Art McCallister is an 83-year-old farm boy from the back country of Lincoln County now living in Huntington. He grew up with five brothers, two sisters and one very large garden. His father taught school until he found a better job with South Penn Oil Company. His grandfather would ride the city bus dressed in hunting clothes, carrying a shotgun to Altizer to go hunting along the Guyan River.
“My mother continued teaching school after dad changed jobs,” McCallister said. “Even with all the work going on, there were still plenty of light-hearted times. It was always interesting to watch my older brothers playing sports; they were always involved with one sport of another. There were school plays, church events, and some evenings dad would sing and play his fiddle with a group of other neighborhood musicians.”
McCallister also has memories of the family radio, especially listening to the 1941 fight between Joe Louis and Billy Conn. Conn was a good fighter but not good enough. The radio was a great opportunity for dad to make his famous popcorn balls for the family.
“Because I was born just after The (1937) Flood, I have no memories of it, but I do remember how the war affected our community,” McCallister said. “I remember front windows that displayed a small flag with a star for each member of the family in the Armed Forces. I remember the siren that served as air raid warnings and how families were instructed to close window shades and turn off house lights. Young men and high school boys were asked to take on the responsibility of riding their bicycles through rural areas making sure windows were covered and houses were dark. There were rumors that Hitler had plans for bombing Nitro because they had factories producing nitrogen used in bombs. There was a time when I had a total of 17 relatives serving in the military that included brothers, brother-in-laws, uncles and aunts.”
World War II was a time when even tin foil chewing gum and cigarette wrappers were rolled up to the size of a baseball by kids and sold to the junk collector for a nickel. It was a time for rationing gasoline, rubber products and many food items. People who had the space in their back yards were plowing up their property to plant gardens.
“I started school when I was 5 with my older brothers,” McCallister said. “When I started the second grade, we moved to Huntington and lived in a house right about where Golden Corral is today. We attended Lewis Memorial church that was located next door then. The Huntington Gun Club was across Route 60, and we would collect clay targets to shoot with slingshots. We’d pick blackberries where HIMG is now located. And I remember the wonderful food odors coming from the Shady Rest Restaurant located along Route 60 where Arby’s is today. I earned a quarter as a caddy for 18 holes of golf at the Guyan Country Club when I was 9. Because I was new, I was only allowed to caddy for women.”
The family moved again when it came time to attend Huntington High School, where he graduated in 1955. All of the McCallister kids graduated there.
“I had a large paper delivery route while attending high school,” McCallister said. “Sunday papers were the heaviest, hard work for a skinny teenager but good spending money. A very popular place for students was Alma’s Ice Cream shop on 10th Avenue.”
After high school, McCallister joined the Navy and remembers telling the recruiter to place him in the easiest career field available. The recruiter assured him that becoming a dental lab technician was the career for him.
“I finished second in a class of 126 and was given the opportunity to attend an advanced school in prosthetics; I didn’t even know what it meant then. Until my discharge, I worked as a dental lab technician. Five days after leaving the Navy, I was employed at Belco Dental Lab on 6th Avenue,” McCallister said. “I eventually bought the company and retired after 47 years.”
McCallister’s and his first wife, Carol, were married for 56 years until medical complications took her life. They had traveled through Europe and Alaska. They have one beautiful married daughter and one grandson. After living alone for three years as a widower, McCallister was introduced to a wonderful lady named Suzanne. They were recently married at Heritage Farm.