BUCKHANNON — Hazel Haymond Davidson was born on August 11, 1918. She grew up as the youngest of eight in Gaines, WV. Throughout her childhood, she grew up in the country and played games with her siblings. “I had loads of first cousins to play with and grow up with. I only have one left, just one,” she lamented. Davidson said she also attended Salem Methodist Church with her family every Sunday.
The centenarian started school at the young age of three or four but did not go past eighth grade. Davidson explained she rented library books and read because she never got to go to high school. The bus stop was a two-mile walk from her home, and she recalled how it seemed impossible during snowy weather. “We had lots of snow then, deep snow. So, my mother didn’t think it was wise,” she said. Davidson went to the high school one day to get her eighth diploma and said the whole county gathered. She added, “It was a nice time; a nice celebration.”
Davidson said she was not involved in much, but tried 4-H for one year, then reportedly quit because it was not her thing. “When I got big enough, we just built a fire at the school ground and we’d have corn and chicken roasts and played games,” Davidson said.
Davidson remembered the times her brother would come get her when a car or airplane was in sight and they would rush to go see it. “We didn’t see a car very much when I was little,” she recounted.
When Davidson was around 12 years old, she remembered her brother taking her, along with their parents, to Niagara Falls on a road trip in his car. They camped along the way in a tent. The next year, they went to Washington D.C. “We went to a zoological park there and saw all kinds of animals. We also went to the Washington Monument and went up in it,” Davidson said.
Davidson remembered mail being delivered on horseback, as vehicles were not common. “You had to come through a little creek on horseback to get to my dad’s post office,” Davidson recalled.
Davidson also remembered when her father raised a field of wheat and took it to Bean’s Mill to have ground into flour. One of the most vivid memories she had as a child was eating brown biscuits. She stated, “It was all brown bread back then… but we ate brown biscuits and it was good, really good.”
Davidson’s father worked as a notary public and owned a country store and the Gaines Post Office. The country store was big with counters on each side of the buildings, to take items off the shelf for people to examine. She said he sold “all kinds of country foods and shoes, not a big lot of merchandise.” Davison explained, “Stuff was sold to him in big containers and he would have to weigh it out for people to get a pound or two. He put them in brown sacks and weighed it.”
Davidson remembered two different kinds of coffee, Hygeia and Mo-Sam, that came in big tin buckets, which held more than a gallon. “We could use the buckets to fill water in or pick berries in,” Davidson said. For extra money, Davidson picked berries growing up to sell. “I’d do well if I’d get a quarter for one of those buckets full,” she said.
Davidson remembered living through the Great Depression. “Some people would lose some money through the bank,” Davidson stated. “We had plenty to eat. We had gardens and canned food. We weren’t hurt that I know of.”
Davidson did not have many jobs growing up. “I washed clothes on an old washboard for one family one week and I only got 50 cents for it. I washed and dried, and maybe ironed them, took it back nice. I only did it once. I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Davidson recalled.
Davidson said she found jobs working at the election polls and helped a lady cook for college boys two years.
She married her husband Clay Davidson, after knowing him her entire life. “We grew up in Gaines together,” Davidson said. “He went to the same church I went to... I never thought I’d ever marry him,” Davidson joked. Together, they had six children, three boys and three girls. “I raised my six kids in the same house I grew up in,” Davidson said. “I had a real nice husband and a good marriage.” Davidson and her husband were married for 40 years before he passed away.
Looking back on the City of Buckhannon, Davidson remembered there was no public library in town. She said books were available for rent in the basement of the courthouse. Every couple weeks, Davidson and her family would come into town for groceries and to get books. Davidson also remembered that a brick building stood at the end of Main Street where a whole meal cost a quarter. “My dad would take us, and we’d go eat when we went to get books,” she said.