“They were great parents; couldn’t ask for better ones. They always wanted us to have a good education. Education takes you everywhere.”
Robin Hylton, Housewife; Bramwell, West Virginia:
“I was born in Bluefield, but I was raised on Bowen Lane in Freeman, which is part of Bramwell. The house that I lived in was my grandfather’s, and my daddy was born and raised in that house and then his five kids were born and raised in that house. It was a coal company house when they came here from Virginia to work in the coalmines in Mayberry. That was the coal company house he lived in.
We had a ball. It was always fun. There were a lot of houses over there and a lot of kids, so we enjoyed the outdoors. We liked the woods and the dirt, making mud pies.
I have two brothers and two sisters. It was always a great time at my house. My daddy loved Christmas. He wanted to start at Thanksgiving putting up all the lights and the tree and all that. Him and Mom always made sure we all had plenty. Plenty of toys. Plenty of food. Plenty of clothes. Plenty of everything. The house was so full of joy.
[Mom] cooked everything. We had turkey and ham. She fixed them both for Christmas. Candy! I don’t think there’s a candy she didn’t make. Cakes. She’s making applesauce cake today. It’s like a Bundt cake. I mean the tables would be plumb full. Everything you could think of, from dressing on down to sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes. I love to cook. I love to make candy and cookies.
We loved our school. It is closed now, but it was a great school when it was here. I went from Kindergarten to 12th grade up there at Bramwell High School and Grade School. I’ve been married since I was 17 years old, so I went back to school for a year after I was married, then I just raised my kids. I worked for eight years and then I quit. I’m raising two of my grandkids now.
My granddaddy was killed in the coalmines in Mayberry back in, I don’t know if it was ’57 or ’58. He passed away before I was born. My grandmother passed away, too, so I don’t have a whole lot of memory, you know, myself. From what I’m told, it wasn’t called a bathhouse back then, but like a place where they changed clothes. It slid in and when it slid in, he died on the way to the hospital.
I had a great dad and mom. My dad is deceased now. He’s been gone for five years, and my mom still lives over there. She’s 81 years old. They were great parents; couldn’t ask for better ones. They always wanted us to have a good education. Education takes you everywhere. As a child, there was nothing they didn’t do with us. We’d fish; swim in the narrows a lot. We just had a great childhood. My mom always worked. She worked several different places. She worked at a grocery store. She worked in Home Health. I don’t know how long it’s been since she quit to take care of one of her granddaughters. My daddy worked for the Department of Highways. He was a permits man. He didn’t retire until he was 73 years old. He retired, and five years later, he passed away.
We used to have a street festival in Bramwell every year, and my dad was always the clown of the bunch. He belonged the Kiwanis Club, and one time they were riding in the back of truck and he fell off the tailgate into a mud hole (laughs). They all laughed. But he used to do all kinds of silly stuff. He said he could ride a motorcycle one time too, but then he ended up at the hospital because he had gravels all in him (laughs).
When my daddy passed away I was about 50. It’s been hard because we were close. I mean, my daddy was one of these people he wasn’t afraid to show it just because he’s a man. He wasn’t afraid to show that he loved you. I have seen him usually from daylight to dark after he retired. Every night, I got that phone call about 10:00 to tell me, ‘’night,’ and he loved me and he’d see me in the morning. Every night. I never remember a day that I didn’t get that call. Oh, he is special. He still is.
I left for a little while, but it was just across the hill. I lived in Lashmeet when my husband worked in the coalmines. Every Friday night, we came home and we stayed until Sunday and we’d go back home on Sunday, so I was still connected to the town.
I just like it here because it’s a small town. You know, everybody knows everybody and everybody will help everybody. There’s crime everywhere, but here I don’t think you have as much. It is a good place to raise the kids and not have to be stressed out all the time because of things that go on. Everything’s going too fast, and here we slow down and take it for the minute it is.
[My husband] works for the Department of Highways now. He’s been there 30 years. He used to be a coal miner. Whew! That was a hard time; I guess what you’d call it. I worried about him. Worried he’d be killed underground because he was on a section with a guy that was killed, and they had to carry him out. That really plays on him. It shut down, closed up, so he went with the Department of Highways.
I do crafts. I crochet afghans and make Christmas ornaments and stuff like that. I have four kids; two girls and two boys. I have a 16 year old. He goes to school at Montcalm. I have one that’s 26 and one that’s 34 and one that’s 36. They all work. I’ve got four grandsons. One’s six, one’s seven, one’s seventeen, and one’s eighteen. So they’re kind of strowed out.
(How has the region changed?) A lot of our elderly are deceased now, and you got a lot of new people to move in from Florida and different places, but they’re still all real friendly and everything. They don’t have a connection here, but I guess when they retire they want to come to a small town and they see it on the Internet and everything, and this is where they come.
In the summertime, there is not a dull moment. Four-wheelers are here from daylight to dark. They can’t ride after dark, but they are still out. It helps our little community you know with selling stuff I am connected to the fire department. I have two sons on it, and I’m the president of the ladies auxiliary so we have a lot of sales, hot dogs and stuff like that we sell to the four-wheelers. We have had [folks visit] from Canada, New Mexico, everywhere.
[In twenty years] I think this place will still be here and I think it’ll still be booming. I really do. There are still people moving in here and there and different areas. We’re still getting plenty of four-wheeling people. There doesn’t seem to be as many young kids here. A lot of them have moved away due to things being down for a while, but some of them are starting to come back now.
[The happiest times in my life is] Just being alive every day (laughs). I want people to remember me not so much for me, but to remember to always be good to other people. Try to help if you can, regardless of whether they have a whole lot or they don’t have anything at all. They still have a heart, and if you can do good to help them, you help them.”