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Reclaimed Memories
ca. 1921 - 1923

Elizabeth, WV

n 1921 my parents put the hotel up for sale. The work was too hard on all of us and I would be ready for high school in another year. They moved to Elizabeth, West Virginia, where there was a three room high school. I feel sure that they had accumulated enough money to buy the home there, as well as a motor vehicle, which we called a "Jitney Bus." Ted learned to drive it in a matter of days and they provided transportation to people between Elizabeth and Parkersburg. The jitney was a small bus with a seat running lengthwise on each side. It could carry about a dozen passengers comfortably. This was not a paying venture and Dad soon sold it. He was appointed mayor of the town and with that title came certain duties. He cleaned the narrow paved walkways across the streets when they became muddy and he had the power to arrest any person whom he felt was getting "out of line." I do not remember any instance of him having to use the authority of arrest, but I do recall that he assisted in taking someone to a mental institution.

After the sale of the hotel and the buying of the home in Elizabeth, Gotthart took Mother and my four younger sisters to visit Mother's sister, Amanda Tenny, in Sedalia, Ohio. Gotthart had a Model "T" Ford Touring car. I was left to move to Elizabeth to cook for Dad and Ted. I did not mind being left behind. Such authority! As the only female I told the movers where to put each piece of furniture and decided just what I should prepare for each meal. I thought I should feed them as we fed our guests in the hotel. After a day or two Dad said to me, "Elizabeth, you do not need to fix so many different dishes for us." After that I cut back. I'm sure Dad felt I was spending more than necessary to feed three people. After two weeks of being the "boss" I was glad to turn it back over to Mother.

The county fair was a big event for our Ohio relatives each year and it was held while my Mother was there and all of them went one day. My birthday was coming up and Mother bought me a crystal cup with Sept. 7, 1921 printed on it. (I gave that cup to Heather and the little embroidered nightgown, with my initials and a flower on the yoke, to Skip. I think I gave them those souvenirs in 1962, the year they went north with us. Mother made the gown and Ruby embroidered it for the trip to the aunts the summer before I was six. It was on that trip that I received the doll from Aunt Mollie.)

School started soon after the folks returned from Ohio. This was by far the best school I had ever attended. Each grade was in a separate room and each teacher taught all subjects for that grade. The first day we were doing fractions in arithmetic and I just could not remember how my mother had taught me to do them. The principal of the school was also the teacher of the eighth grade.

That day Mr. Foust asked me to stay after school and he very gently suggested that "perhaps I should go back to the seventh grade, since I did not seem to be up on my math skills." Such humiliation! I could not possibly do that! My sister, Elma, was in that room!

I assured him that I would prove to him that I knew fractions. The form he used was different from what I had learned. Everything was new and confusing to me the first day. Mother went over the method I had been taught with me again and I was on solid ground. I demonstrated to Mr. Foust that I could work any of the fraction problems using my mother's method and nothing more was ever said about my repeating the seventh grade.

Back in the early twenties all pupils in the eighth grade were required to take what was known as "The Diploma Test" This test determined whether a student graduated from grade school and went on to high school or repeated the eighth grade. Naturally all who took the test were on pins and needles until they learned their fate. All tests from the county were sent to the courthouse where they were graded. My dad came home from there one morning as proud as Punch! I not only had passed the test, I had made the second highest grade in Wirt County! (Elizabeth is the County Seat of Wirt County.)

The high school in Elizabeth was just three rooms and three teachers. It was as inferior as a high school as the one room grade schools we had attended were as grade schools. Every teacher had to teach some subjects for which they were not prepared. The year I started one of the teachers had just finished college. He was assigned to teach algebra and I took that my second year there. I do not remember the first names of any of the teachers. They were always called "Mister." The algebra teacher was Mr. Knott. One day in class I said to him, "Mr. Knott, how do you know if it is a plus sign or a minus sign when you add?" His exact reply to me and the class was, "Well, I'll tell you, Elizabeth. That is one of the little tricks we do in algebra." If it had not been for the help of a neighbor, Blaine Coberly, I would have received nothing from that course.

It was a requirement that all accredited high schools teach two years of a foreign language. Mr. Sims, the principal, undertook the task. He was trying to learn it along with his students. I took first year Spanish under him my second year in high school. Consequently, I was ill prepared for Spanish II, when I transferred to Parkersburg in my junior year. My grade was a "C' in that subject for the year. I feel sure that was the only "C" I ever received in high school. The teacher was probably generous in giving me that! I could spell and write it right well, but my accent was terrible! The teacher said to me one day when we were trying to speak in Spanish, in class, “Elizabeth, you are hopelessly American!" My sister Elma got along better in Spanish than I. She elected to take two years of French later. Not I! I would rather have taken any math course than another foreign language!

I keep thinking of so many experiences at different places where we have lived that I would like to add to my "memoirs," but it is difficult to insert them in chronological order. I have done that so many times in writing this document! But I do want to add something about the paving of the road between Parkersburg and Palestine, West Virginia, which went right through Elizabeth. At that time there were some paved sidewalks in Elizabeth, but no paved streets. Gotthart did not move with us to Elizabeth. He had work, either driving a truck or on one of the river boats, so he stayed in Creston. When construction began on the road he got a job driving a truck and stayed at home part of the time. He had married in 1922 and had his home in Creston, but it was not always possible for him to get back there during the week, while working on the road.

The laying of the road caused a lot of excitement in our little town. There was always a crowd to watch as load after load of concrete came from the plant in Parkersburg. All of us stood in front of our house as our alternately dusty or muddy street became a paved road. We were lucky! Our house was right on the highway to be paved.

The people who bought the hotel in Creston failed to meet their payments and my parents returned there for a short period of time in order to sell it again. Elma and I stayed in Elizabeth and worked for our "board." I was with neighbors, the Coberleys, whom I really loved. They had three little boys under school age. My biggest responsibility was doing the dishes in the evening. This took about two hours for none were washed all day, until after the evening meal. It was this man, Blaine Coberly, who helped me with algebra.

Elma was unhappy in the home where she was staying after a period of time. The man of the house started coming to the bed where she was sleeping with his daughter and fondled her breasts. She told me about it the next day and we rented a room together and cooked for ourselves. We paid $2.00 a week for the room and charged the groceries at the store and our parents paid for them. School was almost out at that time.

One of the activities that I became interested in at Elizabeth was the 4-H Club. I enjoyed the meetings each week and learned quite a bit from the activities of the club. Each member had some project for the year and I chose sewing, as did most of the girls in our club. Girls who lived on farms were more likely to take canning. I loved to sew and Mother encouraged me to take over the making of the undergarments when I was twelve years old. It was not quite fair to the other girls in the club, because I always carried off first prize in sewing when we had our exhibits.

I loved the camping experiences I had with the 4-H Club. We had two or three counselors, usually older teens, employed to conduct camps during the summer. The camps were always well planned and the time spent there was both beneficial and enjoyable.

4-H Club Project and Camping Outfit

 4-H Club Project Outfit 4-H Club campiing outfit

Thrash Family at Christmas, 1922
Family Christmas, 1922

Mother had a good singing voice. She knew so many hymns from beginning to end and she sang a lot, especially on the farm. I think she sang more there because we were so isolated. In Creston we were never alone. She sang and played the organ often while we lived in Elizabeth. We loved to hear her play and sing some of the old ballads. We children liked "Redwing" and "Listen To the Mocking Bird," especially. When some of the old hymns she sang are used in church I can still hear her voice. My parents died just thirteen days apart, over sixty years ago. I still cannot write about them without a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

As I think back upon my childhood and youth I believe that the period we lived in Elizabeth was the most carefree of my mother's life, up until that time. We children were able to do much of the work that had been her responsibility and she was involved in the ladies' work and playing the piano for the Sunday School and worship services at church.

After a revival, which was held in the court house, my dad read the Bible a lot and we had family prayers at night.


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