Friday, November 18, 2016

An Accident and a Friendship

One day in 1939, my father was driving the curving roads through Broadford, Virginia, probably on his way to work at his gas station. Suddenly, a little boy darted into the road in front of his car. He braked hard and swerved to avoid the child but to his horror, another boy chasing after the first one appeared in his path. The sound of screeching tires and a thud from the impact of the soft body stung the air. Filled with dread, Verne jerked open the car door and raced around the car to find the child lying beside the road, crying out in pain from injuries to a leg bent at an odd angle. Others came running. Relief that the boy was alive flooded Verne’s mind, but agony over the boy’s painful injury filled his heart.

Ambulances may not have been available in the small valley town, so the boy’s parents or neighbors may have driven him to the Saltville hospital where Dr. C. C. Hatfield set his leg. Then again, Dr. Hatfield may even come to the scene as his home was not far away, and doctors made house calls in those days. Whatever the case, he boy was in the hospital for a few days after his surgery. Unfortunately, the leg never healed properly, so the boy had a slight limp the rest of his life. 
Dr. C. C. Hatfield and John Whitely, c. 1939.
 The boy's name was John Campbell Whitely, nine-year-old son of Allen and Mary Whitely.[1] Verne continued a friendship with John for many years and even offered to send him to college, but the boy chose not to go. 

Verne Troutman and John Whitely, c. 1939.

A few years ago when I was in Virginia, perhaps for my mother’s funeral, a man approached me and introduced himself. “I’m John Whitely,” he said. “I was the boy your father hit with his car.” He went on to tell me how much my father meant to him, how he had befriended him and his family after the accident and had done many thoughtful things for him over the years.” I told him that Dad had occasionally talked about the accident and I knew that he had agonized over it. Dad kept pictures of the boy and would sometimes tell us the story of the accident.

[1] 1940 U. S. census, Rich Valley, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, enumeration district 87-14, sheet 3-B, visit no. 42, Allen R. Whitely household; digital image ( ; accessed 16 November 2016); NARA microfilm publication T-627, roll 4295.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Cars, Cars, Cars

Like many young men, my dad loved cars. Maybe his passion for a snazzy car waned as he grew older, for I don't really remember him saying much about cars while I was growing up. I didn't realize how much he liked cars until I started this research. Reading his answers to questions about his life, I found a list he made of cars he had owned. How could he remember all that if he wasn't interested in cars?

Here's his list:
"1932 Chevy coupe [his first car], 1936 Chevy 2 door, 1937 Chevy 4 door, 1939 Plymouth coupe, 1941 Oldsmobile, 1949 Chevy, 1952 Chevy, 1956 Ford, 1961 Chevy."

In going through his old photos, I found numerous pictures of cars. They seemed to make nice props for photos. Maybe you can help identify the make and year of the cars because, unless it was written on the back of the photo, I have no clue. Enjoy!

Clint Troutman family, Mary at the wheel with their Model T.
This is the 1932 Chevy coupe; it's written on back.
These first three photos were taken in Nebraska.

Verne behind the wheel of '32 Chevy coupe.

Uncle Jim, Aunt Susie, Frances, and car in Virginia, c. 1930-32.

Kenneth DeBord and car in Virginia, c. 1938.
Cousins, Kenneth DeBord & Olivene Pratt, Virginia.
This one is much later, but I think it's one of the cars listed above, maybe the 1949 Chevy. Based on the size of my baby sister peeking out the window, I'd say that's about the time this photo was taken--in Nebraska, again.
Verne and daughter on farm, Wayne County, Ne.
Dad loved to drive. Some of my favorite memories with him are Sunday afternoon drives and cross country vacations. Although I didn't get his interest in car makes and models--I cannot list the cars I've had, only their color--I did get his love of driving.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Rock House Service Station

Whatever drew Verne back to Smyth County, Virginia, he certainly looked into business opportunities. At age 23 in 1937, he chose to open a service station with his cousin Charles DeBord, grandson of Verne's father Clint’s oldest brother, John W. “Bud” Troutman.
Sixteen months younger than Verne, Charles lived with his parents Reese and Eula (Troutman) DeBord at Chatham Hill. Eula was the second child of Bud and Jenny (Totten) Troutman. Widowed, Jenny left Smyth County and took her other children to Nebraska in 1915, but Eula and a young man named Reese DeBord were smitten with each other. Although Eula was only fifteen and Reese was eighteen, they married, perhaps so that Eula wouldn’t have to leave the state with her mother, but also Eula was expecting their first child, Charles.[1] Eula and Reese eventually had four children: Charles, Kenneth, Mildred, and Phyllis, in that order. When Verne went to Virginia, Reese and Eula lived “up on the Ridge” at Chatham Hill. He visited there often.

Mildred (17) and Eula (37) at the DeBord home, Chatham Hill, VA.
Verne at the DeBord home, c. 1937.
Verne’s and Charles’ business was called Rock House Service Station. Like today’s gas stations, he carried a few groceries and even served light lunches, his specialty being a fried egg sandwich. Of course, a cooler with a Coke Cola logo stocked with ice-cold soft drinks in glass bottles with metal caps stood inside the door. The board floors smelled of oil.
Verne (l.) and Charles in front of the Rock House Service Station, c. 1938.
 Rock House Service Station, c. 1938.
Located at Broad Ford, the Rock House Service Station stood to the south side Highway 91 just before it crossed the bridge over the North Fork of the Holston River. In the photo below, Verne and Charles are facing their service station.

This photo, though blurry, shows the old Broad Ford Bridge.
Business wasn't the only thing on Verne's mind.  His social life was lively. Years later, if you were driving the roads snaking through the countryside with him, he might point out to you a home or two where he had been invited to a party. And he might tell you the name of the pretty daughter of the homeowner.  At one of those parties in Saltville while playing a game called Snap-a-Partner, he came face-to-face with a dark haired, dark eyed beauty who was destined to become his wife.

[1]  Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2013, Charles Holmes DeBord, digital image, ( : accessed 2 November 2016). Death record includes birth date, 24 August 1915 and names of parents.