By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1986
Issue: May, 1986
Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, mothers are the backbone of our community. One beautiful Sunday afternoon I drove to Woolwine, Virginia to see a model mountain mother, Ida Hylton Ridinger. She resides in Bassett, but her daughter, Dot Griffith had brought her to Woolwine to meet me.
I remember seeing Mrs. Ridinger once when I was a very young girl when she came to Mountain View Methodist Church. Today, she is 87 years old, very alert, and has a smile that's so sweet it will brighten anyone's day. On that particular Sunday, Mrs. Ridinger looked the part of a mountain mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, in a neat navy blue dress and her pretty silver hair done up.
We chatted like old friends and I learned I'm related to her on both my father and mother's side. I'm very proud to have a kinship with such a fine lady.
Now I will share with you readers as Mrs. Ridinger shared with me, some of her early memories.
"I was born November 10, 1898, in the Black Ridge section of Floyd County [Virginia]. My parents were Henry E. Hylton and Belle Underwood Hylton. Alfred Underwood and Julia Emmaline Hall were my grandparents. I had five sisters and no brothers.
I was born near the Toncray Copper Mines. You could see the mine from our meadow and when I went as a child to get the cows at milking time, I could see over there at the mines. I remember some of the men from the neighborhood worked there. It was a main source of income.
I didn't go to school until I was 7 years old. Back then children didn't go as young as they do now. The school was also named after that fellow Toncray. He was quite an influential man in the community at that time.
Once I remember getting a special doll. She was blond and blue-eyed and didn't have on a thing but a gown when I got her. I thought she was so pretty. Back then we didn't have much money, but plenty of food and clothes to wear. There was always enough love to go around.
Since father had all girls in the family, we had to help do a lot of work that boys usually do. I always liked to ride horses. Once I got throwed off and landed in a hollow stump. It was full of rain water. What a mess that was! Also I loved to ride sitting behind my uncle.
A special person in my life was Aunt Patty Hylton, that's my great-grandmother. She was a beautiful lady and everyone loved her. One day Aunt Patty sent word that she wanted to see me, so my Uncle John and Aunt Alice Underwood carried me to church at Mountain View Methodist. Then we walked down to Aunt Patty's. She had the best dinner. I can remember to this very day what we had to eat that Sunday. There was green beans, boiled cabbage, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes, homemade butter and bread. I tell you, that was some meal and I have never forgotten that day. For dessert Aunt Patty had baked a cake. All her cooking was done on a fireplace, even the cake. She baked the cake in an iron skillet setting on hot coals. It came out nice and round Aunt Patty just kept making layers and stacking them. This was a stack cake. Sometimes she put apple butter between the layers and other times, some type of jelly. They were so good. I'm telling you, my Aunt Patty was some cook.
I went to Mountain View Church School some. There was one special teacher there, Alice Clay. She was a college graduate and wanted to do religious work. I loved going to school there and had a lot of friends. My special friend was Ruth Cockram. I think she was Dewey Cockram's sister. Ruth was such a beautiful girl. I really would like to know what became of her.
As a teenager, I still helped father a lot with the field work, but sometimes there was a little time for fun. Apple butter stirrings and molasses makings were gathering places for young people You could have right much fun at these gatherings. Then there was apple cuttings - getting the apples ready for making apple butter. Most of the time, the young people would stay a little late and have a dance after an apple cutting.
I met my husband Otto after he came back from France. The name Ridinger is German. There's a few scattered around yet. I think maybe some Ridingers live in the Salem and Christiansburg area. I was working in the telephone office in Floyd, Virginia and one day I went into the local drug store. Otto was clerking there and we struck up a conversation. He started talking, he was a big talker, and I reckon we just kept it up. We got married and lived in Floyd for six years. Later we moved to a farm in Salem. We had nine children but only seven are living now. With such a large family, Otto and I had to work hard, but we managed and always had plenty. My beloved Otto passed away November 30, 1951.
As a young girl, I joined the Mountain View Methodist Church. A big crowd of young people joined one night at a revival. A Preacher Craddock was holding the service. Everyone wanted to be sprinkled but me and Jennie Conner. We wanted to be baptized in the river. Preacher Craddock lined the ones to be sprinkled on the river bank, then led Jennie and me out into the water to be baptized. After I married and moved away, I had my membership moved. Now my church is the New Hope Brethren.
Now I live in a trailer in Bassett, Virginia, near my daughter. I love flowers and grow African Violets and Cactus plants. In spring, I love to set out flowers. I do a little bit of crocheting sometime, but I guess my real love is working with flowers. Sometimes, I like to ramble around and see places I used to go.
I have lived a full life and have a lot to be thankful for. My family is a great joy to me. Besides my seven children, I have 24 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. Now everything I told you is the truth. I always try to be truthful. Ivalien, I'm so glad I got to see you because I have been wanting to meet you."
Mrs. Ida Ridinger, you are a wonderful person and I am proud to salute you. Happy Mothers Day to a real Mountain Mother.