The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Yesterday's Scrapbook

By Vadna L. Bush © 1990

Issue: June, 1990

Editor's note... Vadna L. Bush writes a regular column in Writer's World, published in her home town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. We appreciate her sharing this story with our readers.

In Southwestern Virginia, the industry was and is coal, mined from the heart of the surrounding mountains. It was hauled from the tipples by two railway systems which ran between the rows of houses occupied by coal miners and their families.

Most camps were nestled in gullies formed by two or more craggy, steep mountains that were, to our eyes, beautiful.

The houses were constructed near the mines, by the company, who in turn leased them to the men at a low cost. In every camp the houses were built of wood, except the one in which we lived. There houses were built of beautiful red tile.

All were two story duplex and each family had five spacious rooms with a half bath. We felt privileged to live there, even though we had no luxuries.

Food was bought at the company owned store, we attended school, church, and an occasional movie in company buildings. Children of the bosses and officials lived in single houses, set apart from ours, but attended school and the other functions with us. We knew there was culture line, but for the most part we were happy.

I can't remember my dad missing a shift of work, because he wanted to provide a good living for his family of six children, but there was no money for unnecessary things.

Mom was a writer and a dreamer and I guess she passed those traits down to me, because from the time I was in third grade, I wrote. When I should have been studying Math and History, I would be found searching through the school's meager library for a book I hadn't read.

I scribbled on every piece of paper that came in contact with my hands. When mom gave me a list of the things needed from the store, I wrote on them front and back, causing the clerk much anguish. I ended up reading the list to them.

When I went to the payroll office each day to get enough paper script to buy the food, I would stand at the window listening to the music of the clacking keys of the typewriters. My fingers ached to get hold of one. I wanted a typewriter, no matter what kind. I couldn't understand my need to create at that time. Soon I would own one, I told myself. The mail order catalog at our house was already dog-eared from much use, and would fall open to the pages with the REMINGTON typewriters.

The one luxury we had at the time was a small radio. It was before TV, and I learned to appreciate music from listening to it, but the favorite program I listened to faithfully was called "Queen For A Day." It was a thirty minute program hosted by Jack Bailey.

Three or more women were interviewed in front of a live audience and the one with the most deserving story was made QUEEN for that day. The good part was, at the end of the show a letter was drawn and someone won their heart's desire.

I devised a plan. I would write them a letter, and I would make it so sad they would send me a typewriter. Every day I would write and rewrite, always improving my sob story. I never told anyone of my dreams because I didn't want to be laughed at. I never sent the letter, either, whether for lack of an envelope or a three-cent stamp; but I never stopped wanting a typewriter.

Years later when my daughter entered high school, I bought her a portable and my desire to write increased.

Today, many years later, I have realized my fondest wishes, and have access to several typewriters and even own a computer, but when the keys are clacking on my typewriter, it is still music to my ears.