Author Archives: Vera Marie Badertscher

Vera Marie Badertscher

About Vera Marie Badertscher

I am a grandma and was named for my grandma. I've been an actress, a political strategist and a writer.I grew up in various places, went to high school in Killbuck, Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University. My husband and I moved to Arizona after graduation and have three adult children. I love to travel and read--and have another website for that called A Traveler's Library. I ponder family as I cook.

A Slice of My Life: Paradise and Doomsday on Mt. Weather

In 1945 I traveled with my family from Ohio to Mt. Weather, Virginia, a place so peaceful and beautiful that it hardly seemed real. I had become the heroine in my own personal adventure, living in a cabin like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s little houses; living on a mountain like Heidi with her grandfather.

As an adult I discovered that the paradise of Mt. Weather now hides a secret even more serious than those mysteries unraveled by my other favorite literary characters, the Bobbsey twins.

The Summer of 1945 at Mt. Weather

Shenandoah

View of the Shenandoah Valley near where we spent the summer.

That summer the air was clear and the views from our modernized cabin stretched for miles.  I had just turned six years old and my little brother, Billy was only six months. World War II was winding down and the official peace treaty with Japan would be signed in September.

That summer, my father, Paul Kaser, worked for the U. S. Weather Bureau, the operators of Mt. Weather since the early 1800s.

Despite what the later news articles say, the Bureau of Mines did not control  Mt. Weather starting in the late 1930s. They might have coexisted with the Weather Bureau, but everyone my father had contact with that summer belonged to the Weather Bureau. They were busily sending up balloons into the atmosphere, not digging an underground city.

One of the men he had worked for in New Philadelphia six years before held a position at Mt. Weather, and invited him to come work for the summer.  A cabin was available on the property of a Dr. Tappan, who had a young daughter just about my age.  My father blissfully describes our home for the summer to his friend, Delmar (Red) Alderman, an old friend from Killbuck, Ohio.

Paul Kaser

Alderman Hardware back room. Paul on the right, and owner of the store, Delmar “Red” Alderman on the left.

Father starts the letter off with a bit of understatement–sneaking up on the spectacular view.

The view is not spectacular just pretty countryside miles and miles of it streached [stretched] out like a panorama. We can see Winchester about 25 miles. Our front yard looks out on the Shenandoah valley on the other side of the mountain is Bull Run valley and beyond are Bull Run Mountains. The air is so fresh you never get tired. The big thing is the peacefulness. No noise except of our own making. The cabin is a thing of beauty. The man who owns it has spent $3000 on it and has managed to keep it looking rustic. It is nicely furnished and has all modern convenience. Hot & cold water, electric refrigeration and modern kitchen except that cooking is done on a wood range or on an electric hot plate.

Although I was just six, the cabin and its surroundings made a lasting impression on me. Unfortuately, my parents did not take a lot of photos of that idyllic summer, but I have snapshots in my mind of the walks through the woods, visiting in the big house with Cummie Tappan and my fascination with the fact that the Tappans had a colored cook. (That’s how we would have described her then.)  I never had known anyone but Mommys to do the cooking!!

When we needed to buy something we went to the nearest “big” town, Berryville VA.

Berryville Main Street looking west

Sometimes Mother and I, pushing my baby brother in his buggy, would walk all the way to the Mt. Weather complex where we  visited Aileen Corwin, the wife of the man my father worked for. The Corwins also had a son my age to join me in exploring the woods.  I remember that Mrs. Corwin once  killed a rattlesnake with a broom when  it had invaded her porch. Fortunately, no snakes visited us, but each evening, mother checked me over carefully for ticks.

The Corwins lived in a simple wooden house near the edge of the complex. Beyond their house were a few two and three story wooden buildings that housed offices and “Government Building,”  a kind of dormitory for workers. We could walk anywhere in the simple complex and visit my Father at work. As I recall, roads were narrow and unpaved.

In his letter to  Delmar Alderman, my father describes how to get to the cabin.

Come to Winchester VA. You can come east on Route 40 or 50 or you can take the Penn. TurnPike and drop down to Winchester then take VA. State Route 7 and come to Berryville VA. (You can inquire there) follow 7 to the top of the ridge (10 miles or so) there you will find a cross road with a lot of signs reading Mt. Weather, Appalachian Trail and a lot of peoples names. Turn south on a gravel road and follow uphilll about a mile and a half till you come to a mail Box marked Dr. Tapppen. That’s the place. Come in and take off your things.

He also tempts his friend to visit by telling him that he can visit the Skyline Drive and Washington D. C., each only about two hours away from the cabin.  (We had gone to Washington D.C. to visit with my father’s nieces, Phyllis and Evelyn Kaser, who worked during the war in government jobs.)

I can remember walking along the sparsely traveled road with my mother, enjoying the wildflowers, learning the names of trees, and picking wild strawberries. Amazingly, although the Mt. Weather complex has changed drastically,  the area around Mt. Weather seems no different than it was 60 years ago. The Google Map street view of Route 601(the cross road off Rt. 7 that my father referred to in his letter) along the ridge of the mountain look so familiar to me, that I feel like Google must have an image of my mother and me walking along, looking for wild strawberries growing in front of the low stone walls.

But when my journey on Google Maps closes in on the Mt. Weather facility, I can’t “drive” right in. A sign declares FEMA Mt. Weather Emergency Operations Center, and a gate and guardhouse end the Google Maps journey.

Mt. Weather

The Mt. Weather Complex today.

What a surprise it was to see a Time Magazine article about Mt. Weather 45 years later. Digging into the mountain, government agencies had created a hideaway for important officials in case of atomic bomb attack. In 2011, Time magazine’s blog ran a condensation of that article from December 9, 1991, that you can read here. Although the road leading to the top of the mountain may look the same, the pastoral innocence of the Mt. Weather complex itself existed no more. The FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) designation is a cover for the real mission of the place.

The title of the article, DOOMSDAY HIDEAWAY, describes a very different place than the one where my father worked and my family visited during the summer of 1945.

News items and Wikipedia have a gap in their timetables of the way that Mt. Weather morphed from a Weather Station into a secret underground hideout for high government officials in case of nuclear attack. The history the reporters dug up skips over the immediate post-war period when we saw Mt. Weather.

A more recent report, from NBC, (June 2015) indicates that the facility is no longer used as a hideout for government officials, but instead an “alternate” center of operations for Homeland Security. At any rate, the real work of the government there remains top secret.

The news sources say that in the late 1930s the Bureau of Mines started some excavations, and by 1959 the Bureau had completed an underground shelter in Pre Cambrian basalt.  Ironically, my father’s description of the place emphasizes “peacefulness” and a decade after he wrote that letter, the emphasis was on preparedness for war and disaster.

I am so glad that we had that short respite on the mountain at a moment in history when we were enjoying the prospect of long-awaited peace in the world and the peacefulness of the beautiful Virginia mountains.

Heirlooms: Wedding Jewelry

Way back in January 2016, I showed you some pictures of my mother’s “Jazz Age” jewelry, including this bracelet–possibly wedding jewelry. (Click on that link to get a description of the bracelet.)

Wedding Day Bracelet

The bracelet Harriette Anderson wore the day of her wedding to Paul Kaser.

When I wrote that article, I said that I wasn’t absolutely sure that the bracelet was a part of mother’s wedding day outfit–, but I thought that she wore this unusual wedding jewelry.

Now I know!  This newspaper wedding article features a picture of my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser, with her Matron of Honor, Lois Duncan Feight .  The wedding took place in the home of Lois and her husband Hank in Newark, Ohio.   (This article explains why no relatives attended.)

Wedding picture in newspaper

Newspaper Article :Lois Duncan Feight and Harriette Anderson Kaser at HAK’s wedding to Paul Kaser

And just in case you cannot see the bracelet, here is a grainy enlargement.

Close up to show Wedding bracelet

Close up to show bracelet worn for wedding. Harriette Anderson Kaser wedding with Lois Duncan Feight.

I have shared some of the letters my mother and father exchanged during the years leading up to their marriage.  In one, Mother mentions going shopping for a new dress, presumably for the wedding. It does not mention wedding jewelry, though.

In March, 1938, she wrote:

I went to Coshocton tonight and bought a new dress, hat, gloves, purse and tomorrow am going to get shoes.

I couldn’t stand a chance of your looking nicer than I might. No Dear I just had the urge and saw one I liked pretty well so there was.

It is true that despite his lack of funds, Paul Kaser was a spiffy dresser, but judging by the picture above, she was keeping up with him just fine, don’t you think?

Others Blogging About Heirlooms

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco, Everyone Has a Story to Tell,  started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join her in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Here are some of the bloggers who also blog about heirlooms.

Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
True Lewis at Notes to Myself  
Heather Lisa Dubnick at  Little Oak Blog
Kathy Rice at Every Leaf Has a Story
Mary Harrell-Sesniak at  Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog

Are you a blogger who writes about heirlooms (even once in a while)?  Let me know in the comment section and I’ll add your blog to this list.

This Old House: Where Ancestors Lived

Among the treasures that showed up in our recent move, was this picture of my great-great grandmother’s old house.  I decided to put this picture together with other old house pictures, most of which I have already shown to you.

Great-Great Grandmother Mary Morgan’s Old House

Mary Morgan's old house

Mary Morgan’s Killbuck house with Doc Stout office on right. Circa 1880

 

Mary Bassett Morgan (1810-1890),  (wife of the infamous Jesse Morgan) lived in this Killbuck, Ohio house.  When Hattie married Dr. William Stout in 1872, the newlyweds moved into an apartment in Mary’s house and Dr. Stout set up his office in the lower front part of the house, facing Main Street.

I have not researched land records–if they exist for those early days of the community–so I don’t know if Mary first lived in that old house with her first husband, Asahel Platt.  Since Mr. Platt apparently owned a general store, this would have been a perfect location. And those big windows on the left side, look like a store front to me. Mary did not live in one place consistently.  After Mr. Platt died, she lived in another county, where she met and married Jessie Morgan. Later census records indicate she joined her daughter in a household that probably provided a room for the school teacher, Hattie Morgan.

In 1870, Mary’s census address includes a variety of people, making it look as though she runs a rooming house. That could be the big house above. Next to her on the census list, we see a physician, so possibly that doctor left and Doc Stout took over his office.

The little town of Killbuck (then called Oxford) has two main streets–Main and Front.  This building stands on a corner of the intersection of Main and Front Streets, facing Front Street where most of the businesses developed.  Hattie and “Doc’s” three children, William (1873), Maude (1875) and Vera (1881), my grandmother, were all born in that house at the corner of Main and Front.

When I was in high school, a restaurant called Hale’s occupied that corner–and possibly the same building, much remodeled.  But the restaurant building burned down in the 19  s and the rebuilt building on the corner bears no resemblance to Grandma Morgan’s old house.

Great Grandfather Doc and Great Grandmother Hattie Stout’s New House on Main Street

By the time my grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson) was about four or five years  old( circa 1885) , Doc Stout build a grand new house for his family, around the corner on Main Street.

I can see echoes of Hattie’s mother’s house in the new house and office Doc Stout built on Main Street.  She obviously wanted to have the same kind of porch she had in her mother’s house.

Stout Family old house in Killbuck, Ohio

Dr. William Stout and family in front of family home, circa 1885

Grandma and Grandpa Anderson’s Farm House

When my grandmother married, she and her husband Guy Anderson lived for a time on this house on a farm near Killbuck.  The first picture below–a gathering of their extended family in 1909–gives a hint of the grandeur of this house, which had been built by Guy’s uncle.  The next picture shows how the house looked a few years ago.

Anderson family photograph

Vera and Guy Anderson and families 1909

Old House on former Anderson Farm

Old Anderson Farm, Photo courtesy of Herb Anderson

Grandma and Grandpa Anderson’s House in Town

However, farm life did not agree with Vera and Guy, and they moved in to town.  I wish I had a better picture of the little house they lived in on a side street in Killbuck. In this one, Grandma is sitting on the porch with the three children–Bill (1905), Harriette(1906), and Herbert (1908).

Anderson old House in Town

Vera Anderson and children at small house in Killbuck, about 1910

Not long after the picture of this old house, the house burned to the ground.  Mother tells how her father, who had a hardware store at the time, came running calling for her because he was so afraid that she had been caught inside in the fire.  It was a traumatic experience that none of them would ever forget.  Mother said that for years, Grandma Vera would look for things and then realize they were destroyed in the fire.

Great Grandmother Hattie Stout’s Small House

Doc Stout died in 1910, and Hattie Stout decided to move to a smaller house.  She lived in this little place when my mother went off to college.  This picture shows Mother’s brothers, Herbert and Bill Anderson, and her friend Sarah, who later married Bill Anderson. A cousin from Guernsey County gazes off to the right.  Hattie Stout sits In the center and her daughter Vera Stout Anderson, in an apron, pets her dog Peggy. The picture dates to about 1925. (The family had moved to Columbus, Ohio when Harriette started college at Ohio State University, but returned to Killbuck when Guy and their sons could not find work.)

Dog Peggy

My grandmother Vera pets Peggy. In the center of the picture is my great-grandmother Hattie Stout, Vera’s mother. About 1925 when my mother was in college.

The End of Doc Stout’s Grand Old House on Main Street

Guy and Vera by this time had moved into the family homestead–the house that Doc Stout had built when Vera was very young.  Vera continued to live there until she was in her 80s. Through the years part of it served as the doctor’s office, it became a boarding house, then a restaurant, and later Vera offered rooms or apartments for rent. When she sold it, she moved to a small house on Water Street near Front Street in Killbuck, and the grand old house on Main Street was dismantled to pave a parking lot for the grocery store.

Stout-Anderson house newspaper article

Stout-Anderson house newspaper article

So of the five old houses shown here, only one survives that I know of. It is possible that the small house of Hattie Stout might still exist in a different form in Killbuck.  But meanwhile, I am glad to have a collection of pictures of houses of my grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandmother.