The Great Outdoors always played a role in my growing up in that little Ohio River village on the Kentucky shore, across from the western end of Portsmouth.
The river, which lay about 100 yards from our doorstep (and at least once over the doorstep to seep onto the front room floor) was our main source of recreation.
We fished cane poles from the shore and caught catfish and chubs to take home for Mom to fry up to a golden brown. We boys learned to set trotlines and catch and clean catfish to sell to a market in Portsmouth. We made enough for the Saturday matinees at the Garden theater with some left over to buy clothes for the coming school year.
We survived the hot July days with dips in its cooling waters.
My older brother and younger sister and I were rich little kids. Our mom was a wonderful cook and mother to us.
Dad had started on maintaining the tracks for the C&O Railroad as a water boy at age 14 and retired as a foreman 50 years later, enjoying 23 years thereafter of drawing his railroad pension. He never missed a paycheck, even during the depression years of the 1930s. He lived on camp cars through the week and came home on weekends eager to grab his fishing equipment (after any disciplinary actions needed for Bootie and me were met) and head to the river with us in tow.
We got a good switching when called for with the fishing coming after that.
We had our needs supplied. We learned to dream our dreams and live without the wants. We never missed a meal and never went to bed hungry.
BUT WE WERE POOR
Compared to today’s standards, we were poor little Appalachian kids living in poverty.
For instance, we had an outdoor toilet. There was no air conditioning or heat source in those hot and cold upstairs bedrooms. There was no television and no phone (a neighbor down the street had one we could use in an emergency).
Before the electric lines came to us, we filled the coal oil lamps and rimmed the wicks as nighttime approached.
Healthcare insurance? What was that and who needed it? If we got the flu or something else had us under the weather, we visited Dr. Meadows at his office, which he ran in his home in Fullerton. If we couldn’t go to him, he came to the house. He would wait on payment, in installments if necessary.
We had the battery-powered radio for entertainment. Amos and Andy was one program we enjoyed. I loved those Black people. I remember one line in which Amos and Andy were buying a house and neglected to read the fine print in the contract.
Amos says, “Andy, it looks like in this case, the house is the stucko and we is da stuckee.”
What ever happened to that humor? It’s gotten lost somewhere along the way.
With all of today’s conveniences, is life better now than it was away back then?
I think not. Everybody seems tense, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Of course much of our worry is caused by the deadly virus that refuses to go away. Because of it, for the second April in a row, the Portsmouth Trout Derby was canceled last year.
The trout had been stocked by the fish and wildlife people. They didn’t want to take them back to the hatchery.
My friend from school days, John Vinson Euton, braved the cold rainy day to troll back and forth on Turkey Creek Lake in his kayak and land five beautiful rainbows.
He knows how to handle worry. If we can’t go fishing, we are in trouble.
In a rent column I was talking about coming up on my 88th birthday set for May 22. I said if I made it I would be he only one of my clan to live past 87.
That prompted a call from Bill Hurley, my Portsmouth nephew, who read the column.
“Sam, he said in an email, you forgot about my mother (Mary), who lived to be 93”.
Indeed I did.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619