When we lived up in the woods in the little house, my earliest memories of traveling was going the 130 miles down to Mole Hill, WV (since re-named Mountain, WV). The trip seemed to take forever and I usually fell asleep in the car, especially on the way home because we never left there to come home until way late in the day. We would leave home sometimes on a Friday after Dad got home from work, and leave Mole Hill Sunday afternoon late, arriving home after dark. The car I remember the most was the ‘37 Pontiac and the back seat was more than adequate for me to stretch out and sleep comfortably. The roads back then (1942 era) were at best two-lane and if we took the short-cut from New Martinsville over through Middlebourne and Centerville, WV, it was maybe 30 miles shorter but just as long timewise. The road was spectacular, up, down and around some real West Virginia hills. 30 MPH was FAST! We never took that road after dark. Whatever way we went, the last few miles was on dirt roads and it was rare that we could drive our car all the way up to Gpa Griffin’s home. We’d either get stuck down by the road or Dad would say “let’s try it” and we’d get half-way up to the house and that little creek we’d have to drive through would do us in.
Most times when we visited, one of Dad’s brothers and his family would also be there, like Uncle Eddie and Edna from Clarksburg, or Uncle Floyd and Carrie from Parkersburg. There was no electricity in the house so by the light of the fireplace and a couple of kerosene lamps, the grownups would sit around the fire talking and I would be half-asleep on the floor, not really remembering when I was carried upstairs to bed. I always felt very warm and secure hearing the drone of their voices, and the tick of the clock on the mantle, the clock that Grandpa Griffin took such pride in and wound faithfully every Sunday morning. The mantle wasn’t perfectly level so he always kept a couple of pennies under the legs of one side. I never knew either G’ma or G’pa to wear a watch, not that time was that important to them, except what they could see from the sun. I guess Grandpa must have felt like some of us today, when we acquire the latest technology such as HDTV, MPG, or GPS in our cars. I can remember discussions about what time it really was, “is that clock right?”, and Lindsey would take the earpiece off the wall phone, give it a few cranks and the operator would come on with “number please”. He’d ask “what time is it” and she’d tell him and that was as good as getting an atomic signal today from Denver! It settled the answer once and for all, and anyone within hearing of my Grandad’s voice could set their timepieces and know that they were one with the universe, and his beloved clock was correct, just as he said it was! But I repeat, who really cared what time it was? The roosters woke us in the morning and we sure didn’t stay up too late after dark, after all, kerosene was expensive.
There were times when conversation ran on and on and there were times when there was nothing but the sound of the clock ticking and maybe a few pops from the fireplace, especially when one of the menfolk leaned over to spit. I guess that’s what inspired me to try it one day, the sound was quite fascinating what with a mouthful of chewed up raisins and good hot coals in the fireplace..... but that’s another story. Today when I am quiet I listen to Grandpa Lindsey’s clock ticking, and 60 years fade away. The tick of a clock and there’s part of a lifetime’s memories.
The last time I was in the house was the summer of 1972. I wish I'd have taken the old mantle.
Ted Griffin - December 4, 2003