BUCKHANNON — Ron Pugh, age 73, was born and raised in Buckhannon, WV.
Growing up, Pugh said he often rode the Baltimore and Ohio steam-engine train with his engineer dad. He recalls riding inside the engine, often shoveling coal at 10 years old. “One time, I skipped school and hopped on the train, thinking it was going to Tennerton, near my house. It ended up going to Hampton. I had to make it back in time to sign out of school, but I didn’t make it in time,” Pugh recounted. “My father never found out about that. If he did, he’d tan me.”
Pugh said he worked in several places while growing up, including a soda bottler in 1963 at the Coca-Cola Factory here in town between where the Moose and Premier Bank are today. He described the place as very unsafe, not being able to pass safety inspection laws in today’s times. Pugh stated, “There was an inch of water on the floor at all times, and the switch often shocked whoever pulled it.” He said he got paid .75 cents an hour, or $1.75 if he drove the delivery truck. “I delivered Coke to the college. Inevitably, I lost about six packs of coke all the time,” Pugh joked.
Pugh also served as Upshur County Clerk for 17 years, from 1972 to 1989. According to Pugh, he was one of only three people from West Virginia to be invited by President Ronald Regan for a luncheon at the White House. “It was the first press conference since he was shot. I don’t know why I was invited,” Pugh said. “He was my favorite president.”
On the 18th anniversary of 9/11, Pugh recalled he was at Bob Evans in Parkersburg, WV eating when he got the news. “All of the sudden, the room fell silent. People were getting up and walking out,” Pugh said. “No one had an appetite.” He drove home right after and remembers watching the television footage that evening.
Another national event Pugh remembered was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Pugh recalled that he was sitting in English class taught by an Englishman at West Virginia Wesleyan College when he got the news. “My professor stopped class and said, “My God! Your president has just been shot. Class dismissed.” Later that week, Pugh said he hopped on a train to Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving at his uncle’s and visited the Arlington National Cemetery shortly after the service. “I remember walking through inches of mud at the gravesite just to see the grave. I’m really glad I got to experience that,” Pugh stated gratefully.