Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 13, 1972 · Page 70
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 70

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 13, 1972
Page 70
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West Virginia, Mountain Mama By Carolyn Boiarsky PEORIA, ILL.--There was scenery in the sky last night over this most midwest of Midwestern towns. Cloud mountains loomed over the horizon, their peaks etched in pink. The dog, a gold and black mixture of Cocker Spaniel and Welch Terrier, and I sat in (he field across from our subdivision and watched the sun set, the puffy mountains growing dim as darkness emerged, and I t h o u g h t nostalgically of the tall, solid mountains in West Virginia. Although I had lived in the Mountain State only four years, I had come to think of it as home. And it was only natural that I should for it was there that I met my husband and began my career as a writer. I got my first break as a news reporter in Charleston. Just out of college, I had been trying for two months to get a job in or around Philadelphia, where I had grown up, but I had had no luck. Finally, UPI hired me for its West Virginia Bureau. I arrived at the capitol, Saturday, Feb. I, 1964, as scared as any farmer's daughter who goes to New York City for the first time. Nor did the man sitting next to me in the plane allay my fears when he commented that we would land on a mountain. But we put down safely and my first day was inauspicious, although a bit lonely. That night I walked to the Daniel Boone Hotel for dinner and, as I ate in the dining room, one of only two other guests, the organ sounding mournful, I began to have pangs of homesickness, which were not alleviated by spending my first night at the Holley Hotel, where I doubt if there were any other guests under the age of 50. ' The situation did not improve the next morning when the zipper of my overstuffed suitcase broke and my curlers spilled helter-skelter over the hotel lobby. The bellboy had to tie a rope around it to keep it closed. I went to the YWCA only to learn that I would not be able to get a room there until the following day. Unwilling to spend another night alone In the hotel, I phoned a young couple, the Burriss's, whom I did not know, but who were the children of some friends of friends of my family. They took me in, immediately making me feel comfortable. And, thus, began a long and close friendship. In fact, it was they who arranged a blind date for me with the man who is now my husband. Too, we are the proud godparents of their two beautiful children. The next day I checked Into the "Y" and was given the transient'i room, a con* verted storage closet located on the first floor off the gym. My quarters may not have been palatial, but on a salary of $89 per week, a $10-a-week room didn't seem too bad. I r e m a i n e d there for three weeks until I found an apartment and was ready to move into it. But those three weeks went faster than almost any I can remember. Everyone I met tried to make me feel comfortable and to see that I enjoyed my stay. I was immediately invited to the Temple Sisterhood* Brotherhood dinner and by the time the " evening was over I had received enough dinner invitations to feed me for over a week. Everyone was, also concerned about my status as a single girl, and the entire Jewish community as well as many of the secretaries at the statehouse promptly passed my name around. By the end of three weeks the only eligible Jewish male I had not dated was Albert Schwabe.'ahd the only reason I had not gone out with him was that he asked me for a date the same night my husband had been fixed up with me, which was the last time I dated anyone else. Within three weeks we were engaged. It was during this time that I received my post graduate education. Here I had my first inside view of politics as I covered the last part of the Barren administration. I still remember my first press conference in the Governor's reception room, when Gov. Barron shook hands with all of the other reporters and welcoming me to the corps, promptly kissed me on the cheek. Several months later Sen. Jennings Randolph upon being introduced to me, kissed me on the hand, a gesture which ever since has made me think of him as Sir Walter Raleigh. My post graduate education was further enhanced when I covered the 1966 legislature for WCHS-TV. That was the year the question of offering birth control information to welfare recipients was hot, and I caught Fr. Hillarion Cann on his way to a closed door session with the House Speaker an hour before the final birth control bill came to the floor and was passed. That was also the year Bill Brotherton brought donuts to the Senate in the mor- ning and passed them out, and all the major business was completed by early evening on the last day and many of the delegates ipent the last few hours of the ·ession in decent intoxication. But that was all back in the middle 60s. Back when urban renewal was still being talked about, but nothing had been built, though land had been cleared. Back when the Daniel Boone was the only real hotel in town, though a hole had been dug for the Heart O'Town, and Imperial Towers was the first new apartment house to be built in years. But what I remember best about the Mountain State is the people. They were people who cared about people, who accepted you as you were and who invited you to sit at their table with them. I thought of the owner of the small coal mine, who had agreed to permit me to tour his mine and to photograph the miners at work. The day I went, some of the men refused to go down into the mine because they believed a woman was unlucky. Afterward I had lunch at his home, a big lunch of chicken, mashed potatoes, beans, biscuits and pie for dessert. And after dinner the neighbors came to meet me. And I remember the people in Pickens, Randolph County, whom I met while I was working for the Appalachia Educational Laboratory (AEL). I had dinner at one of the women's homes and then after a PTA meeting, they invited me to join them for coffee and cake and they spoke of how wonderful the new educational programs were and how they wished the programs had been existence when they were young. The Laboratory! That was something very special. I was there at the very beginning when there was only five of us crowded into two rooms of one of the old downtown office buildings on Quarrier Street. When I left, the idea of the preschool program was only a glint in Dr. Carmichael's eye. Today, the Lab takes up two floors in a renovated section of the Atlas building; the pre-school program is a reality in a number of school systems throughout the Appalachian area; and the Education Writer's Assn--after touring the Title IV programs scattered around the country--consider the Laboratory to be one of the best in the country. Representatives of the American Vocational Assn. and the National Association of Educational Broadcasters believe it has originated some of the best educational programs to emerge from the past decade. I have worked for two other Title IV programs and been associated with several others, and I believe the Appalachia Lab is one of the very few whose major concern is the children for whom it was developing its programs. But West Virginia has always seemed to me to have the potential for being an excellent school system. It has some of the best young educators in the country^ graduates from local colleges, whose goal is not publishing their research, but developing programs which will make a difference to the children in the region. I remember by first trip to Parkersburg with Dr. Carmichael to see the School-to- Work program which had been established under County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Taylor, now state superintendent of schools. There was something vibrant about the school, a feeling, an atmosphere that something was being done, that education was really going on, and that both the students and the teachers were excited about it. And I remember my own principal, Dr. Keith Whittington--now principal of St. Albans High School--when- I taught at Sissonville High. How lucky I was to teach under him. How much he wanted his teachers to try new methods. He gave me the opportunity to do many new things and I have always been grateful. But his desire for innovation should not be confused with permissiveness. He taught me a lesson which I shall never forget. Once I permitted a few students to leave school during club period to get ads for the yearbook of which I was the sponsor without requiring them to give me written parental permission to leave. They had not been gone more than five minutes when Ken ·appeared at my door to tell me that the boys had had a car accident. He permitted me to suffer for a good sixty seconds before admitting everything was all right; he just wanted to demonstrate what could happen. Yes, those were four good years. Since I left, almost five years ago, I have lived in four states in four different regions of the country, but I have never found the kindness and hospitality which I found in Charleston. 6m CHARLESTON, W.VA. The author, extreme right, with contestants in the 1965 "Miss West Virginia" contest. Sunday Gazette-Mail

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