When Mark McNeal, facilities specialist at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, arrived for his shift on…
By Paul M. Minter
In 1937 I was ten years old, Mother and Father decided they would separate and by doing so they would leave me with my Great-Grandmother who lived in the hills of Kentucky. Moving from the city to the hills of Kentucky was like being in a time capsule, traveling back to the frontier days.
My Great-Grandmother’s old farmhouse had no water, electric or plumbing. Her farm was located as far back in the hills as you could possibly go, at the head of a hollow with 10-foot cliffs surrounding the entire valley. The farm had 80 acres of steep hillside land with about 10 acres of bottomland. The creek that flowed through this valley was a gift from God and gave us many hours of catching fish that my Great-Grandmother, Molly Harvey, would cook for me. My Great-Grandfather, Isaac Harvey, built the old farmhouse. It had six rooms with three open fireplaces and an old wood cook stove in the kitchen. The house had three large porches. In the winter we spent most of our time in the bedroom because it was the only room heated by an open fireplace. Sleeping in the bedroom was like sleeping in an indoor jungle. My Great-Grandmother had many beautiful flowers hanging in this bedroom so they wouldn’t freeze. She also was an herbalist who spent most of her life collecting and growing herbs. She had remedies for most all sickness. Doctoring yourself was common practice and she knew the proper home remedy to give you.
My Great-Grandmother cooked, dressed and lived like she was living in the early 1800s. She always wore the long dress and a colorful bonnet. A sidesaddle and a horse were her only way of traveling.
I was fascinated with the primitive way of life, and soon learned how to ride a horse, milk a cow by hand and plow the fields with a team of mules. My Great-Grandmother’s requirement was that everybody had to work, regardless of age. Working in the garden, cutting firewood, gathering eggs, feeding the livestock and chickens was a daily requirement.
The school I attended was a one-room school with 8 grades and a potbelly stove in the middle of the room. There was no such thing as a school bus. When you graduated from the 8th grade you had to travel many miles to go to a high school. A big percentage of the young people could not go because of the long trip. I was lucky, as I was able to enroll in Berea College where you worked and lived on campus. They required you to work four hours a day to pay for your way through school. I was assigned to work in the paint shop. In 1944, at the age of 17, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy and when the war was over I received an honorable discharge. I was lucky to get employment at the General Motor plant in Dayton, Ohio. After 30 years of dedicated service I retired at the age of 50 and launched an exciting new career. I decided to take ballroom dancing lessons.
I always loved to watch other people dance and was always taken by music. After competing in three dance competitions and receiving a trophy for each one I started a new life as a fulltime professional dance instructor. I met Sharon when we were both taking dancing lessons in 1967. A wonderful romance followed and we fell in love and were married in 1970. I organized an independent dance club and for the next 33-years I was a successful ballroom dance instructor. I received awards from numerous YMCA’s locally where I helped promote and achieve dance class success, including the Kettering, Xenia, Northwest, New Carlisle, Oakwood and Eaton YMCAs. We offered classes for the adult night school programs at Fairborn and Kettering High Schools and Dayton classes at South Elementary School. We offered classes for the Kettering Recreation Center at Polen Barn, the Rose Art Center and Kettering Rec Center. Without my wife, Sharon, I would not have been such a great success. She helped me and encouraged me to practice and develop new ideas so our students would always be excited and want to learn more about dancing.