BUCKHANNON — John Barnes was born in Harrison County on October 3, 1948. He moved to Buckhannon in ninth grade and attended Buckhannon-Upshur High School.
Barnes’ dad was a salesman, so his family moved around West Virginia for the first part of his life. “In ‘62, we moved to Buckhannon and that was the end of it,” Barnes said.
Barnes and his family lived on a camp along the river. His family had a boat, so Barnes spent a lot of time in the water during the summer. “I was a river rat,” Barnes said. “We had a boat with a motor on it… That’s where I learned to swim.” Barnes also described boating, water-skiing, fishing, and even frog-gigging on the Buckhannon River. “Back then, my mother would give me a bar of Ivory soap and say, ‘Make sure you bring it back.’ You went to the river and took a bath,” Barnes said. “We did that April to October...even on cold days.”
Barnes grew up riding bicycles and playing in the river. “I just did kid stuff...I was pretty active,” he said. According to Barnes, he picked strawberries on top of a hill across Poe Bridge as a teen for five cents a gallon to earn extra cash. Barnes played football in high school. “In the three years in high school, we went 29-2, and won the state championships in 1966,” Barnes stated.
The summer before his senior year, Barnes had a job with the Department of Motor Vehicles as a surveyor. Barnes described working from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. along Route 33, taking surveys by writing down how many cars drove by. “They survey how many vehicles went on Route 20 between here and Clarksburg, back and forth. You had to write down if it was a car, if it was a tractor trailer or a dump truck,” Barnes explained.
Barnes remembered the Spudnut Shop, owned by Mrs. Curtis, across the road from the old high school. Barnes remembered in the 1960s when he and other high schoolers walked across the road during lunch break to eat hot dogs, spudnuts and donuts, play pinball, and listen to the jukebox. Barnes remembered his favorite flavor of spudnuts being caramel or chocolate. “Great spuddies and donuts,” Barnes said.
Besides going to the Spudnut Shop or going to the movies with friends, Barnes remembered another popular hangout spot of the 60s was at the Stardust, racing cars.
After high school, Barnes enlisted in the Navy. “I saw the world through a porthole. That’s an old Navy saying. Join the Navy, see the world through a port hole,” Barnes joked. For four years, Barnes served on a Destroyer as a signalman and visited places such as the Caribbean and Guantanamo Bay. He was also in dry dock at Boston for a year and a half. He was stationed out of Newport, RI and took trips through the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic.
After the Navy in 1971, Barnes worked as a parts man at two car dealerships in downtown Buckhannon – Curry Chevrolet and Buckhannon Motors along Main Street. “The first job I had when I got out of the Navy, at Bill Kelley [Curry] Chevrolet, I worked 47 hours and brought home 45 dollars. I think it was a dollar and ten cents an hour; look how everything’s going now,” Barnes said.
In 1975, Barnes worked as an on-the-road salesman for RD Wilson-Sons and Company selling paper supplies. For 30 years, he visited eight counties in West Virginia and Maryland. Barnes retired in 2004 and currently works as a custodian for the Board of Education and Freedom Bank.