Community

Snippets of My Life

Growing Up in Black “By God” West Virginia

My Grandmother, Bell Wilson, in front of the Glorious Church of God in Christ, Shamrock, WV. ( circa the 1960's )
My Grandmother, Bell Wilson, in front of the Glorious Church of God in Christ, Shamrock, WV. ( circa the 1960's )

I was born in 1953 in a Coal Camp named Edwight, which was in Raleigh County West Virginia. That Coal Camp was completely shut down in 1959 and all residents had to move because the Coal Company owned the houses, other structures, and the land. My Granny arranged for us to move to Switzer, WV, which was in Logan County. Uncle John came to pick us up in his Packard automobile. He and his wife, Aunt Peach, my Granny’s sister, lived in Logan County near where we were moving.

Our house in Switzer was built from the timbers of one of the former black churches at Edwight. In time Granny purchased chickens and hogs, which we had to feed before and after school each day as well as on the weekends. We also had a garden that we had to tend. By that time, Granny was raising five of her grandchildren; two older than me and two youngers; three boys and two girls.

We each had chores and we all had to wash dishes, sweep and mop the kitchen floor. We started washing dishes on a nightly basis but some of us kept forgetting their turn so, Granny put us on a weekly schedule for dishes. We didn’t have garbage collectors, so we burned our garbage in a big barrel. We had a two-seater Out House. We used a #3 tub to take baths as well as to rinse clothes after they were washed. We had two clothes lines in the back yard.

We went to Sunday School and Church. Uncle John used to come and get us on Sunday Morning, and we sometimes wouldn’t get back home until about 8:00 p.m. On Sundays we usually had breakfast consisting of smothered chicken and gravy, rice, fried apples, and biscuits. On the Sundays when we had guests at our church, we would eat dinner at Aunt Peach’s house, which was a welcome change. Uncle John and Aunt Peach lived in Shamrock, WV. Our church was located up the dirt road from their house.

We walked to Switzer Grade School, which was predominantly white until it closed, and the new combo grade school and junior high school were built at Chauncey, WV, which meant that we had to ride the school bus. High School began at 10th grade at that point in time. I graduated with a diploma in Stenography in 1971. I was an honor student and had dreams of becoming a secretary. We used to watch the T.V. show, Mannix and he had a Black secretary. No one talked to me about being a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, etc.

Following the established family tradition, when I graduated from Logan High School in 1971, Granny presented me with a piece of Samsonite Luggage and advised that I catch one of my relatives going back to NJ and find a job. The tradition Granny established for her grandchildren was to give them a piece of luggage so that they could hit the road, fly the coop, etc. She had raised eight children; five boys and three girls and was tired, weak, and worn. She needed us to get out and make our way in the world, after all, we could go to college any time and that’s exactly what I did.


Doretha E. Mollett was born and raised in WV. She relocated to NJ after her high school graduation. Ms. Mollett along with many family members returns to WV every Memorial Day to decorate the graves of their Ancestors.

Since graduating high school and relocating for purposes of employment, Ms. Mollett has earned a Bachelor's in Accounting and a Master's in Organizational Management.

Ms. Mollett is a retired Buyer, who worked for the State of NJ, and has two sons and five grandchildren.

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