How many recall a ‘due bill’?


Dwight Williamson - Guest Columnist



I wonder just how many people know what a “due bill” is, or was. If your answer is the logical one (simply a bill that is due to be paid), then I know that you or your family never received Welfare assistance in the 1960’s or ‘70’s, or you simply are too young to know. You see, a “due bill” was what one received from certain grocery stores when you paid for groceries with food stamps.

For instance, let’s say you purchased a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk and the total cost (back then) was a $1.50. You gave the grocer $2.00 in food stamps. Instead of getting fifty cents in change back, you received a small piece of paper; usually, it read “due bill, .50 cents.” The next time you went to that store you presented the due bill to the cashier to get 50 cents worth of— whatever. And, for example, if you bought 30 cents worth of candy, etc., then you got back a due bill for 20 cents. All of the above was embarrassing for a young boy like me, but food stamps were a necessity for many us back then. Nowadays, of course, people receiving monthly government assistance get money put on a card, which is used like a debit or credit card, and that’s a good thing.

My father, who retired from Youngstown Mines at Dehue, and also worked as a barber for several years, agreed to take a tuberculosis exam at a mobile unit that showed up at the Verdunville post office back in the ‘60’s. TB, as the disease was called, was still somewhat prevalent, so the government sent these units around the county testing people for the disease. Unfortunately, dad’s results came back as positive. Before most of us kids knew what had happened, he was whisked off to a place in Beckley we were told was the “sanitarium.” My mother had a tough time making ends meet with six children at home and no income. My grandparents helped as much as they could, as we didn’t get any welfare assistance for many months. Dad in the meantime lost his job in the mines and he spent about a year or more in the sanitarium, while the local health department visited us weekly giving the family tine tests for the TB disease. Sometimes this made me feel like some kind of an outcast, but coal camp life went on.

One day, a doctor from Huntington visited the sanitarium and looked at x-rays of my father’s lungs. He asked dad if he had ever had pneumonia. When my farther answered “yes”, including double pneumonia while on the battlefields of France during World War II, the doctor flung the x-ray negatives across the room, and proclaimed: “Get this man out of here. That’s not TB. It’s scars from when he had pneumonia.”

By this time, many mines were idled or striking and no jobs could be found. The family continued on Welfare, and dad was sent by the program to Charleston for a year to learn the talent of barbering. Rarely, did he return home during his schooling. My dad eventually obtained his barbering license, but by this time, long-hair on young men was becoming the norm. He left what he really enjoyed doing, and found work back in the coal mines.

My point is, that most people, at least back then, did not wish to be on Welfare, but without it, I don’t know what would have happened. The following is a true story about how people tried to make it during the Great Depression—when there was no welfare, and certainly no food stamps.

It was March of 1931 when four young children, the oldest two girls aged 13 and 10, and the youngest boys, seven and nine years old, had been deserted by their parents. They were found living in what was described as a “cow barn” near the mouth of Mud Fork.

All of the children went to school regularly and were supported principally by the meager earnings of the oldest girl who reportedly entertained men visitors at night, but otherwise kept the “house” tidy when not in school. She was teaching her younger sister how to “pick up” some money to help buy groceries and other necessities, and she said she had been taught the same by her mother before she deserted the family four months earlier. The father had been gone for over six months.

Discovery of the children’s plight was purely the result of an accident. A man living some distance away came along in search of a strayed dog, and stopped at the shack for a drink of water. He found a small spring in the rear of the shack, and then he started looking over the strange abode that had a makeshift door of grain sacks nailed to a frail frame. The only window was a two-by-two hole covered by boards.

There being nobody at home, and his curiosity whetted, the man entered the place and found it divided into two rooms by a curtain made of bags, with a wood stove and cooking utensils stocked with food in the rear room. In the corner of this room he found blankets and bedding neatly folded up into four piles and tucked away against the wall.

The outer room had a rag carpet on the floor, and was furnished with a rickety table and a couch that had long since been unsuitable as a piece of furniture. There were no chairs in the room, but several boxes were there which evidently served as seats.

His lost dog forgotten, the visitor reportedly sat down on a box to wait until someone showed up and he could learn just what kind of a family lived in such an abode. Soon the older girl appeared with school books under her arm. She was followed by the other children, all of them carrying school books. The oldest girl did not seem surprised to see the visitor, but after a short greeting, invited the man out into the yard for a talk. Outside, she told him that he must not come to see her in the daytime as she could only entertain him at night after the others had gone to bed.

Slightly bewildered over this, the man related how he had come to be there, and that he was ready to go anytime she wished him to. He promised he would not come back, either at night or any other time. The girl replied that she would be glad to have him come at night and that she could guarantee him a “good time” either with herself or her younger sister, as he preferred— if he was willing to pay for it.

Saying that he would “see about it,” the man left and at the first opportunity reported the “hermit” family as living in the so called “cow barn.” Miss Mabel Sutherland, who was back then Logan County’s “welfare worker,” eventually visited the shack on a Saturday when all the children were home. When she learned the story she reportedly made immediate plans for the care of all the children and they were brought to Logan.

Sutherland reported that all of the youngsters were warmly clad and clean when they were found, and their home was likewise “clean and tidy.” The children insisted upon continuing their school work and that they remain together. This was accomplished after some conniving, and a search was started for their mother, who, however, was never located.

I would like to think that if the food stamp program was in place way back then, perhaps the family may have been able to stay together.

Realizing that there are many people out there currently receiving assistance that are able-bodied souls, who could and should be working, I also know that we should never revert to the times of the past.

One might say: we cannot afford to.

BITS AND PIECES

Well, it is that dreaded time of the year that thankfully only comes along every four years, at least for me…..of course, I’m speaking of the primary election, which is in May…..for those of you who may read my ramblings periodically, you probably have noticed I occasionally spew out a few of my own political views…..well, at least until the election is over in May, I am bound by the West Virginia Supreme Court to keep my political thoughts to myself…..judicial officials are not allowed to publicly support any candidate, republican or democrat…..frankly, I don’t agree with that, but we are bound by the rules…..so, if I am to continue to do what I do on the side (which obviously is to research and write), then I will have to stick to stories and historical facts, which I enjoy anyway…..one final bit of political info readers should know is that the rules have changed: magistrates now have to run in divisions…..a drawing was held months ago in which I was placed in Division II, while Magistrate Codispoti drew Division III…..then sitting Magistrate Jeff Lane received the draw for Division I, but later resigned…..Steve Gray was appointed to replace Lane, and will take his spot in Division I…..what all this means is that anyone who chooses to seek a magistrate position must choose the person or division in which they wish to run…..also, all magistrate positions are now classified as non-partisan, which simply means republicans or democrats can vote for magistrates in the primary election…..as much as I really dread most elections, I must admit to looking forward to particularly the race for President…..for what it’s worth, a recent study by “EducatToAdvance.com” revealed “the most (and least) educated presidential candidates”…..I was surprised to see that Ted Cruz was listed No. 1 with a score of 91, while Ben Carson was No. 2 with an 89 score…..Hillary Clinton was listed third as the most educated with an 84 score, while Donald Trump was 12th with a score of 60…..Bernie Sanders was below Trump at 53, but Mike Huckabee, the former Governor of Arkansas, was dead last with a score of 42; somehow, that one didn’t come as a surprise…..QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”—ERNEST HEMINGWAY…..of the following former Logan High School basketball players, who would you vote for as your favorite player? Walt Walowac, James Davidson, Mark Hatcher, Ross Scaggs, Vic Herbert, Greg Bartram, Kenny Ross, Mike Stone, Scottie Ellis, Gary Webster, Tony Blackmon, Ron Gaiter, DeAundre Murphy, Stevie Browning, or someone else…..look for my answer next week…..while on the subject of basketball, what about Marshall cage coach Dan D’Antoni?…..I’m not sure how he will pan out as head coach there, but I sure do like his interviews…..of course, Bob Hudgins also is entertaining, both on and off the floor…..DID YOU KNOW…..that local businessman, Neal Scaggs, known particularly as the owner of Baisden Brothers Hardware, was once an employee of the old Midelburg Theatre in Logan?…..his father, Jody Scaggs, served as Chief of Police in Logan back when the family lived behind the Logan Post Office…..I know Neal will be wondering where I got this info…..one of the worst mistakes I ever made was getting involved with Publisher’s Clearing House…..once you buy anything, you then get bombarded with tons of mail and even e-mails that seem to never end……you probably have a better chance of winning the Powerball than one does the sweepstakes, which features a 1 in 1,7000,000,000 chance of winning…..FINAL NOTE: I have the info for what I believe to be a very interesting story about former longtime Logan Judge C.C. Chambers, the Klu Klux Klan, a famous preacher who visited Logan by the name of Billy Sunday, and just who was behind the KKK organization in Logan County. I promise you will be surprised by what I have to reveal……..and it’s actually a good reflection upon the people of our county.

Dwight Williamson

Guest Columnist

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

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