Rev. Edgar F. Wheeler: 34 Salem College (1941 – 1947)

First Year

After another summer of hard work on the farm, I was persuaded by Loren Osborn, who had been drafted into military service, to go to Salem, West Virginia, and take his job as linotype operator at the Seventh Day Church of God publishing house. My mother had to correct my assumption that it was right on the coast. It would be right “next door” to the state of her youth, Ohio. It sounded exciting to go to new and mountainous country.

So, I was on my way again in my Model A. A tire blew out right at Lane School, a mile from home. I was uneasy that Mom and Dad would hear of it from neighbors, the Hanks, and worry. That did not happen. It turned out to be a delightful trip. As always, I had problems with diarrhea before leaving home. Mom had fixed fried chicken and sandwiches to eat, and by the time I reached St. Joseph, Missouri, I was hungry and ate. I stopped at Louise’s on the way, then on to Ohio to visit Mom’s relatives. Then to West Virginia. I was entranced by the hills (“mountains”) and well groomed little farms and gardens.

Learning the Linotype machine was often frustrating, but I soon came to enjoy it and the personnel at the office. Allen Bond and I sometimes used their machines for some small jobs. Linotype provided a livelihood for years.

I enjoyed Salem and the college. It was definitely different and exciting country! I worked long hours, often going to work at 4:30 a.m., so as to be able to get to early morning classes. As I remember, that year was generally uneventful – until I came down with double mumps just before the end of the academic year. I felt miserable and had to wait a few days to drive home. I was still not feeling well to travel, but home beckoned! Again, seeing home as I came over the last little grade was a wonderful sight.

Second Year

After another hard summer’s work on the farm, I returned to Salem College in the fall. During the summer, Dad ran across a 1936 Ford V-8 for sale.

It was owned by a veterinary at Winchester and for some time smelled of medicine. Anyway, I bought it and sold my Model A to Myrt Crosswhite, a neighbor. The ’36 was a two-door (Tudor) desert tan or brown with red wheels. It was the trunk model with metal covered spare tire on the outside. The tires were very poor, and none were available because of wartime rationing. On the way to West Virginia, I had to get a tire at a junk yard and put a liner in it. Surprisingly, it served well.

I worked again at the publishing house. In general, Salem provided a change in life for me. I began dating. My parents were concerned that I would date one girl, and another, and finally marry foolishly. I almost did that. I became engaged to a decent girl who was a student at Philippi, West Virginia.

At Christmas time I met Xenia Lee Randolph at the candy counter at the variety store where she worked on weekends. I was struck! She asked me if I wanted to buy candy. Flirtatiously, I said I would, but I had no one to give it to. She impulsively said, “You can give it to me.” I said no more. I bought the candy she liked and got her address from Lila (Stephan) Saunders, and I mailed it to her. When her father asked who it was from, she said, “Some college smarty.” He said, “Don’t you think you ought to at least say “thank you?” She did, and that gave me ideas. I remember passing by her only once after that in Salem until near Valentine’s Day. I sent her another box of candy at Valentine’s Day. After that, our relationship grew, and I began to see that, beyond her attractiveness, she had superior quality.

That spring, I hitchhiked to Kansas for a few days. I went by bus to Parkersburg, West Virginia, then successfully got a ride with a soldier all the way to St. Louis. From there I caught a chilly night ride with another serviceman in a 1941 Plymouth convertible with the top down, all the way to Kansas City.

I don’t remember how I got the rest of the way home.

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