The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Trip Back To My First School

By Wayne Banks © 1987

Issue: September, 1987

Clearbrook school today (1987).Clearbrook school today (1987).Wednesday, April 29, 1987 my son in law and daughter, Bill and Betsy Harman and I left Christiansburg, Virginia. We went south towards Marion, Virginia on Interstate 81 to Abingdon, Virginia, where we had lunch.

We left Abingdon on US 11 and 19 south west going parallel to the Norfolk and Southern main line to Wyndale, Virginia where we stopped at a general store in Wallace, Virginia. We asked the store manager where the old N & W passenger and freight station used to be located. They informed us that it was right in front of the store, but was discontinued and torn down in 1955.

We asked the folks the direction to the Clearbranch Section of Washington County. They gave us the directions to route 700.

Then we went to look for Clearbranch. This was the first time I had been back to this area since leaving seventy five years ago. I recognized the road and had Bill turn to the right on Route 700 and there was the first school I had attended. In the front yard was a large maple tree. When I knew I was leaving the school 75 years ago, the teacher had me plant a small maple seedling. This could be the very seedling I planted when I was in school there. Our family moved often because my father, W.J. "Willie" Banks was a Missionary Baptist preacher.

We also found the house where we lived at the foot of Little Walker Mountain. We looked for the mill where I used to take corn to have it ground, but was told it had been torn down and the Millstones were laying in someone's front yard. An earthen dam had been constructed on Clearbranch for flood control and is being used as a park. At the old Farm House I got out and Bill took a picture beside it.

We left there and went on to the Mouth of Wilson on down New River to Independence, Grayson County through Horse Creek, Saddle Creek, and Bridal Creek communities. We then took a snap shot of a house we lived in about 70 years ago on Ballard Branch about three miles out of Galax. This is where I lived when I left home at fourteen years of age to get a job in Winston Salem, North Carolina in Haynes Knitting Mill.

Everyone enjoyed a good trip, the weather was great and the scenery was beautiful. I was surprised but pleased to find my memory so good that I could still find the first school I ever attended. It was only used now to store hay, but it was still standing. I believe that first teacher's name was Miss Crockett. I am now 82 years old. I had not been back to that school in the 75 years that have passed, but enjoyed our day's trip down memory lane.