This interview with Tony Martin was finally completed during a well-deserved break while serving customers at a recent Rotary Club pancake breakfast. Martin is also the assistant governor of the West Virginia Rotary and a member of the foundation board of Cabell Huntington Hospital.
In his spare time, he's a member of the Board of Governors at Mountwest Community and Technical College, president of the advisory board at the Marshall University School of Business and president of the Planning Commission for Cabell County.
If there ever was a person who needed an eight-day week, Tony Martin's the man. I'm surprised he found enough time to sit still long enough to share his story with me.
Martin was born in Germany during August of 1959, seven minutes before his twin brother Tim. Belonging to a military family, they were living in Europe where his father was stationed at the time. A few years later, when Dad received his honorable discharge, the family came back to West Virginia. As a matter of record, every one of Martin's uncles on both sides of the family have served in the United States military.
"I started school at grade school in Barboursville," said Martin. "After completing the fifth grade, Dad bought property near Camp Arrowhead Boy Scout Camp along Howells Mill Road in Ona. That's when I began riding the bus to Nichols Elementary to finish my elementary school days."
During his adolescent years, Martin's ability as an entrepreneur surfaced with the operation of a trap line near his home that proved quite satisfactory at helping to solve his cash flow shortcomings.
"I sold all the animals I caught to a furrier named Frank Beard," said Martin. "I didn't need to do anything with the animals but deliver them. A prime red fox would bring $75, while the gray fox brought $50. Now and then, I would catch a few raccoons, minks and even muskrat that were all sold. That was a tremendous amount of money for a young boy forty-some years ago."
Martin's earliest memories of fishing were along the New River when his grandfather Sarrett would take him. He also fished in the Mud River, but he enjoyed swimming there much better - there were occasions when he spent more time in the water than his fishing hook.
"I did enjoy hunting in the woods around our home," said Martin. "I had a collie named Fluffy who followed me everywhere. When I'd go squirrel hunting, Fluffy was always ready to go. I became a pretty good marksman with my .22-250 rifle that came from Mack & Dave's department store. Neighboring farmers would ask me to kill groundhogs that would damage their crops. Any groundhog spotted within three-to-four hundred yards of my scope never knew what hit him."
Martin's county home had all the conveniences of city living, but Granddad Martin, who lived down the road a bit, still lived with a water well out front and an outhouse in the back.
"I used to get a kick out of pumping water at Granddad Martin's house," said Martin. "He'd tell some of the most interesting stories from his youth. Any time we went for a visit, it wouldn't take much to get him talking about how things were when he was a boy, and his stories were always interesting."
Memories from Barboursville grade school have to include his first-grade teacher, Ms. Stafford, who made coming to her class a pleasure. There was also a Ms. Ellis in the fourth grade that he will always remember as a kind and helpful teacher.
"I attended junior high in Ona and belonged to the wrestling team," said Martin. "That's when I also belonged to Boy Scout Troop 708 with Scoutmaster Jim Adkins. I earned 21 merit badges during my tenure as a Scout. My son Anthony made it to the rank of Eagle Scout, I never made it that far."
Martin is a 1977 graduate of Barboursville High School, where he was a member of the wrestling team. While attending high school, he worked evenings and weekends for the Outdoorsman Store along Route 60 in Barboursville. After graduation he enrolled at West Virginia Institute of Technology, in Montgomery, West Virginia.
"I stayed in college for three years until the Navy recruiters showed up on campus one afternoon," said Martin. "They offered me a career in a nuclear power program that seemed too interesting to pass up."
Martin enlisted and was soon on his way to Great Lakes Naval Training Facility for boot camp. Next he was shipped to Orlando, Florida, where he was taught a wide range of principles, fundamentals, theory, limits, dangers, safety measures and operating procedures of nuclear power. His next assignment was Saratoga Springs Naval Facility in upstate New York, where he was taught advanced principles and building design of nuclear power containment along with a host of other operating concepts. The school staff thought so highly of his progress they made him an instructor following graduation, where he stayed for two years.
"My next assignment was to help in the construction of the USS Alabama, a nuclear-powered submarine," said Martin. "After that, I was offered a position in the next officer candidate class in Newport News, Virginia."
Martin's long and distinguished career took him all over and around the world during an enlistment that lasted 31 years. During those years he commanded various oceangoing ships of war, including the guided-missile frigate USS Doyle, measuring 455 feet in length. He was honorably discharged in 2010 with the rank of commodore. He returned home to the Huntington area and found employment at State Electric.
Martin talked about his youthful memories of Huntington when the sidewalks were packed during the Christmas season. When Boy Scout equipment was bought in the Anderson-Newcomb department store, and when the lunch counters at the 5 and 10 were full. And he talked about his memories of Fluffy, the dog who waited patiently for the school bus to bring his master home each afternoon — a habit that cost Fluffy his life one day when he waited too close to the big wheels of the school bus. He was buried on the property where they used to run together.
Clyde Beal seeks out interesting stories from folks around the Tri-State. Email email@example.com.