Wilma Smith attended several grade schools because her family moved a lot during those younger years. She has memories of classes in Meadows, Geneva Kent and Hite grade schools before moving into the Barboursville district. They also rented a lot of different homes before moving into a chicken coop while her father built a home of their own.
“I was born at home along 16th Street Road in July of 1936,” Smith said. “I remember being taught very early in life the virtues of respect. I also learned about the misery of having poison Ivy and the hard work required to make a garden grow. I tried taking eggs from under chickens, but got pecked at so often I stopped doing it. By the time I was in the second grade we lived up a hollow without electric and a one-seat outhouse in the back yard. Mom would heat up her iron on the wood stove to press clothes, and I did my homework by the light of a kerosene lamp.”
“My father had a fourth-grade education,” Smith said. “He worked hard his entire life for little pay until he became a cement contractor. That’s when our living standard got better. Dad bought some property and built a nice house while we made do in the cleaned out chicken coop. We move into the house before it was completely finished.”
Smith talked about sneaking off to go swimming in the creek and being spanked for not telling her mom. They would, however, be taken to Dreamland Pool on occasion. She mentioned the music organ that played so pretty until the family raccoon chewed up the interior and the music stopped. That’s when the raccoon was evicted. And she remembers walking to Orchard Grove Freewill Methodist Church on Sundays with her brother.
“Dad had an old black car that was so ugly we hated to be seen in it,” Smith said. “He’d take my brother and me to town and set a time for us to be picked up. Didn’t matter if the movie was over or not, when it was time to be picked up, we left the movie. There were many movies I never knew how they ended because of dad’s schedule.”
Smith began her elementary education at Meadows where her lunch menu was a nonstop ration of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She enjoyed the convenience of indoor plumbing and the short walk. She spoke kindly of a teacher named Ms. Sovine, who was sweet and kind to all students regardless of their stature or dress.
Smith eventually ended up in the Barboursville school district, where she completed high school in 1954.
“I loved being in the band at Barboursville High School,” Smith said. “I played the saxophone and enjoyed playing at every parade and all the football games. We would sometimes eat lunch at the Green Lantern Restaurant on Main Street. As best I remember, hotdogs were a dime and a large Coke was a nickel.”
Smith worked a few part-time jobs while in high school for spending money. She remembers working at Doyle’s Pharmacy on 16th Street Road making 50 cents an hour. She also cleaned turkeys at Tanners Turkey Farm and was the occasional babysitter for families in the neighborhood.
“I did attend the high school prom with Carl Carey, who was the drum major,” Smith said. “We were just good friends, and both of us wanted to go to the prom. I did meet this young man who I wrote to while he was in the service.”
That young man eventually returned from the United States Army and proposed. Actually, according to Smith, she’s not totally sure who did the proposing. But after dating for six months, somebody must have popped the question because they ran off to the marriage capital of Kentucky in downtown Catlettsburg and were married. That was 65 years ago, and the marriage of Elsworth and Wilma continues today.
“We had no money for a honeymoon,” Smith said. “Later on, we made several trips to the beach for extended stays that were totally enjoyed.”
While her husband worked for Smith Transfer, he crossed the old Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, many times. On Dec. 15, 1967, his final crossing was just a couple of hours before the bridge collapsed.
Wilma and Elsworth have three grown boys and five granddaughters. Wilma used to volunteer at the Mildred Mitchell Bateman Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center. They are now living the leisure life in a local retirement community.