Friday, January 21, 2011

Nothing Takes You Back Like Childhood Memories

As is often the case for an active blogger, one published post leads to another. Over the past week while working on the Hot Dog SAUCE and Pepperoni BUNS blogs memories of my childhood have been re-visited, at least the portion of the memory bank that has to do with hot dogs and pepperoni buns. And the period of my life that produced the most subject related memories seems to have been the grammar school years of 1969 to 1974. For me, writing a blog is purely a hobby and form of entertainment. I know many serious bloggers are inspired and motivated by much more than hobby and entertainment, but as I say, for me, it is what it is. I had a hoot doing the hot dog blog, and I guess maybe if I was driven by something inside of me begging to be set free, it is possible that some sub-concious desire to re-visit a simpler time in my life may have been the subtle culprit.

I have said before, that I truly feel blessed to grow up where I did and when I did. Life was so much less complicated in the community of White Hall, south of Fairmont, West Virginia. Basically, the foundation for my life during the grammar school days was a tri-pod. My world centered around three major items: "the school", "the golf course" and "Fairmont State basketball." Now, I was a very active boy and my life was more than just those three things. There was a lot of time spent playing backyard sports, collecting matchbox cars and sled riding, but the basic pillars were as noted, the trifecta.

My childhood home was located just about 500 feet from the school playground at Whitehall Elementary and so much of those early years centered around the school. Not just the institution that was "the school" but the whole property. The playground, the outdoor basketball court, the makeshift baseball/softball field as well as the roof of the building and the iron pipes mounted on posts that lined the gravel parking lot in front of the school. Many summer days and evenings were spent on that school yard, it was indeed the center of the world for the neighborhood kids. As mentioned, it was a simpler time, schools and school yards didn't need chainlink fences or no trespassing signs. Every single day of my childhood involved something about "the school", it was mine.

If I wasn't hanging out at "the school" it was probably because I was at "the golf course." No, I wasn't so dedicated to the sport that I spent every waking moment at the golf course, it wasn't that at all. You see, my parents had a long term lease on the pro-shop and concessions at a public golf course and for several years, a large portion of my childhood was spent at Apple Valley Country Club. If it wasn't enough having your own personal school in your backyard, I had my own golf course a couple of miles away. It seems like my mom spent so much time at "the golf course" because she did. All day, every day from March until November my mom would leave the house and head to good old Apple Valley where she would run the shop and the concession stand until my dad finished his day job and showed up to relieve her for the day. And you guessed it, most of the time if school wasn't in session, she towed me along. Oh occasionally she would let me stay at home with my older sister, but my older sister always found a way to get me into trouble, like making me throw a ball through the picture window in the living room or punching little pin holes into the seat of my dads leather recliner with a bic pen. Life on that golf course was pretty cool, although, I didn't always see it that way, there were plenty of things going on back in the neighborhood, you know at "the school" that I was missing out on. But overall, it was a blast spending my days driving the family golf cart all over the course, playing 45 or 54 holes a day and winning enough quarters on the practice green hustling unsuspecting golfers as they warmed up before their respective matches. Who could resist letting a seven-year-old win a putting contest. Little did they know, I was hustling them by tricking them into a "double or nothing" bet before I would pour it on. Yep, good old Apple Valley Country Club accounted for a lot of firsts for me, some unmentionable...

Finally, the third leg of my childhood, Fairmont State Basketball. At the time, Fairmont State College was a small four year liberal arts and sciences college that had a great reputation for educating school teachers. The college had sensational sports teams that competed in the WVIAC at the state level and the NAIA Conference on a national level. While Fairmont State had good football and baseball programs, basketball captivated the kingdom and the king was none other than Coach Joe Joe Retton, the man, the legend. Coach Retton was the great-uncle of olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton. Referring to Coach Retton simply as Joe Retton wasn't good enough, a man with his coaching abilities had to be referred to by repeating his first name. I could go on and on about Coach Retton and the Fighting Falcon basketball team, but it has already been written. In fact, if you are a sports fan, or somebody with connections to Fairmont State, anybody that has any interest at all in sports, do yourself a huge favor and click on this link, from Sports Illustrated November 1981, the single best sports article I have ever read. It will transport you back to a time gone by, when heroes were indeed heroes, and the article sort of underscores how life was for me, back in the day when my life was all about three things: "the school", the "golf course" and Fairmont State Basketball.


  1. Doug, again... awesome read.
    I, too, as an adolescent, moved to Apple Valley - right across the street from Apple Valley Golf Course... and went to Fairmont State "College" in 1981.
    Good memories! Love the "trifecta" analogy! So identifiable.

  2. Growing up in White Hall, you are leaving out the good stuff. We had the Apple Wars. You guys were dumb enough to divide into two teams and climb the two apple trees and throw little green apples at each other. Lori and I would swing and wait until you stopped. Which was when someone got hurt, usually Mark Perry. Or if Mr. and Mrs. Board caught you and yelled at you to get out before someone got hurt. We played many a game of kickball and wiffleball in the circle parking lot. Which was more fun after they paved it. We used to walk the parking lot railings and see who could balance the longest. We played tackle football between our house and the Topardo's house. We were grateful for the ingenious adults who built us a road to sled and ride inner tubes down. I still remember when Craig Winters broke his leg. The basketball games on the school's basketball court. And just riding our bicycles all over the neighborhood. Do you remember flying kites in the field beside my house when it was still a farm. Before they sold it and built all of the houses on it? After that we used to fly them in the yard between our house and the Topardo's house. Or up in the school yard. Hope that helps jog a few brain cells loose.

  3. 69 to 74 grammar school man you are old... I forgot to ask you about the infamous Mary Lou Retton..Is she the same age as you? Sounds like a nice place to grow up. Now I understand how you were able to play golf at such an early age.

  4. Doug,
    My grandfather was the dean of men and later dean of student affairs at FSC. He took me and my brother Ernie to many games at the armory. We always watched Frank Lee up at the little table up above us all with the WMMN banner draped in front of it. We went under the bleachers after the game and picked up programs like they were gold. We learned to love guys like Lerman Battle, Butch Haswell, and our beloved Dave Cooper who became principal at Petersburg High, home of the vikings and alma mater to both of my parents. My hat is off to you. The memories of the fighting falcons under Jo Jo are fond. Listening to Kansas city here I come and the WVIAC tournements while at the Daniel Boone hotel in Charleston are classic WV memories. My grandfather had the keys to Penn hall and made sure all those boys were doing what they should. Today is different. Thanks man. I also remember vividly the pool parties at 12street with Colessano's pizza and rolls and music while we got to swim after hours. Thanks again for your blog dude, it is awesome!. Go fighting Falcons!

  5. PS. may you hit a hole it one at Gobbler's knob every night in your dreams.

  6. Excellent entry Doug. You mada a hole in one again......


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