Storytelling is one of the oldest art forms, going back to the earliest of times. Storytellers have been revered as the keepers of history, the upholders of tradition, and the memory of the mores, values and lifestyle of a culture. Today television and the internet have taken on the role of the storytellers of our times, and yet people still want to hear stories told live. They hear the voices, see the images created in their minds, share the journey, and find forgotten memories in the stories. This person-to-person telling is important; an audience gathered to hear a tale becomes a community of shared emotion and experience. Traditional oral storytelling, as venues like the National Storytelling Festival, Timpanogos Festival, Florida StoryFest, Sharing the Fire, and many other festivals and conference prove is certainly still alive and well in today's world, and gaining popularity with new venues like The Moth and story slams.
If you are a professional storyteller and want to share something you've written this week, please add a link to your blog below. This is an opportunity for us to share our thoughts and stories, for people to find and discover storytellers in their region, and to just have a good time getting storytelling out to new listeners.
Here's my story for this first Storytellers! Blog Hop. It's about my visit to a small rural school to tell stories in a community planned during the Great Depression, one of the "Homestead Projects." As my readers know, the story of the out-of-the way places and the ordinary man or woman fascinate me--and root me even more deeply in these West Virginia hills.
A Storyteller's Trip Through History: Dailey, West Virginia
I have been through Dailey, West Virginia, before on my storytelling travels but I never knew the history of this small mountain community. Nestled in the Tygart River Valley just below Elkins, West Virginia, Dailey was part of the Tygart Valley Homestead Project and was built by the Roosevelt administration to be a planned, self-sufficient community that would grow its own food, produce crafts and other work for income and provide all other needs of the residents such as housing, education, medical help and so on. It was a grand plan and included the communities of East Dailey and Valley Bend.
Built in 1934, Dailey was the largest of three New Deal resettlement communities built in West Virginia (the other two being Arthurdale and Eleanor). The target population was men who had lost jobs in the timber industry, lumber mill and railroads. The men were to work at the community farm and the lumber mill three days a week to pay back the very modest cost of the homes. I later learned that these homes had oak flooring on the first floor and pine on the second floor--exactly like my first house in Virginia, a small log cabin built by a former Civilian Conservation Corps worker. I suppose he got this idea, along with the skills to build with logs and quarry stone, from his days in the CCC. The men also worked an additional 3 days a week to provide for the other needs of their families, and the women cared for the gardens, canned and put up food, and perhaps worked at the weaving shop in the Trade Center.
All of the houses were built in one of two styles designed by architect Benjamin Smith: there were gambrel roofed houses (barn-shaped) and others called A-frame. These were truly homesteads, with root cellars, chicken houses, a garden plot, fruit trees, etc. Homesteaders could "check out" gardening tools from the community library.
The school where I was to tell stories was part of the original settlement too, although built later in 1939.
see here). It was built of stone, with many windows, a beautiful place. As I ate, I thought of how Dailey must have been in those early days: bustling with workers, women weaving rugs in the Trade Center, children playing at the school, the fruit trees blooming in each yard. Perhaps some would argue that this was too much interference by government but to those early settlers I would bet it was a dream come true, a chance to regain a respectable life and hope for a stable future. The town was able to pay off its debt to the government when the lumber mill was sold to a private firm; today Dailey still boasts many of the original structures.
To think I stood perhaps in the same place Eleanor Roosevelt stood when she visited the town in early December of 1937, was a happy thought. And yet visit she did, to dance with local residents at a square dance as she enjoyed the fruits of at least one of her efforts to create a future for rural Americans.
It is just one small town, a place you might zoom through on your way to the ski areas at Snowshoe or the kayaking at Marlinton or the rugged Kumbrabow State Forest. But next time you're traveling south on US 219, take a moment to stop in Dailey and consider the history of the site; have lunch at the Trade Center building and maybe buy some of their delicious fudge. And tip your hat to Eleanor Roosevelt and the other planners of such projects that enabled a rural population to establish a long-lasting community by providing a solid base from which to start.
Comstock, Jim. West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia, 1976, vol COP-DIS, p. 1227/
Barbra E. Rasmussen, Erin Riebe, and Alan Rowe (June 2003). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Tygart Valley Homesteads Historic District". State of West Virginia, West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Historic Preservation.
Roberts, Kathy. "Tygart Valley Homestead: New Deal Communities in Randolph County." Goldenseal Magazine, Vol 31:2; p10.
Scott, Barbara Bamberger. "The Tygart Valley Homesteads." Homestead.org
"The Homestead Project and the Homestead School." Randolph County Board of Education, Homestead School website.
Now it's your turn! Post the link to your story below, following these few simple rules:
1.Write a blog sometime this week that includes a story or is about some aspect of your storytelling life.
2. Be sure to include your general location so that people who might want to see you perform will know where to find you. (For example, I identify myself as a West Virginia storyteller. You might choose "New York City storyteller, " New England storyteller," "DC Metro teller," etc.
3. Remember, you must include a link back to this page for your post to be included. It's common courtesy to also leave a comment on this blog--and you know I love to read what you have to say!
4. Add a link to your blog (the post itself, not your general blog address) using the Linky Tool below.
5. Visit the other links in the list to discover other storytellers and enjoy their posts. Remember to leave a comment when you visit so they'll know you've been by.
That's it! I can't wait to read your posts!
Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
This is a Blog Hop!