That Smartie, Edgar Wheeler
Edgar Wheeler came into Summers’ store one evening when I was standing behind the candy counter near the front door. I took note, for I had not seen him before and there were not many boys his age still at home in the U.S. The boys seemed to all be in some branch of the service as World War II was on.
As Edgar came back through the store I asked, “May I help you? Would you like to buy a box of candy or something else?” He said that he would “buy a box of those chocolate caramels, but I do not have anyone to give them to.” Quickly I responded, not taking time to think, “You can always buy them for me.” Immediately I wondered what was wrong with me to say that. Edgar went on to talk with Mr. Summers about something. Mr. Summers was on the Board of Directors of the Seventh Day Church of God Publishing House where Edgar was the linotype operator. He put himself through Salem College working there.
As Edgar left he stopped again at the candy counter and said, “I changed my mind. I want a box of those chocolates after all – and please wrap them to mail.” I did as he said and he took the box of candy with him. A few days later a familiar box came in the mail at home for me! He had gotten my address from Lila Saunders, his home town acquaintance who also worked there. By this time Edgar had been in the store almost daily and I noticed the young women all hovered around him. By then I knew he was in college and I decided he was a college flirt. I never thought that since he had to be one of the very few young men in college at that time, all the young women naturally wanted him to notice them. They were the flirts.
Edgar was exempt from service because he was studying for the ministry. As long as he was in school he was not called up.
The store closed at sundown Friday evening for the beginning of the Sabbath, then it opened again the next day, Sabbath evening, after sunset and was open until 9:00 p.m. The “Blue Laws” prohibited stores from opening Sundays but Mr. Summers got special permission to be open Sundays because they were closed on Sabbath Day. When I got home Friday evening I was told I had a box in the mail. I was excited until I saw the box. Dad said, “Aren’t you going to open it?” I responded, “No, I know what it is. A college smartie sent it to me.” I do not remember if I ate any of that first box of candy because I gave it to my brothers and sisters to eat. They were happy to eat “store bought” candy.
Some weeks later Dad asked, “Did you thank the young man for the candy?” I said, “No, I did not write him a ‘thank you.’” Dad shamed me enough that I realized I needed to acknowledge I received the candy. I did mail Edgar a “thank you.” Then before long I received another identical box of caramels for “Valentine’s Day.” I quickly thanked him for that box. I was not waiting for Easter time.
Edgar occasionally came into the store, and I noted how all the girls threw themselves at him. I made myself scarce but we did occasionally visit. That next year we had what you might call a “passing acquaintance.” I let him know I was not interested in dating any boy. School work, sports and my job took all my time.
For Christmas my sophomore year I got my first “store bought” coat and had it on one winter morning early as I waited for a teacher to take me to school. There was a filling station in front of Aunt Lydia’s home and I waited there for my ride each Monday morning after I remained in Salem during the weekend. Edgar drove in to get gasoline in his car and he spoke to me very friendly. I secretly found myself being thankful I had my new coat on. I said to myself, “Who are you trying to fool? Why do you care if you are wearing your new coat or an old one? You must like Edgar a little bit!” That was my first hint deep inside me that Edgar was indeed someone “special” to me. From this point on I had a “mission.”
One day that spring of my sophomore year in high school Edgar parked in front of Summer’s Store, and I noted a girl in the front seat with him. The other young clerks in the store began gawking without being detected and they were wagging their tongues saying that he was engaged and that must be his girlfriend. She, it turned out, was a friend of Allen Bond’s wife, Katie. Allen Bond was Edgar’s best friend. They had arranged a blind date after much encouragement and indeed he was engaged. I decided Eleanor must be the right girl for Edgar and I had lost my chance to date him when I was ready to begin dating.
Edgar roomed and boarded with my Aunt Allie Fitz Randolph, so one day when she was in the store I casually said to Aunt Allie, “I hear Edgar is engaged to be married.” She commented, “Eleanor is not the girl for him. He plans to be a minister.” I remembered her comment and had a glimmer of hope again. Then I remembered, “I want children who are free to be children. Parishioners in Alfred Station, New York thought Ann should be perfect even though she was only three. She let a neighbor’s rabbit out of its cage once and caused quite a stir in the fellowship. “We should have kept closer tab on where Ann was and what she was doing.” I was the one “watching” her that day. I made a mental note that “I would never marry a minister.” They were expected to be perfect and to have perfect children no matter what their age. I wanted my children to be free to be “children.” That was that!
Now that I knew Edgar was engaged, I was not afraid he would think I, too, was chasing him if I was friendly. So I more freely visited with him when he came into the store. We could visit about any subject.
One Friday evening my parents came to pick me up and parked in front of the store. I went out to tell them we were just closing up the store and I would be out in ten minutes. Edgar was walking by just then and spoke to me. My parents, Aunt Madeline and Aunt Gertrude all taught me manners. I knew I must introduce him to Mom and Dad. They were still visiting when the store was closed and I was ready to go home. On the way home Dad commented that he certainly did not see anything wrong with “that nice farm boy.” I had not told them that he was engaged. I took note of Dad’s remark (I still remember it), and began praying for God to open my heart and eyes to His will where Edgar was concerned. Should I “encourage” or “forget” him? When my Daddy was so ill and not expected to live I learned that I could pray honestly about anything and God would listen and respond to me. He truly answered my prayers. I needed God’s wisdom and leading in what He wanted me to do about being friendly with Edgar.
Again that summer I worked in the store full time, not just weekends. Edgar and I visited often. In early June he went home on the bus (I thought). He started on the bus, he said later, so I would not know he was hitchhiking. I received a letter from him that he had written in the middle of the night after he walked across the Mississippi River bridge in St. Louis, Missouri. He said a policeman stopped and asked him what he was doing sitting on the sidewalk. He answered “writing to a friend.” The policeman commented that he had never heard that reason given before.
After Edgar returned to Salem he broke his engagement. I took note of course. Aunt Allie told me about it gladly. Secretly I was glad also.
My Junior and Senior Years In High School
That 4th of July, Bond borrowed a pickup cattle truck from the farmer where Bond worked. We children rode in the back and Mom and Dad in the cab with Bond. All of us went to Sutton to Grandpa and Grandma Randolph’s home on Bug Ridge to celebrate the 4th of July. Edgar went with us (I had asked Mom and Dad if I could invite him since Edgar would be alone on the 4th. They gave permission.) Edgar drove over home and rode with us children standing up in the back of the pick-up holding onto the cattle rack. It must have been over seventy miles to Grandpa’s. Can you even imagine letting a child ride in the back of a pickup “sitting down” for a very short distance on our highways today?
We had a great day at the farm roaming and talking. Edgar and I walked alone through Grandpa’s large apple orchard and we visited all the way. That was our beginning and we have held hands and walked through the years and still walk daily. Life only gets better as we age and count our blessings. God is so good and has been through the years. That summer Edgar and I did some dating. Mostly he walked me to Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer service or walked me home from the store when it closed at 9:00 p.m., talking all the way.
My junior year in high school we continued to be friends, dating occasionally. I had little time for dating still. We did visit often at the store. I was on the journalism staff for our school paper and that was fun. I was also in our class play that year. A fun year! We had no younger male teachers left by then. All were in the service of our country. Teachers were scarce and I was selected by someone to be a substitute teacher when needed at the grade school, which was beside the High School on our side of the street. I found that challenging but also rewarding. Of course I got no pay except, “Thank you.” That was enough.
I did have a date for my junior prom with Eugene Matthey, a senior. Bond had a girlfriend at Big Isaac and he took her and drove Dad’s car. Gene and I sat in the back. He was so bashful I am not sure we danced at all but I had a date like the other girls. Bond dropped me off at home, then Eugene at his home before taking his girl home. I felt all dressed up and excited about the Prom at a Hotel! I thought about not going but was glad I went.
Summer came and again I stayed at Aunt Lydia’s during the week to work. Edgar and I did more dating that summer. Even went to some movies. I taught in summer Junior Camp at MiddleIslandChurch and Edgar came over on Sabbath Day, Visitors’ Day. The camp cook prepared a picnic meal for everyone and in the afternoon the campers conducted a worship service.
Evening vespers were on “Vesper Knoll” which was the hill top beside the church. God spoke to my heart there as we watched the sun set. Over a year later Edgar and I would be married on that knoll at sundown with a small group of family present. That was a perfect sunset. Pastor Marion and Erma Van Horn and their children were present. Years later Pastor Van Horn pastored a church in central New York near the one Edgar pastored and we always got together with them for our anniversary during the years we lived there. That was special.
Finally, I was a senior. Many of the girls in my class were married to servicemen but were finishing school. One was my best friend, Freda Pasey, who married Eugene Swiger who was in the Navy. Through the years we have kept contact at Christmas.
Edgar and I were openly and regularly dating then. I was editor-in-chief of our school paper and Edgar did much of the art work, maybe all of it, as we set up our page headlines and features. Everyone was proud of the paper, “The Bristolite.” The school had never had a yearbook printed, at least not during the war when I was there. Our journalism teacher got permission for us to print one: class pictures, officers, sports teams, band, glee club, clubs, Last Will and Testament and Class Prophesy. We in the Journalism Club put on a play that year to raise money to print the paper and the Yearbook. Edgar got permission at the Church of God Publishing House where he worked to print the pages with pictures for us if we would furnish the paper. That is what we did. We even had a popularity contest and printed pictures of the winners. Our journalism class all loved Edgar. He was very popular around school.
The Year Book was going to be expensive so the Journalism Class decided and got permission to put on a play for the public to raise the money needed to print a nice Year Book at the end of our senior year. The first semester of that year we practiced for weeks and then put on “Lay Down, You’re Dead”. I was one of the lead characters. I always loved acting and memorizing, so this was “fun” and lots of work and time. In the Spring I was in our Senior class play which was a musical (quite a challenge for me but I loved it) called “Piggly Wiggly, Help Yourself”. Again I was one of the main characters and I still remember some of the words to that song.
Piggly Wiggly, Help Yourself, in everything you do,
Piggly Wiggly, help yourself to win, it’s right up to you.
Only your own efforts will put you at the top,
Keep on hustling, don’t ever stop.
Piggly Wiggly, help yourself in everything you do.
This was a good year full of good experiences and many challenges.
When we had Senior Sneak Day, Edgar drove his car, full of class members, to Webster Springs for the day. Later in the year he also drove a carload of our “Health and Nursing” class on a field trip to Weston to visit the Insane Asylum there. That was very informative but also traumatic for many of us, including Edgar, as we went even through the locked doors to various parts of the hospital on our tour and visited with some of the residents (patients) there.
My Grandfather Bond was very ill during that year, and Aunt Lydia went home to help care for him until he died. She called me at school since Mom and Dad had no phone at that time. I had to tell Mom that Grandpa had died. I called Edgar and he took me over home with the message for Mom. Mom took their car and went to her home until after the funeral. (Dad always rode the school bus to and from school.) Edgar told Mom he would bring Dad and our family up for the funeral, which he did. It was, of course, held in their home. We grandchildren sat upstairs and the adults filled the downstairs. It was a big funeral and Grandpa was buried on the hill near their home. Grandma lived to hold Annita when she was a baby. I had a four generation picture.
I had an unforgettable experience at the “senior” prom. Juniors always decorate and prepare the program for the seniors around a theme. That year, they chose a Hawaiian theme. The president of our class had been called to the service and I was vice president so I became acting president the rest of the year. That meant I had to give a “Thank you” speech to the junior class with all the teachers, escorts and board members present. I was never at ease in front of people if I was the center of attention. “I got through my planned speech without forgetting anything!” I thought to myself. My next thought was, “What did I say last?” I had no idea. Thinking fast, I remembered how I ended my speech so I went to that, smiled and said “muchas gracias,” and sat down terribly embarrassed.
Jerry, one of the boys in my class, asked me to go to the prom with him and he was to take me home. After it he said to me, “You wait here on the corner in front of the hotel while I get my car.” I waited along with several other girls. I waited and waited. He never came. Finally there was only one girl left and her mother would not leave until she knew I was safely on my way home. Then a policeman walked by. (Policemen walked the streets of town in those days.) When I explained my dilemma to him he checked the parking lot a block or so away and came back to tell me it was empty. I told him Mrs. Helmick and her daughter, Patty, would take me home. We would go to Marshville to their home and leave Patty’s Mother, then Patty would drive me home and stay the remainder of the night – which was getting shorter all the time. Next morning Mrs. Helmick would call the school and tell them we girls would be tardy coming to school but would be there. I thought the policeman would report this but he did not, so when my parents came to town looking for me they went to the police and they knew nothing at Headquarters. Mom and Dad called our Principal and he only knew he saw me standing on the corner waiting for Jerry. Several others stopped to check on me also as they left the Hotel. I was thankful Mrs. Helmick insisted she would not go home until she knew I had a ride home. Mom and Dad had first gone to Jerry’s home on the way to town and found him home in bed so they went to the Police where they called the Principal. When I got home with Patty, Mom and Dad had gone looking for me. I can just imagine the trauma all this was for them not being able to find out anything and knowing Jerry was home sleeping! Of course when they came home they were glad to see Patty’s truck there. We were quite late going to school and when we arrived “everyone” seemed to know I had been “stood up”. I “almost” felt sorry for Jerry – but not quite. He reaped what he had sown for sure! Trauma!!
School was soon out and I had graduated valedictorian of my class. Yes I had to give a speech again. This time I had learned “it is not over until it is over.” I did not forget my lines. We had achieved victory in Europe and hopefully the war would soon be over in the Pacific and our boys could come home again. I spoke of the past and present and that a brighter future was on the horizon, full of hope and blessing along with peace. Edgar proudly attended my graduation. I bought my first dress from a Dress Shop in Salem, a white dress, to wear under our white graduation gowns. I felt really well dressed.
Summer came and I began working full time at the store again. I asked Mom and Dad if Freda Swiger and I could rent an apartment together for she worked the same hours I did at the store. They gave permission and we rented an apartment near my Aunt Doc’s home. Aunt Doc died while I was living in New YorkState with Uncle Elmo’s family and Aunt Elsie died after that. Their home was made into apartments and some of my cousins lived in them. A cousin, Greta Randolph, a teacher who never married, owned the home at that time and rented it to college students. Our Ruth lived there two years while she was in SalemCollege.
When Freda’s husband, Gene, came home on leave, I stayed at Aunt Lydia’s home again until he left so they could have the apartment to themselves. Gene’s mentioned how much they appreciated that many years later when we were in West Virginia taking care of Mom and Dad after Edgar retired.
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