Lesson Learned (August 25)

Buckhannon-Upshur High School Class of 1966’s final hurdle to jump on the way to graduation was Senior English. One of the requirements was to read and report on the novels of Charles Dickens, including “A Tale of Two Cities.” How wonderful to be introduced to such a famous lesson learned. These are immortal opening lines:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” 

This week’s A+ Lesson Learned from Fred Shobe comes from what kind of life he built on the foundation of great teaching at Rock Cave School. I am happy to tell you he is a true blue friend. He is a Christian gentleman and a lifelong farmer. Nancy and he continue married for more than fifty years. He is loved by his family, including grandchildren whose lives he inspires. I am honored to salute Fred who served his country well in honorable military service, including fighting for our freedom in Vietnam. Now retired, he worked long and hard for the City of Buckhannon as a public servant.

Allia Shaver is honing her skills as a student journalist with her in-depth interviewing of Fred Shobe. She draws out important information for this human interest story vital to our understanding of the importance of closed rural schools in Upshur County. When Fred describes his boyhood primal farming life on Straight Fork, along with his early primary education at Rock Cave School, I sense the cadence and I hear the voice of Charles Dickens. I present Fred’s interview given to Allia:


Fred: “Well, I went to the Rock Cave School and I started there in the first grade in 1953. My first grade teacher was Mrs. Burns. The lessons I learned were to always tell the truth, always. Do your own work. You must be prepared for down the road and you have to do your own work. Whatever the teacher told me to study that day, I not only did it there, but when I went home, I studied it again. I showed my mother and dad what I was learning. So, to be honest, tell the truth and do your own work. Don’t copy off of anyone else, because there is no one else like you. Everybody is different, so you do your own work, you do your own studying. You learn the best that you can. If you have a question, hold your hand up so you can ask the teacher.”


Responding to a question concerning the teachers’ places of residence, Fred elaborates on the culture and the expectations as well as the homes:

“Alice Burns lived in Rock Cave. Immogene Wimer lived at Straight Fork, which was four miles away. Orsey Martin lived in Abbot—you would turn at Adrian and go up to Abbot. Perry Pinnell, the principal, lived at French Creek. He had a dairy farm and he had to get up early in the morning to milk all of the cows before he came to teach school. One thing about his farm—he kept it looking like a golf course! He always wanted the school to be clean and look presentable outside and inside. He brought some cross ties and the young boys and I helped with it, put a fence around the school. I brought a picture to show where the fence was. You can see the posts in the ground there by the school. We dug post holes using a post hole digger, put the cross ties in and when we had it as high as we wanted to, we took a crosscut saw and cut it at an angle so it would shed the rain water so the posts wouldn’t rot. The reason why we built the fence around the school was because some of the boys would run their cars and trucks up on the playground and tear it up. So, Mr. Pinnell came up with the idea to have the parking lot for the teachers private. We would put a chain across with a lock on it so no one could get in without permission. Once it was completed it was impossible to come up there with a vehicle. He also got the whole school involved in planting trees. I remember the two we planted in the yard; you can see in the picture, they were dogwoods, pink dogwoods and I thought they were so pretty.”


Fred: “Yes, we had the Board of Education and they worked real close with each school. We not only had good teachers, but the principal of the school made many trips to town to talk to the Board to tell them about what he was doing and the Board would drop by periodically. You wouldn’t know they were coming, but they would stop and have dinner with us to see how things were going. Ersie Withers was our cook and she was a good cook. So, when the Board was asked to eat dinner with us at school, they never turned us down. Ersie had a helper which was Mrs. Loudin, so both of them together fixed lunch, or dinner as I call it, for the whole school. Then we walked from the school over to the cafeteria, which was separate from the school. It was on Route 4, right in the main stretch of Rock Cave. The safety patrol, which I called the school boy patrol, they would lead us over, the first grade right on through the eighth were led to the cafeteria by the safety patrol, who watched Route 4 so that no one would get run over. I was in the first grade then.”


Fred: “Yes, in each class you prayed and said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Each teacher, each class, every morning. When we went to lunch, we prayed before we would eat our dinner. And the prayer we said there was, “God is good, God is great, thank You for this food. Amen.” That was the prayer we prayed there.”

I asked if they said the Lord’s Prayer in the morning.

Fred: “A lot of times we would pray the Lord’s Prayer and sometimes the 23rd Psalm. I went to church at Straight Fork and Imogene Wimer, who was also my Sunday School teacher, had taught me the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. She always told us that if we were ever called on to pray, to not panic and just say the Lord’s Prayer. When I was young, like a lot of people, I had stage fright. If you called on me and I didn’t realize that you were going to do it, it startled me, not enough to really notice, but I would get a little anxious.”

Thank you, Fred Shobe, for laying out what a firm foundation you gained from the very rural life you led and from the education you obtained at Rock Cave. Now we will look forward to many other tales telling lessons learned in our Upshur County Schools from the perspective of mountaineers graduating from over 25 schools that are no more.


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