Look Who Came To Dinner


The 80-year-old man (AKA my dad) is here! My dad was a tailgunner in WWII and a Church of Christ preacher for 50 years after that. You know what that means. I won’t be able to read books in church for the next month. Yes, he’s staying for a month. My mom is coming in a few weeks to join him, but she didn’t want to come until after we go to West Virginia. For some reason, she doesn’t want to go to the holler. We’ll have to fry squirrel and drink out of the still without her. On Friday, we’re going to West Virginia for a tour of the old farm where my dad grew up, the one-room schoolhouse where his mother was his teacher, and all the dead relatives in the cemetery we’ll practically kill ourselves getting to on a dirt mountain road.

We’ve made trips back to the holler before (it was a regular event when I was a child, and I’ve taken my kids a couple of times), but this might be my dad’s last chance to go. I wanted to go again now that our children are older so that they can remember the family history my dad will tell them as we drive around in the mountains to all the crumbling places where he grew up. When he says he walked five miles to school every day, it’s true, and in the hollers of West Virginia, it really is uphill both ways.

My family has lived in West Virginia for over 200 years, farming the vertical mountain land. Oil was discovered and for awhile, they “threw their underwear away” rather than washing it, they were rolling in the dough so much (now you know what the nouveau riche in the holler do with their money), then oil companies found easier places to drill than the holler. The boom ended and the once thriving “Stringtown” where my dad grew up is pretty dead now. We still have family there, and we’ll be staying in the 100-year-old farmhouse that used to be home to my great-aunt but is now kept open for relatives to bunk in when they visit the area.

Where is your family from? Are you able to go back and see the places where they lived and died now?

Behold, the new roof! Yes, in a mere week and a half ::sarcasm alert:: the “three-day” roofing job was finally completed!


  1. Anna says:

    We have no family history to speak of. My Mum was adopted, and my Dad’s family line is… complicated. He’s never even seen his birth certificate.

    And since they have no curiosity about relations who didn’t want them, my brother and I respect their wishes.

    I think it’s wonderful you have those roots, and are celebrating them while their interpreter is with you.

  2. Leanna says:

    What an awesome heritage to be able to share with your kids. Tell your dad thanks for serving his country.

  3. Mary says:

    My father’s family is from Winston Salem, NC. They been there since before the American Revolution and it doesn’t look like anyone is leaving.:guitar:

  4. Margery Scott says:

    I’m so envious that you have such history to pass down from generation to generation. My family is thousands of miles away (goes back to Robert the Bruce), and I don’t think I’ll be visiting the old homestead any time soon πŸ™

  5. April says:

    Oh Suzanne, I love that kind of stuff.

    On my husbands side his family has this huge “farm” in Wisconsin. It’s not really a farm but they call it that LOL It’s almost 300 acres of land,..with a couple of lakes etc. His mom grew up with 7 or 8 brohters and they all travel back at different times of the year to visit. The old house where they all grew up still sits on the land, but its in shambles. The kids have put house trailers on theland wehre everyoen can stay when they’re there. It’s gorgeous coountry, you see deer every morning and you can fish and sit around the campfire. My side doesn’t have anything like that. I think it’s pretty neat.

  6. Peggy says:

    I love your family history, Suzanne. On our way home from a trip to Florida, oh 13 years ago, we decided to go through Virginia to see the mountains. I sincerely thought it would take about an hour. Nope. They just kept going. Which kinda freaked us out because we were quickly running out of gas and needed a place to sleep for the night.

    Anyway, my maternal grandfather came from England as a stow-away on a ship at the age of 16 (or so the story goes). His family were dirt poor and he and his older brother thought Canada would provide a better life. When they reached Canada, he and his brother split up and never saw each other again.

  7. Shelly says:

    I live in West Virginia too! :wave: But that’s a recent development. My paternal grandmother is very much into family history and I have visited the family cemetaries and know a little about our history. My parents and grandparents still live in the same town they grew up in, so like you, I’ve seen the one room schoolhouse. :yes: Have a wonderful time with your mom and dad this month!

  8. Melissa says:

    My Mom and Sister were born in Richmond, Virginia, Dad was born in Palestine, Texas *HOOK ‘UM’ HORNS* and I was born in Jacksonville, FL.

    I visit Jacksonville and Richmond frequently but I’ve never been to Palestine even though I grew up in Lubbock. *GO TECH*

    My parents and sister are still alive but my dad just turned 81 and we found out he has senile dementia. I’m totally stressed out.

  9. Estella Kissell says:

    My Mom was from North dakota and my Dad from Nebraska and I’ve never been to either state. Sad state of affairs–huh?:wall:

  10. Toni Anderson says:

    Oh Melissa–hugs!!

    Suzanne–lovely family story. My family come from a little town near Ironbridge in Shropshire (and most of them are still there). First Ironbridge, home of the industrial revolution and all that. Probably why I feel so responsible for the environment 😯
    There is the occassional Irish, Spanish and Liverpudlian input, but basically my family has lived in the same town for hundreds of years and the name goes back to Welsh princes. Some might think this is a good thing–but living on the Eng/Welsh border on the English side the natural rivalry is huge. My dad had to swallow a lot of bad words (good naturedly) when he discovered our name was derived from Welsh. It was very funny to see. That’s what happens when you dig into family history too much. My parents’ house is 300 years old with an old damp, dark, brick cellar that scared me to death as a child :mrgreen:

  11. Eve says:

    I’ve been to Palestine – great train ride from Palestine to Rusk!
    Oh my, about 90% of my family were here before the Revolutionary War, so of course in the 13 colonies – in fact some of them were pioneers of Greenbrier Co. when it was still in Virginia. Mom’s side was in the South – Virginia and North Carolina, and Dad’s was in the North – Pennsylvania and New York. Eventually both sides went to the MidWest. Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Iowa. I’m told there’s a homestead in Indiana but I’ll probably never see it. I was born in Des Moines,Iowa and we used to go back quite a lot, but most of our family is gone from there now. In fact, most of my childhood neighborhood is gone – part of Drake University now.
    Melissa – a feel for you as I take care of my mother who has Alzheimer’s. Have you gone to the Alzheimer’s website? It covers all dementia’s and may have some helpful tips for you.

    Suzanne – I hope you are writing all of his stories down and taking pictures of these places? Sure you are, but thought I’d just check anyway. Which theater of war was your Dad in – Pacific or European? I’m always interested since I had 12 vets in WWII, including my father.

  12. Mik says:

    That is so cool, Suzanne! My daddy was a tailgunner in WWII, too! Is your dad on the WWII memorial in DC? He should be. πŸ™‚

    My dad’s family is from McKinney, Tx. They lived and died there and the farmhouse my dad and all his kin were born in still stands. My aunt and uncle live there still, but it’s in disrepair. My mom’s family is from Okalahoma.

    Thanks for sharing your interesting family info. πŸ™‚

  13. Suzanne says:

    Eve, we videotaped my dad taking us around to all of these places about six years ago, and we’re going to videotape him again this time.

    My dad was in Europe, based out of Italy. He flew his 50 missions (required in order to go back to the States) in 1944. If the war hadn’t ended, he was scheduled to go back to the Pacific for his next round. Luckily, he didn’t have to do that.

  14. Lynn Daniels says:

    I’ve never been able to see where my family’s from–really from–but it’s always been a dream of mine.

    Okay, that’s not entirely true. My father’s from Bayside, Queens, NY, so we did go up there when I was younger and see the area his childhood apartment used to be.

    Not much history there.

    It’s my great-grandparents homes I want to see. My paternal grandfather’s parents immigrated from Ireland. My paternal grandmother’s parents immigrated from Italy. *That’s* where I want to go.

    It’s on my list of things to do before I die.

  15. Marcy says:


    My family is from Michigan, where I live. My sister now owns the house where my maternal grandfather was born and my mother was raised, so I can go back there. I also lived in that house for about 6 years after college. My paternal grandmother’s old farmhouse was sold several years back, but whenever we go that direction we can see it from the highway.

  16. Tori says:

    I’m now living where my family has been for, um, five or six generations: NE Arkansas/SE Missouri. But before that, they came from Tennessee (where some family still is), North Carolina, and Virginia. Some of my ancestors came to the U.S. from England in the 1600s which is pretty cool. πŸ™‚ The other branches are from Scotland, Ireland, France, and either Germany or the Netherlands (I haven’t quite been able to decipher which).

  17. Darla Dixon says:

    Suzanne, my Dad died in May at age 80. He was also a WWII vet, served on Siapan.
    He also grew up farming, dirt poor, in Texas. Any of your dad’s stories that you can get down, either on paper or on DVD/tape/whatever, DO it!

    I also recommend that you let your kids be out of school to spend time with their grandfather. They will get hands on education from HIM that they just won’t get in school, and they will make memories of their grandfather. The school work can be made up.

    You will never regret doing either of these things.

  18. Cece says:

    Now I feel truly ashamed for making fun of someone from WV :rolleyes:

  19. Mechele Armstrong says:

    Love your history. That is sooo neat.

    I need to get with a cousin on my dad’s side and an uncle and get some of the history documented for myself. I remember some stories but not nearly enough. No old homesteads exist for me so need to get the oral stories written.

    Have fun with your Dad.

    And yay on the roofers!!

  20. Danni says:

    Don’t forget to arm the princess with a video recorder, and set the princes in charge of crayon rubbings at the cemetary. Then when they come home they can make a scrapbook of their family history from a kid’s eyes.

    Have a good time, and stay safe! πŸ˜›

  21. Suzanne says:

    Hugs, Melissa AND Eve! I can’t even imagine how difficult that is.

    Darla, I’m so sorry about your dad passing away. That’s what I’m worried about, that we don’t have much more time. I’m pretty sure this is the last time my dad will be healthy enough to make this trip, so I really wanted the kids to get to hear it from him again–they were there six years ago, the last time we recorded it, but they’re older now and better able to remember it (and we’ll record it again).

    We’re taking the kids out of school. We combined it with the Labor Day weekend to get an extra “free” day out of it since school will be out on Monday anyway.

    Cece, don’t feel bad! I make fun of people from West Virginia all the time.:lol: And I love people in West Virginia!

  22. Kelly says:

    How wonderful to have history like that, Suzanne! I have some history in the small town I live near, but my grandparents were born in other countries like Mexico and Italy.

    So glad the roof is finally done!!

  23. raine says:

    Both sides of the family hail from the mountains of Virginia.

    One or two of the old homesteads still stand, but the land is there, and it’s quite lovely.

    Also guilty of making fun of W. Virginia–but I’ve been there, and it can be scary. 😯

  24. ArmyWifeToddlerMom says:

    Only got my Dad, brother, and sister left, my Father was an only child. I get back about 2 times a year for extended time……..He frankly has had enough of us when we leave…..

  25. Trace says:

    My ancestors are from, France, Ireland, Scotland. But my family is all in Canada now. Quebec, Ottawa, and Ontario.

  26. Eve says:

    My mother’s father’s family is from Ireland (famine refugees) and I do plan to get there before I die!

    My dad passed away in 2000 so he was never able to see the WWII memorial – I have his name and some other’s from my family on it. Dad was in Italy and also was in the process of boarding a ship for the Pacific Theater when Japan surrendered.

  27. Cynthia says:

    I love hearing different family histories!

    My dad was born and raised in northern Germany and came to the US when he was in his twenties.

    My mother was born in the US, but her family is from the Germany/Russia area.

  28. Maureen says:

    Very nice that you have this family history and can show it to your children. My family is scattered but our immediate family stays close so maybe we will start our own family history.

  29. Desperate Writer says:

    My family has roots in Virginia, though none of the immediate folks have ever been there. My great grandfather was a Church of Christ preacher, who at one time loaded up his wagon and did the tent preaching thing. My Great uncle who died, the one who’s some lives in Granbury, was a Church of Christ preacher too!

  30. Desperate Writer says:

    “Whose son.” Sheesh. I haven’t had my Diet Coke yet.

  31. Melissa Mc says:

    Have a great time with your Dad! Glad the roof is finally done!

    My mom’s family is from Knoxville, TN by way of NC and my dad’s family is from Pagosa Springs, CO.

  32. MartyK says:

    Love family history πŸ™‚ My family comes from the same vicinity as yours–southeastern Ohio, near Parkersburg, WVA. My grandmother told my mom to “marry that Kindall boy–they have money!” Which, unfortunately, was not true, lol. Too late!

  33. Ashley says:

    We’ve traced our family histories on both sides back quite ways. Most of my dad’s family is from NC, most of my mom’s from GA. Hubby is GA/TN. Both can be traced to before settlements in the states.

  34. Danica says:

    Awe, what a great picture. Our family history is so twisted, I haven’t really been able to get very many answers, however, I did go back to the first house I remember living in back east when I was dating… get ready for this… the son of my mom’s high school teacher. Twenty years and two thousand miles later, I hook up with the son of the guy who always busted my mom. The thing I remember most about seeing the old house was how small it was compared to my memories, and how the busy street I was forbidden to go near was so not busy.

  35. Jordan says:

    We’re pretty sure our family has ‘gypsy’ blood because they moved around a lot and several seemed to change their names (for reasons better left unknown). 😯 :rotfl:

  36. Sasha says:

    Wow! Suzann, I so envy people like you who can trace their roots and visit their history. It’s weird,both my parents families are first generation immigrants to Canada (my mom italian, my dad irish) and neither sides of my family have remeianed close with their siblings. It’s like they hit Canada and spread out. Even me and my brother, let alone mycousins, are not that close. It makes me sad at times.

    It’s why I’ve always longed to marry into a large close family. Like Seven brothers or something. It’s great for you to take the kids to the holler, and spend as much time as you can with your father.

  37. kacey says:

    that is really neat that you’re showing your kids all that history. We did that with my dad’s hometown a few years ago. So many stories they got to hear about growing up in Iowa from my father. Lots of good memories of the trip.

    I hope you and your dad have a wonderful time!

  38. ruby55 says:

    Suzanne, you are so lucky to live fairly close to your heritage.

    My brother and I have been trying to get together our family tree on my mother’s side at least. There are a few of her generation still around but they’re dying out fast. Her family roots are in Saxony on her father’s side and in an area not too far from Berlin on her mother’s. Both my parents grew up in Berlin where my mother was born. Luckily, we have what is called an “ancestor-passport” left over from Hitler times. According to my grandfather that was the only useful thing that that “criminal” (Hitler) 😈 ordered done although for all the wrong reasons–to prove that you were Aryan not Jewish.

    We currently have less contact with my father’s side though that is partly our fault. My father was the only one of 3 sons to have survived WW II, as far as we know. Both his parents came from families of 12 or more children and he himself was born in what is now Poland. Of course, sadly for us, many of these places were long unavailable to us and I myself was born in what was long East Germany. It was not until 1995 that I was finally able to go back to where I was born, about 25 miles from Berlin to where my mother was evacuated during the war. Who knows, Suzanne, if your father flew over Berlin and area, he may have flown over us in 1944? Maybe you could ask him where his missions took him, i.e., if he even wants to talk about it. My father never talked about the war. All we know about his experiences we heard from my mother. He fought on the eastern front. Secretly I’ve always been glad that he never had to fight against the western allies.

    Much of our history was destroyed during the wars. All that we rescued were some pictures and a few things that meant something extra special.

    Both my parents have died. My mother died a little over 2 years ago. She died of Alzheimer’s so I can really feel with Eve and Melissa. We went through it for about 6 years with my mother. Every case develops somewhat differently but none are easy or pleasant for patient or caregivers. So my prayers are with both of you and your families.

    Luckily, my one cousin wanted to write/wrote(?) a book about my mother’s experiences as a woman before women’s lib. She taped all their interviews and gave us copies. So we have a memory of my mother in that. My family also used to send me tapes while I was in Germany during the 1970s. So I still have my father’s voice on those as well–even after he had his stroke which led to his death nine and a half years later in 1983.

    My nieces and nephews have interesting backgrounds from our solidly German ones: My eldest brother married a Dutch divorcee with two boys she had with an Indonesian/Dutch/German. My other brother’s wife is of British/Latvian heritage and my sister married someone of British/Ukrainian heritage. That’s the New World for you!:smile:

    Sheesh, I took up the whole blog again. Sorry, but heritages are complicated aren’t they.

    Anna, in a way it must be difficult to have no known roots but it can also mean a truly clean slate that your family can start with. One of my cousins is adopted too. He never had any interest in finding out who his birth mother was. I guess maybe the “witch” that my uncle’s wife turned out to be soured him on women he didn’t choose. He’s been living common-law for at least 30 years now but has always sworn he won’t get married.

    Have lots of fun with your dad, Suzanne. Your dad became a minister; mine had wanted to be a missionary doctor, but he decided to do his military service before commencing his lengthy studies. After the war he decided to study architecture since he already had a wife and child (me) to support. Who knows what would have happened had he taken the other road?:???:

  39. Trace says:

    Ooops, that shoulda said Ottawa, Ontario

  40. Michelle says:

    I don’t really have a historical place, per se. My dad’s family was from Macon, GA and I used to love the family traditions…picking mint from the garden for iced tea…cutting up napkin squares to put in the glass coasters…using the fine silver for dining at my grandparents’ house.

    Ah…you have to love the deep South. πŸ˜‰

  41. Mik says:

    Suzanne –
    You’re dad was based in Italy? My dad was in Italy and Africa. I wonder if they knew each other! πŸ˜‰

  42. Eve says:

    Mik – my dad was in North Africa. Where was yours?

  43. Desperate Writer says:

    To add to the roots discussion, My uncle has traced our family on my mother’s side all the way back to Scotland and England and France circa 1300 something. Talk about digging. πŸ™‚ We’re in the Wallace clan, and DeWar family, we even have an “Eleanor of Northumberland” listed in the documents. Sounds so Medieval. :mrgreen:

  44. Sandy J says:

    I loved your story about your family’s past. Most of both mine and my husband’s family are gone, but we have four boys that hopefully we will make our own history for them to carry down to their children. My two youngest are very sentimental about some of our things. The youngest got upset when I caught my oldest oven mitt on fire! “But, mom! You’ve had that since I was a baby!” He is 22.

  45. Chris Keach says:

    My mother grew up in northern England and came to the States by boat with my grandparents when she was 17. I love going to visit the rest of the family, especially with my mom. It’s priceless to see her face light up as she shares secrets from her childhood with me!

    My Dad lived and died in Rhode Island. I still get sentimental when I go “home” and visit.

  46. Anna Lucia says:

    You’re right, Ruby. We’ve never really felt the lack of roots, because our family is so close. It just leaves me with nothing to say when people start talking about ancestors… ggg

    We do know something about Dad’s adoptive father. He’s real hero material. He took on a young unwed mother in prewar rural England, because he loved her. He was called up for WWII and died in the River Tigris, trying to rescue a drowning man. My brother was in Iraq not so long ago, and ended up swimming in the same river, near the same spot, before he ever knew his adopted Grandfather had drowned there.

  47. Suzanne says:

    Wow, it’s been so amazing to read all your stories!

    Sigrun, that’s so sad about a lot of your family’s past being lost in the war, though that’s interesting about the ancestor-passport (though so sad about why they made them). My dad may have flown over Berlin, but he didn’t do any bombing missions there.

    Anna, that’s almost shivery to think about him ending up swimming in the same river, half a world away especially!

  48. Melissa Marsh says:

    Darn it! I missed a great post yesterday! So sorry!
    My great-uncles were in WWII, but my grandfather stayed at home on the family farm. But I LOVE talking about family history with them all. They’re Italian so there are LOTS of stories.