• A visit to Union 2013. If you grew up in Union, West Virginia and you have not been able to return to Monroe County recently, chances are you will enjoy a little tour of Union and the area.

    View a Picture Tour of Union & Monroe County.


“Courting Wanda” by Willis P. Simmons

She was my first real girlfriend, or at least I thought of her as such. She may have thought otherwise, but she did allow me to court her. This was carefully supervised by her parents, who would not allow us to go anywhere without the company of her younger sister. I accepted this without question, because I liked Wanda, and I enjoyed being with her. We were kindred spirits… farm kids with the same background, and the same outlook on life. We knew the same things, we knew the same people, we attended the same school, and we never lacked for something to talk about. I had known Wanda since she was in the first grade. We both attended the old Camp Ground School, where I was in the third grade. It was a one room school and I still remember her blue dress and the songs she sang at lesson time. Our parents had known each other even longer, and Dad had bought his farm from her grandfather. We all attended the same church, went to the same community events, and helped each other during threshing and haying time. Such associations should make a boy act as a gentleman, and a girl act as a lady and it was certainly true with us. Her father had nothing to apprehend, but like all fathers, he had certain rules, and if I wanted to court his daughter it would be done on his terms.

Although Wanda and I went to the same church, we never sat together, except perhaps during youth meetings. Such a thing would not have been looked upon with approval by the older folks. Children were supposed to sit with their parents, and we did just that, even so, I took every opportunity to ride home with her family after Sunday night services. We would sit in the back of her father’s new Ford, and with folded arms, secretly hold hands until we arrived at my house. I always thought her daddy was rich because he owned both a truck and a car and lived in a big white house a distance from the road. Not only that…he had a tractor and a corn binder.

She probably never knew it, but I sometimes went to great lengths in the hope of seeing her. Her house was two or three miles distance by way of the road, but it was much shorter through the fields and over the hills, and it was mostly downhill. Of course, the return trip was mostly uphill, but I never thought about such things. I would leave my house and go through the barn shed, then run along the edge of a hay field and through our alfalfa patch to a rail fence. I would jump over the rails and run down along a sloping ridge which passed through Dad’s old cornfield and vault the line fence into Dan McClung’s pasture. A short distance past the fence, a little brook emerged from a deep holler and flowed along the base of a high ridge, on its unhurried way to join Wolf Creek. I would leap over the brook and climb the steep ridge and run along the top until it descended to the narrow gravel road that passed in front of Dan McClung’s magnificent red barn and his beautiful white house framed and shaded by stately sugar maples.
Now, I didn’t do all of this to visit Wanda. I knew better than to drop in unannounced. I did it with the hope that I might see her as I passed by and perhaps be allowed to tarry. This seldom happened but being endued with the optimism of youth, I was never discouraged. On one occasion I made the trip twice in the same day. If this seems to have been a lot of work, it was no effort at all for a fifteen year old boy who wanted to see a pretty girl.

Well, before noon on my sixteenth birthday I had my driver’s license, and it was no longer necessary to run through the fields. I came to call in Dad’s truck. Her parents allowed her to go with me, but not too often, and for not too long…and her sister was always there to watch over us. I really didn’t mind. Most of our dates were to church and school events, or perhaps an occasional movie and her sister was quiet and discreet. Rita was a good little kid and although she appeared exactly as such to me, she was only a year younger than the girl I would eventually marry. Besides, with her in the truck, Wanda could sit closer to me.

Dad often worked away during the week and he always set out certain tasks for me to do while he was gone. If these were done to his satisfaction…I sometimes got a few dollars and the use of his truck on Saturday night. I also earned what I could in the neighboring farmer’s fields, at the rate of fifty cents per hour. All told, this was vastly more than most boys had, but the money disappeared much quicker then it came.

There was the occasion when we stopped at Copeland’s store in Greenville for a Pepsi Cola. Since I had only a dime we shared a bottle. Of course, being the gentleman that I was, I allowed Wanda to drink first. She told her father about it and he thought sharing
was the proper thing to do. As I mentioned before, Wanda’s house was located a distance from the road and at the end of a long driveway. Mark kept it in good repair, but at times it could be muddy and slick. He had just recently graded it when I arrived in Dad’s truck which was equipped with rough knobby tires. It had rained the night before but the road looked good to me. I drove through the gate and started toward the house. There had been three ruts which were now covered with new dirt. I soon managed to get the wheels into all three ruts and pretty much ruined her father’s new road. I don’t suppose this enhanced my standing with him, but he never said anything. Mark was strict in some ways, but fortunately for me, he was not one to get upset about ordinary matters.

He would wait up for us. When we arrived at the back door, Rita was always discreet enough to go into the house but Mark would turn on the light, tidy up the wood box and generally putter about the porch until I brought Wanda to the door. Finally, there came a time when I was allowed to take her on a date alone. Perhaps Rita had other plans or perhaps her daddy had begun to trust me but before the night was over, he was probably having seconds thoughts. I washed the mud from Dad’s Chevrolet truck with water from the rain barrel, swept out the dirt and hastened to Wanda’s door. I really don’t remember where we went, but I certainly remember coming back. We had stayed out longer than we should have, and when I rounded that memorable turn and her house came into view,
I could see no lights in the window. That was unusual, and perhaps did not bode well for another such date. I didn’t want to think about it then…I still had ten more minutes with Wanda.

Apparently, I wasn’t thinking about my driving either. Suddenly, the willow branches were slapping the windshield and long yellow clover blossoms were rolling across the hood. I quickly put both hands on the steering wheel, but it was too late. The truck lurched to the right and came to a hard stop. We were stuck fast in a deep ditch and I never even tried to get it out. I looked at Wanda ….she looked at me and we both looked at the dark house. I certainly didn’t relish waking her father and telling him I had ran Dad’s truck ….and his daughter into a ditch along side a perfectly straight piece of road.

We climbed out and started walking along the dark road. Wanda was understanding
about it all and even allowed me to hold her hand. We gave no thought to what might have happened had this occurred a short distance farther back while descending a steep hill. We were young and carefree and in some ways it was almost funny. There were be no smiles until her daddy was finished with me. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be…Mark never really said anything and perhaps he had some sympathy for the boy who respected his daughter and who helped him in his fields. He dressed…got a log chain from the wood shed and started his tractor. As he drove down the road toward the truck, I timidly followed behind. He never offered to let me ride and under the circumstances I thought it best not to ask. He pulled the truck back into the road and we went our separate ways. There was no damage and I never mentioned it to Dad and I knew Mark would not mention it either.

We didn’t have many more dates after that, but it certainly wasn’t because I ran my truck into a ditch…everybody did that at one time or another. We were growing up and other boys were beginning to notice Wanda and I was beginning to notice other girls.

Whether or not we had been going steady was never mentioned by either of us…we were much too young. Apparently others thought so and the girls in our school had a strict code. They would not date a boy if they supposed he had a girlfriend among them. But the boys were not so strict in this and as they began to look at Wanda…and I began to look in Alderson, where there were no such rules.

I looked often and I looked thoroughly and I looked for three years and found no girls like Wanda. I dated some of them, but courted none of them… until I found Jeanie LaRue. She was the best of them all…and she would test my thin gentlemanly veneer to the limit.

Reprinted with permission of the author
Willis P. Simmons – Graduate of Greenville High School
Taken from: The Monroe Watchman – Union, West Virginia