Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 18, 2012

Good friends and great food spark memories for new Tazewell school year

— — Talk about food for thought — Thursday after school I had a (first) tasty and then literary treat on the way home before yard mowing. Aaron Lambert was waiting with a hamburger steak special so that started things off just right. Nothing like meat and potatoes to get a fellow moving again after having a homeroom for the first time in ages and then welcoming an eager group of junior scholars ready to discover the whys and wherefores of American literature.

I didn’t lay the cornerstone at the “new” Tazewell High School but for the first few sessions of any given year it seems that way. When I shuffled in there was a truly literary table already set up including Tazewell County’s most famous living author — Louise Leslie — along with a Martha Ward Massie and a friend. Since they had already finished with dinner, I knew I would have to buy my own.

Luckily, when I turned around from the buffet there was my good buddy Everett Hurd from up on Stoney Ridge (the one in Tazewell County, not the hill above the rail yard in Bluefield) so it was a grand reunion all around. Mrs. Massie, whose late husband Sheffey passed more than 30 years ago, is a very kind person who thoughtfully came over to our table and after saying hello told me that she never misses a Saturday column. Now I thought that was a great start to the conversation (ha!) which traveled on to the (extended) Massie family.

 Sheffey was a star athlete and a businessman who started dating Martha in high school and they were voted by their THS classmates as one one of the school's “great couples.” That was when the high school was located right behind main street. Martha raised her family, including Melissa, in town and when I started teaching Melissa was one of our star students.

Now she has a family of her own including Josh, Mary, and Molly and there is now a brand-new grandbaby that Martha gets to babysit fairly often.

Melissa is now a teacher out at Tazewell Middle School and has long been a great helper for several of my projects. For instance, for many years I was the sponsor of the Model General Assembly which takes an annual trip to Richmond in one of the nation’s best student legislative programs each spring sponsored by the YMCA.

Both Melissa and DeDe Hunter took time out of their schedules to not only go along and serve as chaperones but they would go early and help with arranging hotel accommodations, securing necessary credentials, etc., so that when the children stepped off the bus everything was ready.

They were (and are) terrific friends. Back to Sheffey — one thing I always liked was that among his favorite Bible verses was Psalm 121:1, which is our school motto here at THS and is posted on the great school seal in the auditorium. So, getting a chance to talk with Martha and talk over old times was a great treat. Her son-in-law, Jim Thompson of Thompson & Litton, Inc., is a highly respected businessman in his own right who also taught briefly at Tazewell and is now a supporter of the school program while Josh is now a member of the football staff.

A few years back Jim was instrumental in surprising me with a plaque on behalf of the Bulldogs and it is one of my treasures sitting right now at my elbow on my favorite bookshelf. Louise, polite as usual, let me do most of the talking and I told the ladies that my first column for the Daily Telegraph was actually about the date we were in — August 16 — when I penned a piece about three “famous” deaths on that day including Babe Ruth (1948), Margaret Mitchell, who wrote “Gone With the Wind” (1949), and Elvis Presley (1977). Louise asked if I might do a follow-up but in my little mind I had already decided to write about my Tazewell friends.

Ms. Leslie’s famed book about Tazewell County, written some 30 years ago, continues to be the standard for our part of the country and is a “must have” for both libraries and individuals all across the region. She has also worked with Dr. Terry Mullins on a variety of publications. Her unique lyrical style has fascinated readers in the great “Main Street” newspaper columns for years and I must admit that I read every word of every one and love them all. Everett and I, both St. Louis Cardinals and Tazewell (everything) fans, had a fine meal and talked over great old times.

Everett was a fantastic athlete, strong and fast, as a young man and we became fast friends during the years I worked for Tazewell County Development Corporation (Clinch Valley Community Action) on the summer program and he was a supervisor for the county when the Public Service Authority water lines were first installed.

We still laugh about not once, but twice, that he was right on the spot to save me after I had run out of gas. Everett is truly my guardian angel. It is almost time for homeroom again and right now the only thing I am hungry for is another wonderful time with some of my best Four Seasons Country friends — including you!

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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