Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How Far to Wheeling

I thought I would write about one of the funnies from my childhood. Well, not funny to everyone who fell into this trap.

I grew up in Triadelphia, WV a small town on the east side of Wheeling WV. It was a coal mining town and on hot muggy days you could see the coal dust hanging low over the valley to the east of town. It was a town with its own flavor and characters.

We lived next to a gas station. I won’t name the brand but…“you can trust your car to the man who wears the star“…OOPS! Dated myself there didn’t I?

Now our town was as dull as the flat head of a nail. When I was around 7 and not allowed to venture outside our yard, entertainment was to see how many different state license plates went by the house.  Another point dating me, the interstate highways had not been constructed yet. We saw tons of traffic on National Road that passed in front of our house. No wonder our house was so dusty; heavily traveled National Road in the front and the rail road behind the house. The railroad is now gone and one of the town wonders decided to buy the land and put mobile homes on that track of land behind all the houses.

The gas station next to our house would hire neighborhood guys to work the pumps. Remember full service at a gas station? We often talked with these guys and my sister ended up marrying one of them, but I’m off point. Anyway, by the time I was 14 I too would talk with the guys since they all lived within a shout of our house. One particular young guy just thought it was terrifically funny to give misdirections. Wheeling was west of Triadelphia, and you could easily walk to the outer edges of Wheeling. My friend would be happy to provide the full service that stations did back in the day and his service included giving directions. A traveler would ask “How far to Wheeling?” he would tell them they had already passed it.

He would tell them to go back out of the station, turn right, east not west, go to the first traffic light, turn right and go about “X” number of miles. Well, there were a few small towns between Triadelphia and the first traffic light. Yes, he sent them in the opposite direction.

In the evening after he was done sweeping the front of the station, he would stop by and tell us how many travelers he had given directions to that day or that week. I would ask him, “Aren’t you afraid they will come back this way and come looking for you.” He was never worried “By the time they know they went the wrong way, most likely they don’t stop again. If they do I will just I meant to say turn left.” I guess that is why I learned to read a map. I wasn’t going to take a chance of finding this type of a character in my travels.

Life might have been boring in our little town, but some of the residents had their own version of entertainment.

Happy Motoring and either have a map or a GPS!


  1. Jan's small town of Triadelphia is a classic and vintage USA small town in America. It is located along the very first national road in the US, "USA Route 40", known locally as, "National Road." Route 40, although a backwater road now, was at one time in the early years of this United States the major throughway from the eastern states to the wild, wild West. For many years, until the mid 1960's, Route 40 was the main road for Americans driving east and west, and either way, always driving through Triadelphia.
    The town of Triadelphia always seemed to be a place where the best of America resided. It was where my cherished mother-in-law Delma Mc Fadden grew up. Triadelphia was where her parents moved to during the Great Depression to raise their family. Delma's mother, whom I will always love and remember as the quintesential grandmother of grandmothers, Lucretia Mc Fadden, and her husband Cecil proudly worked hard and raised their three children on a farm in Triadelphia.
    Triadelphia was and still is a unique USA small town. It was a Coal town once in the early 20th century but King Coal is no more in Triadelphia. I remember when I was a child (late 1940's -early 50's) traveling through Triadelphia on my way east to visit my grandparents in nearby Pennsylvania. It seemed that at every half mile or so there stood a flourishing state of the art motel. For many years along Route 40 the Cherokee Indians maintained a place along the roadside near Triadelphia selling blankets and other Cherokee tribal type goods. Alas, When the Interstate came through in the mid 1960's and reduced Route 40 to a mostly local and secondary road, the motels went out of business and the proud Cherokees moved their roadside goods to a store next to the Interstate where it still remains today opposite a Cabellas.
    I visit Triadelphia frequently. Not for the history of the road, or to view the old coal tipples, or to see the remains of the vintage motels who were long ago torn down. No, I go to Triadelphia to visit one of the nicest and friendliest Post Offices left in America. I live several miles east of Triadelphia. I live just a stones throw from a local post office. A post office where you wait in line and are treated like you are not worth being there. Several years ago I found the old Post Office in Triadelphia . A sign on the door said you would be waited on quiclky and friendly. I tried it one time and It turned out to be the truth. Now when I need postal services I travel regurlarly the several extra miles to Triadelphia for the old fashioned post office there. It is so worth the trip. It is like going back in time and re-visiting the memories of Jan's childhood when people treated people as friends and appreciated the business given them. The two ladies at the Triadelphia Post office, the Postmistress and her associate, represent what we in America once knew and took for granted but now sadly what most of us won't ever get to know and have lost forever. In Jan O'Kanes childhood town of Triadelphia, one small seemingly untouched corner of America, the rare and friendly US Post Office still proudly lives and serves. In the words of an old and long gone major league (Pittsburgh Pirates) baseball announcer, "How Sweet it is"
    John Saseen

  2. What a great story!
    Hugs and happy writing,