My Daughters and their Husbands

My Daughters and their Husbands
This blog will be bits and pieces of my rather simple life, but should provide my daughters with some things they may not know about me. There will be entries here when thoughts come to mind. The posts will be mostly anecdotal and will deal with interesting or unusual events in my earlier life. As a person gets older, many memories pop up periodically about events of the past. I want this blog to be a repository for some of these memories which I wish to share with my daughters.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

DECEMBER 14, 2012: A DAY WHEN EVERY PARENT SHEDS A TEAR "I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do." President Obama on the shooting of the children in Conn. With the killing of 20 elementary school children in Connecticut, yesterday, every parent went home to hug his child. With you, Christy, in Buffalo and you, Tiffany, in Stockholm, I could only think about you and hug Elizabeth and Sadie. Such an event makes every parent, who has not lost a child, to be grateful for his children, and it brings up a headful of memories about their children and the parents who have lost their child. I think of those 20 precious lives that were snuffed out and the tremendous grieving that their families must suffer. The loss of a child must be the most horrendous event in a person's life, and I think, often, of your grandparents and how they suffered the loss of their dear and sweet daughter, your aunt, Leigh. What an abundance of life and joy she was during the time I knew her. Your grandparents (and your mother who lost a sister) are marvels to endure the hurt of such a loss. What strong individuals they are to go on with their lives while their hearts will forever ache at the loss of their daughter and sister. I think of the two of you in kindergarten. Though through the years my memories of each one of you is often confused by the event in one child's early life with the others. I recall the conversation I had with Mr. Chandler, Christy's principal, before Christy started kindergarten. Perhaps I was a "helicopter dad," but I wanted to see what the school offered that would enrich my sweet child. One thing I do recall about that conversation was asking him about a foreign language and being told that there may be short pull-out program in language, but the actual study of foreign languages didn't begin until jr. high school. Little did I know at that time that Spanish would have been a wonderful language for Christy to start on (OK . . . you did get the "Deo" song with the "uno, dos, tres . . ." Spanish) since your future love and lifelong partner would have Spanish as his native tongue. Of course, Swedish wasn't a choice for Tiffany, but she did just fine picking up her husband's native language. I think of how difficult it was to leave both of you at school on that first day of kindergarten knowing that your mother and I were no longer the only influence in your young lives to make you what you were to become. I think of Tiffany going to preschool and meeting her first real friend, Linda Gail. I see Linda's mother often at Averett, where she now works, and whenever we stop to chat, the conversation always - ALWAYS - turns to your early friendship, and I see a large smile on LeeAnn's face, and I'm sure she sees the same on mine. Those early years were great, and I am so truly fortunate to have seen the two of you grow up and find wonderful husbands and wonderful careers. And then I think of what those parents in Connecticut have lost and what they will miss and how their memories of their children's early education will be only the few short months they were in school. And then I cry. Perhaps these are ruminations of an old man who is so proud of his daughters and looks back on the joy they have given me, but as I write this, my heart breaks for the families in Connecticut and tears fall down my cheeks. What an emotional time this is with the holidays upon us, and such a tragedy brings out so many emotions that they are difficult to contain. Since I'm not close enough to hug you, I write and send my love to you and your husbands. DAD

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Radio Days

In high school I decided that I would like to do some work in radio. During the summer before my senior year of high school I applied for a part time announcer's opening at a local radio station - WWNR. I filled out the application (putting my dramatic experience and speaking abilities as "experience") and did an audition tape. I waited about a week before I called back to see if they had made a decision. The position had been filled, I was told. A few days later I heard one of my classmates on the air. This new announcer later became a U.S. Congressman. His name is Nick Rahall - the "NR" of the WWNR station (well, actually, his father owned the station), so I went back to work with my father, as a plumber's helper, a job I didn't enjoy all that much, though it was a paying job and gave me some "run around" money for the summer.

I didn't think about radio as a part time career until I went to Marshall University in the fall of 1967. I learned about the college radio station, WMUL, and decided to get involved during the early part of my freshman year. I worked a shift several evenings a week. The job was mostly "babysitting" the LP records that were played since the station was a classical music station, and we had a music director who selected the concertos, operas, symphonies, and whatever else was of a classical nature, and the announcer pretty much put on the music (LPs or tapes) and did station IDs whenever (supposedly on the half hour - "This is WMUL-FM, 88.1 on the FM dial, in Huntington, West Virginia"). The most difficult part was just staying awake during the beautiful music.

As I said, we were told to do a station ID on the half hour, and the first evening I worked, I followed what I had been told. The music was playing (over 45 minute piece of music) and 30 minutes into the music I "potted down" the music and "voiced over": "This is WMUL-FM, 88.1 on the FM dial, in Huntington, West Virginia." I potted the music up - within seconds the telephone rang. I picked it up and said, "This is WMUL radio." It was the music director on the other end who yelled into the phone, "What the %&*#@ are you doing? Who the %$#*&^ told you to interrupt a symphony to give a station ID?" I said, "I had been instructed to do so." He said, "Well, don't ever do it again! You do not interrupt a long, continuous piece of music to give a station ID." I said, "Yes, sir." He hung up, and I was told later that the music director was correct. I had learned something that evening besides learning how to stay awake during a long, quiet piece of music. I wanted to play the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Byrds, but I could only play Bach, Schubert, and Beethoven. BTW that music director later became one of my fraternity brothers.

That December, a bus load of the staff at WMUL headed to Charleston to take the FCC license test. This would allow us to break away from WMUL and secure a career in the real radio world. I had studied the review guide and knew everything except the technical part, which was required for an endorsement. I lucked through that part and got my 3rd class license WITH endorsement, so the next semester I was ready to go somewhere where I could play the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and the Byrds.

In January of 1968 I applied for a Sunday morning job at WCMI AM and WCMI FM in Ashland, Kentucky. Ashland was about 15 miles from Huntington, and without a car, I had to find alternative transportation - more on that later. WCMI was a "rockin'" station, so the dream of playing the Beatles, etc., seemed to be a reality, if I could secure the job. One afternoon, while hanging out in the dorm, I got a phone call from the general manager. He asked if I could come in on Sunday for training and then take over the Sunday morning shift the next week. I told him that I could and took a train to the radio station from Huntington (WCMI was about a block from the train station) and got there at 4:15 a.m. I hung out at the train station until closer to 6:00 when I walked over to the radio station and started my training.

I had enjoyed the music of WCMI during the week as they played the top hits. However, I had never listened to them on Sunday mornings, and soon discovered why. Sunday morning is religious programming with an occasional public service program (like the military program, "Army Time," with band music and singers). That programming lasted until 12:00 (noon) when the rock music started again. My shift would be from 6:00 a.m. until noon - SIGH.

I got my training. I learned how to run the AM station and the FM station all at once. The AM station was where the major programming was; the FM station was completely computerized with three large reel-to-reel tape players having two hours of music on each, and the commercials and station IDs were all on cassettes. There was nothing to do there except get the station on the air (sign-off was at midnight the night before), and put on new large reels of tape every 2-3 hours to make sure the machines didn't run out of music. I was taught how to get the stations on the air and then told what the schedule of programming was. It seemed quite simple, and I was actually getting paid to do this ($1.35 an hour).

The next Sunday I showed up, unlocked the station at 4:15 a.m., ran through my notes, and at 6:00, I turned on the switches to get the station on the air. The FM tapes were running, and some religious show was on at 6:00. I sat back and adjusted to my new environment. At 6:30 the phone rang. It was the general manager. He asked, in a not so calm way, "Where is the AM station?" I said, and this is the truth, "It's right here." He said, "Well, it's not being broadcast." I said, "Well, I'm listening to it right now." He said, "You, obviously, didn't get the AM station on the air. The FM station is on, but there is nothing coming from the AM station." He walked me through the process of getting the AM station on the air, and within minutes we were up and running. After that, almost everything was uneventful and the next 3-4 months I worked there gave me experience to look for a radio job in Huntington.

As for the transportation issue . . . I had to catch the train at 3:45 every Sunday morning during the 3-4 winter months I worked in Ashland. I was about a half mile from the station, and I would be walking there in the cold, biting West Virginia wind. I would usually take a towel with me and wrap it around my face to keep warm. In the afternoon when I left the station, I took a city bus that took me back to Huntington.

Most Sundays I would take the bus back to campus and eat lunch at the cafeteria. However, one Sunday I decided to treat myself to a movie in downtown Ashland. The Paramount Theater was playing "Wait Until Dark," starring Audrey Hepburn. I had heard that it was a very scary movie full of suspense and about a blind woman who is being stalked be three men who had hidden drugs in a doll in her house. I bought my ticket, sat down, the movie started, and I woke up when the credits had just finished rolling. Missed the entire movie, but got a great sleep. I boarded the bus and headed back to campus. For nearly a year after I quit working at the station, I had trouble getting to sleep on Saturday nights, and if I did, I always work up at 3:15.

That summer I worked for Honey in the Rock, the outdoor drama near Beckley. In late July I got a call from WWHY radio in Huntington. They asked me to start the next week, if I could. I'd be working weekends and filling in for vacations. I gave a week's notice at the theater and headed back to Huntington.

The radio station was located in the penthouse of the Frederick Hotel. The hotel had been elegant in its day and was still a popular place for visitors to Huntington. The radio station was on the 4th floor (penthouse)and required a key to get to the floor during times other than when the station was open (9-5 weekdays).

I continued to work at WWHY from July, 1968 until May, 1971 when I left to come to Danville. During those years, I had some very interesting experiences and met some very interesting people (some called themselves "radio personalities"). My work there didn't permit me to play the Beatles, etc., but I had a Saturday and Sunday afternoon show called "Penthouse Serenade" where I got to play the "soft" hits of the time, including some Simon and Garfunkel (my closing song was "Homeward Bound," by S and G).

Four events stand out in my mind as I think back on those years behind the microphone. There was the earthquake that rocked the station, there was the rolling chair that dumped me on the floor, there was the congressman and the weather lady, and there was the Marshall plane crash.

One afternoon I was playing the soft music for my show when all of a sudden the chair I was in started rolling back and forth and the large boom microphones in the production room started swaying. This lasted about 20 seconds, and I had no idea what was happening and no one to ask since I was at the studio alone. Within 30 seconds our weather machine (a teletype type of machine that gave updates on the weather) started clicking and banging and spitting out data. I looked at what it was printing and discovered that an earthquake had centered on St. Louis, Mo, and we were getting tremors. On the next news cast, which I gave (I was a one-man show on weekends), I mentioned this since I was getting phone calls immediately after the tremor from listeners wanting to know if the world was ending.

Next, it didn't take a tremor to dump me out of my rolling chair, but the "choreographed" motions of getting in the groove while working in radio. I had to give the weather every 15 minutes, and the format was to give the forecast, go to a commercial, and then give the latest readings. I had set up a U.S. Army public service announcement (PSA) on the tape player the greatest distance from my reach. After giving the forecast, instead of just hitting the button in front of me, which played the tape, I leaned back on the chair, reached for the button on the machine, pushed it, and my chair fell right out from under me. I was lying on my back, looking straight at the ceiling (the microphone, by the way, was still on). I got up during the 30 second PSA, straddled the chair, and went right into the latest numbers without a pause. I guess the people listening may have heard a "THUMP," but I uttered not a word until the PSA was over.

The third thing I remember is the Sunday afternoons with the congressman and the weather lady. The state congressman would come in on Saturday afternoons, take calls and also answer questions from the local weather lady from WSAZ-TV. It was a 30 minute program, and I handled the microphone controls and answered the phone. One day I remember most was an afternoon, after the program, the lady (her name was D.J. Schroeder - see picture) asked me if she could borrow my pen; she wanted to write something down for the congressman. I handed her my pen, and she said, "Just put it on the table." I did; she went to her purse and got out a can of Lysol, and drenched my pen in liquid. I got my pen back and smelled very antiseptic for the rest of the week.

And, finally. In November, 1970, I heard on Saturday night that a plane had crashed at Tri-State Airport in Huntington, and later learned that the plane had carried the Marshall football team back from a game against East Carolina University. When I opened the station on Sunday morning, the phones were ringing off the hooks. There were CBS affiliates from all over the country wanting a news feed from WWHY, the CBS radio affiliate in Huntington. All I had was the morning paper which I rewrote and read; we didn't have a news department, and that was the best I could do. That was a sad time in Huntington.

Some interesting individuals I met while working at the station included a country western DJ, a boss who was a lothario, an announcer who lied on the air, and a preacher who just about made me go deaf.

Odie Crabtree, his real name, was the "celebrity" announcer at the station. He knew everything there was to know about C & W and played the music that the local community enjoyed. He had the largest listening audience, and he breezed in and out at times on weekends, so I didn't get to know him very well. However, one afternoon while working at the station, I got a phone call. The voice, which was very country, asked, "Is this David Hoffman?" I said, "Yes." The voice said, "I'm Harvey Kushner from CBS in New York. We've been listening to you, and we wanted to see if you were interested in moving to New York and work on our local station?" I knew Odie's voice, but went along. I said, "Ohhhhh....I'd love to do that. How much will I be paid?" The voice said, "That's negotiable, but we'll make it worth your time." I said, "I appreciate the offer, but the only way I will leave here is if you hire Odie Crabtree as well. He is so talented for someone who has just fallen off the truck. He is a man of many voices, and none of them very good." There was silence on the other end of the line. "Uh. David. This is really Odie." I said, "I know. There is no one in New York with a name like Harvey Kushner who would talk with such a southern twang. "I didn't fool you, huh," the voice said. I said, "No, but if you hear of anything in New York, let me know." "I will," he said. And then we hung up.

One of my bosses, I think, was going through a mid-life crisis because on weekends I would get phone calls from his daughter asking to speak to her father. I said, "He's not here." She said, "Well, he left several hours ago and said that he was working at the station." I told her I'd check, but I hadn't seen him. This happened several weekends for several months.

In the afternoons when I went to work, I would get there at about 3:00 and would sign on at 3:15. While waiting in the lobby, I'd hear the program, "Talk Back," a call-in show where the community would call in and discuss the issues of the day (everything from Marshall University basketball to the war in Vietnam). Some afternoons the calls were very slow coming, and the announcer had to just talk. When the program was over at 3:15, the announcer would say, "Well, it's like this every time we get close to the end of the program. The phone lines are all lit up, but we have to go and call it another day . . ." The phone lines, which I could see in the lobby, were unlit. The program was controversial and, at that time, there was no delay on the phone system so often there would be someone calling who would string forth a plethora of profanity before the announcer could hang up; I often feared that the station would lose its license, but no one seemed to be concerned.

And, finally, there was the preacher who came down from the mountains with his small congregation to have a service, on the air, in our production room. I would control the audio while the preacher preached and members of the group sang. The preacher was "Mr. 5 by 5," about five feet tall and five feet wide. He could preach a "fire and brimstone" sermon, and he did. One of the members of his congregation was "Brother Junior," a man about 6' 4" who always wore bib overalls. He was kind of a Jethro-type of the Beverly Hillbillies, a very big man. I would often just tune out the sermon as I sat on the other side of the glass in the control room. I would read and glance up at the volume monitor. One Sunday afternoon, the preacher was preaching, and he was fired up. I was reading when all of a sudden the volume monitor's needle went all the way to the right, and I almost went deaf. The preacher banged on the lectern and yelled to the top of his voice about salvation or hell or something. It took me a few minutes to get my hearing back.

I enjoyed my days in radio. It beat real work. The solitude of the station was both pleasurable and, perhaps, not too healthy. From the top of the hotel I could see the Ohio River with barges and tugs going up and down the river. However, there were some Sundays when I went in at 6:00 a.m. and didn't leave the station until 5:30 p.m., never having seen a soul except for the mountain preacher and his small congregation. It was at times a surrealistic existence, but one that I truly enjoyed.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Writing has been something I have enjoyed since I was in junior high school. I would write stories and an occasional poem. I enjoyed writing speeches while in high school and participated in the Voice of Democracy contest in our town. I recall the first few lines: "No matter where I go or what I do. No matter how many people I meet along the way, I am admired. Not because of who I am but because of what I am. I am an American." (bring out the flags and play "Yankee Doodle.") OK, a little sappy, but that won me a 3rd place ribbon in the community with the opportunity to go to the state competition if the other two got sick or died. That, of course, didn't happen.

While in college, I wrote a lot of things beyond the classroom. I do recall a play I wrote for a drama class which was a one act play about Tennessee Williams and his partner; the entire play was written in words from three of his plays - A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I got an A+ on that play and still have it around here somewhere.

It wasn't until I started teaching, my first year, that I started writing poetry and stories. I began collecting writing books (I taught Creative Writing, by the way, at George Washington High School) and subscribed to both Writer's Digest and The Writer.

It was during this time that I became interested in Russsian writers/literature, especially Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I decided to write a series of sonnets (called "Mason sonnets") on the various authors. I finished about 10 and then went on to some other things. Here is the Solzhenitsyn sonnet:

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Siberia

A future Nobel writer in exile
Finds words echo throughout a shattered glass
That’s filled with water to its ragged rim.
A funeral—a comrade’s grief awhile;
But tears soon dry and mourning cannot last—
For in this world life’s daily tasks are grim.
Some Russian scribes have found a place, not him;
For Solzhenitsyn knows hardship won’t pass.
Siberia’s cold wind will freeze the ink,
So no one reads his words but Moscow’s Tass.
Does such a writer ever force a smile?
Are his fine mind and hands warmed with white mink?
No. In the camp comes stench of lead and zinc---
And food for two-three-two is soup of nettle.

I also recall a poem called "Accipiter: The Hawk." It was an anti-war poem (with the doves/hawks imagery). Here is another favorite called "Three Spirits" :


Three men went to church one bright sunny day;
Two went to be seen and one went to pray.
The preacher greeted each with “Glad you came,”
But, each was there with a much different aim.

The first man was a linguist, a teacher,
Critical of the speech of the preacher;
He pointed out faults in the grammar heard,
Wiped out the message with misspoken words.

The second man, an accountant by trade
With a large brick house and a fortune made;
He tithes to the church—five percent—he says,
But his mind was on the preacher’s pay.

The last was retired, a life of labor,
The church spoke of him as a truly good neighbor;
He prayed for the sick; he prayed for the poor,
Each Sunday sermon, he longed for much more.

Right after church, the three went to dinner;
The first said the language would convert no sinner;
“He’s paid way too much,” the second one riled;
The third man just ate and sat there and smiled.

Here is a link to a poem I had published on The Prairie Home Companion page. It is entitled "Odor to Joy: The Outhouse." It was inspired by memories of going to my Aunt Eva's house in Mabscott, West Virginia. They had an outhouse down a long path, and it wasn't a pleasant walk down that path even during the day time.

Over the years I have published in journals of both the English and journalism teaching nature. I have many rejection letters (including one from Highlights), but the occasional acceptance keeps me going; and even if I never publish another work of writing, I enjoy the process.

My father was a poet with numerous poems published in the local newspaper. I am a writer, and both of my daughters are writers, and I teach writing. Writing has been an important part of my life and will remain so.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Christy and Tiffany,

(September 25, 2010) This Saturday morning I started thinking about bowling, for some strange reason. I guess it is because when I was in junior high school and high school, I was a member of a bowling league that met every Saturday morning. Well, actually, during my early years in junior high (ca. 1962-63) I walked, with my friend Mike Mullins, to the bowling alley not far from my house, and we just bowled every Saturday morning.

In 1964 until I graduated in 1967, I trudged the mile or so to another bowling alley where I was a member of the "Lucky Five" bowling team made up of David Wallen (an accountant in Beckley), Lynda Stone, Bill O'Brien (1971 picture - he worked at WJLS radio in Beckley for many years and bought the station in the 1990s), Ricky Lewis and me. We won the championship two years, and I have trophies given at that time.

I would day-dream in school about Saturdays and envision bowling a 300 game (it never happened). I had an average of 160-170 (OK, actually 140-150) and the highest game I bowled was 264. We had a good time and often the team would meet at social events in each others houses for a party.

As a sidebar - I did bowl in a third bowling alley in Beckley called the Elite Bowling Lanes. It was the first lanes in Beckley and had "pin boys," guys who worked at picking up the pins and placing them in the pin setter. The first time I bowled there, I wasn't aware that I had to wait for the pin boys to pick up the pins and rolled my second ball. I saw a leg moving very quickly behind the pins and a voice came from down the alley yelling, "Hey, to trying to #%^@!! kill me?" I learned to wait for the pin boys to do their thing after the first ball.

I also bowled with Aunt Anna Lee and Woodie in Nitro. Neither my mother nor father bowled, but they enjoyed watching us bowl.

I can also recall watching bowling on TV on Saturday afternoons and seeing bowlers like Don Carter and Dick Weber, early stars of the Professional Bowlers Conference. They were inspiring and as much of heroes to me as Micky Mantle, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench and Whitey Ford in baseball, Johnny Unitas in football, and Jerry West and Larry Bird in basketball.

Bowling played a big part of my life before going to college. It was what I did, and I did it fairly well.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010



(SEPTEMBER 21, 2010) I just recently came across my Boy Scout uniform. It brought back memories, both good and bad.

I was in troop #6 in Beckley that met every week at the First Baptist Church. My scout leader Mr. A--, though a large man, looked like a leader in his uniform. However, he didn't do a lot with the scouts.

I recall a hike we took (about 3-5 miles) one Saturday morning. It was more of an urban highway hike along the side of the 19-21 bypass. We had our peer leaders leading us on while learning some hiking chants (some were a bit bawdy). Our adult leader met us at the final destination, having arrived in his car. He was, however, to admired for taking on the troop since he had no sons - only one daughter whose name was B--.

I can remember the evenings at our meetings as we worked on merit badges - tying knots, cooking on a campfire, and doing other activities that led to winning the cherished badges. During my span of 3-4 years as a scout I accumulated over 30 badges, leading to LIFE scout (2 badges away from my EAGLE badge - Swimming and Lifesaving). Had I gone one more summer to scout camp in Bland, Va, I could have worked on the two badges, but my experiences there in the past had not been positive.

I guess that I'm too much of a "comfort freak" since I could never get used to sleeping on a "straw tick" (a sewn up sheet stuffed with fresh straw outside the cabin. I also found that the scouts often did not act "scout like." Some were downright gross. Though I enjoyed the activities during the day, the guys in my cabin were not pleasant to be around.

I earned the "God and Country" award with the help of my mother tutoring a friend of mine and me in Bible verses and other material we would be tested on. I earned that award, and my mother was as pleased as if I had earned the EAGLE. I sometimes regret not having earned the last two merit badges to earn my EAGLE. However, I think that the experience helped mold me into the type of person I am today - TRUSTWORTHY, LOYAL, HELPFUL, FRIENDLY, COURTEOUS, KIND, OBEDIENT, CHEERFUL, THRIFTY, BRAVE, CLEAN AND REVERENT. The Boy Scouts made a difference in my life.



Sunday, September 12, 2010



(SEPTEMBER 12, 2010) It wasn't until my sophomore year that I decided to join a fraternity. Some of my friends had joined fraternities. One friend from Beckley had joined Kappa Alpha Order, and had invited me to join. I declined because I couldn't envision myself dressing up in a confederate uniform on "OLD SOUTH WEEKEND" and being in a fraternity that lacked diversity. Another friend had joined Sigma Tau Epsilon, a popular frat on campus, but again, I didn't want to join because it was made up of mostly athletes and right winged conservatives.

I went to several frat parties during the fall of 1968 and decided to join ZBT because it was diverse in nature (ZBT had been, traditionally, a Jewish frat, but in the hard times of getting members in the late 60s and early 70s, had taken non-Jews by a great number). It was also the first traditionally white frat to pledge black students on the Marshall campus. My pledge class had the first two black members - John Shellcroft, a brilliant student leader, and Dennis Blevins, a star on the football team (he died on the tragic flight that killed most of the football team in November 1970 along with another brother, Mark Andrews). We were very close to Delta House in the movie "Animal House" in many ways, except we were more diverse.

Though the frat was a fraternity that partied, we were also very civic active in the Huntington community heading a number of charitable events each year. Such events helped to foster brotherhood and cooperation among the brothers.

As a pledge, I spent most of the semester at the frat house, cleaning, running errands, and working, pretty much, as a slave to the members. I took my "serfdom" seriously, doing whatever I was asked to do. A couple of the rituals I recall from the pledge semester were the following:

1. We had to carry a box of matches with us, and for the brothers who smoked, be ready to light up their cigs. In addition, any member could approach us and require us to light a match and recite the "revised" Greek alphabet (the Greek alphabet has 24 letters; the revised one has a 25th letter - "SIR") twice before we could extinguish the match. No prob, and I did learn the Greek alphabet that way.

2. One week we were required to carry an umbrella everywhere we went - it had to be opened outdoors, even on the sunniest of days. I have a scar on my left index finger from tripping over the umbrella while riding the escalator up to a class in Smith Hall.

3. HELL WEEK. One of the longest weeks of my life. Each evening we went to the frat house, had supper, and then worked at cleaning the house from top to bottom while being harassed by the brotherhood. Some of the brothers were very kind, while others were real - sons-of-guns. One was the "Miss Hannigan" of the brothers, and I never learned to either like him or respect him. Once I was a member, though I lived in the house during the spring semester of my Sophomore year, I was always kind to pledges.

I did live in the house for one semester (on 5th Avenue in Huntington - the house is no longer there having been torn down to build a university building). Had I stayed in the house longer than that, I would still be an undergraduate at Marshall. It was a fun semester, but my GPA suffered, somewhat, even though our frat remained the one on campus with the highest GPA. We did have tutors in the house and also a "test file." I enjoyed the semester, but was glad to get back to my own apt. for the chance to have some solitude, something not very possible in the house.

My "big brother" was Conley Grimes, a great guy who was one of the "kind" brothers. I have, unfortunately, not kept up with him (the result of my own pitiful choice, not his). He is in Richmond doing some kind of business work. Here is a link to a recent pictures of my brothers that includes Conley (he has changed, as have I). Just looking at this pic brings back a lot of memories about the brothers. Again, I have been delinquent in keeping in touch, not having done so. Perhaps that needs to change :).

As with "Animal House," there were some given names to members. I was dubbed "Red Whale," one brother was "Jeep," another "Wild Hair," and another "Hose." We had a mixture of members from jocks to the president of the Student Body (plus he was also editor of the yearbook - he, Gary King, died in the late 70s or early 80s as the result of a skydiving accident near Charleston - he had a great deal of potential as a leader, and would have likely gone on to some high elected office in government). We also had some pot heads, student newspaper photographers, and musicians. Of the frats on campus, we had, perhaps, the most talented in the greatest number of areas.

One event I recall was on Mother's Day, 1970. There was the traditional "Mother's Day Sing" that was held by the frats and sororities on Mother's Day Sunday. My mother and father were there. We were dressed in hideously "gay" outfits, carried helium filled balloons and sang "Windy," a song by the Association. We won.

I found a 1970 pic of my brothers and me. I am in the fifth row from the top, the second pic from the left.

I enjoyed the frat while I was at Marshall. It was a good group of friends and proved to provide wonderful social opportunities while there.



Sunday, August 22, 2010

John Emerson Hoffman (born August 24, 1908)


(AUGUST 24, 2010) Today would have been my father's 102 birthday.

He was born in West Virginia and lived most of his life there, moving to Maryland in his late 60s. He died in La Plata, MD, in December 1980, 3 months before he got to meet his first grandchild, Christy. My dad's father (Noah Emerson Washington Hoffman) was a "fire boss" in the coal mines of Southern West Virginia. The fire boss was the worker who went into the mine before the shift started and checked the air for methane gas. It was the fire boss who determined if the mine was safe for working. In early years he carried a canary in a cage. If the canary died, there was too much methane; if the canary lived, the shift would start. Later there was a lamp that was carried that detected the methane with the fire going out if there happened to be too much methane in the air.

My father was a hard working man who liked working with his hands. He enjoyed being a plumber. He started out working in plumbing with Crockett Mullins, the grandfather of my freshman year roommate and best friend in high school, Mike Mullins. My dad used to take Mike's dad to school when he worked there.

He then started his own company with a man I never met named Glenn Barger. In 1949 he started Hoffman Plumbing and Heating and worked out of our house on North Oakwood in Beckley until we moved to the house on North Kanawha between my freshman and sophomore year in high school. I worked for my father two summers - right out of high school and shortly after my first year of college. It was during these summers that I learned to appreciate how hard he worked and was anxious to get back to the classroom in the fall.

During the years I knew my father, he had white hair and blue eyes. He was quite muscular and had tanned arms since he did most of his work out of doors. He stood a little over 6' and, in my young eyes, was a very gentle giant. He got frustrated with me at times, as all father are wont to do, yelled at me a few times, threatened to give me a whipping with his belt, which he never did, and was a very loving father. He came from a family that was colder than the warmth he showed. I think my mother, whose family seemed to be warmer, helped to make my dad as he was.

I know he had a temper. There were times during the summers when I worked with him that he showed that temper. He would get frustrated with a tight pipe which wouldn't budge and utter an occasional "damn." Generally, though, he didn't cuss. There was a story he told me about working with Mr. Mullins, during my dad's apprentice years, when my dad had lost his temper working in a second floor bathroom, and got so angry he threw the pipe wrench out the window. Mr. Mullins made him go right out and get it and bring it back upstairs. Fortunately, the window was open when he threw the wrench.

My dad enjoyed fishing and would sometimes go on overnight fishing trips with friends on the New River. He brought back the fish, and my mom was expected to clean them, which she did without complaint. He also went hunting and would bring back some squirrels and rabbits for my mother to clean and fry up.

My dad never served in the military being too old to get drafted during WWII and too young for WWI. However, he did try to get into the SeaBees (Construction Battalion - they did construction work in war zones) of the Army but was denied because of some thyroid problem. My mother was headed to Charleston to join the Women's Army Corp. when she got word that my dad was not accepted into the CeeBees; she immediately came back home

During WWII my mother and father lived in Pearisburg, Virginia, where my dad worked at Celanese, a plastics plant that made war supplies. My dad worked as a pipe fitter during at least one year, and he and my mother talked about how with rations during the war, it was difficult for them to drive to Beckley to see family because of the gas shortage. They would turn the engine off of their car and coast down the mountains between Princeton and Pearisburg, for great distances, as they returned home.

During his retirement years in Maryland, he enjoyed visiting Sis and Brodie's farm. He would help Brodie doing chores and enjoyed driving the tractor on the farm and messing around in the barns. He enjoyed Cobb Island and made enjoyed the last years of his life there.

He was a man raised in the coal camps of West Virginia, but lived a good and rather simple life. He only took one long trip out of the mountains, and that was to Florida where he went with a neighbor to visit the neighbor's son and go fishing. He went down on a train; he never flew in an airplane. He did talk of a trip before I was born when he went to Cincinnati, Ohio, to visit his father in a hospital there (your great grandfather was a veteran of the Spanish-American War). There were seveal trips to Washington, DC, but other than living the last few years of his life in Maryland, he traveled very little outside of West Virginia, though he did take us to visit relatives in North Carolina about twice a year.

Perhaps, his favorite place to visit was Nitro, West Virginia, where he would travel some weekends to visit Aunt Anna Lee and Woodie. There he, Mom, Aunt Anna Lee and Woodie would spend hours playing a game called BUMP, a board game with marbles. After supper they would often venture to the long side yard of the Nitro house and play lawn darts. My dad was competitive, but seemed to not really care whether he won or lost - he just enjoyed the fellowship of my mom and my aunt and uncle. He called Nitro his "rest home."

As for areas of creativity, my dad was a poet. He published a number of his poems in the Beckley newspapers in the 1920s and 30s. He also wrote a song that was copyrighted in 1930. The song was called "Mother of Mine."

This, I hope, gives an idea of who my father was. He provided for his family a good life, and gave my sister and me a ticket to our futures by encouraging our educational ventures. Education was very important to him. He graduated from high school and was a voracious reader. He and my mom were members of the Book of the Month Club and read many of the great works of literature when the works were merely called "popular literature." Though neither had a college education, they made sure that my sister and I did - it was important to them, and, for that, I will always be grateful.