An encounter: ‘We were poor, but rich’

By John Kiser

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a very sunny, cheerful lady in Jackie Labovitz’s show room next to my office at the Old Schoolhouse in Sperryville. We got to talking and I learned she was a Dodson. Sheila lives in Amherst now, but likes to come back to visit with her husband Ron. Of course, we talked about change and what it was like in the 1960s growing up in Little Washington.

“We were dirt poor. We lived in the old Klopman House which the Inn now owns. Back then we paid Mr. Klopman $25 a month . . . but that was only for half the house. There were nine of us and dad had died when I was 2 years old. We didn’t have a TV, electricity, or indoor plumbing. My mother cooked on a wood stove. We did have a garden and mom was an excellent cook. Mr. Klopman liked to come and have lunch with us all the time. Mostly we bartered. If one of us got sick — which was not often, we would go to Doctor Snead in Sperryville. He would give us a few pills in an envelope and we would give him some fresh vegetables from the garden, or a pie. We had nothing, but everything I learned today came from that time.”

We got to talking about school back then. I took them up to my office and showed her what her fourth grade school room looked like. She was impressed, thanks to my wife’s decorating talents and its natural, bright spaciousness. Snow days didn’t exist back then. Kids often had a long walk to the bus pick up point and if you were late, tough luck. During hunting season, students could bring their guns to school, but had to leave them in the car. And some of the bus drivers were sixteen years old, like my friend Morris Butler.

“My most valuable lessons came from home. We learned to work hard, to save, be responsible for our siblings, to be helpful to others, and to be self sufficient. And to appreciate what we did have — which was a loving family and a good roof over our head. All of my brothers and sisters have done well with their lives.

“Yes, you could say we were poor, be we were also rich.”

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1 Comment

  1. What a nice article! Do hope it gets in the print edition.
    I remember Sheila as a one of the kindest,sweetest people around when we attended high school together. She was couple years behind me ,in the class of 1967. I had wondered somtimes had become of her. Believe two of her sisters were Ruby and Mildred. Sheila and her girlfriends like Shirley and Dyanne and Kay were a group of friendly, down to earth people whom I have nothing but pleasant memories of which I treasure.
    I hink it is Clopton House, not Klopman House, if you are speaking of the building the Inn owns, next to the Trinity parking lot.

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