My little town where I grew up”
– Montgomery Gentry
A few years back, I was teaching a freshman English course on the Potomac State College campus in Keyser.
I mentioned the Wal-Mart in Keyser one day, only to have a chatty and suddenly offended student inform me that the store most definitely was not the Keyser Wal-Mart. It was in New Creek.
My mistake. Who knew 3 miles could make such a difference?
It got better (or worse, depending on how you look at it). I noted her pride in what I assumed was her hometown.
“Have you lived here all your life?” I asked.
“Oh no,” she quickly replied. “I’m from Piedmont.”
Ah, the difference a whole 6 miles can make.
This was right after I moved to Romney from Aurora, Ill., a city of 200,000 people that you’ve never heard of. It sits about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago, but it was not a suburb, the old-timers would remind you. Aurora was around before Chicago was.
I mention this because to my relatives in southwestern Missouri and here in West Virginia, I lived in Chicago and I never bothered to press the point.
Forget the fact that folks from “old” Aurora sniffed at the corner I came from — the Will County part of Aurora, not the original Kane County portion — or that we in the trendy, new Wheatlands subdivision looked askance at the folks in the Home Ridge subdivision 2 blocks over.
For all my kinfolk knew all those hundreds of miles away, I was just a block over from one of those scary housing projects or a quick el-stop away from Wrigley Field.
It was just easier to say I was from Chicago, like I assumed that student was from Keyser.
“See that door right there, man I swear
It ain’t never been locked”
I was having flashbacks of these geographical musings after we got a rather sharp letter from a property owner in Golden Acres.
For those of you who aren’t immersed in the minutiae of Hampshire County’s many subdivisions, Golden Acres, they tell me, was 1 of the 1st. It’s a couple hundred postage-stamp-sized lots just north of U.S. 50 and west of North River Road.
I’d say it has a reputation, but attorney Maria Vacchio of Silver Spring, Md., would probably beg to differ.
“We do not want our little community of Golden Acres to be associated with criminal activity,” she wrote us last month of the subdivision where she owns a row of plots.
She contended that we were misrepresenting where murder victim Johnny Adams had been staying at the time of his death. Apparently those folks lived across an invisible geo-political dividing line in — shudder — Hanging Rock subdivision.
All the difference in the world.
“Miss Edith Poland has returned from Rio, where she spent the last few weeks.”
— Hampshire Review, April 6, 1921
A hundred years ago, Rio was a destination.
In 2021, Rio’s just a 20-minute (maybe 25) drive from Romney, a route our school buses make twice a day (except on Fridays).
Time and distance are funny like that. The closer you get to home, the more important the fine distinctions become. Give me an “Amen,” Golden Acres.
I understand the fine line. After all, I live in South Hills and like to joke that we overlook Snob Knob. Valley dwellers probably don’t appreciate the distinction.
Where we stake our claim is our little bit of Almost Heaven, our home, our castle.
If you’re down along Route 259 (or Carpers Pike as its officially known) in the southeast corner of this county, you probably get the distinction between Capon Lake, Intermont, Capon Springs, Yellow Spring, Lehew, High View or Jericho.
To others, they’re just wide spots in the road.
So here’s to the collective we call Hampshire County — the Hanging Rock and Golden Acres, both Delray and Sedan, Kirby and Horn Camp, the Vances and Buffalo Hollows, the point along Green Spring Valley Road where “I’m from Springfield” turns into “I’m from Green Spring.”
Staking our claim is nothing new and maybe the way we all cyber-connect it will be more important than ever to know where we come from, what we call our own.
“Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”
–Shakespeare’s “Richard II”