The Northern Neck has produced many good folks who have been talented with coming up with original phraseology. Today’s column covers a few of the most memorable terms indigenous to the Northern Neck.
For many years, the late Otis Jones would tell new people whom he met that more men worked under him than under anyone else in the Northern Neck. The listener’s s mouth would gape open, and usually the response would be, “Really?”
From that point Otis then would proceed to explain that he operated the former Great Wicomico River Bridge that preceded the present permanent bridge. The old bridge was a swing-span operation with the control house above the roadway. Otis climbed the stairway to the house each morning and came down each evening.
As a result, all day long Otis was “above” everyone employed driving a truck or other vehicle on the Route 200 pavement below him, thus all those individuals worked “under” Otis, if only for a couple of seconds each. He enjoyed his listeners’ reactions.
Gene Yeney, was a native of New Jersey and a music graduate of Columbia University. He was a very direct person. He lived on the Great Wicomico River near Wicomico Church. He was a “masterful” gardener before we had Master Gardeners in the Northern Neck, and his five and a half acres were a veritable park, all of which he planted and maintained by himself.
His neighbor, Gene Rook, an alumnus of the Naval Academy and a retired career naval officer, was not interested in gardening, but one day his grandchild sent him a plant. He called Gene Y. to ask him to come over to plant it in his yard.
When Gene Y. arrived, he asked Gene R. if any instructions had come with the plant. Gene R. said yes and handed him the sheet. Gene Y. read the instructions carefully, and asked, “How old are you?” Gene R. replied, “Seventy-five, and d___ proud of it.” Gene Y. retorted, “Forget it. It takes 30 years to mature,” and walked home.
The late Lynn Wolfe was renowned for her piquant sense of wit that often bordered on sarcasm. Many years ago, her son was getting married away from here, and she was trying to handle her part of the arrangements from her home in the Northern Neck. As the date drew near, in all the hubbub of activity, her son’s stepmother said to her, “I hope you don’t think I am trying to interfere.” Exasperated, Lynn replied, “Quite frankly, Janet, I don’t think of you at all.”
The late Ellen Lee, whom I called “Auntie,” was a great champion of local shopping. She particularly liked Tri-Star Supermarket. Once she told Lee Davis, one of the owners of Tri-Star, that she bought all her groceries at his establishment, except for her dog food, which she bought at Safeway.
Lee responded that if she let him know what brand she liked, he would have it at the store the following Thursday. She then told Lee that he could not get her brand. He said he definitely could get any brand that she wanted, and asked again what the brand name was. Auntie replied, “Safeway brand.” Ironically, when Safeway closed, Tri-Star moved into its building where it remains to this day, and where Auntie finally purchased her dog food.
In 1949 President Truman appointed George Thomas Washington, a descendent of Samuel Washington, the brother of President George Washington, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Due to disability, he retired in 1965 and moved with his wife, Helen, to Santa Barbara, Calif.
He always had said that he wanted to be buried in one of the Washington family graveyards. Upon his death, he was cremated, and as his wife’s health declined, she decided to move to be near her sister, Henrietta Godwin, who lived in Weems. Henrietta flew to California, collected Helen and her things, and rented a car to drive to the Northern Neck.
They stopped one night in a motel in Missouri and after checking in, engaged the bellhop to get their bags. When he opened the trunk of the car, the first thing he saw was the box that Helen had labeled, “George Washington’s ashes,” and he flipped out.