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.

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