In the last post, I spotlighted the life of Vivian Nanney who was a graduate of Round Hill Academy, made a good marriage with Kenneth T. McDonald in Frog Level and had three children who invested their lives in the educational community. There were many different career choices in the Nanney family, and some moved far away. Some were called into the ministry, some went into the military. The Rev Charles Nanney did both. He even dabbled in storytelling and music like a Renaissance man. Some Nanneys went into the textile industry, no doubt influenced by the factories that used to be based here (before China trade). Many were homemakers and farmers, and one was a meteorologist at a Charlotte TV station. But teaching seemed to be the most popular.
Wade Nanney’s Aunt Laylas went to Round Hill Academy and then on to Boone to the state teachers’ college that would become Appalachian State. “She had a T-Model Ford coupe that she had to leave at home, so Daddy–who learned to drive at 14– would chauffeur her and go back to pick her up on breaks. That was when the old gravel 105 went all the way up from South Mountain.”
My friend Wade was born in the old place that his Grandpaw ‘Minter built in stages near the county line north of Union Mills. (Amous Perminter was a brother to Moses Frank who was Mary Glenn’s grandfather in Montford Cove.) At first there was a one-room house with a fireplace and a separate cookshack out back where they cooked and ate. That was common because of frequent fires in the cooking area. Then ‘Minter built a two-story, four-room structure out front with two dormer windows facing the road and railroad. He needed room for his six daughters and finally a son, Jones Reginald. Grandpaw connected the new part to the old house with a covered breezeway, and the original house became a large kitchen, while the cookshack became the smokehouse. In 1921 ‘Minter put a metal pipe up to a tiny hidden spring on a ridge, and they had running water.” The old house burned in 1955, but Wade’s older brother Paul reconnected the pipe to get gravity flow with pressure. Paul would build at that location, and his son Lloyd Nanney would operate the nearby gold mining camp that dates back to 1830. Open today.
Sometime in 1928, after Jones Reginald Nanney married a very young red-haired beauty, Clara Blankenship, (four of Wade’s children are redheads), they created a room and connecting porch out of the breezeway. “Regnal” got a job with the railroad, ten hours a day. Soon his oldest children Paul and Ruby started to school in Glenwood. “Grandpa ‘Minter had a life savings of $4000, a good sum of money for a country fellow, especially considering the value back then. He was going to use it to buy a store” and have his only son run it but then the market crashed and the banks collapsed. Grandpa did get back $600, “but Daddy was stuck on the railroad.” ‘Regnal’ Nanney learned the value of a paycheck. His third child, Wade, was born in 1940.
“Most of the workers then were black men. Usually, after a white man worked a few months or so they would make him a foreman. But since we tend to be strange types without ‘political connections,’ it took him sixteen years to make foreman. He got his first section during the war down near St. George, S.C., a little west of Charleston. For awhile he boarded down there and would make weekend trips home in his ’37 Ford with 85hp flathead V-8. We moved down there in the summer of ’43 into a little railroad house alongside a highway and railroad track. Like back home where the coldest thing we had in summer was spring water temperature, the house didn’t have electricity. There was a little red hand pump in the backyard, but it was that hideously stinking sulfur water. The only way we could stand to drink it was with ice in it. Every evening Daddy would bring home one of those little 25# blocks of ice they used in water coolers on passenger trains and we would make ice tea for supper. We got spoiled to it, and when we did get back to the old place, Daddy and Paul built a large chest-type ice box with tin liner insulated with sawdust. At that time Garth Craig, Estelle Nanney’s husband, had an ice truck route in warm weather, so we would get two 50-lb blocks a week. Living in high cotton then!”
“I had my third birthday down in South Carolina that September of 1943. “In the mail I got a package from Granmaw. She baked six sweet muffins in her little tin and mailed them to me.” (Mercilla Raburn Nanney was 2nd cousin to her husband Amous Perminter Nanney, both great grandchildren of Rev. Perminter and Gracie Morgan). Wade’s other key memory of that SC place was when he and Reginald walked a little ways down the track and “he showed me a crossing where the train had pulverized a team of mules. Smelly mess!” There was a lesson in that I’m sure.
“Paul started 9th grade in SC, and Ruby was in the 8th. Paul said it was in the lunchroom there that he learned to eat rice with gravy. At home, Mama often made rice, but we would stir sugar, molasses, or Karo syrup into it for breakfast cereal. Down there, at meals, they would have a big bowl of fluffy rice in the middle of the table.”
“But we had scarcely got settled there when Daddy’s old foreman at Glenwood died. So he got to come back and be the foreman on the “Peavine” section that went from Marion down into lower Rutherford County.” Soon after Regnal got home, a feud between two of his workers left Mr. Rumfelt dead on the tracks near Spooky Hollow. Guy Arrowood went to prison for hitting him in the back of the head with a shovel. The incident left a lasting sadness in Reginald according to his daughter Ruby.
“We lived a very short while in the white house just above the Methodist church in Glenwood and Paul and Ruby resumed school at Glenwood. But Grampaw died and we immediately moved back down to the old place. Brother and sister kept going to Glenwood because we were a few feet from the line, and people didn’t make a fuss about little things like that back then.” Eventually theNanneys moved into a little house near the railroad in the Glenwood area, and Wade went to school there also. Paul graduated as Salutatorian of his class in 1947, Ruby as Valedictorian in 1948 of her class, and Wade as Valedictorian in 1958. The photo below was taken of honor students in the Glenwood Class of 1958. Wade went to Berea College in Ky and retired from teaching at McDowell Tech, close to home.
As a youngster, Wade’s favorite train was the passenger train that went to Marion, “a beautiful little green metallic green 6-wheeler. The big black freight engines had 8 drive wheels. My absolute hero when I was a little boy was the old engineer of that passenger train. His name was Jack Crowe and he was 70 or more then. He may have been Cherokee. That name generally is around here. When the train came by the house, I’d run out to the edge of the hill and wave my arm off at him. And he’d wave back. We moved to Glenwood in 1949.” Close to the railroad in southern McDowell County. “It was the summer of 1950 when the horrible change came. They did away with the old steam engines and went to diesel.” That was also the year brother Dean was born. Reginald would lose his job in 1952 when they automated and did away with section crews. He did get a little monthly railroad retirement check.
Reginald had six older sisters, but when he died in 1960 at the age of 54 of Bright’s disease (like his oldest sister Minnie), he had outlived three of them. The three remaining sisters would live to around eighty.
Wade tells his daddy’s story in the next post.
Copyright 2015 Georgia Wilson