BUCKHANNON — Tom Bailey, age 89, was born on July 3, 1930. He grew up on a farm in Flat Rock with eight brothers and two sisters. Bailey recalled how he and each of his siblings were expected to help out on the farm and share the work. He added that they were also required to do farm work for the neighbors at 10 cents an hour.
“I remember starting with my first four years of grade school at the Flat Rock School on the Tallmansville Road near Queens,” Bailey recalled. This one-room schoolhouse had one teacher for eight grades. Bailey explained that the students were seated by grades and when the time came to meet with each grade level, those students moved to sit on the recitation bench in the front of the room. In 1940, the Flat Rock School closed and bussed its students to Tallmansville School, a two-room school that taught primary and elementary classes.
“I never played in any sports because we lived 10 miles from high school and there was no way to travel, only hitch-hiking,” Bailey said. “As far as hunting and wildlife games, it never interested me.”
Bailey explained that the “big attractions” in Buckhannon back then were GC Murphy’s five and dime, Home Hardware, A.G. Shannon Hardware, Buckhannon Milling Co., and Southern States. “Money was hard to come by, if and when we got to go to town,” Bailey explained. “We might have a dime and would stand in front of the candy display at GC Murphy trying to decide [what candy to by].”
Bailey recounted other little memories, such as the postal service and policemen. According to Bailey, the Tallmansville community got their mail delivered by horseback in 1935. Bailey’s mail was delivered by Mr. Zickefoose, who he said, “would stop at my grandmothers to water his horse each day.” Bailey also remembered one instance when he was a child visiting Buckhannon and saw a policeman that scared him. According to Bailey, policemen were intimidating, especially the Chief of Police, Smokie Grose.
Bailey graduated high school in 1949. He remembered the threat of Korea at the time. At the age of 19, Bailey was drafted into the Army and served for two years. However, Bailey did not have any overseas duty and was discharged in December of 1953. He then enrolled in Glenville State College with the help of the GI Bill. After two years at Glenville, Bailey went to WVU for graduation in Agricultural Education.
The Upshur County Board of Education hired Bailey as the Vocational Agriculture teacher in 1955. “I had the job before I graduated. It was kind of unusual, but they needed someone I guess,” Bailey said. He taught Agriculture until 1978 when the new high school was built and he taught Greenhouse growing, landscaping and shop.
Bailey also served as the faculty advisor of “Livestock Judging”. He explained that prisoners of Huttonsville Correctional Center raised farm animals such as cattle, hogs, and chickens, as well as gardened, and students from 11 different schools visited the prison to judge. Bailey retired in 1988, after 31 years of teaching.
Tom Bailey married Bettie Tenney in June 1955 the night after graduating from WVU and had two sons. They were married for 60 years until Bettie passed in 2014.
Bailey has long been involved in the community. He has been an active member of the Tallmansville Baptist Church since 1950, where he’s served as dean and trustee. He has also been a proud member of the WV Farm Bureau for 50 years. Bailey served on the Board of Directors of the Upshur County Retired Teachers and also as a board member of Washington District Volunteer Fire Department. Bailey added that he was an original member of the committee that started the Upshur County Emergency Squad and volunteered with Upshur County EMS for nine and a half years.