Saturday, August 18, 2012

Our Amicks in Modern Times

Irvin and Lelia Amick
about the time of their
Irvin Starling Amick, the third child of Samuel and Martha Amick, was my grandfather.  Born on 6 December 1883, he earned his living by farming and by carpentry.  On 27 December 1905 he married Lelia Clingman Humphries, daughter of William and Lucinda Ott Humphries from Pool, West Virginia.   Their children were:

1) Leathel Delores Amick, born 6 July 1907
2) Teddy Carl Amick, born 30 April 1909
3) Carrie Mae Amick, born 2 May 1911
4) Irma Belle Amick, born 13 November 1915
5) Marylene Gathel Amick, born 10 October 1924.

They lived and farmed on the Amick homestead.  The children helped with the farm work including hoeing corn.  As my mother once told, they wanted the corn to be "knee high by the Fourth of July" because once the corn was of a certain size, they could go to Nallen to celebrate the Fourth of July.  My mother told that they played in the woods and along Anglin Creek, using rocks to make furniture for their pretend house and using moss for the carpets.  Ted caught some frogs, and they held the frogs up by their hind legs, pretending the frogs were chickens they were taking to market.  Lelia was afraid of the frogs, and she yelled at the children to put them down.  When Ted found out she was afraid, he boldly held onto his frogs.  I can imagine him laughing in a Puckish way, making his mom "holler" and "squall".  Lelia took the only course she could think of:  she threw rocks at the kids to make them put down the frogs.

Carrie Amick Tuck writes in Growing Up in West Virginia, My Memoirs, 
Irma Belle Amick,
about age 3.
      "Dad was a very good carpenter.  He built two nice homes in the area.  One cinderblock, two story, for Jake Amick, and another A-frame house for George McClung.  They are standing to this day.  He and my only brother, Teddy, went away to another town, Lookout was the name, and built a high school house.  His tools consisted of a hand saw, level, hammer and measure.  Dad was very smart with figures, down to one 1000th of an inch in his head.  No one ever knew how he could do that." 

Carrie continues by saying that Irvin began "public works" which took him away from home, and when Lelia's father died (1925), she and the children moved in with Lelia's mother, Lucinda Ott Humphries.  Irvin worked in Charleston for a while.  By this time Leathel had married Ray Hambrick and lived in Charleston.  Carrie writes that Ted was allowed to come and go as he pleased, unlike the girls, and that he and his friends met at "Drunkard's Roost", an old barn where Runa Road intersects Rt. 41, to play poker.

My mother (Irma) related in 1997 about how they celebrated Christmas:
"It began at school, a Christmas program centered around the birth of Jesus.  Everyone came.  The teacher gave us a gift.  Mostly a pencil, sometimes some candy, and always a program at church.  Everyone took part in it, and at last Christmas Eve, no tree but stockings were hung with the expectations of Santa filling them with a lot of candy, fruit, and nuts of which we only had once a year, if we were good.  If we were bad, Santa would only leave us a bunch of switches.  No turkey for Christmas dinner, mostly ham, sweet potatoes and the such because it was hog-killing time, and it sure was good." 
Irvin Amick, the carpenter.
The children attended school at Runa until around the mid 20s or so, but after they moved to Grandma Humphries', they attended school at Rocky Point, near Pool.  It was also about this time that Leathel's first child was born; John Bee Hambrick was born 8 February 1927.

Shortly after the family moved in with Lucinda Humphries, the house burned, leaving the family homeless.  When Irvin came home from his work trip, he needed to make arrangements for housing for the family, so he planned for them to move to Dwyer, West Virginia, a coal-mining town near Rainelle.  Ted, Irma, and Carrie walked on the railroad tracks to Rainelle to attend school.  Irvin was employed as a bridge carpenter for the C&O Railroad.  Grandma Humphries lived with them until her home in Nicholas County was rebuilt.  After the mine at Dwyer was re-opened by the Tuck family, a motor car ran between Rainelle and Dwyer which was used for transportation to take the children to school.  Irvin bought a Model A car, but he had to keep it in a garage in Rainelle because he couldn't drive it to Dwyer.

Teddy Carl Amick
The census in April 1930 finds Irvin Amick living in the Meadow Bluff district of Greenbrier County with his wife and four children, including their divorced daughter, Leathel (although Leathel's children are not listed).  Carrie and her husband, Vernon Tuck, live next door.  In the summer of 1930 Ted, who was also working as a carpenter at the railroad in Rainelle, was killed in an accident at work.  At Ted's funeral, one of the cousins, Irvin Champe, was broken out with a rash.  He came to stay for a while with Lelia and Irvin, only to find out that he had small pox.  Thankfully everyone survived the epidemic, but the family's grief over Ted's death was increased by the weeks-long illnesses that they endured.

In April 1931 Irma married Charlie Tuck, and they moved to Beard's Fork, Fayette Co., where Charlie worked in the mines.  More than 13 million Americans were unemployed by the end of 1932.  Banking problems caused customers to withdraw their money from the banks, and more than 9,000 banks had failed by early 1933.  By March of that year many of the banks were either closed or had been closed at some time.  Banks that had managed to stay open were operating under special rules meant to protect the banks from failure.
Irvin Amick, standing.
Seated on left, Cornelius Dorsey.
Seated on right, Walter Humphries.
(Dorsey and Humphries
not confirmed.)
After Irvin and Lelia moved to the Franzello Building in East Rainelle, Irvin was laid off from the railroad.  He had received a sum of money from the railroad because of Ted's death, and through his contact with a realtor in Rainelle, purchased a farm in Waverly (Sussex County), Virginia.  He felt that investing in property would protect their cash.  He and Lelia thought that if things got worse economically at least they could grow food on the farm, which also had a two-story house and a store on the property that sold goods to local farmers.  Irma and Charlie Tuck moved back to East Rainelle before Charles, Jr. was born in 1932; they stayed in West Virginia, but Marylene; Carrie and Vernon and their young daughter, Alice; and Leathel and her two young children made the move with Irvin and Lelia.

Shortly after the family moved, Irvin was miraculously called back to work on the railroad.   For a while, Irvin worked in Rainelle while the family lived on the farm in Waverly.  Lelia ran the farm and store mostly on her own, with family help and hired help.  In 1933 a whooping cough epidemic caused the death of Carrie's young baby, Roselyn.  Marylene and Alice, Carrie's other daughter, also suffered with the illness, but they survived it.

Leathel returned to Dwyer with her two children, and on 14 October 1935, she married Pat Tuck.  On 11 June 1936 Pat was killed by a slate fall while working in the mine in Dwyer.  The story is told that Leathel heard the whistle blow at the mine, meaning that there had been an accident.  She started out the back door, but the door stuck as if someone were holding it and sticking their foot in the door.  Leathel said, "Oh, Pat, quit!"  It wasn't long before someone came to the house to tell her of Pat's death.  After this, Leathel moved back to the farm in Waverly.

The farm and the store became too much for Lelia to handle on her own, so she moved back to East Rainelle, where she and Irvin had an apartment over Blair's Jewelry Store until they could sell the farm.  Marylene enrolled in school, and Irvin continued working for the railroad.  Carrie and Vernon stayed at Waverly, along with Leathel who enrolled in beauty school in Richmond, while her children stayed with Carrie and Vernon.
Mary Lelia and Leathel
Amick Fitzwater.

Somehow Leathel reconnected with an old school friend, John Fitzwater, who was in the Navy.  Carrie and Vernon took Leathel and her children back to Rainelle, where she and John were married on 26 June 1939 in Covington, Allegheny County, Virginia.  They settled in San Diego, California.

The 1940 census shows that the Amick family was spreading across the United States:
 1)  Carrie and Vernon lived in Waverly with Alice, their daughter.  Vernon was a truck driver.  He worked 40 hours a week and had made $500 in 1939.  They lived on Route 621.
 2)  Irma and Charlie Tuck lived in East Rainelle on 10th Street with their son, Charles, Jr.  Charlie was a miner, worked 35 hours a week, and had made $800 in 1939.
 3)  Irvin and Lelia also lived in East Rainelle, along with Marylene, who was 15 years old, on Main Street.  Irvin was a bridge carpenter on the railroad, worked 40 hours a week, and had made $1300 in 1939.
 4)  John E. and Leathel Fitzwater lived on 17th Street in San Diego, California, with their children, John B. Hambrick (age 13), Ladorma Lea Hambrick (age 10), and Mary L. Fitzwater, less than one year old.  John was a machinist in the U.S. Navy and earned $1032 in 1939.  Leathel had worked 44 weeks in 1939 to earn $528.
Carrie and Vernon Tuck
When Irvin sold the farm, Carrie and Vernon moved to Stony Creek, Virginia, where Marylene came to live with them.  She worked at Freeman's Feed and Hardware Store.  As World War II progressed, jobs became more plentiful, and Vernon went to work at Dupont in Richmond.  Marylene also found work at Dupont.

It was in Richmond that Marylene met William Coleman Rountree.  They married there, and their first child, Bill Rountree, was born there.  Later they moved to North Carolina.  Carrie and Vernon moved to Arizona.

Charlie Tuck also moved to Virginia to obtain work at the beginning of World War II.  He worked in the ship yards at Newport News.  He and Irma lived there with their three children:  Charles, Jr., Martha Jane, and Carol Ann. When their marriage ended on 10 October 1947 in Richmond, Irma and her children moved back to East Rainelle and lived with Irvin and Lelia.  The apartment over the jewelry store was crowded, and Irvin and Lelia bought a house on what is now Hughart Street to better accommodate the family.  Irma worked as a waitress and also as a clerk in the Men's Quality Store on Main Street.  A railroader named Austin "Red" Ballengee began coming in the store in the mornings to help her work the crossword puzzle in the newspaper.  They were married on 1 July 1949 at the Central Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia.  They also lived in an apartment in East Rainelle until Red built their home in the Osborne Addition about 1951, after the birth of their child, Janet, in 1950.

Irvin Amick working on the
addition to the house in East
This left Irvin and Lelia living in their new home in East Rainelle after Irvin retired from the railroad.  They built additional rooms onto the back of the house about 1953.  The new section would become their home, and they rented the front part of the house.  Lelia walked to the A & P on Main Street to shop for groceries or to the G. C. Murphy Five and Dime for all those extra household needs.  Flint's Hardware and Alder's Hardware were close, as well as several clothing stores, small groceries, and drug stores.  A benefit of retiring from the railroad was that Irvin had lifetime passes for him and Lelia, and they took advantage of the passes to ride the train out West in the winter months.  They spent time with Carrie in Phoenix and Leathel in San Diego until the warm weather returned to West Virginia in the spring.

Lelia's sister, Sadie Humphries Dorsey, was widowed and lived with her daughter in Quinwood.  Sadie's husband, Cornelius (Neely) Dorsey, was killed in a timbering accident 14 December 1928, and she had raised her eight children alone.  Sadie and Lelia were very close, and Sadie stayed at the Amick home quite often.  Games of canasta, croquet, and Chinese checkers filled the hours.  I remember one croquet game at the home of Emerson and Elsie Amick in Oak Hill that required flood lights to be hooked up because the game went on until midnight.  No one was willing to give up even after the sun went down!  Sadie and Lelia often traveled together to visit family.

Irma Ballengee standing
by the roses at her
parents' house in
East Rainelle. 
Irvin (or Granddad, as we called him) liked to walk the grandchildren up the street to Vance's service stations for a "pop".  Although I don't remember this, my sister, Carol, recalled that when he asked you what kind of pop you wanted, no matter what you asked for, he always got you an orange pop.  I do remember sitting on the swing on the porch of their house with him.  He asked if I knew how to spell "gnat".  Then he pulled a small dictionary from his shirt pocket and showed me in the dictionary how "gnat" actually did start with the letter "g".  He loved reading western novels, sitting in his chair by the front window with his leg thrown over the chair arm; he loved going west where the cowboys roamed.  He was the first person I ever saw eat a peach with the fuzzy skin still on it.  I was amazed that you could eat the peel, and I still do, often reminded of him.  He chewed tobacco, and once on a car trip to North Carolina to see Marylene, when we passed a scraggly, pitiful-looking patch of tobacco, he said that that patch was Five Brothers chewing tobacco (a cheap brand).  Firmly believing in the Democratic platform that brought the country through the Depression, he had a framed picture of FDR hanging on his bedroom wall.  He kept a perpetual game of solitaire going on the dining table, and when the cards stuck together, he sprinkled talcum powder on them to keep them easier to deal. 
Left to right:  Sadie Dorsey, Lelia Amick, Irvin Amick. 
Sightseeing on a trip to the West.

In 1962 Irvin was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 78.  He died 30 September 1962 at the hospital in Ronceverte.  He is buried in the Dorsey Cemetery near Runa, where Teddy Carl Amick is also buried.  Lelia continued to live in East Rainelle.  Aunt Sadie stayed with her quite a bit.  Around 1968 failing health caused Lelia to sell her home, and she went to live with her daughter, Marylene, in North Carolina.  In 1969 Carrie took her to Phoenix to live with her.  Lelia died 4 October 1969 of cancer and is also buried in Dorsey Cemetery. 

The picture below is a rare image of many of the Amick family members together.  Although it was technically not a good picture, I've tried to "remedy" it to capture the faces that are floating there in time.  I'm not able to identify all the people, but some of them I recognize, and some of them I "think" I recognize.  And so I've finally come to the end of my summary of the history of our Amick family.  This is by no means a complete and detailed history; I have plenty more stories to tell, but this remembrance is meant to ensure that the loves, sacrifices, tears, and smiles of our Amicks are not forgotten.
Child on lap is Bill Rountree, born in December 1946, which helps to date the picture. 
He is sitting on Irvin Amick's lap.  Lelia is the woman standing to the
left in the flowered dress.  The girl beside her may be Martha Tuck, and the
younger girl beside her is Carol Ann Tuck.  Behind her I believe is Alice Tuck.
Carrie Amick Tuck is sitting beside Carol.  The man who is barely visible
behind Carrie, may be William C. Rountree.  The woman beside
him is my mother, Irma, and the woman beside her may be Marylene.
 I do not know the identity of the two children who are seated on the left.


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