"Yeager comes home to be honored"

by Bob Schwarz and Elizabeth Holroyd-Dolin
The Lincoln Journal
October 16, 1985

"I lived my first 18 years of my life in Lincoln County," General Charles E. Yeager told a large crowd outside the Charles E. Yeager Career Center.

"That's where you're molded. The rest of the time you're working. But you're molded into what you're going to be in those first 18 years."

For someone who has not lived in Lincoln County for 44 years, Yeager sure seemed to know a lot of people. But there were many people he did not know.

"I haven't lived here since 1941," he said. "People know me who grew up since then. But I don't know them.... And they expect me to know them."

He remembered the smallest details about the older people, and he chatted with them about their families, and asked questions about their loved ones. He showed great patience and interest in the older people. To one, he said "You don't look any different now than you did 40 years ago."

Yeager was patient with everyone Monday, when he faced over a thousand people who all came to see the vocational school named in his honor. He signed countless autographs of copies of his auobiography, "Yeager," and of the day's program as well. As he signed programs, he commented good-naturedly: "There must be about 2,000 of these things floating around."

When asked if he received comments about the earthy language in "Yeager," the general said "that's the way peole talk when they fight a war."

Chuckling, he said his mother read the book and "threatened to kill me for saying we were raised on cornmeal mush."

Yeager said he had often milked cows in the hollow in which the career center now stands, and had hunted squirrels in nearby woods.

Asked if he had ever dreamed he might begoing places during those first 18 years, he said: 'No. There was no vay of knowing. It hadn't happened yet, and I was never one to speculate."

Yeager also refused to speculate about what would have happened if he had been born 10 years later.

Virginia Smith, his English teacher in those days, recalled Yeager.

"(He) was just one of the boys, and I loved them all. I never had any idea he was headed any further than the rest of them."

Smith remembered Yeager was not th best English student (Yeager himself said he was lucky to get C's), but added she heard he was excellent in science and math.

At the ceremony, Yeager told the crowd he had not thought much about the future when he was growing up.

He said he had fun as a youth flying kites and hunting squirrels in the mornings. Sometimes, he said, he would arrive at school 15 minutes after starting time, and the principal would not be too sympathetic with the explanation that he had had squirrels to skin.

Yeager recalled spending a lot of time playing football and basketball.

"I was trained in sports," he said. "Sports are a big part of your life training for adulthood."

Yeager also recalled his years in band, beginning in grade school.

When he autographed a picture taken on Mother's Day, 1938, he told former fellow band member Mrs. Froud. Spuriock to remember he traded the bass drums for the trombone, which he played for eight years. Spurlock said all the county schools were in one band when she and Yeager went to school.

Yeager recalled his own vocational training. He took two years of typing with Ruby Miller, and could type 60 words a minute.

The Ford garage and Shorty Hager's garage, he said, were the vocational schools of his day. "They turned over their garages to us. They taught us what we knew.

"A machine" he said, "will bite a person who does not understand it."

What he learned from Shorty Hager and from Carl Clay at the Ford garage he credited with keeping him alive over his flying years.

"I learned how to push a machine without it biting me," he said. Yeager toured the vo-tech center that will bear his name during the morning, and he called it a wonderful facility.

"I only wish we had had this facility in 1937, '38, '39 and '40," he said. "It's marvelous how current technology is available to these stu- dents it reaches even into the back country."

Superintendent of Schools Charles McCann introduced the program.

"He is ours," said McCann. "He is yours. Today we are honoring one of our own by changing the name of the vo-tech center to the Charles E. Yeager Career Center.

"I'm proud that General Yeager still remembers his roots in Lincoln County and in West Virginia."

Yeager has been an immensely popular figure in the county over the last four decades. Complemented about his great patience with the endless picturing-taking, autograph- signing, and media-interviewing, Yeager smiled and said "You learn that."

Yeager has lived his adult life in places far from Lincoln County, yet he has never distanced himself from his beginnings.

Sources on Chuck Yeager