Any time a question about the history of Marlinton arises, the answer is easy to find – as long as you can find Keith Moore.
Moore – who was born and raised in Marlinton and continues to call it home – is a walking history of the town. Along with his vast memory, Moore carries with him several photo albums which record the past.
It doesn’t take long for Moore to time travel to a time gone by when he enters a building or visits with an old friend.
Moore recalls with gusto the way of life in Marlinton in its heyday – when there were eight grocery stores and four car dealerships.
“It was something else,” he said. “You had to turn sideways to get down the sidewalk on Saturday night because everybody came to town to get their groceries. The stores stayed open until nine p.m. There was no TV, so people would come to town to socialize a little bit and gossip.”
As he sat in The Pocahontas Times office, Moore returned to a time when the building housed the CJ Casdorph Store. CJ’s was unique because it had a chicken coop in the back where customers could pick out a live chicken to take home for dinner.
“Howard McElwee work-ed here and Roy Dever, Dorsey Moses, and James Michael that later worked at the bank,” Moore said. “I was just a little boy and my aunt and I came in – she was my second mother. She told Mr. McElwee, ‘I need a young chicken.’ He grabbed a brown paper bag and said, ‘come on.’”
After Moore’s aunt selected the chicken she wanted, McElwee “dispatched” it and placed it in a paper bag. The rest of the preparation was up to the buyer.
“Then you had to take the thing home and scald it in hot water,” Moore said. “I can still smell them musty feathers. After you got the big feathers off, then there were all the pin feathers. If you had a fire in a cook stove, you took the lid off the stove and held the chicken over it to singe and burn those little pin feathers.”
When Moore wasn’t with his family, he was a precocious little scamp, getting into harmless fun with his friends.
Many a night, he could be found at the pool hall, trying to sneak games of pool or on the pinball machines.
“Saturday night was a big night,” he said. “The pool room was always full. I got the stick taken away from me more than once in the pool room because you had to be so old – eighteen or twenty-one – to shoot pool. We would wait until they got busy at the food counter and the guy who racked the balls would be up there fixing hot dogs. We would grab us a stick and break ‘em, and maybe get in a few shots before they looked back and saw us, and took the stick away from us.”
One evening, while the boys were trying to sneak a game, they found themselves face-to-face with state police officer Mike Murphy. Instead of getting in trouble, the boys were recruited by the officer to assist in fighting a fire.
Murphy asked Moore and his friend how old they were and when they lied and said 18, they were whisked away to Droop Mountain to fight a blaze.
After the blaze was out, Moore and his buddy convinced the men to stop for a “refreshing beverage.”
“We had him stop – there was a beer joint down there on Droop – and we had a little bit of money, but we couldn’t buy it,” he said. “We talked the driver into stopping. He said, ‘you are going to get me fired,’ and we said, ‘they won’t know. We won’t tell.’ Some of them went in there and we got us a cold beer a piece. That riding in the back of the truck makes you thirsty.”
In his teen years, Moore said much of the county was somewhat segregated but he and his friends spent time with black members of the community.
The current Mason Jar was a black restaurant, where Moore and his friends would buy treats and watch patrons dance.
“We’d go down there and buy a nickel’s worth of candy or a bottle of pop, and sit out front and drink it,” he said. “On Saturday night, that’s the only place really in the county that the black people had any place to socialize, and us boys sat out front and watched them, looked through the window at them dancing.
“I remember the song, ‘Do the Hucklebuck.’ Boy, they’d be in there dancing. They were good people. That was during segregation. We played ball together with the black kids and we would walk together and buy our tickets at the theater. When we went in, they had to go upstairs and sit in the balcony. They had better seats than we did.”
It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Moore did have several jobs through the years. One of his first was at the Pocahontas Dairy.
“That was over where the Clean Cow is,” he said. “Dr. Dilley owned it. It was one of my first jobs I ever had. Two hundred dollars a month is what you made and you worked six days a week, and every other Sunday, you had to work inside, bottling milk. I made popsicles. I made ice cream bars with the stick and chocolate coating on them. I wound up doing the bookkeeping in the office when Rene White from up in Minnehaha retired.”
Along with making items at the dairy, Moore delivered milk throughout the county, including to Mill Point Prison Camp.
“I delivered milk out there, just to the warden,” he said. “It wasn’t for the whole outfit. It was too expensive for them.”
Moore moved on and got a job in Cleveland, Ohio, for a short period of time. He helped a buddy of his get a job there for a steel company. His buddy dropped out of school in the seventh grade and didn’t have a license, but that didn’t stop Moore from making sure he got a job.
To work for the company in Cleveland, the boys had to prove they were 18 or older. Moore’s buddy was only 17. Moore had him get his birth certificate and said he would change it.
“He was born in thirty-five,” Moore said. “Have you ever seen the round typewriter erasers with a brush on it? I sat at the kitchen table and just barely touched that five. I got it off of there and I took it down to the high school. I had typing my senior year and I knew that the typing teacher, Mrs. Bledsoe, Anna Madge – I knew when the classes would change, she would go to the restroom and get her a Coke and come back.
“When the kids cleared out and she went down the steps, I went in there and lined that thing up in the typewriter, and pecked me in there a ‘4.’” he continued. “You couldn’t tell it had been doctored. We went to Cleveland and got us a job. He stayed. I said, ‘I’m going to get on that Greyhound bus.’ I was homesick and lovesick. I came back and got married, and he stayed up there and got married.”
Moore came back to Marlinton, started his family and worked as a tax mapping technician for the state tax department, a job he had for 30 years.
His job required a lot of travel, and in those 30 years, he racked up even more stories.
On one mapping trek, Moore ran into a man who had a peculiar connection to Pocahontas County.
“He said, ‘where are you from, buddy?’ and I said, ‘did you ever hear of White Sulphur Springs?’” Moore recalled. “I said, ‘I’m about forty-five miles north in a little town called Marlinton.’ He said, ‘I’ve unloaded many a boxcar alongside a store called Richardson’s.’ I said, ‘what in the world were you doing up there?’ He said, “I was a guest of Uncle Sam at this prison up there. That’s the coldest place I’ve ever been in my life.’”
When the Rainbow Gathering first camp to Pocahontas County in the early 80s, Moore and a couple friends went to see what it was all about.
“I met the assessor from over at Craigsville and his assistant,” Moore said. “We got out of the car and there were hippies all over the place. After we were there for awhile I felt out of place with clothes on. I’ve never seen so many naked people. Some of them I wished they put their clothes back on.”
While the years have gone by and the town of Marlinton has greatly changed, Moore remains that precocious scamp. You can see it in his eyes when he tells his stories.
And, he is still in love. Just last week, he ran a banner in The Pocahontas Times for his wife, Demetria’s, birthday. It read, “You have always been a good person, a good wife, a good mother, a good cook and the best thing that ever happened to me. God Bless You! Keith”
Keith and Demetria have been married 62 years.