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Through The Lens: A Page In History

By Staff | Mar 25, 2020

Downtown New Martinsville during the 2020 Pandemic.

A few days ago, I came into town early. My goal was to go to the grocery store and pick up a few things Mary and I needed. As I turned on to Main Street, the sun was just touching the front of the court house. I saw not one person as I looked up the street. To be honest, I have probably driven the street many times with no one to be seen, but this time it was different. Why? Maybe because the Coronavirus has changed how I look at my world.

Just a week before, people would be heading into the Court Restaurant. Bill Talkington would be having his breakfast before heading to his shop. At a nearby table, Tim Haught would be scanning some papers preparing for his upcoming day. As others came in, they would greet them with a smile and ‘how you doin’. They would exchange pleasantries about the fine day that was beginning. Outside on the sidewalk, Scott Hill would be passing making his daily run. Everyday happenings that we tend to take for granted. If just two weeks ago I told you store shelves would be empty and restaurants ordered closed to inside customers, you would have thought it impossible. And for the sports enthusiast, who waits all year for March Madness and the beginning of baseball, now to be told it’s not going to happen for a while, they would have laughed at me. We all may have thought it would not happen here, but it has.

We all are experiencing something new to each of us. Up until now, most people may have believed the only event that could affect so many, would be a tragedy similar to 9-11. That event affected the people of our country profoundly. If you are like me, you can remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard about 9-11. And most of us can remember where we were when we heard about the shuttle explosion. Or how about the assassination of John Kennedy or Martin Luther King. And for those who were alive on December 7th 1942, the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Single sudden events that froze a moment in time and history that we carry with each of us for a lifetime.

At first, the invasion of the Coronavirus crept slowly across our country. Originally, it was reported in one nursing home and then in a church. We realized it was elsewhere in the world and some didn’t think it would cross the vast oceans to our country. Unfortunately, like a great dark cloud it has come to our shores. On the news, they list the number of the ill and the dead as if they were baseball scores. Our government went from telling us it would be okay, to telling us we are in this for the long haul. As more people become ill, they now tell us checks will begin arriving in mail boxes to help us make it through this crisis. I wonder, is the talk of money like a magic trick? Direct your attention to the check in my right hand. Ignore the left hand that is struggling to find supplies to help fight the virus. I now hear the magical checks are going to those in need. I hope, that is for the people who have suddenly lost their jobs and have no income. What about people who work from home? Or, even the elderly who live only on their social security checks. And if the magical checks go out, when will it happen? I’ll guess we’ll see if that helps to stop the spread of economic fears.

I have written in a previous column about the time Johnny Carson made a joke about toilet paper being in shortage on his late night show in 1973. After the panic buying settled, we laughed about the whole thing, well at least some of us. That rush to buy something we thought was in short supply was an omen of what could happen in a real crisis such as this one. My mom told me, in this difficult time of a toilet paper shortage, we no longer have the Sears and Roebuck catalog to fall back on.

The government advises us that there is no real shortage of essential supplies, just an inability to restock as quickly as they are purchased. Now there are reports some truck drivers who deliver those supplies are being quarantined for the next two weeks. It is like a catch 22 situation.

Mankind is a social species and interaction with others is essential to who we are. Whether it is an everyday act of sharing a cup of coffee with Bill or Tim, or going to watch Dave Cisar’s young men of spring play baseball, it is all of these things that ties us together as a community.

Now we must keep our distance from people we routinely had contact with during a normal day. But this is anything but normal times. For the first time in my life, I am touched by something I cannot see or control, yet it has profoundly affected my world.

The news reported this all began with a species of bat sold in China as food. The infection spread from the bat to a single person who was susceptible to the virus. Once it infected the human race, it mutated and began to spread. Remember, when I wrote about the history of the Spanish Flu, I explained it is believed to have begun with one soldier. He was a cook in 1918 and part of his job was to butcher hogs and chickens. That pandemic was not the first time disease spread from animals to man and it is unlikely this will be the last

Before I end this week’s column, I am going to tell you a story to try and lighten your day. This news article appeared JUNE 9, 1938, in the Wetzel Democrat: RAID CHICKEN FIGHT SUNDAY. State police and other officers chase pitters: No one Arrested, Fourteen chickens taken. State police and county officers raided a cocking main on Marion Wiley farm on Richmond Run near Jacksonburg on Sunday afternoon. All spectators, game chickens, owners and pitting expert escaped arrest, taking to the red brush when the alarm was given by lookouts. Fourteen game chickens were arrested by the officers and brought to the county seat. They are in the custody of Sheriff Frank Berger. I wonder, were the chickens brought before the magistrate or taken directly to Sunday dinner?

I hope you and your families are well and upbeat during this time, that we all are sharing at a distance. Our community has weathered other events that have tested our resolve. I believe this is one more along life’s road. This event will pass and we will return to what we once called normal. But in the backs of our minds, we have all found out the world is a little smaller when situations like this happen. Our great great grandkids will someday read about this in the pages of history books and wonder, did my relatives come though that time without so much as a sniffle? I’m betting we will. We just need to keep the faith as we look ahead Through the Lens.