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Reclaimed Memories
ca. 1919 - 1921

e were very excited when we learned that we would be moving to Creston. To us children it was a city! There were two general stores, the post office, a one room church, and a two room school. There were board sidewalks which helped to keep us out of the mud, but none, of course, over the roads which were ankle deep with red clay mud when it rained. This had to be scraped off our shoes with a stick. It’s no wonder that the paved streets and sidewalks of Parkersburg looked like heaven me!

My parent's business venture this time was "Creston Hotel." I presume that they rented the large building but they had money enough from the farm to buy all its furnishings. It was a two story, perfectly rectangular structure, with six-foot-wide halls running the entire lengths of both the downstairs and the upstairs. As one entered the building from the front the lobby was the first room on the right, back of that was the dining room, with a swinging door which led to the kitchen. These three rooms were large, as was the front room on the left of the hallway, which we called the "parlor," an old-fashioned term for what we now call "living room." Back of the parlor were the family bedrooms and a storage room, where the surplus canned foods were kept. There were six bedrooms upstairs on each side of the hall. My two brothers always had one room, as did the regular boarders. The rest of the rooms were reserved for our transient guests.
* Possible reference to a "Parson's Hotel" in Creston during a flood of 1919. Could it be a possibility that this was the same hotel that was purchased by Marion Thrash in 1919, perhaps after the flood of 1919? I do not have any knowledge of there being another hotel in Creston during this time period. The only two other hotels that I found info on were  an "Armstrong" and a "Stevens" hotels, but these were destroyed in a fire in 1917. I have not found anything to mention that they were rebuilt.  Judging from pictures, and the fact that the economy was in a boom, it is quite possible there was more than just one hotel. Grantsville, just a few miles away, had three hotels. RmB

Creston was an important stopping place on the Little Kanawha River between Parkersburg, West Virginia, and towns farther up the river to the southeast. The river was always deep enough for the boats carrying freight to reach here, but much of the time this was as far upstream as they could go. When the river was low they had to unload at Creston and the cargo was then taken by truck to Grantsville and Glenville. One boat always made the trip each of the six working days. It was called the mail boat and the men who manned it always were regular boarders at our hotel. They had their own room upstairs, just as my brothers had. The name of the mail boat was "The Dove." Another boat name was "Edith G." It was named for a little red-haired girl, whose father owned one of the two grocery stores in town. Edith had heavy red ringlets which reached to her shoulders. The Gibsons probably owned the boat when it was named.

Mail Boat “The Dove” (photo published in "Reclaimed memories")
Mait-boat "The Dove" on the Little Kanawha River, in Creston, WV - taken around 1920
These photos below donated for use by Gary Coberly - Gilmer County, WV Historical Society

When we first moved there we had a "hired girl" and an older lady who came each day to care for the bedrooms upstairs. This woman was like a grandmother to us. In fact she was the grandmother of my best girl friend in Creston, Edna Merrill. We called her Aunt Kate. Her last name was Lockhart. She worked for us until we sold the business and for the next owner, I believe. Ruth said Aunt Kate used to give her a nickel to empty the chamber pots.

But it was hard to keep a girl for the downstairs. She was responsible for the sweeping and mopping of the floors and for waiting on the tables at mealtime. We also had a woman who did the laundry. There was work for the children, also. At first we were mainly responsible for helping with the dish-washing, but between hired girls I became the waitress. I was just twelve years old and loved this "important " job. I was soon imploring my mother to let me be the hired girl. She finally said that if I could do her work she would pay me the $5.00 a week that she had been paying a girl. You can bet that I did not fail! After that there was little time for me to play. I did not intend to give up a good paying job! I saved up quite a nice little hoard and bought the first phonograph (victrola) we ever had, along with several records. We would then have music for our guests at mealtime. That victrola was the first piece of furniture we had after our marriage.

The school at Creston was a two room building; one room downstairs and the other over it. The first four grades were downstairs and the next four were upstairs. The first day of school I thought one or two of the eighth grade boys looked like men. They may have been going after they had completed the eighth grade. Ambitious young people sometimes repeated an upper grade to try to get a little more education, since the parents could not afford to send them away from home to attend a high school. My oldest brother, Gotthart, did this when we lived at Baker’s Run. There was an interesting little sidelight to his attendance that year. The "thought" problems in the eighth grade arithmetic were sometimes very difficult ones, but my mother was a really good teacher of math and she could always help any of us out in that subject. So Gotthart had a better foundation in that skill than the teacher. One day the teacher could not solve one of the problems and Gotthart went to the board and worked it and got the answer. The answers were always printed in the back of the book. I do not remember if she asked him to quit school or if he just stopped going after that day. I just know that was his last day of his second year in the eighth grade.

My sister, Opal, was afflicted with a nervous disorder while we lived in Creston. The doctor in that village called it St. Vitus Dance. Her muscles would twitch and sometimes cause involuntary movements in her limbs. The doctor assured our parents that she would outgrow it, but I wonder if that was not the beginning of the heart problem which caused her death in 1954, just short of her 44th birthday. I was very conscious of the fact that our parents were very concerned about her. She was no longer required to do her share of the chores. Elma told me later that she did not realize that Opal was ill, so she complained about her getting out of her usual work. Mother explained to her privately that Opal was sick. Elma then watched her eating and, for the first time, realized that something was wrong. She no longer objected to doing some of the chores which had previously been assigned to Opal.

While we were in the hotel business my dad bought a house boat and he and my brothers ran it between Parkersburg and as far as they could travel upriver. The roads could not be traveled much of the year and it was probably less expensive to move freight by boat when possible. When we moved to the Fairfax Farm our furniture went by rail to Parkersburg, then by boat to the farm. We got there a few days before our furniture arrived. Dad and the boys had taken enough bedding, cooking utensils, etc. for them to get along on, but it was very difficult for the family. Straw was brought into the house and placed in the corners of one room for us to sleep. I know that all of us were very happy when the repeated blowing of the boat whistle announced that our furniture was to be unloaded at our landing on the river bank.

It was a law that no boat could go through any of the locks on the river without a name. The boat Dad bought had no name and the man who handled the lock between Creston and Parkersburg explained to Dad that he could not open the locks because of that. Gotthart picked up something and wrote or scratched "Ruth T." on the pilot house and they were allowed through. Ruth was my youngest sister, so that particular boat bore her name from then on. When they got back home it was painted on in big, bold letters.

I should probably explain the river locks. They were really dams that were built in rivers to control the waters during floods. The gates were wide enough to allow the passage of the boats into the area between the two dams and the water in that passageway was either raised or lowered to bring the boat to the level of the water, in the direction they wished to travel. We enjoyed the trips we took on the boat.

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