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Growing up out Proctor: Road Trip

By Gary Eller - | Sep 8, 2021

This chapter may get a bit tedious for those who aren’t familiar with the back parts of Wetzel and Marshall County that are waaaaaay out Proctor. But I wanted to include these bits of trivia because they illustrate one of the simple, inexpensive, and pleasant things our family did together.

My Dad liked to take us on half-day or one-day driving trips on weekends and holidays. He loved the West Virginia history and landscapes so often that defined our trips. Once a year or so, we would take multi-day trips to the West Virginia mountains or out of state. Usually, we would pack sandwiches to eat along the way. Here are a few trips I remember. These trips probably spurred my interest in regional history and ultimately inspired me to write banjo tunes about two of many places in Wetzel County with colorful names – Sally’s Backbone and Slim Chance Hill. Sally’s Backbone is loosely based on people I knew back in the day.

Local Day Trips: Occasionally from home we would drive out to St. Joe in Marshall County, drop down to Adaline on Fish Creek, and then back up Sally’s Backbone to U.S. 250. There we might turn right and go the small town of Hundred in the very back end of Wetzel County and then go right on Route 7 via Long Drain and Doolin Runs to New Martinsville.

Adaline is a very isolated place on Fish Creek where some of my Eller ancestors once lived in frontier times. Sally’s Backbone in places is a knife edge ridge where it seems you can reach through a car window and almost touch the tops of big trees at eye level.

As an alternative, we’d sometimes go left on U.S. 250 to Moundsville and turn down the river on Route 2 to Proctor to close the loop.

Another U.S. 250 loop would be out Route 89 to Silver Hill and on down into upper Fish Creek.

That’s mighty rugged, lonesome, beautiful country down there. It’s a very good idea there not to trespass on posted property if you don’t have permission! And don’t think you can travel very fast on that road (or the Adaline road). Then we would continue on Route 89 up the other side to U.S. 250, return home via Hundred or Moundsville. My cousin Beverly (daughter of Aunt Dollie (Eller) )lived in Cameron along U.S. 250.

For a shorter loop, we’d drive out to Silver Hill and turn right. We’d pass Bebee post office and continue along Friendship Ridge, go left at Limestone Ridge, drop down to Route 7 at Doolin Run, and go right to New Martinsville on Route 7. An option on this loop was to go north off Friendship Ridge onto Carpenter Ridge, drop down to Route 7 near Maude, and right to New Martinsville. Or, continue on 89 until it dropped down to Doolin Run. Occasionally we’d drive up Price Hill near Proctor to American Ridge, the backdrop of New Martinsville, and continue on until that road drops down to Doolin Run.

Other half-day drives would take us left on Coffield Ridge just before Antioch on Route 89. There were a couple of back roads from there that drive that eventually wound down to Route 2 along the Ohio River. There we would turn left down the river towards Proctor or right to Moundsville and Wheeling. These trips passed the Fairview and Pioneer areas where my Grandma Elizabeth Yoho (Eller) was from.

Sometimes the trips through Marshall County would be combined with visits with Frohnapfel relatives in Wheeling. Sometimes we’d come home on the Ohio side of the river.

When I go back to Wetzel County, I make a point of driving at least one of these loops and always enjoy it.

Day Trips Elsewhere in West Virginia: A few times a year we would take day-long drives east into West Virginia to sight-see at places like Coopers Rock east of Morgantown or to points of interest in Grafton, Fairmont, or Elkins. On other occasions, we’d go down river to Parkersburg and Marietta, driving along the West Virginia side one way and the Ohio side the other way.

Multi-day Trips: Long trips happened at most once a year. Three stand out in my memory. Once my Dad took me along just before I turned eight to Washington, D.C. to pick up my older cousin Bob (Uncle Okey’s son). Bob was being discharged from the Army. This was long before interstate highways were built in West Virginia and the route took us right through the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. It was a long, slow day’s drive each way but the scenery was (and still is) wonderful. We did some monument sightseeing in D.C. but the highlight for me was that I got to make my first recording! Davey Crockett (movie and TV) was a big deal about that time and I had memorized the popular song about him and sang it around the house. In D.C. we stumbled onto a booth where you insert a few quarters and get to make a thirty second recording on a 45 rpm disc. I still have that record and have digitized it for the amusement of my kids and grandkids. The recording ran out of time just as I “patched up the crack….” I probably had better pitch at age eight than I do now!

About the next year, our family drove to Chicago to visit some of Mom’s relatives, including her colorful tenor banjo-playing cousin Clem Frohnapfel (is that a great name for a banjo player or what?). The trip was about 500 miles which we probably drove in one day. Highlights of that trip were seeing the Chicago Zoo (the only real zoo I ever saw during my childhood), touring a German submarine that was captured during World War II, and seeing enormous Lake Michigan. Being a Guadalcanal veteran and only ten year’s from the war’s end, walking around inside a German sub must have been quite an experience for my Dad but he never said much about it.

The third big trip I remember was to a lake somewhere in Ontario, Canada. The trip was arranged by Uncle Charlie and Aunt Moogie (my Mom’s sister). There we stayed in a cabin and fished for walleye and northern pike. Brother Chuck’s hot girlfriend Arlene (1940-2013) was on the trip and it was illuminating for this little kid to watch her and the buff young Canadian fishing guides flirt. Chuck and Arlene wound up being married for fifty-two years and had six children.

In all of this traveling, I don’t remember ever staying in a motel, though we probably stayed in a few fleabags. The “joy” of motels and air travel would have to wait until after I finished college at WVU and Ohio State.