Posts Tagged With: West Virginia

Remember The Hunger Games? Well, the Future Doesn’t Look Anything Like That!

 

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Katrina Smith-Johnson at Walmart with Mask April 2020

So do you remember when The Hunger Games came out in theaters and everyone was impressed with its colorful images of the future? The bold hair colors and clothes that were on fire but didn’t burn you. The different districts that were so very strange and unique. Yea, well the future doesn’t look like that at all.

 

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Peeta and Katniss members of district 12 male and female volunteers and tributes for the Hunger Games. 

 

The future is people wearing homemade cotton face masks with little pink and purple flowers made from the material your mother made a dress from last summer or maybe a bedspread. The color of your hair is likely faded, graying and might be growing out. Your beards are not trimmed but full, wavey and unkempt from a month of growth with no wear to go. You certainly are not wearing a fancy hat with your mask. You need to be able to change or replace that mask without touching your hair or face.

Hand holding is forbidden. Katniss from the Huger Games would never think of slipping her hand into a man’s hand these days. It’s no secret we are not allowing touching or even hugs. We talk through clear plastic shields or glass windows at stores and nursing homes. We see nurses flip up their splash shields only when the room has been cleared. We wear gloves everywhere and toss them out every chance we get. Sometimes they even cover our raw skin from scrubbing and sanitizing too much.

 

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tributes and volunteers  for the Hunger Games

 

 

We have no volunteers to fight this battle, we find no tributes to call on. We only have the highly trained staff of doctors and nurses that are willing to fight. We have Fireman, Policeman, and EMTs who are choosing weapons, but they look nothing like a gun or bow.

Our list of the dead doesn’t show in the sky projected over the wilderness so everyone can keep track. Instead, we follow the accounts of the death toll in the large cities on the TV. We are glued to every report. In this futuristic drama, the woods are your safe haven and at times the only escape from the overcrowding and spreading germs of the huge cities.

It seems everyone has enough to eat. Although, I have found myself wondering if we would kill each other over toilet paper and paper towels. I know I would have been willing to stand in a line to get hand sanitizer and bleach.

But the biggest difference of all is we are at home. We are warm, with fresh running water, with wifi and TV. We are not shipping off to some foreign land to fight for our lives. The war will be won at home watching, praying, washing and scrubbing to save our lives.

This pandemic seems to be won by West Virginia, (681 cases at our peak of infection) and we are doing the winning by living the life we enjoy. We have always loved being at home, living in small towns, playing outdoors and working outside. It seems that being a mountaineer has its advantages in these trying times.

Who knew that a small mining state that struggles with money issues is the winner of the Corna-19 games. That men and women that hunt and fish are actually the best suited to take care of their state and people. For today my state is better off than Hollywood, New York City and many people know it.

Such strange times for me and my family…..as we continue to pray, wash and scrub our way into a new future.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, childhood memories, Country life, Covid-19, family health, fishing, health, Hunger Games, Hunting, rural life, sickness, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

WV The Last Man Standing during Coronavirus Outbreak

Many of us West Virginia Mountaineers shared in a joke or two this last week about why our state was the last to have the Coronavirus reported in our state. But many of us wonder about the underlying truth about why we are just now seeing reported cases. I suspect that we are behind in testing and the lack of a state lab that could process the test is also a factor. I think this should be a wake-up call to many of our government officials. It may sound great to be the last one to identify cases of the Coronavirus but is that actually an indicator of how poorly prepared our state is for future crises.

I don’t want to overlook the fact that my state has advantages for fighting an epidemic. Being rural and with less population-dense communities makes transmission harder. Giving us a huge advantage over large cities like New York City or Washington D.C. Generally we do not live or work in large crowded buildings where people come into close contact with one another. A lot of our labor force works outside and will have fewer exposer situations. We have less gathering places like large theaters, event arenas, or huge shopping malls. We also have less public transportation, restaurants, and smaller schools. We also may spend more time at home than the average American. Overall we have a lot of advantages, so if we also keep cleaning and sanitizing our rate of exposure and contacting the virus could be lower.  But are we prepared for an event like this?

My overall concern is not with just Corona but with a system that was behind in all areas of testing. Last week even our Senator Joe Manchin complained about the lack of available tests. At one point there were only 500 tests in the state… for a population of 1.8 million residents.

The following text is quoted from https://www.wvpublic.org/post/coronavirus-testing-limited-wva-its-population-high-risk-thats-why-we-should-distance

It’s not just testing supplies that are the problem – it’s that the labs don’t have the technology necessary to test. West Virginia’s state lab wasn’t set up until Saturday, March 7th (tests were sent instead to the CDC in Atlanta) and commercial labs didn’t get going until this week. Some hospitals are also hoping to be able to run their own tests soon but for now are having to send them off to external agencies.

So if we are also a state of the elderly, the poor and the sick (ranking number 44 in Nation Health Rankings) what will a poorly reported and tested community experience in the near future?

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Our Communities are generally at high risk and our state is poorly prepared for the situation. Is it likely that we will be hit hard by the Coronavirus? I think it would be unwise to think we were ready for what is about to come to the Mountain State. We have just watched two hospitals close in the last 6 months, hospitals that could be preparing for the future pandemic that we are facing. We have a need for skilled nurses and our rural hospitals are small and under-equipped for a large outbreak. Let us hope that being last will be an advantage for preparation and treatments. Let us hope that our natural lifestyle choices will help to slow the wave just by our love of solitude.

In closing, West Virginia needs a better-prepared system moving forward. We have not even begun to see the darkest days of this outbreak and already we are failing our people. These mistakes are a very hard lesson to learn so late.

Ultimately, I have faith that God hears the Mountaineer on the ridgetop when he calls out to him. I have faith that our mountains and valleys protect us and that we will survive just like all the Mountaineers before us. I have faith that this too will pass.

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Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

Categories: About me, Coronavirus, Faith, family health, health, old age, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Gravedigger and Big Pharmaceuticals

 

I met a gravedigger today but didn’t get his name. We met along the side of the road where he had just finished toping a grave with January clods of mud. We talked about the newly departed, at 31 years of age this man was too young for the darkness of the grave. He informed me that the 1885 cemetery was full and bursting at the seams. “Drugs,” the Gravedigger said, “We can’t fill the seats in the church anymore but we fill the cemetery to overflowing.”

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Mt Olive Church Cemetery Philippi, WV

As I walked along the road past the tiny white church and cemetery, down the curving hill to town, I found more signs of the true plague of Appalachia. The results of a generation who knew nothing of the risks, destruction, and power that a Poppy flower could have.

Along the graveled berm of the road near a hospital, I found the waded remains of a blue latex glove and the unsealed foil wrapper of prescription medication. Suboxone printed clearly in bright blue letters on the label of the wrapper. I knew the name and its use; I had heard it many times on the local news. Even members of my own family have sat at the dining table discussing if this was the answer.

Conversations about heroin, death and opioid addiction are an everyday thing. The statistics flood the television and the internet. We are in a state of addiction and all the struggles that come with it. I take photos of the hospital, the glove and the wrapper and walk back to my car.

 

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Wrapper from the medication Suboxone.

The Gravedigger has finished his job and sits in the cab of his blue pickup as I walk up to his window. I tell him about the trash that I found and he nods his broad heavy head. “No needles this time?” He asks. “No…. not this time”, I say looking at the gravel-covered ground. I think about the needles I have found on the street. I never need to find more. I think about the young man I watched shoot up and about the families I know who have lost parents to the Gravediggers shovel. I finally look back up at the Gravedigger and say “Well, maybe this one will get clean.” The Gravedigger and I both know what I said is a lie. It is false hope about the future of this town.

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Mt Olive Church circ. 1885 Philippi, WV 2020.

He looks up at the little white church through the windshield of the truck and says to me, “It was the faith in God that got our ancestors here, it was faith the kept them in these hills and it is faith that will get them through this, there is no other hope.” I nod my head and say goodbye.

Driving down the hill away from the Church I pass the little hospital. A beautiful new and clean facility where every day they fight for our lives. Where every day they fight this plague with millions less than the Pharmaceutical companies that planted this rotting plague in our mountains.

By the end of the day, I hear on the news that the CEO of a large Pharmaceutical Company gets sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for bribery of doctors to prescribe a killer Opioid. 5 years… 5 years, is what the courts thought fit to sentence a man who has not only destroyed one life but also hundreds of thousands of lives. Where is the justice for the fatherless children I know?

He and men like him have drained every county in Appalachia of funds because each dose of Narcan is $150 dollars and each county has to pay for the medication to save hundreds of lives. He has drained my state of families who can raise their own children. We are now the #1 state in the country with grandparents raising their grandchildren. He has brought more crime to small towns as addicts steal to fuel their addiction. He and his company are draining the churches and filling the cemeteries of Appalachia with the young men and women who were supposed to be our leaders. Too many of them ended up meeting the Gravedigger I met today.

There are no easy answers and no easy solutions for the people who live in one of the highest Opioid addicted states. It is one of the problems that each of us who chooses to live here thinks about and wants to change. It is something that I worry about when I think about my 11-year-old and how will we handle his future. It is something my company talks about when they can’t hire a clean and sober employee. It is what the preachers in all the churches preach against and it is what is killing not only the young but the very state I live in. Today was just another day in Appalachia.

 

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A filtered photo of the Mt Olive Church in Philippi WV 2020.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Cemetaries, drug addicition, family memories, grave digger, Mt Olive Church and Cemetry Barbour County WV, Opiod use, state wide struggle, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Golden Rule Under Construction #2

The first line of my recent press release about the Golden Rule said,” The Future of the Golden Rule is in Sight”. That was amazing to write and is exciting to watch. So if you have been following me long you know about the wonderful building the company I work for is the process of redeveloping. If you are new here, let me take a moment to explain just a bit about the Golden Rule.

I work for a housing and community developer called, Woodlands Development Group, who in the spring of 2018 bought a historic 3 story brick furniture store warehouse-type building in the small town of Belington, WV. The Golden Rule building was built in 1903 and was owned by the Shinn family until the late 1980s and was sold to a man who used it for storage. Left to decay the community of Belington wanted to save the building and its history. Woodlands Development Group got involved and bought the building with grant funds from the second owner and arranged the financing of over 3 million dollars to redevelop the Golden Rule into a mixed-use building. The plan includes 10 apartments on the top two floors and a cafe and retail space on the first floor. I have been working on the building in several different capacities for two years and am now working on business development and marketing for the building’s future. She is my greatest work joy and I hope to be part of her future for many years to come. This is my home away from home!

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Basement of the Golden Rule before image

JoLynn Powers working at the Golden Rule.

So my portion of the project finished just a few weeks ago. The building was finally empty after around 4, sixty-yard dumpsters and around 13,000 pounds of trash removal. We found storage for the truckloads of antiques that were not sold at several events so they can be used as decor for the first floor in the future. We (my AmeriCorps volunteers and I ) demolished hundreds of feet of shelves, flooring, ceiling tile and drywall. So construction contractors can turn the building around.

I finished my contract year with the knowledge that my work was not done but going to be different this year. So now I get to sit back and watch others build a brighter future for this building.

So far crews have cut huge wholes in the three floors for the elevator shaft and fire escape stairwell. They have excavated into the basement to remove dirt and rubble to get ready to pour new stairwell landing pads.

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 Crews get the dirt out of the basement of the Golden Rule.

They have begun the framing of the walls inside each apartment and have had time to remove the breezeway that lead to the storage shed. These are before and after photos. You couldn’t see the breezeway from the back due to all the brush and trees.

The Americorps crews that helped me clean out the upper stories are back working on clearing out the basement and rafters of the third floor this spring. They are working to get the building ready for roofing contractors, and the electrical contractors.

It is only a few weeks into construction but changes are visible and teams of more people are working together to get things done. I am excited and so hopeful for the people who get to live and work in this building. I know Tom and I have our own plans to be part of the retail space in the near future, so I hope my involvement continues even after the Golden Rule reopens. This year I am happy to be helping in the development of the businesses, the build-out of the retail space and who knows what else to make sure this project gets off the ground running. 

If you want to see more about the Golden Rule and the first steps in our process of redevelopment you can click here Golden Rule #1. There are many other posts about this and my AmeriCorps service that shares my love for this building and what I get to do for a living. 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Barbour County, Belington, WV, Golden Rule, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Redevelopment projects, rural life, West Virginia History, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Trail of Icicles at Audra State Park

 

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Christopher eating an icicle from the overhanging rocks at the Alum Cave Trail at Audra State Park 2019.

Early snows came to West Virginia this year. But this week at Audra State Park we found the perfect day to go hiking on a warm sunny 49-degree day. What we found was magical and my photos do not do justice to the beauty of the thousands of Icicles that form along the Alum Cave Trail in the wintertime.

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icicles forming over the boardwalk at Audra State Park Winter 2019.  

 

I had seen a photo once of the park in wintertime and had always wanted to do a hike along the river after a light snow. With Christopher off from school for the holiday, we headed out without any expectations of what we would find. We waited until about noon to start our hike in one of the state’s smallest parks. Audra State Park borders two counties(Barbour and Upshur) and includes several miles of the Middle Fork River. The park has several picknick sites, two pavilions and offers 67 campsites for guests to enjoy. There are just a few trails that cover the 355 acres of the park. The most popular and most photographed is the boardwalk that passes along the river bank and under a very large and long rock overhang along the Alum Cave Trail. The trip from the parking area to the trailhead and around the small loop is maybe 2.0 miles and is easy except for the very steep staircase that is attached to the boardwalk. There is a larger loop trail that takes you along the river bank for a nice walk of 3.2 miles of easy hiking. Both trails intersect at the boardwalk and return you to the picknick area.

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the very steep staircase to the boardwalk at Audra State Park. 

Christopher and I had not explored much of Audra State Park in the past and the weather was perfect for wandering and taking photos. We hoped to see maybe just a few icicles at the cave that day but were astonished at the amount of ice we came across. We tried the typical route for the hike following the signage at the first fork, we took the lower trail to the boardwalk. As we reached the head of the boardwalk we were met with a huge ice slick that was 15 feet wide and 20 or 25 feet tall. Water was coming over the top of the mountain where the sun was shining and rolling over to the shaded side. This created several layers of thick ice. It was like a small frozen waterfall except across the trail and down to the river. No Crossing Here! We stopped and enjoyed the water and river below for a few minutes, knowing we would have to go around to see the boardwalk.

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Christopher looking at the ice covering the Alum Cave Trail at Audra State Park.

We backtracked and took the upper fork of the trail to the other end of the boardwalk. We often watched the Middle Fork River rumble by and enjoyed the quiet solitude of an empty park. Finally arriving at the top of the very steep staircase at the boardwalk. I was so relieved to see the stairs were not covered in ice. As we descended the steps the ice began to appear….. everywhere. The ice had somehow not gotten on the staircase but flowed all around it. The sidewalls were covered, some of the boardwalk and handrails were covered, the rock faces were covered, the trees and bushes below were covered. Icicles hung from the roof of the cave and froze to the ground all around us. Water gushed from a spring in the back of the cave and water splashed and froze everything but us.

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Middle Fork River at Audra State Park. 

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Ice covers the landing and ramp to the cave portion of the Alum Cave Trail. 

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looking back up the boardwalk ramp to the landing. We had to slide down this portion of the boardwalk at Audra State Park. 

 

Christopher was so amazed at the ice formations that all I can remember him saying the entire time was, “This is AWESOME!…. this is so awesome… can we come back again, Please?” At 11 years old shimmying across the ice-covered boardwalk was fun and exciting, at 51 it was tricky. The handrails along the boardwalk were much-needed support for me to cross the 12-foot sheet of ice going downhill into the cave/rock overhang. It was breathtaking to see the sunshine gleaming through the ice. I loved watching the dripping water drop 20 feet above me. It was one of those moments where you find beauty in nature beyond your imagination.  I just could not capture it adequately with my camera, I am not skilled enough to take backlit photos efficiently. We walked to the spot where the ice flow had blocked our passage and laughed. Then slowly enjoying every minute turned and walked back across the boardwalk.  The return up the ramp to the landing was also one of those moments where you just wonder what you have gotten yourself into. Christopher headed up the ramp first. I figured if he came sliding back down the ramp to me I could stop him, maybe? He made it with no problem. The ice was ruff and dry at this point of the day. So I took a deep breath and started to walk with both hands on the handrail up the ice-covered ramp. Slowly and carefully I walked right up the ramp without a hitch and stepped into the sun on the landing and about slipped. My heart stopped for a minute I am sure. Then we climbed back up that steep staircase to the gravel at the top. I stopped and looked back down at everything we had seen and felt like I was given a gift.

We then headed to the other end of the park and spent some time on the beach section of the river and walked on the frozen sand. Which sounded like a good idea at the time but got very scary very fast. The water makes the sand mushy close to the edge. I didn’t realize this for some reason and just about ended up in the ice-cold river as the sand gave way under the thin frozen crust. My feet sank about a foot before I dragged them free and away from the river’s edge.

Christopher and I headed home about three hours later and stopped for a drink. We talked about when we wanted to go back and made plans to see the rhododendrons in bloom in May. Overall the hike is very easy, the scenery is beautiful and the water is clear. I am not sure I would have enjoyed this as much if we had been surrounded by a lot of people. The trail is very narrow and not level, not graveled or maintained very well. You hike across what seems like a creek bed for several hundred yards on rolled stones so you need some room to move on and off the trail. Otherwise, for a relaxing afternoon in late Dec. I could not think of a better place to spend the day.

 

Categories: Audra State Park, Barbour County, Camping, family fun, family memories, hiking, ice, photo review, State Park activities, Uncategorized, Upshur County West Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Polar Express Travels the Hills of West Virginia

For children of all ages, there is a deep and never-changing love for trains and for stories that give us hope. The story of the Polar Express captivated my two sons’ hearts and mine over 22 years ago when the book was first released and I stumbled on to the book at the local book store. Cody my oldest son, got the book and his first of many silver sleigh bells as a Christmas gift while he was in Kindergarten. We read the book over and over that holiday season. After he returned to school he told everyone about the book. For years after that first Christmas, I was asked to come to his elementary school to read out loud the book that had captured the heart of my oldest son and every child who heard the story of a boy and his lost bell.polar express book

 

Then 17 years later Christopher was born and the tradition of The Polar Express continued with the same book and a small boy. Somewhere along the way, others fell in the love with the story and the movie was made that almost every child today has heard of. I was again asked to come to the elementary school and read allowed the worn and dog eared pages to the children. Soon after the release of the movie, an idea came into the mind of a group of avid train people in Elkins, West Virginia and The Polar Express became a live stage show on the rails in the mountains. With last year’s count of riders being over 30,000 who come each year to spend a couple hours on the train to have a short visit with Santa and be reminded that even the oldest of us can still believe in the spirit of Christmas.

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Christopher and Paige ready to board the Polar Express 2019

This year we were lucky enough to get tickets to take my youngest son and my granddaughter for a ride on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valleys Railroads licensed version of The Polar Express. The tickets sell out around April so it takes a little planning to get them before the Holiday Season. We were encouraged to ride the 7pm train just after dark so the kids could see the holiday lights at the North Pole. the Durbin & Greenbrier runs three trains on most nights one at 5pm one at 7pm and one at 9pm with the later two running in the dark.

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Welcome Center Depot at Elkins West Virginia

The experience is geared so that riders are entertained on the way out to the North Pole (45 mins) with the dancing, singing chefs from the book who serve cookies, and hot chocolate to every passenger. The return trip ( 45mins) is filled with meetings with the Hobo that rides on the roof of the train and a visit with Santa and several elves. Each passenger has their Gold Train ticket punched and is gifted a silver sleigh bell imprinted with the words The Polar Express. The evening ends with the Chefs telling jokes and tossing snowballs around the train car and making fake snow.

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crowds board the Polar Express

Dancing Chef on Polar Express

One of the twenty or so Dancing Chefs

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Tom and Christopher Powers aboard the Polar Express 2019

This trip was a gift to my Granddaughter and it was a special experience that we shared together and will never forget. As we left the train and walked in the dark back to our truck, I realized that my cheeks hurt from all the smiling I had done over the two hours. That I was happy about the holidays for the first time in several years. That I had actually gotten a few precious hours of my childhood back and was so thankful to Santa for my very own silver sleigh bell. At 50 I think I needed to remember that there is always hope and a reason to believe.

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Paige Powers tossing snowballs around train car on the Polar Express

Christopher with santa on the polar express

Christopher talking with Santa on the Polar Express

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My first  Sleighbell  from Santa on the Polar Express 2019

The night ended with two very happy young people who drank hot chocolate ate cookies and met the Santa for maybe the last time before they reach their teens. They bought ornaments to take home and snuggled up together in the back seat laughing and smiling about what they saw and how they could do the whole trip again. Tom and I held hands on the way home, at peace and with happiness in our hearts. It was as if Christmas had come back to us too.

I will always be thankful to author Chris Van Allsburg for his skill in writing and drawing. His story has filled my adult life over and over again with hundreds of wonder-filled children who sat patiently to hear about the train ride to the North Pole. His story has helped to revitalize a small mountain town in West Virginia that had a train, the snow and the wilderness of his story. But most of all he has filled my middle age with memories of happy children and my first silver sleigh bell….. maybe if I am still lucky I will hear it ring for many more years to come.

 

Categories: Chris Van Allsburg, Christmas, Christopher, Elkins West Virginia, Family, family fun, family memories, family traditions, Holidays, Polar Express, trains, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beverly Heritage Center Lantern Tours

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Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love to attend events like the Beverly Heritage Center’s Lantern Tours. Every mid-October the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia has two evenings of living history storytelling tours. You spend a little over an hour walking the main streets hearing ghost stories of real events that happened in the town. Tour guides take visitors back in time to the frontier days, to the Civil War, and the beginning of the turn of the century.

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Karl Mulac tour guide for the Lantern Tours at the Beverly Heritage Center.                       

At each major stop on the tour, guests walk the streets with lanterns to the front porch of a building where you hear a little history about the building. Then a narration is given by a living history actor telling a ghost story about those who have died in the area.  Included in the tour is a stop at The Logan House where civil war doctor John Huff performed the 2nd amputation of the Civil War. A stop at the historic Randolph County Jail where you hear Stella Collett tell about a strange shooting and trial. Then visitors stop at the local antique shop, The Goff House, where you hear about its use as a Civil War hospital and the boneyard.  The tour then crosses the main street to stop at Laura Jackson Arnold’s house ( sister to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson) where you hear about her son being drafted into the civil war and his fight to come home.  Then everyone gathers at a settler’s log cabin owned by Jacob Stalnaker and meets his son Adam. Here Adam shares about how he unknowingly built his own coffin and was killed by Indians. Then finally you head to Bosworth’s store (now the Randolph County Historical Societies Museum) where you hear about a young woman falling to her death from a second-story window.  In between each stop Karl, our tour guide, shares other interesting information about many of the buildings located along the main streets. 

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A local actor is telling the story of Dr. Huff saving a Civil War soldier’s life who had a leg amputated in the house.

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Visitors watch Stella Collett tell the story of a murder on Elliott Ridge. 

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View of the Randolph County Jail as the sunset.

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Visitors stop at the Laura Jackson Arnold house to hear a story told by her son Thomas Arnold. 

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 Actor portraying Adam Stalnaker who unknowingly built his own coffin. 

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Lantern on the porch of the Stalnaker Log Cabin in Beverly, West Virginia.

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and home

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV,  where the tours begin. 

Beverly is a unique place filled with history and wonderful stories. The fall lantern tours not only give visitors the chance to share spooky ghost stories but support the preservation of these buildings and the history of the area. With a small four-block downtown, the tour is accessible to just about everyone. The Heritage Center can make accommodations for those who need wheelchair access.

My son who was 11 on our visit was overwhelmed with excitement to be allowed to roam the streets of a small town by nothing but lantern light. Then at the end of the tour, he asked if we could come back again next year. He really liked hearing the tails told by the actors and it opened a door to West Virginia history in a way he had never experienced before. So we plan to do the tour again next year with my older son, daughter in law and granddaughter. So they can also walk the cool dark streets and hear the tails of a haunted Beverly.

Events like these give kids a new way of looking at important figures and places in our past. Unlike the museum experiences, you become part of the story if only for an hour.  For a very reasonable $10 dollar entry fee, we spent an evening with ghosts, learned a lot about the history of Randolph County and helped to provide income to Beverly Heritage Center for the future.

Categories: Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly West Virginia, family fun, family memories, ghost stories, Haunted House, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ghost Visits the Golden Rule

I get asked all the time if where I work, The Golden Rule, is haunted? For a building to be built in 1902 and not be haunted is a surprise. I would say that the building is not haunted in the traditional way. Not in the way horror movies show hauntings, full of evil spirits and terrible outcomes. I don’t have slamming doors, lights turning on and off or cold chills in the building. I rarely hear strange unexplained noises. I work for hours alone in the large empty building day and night, never feeling a cold chill. But, this building does have visitors.

Black and white photo of the side of the Golden Rule, Belington WV.

I have worked in the building around 18 months and after about 6 months of clearing out the building I gave up on experiencing anything unusual. That is until one warm summer evening when the rain poured down and lightning flashed that I meet someone amazing.

This usual Wednesday evening I was working alone doing inventory and getting ready for the antique auction we were planning as a fundraiser. Tables were lined with items from the 1920s to items used in the 1970s. I would list each item on an inventory sheet and photograph it, so we could either sell the item or place in on display in the future. The storm came in about 4pm and darkened the sky and made the inside of the building dreary enough I needed to turn on the lights. With my back turned to the front glass doors I worked listening to the rumble of thunder and the sounds of pouring rain. A few minutes into the storm I head a pecking sound on the glass that brought my attention to the double glass doors at the front of the building. Standing under the aged front arch, was a man. A small aged man, maybe 5’2″ around 70 dressed in an unusual way.

Front view of the arched entry of the Golden Rule after a rain.

The man wore a blue and white striped engineers cap over his head of short white hair. His face was light with a short groomed beard and mustache with crystal blue eyes that twinkled when he spoke. He wore an insulated blue work coat in the style of a1970s coal miner. He wore dark blue work pants rather than blue jeans. The blue of his eyes, hat, and coat contrasted with his healthy pink skin so much it appeared he had just showered and still had the rosy glow of the heat.

I walked to the locked door and smiled at him through the glass. I opened the door slightly to speak to the petite man. I asked if I could help him and he replied that he had worked in the building years ago and had seen the lights on. That he saw my car parked outside as he drove by and wanted to see what was happening with the old place.

His accent was pure West Virginia, charming and educated. I felt the urge to let him in from the cold gray outside and felt no fear bringing the stranger into the building. We stopped at the front of the first floor and he began to ask questions about who owned the building and who worked for the company and what were the future plans for the Golden Rule.

He was so filled with love for the place that he excitedly asked if I knew the Shinn family. He also asked if I had known him or his brother back in the 1970s when he worked at the store. I explained that I was not in West Virginia then and shared who I worked for. He preceded to share that everyone called him Hatchet and he had a brother named Don who worked there off and on too. He explained he helped Don moved the furniture and did deliveries for Mrs. Shinn, who owned the Golden Rule for close to 50 years.  He had run the historic water-powered elevator and trapped bats on the third-floor rafters over the years. I asked if he had been in the building recently and he said, “no not for years and years. I spend most of my time fixing up old cars now.”

We visited for an extended time on the first floor then I offered to show him around.  He was a fit older man, so we talked about what was on each floor when he worked for Wanda Shinn. He shared stories about selling mattresses and box springs and having to wait on the elevator to raise and lower. “It was so slow that you would pile everything you sold on one trip to save time,” Hatchet said.

G.R. historic photo

We talked about his life as we looked out the windows on the third floor. He said,” I have always loved the view of the rail yard back here.” We stood side by side looking at the aging trains and cars parked behind the Golden Rule. He talked about his last days at the Golden Rule before going to work for the Mines. How being a coal miner had been the best thing he could have done for the pay and retirement. He had made enough money to buy a house and a couple acres of land when he was in his 50’s and had put plenty away for retirement so he could keep rebuilding old cars. We talked about how Belington had changed and how he used to drag race through town on Saturday nights and go to the movies in Philippi. He shared about how everyone for miles around shopped at the Golden Rule. He listed some of the things he bought for his mining job. Finally, he asked me if they were going to save the old elevator or if it was going to scrap. I was excited to tell him that the old water-powered elevator was staying and that we would be looking for someone to work on it soon. I asked if he wanted to see the elevator and if he had any idea how it worked. He was happy to take a look at the old mud covered basement and tell me a little bit about how it worked. He remembered swabbing the piston and waiting on the elevator to slowly carry its cargo up the shaft.

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Empty elevator shaft on the 2nd floor of the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia.

Golden Rule elevator gears Preservation aliance of WV

Water Powered elevator pullies in the basement of the Golden Rule, Belington West Virginia.  

 

Finally, after about an hour of visiting and laughter, he said he should go. That he needed to get back to the house it was getting late and dinner would be ready soon. I realized that it was about 5:00 and I would need to leave for home too.  He walked to the door and said: “Thank you so much for showing this to me, it looks like she is in good hands.” He stepped down the stairs to the ground and I waved out the door and said: “Hatchet is was a pleasure to meet you, I hope you come back to visit soon”. Locking the glass door behind him I watched out the door for a classic blue car he had told me about. Soon a blue 1970’s Chevy drove by the building towards the town of Elkins. I couldn’t help smiling the rest of the night thinking of my visitor.

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Old umbrella on the third floor of the Golden Rule building Belington West Virginia.

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Furniture Polish bottles found in the basement of the Golden Rule Building, Belington WV.

A couple weeks later my boss and I found another person who had worked in the building operating the elevator for several years. We invited Charlie to lunch at a local cafe and planned to talk about the mechanics of the elevator and how it worked and if it could be made to operate on just the basement and first floor. Charlie was happy to meet and talk about how the elevator worked. As we eat and visited I casually told Charley and my boss that I had met another man who worked at the Golden Rule. I said I had met Hatchet and that we had talked for about an hour about the building and elevator. Charlie started shaking his head violently “no” and making a throat noise as he tried to swallow his bite of potatoes. Clearing his mouth he blurted out,”You did not meet Hatchet! He’s been dead 25 years! There is no way that is who you met.”

Being  surprised by his tone of voice  I replied with, “if it was not Hatchet then maybe it was his brother Don.”

Charlie’s face grew grave and serious leaning into the cafe table and said, “it wasn’t Don either, he has been dead 30 years or more”.

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Glass shoe sales sign found at the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia. 

At this my poor boss about choked on his sip of coffee. Charlie continued to ask me questions about how I had heard of Hatchet and Don. I told him that I learned their names from the man who visited me at the Golden Rule. A short white-haired man who wore a railroad cap.

“That’s impossible!” Charlie said, “You must have met someone else!”

I gave a description of the white-haired man that I met and told about him leaving the Golden Rule for the Coal Mines. I shared his love of the old cars that he often worked on.

My boss and Charley looked at me as if the world had ended. Confused and in disbelief of my description they looked at one another. Finally said, “I have no idea how I would know this information any other way than from the source.”

trash and empty shelves of the Golden Rule

Cleaned off shelves at the Golden Rule before floors were cleaned 2019 Belington WV

 

I  joked that I gave a ghost a tour at the Golden Rule and both men laughed at the silliness of the statement. They blew off the strange story I had told them over our lunch. They were both ready to think that I  had somehow gotten the information from some other old man around town and that I couldn’t have met Hatchet. Neither one wanted a haunted job site and no one wanted to share gossip of a stranger at the Golden Rule for fear of scaring off contractors and laborers.

My experience with the Ghost of the Golden Rule was not one that anyone would call scary. Hatchet is happy to see his workplace coming back to life and seemed content to look the place over with me. He made me aware of several things about the building and the town of Belington that I did not know. So If you had asked me if I had seen a ghost at the Golden Rule before that lunch date my answer was “No!”  In my mind, Hatchet is as real as anyone else. But after that lunch date with Charlie, I still find myself wondering who I met that afternoon and if he meant it when he said he would come back to visit me when the building was finished? I just hope he is as happy to see me as I will be to see him!

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Categories: About me, Barbour County, Benefit auction, ghost stories, ghosts, Golden Rule, Haunted House, historic locations, history, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Belington Fall Festival Focuses on “Celebrating Our Successes”.

 

girl scouts with bannerBelington’s Fall Festival Theme, “Celebrating Our Successes” highlights the positive change that the community has achieved over the last ten years with food, music, events, and a parade down Main Street. The Belington Revitalization Committee and Belington On-Trac, with the help of many community partners, highlighted the projects and redevelopment efforts that have taken place in the downtown. They also used this time to share information about where the town is going in the future.

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Golden Rule Building during redevelopment along Main Street in Belington, WV.
Terri Kittle, Chief Financial Officer for Freedom Bank and Treasurer for the Belington Revitalization Committee, helped to plan the annual event with the theme “Celebrating our Successes”. Terri stated, “I want the event to show the community what has been accomplished, and where we are going in the future.” The Belington Revitalization Committee, the City of Belington, the Barbour County Development Authority, and Woodlands Development Group have worked together to develop a community walking trail along the river, started the rehabilitation of The Golden Rule building, a prominent downtown building. They have added new playground equipment to the City Park, added new workout stations to the walking trail, and an outdoor stage space for entertainment and events. Each step in this journey has brought more opportunities for everyone in the community and more reasons to love where we live.

 

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Event Banner

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Exercise station along the Belington walking trail.

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The stage at the Town Square in downtown Belington.

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Sidewalk chalk artwork was done during the 2019 Fall Festival.

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A young visitor to the Fall Festival with her friend Diego the iguana.

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Katie Wolpert volunteers to help children create sidewalk art at the Fall Festival.
With the help of many community volunteers the ”Celebrate Our Successes” events brought the community together for low cost or free activities. Visitors could shop for gifts at the craft sale, enjoy a hometown parade or rest under a tent to watch local musicians play. Children could add to sidewalk chalk drawings, laugh and play in bouncy houses, eat cotton candy and hot dogs. Everyone enjoyed a fun and successful event with large turnouts.

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Bouncy houses ready for children in downtown Belington.
After the two days of celebrations, the people of Belington are now more aware of the work that groups like Belington On-Trac, The Belington Revitalization Committee, Woodlands Development Group, The Barbour County Development Authority other non-profits are doing in the area and how we are all working together to make Belington a better place.

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Categories: Belington, WV, Community Art, Fairs and Festivals, Fall, Fall Festival, family fun, Golden Rule | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Clean Up and Events at Golden Rule; Or This Mountain MaMa is Tired.

I have been working so hard to finish cleaning and sorting the 4 floors of Golden Rule that I really thought about changing the name of my blog title to…. “This Mountain Mama is Tired.”  Then leave some lame message about not having time to write. It would have been the truth. I am just beyond tired when I get home at night. I walk an average of 5 to 6 miles a day inside the building and that does not included the walking I do daily with my dog. So with 6 or 7 miles a day and the 3 sets of stairs in the building and the loads of trash and boxes I move every day. I just have not had the energy to stay up late or get up early to write. So please forgive me for not sharing more of the wonderful things I usually like to share.

So today I want to share just a few photos of what my life has been like since starting my work  at the Golden. It is a labor of love to be the main person to clean, sort and help with Demo in a 18,000 foot building.

Golden Rule Belington Wv

The 1902 Golden Rule Building 122 Crim Ave. Belington, WV my home away from home.

The building was abandoned after is was sold in the late 1980’s and it was never cleaned out. The building contained new old stock and office equipment from as far back as the 1920’s. My job has been to tackle the clean up of 100 years worth of history, trash and some how put together a couple of events to raise some money for the  rehabilitation.

So far we have removed 8,000 pounds of house hold trash and a 30 yard dumpster of ceiling tiles, paneling and dry wall.  It has taken a full year to reach the point that all three main floors are mostly clean and have a silent auction planned for the items that I was able to salvage. I have logged around 980 individual items that we hope to have for sale the first couple of weeks in May. It has been some of the hardest work I have done in my life, but the most rewarding also.

logan and Patrick AmeriCorps members volunteer to toss out 4,000 pounds of trash

Patrick and Logan AmeriCorps volunteers help remove 2000 pounds of trash from the Golden Rule 2018.

What we have found along the way is a treasure trove of history and stories from the past. Some of the questions we have about the building are solved, while others are still a mystery. I have done interviews with the former owner and several people who worked in the building that have helped put together a impression of what the building meant to the community and to those who worked here. One day I hope to put all this together in a book about the buildings story.

 

We are now ready to start the process of moving the history out of the building into storage and selling off what is left. We have plans for a ticket entry, benefit silent auction that will happen in just a few weeks, fallowed by community wide building sale. This should clean out most of the items that are remaining in the building. With lots of volunteers helping me over the course of the last year. I think the events will be a huge success.

Golden Rule flyer

 

The Golden Rule will soon be full of new people and construction materials, it will be full of busy saws and heavy foot steps and I will be regulated to watching most of it. I still have cleaning to do and a yard to tame so my work in not over but I will be more of an outsider for the next couple of years. I am excited for the work to begin in  June and can only imagine what I will be doing over the next year.

Golden Rule sign

Recycled sign for the Golden Rule Feeds and Fertilizers found in mill building. 

The project will start on the top floors of the building and work its way down. A new roof and 10 apartments will happen first and the final steps will be the retail spaces on the first floor. It is planned with a railroad depot in the back to connect passengers to the tourist trains in Elkins, West Virginia. A gift shop for the passengers, a Artist Market, a coffee shop and a viewing platform of the water powered elevator. We are hoping that some of the wonderful pieces we have found in the building will hang on the walls and be used as decor in the coffee shop and artist market one day.

Three-four years seem so far away from now, but I think it will pass in a blink of an eye. I know that one day not far off I will be wondering how it all got finished and open to the public.

Categories: antiques, Belington, WV, Benefit auction, Change, Golden Rule, historic locations, Historic Preservation, recycling, Vintage items, West Virginia, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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