The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Myrtle Belcher

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1986

Issue: December, 1986

Myrtle Belcher, 1935.Myrtle Belcher, 1935.There are so many fine people in my community that I have a hard time deciding who will be next for my stories. Halloween night I decided to visit a lovely lady who lives in a doll like house, Myrtle Belcher. Her home is so neat and tidy, filled with pretty things, mostly of her own making. Now Myrtle is 72 years old, but you would never know it by looking at her. She's friendly and always makes one feel at home. So Myrtle and I settled down for a nice chat.

"I was born September 23, 1914 in a two room old house in the Mountain View Community of Patrick County, Virginia. It had an old plank floor. There was a fireplace. My mother cooked in the fireplace."

"My very first memory of my childhood is of an old yellow cat. I just loved that cat to death. My sister and I would take it outside to play. We even tried to make that cat climb a ladder. In those days we didn't have many toys, only homemade. I would make horses from sticks to ride. You could make a pretty nifty wheel barrow with a stick and bucket lid. Make the stick flat on the end, stick the bucket lid on and just roll along."

"Myrtle, tell me about your school days and games you played."

"I went to school at Mountain View. The first doll I ever got was at a Christmas tree there. It was a porcelain doll, about eight inches high, long black hair, and had a white dress on. We played lots of games like leap frog, tag and Dead Man in the Leaves."

"Oh! I never heard of that game. Tell me about it."

"Well one child would lay down in the leaves and we would throw them all over and call, Dead Man! Dead Man! What did you die for? Then the one lying in the leaves would jump up and the one he caught would be dead. We had a lot of fun. Olive Conner, your mom Gracie and Audrey Belcher were my good playmates."

"I done plenty of work as a child. We got out before daylight and picked up chestnuts before the cattle got to them. I picked up acorns to feed the hogs. When I got older I learned to milk a cow."

"After I was grown, I got to go to dances at people's houses. During Christmas week, there was one some place every night. A crowd of young people would get together and walk everywhere we went. I met my husband Ray as a young girl and we begin dating later. In those days you did your dating at home. Now Dad called bedtime at 10 o'clock and that was that!"

"Ray and I were married in 1938. We were blessed with four children, two sons, and two daughters. Ray did saw milling and we lived on a farm. My life was shattered when Ray passed away as a young man. He was only thirty nine years old. My baby girl was only five. The oldest boy was eighteen and was a lot of help to me. I couldn't have made it without the children. I've been blessed to raise my children and see them with families of their own. Mostly I worked at home and sold milk, but for five summers I worked at Mabry's Mill."

"My parents were Joe and Nora Hall. My Mother died young. She was a beautiful woman. I have two sisters and a half brother. My grandchildren number ten and I have one great grandson. I enjoy my family."

"Myrtle, tell me what you do special for Christmas?"

"Well, I like buying gifts and I always cook breakfast on Christmas morning for the children and grandchildren, then we open our presents. Every Christmas I make a white cake and put pretty candies on it. For decorations I use pine, running cedar and paper bells. That's my Christmas."

Today Myrtle says she does as little as she can get by with, and takes life easy. But I know she's a busy lady. She tends a garden and flowers, crochets and does plastic canvas. Her plastic canvas creations are beautiful. She just completed one of a church and is working on a fireplace for Christmas. She says, "I've been a widow for twenty nine years." You get lonely and it's good to keep your hands busy.

Myrtle is a member of The Conner's View Church and loves to attend the services and be with her friends and neighbors. She is a caring person and an asset to our community. That's the kind of people here in the Blue Ridge.

While going through some pictures in family albums, I found one of Myrtle that I really liked. She was wearing a gray suit with a little pin stripe of white. She got it in 1935 and paid $2.98 for it. Myrtle made a striking figure in it, and still does today.