Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not Fair! No Fair!

The Carnival of Genealogy offers its newest postings! The prompt was as follows:

"Research an event your ancestor may have attended. Did your ancestor live within a few blocks of the parade route for the annual Fourth of July parade in the town where they lived? If you family lived in a rural area perhaps they attended a county or state fair. If they lived in a big city, perhaps they attended a play or movie opening. Was there an amusement park or traveling carnival near the area your family was from? How much do you know about the types of entertainment your ancestors might have enjoyed? Check into it and then write it up!"

My main research on my family tree consists of locating the details of my Dad's ancestors in what is now southern West Virginia. We can trace our roots back here to the 1790's.

This is a rural area. And for just a little over 100 years the major entertainment in this area is the annual Farmers Day Parade, usually heralded on the second Saturday of June. This little parade consists of "floats" contrived of farm wagons pulled by pickup trucks or tractors, covered in tissue paper and attendants on the wagon portraying a yearly varying theme. This event has always been a big source of pride for the county. It begins with a huge dance on Saturday evening, the parade and lunch on Saturday with singing following, and then farm games [tractor pulls, horse pulls, etc.], and church services on Sunday morning wind it all down.

Prior to this event, the entertainment was local, within the individual communities. My family lived in the tiny hamlet of Waiteville, a small community exiled from the rest of West Virginia by a mountain that separated it. This community was more closely related to Virginia, but fell within the West Virginia boundaries.

Here, on Saturday nights, the community gathered at the local general store to make their purchases. Women mingled together inside, while "men-folk" gathered outside with their tobacco chewing and gossip. Children played and frolicked in the grass nearby. Sundays found them all gathered again for worship.

However, once in a while, six to eight times a year, the community gathered on a Saturday night at the school house. Here, a few of the men-folk would pick a banjo, a guitar, and play a fiddle, and a dance would be held. A "caller" would liven things up a bit every few dances with a square dance! Mounds of food were brought in by the women. And children of every age attended the dance, as well as the very old. It was a time for coming together in a community of farmers.

In the 1930's and 1940's, due to the close proximity, singers and entertainers from the Grand Ol' Opry would wind their way through the gap to this remote area of mountain folk, and bring "real entertainment"! The Carter Family was one of the community favorites.

In the cold of winter, when the snow covered the ground, groups would gather at different homes. The children would play inside or just outside in the snow, while the young folks would build huge bonfires and go "sledding" with toboggan sleds down the steep slopes. The "old folks" gathered in the home for a time of fellowship. And the women always made sure there was plenty to eat and drink when the young folks came from their outdoor fun!

In the 1950's, the county did have a movie theater. But that was gone before 1972. And at one time there was even a bowling alley and a skating rink! All from the 1960's.

Today, there isn't much for entertainment in the small county. But with the advent of modern transportation, everyone travels either into Virginia, or over into the neighboring counties.

Farmers Day is still a huge event on the Monroe County calendar.

Ah, but those community and family gatherings have become a thing of the past! Occasionally a local church will hold an event reminiscent of the time, but it lacks that personal feeling.

Perhaps I was born a century too late! How I would have enjoyed those gatherings!

1 comment:

Apple said...

I live in a small, rural community too and I barely know my neighbors because these events are no more. I guess I was born a century too late too.