The following letter was a complete surprise to me.
I had always thought that Bill Bailey should belong to the Historical
Society because of his intense love and knowledge of our county, but
periodical suggestions seemed to fall on deaf ears. After reading this
letter, I was overwhelmed that the respect and admiration for a teacher
of long ago had made such an impact. What you will now read is actually
a tribute to a teacher.
“Please allow me to introduce myself. My name
is Bill Bailey, staff technician for the Calhoun Chronicle. I have
volunteered to become the editor of the Calhoun County Historical and
Genealogical Society Newsletter.
was born in Kanawha County and moved to Calhoun County at age 8, around
the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. My father had read that the
Kanawha Valley, then known as the Chemical Valley, was on the top ten
list of Soviet missile target sites, so he took his family to a place of
safety he had found while working as a milk delivery truck driver in the
1950’s. It was at the end of his run, not too far from all the family he
left back in Charleston. It was a place in Calhoun County called Mud
Lick. The hills were rugged and steep, the ground was fertile and the
inhabitants were the salt of the earth. It was a magical place for an 8
year old boy. When we first arrived my father said, ‘Take a deep breath.
What do you smell?’ I took a breath, then another and replied,
‘Nothing.’ He replied, ‘That’s why we are here.’
remember two or three years later that my father was shooting at a
groundhog 200 yards up a meadow and began to cry when the ground hog
scampered off. He had missed this groundhog many other times, after all,
it was a very long shot.
He explained why he was so upset. ‘You know we
moved here so that if the Russians nuked Charleston we would survive,
don’t you? Well, they probably couldn’t shoot any better than me, and
chances are they would have missed Charleston and hit us anyway!’
a year and a half in Charleston, I had attended Tiskelwah School, the
largest elementary school in West Virginia at that time. When I enrolled
in Calhoun, there was a choice. Walk over a mile to the bus stop and
then ride a bus into Grantsville to the elementary school or walk
another 300 yards and go to the one room, Mt. Zion School, at the head
of Barnes Run. I would be instructed by a man named Ernest Kelly. I made
the smart choice; I walked the extra 300 yards.
one room school was a totally different environment from Tiskelwah.
While discipline was strict, the ‘board of education’ was rarely applied
to ‘the seat of knowledge.’ Play was outside and in the woods, and you
could get an eighth grade education as a second grader. All you had to
pay for this fabulous experience was attention. Mr. Kelly filled my head
with the knowledge of every class he taught throughout the day. He
inspired me to learn about the world, and everything in it, and showed
me that life is a learning process from beginning to end.
One of the primary reasons I have volunteered
for this assignment is an obituary we recently received at the
Chronicle. It was for Pauline Kelly, 103 years old. She was Ernest
Kelly’s wife and I was unaware that she had been alive all these years.
Ernest was a man who had a firm grasp on reality that came from
understanding the past so well. He firmly believed, ‘The future lies in
the present’s ability to remember the past.’
look forward to putting this newsletter together for the members of the
Society and for all others who may read it. My mission is to guide the
Society so we may all learn something from its pages, now and in the
future, while making it informative and entertaining.”
After reading this, I was interested in learning
more about the Kelleys, so I turned to the Calhoun History Book of 1989.
The Kelleys were not listed -- mainly because the information had to be
submitted by an interested person. These very “ordinary” teachers, whose
lives have ended and would have been forgotten, will live on through the
generations of their former students.
Another teacher, Hick Hamrick, who is mentioned in
this issue, also was not listed in the book.
I am sure that Bill Bailey, in his new volunteer
position, will give us a way to honor the past that influences our
future. We are honored to work with him.