DAVID KIRBY'S PINE CRIK TALES - "Smells From The Kitchen"


A Pine Crik Hollow Home

Former Pine Creek resident David Kirby, the son of Roy and Eva Kirby, recalls his life and times growing up in a remote Pine Creek hollow and in Calhoun County.

He attended a one-room school taught by his mother and graduated from Calhoun High School in 1954, with a BS degree in agricultural engineering from WVU (1959).

Professionally he is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator and Professional Engineer in WV, OH, and PA, having worked 22 years as Loss Prevention Engineer with Factory Mutual Engineering; 20 Years as Process Safety Engineer with Union Carbide in South Charleston; 12 years a Sr. Principal Engineer with Baker Engineering & Risk Consultants of San Antonio, TX.

He is married to the former Betty Estep of Mt. Zion, their children 2 sons, Dr. Kris N. Kirby, professor at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts; and Gregory D. Kirby, of Parkersburg, Safety Engineer at Cytec, Willow Island, WV.

Kirby's recollections reflect life from the Great Depression to the fabulous 1960s.


By David Kirby 2016

I was born in 1936 to Eva Lorena Buck Kirby and Roy Shelby Kirby. The weather was cold, and times were hard, mom and dad living in a large house at the mouth of the Right Fork of Pine Creek.

The house was rented from Jessie Ward, and they paid rent when they could, finally paying off all of the back rent. Mom taught school and Dad was unemployed.

Mom's pay was $70 per month for eight months of the year. Trouble was, she was paid by the county and, in the years leading up to when I showed up, the county ran out of money.

She taught for about a year and a half without getting paid. The county issued checks with a notice not to cash until sufficient funds were available.

Dad worked for Grant Roberts for 50 cents a day during harvest season. Mom and dad grew a large garden so they never went hungry. Finally, in 1935 mom was able to cash part of the checks from the county. The first thing they did was buy a brand new 1935 small block V8 Ford for $550.

The nearest hard road was three miles away, and the mud roads got fierce during the winter. Fortunately in December the roads were still navigable by ordinary car, so when Mom started hurting in a weird way dad drove her all the way to Parkersburg — two hours away — for my birth.

It was a very difficult delivery and after that she was unable to have more kids. A couple of months later, when the roads were too bad to drive out, this story might not have been told.

Franklin Roosevelt had established the Farm Loan Administration to help keep family farms. In early 1937 Dad walked into the Calhoun County Bank, hat in hand, and borrowed $2,750 dollars with no money down to buy the Frank Weaver farm, about one mile up the Right Fork.

Frank had lost the farm and the bank held the paper. They were delighted to lend the money to dad at an interest rate of 3% with the loan guaranteed by the Federal Government. Mom and Dad moved to the new farm in the spring of 1937, when I was just a few months old. Grandpa gave Dad two pregnant cows, and that put us in the cattle business.

Some of my fondest memories are the smells that came from the kitchen. We burned wood in the kitchen stove, and nothing smells better than a good meal cooking on a hickory wood fired stove. It was dim at night because we had kerosene lights, so I pretty well went to bed at dark (a practice that continues until today).

We had a battery-powered Atwater Kent Radio, and through it stayed tuned into the outside world. The problem with the Atwater was that it used a car battery and two telephone batteries, and we either had to hook the battery up to the car for charging or take it to town.

About 1940 dad bought a Silvertone (Sears) dry cell battery-powered radio. It would pick up a lot more stations than the Atwater and dad really got into the technology. He found that the better the antenna, the better the radio.

So dad got about a half mile of copper wire and went from the radio to the outside corner of the house, across the small hollow to the hillside, and across the main creek to midway up the other hillside. He ran out of wire or he would have taken it to the top of the mountain.

About a month later lightning blew the corner off our house and dad had to modify the apparatus to a few hundred feet, keeping it low.

In 1941, when I was four, we got gas from a newly drilled gas well across the creek. This was a much greater improvement in our lifestyle than when we got electricity in 1948. With gas dad didn't have to spend hours and hours cutting wood, and we could see each other across the room at night with the new gas lights.

Mom was a tenured teacher by 1932, so the county had to give her a school. However, which school she was assigned was a highly political issue, and dad seemed to always be on the wrong side of the politics.

Although there was a school about two miles from our house, it was difficult to figure where she would be given a school. In '39 and '40 she was assigned the Tuttle Hill School (also known as "Snuff Box Glory" for the church that stood by the school).

Tuttle Hill School was about seven miles (via road) from our farm. We could walk up the hollow about three-quarters of a mile to the Hur Ridge and save about three miles. The roads were too bad to drive the three miles anyway, so they would leave the car at Hur Ridge, walk to the car, and dad would drive mom to school.

All of the roads were mud, and you just left chains on the tires all of the time. Dad got hung up in a mud bank and tore the transmission out of the '35 Ford, and traded it for a '37 Ford truck. He put over-sized wheels on it and made it to the school until sometime in January when the roads around the red clay mud of Husk (Tuttle Hill) Ridge got so bad we couldn't drive on them.

Then he started driving mom down to Barnes Run, and she would walk about a mile up the hill and out along the ridge to the school. It was quite a ritual. We would leave home about 6:30 a.m. to walk up to the Hur Ridge, scrape the ice off the truck and get it ready, drive Mom down to Barnes Run (about a half hour), drive back to the Hur Ridge, walk back home, and repeat the whole process in the afternoon, getting home about 5:30 p.m.

Although I was three and four years old during this time, I don't remember having trouble walking. I do remember sometimes being awfully miserable from cold and rain.