todd is no stranger to Rt. 219. As a matter of fact, she knows the places, the people and their stories as well as anyone. The Traveling Rt. 219 project has taken her into the homes and hearts of the people – and on to the museum porch overlooking the Greenbrier River as folks shared their stories about life in Mill Point and Buckeye.
Much of the Mill Point story for the Rt. 219 project will focus on the Hefner family – the post office, the store, and most certainly, the music.
It’s the story of the late Elsie Hefner Long and it was the drawing card for Monday night’s exchange. Elsie was the matriarch of the musical family, she was the storekeeper, and she was the postmaster at the Mill Point post office. It was there that she handed out mail and advice – and took in dry cleaning, which was picked up by Legg’s Cleaners – when the “orange sign” was in the window.
Familiar names of the Mill Point community were bantered about – Joe McNeel, Glenn and Goldie Smith, Okay McClain and Ralph Arbogast.
Elsie’s son, Bill Hefner, talked about the music, about how his mother didn’t play a instrument, but she knew all the words to the songs the family sang. And he told how records are “cut,” a term everyone has heard but few have understood. How a microphone “cut” the grooves in Elsie and sister Evelyn’s 1940s rendition of “You, You, You.” The Hefner family has recorded a lot of music since the “girls” made that first “cut.”
Elsie’s daughter, Nancy, told about life at the postoffice, about the baby chicks in the springtime. Chicks the children wanted to keep around, but Elsie wanted the mail patrons to hurry and pick up. She told of running along beside mail carrier Wilfong’s truck as he went down the lane, calling, “Bye, Mr. Wilfong. Bye, Mr. Wilfong.”
Wilfong was known all along Rt. 219 as he delivered the mail to every postoffice from Lewisburg to Durbin. He would spend the day in Durbin, then pick up the outgoing mail every evening on his trip back to Lewisburg.
Just as Wilfong made his journey up Rt. 219, soon the storytelling made its way to the Buckeye community, with Annabelle McNeill sharing stories about the square dances, cakewalks and 4-H meetings at the Buckeye Schoolhouse. The history of the schoolhouse bell has long been a topic of conversation in Buckeye, and so it was on Monday night.
McNeill told a story about stopping a man – on a ladder – who had come to retrieve the bell for a Marlinton resident. This led to laughter from Monday night’s group as well as a title for the Buckeye portion of the Rt. 219 Project – “You can’t take the bell from Buckeye.”
Retired Buckeye postmaster Frances Graham added to those schoolhouse stories, and shared postoffice memories, as well. At a time when several women “manned” the post offices, Graham chauffeured many of them, including Elsie, to regional meetings.
The Mill Point and Buckeye portions of the Rt. 219 Project will be completed in the next few months.
For right now, you can visit several people and places on the web at www.traveling219.com
Todd is assisted in her work by AmeriCorps VISTA Emily Newton and multi-media consultant Drew Tanner.