Friday, July 29, 2005

A Magical Neighborhood

I've described the physical aspects of my hometown in a separate blog titled Big Chimney WV, so will try to talk about the people a little here.

The center of our neighborhood was the Rollyson's house. Mr Rollyson, Derald Sr, owned the Volkswagen dealership in Charleston with his dad, Bruce. He bought the house originally built by Bill Warner for his large family. It was a cool design, almost like a barn from the outside. The main floor had a two+ car garage, a kitchen, a formal living room (that NO ONE was allowed to enter), and a HUGE family room, which probably measured 30ft by 50ft. The second floor had a master bedroom, three medium sized bedrooms for the daughters, and a dorm-like bedroom for the boys which took up the whole space above the garage. The front yard was about 30yds by 80yds and was made for playing touch football. The Warners had even planted little pine trees to mark sidelines and end zones. Behind the house was a pool that was fed by water from the downspouts and from tiles that ran under the hillside -- no filtration. The Rollysons converted the garage into a game room with pool table and table tennis, then built a four car garage on a courtyard that doubled as a basketball court. It was a house designed for kids, and many of us spent many days and nights there. On the way home from school on the bus every day, the conversation was about what activity we were going to engage in that afternoon: touch football, basketball, goofing off around the pool, playing pool, and sometimes even a neighborhood spanning game of War.

Mr Rollyson wasn't around very much, so I can't say I really knew him. In fact, when he was home, the neighborhood kids were usually encouraged to leave. Big Derald passed away a couple of years ago.

Mrs Rollyson -- Jackie -- was a saint, and a second mother to most of us. I never remember her telling us to quiet down, or go home, or doing anything but being a great mom. If you were there when dinner was served, you were invited to stay. If a bunch of us wanted to sleep over in the rec room, listening to Bill Cosby albumns late into the night, then get up to watch "Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp" on Saturday morning, that was okay too. Pancakes for everyone. Derald and Jackie were divorced sometime after I went away to college. She's still living in Charleston, but I haven't seen her for years.

The Rollyson kids were Derald, Debbie, Derrian and Doug. Derald is three years older, so were were never in the same school at the same time. Debbie is a year older, but had been ill when she was in first or second grade, and ended up missing a year of school. So we were in the same grade growing up. Derrian is a couple of years younger, and Doug is the same age as my younger brother, Jeff. Debbie let me call her my girlfriend for a while when we were in 9th grade. I had no idea what that meant, but loved hanging out with her every day for lunch, and taking her to all the dances. One day she told me she had a new boyfriend. That hurt, but I got over it quickly and the friendship endured (the next year I met the girl who would become my bride).

The other key family of my youth was the Hivelys. They lived in two different houses in our neighborhood, but I think of the one next door to the Rollyson's as being their house. Mike is two years older than me. Mark is the same age as Debbie Rollyson, but a year ahead of us in school, Debbie Hively and I are about 60 days different in age, but the difference put her a year behind me in school. The youngest, Cindy is a couple of years younger than Debbie.

That was our core group of kids. Derald, Deb R, Deb H, Mike, Mark and I hung out continuously through most of our youth. As time went along, we connected to different interests, and had broader circles of friends, but that group was like family. Jackie Rollyson and Jim and Marg Hively were like parents to all of us, and we moved between their homes as though it were all common property.

Sadly, we've been out of touch with one another for thirty years. Deb Hively has exchanged Christmas cards with us for a number of years, and she visited us in Columbus last fall. I spoke to Jim and Marg on Jim's 75th birthday a couple of weeks ago. Outside that, little contact. It sure would be good to get together again.

We had other great friends in the neighborhood.

The Adkins lived kinda next door. Their kids were Mike and Bridget. Mike was one of the older kid in the neighborhood, and good guy. Bridget was something special. I had a crush on her most of my youth. But she was two years older -- quite a gulf at that age. I saw Bridget a few years ago when both of us were visiting our parents.

The Frames lived a few more houses away. Hibby and Jackie were the parents. Butch was the eldest, about the same age as Mike Adkins. He was always a snappy dresser and a tough cookie. He once beat the snot out of the neighborhood bully, who was terrorizing us younger kids. I guess Butch was sort of the neighborhood Fonzie. He even had the coolest car (a Camaro RS). Butch passed away a couple of years ago from cancer. Nancy is a year older than me, and a real nice girl. George is a couple of years younger, and was a fine young man. I've seen Nancy the most recently of all of the Frames, but that has probably been 10 years ago. Hibby has passed away.

The Terhune's lived next to the Frames. They had a son who was much older than me, and an Army officer in Vietnam, so I never met him. Their second son, Larry, was the same age as George Frame. Larry was a very smart kid. I think he's aerospace engineer or something now. Mr and Mrs Terhune were great people.

Jim Ashley was a good friend of Dad's, and I think still visited him has long as he could. I liked Jim a lot. He was arrested for pointing his shotgun at a guy who was planning on tearing up Jim's yard while building next door. Like many of the men in our neighborhood, he was a combat hardened WWII vet, and didn't get intimidated easily.

Chester and Betty Flick were good friends of my folks and my grandparents. Their sons were Chester Jr and Charlie. Both were suffieciently older that I never really knew them that well. Chester Jr bought a Corvair when they first came out, and I remember getting to ride to church in it once. Charlie was the first kid on the neighborhood to get a motorcycle, sort of. His folks got him a Honda 50 on Christmas. Still it had an engine, so that made him a stud.

Next door to the Flicks were the Wentz's. Mr and Mrs Wentz were kind old folks, and had one son, Keith, a couple of years older than me.

On the other side of the Flicks were the Cavenders. Martina is my age, and we've connected up several times at class reunions. She's a beautiful and gracious lady, as always. She had a younger brother who we always called 'Buddy'. No news about him.

Several friends of ours lived in "the Bottom," which was a secluded little development along the river which was separated from the main road by a woods. There are houses dating back to the early 1800s in this area, built by the Slack family. The big house in the Bottom was owned by the Burdettes. They, along with the Rollysons, were the rich folks of the neighborhood. They had a son who is several years older than me, while their daughter Kirtha is younger. The main thing I remember about Kirtha was that she got kicked in the face by her horse, and it was quite a serious injury. She also stayed friends with one of the Warner girls long after the Warners had been transferred to Parkersburg.

The Hunter family also lived in the Bottom. Mr Hunter was the executive chef at the zooty resturant at the airport. He was one of my Mom's favorite people. The Hunter kids were Cindy (a couple of years older), Cayla (a year younger), Cathy (a couple of years younger), and Tab (about five years younger). Kayla was once married to my wife's cousin, Randy Hess. So her kids and our kids are related. Don't start the WV jokes.

When I was about 17, our church had a basketball team, and Tab was one of the kids on it. One snowy evening after practice, we plotted to go into a beer joint and buy a six-pack. I think a fellow Boy Scout, Jay Douglas, was in on it. Since I was the oldest looking, and driving the car, I was elected to go. The guy sold me the beer, and we proceeded to go down into the Bottom, pull off on a side lane, and chug it down. We dumped Tab off at his house, then I found that I couldn't get the car back up the icy road from the Bottom to the main road. So I had to walk all the way back up to our house and get my Dad to come retrieve the car. He yelled at me for getting the car stuck, but I never heard anything about the beer. But the next day when I got on the school bus, the Hunter girls all started yelling at me for getting Tab drunk. Little did they know that on the guy's side of the bus, hearing that I had bought beer illegally and actually drunk it scored a lot of points.

One of my closest buddies was Warren "Tinker" Coon. He lived next door to the Burdettes in the bottom. His Dad was a botanist with the State Dept of Agriculture. Warren was the oldest of a bunch. He had sisters Pam and Vivian, but I don't remember the youngest. Pam and Vivian were real cuties. He's a couple of years younger, which is significant when you're a kid. We did Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts together, and had lots of fun playing together in the adolescent years. Before high school, Warren's family moved to their family farm in Boone County, and I saw him only a couple of times afterward. Once was in 1969 when we both went to the Boy Scout Jamboree in Idaho as members of different troops. Later, I rode out to his farm on my first motorcycle. I haven't seen anything of him since then. Good guy, and I hope he and the girls are doing well.

Further down the road was the Kee's house. Mr Kee was a Sr Master Sgt in the Air National Guard, and also ran a little cattle farm on the hill behind my home. Their eldest was Shirley, who is probably five or six years older than me. Wayne, or Bud, is four years my elder. He was the neighborhood superjock. He was tough as steel and a fierce competitor. In high school he was the state wrestling champ for his weight class. I ran into Wayne a couple of years ago at the WV HOG Rally in Snowshoe. He still looks like he's in great shape. There were two more Kee girls - Debbie and Marsha - good people.

I don't know how I would have turned out had I not been blessed to grow up in that neighborhood. I learned how to be good, even though I did some bad things over the years. I learned how to make friends and be a friend. I learned how to act in a community of friends. If any of you guys ever read this -- thanks for letting me be part of that community -- it molded what I am.

No comments: