The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Good Ole Days

By Joanne Seay © 1988

Issue: October, 1988 -

Unlike most young people now a days, at 25, I appreciate each and every material thing my generation grew up with. Things that were just "there" for us were only in the dreams of the earlier generations. Thanks to some very special old timers, I now realize how fortunate we are, materially.

Monroe "Jess" McMillan and his sister Arvala McMillan Strickland are the two wonderful people who have given me insight of the long hard road way of life. He being 93 in January, 1988 and she 95, they have really traveled a long, hard road. Born in the 1890's to Alex and Louisa McMillan in the mountains of Cana, Virginia, the two oldest of twelve children, they were raised in a poor mountain family who had very little. Their father dabbed in a little of everything - farming and justice of the peace being a couple of his jobs - just to make a living for his large family. He was known far and wide for his intelligence, while he had only about four years of education. Judging from "Papa Mac" and Arvala, their mother must have been a good, hard working woman herself.

Their own generation had their share of hard times, too. Arvala worked along with her husband in their mountain fields and also raised ten children. After serving in World War I and working in the coal mines of West Virginia in order to support his hungry family of five during the Depression, Papa Mac turned to farming in Central Virginia, not having to fight the mountains like his sister and the family of his youth. They both have been good, honest, hard working people and have continued to do so in their 90's. Papa Mac raises acres of garden during the summer months and does woodwork and cracks walnuts in winter months. He resides in New Canton, Virginia. Arvala makes quilts, pillows, and doll dresses for her daughters' handmade china dolls known in the Mount Airy region where she now resides. Papa Mac and Arvala are two remarkable people who have lived through more changes than many history books acknowledge.

Although they had many values instilled in them that are all but lost today, let us be thankful that we still have these two and other people like them to give us an idea of the good qualities of a worthy life and some idea of what it was like to live in the good 'ole days.