Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


November 18, 2012

Small towns shine for the holiday

— — Here in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia we are no strangers to adverse conditions. We have had to cope with blizzards, floods, wind storms, hail and everything else except a tsunami. We are somewhat protected by our mountains and have no fear of the ravages of the raw ocean. Those that live by our coastal shorelines can expect storms to wreak havoc. Hurricane Sandy was no exception.


Close friend and former college roommate, Joe Kwoka of Manahawkin, N.J., near the Atlantic Ocean, has had to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Soon after the storm struck I tried several times to call Joe and see if he was OK. His phone went directly to an answering service. Last Wednesday evening when I returned home there was a message on my answering machine. Kwoka asked he to call him on his cell phone.

He had been displaced by the storm and “homeless” for a few days. His house had been severely damaged, but was repairable. For several days he could not return home because there was no public water, sewerage, power or telephone service, gas mains were broken and the local authorities had things shut down. He was finally able to return to his home and found the first floor heavily damaged. Luckily, he was able to contact another friend who is a contractor and restoration on his home has begun. The contractor is also repairing several other homes in the neighbor hood thanks to Joe’s connections. The interior walls had to be stripped, plaster or wall board removed, and insulation removed. All of the major appliances were ruined and had to be tossed out. He has been able to return and live on his second floor while repairs are being made. The mess has been a nightmare.

But, Joe did manage to save many of his personal belongings by moving them upstairs before the storm. While the damages were severe, he was lucky. He is alive and unhurt. His home will be restored and his family and neighbors are all OK. Some in other areas were not so lucky. We see the news and hear the plight of those adversely affected by the storm. But for those of us who have friends or family directly affected by the storm, the situation somehow becomes real and personal.


The sign read, “We have Wi-Fi.” Someone said, “All you have to do is find a hot spot to get connected.” Now being a product of the 1960s I knew what hi-fi was and my interpretation of a hot spot has something to do with a nightclub or ... I think I had better just leave it at that. Actually the term Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) had been around since 1999 and is a play on the term “hi-fi” (high fidelity). Wi-Fi is simply a term for wireless Internet access. It is the hip way of saying that a wireless router is available.


The little town of Matoaka is beaming. As I approached the town a few evenings ago, I decided to pass through the downtown area. The vintage street lamps illuminated the area. Christmas decorations adorned both sides of the street. The local grocery store was open and several people were gathered along the street. A restaurant was open and the town looked alive and well. Yes, it may have been a glimpse of the past. More importantly, it was perhaps a glimpse of the future. It was a welcome sight.


The town of Bluefield, Va., will have its annual lighting of the town Christmas tree Monday evening at 7 p.m. Seasonal music will be performed by the Graham High School choir and others. Santa Claus will likely make a stop. Hot chocolate will be served and the town’s manger scene will be on display again this year.

The hot chocolate reminded me of one of my favorite Christmas movies. I wonder if the Polar Express might pass through town? All aboard... If not, go to downtown Bluefield, Va., and enjoy the evening and music program.


While passing through the towns of Man, Oceana and Pineville, I also noted that these towns seem to be alive and well. Storefronts are filled with locally owned businesses. I suspect that the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System has had much to do with improving the potential for commerce.


Roman Stauffer, executive director of the New Majority Fund, was elated that Republicans gained 11 seats in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Six incumbent Democrats fell to Republican challengers, Republicans took four seats from retiring Democrats, and Republicans won four seats in newly created districts. Republicans will hold 46 seats and the Democrats 54 seats when the new Legislature is seated in January. Stauffer said that Republicans are in a real position to make a run for the majority in 2014.


Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse has been around a long time. Mickey first appeared on Nov. 21, 1928, for the first time in “Steamboat Willie” and premiered at the Colony Theater in New York City. The famed mouse is 84 years old.


There you have it, a few comments on items of interest to the area. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I wish you another blue sky day.

Wilson Butt, a resident of Bluefield, is a retired Department of Highways official.

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