January 2019

Education Part III: from Gary Zinn to Elma Mae Leggett

Introducing the Summers School - What is was REALLY like walking to school

Education Part III: from Gary Zinn to Elma Mae Leggett

By Bobbi Spiker-Conley

Our cousin, Gary Zinn, wrote the following article for the third part in our series on Education. (If you missed the first two parts, we talked about Sunday school in November and the Sunny Point school in December .) In this fun story, Gary tells us what it was REALLY like walking to school.

Walking to School

By Gary Zinn

I attended grade school at the Summers school, which was the centerpiece of Summers community.  At the time, Summers consisted of the school, a very small general store, and four houses that stood within rock throwing distance of the school.  Other homes that were within roughly two to three miles of the school were loosely regarded to be part of the larger Summers community. 

(For those unfamiliar with the geography, Summers is about 4-1/2 miles upriver, on the Middle Fork of Hughes, from the Spiker farm.  Summers is in Doddridge County, with the Doddridge - Ritchie county line a mile downriver from Summers, just below the Haught house.) 

When I started first grade, in 1950, the school was a frame building consisting of two classrooms, with first through fourth grades in one and fifth through eighth grades in the other.  A kitchen for preparing school lunches was at one end of the building, a small stage at the other.  The building was divided into two rooms by a set of folding doors across the center.  Water supply was via a well that had been drilled near the kitchen.  Heat was provided by large gas stoves in each classroom.  Needless to say there was no air conditioning. 

We hung our outdoor clothes on hooks mounted on the wall of a narrow cloakroom, and in messy weather put our boots on the floor, under whatever hook our coat was hung on.  Sanitation was via two outhouses (boys’ and girls’) that stood in the lot back of the school building.

The school staff included two teachers, plus a school lunch cook and custodian.  Elma Mae Leggett, who lived near Oxford, taught at Summers for well over two decades.  The other teacher who was there for most of my time in the school was Freda Erwin, who lived on Route 18, beyond Grove.

Ilda Grimm, who lived in one of the houses very near the school, was the lunch cook for many years, including all the time I attended.  She also served as custodian, helped by her husband Lester (Leck) and their daughters Ramona and Judy.

By the time I was in fourth grade, the facilities had been upgraded.  A new cement block addition was built onto the front of the original school, which included new classrooms, a central hallway, and modern conveniences including water fountains in the hallway, plumbed rest rooms, and a gas furnace that provided central heating in the new building.  We had practically moved up town!  The original building still housed the kitchen, and the old classrooms became a cafeteria and activity center.

As I recall, enrollment during the time I was in grade school averaged some 40 to 50 students total, and most of us walked to and from school.  Mine was one of the longer hikes, for the school was just under two miles from my home, the house nearest the South Fork Baptist Church.  From home, the road to Summers ran to the Haught house at the mouth of the hollow, then upstream along the Middle Fork of Hughes River to the school.  I would like to say that it was uphill both ways, and I walked it barefoot in the snow, always in the dark, but that would be stretching the truth. 

Actually, home was just a bit too close to the school for my own good.  If I had lived over two miles away, the county Board of Education would have paid me to walk to school — the rate was a dollar a week, if I remember correctly.  Darn, I would like to have had that “walking around” money.

I am not stretching it to say that I made that four mile round trip walk every school day for eight years, unless someone driving by gave me a lift for part of the way, or on the infrequent occasions when my mother was going to or coming from somewhere at the right time of day to give me a ride.  I simply dressed for the weather — rain, cold, snow, whatever — wore rubber boots over my shoes when it was wet and muddy, or there was snow, and never thought of walking that far, sometimes under nasty conditions, as anything but normal.  Well, it was normal in that time and place.

Wallace and Mabel Haught lived in the large farmhouse at the mouth of the hollow below my home.  Their youngest son, Robert, is three years older than me, so from when I started school until Robert went on to high school, he and I walked the mile between the Haught home and the school together.  It didn’t take me very long to tumble to the fact that the Haught place was a halfway house with benefits.  Every morning, Mabel had a fresh pot of coffee brewed, and always had a morning treat such as freshly baked biscuits or cinnamon rolls.  I tried to make it to Haught’s a few minutes before Robert and I had to go on to school, to take advantage of the free buffet.  It was in Mabel’s kitchen that I learned to drink coffee.

When I was seven years old, we got an English Shepard pup, that we named Queenie.  She soon learned my daily routine, and one or two days each week she would take off down the road about twenty minutes before I was due home from school, meeting me at the foot of the hill a half-mile below our house.  However, she never came to meet me on days when the weather was bad — smart dog.

Queenie and I grew up together and were constant companions.  Among other virtues, she was a natural squirrel dog, so I often took her hunting with me.

I had a very different relationship with a neighbor’s rooster.  Byrd and Mary Richards lived a quarter-mile down the road from us.  In the springtime our unpaved road got very muddy, so I would avoid the worst of the muck by walking through pasture fields and meadows between home and the mouth of the hollow, including the meadow directly behind the Richards house and outbuildings. 

Byrd and Mary had a small flock of chickens, including a large rooster.  One spring when I was using the route across the Richards farm to avoid the road, the rooster took exception to me walking through his territory.  As I walked by, he would strut out into the meadow, cluck at me angrily, and follow me at a distance for awhile. 

One afternoon when I was coming home from school, the rooster decided to escalate.  He came directly toward me, demonstrating more than his usual agitation.  I understood the body language of farm animals well, and quickly concluded that he was going to try to flog me. 

I carried my school books and homework notes in a waterproof canvas shoulder bag.  Without really thinking about it, I slipped the bag off my shoulder and wrapped the strap in my hand.  Sure enough, the rooster broke into a run and took to the air when he got about a dozen feet from me.  I swung the bag at him, catching him squarely in the side.  He tumbled through the air, rolled a few times when he hit the ground, and then ran away to the chicken house. 

The next morning when I walked by, the only thing I saw of the rooster was his eye, peeking at me around the corner of the chicken house.  He never threatened to bother me again.

The two years that my eldest nephew, David Ball, went to grade school with me spawned a family legend.  David is almost exactly seven years younger than me, so when he was ready to start school I was entering seventh grade.  At the time, my sister Janice and brother-in-law Dale were renting the old Earl Flesher farm, about a mile down a bad road that ran along the Middle Fork of Hughes River, below the Brad and Alice Spiker home.

Janice and Dale did not like the idea of David walking that road by himself each day to where it intersected the Pullman—Holbrook road, and then riding the school bus to the grade school at Pullman.  They worked it out with my parents that David would stay with us during the week and go to school with me.

After six years of walking to school, I walked fast and could make the two miles in just under half an hour.  I tried to remember that David was much smaller and slower, and curbed my pace so that he could keep up.  But I would get to daydreaming as I walked, and would soon be moving at my normal speed.  When this happened, I would stop and look back, to find that David was trailing behind and trotting to try to keep up with me.  However, when he caught up, he would just pass me and keep on trotting down the road! 

Within a few weeks, we had it worked out.  David got conditioned to move at a brisk trot and could keep up with my normal walking speed.  Our neighbor, Mary Richards, remarked that she felt sorry for little David, running to keep up with me.  I don’t believe that David ran track in high school, which was a missed opportunity.  He would have been awesome in the distance events.

Note from Editor – Gary Zinn said one of his teachers at Summers School was Elma Mae Leggett. That’s not the only school in the area which was familiar with the Leggett name. We’ll tell you about that link next month as we move on with the fourth part in our series on Education.


  • Submitted by Connie Larew Holovics – With heavy hearts we are sharing with family that our mom has passed away. She was an angel that meant so much to so many. She led a long and eventful life but was ready to be at peace.

    (Connie later added…) The memorial was beautiful. I think everything Mom would have wanted. Thought I’d share this poem for those that couldn’t be there. My Melisa Barden did the initial draft with some help from her cousins then we added to it with additional memories. Group effort. It was nice to sit around & share memories.


Our mom was born in 1933 with her twin sister Ann Her nickname was ‘Boots’ of which she wasn’t a fan

The Spiker family took them in when they were just two Which gave her the Spiker reunion not just the Larew’s

She met the love of her life at Jackson’s Mill Of his kisses she could never get her fill

They were happily married for 67 years 9 months after the honeymoon they were tending baby Connie’s tears

Then came Alice, Helen, and their son Pete who was lost too soon Now she’s in Heaven with him looking down on our dad Coon

In Morgantown she worked at a Christian bookstore Therefore all the grandchildren have Bibles galore

Her grandkids brought her endless joy Spread across the country were 5 girls and 5 boys.

If ever they were having too much fun She’d tell them ‘Be still!’ and give a half stick of gum.

She was blessed with 10 great grandkids as well nursing home visits made her heart swell

She was down for any challenge even riding a cow When anyone saw the picture they said ‘Oh wow!’

Cooking is what she loved to do Making bread, pepperoni rolls, and Special-K bars too.

When the dinner bell rang, our steps would quicken Racing to get to Granny’s fried chicken.

Together with family we all had a hoot Granny would laugh so hard she let out a toot

She loved playing cards and if she had the Rook. She’d slip you a wink along with a look.

She’d stick out her tongue and strike an annoyed pose Her tongue was so long she could touch her nose

You’d find her on the dance floor with her husband at any setting Including the Larew reunion and every wedding

Wib loved to play pranks and give her a hard time There was a firecracker- outhouse situation which we couldn’t rhyme

With needle and thread she was so great Making wedding dresses for daughters when marrying their mate

4-H always held a special place in her heart At camp and events she would always play a big part

All her hard work earned her the All Star award with head, heart, hands & health she honored the Lord

As you can tell, her life was full of love Now she is finally at peace and watching from above

Delene Wines Larew
February 07, 1993 - December 26, 2018

GREENVILLE, WV – Delene Wines Larew, age 85, passed away on Wednesday, December 26, 2018, at Main Street Care in Hinton, WV. Born February 7, 1933, in Spencer, WV, she was the daughter of the late William Joseph and Winona Watson Wines and was raised by the late Jacob and Gay Spiker.

Delene was a member of the Centerville Presbyterian Church, the Quilting Guild, Women’s Aglow, WOC, Farm Women’s Club, and the Ruritan Club. Additionally, she was a 4-H All-Star, a voting volunteer, Sunday school teacher at Centerville Presbyterian Church, and the choir director at McCann’s Run Methodist Church. She was a former Administrative Assistant to West Virginia University’s Studies Department, a former manager of The Last Word Christian Bookstore, and a former employee at the West Virginia Extension Office. Delene’s hobbies included sewing, quilting, crocheting, entertaining, cooking, canning, and reading. She loved her houseplants and visiting the beach, but above all, she loved to spend time with her family.

In addition to her biological and foster parents, Delene was preceded in death by her son, Peter Lewis Larew; grandson, Marcus Daniel Speer; twin sister, Delane “Ann” King; sisters, Nancy Jo Richards and Eloise Espenchied; brother, William “Billy” Wines; and foster siblings, Brad Spiker, Robert Spiker, Lynn Spiker, Jean Haught, Kitty Miller, and Margery Spiker.

Those left to cherish Delene’s memory include her loving husband of 67 years, Conrad “Coon” Larew; three daughters, Connie (David) Holovics of Canton, OH, Alice (James) Matheny of Lee’s Summit, MO, and Helen Larew Speer of Albuquerque, NM; nine grandchildren, Thomas (Heidi) Holovics of St. Louis, MO, Melisa (Joshua) Barden of Canton, OH, Adam (Emily) Holovics of Portland, OR, Danielle (Adam) Matheny-Pernu of Philadelphia, PA, Ciera Matheny of Liberty, MO, Paige Matheny of Kansas City, MO, Johnathan McCumber (Erin O’Brien) of Beaver, PA, Alissa (Mat) Trujillo of Albuquerque, NM, and Shaun (John) Speer of Las Vegas, NV; and ten great grandchildren, Trevor, Amber and Emmett Holovics, Reid and Makenna Barden, Jordyn and Ryan Trujillo, and Marcus Jr., Dominic, and Faith Speer.

A service to celebrate the life of Delene will be held at 4:00 PM on Saturday, December 29, 2018, at the Centerville Presbyterian Church in Greenville, WV, with Thelma Garten officiating. A time of fellowship and visitation with the family will be held from 3:00 PM until time of services at the church. In lieu of flowers, the family would like Delene’s legacy to be honored with donations to the 4-H organization, which was very near and dear to her heart. A 4-H camp scholarship will be established in Delene’s name. Donations for the scholarship may be mailed to: WVU Extension Service, Monroe County Office, P.O. Box 238, Union, WV  24983 (make checks payable to Monroe County 4-H Foundation – Memo line should read, “In Memory of Delene”).

Online guestbook can be signed or condolences may be sent to the family at www.broyles-shrewsbury.com. Arrangements by Broyles-Shrewsbury Funeral Home, Peterstown, WV.