The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

This Is My Life

By Fay Yates © 1987

Issue: November, 1987

I was born May 2, 1912 in Buchanan County, Virginia the only daughter of Roy and Victoria Compton Matney. I had two brothers. My father was a farmer and a coal miner. My husband and brothers also worked for The Panther Coal Company.

Growing up in a rural community during the early 1900's was very exciting. There was a lot of superstition back then. My grandmother loved to tell witch tales and smoke her clay pipe. I was very close to my grandmother and spent a lot of time with her. She made a great impression on my life. I remember the small–pox epidemic in our community. People knew very little about the disease and everyone was scared because this was something that was killing people. We had a doctor in the community who was trying to take care of everyone. One lady was so scared she called the doctor every day asking if he thought she would take the small–pox. He got tired of her calling and told her she could catch smallpox through the air, talking on the telephone. She left him alone after that.

My childhood dream was to be a school teacher and own a car. I started my education at Elkin Branch Elementary School, a one room building which still stands. My high school days were spent at Grundy Mt. Mission School where the tuition was $10.00 per month.

My father butchered hogs and brought the meat to the mission to pay my tuition. My parents worked hard to make my dream come true. My mother sold eggs and butter to help pay my way through Radford College. After graduating from Radford, I got my first teaching job at Grundy Elementary School making $50.00 a month. Now half of my dream had come true but I couldn't buy a car just yet, so I rode horseback to work for some time.

In 1936 I married Arthur Yates, my childhood sweetheart. He had a Chevy Roadster and taught me how to drive so now I had a car. Let me tell you about our wedding. We went to a magistrates home to get married. His family was present and as soon as he pronounced us man and wife they all started singing "Froggie Went A Courting." As year's passed we had a lot of laughs about that.

In 1943 Arthur was called into the Army. After serving two years he was discharged and came back to work for Panther Coal Co. where he worked until retirement. My husband passed away in 1978.

Arthur and I have one son, Tom Yates, who attended Concord College in West Virginia. While in school he met and married Veronica Wolfe and they have one son Dean. Tom works for Beecham Laboratory here in Bristol and Veronica is a substitute teacher. They live in Bristol, Virginia.

After my husband passed away, I continued to live in my home in Buchanan County until I became ill in 1984. Tommy brought me to Bristol to be near him. I enjoy living in Bristol Nursing Home. I have a beautiful private room, my family has helped me decorate it and brought items from home to make it more home like. I have made some very special friends here. We have some wonderful times together. My family visits several times each week. I take part in all activities here and enjoy all the outings and appreciate the staff and volunteers who are so helpful and always take time to listen to me.