Ray “Pee Wee” Osborne, Retired; Saltville, Virginia:
“I was a financial officer at Roanoke Business College, that’s where I graduated from. I was a maintenance planner at Olin Mathieson, and also a financial planner at the Mount Rogers Planning Commission.
[Growing up] we did just what a bunch of old boys do when they get out. We’d go swimming, shoot marbles, pitch horseshoes, hunt and things like that. [We’d] play a little golf and caddy on the golf course. I guess [my favorite thing to do was] marbles. We used to get on our knees, you know, and wear the kneecaps out.
You got a knife that’s got three blades in it. You opened the long one, and then you got the other two and you stick it in the ground and flip it up in the air and how ever it comes down, how it lands [is how you score].
Sometimes it lands on a blade and on its back, you never know. If you beat somebody, you might be playing for marbles. I’ll put three up and they’d put up three marbles. Marbles was a handy thing then.
My school years were [the] Saltville Shakers in Saltville, Virginia. We played football, baseball, and basketball. And there for many years, the athletes there were something else. But it’s not like it was then. I guess they probably ruled the valley here then, but Rich Valley had a real good athletic program.
I’ve fished this river all the way to the Holston River. We used to hunt in the mountains at a place called Sugar Grove. And we’d go up into Bath County too. You catch Bass, Suckers, Red eyes, Perch.
My mother died when I was one. My Dad died when I was fifteen. When my Dad died, I went and stayed with my sisters until I was 17 [when] I went in the service.
[I served in] the Army in ’44, ’45, and ’46. I was in the United States, and I was out in the Pacific and I spent quite a bit of time in Honolulu. I was a range setter. You got these 40mm cannons, you got a box out here and you look in a lateral and a vertical on your scope. I don’t remember whether I was lateral or vertical. That puts your gun out there in action.
We had to do a lot of guarding there. This army we had, they took care of the job. They set down the country, and luckily I didn’t have to go to Germany. They were doing a good job over there. They did a good job in Japan, so I was one of the lucky guys.
I came back from the service and stayed there and worked [here] for one month, then I left and went to Roanoke. Went to school up there. When I got out of school, I came back and bought me a place there in Saltville [and] got married.
[We] got two daughters, Vicky and Melissa. Vick is a teacher [and] Melissa is a pharmacist. When she got out of school, she went and worked in a pharmacy down in Knoxville [Tennessee] for four or five years. Somehow or another, a federal agent talked her into going into the FBI, and she did. They sent her out to Kansas City and [she] stayed there fifteen years. Well, [she quit] because she didn’t want to go over in a foreign country and work in a hospital, so she decided she’d get back into pharmacy.
All of my relatives in Tennessee, most of them are gone. There’s a few left there, but just like one of them. Marvin Brown, he was a magician when it comes to making things; organs, pianos, guitars, fiddles, anything like that. It fell to his son, a guy by the name of Buster Brown. They do the same thing [still] in Mountain City, Tennessee.
[I’m a hillbilly]. I guess it’s just all of us is hillbillies around here. Yeah, we’re all hillbillies doggone it! The people you growed up with, we all stayed here. Lot of ‘em gone now, but still a good place to live. I didn’t grow up in the city, that’s for sure. [City people] don’t have time to talk to you. [They’re] on the move all the time.
This [Rich Valley Fair] is for the people. This bottom down here is plumb full of campers and things, and people are vacationing down there. These people come in here, and I talk to ‘em. Got a lot of friends now from this.
Why leave a place like this? Look around you!”