Cumberland Times-News

April 20, 2014

Think it’s not a small world? You’re wrong

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

Yes, you read that right in the paper a couple of weeks ago. I covered a wedding as a newspaper reporter. I’ve retired from doing regular stories because my primary duties lie elsewhere, and I don’t have the time or mental energy for it. But I agreed to do it for a couple of reasons, one of which goes back more than 40 years. The former proprietor of The Famous North End Tavern told me about a wedding that was to take place at the Lions Center for Rehabilitation and Extended Care, where his wife works.

The wedding didn’t involve residents, but a young man and woman who go there frequently to perform. They wanted to include their friends, who have become an extended family and in most cases wouldn’t be able to go to a wedding someplace else.

I also went because nobody would believe that I of all people would cover a wedding, and because I relish talking with people who are older than I am. (Yes, dammit, I hear you. There aren’t as many of them as there used to be.)
Goldy’s Rule 161: Older folks are like books you haven’t read. Open them and you will learn wonderful things. Listen a lot more than you talk, and you will gain wisdom that will suit both you and the younger folks you will share it with as you grow older.

A friend from my college days was an African (he tried to teach me how to drink Scotch, and I tried to teach him how to drink bourbon) who told me something I’ve never forgotten.

Chris said there was much about America that he liked, but what he couldn’t understand was why we basically ignored or even ridiculed our older people. The old ones in his culture are revered because they have accumulated a lifetime of grace and wisdom.

I talked with several of the center’s residents and could have stayed there all day. It was more hoots than a barn full of owls.

When I was at West Virginia University in Morgantown, I roomed with an older couple. The man grew up in Lonaconing, where he was a boyhood friend of Lefty Grove, and spent several years on New York Yankees’ minor league teams.

He was good enough to have pitched both ends of an exhibition double-header against the Chicago Cubs’ starting team and shut them out both games. The newspaper clipping was framed on his wall.

Sadly, this was before free agency. The Yankees had the best team and the best pitching staff in the Major Leagues, so they didn’t need him. But neither were they going to trade him to another team and have to play against him some day.

Many nights, I was headed out on the town, but found Earl sitting on his front porch swing and decided to stay with him instead.

Great-uncle Paul Goldsworthy was a barber. Having him cut your hair could take a while, because he snipped for a few seconds, then stopped cutting for several minutes so he could talk.


But I loved it and frequently visited him and Great-aunt Mary at their home.

After Paul died, my dad (his nephew) occasionally said he regretted that he’d never asked him about such-and-such a thing.

One time Dad said he’d always wondered about a fellow our whole family knew, and why he never married his long-time girlfriend.

Paul knew him better than the rest of us did, and I told Dad I’d asked Paul about that. Paul said the guy found out that she was running around on him ... but that was all right, because
he’d been running around on her.

Paul visited us one Easter while I was still living at home. By the time he left, it was snowing to beat the band.

Dad and I mentioned that Grandmother Goldsworthy used to say winter wasn’t through with us until we’d had our Easter storm. (Which, since it snowed Tuesday night in Danville, we now have had. Winter is
over.) “We haven’t had any decent weather,” said Paul, “since they put that (four-word Anglo-Saxonism) on the moon!” Dad and I chuckled, but Paul told us, “You look back, and you’ll see I’m right.” That shut us up. A few decades have passed, and I’m not laughing any more. Paul truly was a book filled with wonderful things to learn about.

One of his pages had to do with pitching pennies in a back alley when he was a boy with Diamond Jim Brady. Another involved the time he drove his automobile from Keyser to California and back ... in an era when only a few of America’s roads had been paved.

Five surviving members of the World War II-era U.S. Army 78th Lightning Division and their families returned to Keyser for the annual J. Edward Kelley Award activities last week. Kelley is Keyser High’s Medal of Honor recipient and served with them.

I’ve become friends with three of them and always hope to see them at the reception each year. They came back again, and you’d never think they were in their mid-to-late 80s.

A man about my age whose late father fought with the 78th saw the jacket I was wearing and asked if I was associated with Chapter 172 of the Vietnam Veterans of America in Cumberland.

I said I was, then asked if he was a Vietnam Veteran. When he said he was, I shook his hand and handed him one of the chapter’s “Welcome Home” coins.

He looked at it for a moment and said, “I was in Gettysburg last year, and when I went to Little Round Top, I met two guys in Union uniforms who were from Chapter 172. They gave me one of these coins.”

That, I told him, was my buddy and me — Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy.

As we talked, the thought crossed my mind that — just like the old soldiers we came to honor — he and I are becoming books filled with pages of things we must pass along to those who come after us.

When it was time to leave, I said I hoped we both would live long to see Vietnam Veterans treated with the same reverence America holds for the World War II guys. They deserve it.

“I hope so, too,” he said. “Maybe we will.”

And now I have another new friend. I’m already looking forward to seeing him again next year.