SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - "Where's Ole Hess A'Goin'?" Porch Life Sittin' And Talkin'

By Bob Weaver

I was reminded of porch life this weekend down on Rowels Run, a family sitting on a windowed porch, all open, acknowledging their neighbors as they drove by, some honking their horn, just like days of yore.

Porch sitting was a cultural phenomenon of which I had the opportunity to experience into its declining years through the 1960s.

There's still some houses with porches, most well adorned with furniture, but a rarity spotting folks sitting there.

Porch sittin' was a quiet affair, interupped by story telling and exclamations about the infrequent person who was passing by in a car, on a horse or on foot.

The passing parade was sparse, just a few folks during the day, with questions raised, "Who was that?", or a firm statement like "That's Hess Reynolds," or further explaining his passage, "He's goin' out to the farm," or questioning, "Wonder where Hess is going?" (See Below)

"Lester is a'goin' to the store," or "Haven't seen them go by for a long time,"

There was the expectation that some of those passing would stop and sit a spell, and some did.

The slow porch sittin' time allowed families and neighbors to be connected, long lulls in the conversation midst the story telling and gossip.

It was those long quiet spells I treasure most, allowing time for reflection, standing by for words from another porch sitter.

The McCoy porch in the Village of Hur, once open, had been enclosed with about 14 windows (with natural gas lights at night), creating a wide view up and down the muddy road both summer and winter, a tiny piece of the world in which the family had their being.

The windows were all screened in the summertime, enhanced by the chirping of night crickets.

As the 20th Century ended, porches themselves vanished from home construction, to be replaced by stoops and inside gathering places before a TV or Internet screen.

Writer Ray Bradbury said porches vanished because folks didn't want people sitting like that, doing nothing, rocking, the wrong kind of social life.

They had too much time to think.

Families are now globalized, connected to a half-dozen media devices that entertain, enrage and occupy more time than hours in the day, all quite noisy.

Henry Church, an aged ex-British soldier from the American Revolutionary War, was noted for his porch sitting in sight of the train station in the now faded town of Hundred, West Virginia, the town named after Church who was known as "ole hundred," living beyond a century of life.

Old timers continue to relive the porch sittin' life by tuning into Mayberry reruns or they could have been seen on the front porch of Aging with Grace in Grantsville.

It would be delusional indeed to attempt a return to porch life, with such an exercise driving most folks completely insane, the absence of the noise of 21st Century technology.

For those of age, we will dutifully reminisce about those times, contending it was of once of value to the human condition like big Sunday dinners.

HESS REYNOLDS (1882-1948) was born in Calhoun County, son of James Reynolds (born 1842 Kanawha County) and Sarah Hathaway (born 1841 Barbour County in 1841). Was first married Lona Riggs (1886-1910) in Calhoun County and then married Lizzie Fritz in 1924. Hess and his second wife Lizze had the Hur Post Office with store for many years. Lizzie was a long time one room school teacher in Calhoun County.