BUCKHANNON — “I’ve had a wonderful life,” said Dortha “Dottie” Casto. She was born Dortha Bosley on July 25, 1934 by a country doctor at her home on a hill. She grew up the oldest of nine children, the “second mom” of the family, in the little community of Alton, WV. “I enjoyed growing up there around all of the people,” she said.
“Lived in the community all my life and worked to help the older people,” Casto said. “When one family needed help, they’d come and ask mother and she’d give me permission to go help them do whatever they needed done. We would can, we would wash, whatever needed to be done, I did,” explained Casto. As a child, she attended the little church of United Brethren in Alton.
Casto used to help her mother in the garden. She grew her own vegetables, which she canned and processed for the winter. “When I was engaged to be married, I had 1,500 quarts of canned vegetables to go to housekeeping on,” Casto said.
By the time Casto was 6 years old, she was cooking for everyone. “My mother would go and she’d say, ‘When I get back off the train, you have supper ready,’ at 6 years old.” She recalled when her mother would go for errands and expect Casto to have dinner ready for everyone when she got back.
Back when Casto was growing up, the only transportation was the train for 25 cents a ride. Casto remembered riding to town on the train with her mother to shop in town for materials. She would often go to Malcolm’s Restaurant, right across from where Audrey’s Restaurant used to be, which was known for their hamburgers, and then they would start the errands. “She would take me through town and show me the places, and then one day she said, ‘You’re going on your own, to get material,’” Casto remembered. Her mother would tell her where to go and what to get, and she would go.
Casto reflected on the little downtime she had growing up. “We didn’t do much fun,” she said. When the chores were finished, the kids played or went to visit someone, but they needed to be back at a certain time. “When I would finish my chores and get what we needed to get to catch the train, mother would say, ‘If you have a few pennies or any money left, you run into George Botes ice cream parlor, and get you an ice cream cone’ and eat it on the way down to catch the train back home. And I’d go in and I’d say, ‘George, do I have enough money to get an ice cream cone?’ I’d have three or four pennies, ‘Oh, you’ve got more than enough! Enjoy and go!’ he’d say,” Casto reminisced. Miller’s Pharmacy used to be a different pharmacy with an ice cream parlor up front, according to Casto.
Casto reflected on how much Buckhannon has changed. “It’s just not like it used to be,” Casto said. “The whole town has changed.” Casto remembered the 5 and 10 store and the many places to eat. “It was a booming little town, lots of restaurants,” Casto said. “People, people, people, and busy, busy, busy... You just don’t see that anymore.”
Casto attended eight years at Alton Grade School and two and a half years at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School. Her favorite class was home economics. She remembered the summer project required every year. She took wallpaper and made a dress.
At 16 years old, Casto received her health card, now called a food handler’s card, and cooked and served the children food to help out. Casto even remembered helping out while still in school. She explained how when she was in sixth grade, the principal would pull her from class just so she would help serve the other students lunch. Casto said she kept helping off and on for 20 years until the school closed in 1970.
Casto hung out with her best friend Ruby Bosley growing up. “Her and I were a pair. Wherever one went, the other one went,” she said. “If we wanted to go to a social, we had to have a chaperone with us, we couldn’t go by ourselves. Our parents wouldn’t let us,” Casto explained.
Casto explained that there was a social every month. Sometimes they would be in Alton, Brooks Hill, Indian Camp or even Hinkle-Ridge. “Wherever there was a social, we went,” Casto said.
At socials, people would gather, bring in cake, have a cakewalk and auction them off. “There were also “beauty contests,” where “you made a box and filled it with things, and they’d auction it off. Whoever bought it had to go share it with you. Lots of fun, we had a lot of activities,” Casto explained.
On May 16, 1952, Casto married the “sweetheart of her life,” Adon Simmons, at Quantico, Virginia. They raised their son “Rocky” Simmons. Casto now enjoys time with her two grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.
On dates out with Simmons, Casto went to West Drive-In to see a movie and eat at Dixie Drive-In. Casto remembered the last movie she saw with Simmons was a double feature of “How the West Was Won” and “The Last Days of Pompeii.”
Casto wanted to be a nurse when she was older. “I’ve taken care of the sick practically all my life,” Casto said. She worked as a Nurse’s Aid at Holbrook’s Nursing Home. She trained at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Unfortunately, when her husband was sick, she could not pursue her dream. He passed away in 1977 and she remarried Cecil M. Casto Sr. in 1982.