Way back when Trailways buses were traveling throughout Logan County and at least four taxi cab services existed within the busy little town of Logan, women came from far and near to shop, while men found their ways to Logan, perhaps to visit one of the many pool halls or beer joints that could be found throughout the concrete landscape that covers an Indian burial ground.
Just as the smell of roasted nuts lingered on Stratton Street in front of G.C. Murphy’s “dime store,” so did the patrons of the many shops and restaurants wiggle their way through the crowded sidewalks of downtown Logan, shopping bags always full, especially near Christmastime.
I was just a young kid who sometimes rode the Trailways bus to town with my mother, but I can recall the lines of people waiting to get into movie theaters, and I recall vividly the fish tanks in the back of the dime store, as well as the humongous pair of blue jeans that hung from the ceiling of Weiner’s Army and Navy Store that we sometimes visited. For me, Logan might as well have been New York City, as it was a far cry different from Island Creek’s No. 16 company store at Verdunville where most of my family’s household goods came from.
Visits to Logan were few and far between for me as a youngster, and I can only imagine what it must have been like for someone my age or older growing up in or around downtown Logan. With bakeries so handy and hot dogs and hamburgers served in numerous locations, I somewhat envied those boys and girls who had almost immediate access to such delights.
Looking back, though, I wouldn’t change a thing about my youth, how and where I was raised, or how I grew into adulthood. Never in a million years could I imagine that I would someday be thinking that “we” — the poor kids that dotted every coal mining hollow in Logan County during the 1950s and ’60s — maybe could be the last of a generation to have lived truly free. Free to roam the hills, free to stay outside at night without supervision, free to walk the railroad tracks for what seemed like miles, free to build tree houses on land we didn’t own, free to wade the creeks and free to climb into parked coal cars left on railroad tracks. We were truly “free” at a time when parents didn’t need to worry about drugs or neighborhood crime.
Realizing, of course, that change comes with time — be it good or bad — allow me to relate a story of irony that I believe applies to us today, at least as far as the metamorphosis of the county of Logan is concerned.
The hills were truly adventurous during my youth. From picking wild greens with my parents and grandparents in springtime, to blackberry picking during summers, to gathering hickory nuts during autumn, to sleigh riding in wintertime, the hills provided a getaway for us all. Teenagers and grown men fired away at rabbits and squirrels during the appropriate seasons in the same hills in which we, as kids, had worn paths from constant travel.
Long before I ever knew what a “tram road” was, the local pathway provided an avenue of travel from just behind Verdunville Grade School to various locations throughout the nearby hills. So that you will know, a tram road is a dozed out dirt road that was used to haul coal in small wooden coal cars from a coal mine to a nearby tipple, where the coal could be dumped and later be loaded into coal cars, then transported to who knows where.
The tram road I speak of led from Island Creek’s Coal Co.’s No. 15 mine in Ellis Hollow to a tipple that stood directly across from what is now the Verdunville Church of God — the church having been built on what was called a coal bank. That particular coal mine closed even before No. 16 mine, which was located a stone’s throw from what is now Verdunville Grade School, constructed for 1957. I do not think I was even alive when the two mines were in operation.
One location I could reach by traveling the tram road was a long hollow which served as a slate dump, but, as I later learned, also was widely used over the years by young lovers for nighttime parking.
On certain days when the weather was allowable, I would make the long trek by foot to the place where my father sought out tranquility in the form of squirrel or grouse hunting. A marksman and recipient of five bronze battle stars during World War II, much like my father, I, too, identified with the freedom and peacefulness the hills can provide on beautiful spring or autumn days. The hills that we traversed, of course, did not belong to us in one legal sense, but certainly did in another whimsical way.
To connect the dots of this story to its beginning about the town of Logan, I must first tell you that the hills where my father, grandfather, myself and many others sometimes sought refuge is now the location of the Fountain Place Mall and was formerly known as Ellis Hollow. Indeed, the mall is often referred to as the reason downtown Logan is not so vibrant anymore. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that the opening of Corridor G to Charleston and beyond had as much to do with Logan’s fate as the mall that was placed over Island Creek’s No. 15 coal mine.
Here ares some facts the average Loganite is not likely to know. Just for the tax year of 2020, Wal-Mart has been assessed at owing $227,161. 06. Lowe’s Home Center is on the tax books for over $16,000 for the tax year, while other examples include Kentucky Fried Chicken at $13,735; Fast Change Lube at $8,952.92, and the Department of Environmental Protection real estate is on the books for owing $19,737.58.
Naturally, there are other business establishments at the mall which also pay their fair share in real estate taxes, but Fountain Place Realty, which I believe is now based out of Great Neck, New York, also is on the tax books for a little over 30 acres of land — which includes mineral rights — at just over $204,744 for the 2020 tax year. Keep in mind that these taxes include only real estate and not personal properties, which, frankly, are too numerous to name, but certainly mean many thousands of tax dollars to Logan County, not to mention the employment at the various locations.
There are certain businesses located at the mall area that are owned by other companies and they also contribute to the tax base of Logan County. And, at least one other business appears to be in the process of opening near the Tractor Supply location, while other sites are available to lease or own.
As previously mentioned, things change over time.
Logan has changed. The mountains have changed. The state has changed. People have changed. The nation has changed.
Gone are the bus lines, cab companies, pool halls and beer joints, as well as the many shoppers in downtown Logan. Some of us are fortunate enough to have memories of those days gone by, but we are also hopeful that “vision” for the future will include bringing Logan back into significance.
I must say that the tram road walks that I used to enjoy so much led me to see many of nature’s bounty, but never could I have imagined what would become of a mountainous hollow in the middle of nowhere — Fountain Place Mall. Obviously, someone had a vision.
It was that vision that kept Logan County from becoming another McDowell County, which like Logan, used to be a thriving place.
That old tram road I’ve mentioned, for the most part, still exists, but it’s a long hike to Fountain Place Mall, a place where the private roads leading to it resemble what I remember as nothing more than a tram road.