Thursday, October 2, 2014

'Round Here: Martinsburg, WV Then and Now

This was supposed to post yesterday but I needed a picture for it. The town of Martinsburg now known as Tha' Burg, Dirty Burg, Ghettoburg, M'burg are among the few; as well as the bad reputation it has taday. They say it's because of our close proximity to D.C. and Baltimore. The town of Martinsburg, WV. 

I just figure when Baltimore and D.C. flushes their toilets it backs up here in Martinsburg. We
aren't short on low life scums!

This post is about commerce, progress and economic development here. 

Way back in the day befer I was even thought of or born, Martinsburg was a Railroad, Quarry and farming town. Way back then the Railroad and the Quarries were the two things that bought folks here to live. They either worked fer the railroad or they worked fer a quarry. There was only 'bout 7,200 people that lived here then. Still today this is all day everyday every hour 'round the clock here...

Trains loaded with goods and coal pass through here round the clock on their way to you. This un here's the coal train!!!  

Of course the old roundhouse built way back in the 1800's was burned to the ground by hoodlums in the 1980's. 

I live in an area in the northern part of the county where the trains of the Winchester and Western Railroad or the quarry trains as we call'em are a daily occurrence. The Cumberland Valley Railroad runs south of here. 

My daddy's peoples worked the railroad in the early 1900's. My granddaddy and grandma also worked a small farm in those days too. Daddy and his siblings went to school and came home and had farm chores to do.

In case yer wondering 'bout the noise from the trains I reckon ya get used to em because I don't even hear'em unless I'm sitting at a crossing.

Back then on Queen St. was an old blacksmith shop. The old building still sets there near the overpass. A box factory used to run outta there until the 80's when they closed the doors. As part of a redevelopment something or another the building was purchased and a brewery is supposed to go in there. Haven't heard much about that lately. My parents can remember the old blacksmith shop when business was booming.

In 1891 came the mill and factory era known here as Dunn Woolen Mill and Interwoven Mill. It was a sock factory. This is that factory back then... 

This is that factory taday...

The pics were all taken of the Porter Ave side. I wanted a pic of the gang signs spray painted on the building. They are filming a movie there and had John St closed off. I couldn't get in that side. It is nice to see that the film crew cleaned all the tall weeds out of the parking lot though.

And us older folks pray that someone will come in and remodel and repair the old structure. Sorta like they did the other'un. It's a landmark 'round here. This is our history! Make it a museum or something befer the hoodlums burn it to the ground. But nah right now they're letting it sit there and fall down 'round us. Claims of they don't have the money.

My grand dad my mamas family all worked at the sock mill for a time. Granddaddy left there in the 40's to drive a milk truck and I have an uncle who drove a milk truck when he was thirteen years old. Now I'm talking 'bout the 1940's too. Many folks still living here today had generations of family that worked at that mill.

I had aunts and uncles who worked at the Dunn Woolen and Interwoven Mill and so did my mama in the 1950's. 

The county grew to be 'bout 19.000 people living here during this boom.

Along with the progress and commerce here in Martinsburg came the Norwalk automobile maker from 1912 to 1922. Martinsburg was the town where the Norwalk automobile was built. Back then Norwalk operated in a building beside the ole sock mill. 

Of course the building where those cars were built back in those days along with several Norwalk cars stored there as a small museum of sorts was burned to the ground by vandals in the 80's too bout the time of the rise up of The Hill Gone with the flames were some of the antique cars built here years ago. Gone is the old Norwalk building. Only about one Norwalk car was saved from the fire.

After that industry and boom fizzled away came the garment factories there in the old sock factory buildings. Perfection Garment company, Potomac Sportswear and Stephens Sportswear all came in it's place in parts of the old mill. There are generations of people here who had family that worked for those garment factories. They sewed clothes there till they packed up and moved to China in the early 1990's.

Martinsburg Warehouse and Commercial once owned a major part of that building. They stored bottles and cans for the apple plants while also storing pop machines for Dixie Narco. Eagle Packing ran cardboard there at one time. The Warehouse and Commercial was my daddy's second job many years ago. My hubby worked there too after the recession of the early 1980's. Generations of folks still here today remember those factories.

One of oldest businesses we had here was Firestone Tires. They came to Martinsburg in around the late 1890's to 1902. In 2013 they packed up and moved clean outta here. No warning or nothing. Just closed the doors one day without notice. Gone, Poof- they outta here. No goodbye. None of us right understand 'bout that deal.

Of course if yer from 'round here the apples are a very big part of the commerce here. Apples have played a huge role. Growing up we had the White House Apple plant on the north end of town. I lived close enough to that plant that we could smell the apples in the air. In the eighties that ole plant merged with Musselmen Apple and became Knouse Foods which is south of here. If'n ya drink apple juice, it likely comes from that plant.

Back in the day if ya lived on the south end of town was the Schmidt Bakery that baked Sunbeam and Blue Ribbon bread. If'n ya lived on the south end ya got ta smell the bread baking all day and night. Back then it was noth'in to shop at the bread store ta get fresh bread right outta the ovens. The rest went to the stores. The bakery closed in the 90's. Still today many generations of people here worked there. Part of that progress plan all set up purty. 

It's hard not talking ta someone who worked in any of those plants and factories even today. Grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and some of my cousins worked there. Even neighbors worked in one of those plants.

In the late 1960's came the General Motors era. With it came the boom of the folks from Detroit. And the drugs and bigger crimes. That boom is when my parents saw Martinsburg change and not for the good.

Back then grow'in up round here pre the GM era (60's through the 70's) 'bout the only real crime I can right remember was some fuss'in and fight'in, some feud'in. Mostly the drunk and disorderly. Nothing like taday with the drugs, Gangsters and hoodlums tearing up the town and destroying folks with their drugs and poisons. They act damned outright lawless in this town. 

Then came the Corning Glass Plant. Corning left years ago. The building is used by several businesses and even a church.

Back then grow'in up here those "BOOMS" we heard daily came from the quarries 'round here. Today the booms we hear are from the meth labs no doubt goin up.  Wait! Just heard another'un. It's seven in the morning and that's already two BOOMS since I got up at five. The smell in the air that we thought came from the bathtub factory we found out from a trooper years ago is meth when it's cooking. 

Back then there were lots and lots of farms and orchards 'round here. Many have been replaced with lots and lots subdivisions, townhouses and apartments; shopping centers and stores. To further drive in the crime to the area they've put in lots and lots of bars and stripper pole type places. Then o course came lots and lots of gambl'in shacks that sprout up dern near ery'where ya look. On Shepherdstown road one sits in a corn field. We still have a coupla working farms left, but not like when I was grow'in up 'round here.

This is what I call the Insurgent of the Transplants era!!!

For the next couple of days my post will be about 'round here.

pic credit: Martinsburg Pictorial
youtube: CSX Coal Haul


  1. A sad commentary. Why people feel the need to destroy their lives- and those around them- with meth I do not understand. And while Ft Wayne hasn't had the disasters that you had, a lot of kids saw their futures evaporate when International Harvester pulled out. Dad retired about 5 years before that came crashing down, but I had an uncle, a brother, and a cousin that had to commute to Springfield for years.

  2. This was very interesting GG. I sold maintenance supplies from 1997-2007. I can't tell you how many plants I saw close during that time. The only textile plant I was doing any business with at the end was Milliken. (I just had a brain fart and couldn't think of it and ended up surfing the web. Found an article that said 650 textile plants closed in the 90s and 2000s. BUT, China is becoming pricier and some are coming back here. That was a pleasant surprise.)

    Despite that bit of good news... manufacturing is really struggling. I can't believe how many plants just can't make it here and ship the business overseas.

    When you have no (or limited) manufacturing, you become a service-based country. And we consider those third world countries.


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