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Reminiscing Tree Ornaments and other Christmas Nostalgia

It’s that time of year when I usually have the house decorated for Christmas and almost all the presents purchased, wrapped and under the tree. hum -Not so this year!

Along with aging – comes a slowing, savoring of life and a choosing to use time for really important things. This year, we stayed with the season of Thanksgiving for awhile before moving on into the hustle and bustle of the commercial extravaganza America calls “the holidays”.

Like so many times before, my husband willingly put up our 9′ artificial tree on Friday. It’s not a fun chore, but this is his gift to me, and I appreciate it more than he knows. It’s an old tree that we purchased the first year we moved into this house. (2000)  Each limb has a certain slot and each row of slots has to be careful filled with just the right color-coded stem. It’s tedious work and each year as we drag the oversized, duck-taped box out of the garage, we declare that we’ll get a new, lighted tree right after Christmas when they go on sale.

But once our large round blue spruce is adorned with lights, ages-old rose garland and collected ornaments, we realize that the newer versions can’t possibly be as beautiful as “our” tree… so we never go to the tree sale. Maybe this year will be different.

Today, I turn on Michael Buble Holiday setting a mood for pilfering through many plastic storage containers of ornaments. So many deeply special ornaments are tucked securely inside their own little box with handwritten notes as to their origin. As I open the first ones, my mind slips away into fond memories of when I first put that ornament on our tree and who’s generosity and thoughtfulness brought that bauble to our home. I smile with thankfulness at each glimpse as if that was the first time I had seen the specially chosen ornament.

toKTfromGRAMMY1986  Lion from Grammy Birdhouse TenThousandVillages grammytokt  HummelfromGrammy

Precious little booties that came from Grammy on Katie’s first Christmas (1986) and more throughout the years; the lion, the carousel horse and the metal Hummel.

sherrykerry19851st 1stfrom Betty starweusedintheearlyyears

The love birds and heart I purchased for us in 1985. The wooden bride & groom from Grammy on our first Christmas and the star tree topper for a very small tree so many years ago.

nativitygail  Nativitygaileurope sarahmoscowballet

Sister’s beloved nativities – and Sarah’s remembrance of dancing with the Moscow ballet.

Kerrybefore1985 LIZ Lizwhenshewas flying

Kerry’s jumper from way before me and two ornaments from Liz – the ball from Spain when she was flying.

SuzanneConner2013 DebbieReberStainedGlass tree  TenThousandVillages

Artful and thoughtfully created gifts from Suzanne Conner, Debbie Reber & Ten Thousand Villages. So many people, such kind memories.

Susan1987

sheilafromkevins   NancyWaugh

DenmarkEdith2002

auntkarentokerrytrain

accidentshappen

A Wedgwood Blue Jasper Ornament from Susan who never really liked us – but she had great taste in expensive ornaments so we kept it on the tree! Sheila brought a fox and squirrel which I love. Nancy Waugh, a dear lady in whom I found Bluefield in common. She was from WV and me VA, but we hold them close in our heart. The Danish ornament (2002) from cousin Edith in Denmark, the train from Karen and angel from my sweet friend Anne. … and in spite of my utmost care to package all the glass ornaments carefully in molded paper apple trays from Albertson’s these many years , there is an occasional breakage.

JoannaFrancis2013

My most favorite and  heart-warming ornament this year is from the hand of Joanna Francis (www.joannafrancislivingwell.com). I purchased this from her last December as she celebrated her last Christmas this side of heaven and commissioned her to paint a bird’s nest piece. She was an amazing example of how to accept the challenges life gives and how to make the most of each treasured day was are privileged to enjoy. I cherish what little I actually knew her, but recognize what a huge impact she made on me and so many others. It was her relationship with Christ that made the difference. “The joy of the Lord” was her strength.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season filled with fun, family and fond memories. Remember to let go of small stuff and embrace what it truly important as we celebrate the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Happy Birthday Jesus!

 

 

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A Railroad Short Story – Hi, Ho Silver…Away!

“Hi, Ho Silver…Away!” by G. R. “Rich” Nuckolls

Rich Nuckolls, grew up in Bluefield, WV in the shadow of our beloved East River Mountain, and worked for the Norfolk & Western Railway. Rich wrote this short story in 2002, and as he confesses, based on “mostly” true events. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Merry Christmas!

It was a cold, bleak, snowy day. One of those kind of days into which only the hardiest souls dare to venture out. In typical Appalachian winter fashion, the temperature hovered around zero and the wind had begun to pick up, howling in out of the Northwest with a promise of even colder weather to come.
I, and the rest of the transfer gang, had just finished shoveling snow, sweeping ice and debris and spreading salt on the sidewalk around the Bluefield passenger station, anticipating the arrival of No. 3, the Westbound passenger train, better known as “The Powhattan Arrow” and then later “The Pocahontas” destined for Welch, Iaeger, Williamson, Kenova, and points West to Cincinnatti. Only a few passengers had arrived, most preferring to wait in their warm homes rather than at the railway station. The interior of the station was cozy, though, warmed by steam sent through underground pipes from a coal-fired central boiler located on the other side of the rail yard.
We were not so much interested in the passengers as we were in the mail truck that was to arrive at any moment. When the truck pulled in, our otherwise slow-paced shift would then get really busy, as we would begin stacking the mail sacks and boxes on baggage wagons. Yes, baggage wagons, the wooden hand-pulled carts with steel wheels that so many folks prize today as “quaint” antiques or large decorating props. We thought of them, however, as heavy, unwieldy, outmoded, man-powered appliances that had been around since the 19th century. (I think some actually had.) When the train arrived, we would then rush to unload the inbound mail, then load wagon’s burden of outgoing mail and packages onto the mail car during the scheduled station time. It was imperative for us to do this quickly so as to not delay the passenger train from it’s very tight schedule.
That night, as the truck backed in, we broke the ice away from the handle and flung open the door. Much to our chagrin, the mail bags were stacked from the floor to the ceiling. Behind the mailbags were rows and rows of boxes. Since none were loaded on pallets, each had to be transloaded by hand. Some were filled with printed material and were very heavy. Many of the boxes and bags, though, were lightweight, packed with Christmas presents, going to far away people and places, each with a wish for a happy holiday season.
At the very front of the truck, pushed up into a corner, stood one last Christmas toy. It was a wooden broomstick horse. Not wrapped in fancy paper or decorated with ribbon, the lone adornment was an address tag that was affixed to the handle just below the head and barely visible under the mane of yellow yarn. As I carried the small item to the mail car, I couldn’t resist the urge to “saddle up”, throwing my leg over the steed’s back and proclaiming, “Hi, Ho Silver…Away!”
My fellow workers, startled at first, began to laugh as hard as I’ve ever heard anyone laugh. I found myself laughing, too, as they were laughing with me, not at me. No thought of embarrassment or apology ever entered my mind. One of my co-workers, a rather elderly gentleman (or so I thought at the time…I think he was about the same age as I am now) confided in me later, with a trace of tears in his eyes, that he had felt the urge to do the same thing, but had resisted, fearing the ridicule of his peers. “I always wanted a pony for Christmas and never got one”, he said sadly, “not even a wooden one”, he muttered as he shuffled off into the cold night.
I vowed then and there to right that injustice, the following day purchasing a stick-horse from a local hardware store and writing his name on a gift tag. I slipped it anonymously into his locker in the Railway Express office, envisioning him riding like the wind around the benches and tables there. I was working in another area when he came in to work that night, so I was unable to see his reaction to the unexpected gift. I was not surprised later, though, when, under his breath, he whispered “Hi, Ho, Silver…Away!” to me as we loaded the mail into the mail car. We exchanged knowing nods and smiles and returned to our task, each bag and box feeling a little lighter…
I was saddened some years later to learn that my fellow rider had suffered a stroke and would not be returning to work. When I went to his home for a visit, he could not speak, nor write, but his eyes shone and sparkled with understanding. A niece had moved into his home to help take care of him and as I was preparing to leave, her small son raced though the living room, riding a stick-horse and proclaiming, “Hi, Ho Silver..Away!” My friend and I exchanged those same knowing nods and smiles.

Later that year, my friend passed away. His family was puzzled over an arrangement of flowers that was delivered to the funeral home with no signature, simply endorsed with the phrase, “Hi, Ho Silver…Away!”

NW Passenger Station BLFD WV

 Pictures from Randy Galpin – Bluefield Historian

Old Depot Bluefield WV Bluefield Yard NW logo

Bluefield WV

Vintage Calling Cards from Grandmother’s Scrapbook

CALLING CARD Nannie R Gillespie

My grandmother, Mary Jane Davidson Buckland kept a scrapbook that has been a wealth of information in searching family history and is a unique and interesting piece that the Railroader had for many years and now I’m glad to have it. Among the various newspaper clippings of wedding, obituaries and railroad accidents, MJ had carefully glued these calling cards to the pages of her precious scrapbook.

DAVIDSON Mary Jane 1886-1960 2013-10-05 08.46.17 2013-10-05 08.46.26

“In the day of genteel manners and formal introductions,the exchange of calling cards was a social custom that was essential in developing    friendships. The custom of carrying calling or visiting cards began in France in the early 1800’s.  It quickly spread throughout Europe, and then became vastly popular in the United States, especially the New England area from 1840-1900.  Calling cards were carried primarily by the “well-to-do” ladies who made a point to  go calling on friends and family on a specified day of the week or month, depending on their location and proximity to neighbors. The gracious reserve of a simple calling card is a gentle reminder of one’s presence, and the care poured into a finely crafted card is a welcome courtesy.” …a history of Victorian calling cards.
Calling Card RM Baldwin

Calling Card AE Griffith

CALLING CARD Marion Knighten

Calling Card Mildred Louise Phillips

Calling Card Miss Ellen Stuart Bowen

Calling Card Miss Frances Henry Odom

Calling Card Miss Ruth Gardner

CALLING CARD Mrs Harry C. Preston

Calling Card Mrs Samuel Cecil Graham

Calling Card William Harrison

Remembering Another Fine Railroader – Cousin Richard McHaffa

Cousin Richard was one of the most pleasant relatives that I remember. He was kind and encouraging to me and complimentary of my children. I loved his smile. Richard seemed more like an uncle, rather than a cousin since he lived many years with the Buckland boys at Falls Mills, having lost his parents at a young age.  My paternal grandmother, Mary Jane Davidson Buckland and his mother, Nannie Crockett Davidson McHaffa were sisters. Richard would have been 89 today and we still think of him often. And yes, he was a railroader, as was his father. Richard had a 42-year career as a Locomotive Engineer with the Norfolk and Western and Norfolk and Southern Railroad.2012-08-15 06.51.09

September 27, 1924 – August 13, 2012

 McHAFFA Richard 1942 GHS football McHAFFA Richard Graham Class of 1942 McHaffa Richard military MC HAFFA Richard_McHaffa

Richard played football at Graham High School and served his country in the military. He married Jessie Odom on October 4, 1950 in Falls Mills, Virginia. They had three children and for as long as I can remember, they lived out Hwy 52 in Bluefield, WV.

McHaffa Richard Bday 86 - 2010  MCHAFFA Richard 87 in 2011

MCHAFFA, NATHANIEL RICHARD – 87, passed into the arms of his Savior on Monday morning, August 13, 2012, after a short illness. He was a resident of Trinity Hills Senior Living, Knoxville TN, since November of 2011, having moved from Bluefield, WV. Awaiting him were his wife of over 50 years, Jessie Odom McHaffa; his parents Nathaniel Ezra and Nannie Crockett Davidson McHaffa; his brother, Charles Hiram McHaffa, and his sister, Mary Ruth Rutherford, as well as cousins with whom he was raised. He is survived by son, Richard and wife, Debbie of Stuarts Draft, VA; son Michael and wife Debbie of Bluefield, VA; and daughter Eva Pierce and husband, Les of Knoxville, TN; grandchildren Libbie (Tony), Steven, Kristin (Micah), Evan (Sara), and Lance; also 5 great-grandchildren, extended family and friends. Mr. McHaffa was born on September 27, 1924 in Williamson, WV. He was a football letterman and graduate of Graham High School. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, stationed in Puerto Rico and Trinidad. He worked briefly as a Surveyor for the Virginia Highway Department, before beginning a 42-year career as a Locomotive Engineer with the Norfolk and Western and Norfolk and Southern Railroad. He was a longtime member of the American Legion, Riley Vest Post. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, high school and college football. Receiving of friends will be held from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Wednesday evening, August 15th, at Centerpointe Baptist Church, 2909 North Broadway, Knoxville, TN, with a Celebration of Life to follow. Visitation will be held at Craven-Shires Funeral Home, Bluefield, WV, Thursday, August 16th from 6:00-8:00. A funeral service will take place Friday, August 17th at 1:00 p.m., with entombment to follow at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bluefield, WV. Family and friends will serve as pallbearers. In lieu of flowers, Mr. McHaffa requested that memorials be made to A Hand Up for Women, P.O. Box 3216, Knoxville, TN 37927.

my old wrought iron cemetery fence

If you ask my children about traveling to Mimi’s in the old Volvo station wagon, they would immediately recount the time we brought cemetery fencing and a huge gate back to Florida from Virginia. From my point of view, the 100 year old wrought iron fencing was too wonderful to pass up and, after all, I had a station wagon.

Thank you girls for indulging Mama and being so patient ~

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My little ones were under 10 and every year when we went to Virginia to visit, they usually stretched out in the back of the car for the long 700 mile trek. On this trip back home, we threw blankets over the fencing for padding and hit the road. Yes, I felt slightly guilty about putting my children in that position, but I had to have it!  And – I still enjoy it after all these years.

I must say that one of my favorite adventures acquired from researching ancestors is visiting cemeteries; especially the older ones with their charm and ornate headstones and antique fencing. While visiting the grave of Altha Rudolph Brooks Davis, my maternal grandmother, I noticed by the maintenance shed that the grounds crew had removed the entire fencing and gate from an old cemetery plot. HOW COULD THEY?

When I inquired, I was told that the family wanted the fence removed, and that it would be thrown away.
THROWN AWAY? – I COULD NEVER LET THAT HAPPEN!

MAPLEWOOD - Davis Altha R. Brooks Grandma Davis 1884-1980  MAPLEWOOD CEMETERY

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For many years the old wrought iron fence had protected a family plot at the Maplewood Cemetery in Tazewell, Virginia. Made by Stewart Iron Works, Cincinnati, Ohio by the Stewart family whose roots were in blacksmithing. The emblem on my gate is difficult to read today due to the corrosion and rust over the years. …but I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

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I’ve decided to share my fence at the Sweet South French Country Flea Market on October 19th, 9-4. Yesterday, my husband was kind enough to cut (yes – that kind of gives me the heebie jeebies) one piece of fencing into sections that others may use in their own vintage home or garden. Because I needed a rusty, crusty piece of 3-pickets to hang in my house, I decided to make 7 small pieces available at the market. Two 6-picket pieces at $65 each, two 3-picket pieces at $50 each and 3 single pickets (price to be determined when I figure out how useful they are??).

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I can only hope that the new owners of these special pieces will enjoy them half as much as I do. Perhaps I should take applications to determine their new homes. maybe Adopt-a-fence so I can come by and check on them…. just kidding!

Boys will be boys~

“When harvest time is over, they cloak themselves in long johns, flannel shirts, and heavy winter coats and disappear into the woods. This time of hunting bear and deer, and sometimes rabbit or squirrel, seems to be their passion.” (Beneath the Shadow of the Mountains)

BUCKLAND Buddy,_Robert,_Cecil,_Porter_&,_Jackie_Jones,_Richard_McHaffa

Of course, that is how I described these guys in Beneath the Shadow of the Mountains. And it’s just how the boys behaved. The old shanty had a small coal stove and these boys stayed in that shanty while they were hunting. Left – Buddy Buckland, Porter Jones and Robert Buckland. On the right was Uncle Robert’s son, Cecil Buckland, Jackie Jones and ?? maybe cousin Richard McHaffa. The bear was killed by Jackie, but for some reason, Dad had it dressed and the old black bear rug lived at our house for years.

BUCKLAND Buddy, Charles, Richard, Walter, Robert

Now you know trouble when you see it and I think this photo speaks for itself. The boys were known for their “carrying on” and this looks like there was a little “carrying on” that day. All railroaders (well except for the gal I don’t know) from the left-  Buddy Buckland, his brother Charles, cousin Richard McHaffa, – unknown pretty gal – youngest brother Walter and 2nd oldest brother Robert. All these boys worked hard on the railroad; All these boys played hard, too!

BUCKLAND The boys and picture

The Buckland Boys – Charles & Walter standing
Robert, L.W. Buckland, Sr. & L.W. Jr. Buddy

 tipAlways take a good look at the pictures within pictures. From this photograph, I was able to track down the identity of my 2nd great grandparents, James Harrison Tabor and Nancy Moore Runyon. The framed picture of an unknown couple was hanging on the left back wall. It was difficult to discern and no one in the living family seemed to know who they were. I enlarged the print for a closer look and uploaded the image online.  A distant relative contacted me with the name and confirmation of their identity!

BUCKLAND LW JR Age 19 BUCKLAND Robert Cecil  Sr BUCKLAND Charles N Class of 42

L.W. “Buddy” Buckland, Jr.               Robert Cecil Buckland                    Charles Nye Buckland
10/8/1915 – 11/6/1993                      4/4/1918 – 5/29/2011                      3/16/1924 – 6/29/1978

                  BUCKLAND Walter_Edward     McHAFFA Richard Graham Class of 1942

            Walter Edward Buckland                       Nathaniel Richard McHaffa (cousin)
3/14/1926 – 4/20/2001                           9/27/1924 – 8/13/2012

BUCKLAND LW Jr - Larry on Harley      BUCKLAND Walter on motorcycle

The boys had toys. Buddy on his Harley with son, Larry Buckland and Walter on his bike. 1940’s

BUCKLAND Grandmother, Daddy, Frankie, Robert

And the boys had Mama (Mary Jane Davidson Buckland) left, then Buddy, sister Nora Francis Buckland and brother Robert.

Women Trapped on Rail Trestle at Wittens Mill

June 13, 1931

As I recollect the story as it has been passed down, Grandmaw Altha Davis and *Aunt Jo  were picking berries along the railway near Wittens Mill in Tazewell County, VA (just off Route 460 between Tazewell and Bluefield). It is my understanding that they were crossing the trestle to get to the other side when a train came round the curve on the mainline and over the trestle – catching the two women. Grandmaw’s big toe  was cut off and she was tossed off the trestle but landed on a bail of wire that cushioned her fall. Aunt Jo was fowled beneath the locomotive which resulted in a broken coccyx but no other serous injuries.

I remember Grandmaw showing me her big toe. It was just the top of her big toe that was cut off, but I can’t image being in that difficult and frightening predicament.

The story always amazed me because this same family of Asa Davis (Norfolk & Western Maintenance of Way Foreman) who moved their entire household in a box car from Russell County to Tazewell County obviously knew the dangers on the rails. Why anyone would walk a trestle is beyond me.

Fortunately, by God’s grace, the two recovered to pick berries another day.

trestle

Mrs. A.C. Davis and Daughter, Mrs. Forrest Mace, Seriously Injured
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Mrs. Mace is Fouled Beneath Locomotive While Mother is Tossed Bodily From Structure; Victims Are Patients In Bluefield Hospital
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Trapped by a locomotive as they were crossing the Norfork and Western railroad….

Altha

The white cabinet now sits in Mom’s house, but was originally her grandmother’s,  Nancy C. “Nannie” (Jessee) Davis.

MACE NF and Joella

* Aunt Jo Ella (Davis) Mace with Uncle Forrest Mace