The following stories were written and shared with our chapter by chapter member, Carol Rose Marbais Criswell, September 2009. Carol can be contacted at

 "Pieces of My Memory"

Carol Rose Marbais, Criswell  
Born in Witch Hazel, Smithfield Township, Jefferson County, Ohio

I was born on a cold winter night the last day of February 1932.  That was a leap year but Old Doc Sink who delivered me at home dated my birth certificate  the 28th.  My big brother Oscar was 11 years old. He told me that he had to spend hours outside. After I was born he did a big brother thing and carved my name and birth date on a tree in the woods near the house. Later when I was about 10 years old Dad hung a swing in that  tree and I spent many hours playing there ,so proud to own a tree.

Memories of My Sisters

I have a few memories of sharing a bedroom with my sisters Arlene and Virginia. I slept in a crib until my feet went through  the bars at the foot of the bed then an army cot took its place.  When Arlene left home to work in Cleveland during the war she worked at a GE plant. I got to share the big bed with Virginia but of course I got the side against the wall.  The wall by my bed had a window or rather  a trap door in it that when open would leave warm air in from the coal cookstove in the kitchen. Also I could beg Mom for a drink of water when I just didn't want to go to sleep.   I remember one Christmas Mom had ordered a few things for Christmas presents from the catalog and  hid them in an old cupboard  that happened to be in the girls bedroom.  Virginia and I couldn't resist the urge to peek. We found what was meant for us. There they were 2 small manicuring sets. We looked  then tucked them back in place and swore each other to secrecy.  The only other gift we would receive that year would be from Aunt Esther. When she came and handed us our pretty wrapped gifts we were so excited. You GUESSED  it, another manicuring set. We learned then never to peek again. We were poor but happy.

Christmas in Witch Hazel Our Christmas trees were always one we cut down in the woods. One year Arlene decided she, Virginia, and I would find the best tree ever. We took my sled to haul it home on and went way up the railroad tracks near 3rd bridge. It was a long hike but we were going after the very best tree. Well the girls spotted some nice trees growing on the other side of the creek. There was a fallen tree laying across the creek in a narrow spot and had been used as a bridge. I didn't want to cross that creek and just knew I couldn't do it and sure enough I fell in. Well, that made my sisters really mad. They knew they shouldn't have brought me along.Arlene had to wrap me in her coat and I rode on the sled back home. I don't recall where our tree came from that year but I never forgot falling in the creek.

Dad and my Childhood------4 Short Stories

As a child I spent a lot of time with my Dad. Dad didn't work. He suffered with Miners Asthma. I guess you would call it Black Lung. Those years were during the depression and Dad did try to work but just wasn't able. My sister Virginia recalls a time when he was coming home from a day in the mines and our brothers had to help him up the path from the road into the house. He would often sleep during the day because it was easier for him to breath and he could lie down. At night when the air was heavy he would sit backwards on a kitchen chair with his head resting on his arms on the back of the chair.Living near a coal mine with dumps of scrap coal burning and the air heavy with smoke was not the best place for him to live. He had attacks quite often and he would not be able to breath. As he was short of breath he would sit backwards on a chair and Mom would pat his back hoping to comfort him and ease his breathing. Many times if Dad got sick at night Mom would send Virginia and I to a farmers house{Dorance} a couple miles away to call the doctor. If he had an attack during the day we would be sent to the Mine office to use their telephone. Doctor Sink always came. He would give Dad a shot and things would calm down till the next time.Those times were very scary for me. I was just sure he was going to die. Doc Sink came to check on Dad on regular visits also. Usually there was no money to pay him with but it so happened he came the day my Mother would bake bread and Doc would except a fresh loaf of bread as payment. My brother Oscar told me there were times when the doctor knew we needed help and he would give Mom money from his wallet.

Black Walnuts

One fall when walnuts covered the ground Dad and I gathered nuts. It's a big job removing the hauls from black walnuts but they taste good in the middle of winter. We cleaned a couple bushel full of nuts and after they dried Dad stashed them in the crawl space under the front porch.It was close to Christmas and Mom was baking nut rolls. She sent me to bring in some nuts to be cleaned and picked from the shells. I came running back into the house telling Mom and Dad that the nuts were all gone. Wow was Dad mad.+#$@ those darn squirrels or chipmunks. No nuts for us to enjoy that winter.

Visit from Golden Rod

Each fall there was a Hobo that would come to visit Dad. He walked the railroad tracks. He dressed in old clothes and always carried a bag. I always wondered what was in his bag. Dad referred to him as Golden Rod. He always had a sprig of Golden Rod in the brim of his hat. It was that time of year when Golden Rod grew wild in the fields and along the railroad tracks. Mom would make him a sandwich and cup of coffee and he and Dad would sit out side under the grape arbor and visit. Also in the summer time peddlers would come to Witch Hazel. They sold a variety of things and had cooking pots hanging that were for sale. Once Mom bought Virginia and I small silk umbrellas. I had a pink one and Virginia blue. Another time she bought us each a whistling bird. It was a bird on a string that was tied to a bamboo stick about 2 ft long. When you swung it around the bird whistled. { where can we find those neat things now? Bet they weren't made in China.

Filling the Coal House

I spent hours with Dad picking coal. We would walk along the railroad tracks near the mine looking for coal that had fallen from the railroad flats. Sometimes he would have to knock the shale off the good lumps of coal. We needed to gather lots to use, in the cook stove in the kitchen and the pot bellied heating stove in my parents bedroom, during the winter months. In the summer Mom cooked on a kerosene range in our closed in back porch. We didn't have electric. until I was about 11 years old. As kids we watched with excitement as they put in poles to string electric wires up the road to our coal mining camp. The day we got off the school bus and saw wires strung on the poles we ran all the way home because we knew that meant the electric had been turned on. Oscar was a young man and he was given an instruction book on electrical wiring so was permitted to wire our house. Mom anxiously awaited the day. She was prepared with a couple electric lamps to replace the oil lamps we had always used. One of my treasures is their oil lamp that sat on the kitchen table. Also a toaster, iron and coffee pot. What a thrill. Dad got a Philco electric radio. Before electric we had a radio that was wired to a battery and we listened to music and other things with ear- phones.
With our new radio we could listen to music from the Jamboree broadcast from Wheeling W. Va. on Saturday night. Virginia , Mom and I and the broom would dance around the kitchen table. We would change partners now and then. Mom loved the soap operas . She would listen to "Ma Perkins "and others. With Dad we would listen to "The Lone Ranger" and Jack Armstrong". Mom enjoyed hearing Kate Smith sing. Those were the fun days at our house.

Berry Picking Time in Witch Hazel

In the summer my sister Virginia and I waited and watched for the berries to ripen. Raspberries were ripe and ready to be picked by the 4th of July. It was an exciting time . Not only did we pick berries for Mom to bake pies and can for winter use but it was a chance to make money by selling them . The patches I remember were growing atop the high wall in the hills beyond our garden. High walls were steep rocky hillsides that were the result of strip mining for coal. Early in the morning Virginia and I would dress in shirts with long sleeves , pants and sturdy shoes.We would take a water bucket and a tin cup to pick the berries in and head for our favorite berry patch. Dad would warn us to watch out for black snakes because they like berries too and would crawl up into the berry bushes. Once we got up the high wall it was woods and open fields with clumps of raspberry and blackberry bushes. We would go about picking berries quietly . We could see off in the distance a big white farm house. It was the Hess farm. Dad said it would be best if they didn't see us. {I never knew why} Also we could see an old cemetery. Dad warned us not to wonder there because it was old and we might fall in. He needn't say more I wouldn't go near it. I know now these many years later that it was the Piney Fork Cemetery and there was also a church located near the cemetery. It took a long time to fill a water bucket with berries and carrying it down the high wall was a challenge. That was Virginia's job. Sometimes we would sell them for 15 or 20 cents a quart. In the early 1940 that was alot of money. Those were the days. A big piece of hot berry pie with milk and sugar was always a real treat and might very well be our supper for that day. I remember some days when Mom baked berry pies she would cut a large piece and have me take it to my brother Roddy . Roddy went to high school in the mornings and rode home from school with the mailman and worked afternoon and evenings at the mine tipple. The guys would tease him about that pretty little girl bringing him something to eat. A picture of Roddy with his face dirty with coal dust meeting me on the railroad tracks is one of my best memories.
The End

Witch Hazel---My Home Town

The coal mine in Witch Hazel was very productive. It was owned by the Florence Coal Company. The coal cars would be brought out of the mine pulled by a motor driven on tracks by a young miner. It would run across a trestle over the road and into the tipple where the coal would be dropped into sifters that would sort the coal into different sizes then be dropped into railroad flats. The teenage girls enjoyed sitting on the railings on the sides of the trestle in the evenings.They lay in wait for the cars coming out of the mine and a chance toflirt with the drivers. One evening I was with them and after thedriver{Puck} emptied his load of coal he asked if we would like to take a ride into the mine. I'm sure it was against the rules but we all climbed into the cars. As we entered the mine we found it to be dark and cold and dripping water. At times he would yell for us to get
down because the ceiling of the tunnel was very low. After a couple miles into the mine he stopped and we were at an air vent into the mine. He had us get out with instructions to follow the electric line and they would lead us back to close to home. So we scrambled out of the cars climbed the bank and hiked our way across the fields till we found a road that lead us home. I was the youngest of the group but never forgot the exciting adventure of a trip into a coal mine.

Home Sweet Home

Witch Hazel was a camp of 14 house that was owned by the Florence Coal Company. It was about 1 1/2 miles up a red dog road from the county road. The first houses were 4 small painted red houses on the right hand side. Virginia and I were born and raised in the 4 th house. Oscar was born when our parents lived in Piney Fork and Arlene and Rod were born in Cherry Valley. The house only had 3 small rooms and I often wonder how we all fit. I was very young when Dad built a room on the back of the house out of railroad ties. That was the boys room. It was long with 2 small windows and a doorway that stepped down into the kitchen. Dad closed in the back porch and at sometime dug a cellar under the house. There Mom was able to store canning she had done and potatoes from the garden . We always raised chickens so had no shortage of eggs. There was a product called Water Glass. It was a starchy substance that would be mixed in a 5 gallon crock into this the eggs would be gently dropped and this substance would preserve them for weeks at a
time. There were times when I was sent to the cellar to get things. I would have to carry a small oil lamp for light. To me it was a very scary place with it's dirt floor and walls. But I would be sent after a jar of raspberries or maybe some potatoes or canned tomatoes. I survived and was made stronger. The entrance to the celler was through a trap door outside of the house. It was a slanted door and I liked to slide down it. {Reminds me of the song-- "Little Sir Echo" that went "Yell down my rain Barrel , Slide down my Celler door and we'll be jolly friends forever more."} We also had the rain barrel at the corner of the house.

Our Chickens

We raised chickens. Not only for the eggs they would provide us but also for a Sunday dinner now and then. Our chickens were a variety. Big fat Road Island Reds and smaller white Leghorns, Fat gray ones and of course a Rooster. One spring several young chicks were hatched. It was fun watching them grow from fluffy yellow peeps to larger chicks where they began to get real feathers. One Sunday Mom baked a big casserole of rice pudding. It smelled so good but Mom had made an awful mistake. Instead of a cup of sugar she had dumped in a cup of SALT. It was impossible to eat so was fed to the chickens not thinking of the effect the salt would have on them. The old chickens were not effected but the baby chicks got sick and were falling down. Quickly Dad knew what to do and we gathered them up and brought them into the porch and one by one forced water into their mouths. We tilted their little heads back and dropped in a couple drops of water. A few died but we managed to save most of them. If Mom made a second casserole I'm sure we were cautious taking that first bite.

We had a chicken coop at the upper end of our back yard near the garden gate. Usually the chickens would all find their way into the coop as the sun set but during the summer there were times when they would rather roost in the low branches of the trees around our yard. I would help Dad catch them and throw them into the coop or else chase them from the trees with a stick. It wasn't safe for them to be out side over night.There was the danger of a fox or another animal catching them. One summer we were bothered with fox getting after the chickens. Dad cut several small trees in the woods and built a pen for the chickens rather then letting them run free. Though the fence was pretty high the chickens would fly out so to solve that problem we cought the chickens one by oneand as I held it Dad would cut the feathers short on one wing.With uneven wings they couldn't fly.

The Love of Music

My Mother loved music and dancing. She once told me she had entered adance marathon hoping to win a prize before marrying Dad. She danced for two days and two nights before giving up. She said her feet were so swollen and she hurt so bad she couldn't go on. They were given 15 minute breaks every two hours. And if your partner dropped out you could continue with someone else. Mom could play a harmonica and a Juice Harp.Roddy took after her. He was very good on the harmonica. They would provide the music and Virginia and I would sing. We always thought we
could harmonize but I really couldn't carry a toon in a bucket. But Mom taught us several old songs and we spent many hours singing and making music. Rod continued on enjoying music besides the harmonica and juice harp as he got older. He could play any string instrument. Kids loved him because he was so much fun and quite the entertainer. Oscar learned to play a violin and later Virginia took lesson and was in the orchestra in high school. I remember when I was in the third grade Virginia had advanced from the small metal violin to a new real one. Mom then felt it was my turn to learn to play one of those things so signed me up for classes. Well I tried but I just wasn't cut out to be a musician and the instructor gave up on me. { I often wondered what became of the little tin violin and while attending a High School Alumni dinner dance in 2006 I had a chance to visit with a cousin, Kenneth Busby.,he told Now isn't that a hoot!!! Ken lives in California and he has had our
little violin for more then 60 years.

My Big Brother Rod

My brother Rod had tried to teach me to drive a car several times but would scare me silly when he
got mad at me. Roddy and I were buddies when we were kids. I would help him work on his old cars. I can hear him now "Step on the break, Hold down the clutch, Leave it off, Okay, Okay do it again, Not that you DUMMY !!!" I would cry but go right back for more. He always had a dog. Bozo was my favorite,a small black ,white and brown Beagle. Rod would let me feed his dog if I would carry in his buckets of coal from the coal house or water from the spring. He taught me to ride a bike. That I will never forget. I was on the bike peddeling as fast as I could with Rod hanging on the back to hold me steady. Suddenly our mama cat came out of the bushes and ran in front of me . I tried to miss her and ran off the road , over the bank dragging Rod behind me. There was a dump on that side of the road where people threw their trash so it wasn't a pretty site. Needless to say Rod had a few names for me like, dumbbell, shit head and a few others. He got over it in a couple days and I DID learn to ride that bike.

The Day I Lost My Mom

Mom died August 29,1947. She suffered a stroke and died within 2 hours.Mom was only 50 years old. I was 15 then and was about to start high school. It had been a bright, hot ,summer day. I was the newspaper girl for the area we lived in and was coming home when I saw a police car parked in front of our house. Mom ,Dad and the policeman were standing in the front yard. I jumped from my bike anxious to hear what was going on. The officer said ",you folks just keep a watch on his house". Then Mom explained to me that Steve Cole, and old bachelor that lived two houses away had been found dead in Adena along the railroad tracks. He was an old man that lived alone and we called him by a polish name that meant bachelor. {that I can't spell.} My first thoughts were "Oh
Goodie, now he can't scare me anymore." I had never told my parents how I hated him and was very afraid of him. . Mom would always remind me to get Steve a bucket of water from the spring when I was going after one for our house.He would try to grab me when he paid me 50 cents. Once he insisted I carry his bucket of water into the house and he grabbed me and pulled me down on his lap. I socked him one and ran out the door. He never got another chance to grab ME. So hearing he was dead was wonderful news.Then as the 3 of us were walking up around the house to the back porch Mom said " Now Vick, you will have to get some things out of the garden . You know Oscar and Julia and Arlene, Al and the baby will be coming home tomorrow." The next day was their 30 Wedding Anniversary. We went in the back door of the porch and just inside ,on the right ,was a dry sink where a bucket of water sat with a dipper. Mom stopped to get a drink. Hanging on the wall over the dry sink was a mirror. As she was drinking I saw her reflection in the mirror. I began to laugh and said "Mom how funny you look ,your spilling water all over yourself." her mouth was twisted to the side of her face and her arm was shaking. Dad grabbed me by the arm and said she is having a stroke. We drug her into the house, because just that quick she couldn't walk, and sat her on the edge of her bed. I couldn't think of anything to do other then rub her arms. { that is what the teacher at school did when Sophie Nation had a seizure} Then Dad said let's take her out on the front porch for air. The door to the porch was near the foot of the bed.
We got her out the door and sat her in the big green,wooden rocker on the porch. Dad jerked me aside and said go call the doctor. And as I hugged Mom then ran from the porch Mom was calling after me "don't leave me Carol, Don't go" I knew I had to get her a doctor and I got on my bike and rode away as fast as I could. The mine office would be closed but old Elmer Dowdell, the night watchman, would leave me in. The mine office had gotten a new telephone. No longer was there one hanging on the wall that you would crank but it was a black contraption sitting on the desk. I had never used a new telephone so decided to get Mrs Bruno for help. I went to her door and she followed me to the office as I yelled for her to walk faster, walk faster. The night watchman opened the office door and we called Doc Sink. I rode my bike back home as fast as my legs would allow. When I got there Rod had gotten home and the site of him made me feel less scared. He was standing behind Mom holding her head as she sat slumped in her big green rocker.I remember standing by the fence by the big oak tree in the front yard near the road watching for the doctor's car. Finally a car did come, it wasn't Doc Sink but a doctor from Adena. I followed him to the porch and was standing on the steps as he examined Mom. He reached over and opened her eyelid and said to Rod "when did she die?' It was like a knife went through me. {she had told me not to leave }. As I entered the kitchen ,from the back of the house, Dad grabbed me. We were both in shock and he was holding me and crying ,saying what will we do, what will we do? All I wanted to do was find a corner to hide in. Then Virginia came home with her then boyfriend Lloyd. Doc Sink also arrived and a black hearse they were to take my Mother away in. I watched from the pantry window as they carried her in a big black bag down across the yard to the road. Never, never was such an awful thing to happen , not to my Mom, after all Dad was the one that was always sick I often expected him, during one of his asthma attacks, to take one big breath and die. Our lives changed forever that evening.

Life Without Mom

That fallowing March Dad and I and Virginia and Rod moved into the double house owned by the coal company just across the road from Uncle August. I will always remember that move. Our old cat kept going back up to Witch Hazel. I would carry her home with me and she would go right back. I had 2 little Banny chickens and they would roost at night under the house. One night some kind of animal killed them. Dad's health was much better after that move. He had Miners Asthma and the smoke from the burning stone dumps made it hard for him to breath so moving out of Witch Hazel helped. Now when I drive by where that house once stood I see the Rose bushes and Lilac bushes I planted there those many years ago.

Our Neighbors

Rod was married in June of 1948. He and Rosie moved into the other side of the double house. Dad would go over to their house every day and help Rosie cook supper. Rosie was always a favorite of his. She didn't know how to cook and I will always remember her learning to make gravy. He would have me help her wash clothes. We shared a big porch at the back of the house. Virginia and Lloyd were married November 6,1948. They first lived with his parents then built the little house out the road. It was fun having Virginia live close by. I remember the evening their
little house caught fire. The heating stove in the bedroom caught the house on fire. We carried buckets of water from the creek, across the road, to throw on the fire until the fire department got there. Either Tootie are Jr. Marbais went in after the Television. Virginia and Lloyd lost a lot in that fire. When they rebuilt they added a couple of rooms. Tom was a baby then.

The Big Move

We didn't live in the Coal Company's double house for more then a year or two. Dad bought lumber from the mailman ,Mr Griffith He had cut this lumber to build a house for himself but sold it to Dad. I don't remember who all worked on building our house. It was just up the hill from where we were living but on the other side of the road. The house stands there today and I have many memories of living there from the age of 17 until I was 24. One thing I will always remember was the well under the house. When the men were digging for the foundation the ditch kept filling up with water so they finally decided to move the location of the house over a few feet. After the house was built Dad hand dug a well in the basement and we always had water. We had a pump in the kitchen
and an out house out back. There was a coal furnace in the basement and we cooked on the oil range in the kitchen. Years later Lloyd and JR installed an electric pump and put a commode in the house.

My Wedding Day

I was married on July 14,1956. JR {Shelton} Criswell and I were married in the York Methodist church. Dad walked me down the aisle shaking like a leaf. Janet and Fred Lopetz were our maid of honor and best man. They lived in Willmington, Oh. Fred and JR grew up together and went into the army together. We had rented an apartment in Canton and moved in the day after our wedding. JR had been working for Ohio Power company for 2 years. I went to work for Nationwide Insurance Co. I earned $1.50 and hour and thought I was rich. I was only earning 50 cents an hour at Woolworth's 5 and 10 in Steubenville. We were poor but happy. JR drove a 1951 Chevycoupe. He worked as a switchboard wire man for Ohio Power and traveled with the company. The next summer I learned to drive a car. I took driver training lessons while JR was working out of town. I passed my drivers test the day we moved into our house on 20th st. It was October 1957. Now 52 years later I still live in my house and it holds so many many memories.

Dad's Death

Dad died in March of 1965. He was 70 years old. My daughter Janice was 1 year old and Son, Brian was almost 6. He had a heart attack and was alone when he died. I had been to visit him on my birthday in February and gave him his last hair cut. I remember joking with him " Dad your hair is so white and look at that your're getting a bold spot. " He is buried, by my Mother, in Northern Cemetery in Smithfield Ohio.