On Episode 15 of The WV Podcast, We have some Christmas memories contributed by Larry Belcher, owner of the “All Of Us West Virginians” group on Facebook, and we talk about a few traditions of our own.
Welcome to The WV Podcast, West Virginia’s Podcast. This show features the great state of West Virginia and stories of the amazing people who make it such a wonderful place to live. Your hosts are Jeff & Dee Holbrook. Let’s tear down the negative hillbilly stereotype that has been assigned to us by the national media. Let’s tell our own story.
Maker Of The Rain, our theme music, was composed and performed by Tonya Kouns Holbrook, a lifelong West Virginia resident.
Merry Christmas! We hope you have a Wonderful Holiday Season.
Larry Belcher is the owner of the Facebook group “All of us West Virginians“. He posted some Christmas memories of when he grew up, and we asked if we could include them in this special Christmas episode of The WV Podcast. Thanks Larry for allowing this to be read on the show.
A note from Larry–
This was the way it was in the 1950’s coal camp up Lynco Holler near Oceana in Wyoming County. The camp is long gone. Every single word of this piece is the absolute truth. My father then my brother then my mother all passed away leaving Sharlene Belcher Cook and her lovely family and I. We had to move on. We had no idea how hard we had it, or dad and mom mostly. As resilient as I like to think I am, I wonder if I could have pulled all that off. As some of you know I have been very very ill for some time and just now getting back on my feet. I have put writing this off for years and years although I can’t remember a Christmas that sis and I didn’t talk about those ice cold linoleum floors. So this is not only a gift to her, but she and I believe in sharing. I think today they call it paying it forward and I love the concept. I hope you enjoy, those of you who know all so well what I am talking about. Thank you and Merry Christmas. If you have any questions about life growing up in the coal camp drop a line. Share if you wish, just mention your group as you do.
The Pantry is Full by Larry Belcher, 12/2014 Non-Fiction
The pantry is full. fruit, nuts, candy, even pop. Although ice clings to the inside of some of the windows in our coal camp home, it’s a special time. There is a glow from the Warm Morning stove mounted in the middle of the living room and a slight smell of the burning coal, but there is a tree and the scent cloaks any hint of the smoldering ashes. The pine resin leaves a trail throughout the house. The fresh cut tree is decorated with glass ornaments with an angel looking over us from atop the tree. It will take dad probably a year to pay the company store for all this, not counting the other surprises. Dad loved Christmas. Dad loved his family.
Of course mom did too as she prepared for what was about to take place. The old wood/coal cook stove, no running water inside our house, truly a labor of love as she stirred Grandma’s recipe for what she called custard. A once a year mix between eggnog, pudding and richer by far than I would ever be. Ham, turkey, cakes,pies, cookies all prepared on the Warm Morning stove. We didn’t know growing up we were dirt poor but we were richer than the coal company owners this time of year. We just didn’t have any cash.
There were three of us. I, the middle child, a younger brother and older sister slept in the same room, same bed, under the same quilts. It was so cold inside and out especially when the fire in the stove went out which thanks to dad didn’t happen often. Everything was magical. The smiles stamped on our faces and the anticipation probably made us feel, well a lot like kids. It’s almost time! Oh those tangerines are so good and the walnuts, oh my! Yellow cake with candy type of chocolate icing! We were ready. It’s time to go to bed but who can sleep? Not us, but if we don’t Santa won’t show up! So we force ourselves, and as silly as it might be having sugar plums dance in our head and we didn’t even know what sugar plums were!
Suddenly awaken by scuffling in the living room, daring not to get up. We close our eyes and wait, wait, wait! It’s only 5 in the morning and dad is stoking the Warm Morning. Wait, wait, wait! Now we get the “Come on” nod now that dad’s got the living room warmed up. And the first thing we see is the tree twinkling with the old tube looking lights. Our feet hit the floor and suddenly we can’t move and it’s as if we can’t breathe! That linoleum floor is so, so, so cold but it will not stop us from making the few steps from the bedroom to the living room.
My oh, my oh my … just look at this! My first guitar, Lone Ranger and of course cowboy outfits complete with six shooter cap guns. Tina, sis’s doll, a jeep, a Chevy, drums and toys as far as my five year old eyes could see! It’s all just lying in the floor between the tree and the Warm Morning. My oh my, oh my and it’s all ours! Sis and brother don’t think we will be causing much of a fuss with each other today eh ? I can feel today what that felt like, not poor today. Poor dad, working in 24 inch high coal, for another year to pay Santa his due. Ah, now what do we hear? Mom had sneaked away for a little while and she is calling us to the kitchen, we can play later.
Wait a minute, what is that ? Ham, eggs, biscuits, gravy and milk! We eat it down. Biscuits and gravy is still today my favorite food. Ok mom tricked us, she put something in the food cause we are getting very, very sleepy. It couldn’t have been the anticipation of the “big eyes” at night could it ? Ok back to our wonderland. Ok we gotta take a nap. Not because we want to or anyone told us to. Our eyes just quit working. We nod off listening to Silent Night, the First Noel and all, those beautiful mournful Christmas songs soulfully flowing from the old 33 1/3rd records.
A short nap, but now it’s time for some down home play time. I love you dad, mom and brother, whom I hope are celebrating in Heaven and Sis, we might be miles apart but you will forever be in my heart! I love you all! Merry Christmas from the past, the present and the future. The Pantry remains full.
One of our cherished family traditions, as the family gathered for Christmas was my father, Floyde Holbrook, reading the Christmas Story from the Bible. He turned 81 last week, and I wish we could hear him read it on Christmas again, but we are separated, living in various states. I would like to read Luke Chapter 2, verses 1 through 20 in honor of my father and mother and the way they raised us all. I hope my parents, who have been married 55 years will have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year. We could never thank you both enough.
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
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