Marlinton – the way we were
Rivard Dwain Wilcox
Written in 1990
Marlinton, the county seat of Pocahontas County was established in 1749 as Marlin’s Bottom. In 1887, it was named Marlinton for Jacob Marlin, one the the first settlers to spend a winter in Pocahontas County. The other settler was Stephen Sewell. The population of Marlinton is now 1,352 of the total county population of 9,919 (1980 Census).
This township has a spirited history, steeped in time, spurred by its splendiferous people, and it spawns a beautiful scenic view of the lovely Greenbrier Valley as it nestles along the Greenbrier River. The lazy, majestic Greenbrier River flows along the edge of town. However, the river was not so lazy the day of the “great flood” in November 1985; which wreaked havoc on the townspeople. A sign on Don Rogers’ Service Station reflected their intent, “Come hell or high water, we’ll be back.” This slogan emphasized the strong fortitude of the people. And, the town came back fully restored after the flood. However, the river’s main claim to fame is that it is one of the foremost fishing areas in West Virginia and on the eastern seaboard. Marlinton is home to many fine fishing streams and is known for having some of the best hunting places anywhere. It became a focal point for Cal Price’s famous panther stories in The Pocahontas Times and for many revelations of wildlife stories by Skip Johnson of The Charleston Gazette.
This article takes a reminiscing path back in time to the period of 1953 through the early 1960s in Marlinton, and it epitomizes Saturday night. Most of the people can remember a Marlinton where a hot dog at the local pool room – Moses/ Meadows – was a delicacy to behold and the toasted sandwiches were a treat, as well. During this time, the Chesapeake and Ohio freight cars hummed from north to south on a busy railroad. Burns Motor Freight’s green trucks with red logos roared across the railroad tracks on their way throughout the southern and eastern states and the C.J. Richardson Hardware Store sold everything imaginable in the household line.
Early Marlinton, on Saturday, found pool players playing from daylight to midnight for ten cents a game. The local Rexall Drugstore, where huge ice cream cones and tables with marble tops awaited, and Sharp’s Newsstand, where an ice cream soda was yummy, were surrounded with droves of friendly people. Also, some people might opt for a plate dinner at French’s Diner or Kelly’s Restaurant. A dollar was worth a dollar then, a smile was forever, a comic book was ten cents, and good natured people were everywhere. It seemed that life stood still for an eternity on Saturday night until all the people were in town; then it became a huge “social” one night a week, a “happening.”
In this hamlet, life was so pure, so free, so simple and so heartwarming. For entertainment on Saturday night, kids enjoyed a double feature at the Alpine Theatre, an ice cream cone, and a funny book on a Saturday night on the town. Stories, news and gossip were gathered for the ensuing week; and if one met someone he or she hadn’t seen for two or three weeks, it was considered a real treat. Some people sat in their cars parked on the main street of town just to see other people in town on this festive night. They would arrive at 3 or 4 p.m. just to find a parking space, and the fellowship flowed.
When people gossiped, tall tales took their seed, and the people would gather them to return with another story the next Saturday – only the next Saturday night the story was bigger, compounded by additions. One hundred bales of hay became two hundred; a small deer became a large buck, and a panther lurked in every community. Over a cup of coffee or a fountain coke in the pool room, in the ice cream parlor or the newsstand, various story lines were possible. During this time period everyone was a friend, and everyone knew everyone else, and everything about him or her. The rich, middle and poor were one class, for pride was number one. Pride was infinite and immortal. Making something of one’s life really counted; and an academic goal was to see one’s name in The Pocahontas Times as a “Top-Notcher.”
On Saturday night, people wore their finest clothes to town, and they washed and waxed their cars for that one glorious night. A fancy car, decorated with animal stick-ons, mud flaps, lights in the rear glass, loud pipes and white-wall tires drew many stares of approval. Locals from Hillsboro, Campbelltown, Hunters-ville, Minnehaha Springs, Green Bank, Dunmore, Cass, Bartow and Mountain Grove, Virginia, streamed into town on Saturday night. They drove to the Chic-Inn on Beard Heights, a quaint little drive-in restaurant with booths in the back, and Graham’s Drive-In at Buckeye, just to have something to do.
Furthermore, Marlinton’s lifestyle was puristic, its people were so sincere and life was pleasurable and very simplistic. Sons and daughters tried, in some minuscule way, to say thanks. Nicknames seemed to stay forever, even though time rushed by, and the southern drawl instilled by Marlinton’s geographic proximity to Virginia, lasted a lifetime.
Marlinton High School – Notre Dame Fight Song “Cheer, cheer for old Marlinton High” – traditional, value-oriented, standards/ principles stressed, trust/ caring featured, discipline concepts, positive feelings, happy days, excellent county administration, excellent school administration – teachers and staff – strong academics, superior community support, good athletic teams, and factual information on the people who have walked the hallowed halls will indicate – Marlinton High School – “a legend in its time” – one of the very best.
Boy Scout Troop 44, attained immeasurable heights in eachsummer camp in Williamsburg. The competition between troops from throughout West Virginia was very keen. Scouts from the larger populated areas of Charleston, St. Albans and South Charleston were intent on winning the “team trophy.” but, Troop 33  usually came in first.
Time has passed, but the pride in Marlinton still remains. Its current citizens project this same prideful self-repect. No matter how life changes, the sons and daughters who have called Marlinton home still share its values, its love, its devotion and its respect. Pioneer Days held in July brings them back for the biggest social of the year.
The main things most people remember of this picturesque town are its fine people and its scenic beauty, which is unsurpassed. The people are down-to-earth, home-spun, very friendly, very positive and extremely proud. They have sent through the hollowed tunnels of life many fine young men and women who have been outstanding in their chosen occupations and communities.
That’s Marlinton. That’s our hometown – extraordinary, marvelous and prominent in “Almost Heaven – West Virginia.”
Written and published in The Pocahontas Times, 1990
Re-submitted by Mr. Wilcox