“If my source is right, the Cherry Tree School was built about the time of the First World War (1917). One of the carpenters was Mr. L. E. (Ed) Steele. He was the father of Edna Steele who was married to Doc Erwin Hall (Hall’s Drug Store).” — Eddie Atkins
My mother, Virginia Taylor, attended the Yuma School and the two schools used to have spelling bees against each other. When she was in the third or fourth grade she could spell down the much older kids.
Attending first grade at J. B. Ellis got me off to a rather rocky start as the teacher’s kid (more about that later). My education was off to a smoother ride as I entered second grade at Cherry Tree Grade with Sally Gore as my teacher in 1947. Each morning there would be a slight delay as I waited for Gene & Ethel Mae Coffey. Mrs. Coffee would be braiding Ethel Mae’s hair into pig tails. The three of us would then head out to school. Our reader in second grade was “Jim & Judy Rides,” I believe, and we loved to hear Miss Gore read us stories like “Little Billy Goat Gruff.
Our Principal was Lucille Von Pechy. She taught the 3rd & 4th grade. Mrs. Von Pechy wore a smock (pink, as I recollect) with convenient pockets to place her hands while talking to us or to retrieve her whistle. Her whistle was used to announce the end of recess. At the bottom of the tall classroom windows, she had installed little curtains to prevent us from daydreaming and being distracted from out books. Wow, Lucille! Wasn’t that a little over handed? Mrs. Von Pechy would help shape our lives forever.
Mrs. Von Pechy was quite the” handyman.” One day she asked if anyone who was going home for lunch could bring her back a plane to smooth the rough edges of her desk she was snagging her hose most every day. I proudly volunteered and promptly brought back my Dad’s plane when I returned from lunch. Embarking on her little project, she exclaimed: “This thing wouldn’t cut hot butter!” Almost immediately she cut her finger on the plane. It wasn’t funny at the time.
Mrs. Von Pechy disciplined us to line up in front of the school to pledge allegiance. I can still see her playing the old upright piano as we sang “Ten Little Tadpoles swimming in and Out.” My mind jumps back to the installation of the gas heater which replaced the pot bellied coal burning stove as well as the building of book shelves under the classroom windows. These activities took place during our school day. Then there was the day a hush feels over the room when someone came to get Beulah Samson due to the death of her mother. We were all saddened that our classmate had lost her mother. Beulah and I have been close friends since second grade and are still in close contact and we often reminisce about the days at Cherry Tree Grade School and how it shaped our lives.
Death would affect our lives again that when Charles Tiller died expectantly from infected tonsils. Mrs. Von Pechy asked for volunteers to act as flower bearers at his funeral at the Pilgrim Holiness Church and I was among the volunteers. Riding in the open pickup truck to the cemetery, I couldn’t help but think back about the little skiff the year before when I had chased Charles home and threw a rock at him. The rock went through the front window of the Tiller home. That was followed by my delivery of a new window pane and apology at the direction of my father. Of course we were on good terms at the time of his death, but that childish act was to haunt me for a long time.
During recess with games of hop scotch, volleyball, “skin a cat,” the monkey bars, etc., friendly C & O engineers waved to us and we thrilled to the occasional toot of their locomotive whistle. The sight of the intimidating, rugged looking Posey Griffith, truant officer, was enough to scare the dickens out of all of us when he would make his rounds to check on the attendance of students such as Dickie Bill Hood or Thomas Ripley. This also brings back memories of smelly tennis shoes worn by a couple of our more deprived peers. Although many of us were poor without being aware of that fact, tennis shoes were just not a part of the normal school apparel in that day.
Miss Sterling visited weekly (in the afternoon, immediately after recess) for a flannel graph Bible story. In addition to Baby Ruth, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Payday and Zagnut bars, there were the popular candy cigarettes, candy lips and candy mustaches as well as wax flutes which we purchased at the door of the 1st & 2nd grade cloak room in Miss Sally Gores’ room. The money would eventually go for new playground equipment.
Frema Dingess, Principal 1950-1956
From a telephone conversation that Bob Piros had with Frema Dingess in February of 2012.
She started out teaching in 1939 at Ethel @ 18 and retired in 1974. She worked 6 years at CT school. She thought it might have been torn down in 1956.
She went to Marshall then to WVU where she received her teaching degree.
She recalls a Cathy Robinson who lived next door to CT school who took in children & helped them.
She remembers me & my cousin Bob, Mike Ratz, the Nagy boys(one of her nieces is married to one of them). Doris Nagy is who she had to contact to get the job at CT school.
She recalled where we lived in the brick house, my parents.
She said that Billy Earlywine also live in Chapmanville and has a kitchen cabinet business.
– Bob Piros
Memories of Frema Dingess as told to Bob Piros by Margaret (Buckles) Craggs
Frema Dingess was a dear woman. I adored her and my parents were influenced to name my sister , born when I was in first grade, “Frema”. She became a good family friend. We moved to Cleveland, Ohio July of 1954
Mrs. Dingess visited us while she was in town one summer. As I recall, she was probably in her mid 40’s at the time. However, to a little girl, everyone over 20 was “old” .
I do not remember her being principal. My only memories are of Ms. Dingess teaching 1st grade and Ms. Von Pechy teaching 2nd and 3rd grades and being principal.
We lived in White’s Addition but I am not the girl whose party you attended. Immediately across the bridge was a street and a big white house on the corner of that street. The Whites lived in that big house (big compared to our house anyway). We lived in an alley-way just to the left of that big white house in a rental owned by the Whites. I wonder if they had anything to do with the naming of the community?
I do remember the store you are talking about…I seem to recall it was owned by a family called “Davis”. The woman who worked there was named, I believe, “Velma”.
I was probably one of the girls who won the spelling bee – nothing I can recall specifically, but I was always at the ‘head of the line’. I couldn’t understand how people could not spell a word – it was always easy to me (Today I can’t spell with a darn – spell check on the computer has ruined me).
I can remember the school very well and Ms. Dingess. I can’t recall exactly what Ms. Von Pechy looked like other than she was older, heavier and stricter. I lived in fear of her paddle but fortunately, never received that punishment. Seems as though only the boys got paddled.
I remember walking to school and passing by the house just before the school with the crazy roosters. They would fly out and bite our legs and scare us to death. We weren’t allowed to cross the road to get away from them – of course, we would never have disobeyed our parents.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember you. My mom would have remembered your family for sure, but she has long ago passed away. Where did you live?
Two years ago my sister and I drove back to WV and visited the old neighborhood. I hardly recognized it. Many of the homes I remember were gone. I was surprised that the road, the bridge and railroad were just as I remembered though. There wasn’t anyone living there that I remembered.
We moved to Cleveland in summer of 1954 and I married and raised my two sons in a nearby suburb of Cleveland. You are in CA?
It was very nice to hear from you and recall those happy days. Please let me know if I can try to answer any other questions or give any info for the memory project.
Margaret (Buckles) Craggs
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