Thursday, April 01, 2010

Denver Owen Henline X 2

by David Parmer

Many years ago, the comedian Bill Saluga appeared as a guest on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” His hilarious stand-up comic routine concerned a man whose name was “Raymond J. Johnson, Jr.” and involved the numerous variations of the name that were available for use in identifying the man.
“Ahh, ya doesn’t has to call me Johnson! You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, or you can call me Johnny or you can call me Sonny, or you can call me RayJay, or you can call me RJ…but ya doesn’t hafta call me Johnson.”

Right: First cousins Denver Owen Henline. In the Navy uniform is the son of Coy Clarence "Frank" and Audrey (Reip) Henline and in the Army uniform is the son of Ezra Andrew "Pid" and Minnie (Riffle) Henline.

A Case of Double Identity
Samantha Henline, the matriarch of Orlando’s Henline clan who was born in 1853, was up in years by the 1920’s and her mind wasn’t what it used to be. As one becomes older, undoubtedly there are times when person’s name is on the tip of our tongue, but the connection just can’t be made. It becomes quite frustrating when a name doesn’t come immediately to our memory, or, in the case of the elderly Samantha Henline, just how was it possible that she had two similarly aged grandsons who are both named “Denver Owen Henline.” An elderly mind is easily confused enough without another quirky mind binder, and it is a sure bet that when Samantha’s son Frank told his mother in March 1925 that he named his new-born son “Denver Owen Henline,” she somehow seemed confusingly familiar with that same name.

Indeed, just three years previously, Samantha’s son “Pid” named his first son “Denver Owen Henline.” The writer asked Burlen Henline, son of “Frank” Henline and brother of the “other” Denver Owen Henline, how it came to be that his father named his brother the very same uncommon name as his first cousin had been named. Burlen was at a loss for an explanation. There was no popular Methodist circuit –riding preacher named “Denver Owen,” nor any current movie star or country singer, or president by that name which could have inspired this case of double identity, and to Burlen it is still just a big mystery. The folks at the Henline homestead in Orlando referred to Pid’s son as “Denver” and Frank’s son as “Owen” in order not to confuse the two cousins. There is no report on how the two boys may have introduced themselves to the other.

Ahh, ya doesn’t has to call me Henline! You can call me Denver Owen, or you can call me Owen, or you can call me Denver, or you can call me D. Owen, or you can call me D. O....But ya doesn’t hafta to call me Henline.

Be that as it may, this is about as good a lead-in to a little story about the two Denver Owen Henlines that the writer can dream up. Briefly, here are some differences between the two Denver Owens.
~ Pid and Minnie Henline’s son Denver Owen, b. 1922, grew up in Orlando, was nicknamed “Red”, and served in World War II in North Africa and Italy. He married Gladys Hitt and worked in coal mining and glass production.
~ Frank and Audrey ‘s son Denver Owen, b. 1925, grew up in the Clarksburg area. He served in the Pacific in World War II. He married Doris Williams and worked in the steel industry.

Denver Owen Henline-

Son of “Pid” and Minnie (Riffle) Henline

Pid” Henline’s true name, according to the handwritten inscription in his mother’s Bible, was Ersie A. Henline. He was the fifth child of Beham Henline and Samantha (Skinner) Henline. With regard to the spelling of “Pid’s” name, it should be noted that his tombstone in the Orlando Cemetery declares his first name to be “Erza.” Born in 1885, “Pid” was followed in birth by his younger brother by three years, Coy Clarence, who was known to his siblings and friends as “Frank.”

Left: Ezra "Pid" and Minnie Henline with Ruth, Earnest Andrew "Bud" and Jessie. Center: Minnie with Denver Owen, Right: Edward, Jessie, Ruth and Denver Owen.

In 1914, “Pid” married Minnie Riffle, daughter of Stewart L. and Abigail (Blake) Riffle. Their second son was born in 1922 and was named “Denver Owen.” According to his granddaughter, Selena Barton, the “Owen” part of her grandfather’s name was derived from the name of Owen Thomas who was a first cousin. The derivation of the name “Denver” was unknown to her. Also according to Selena, her family was unaware that another first cousin, the son of Frank Henline, who would be born three years later, would also be named “Denver Owen.” Since the Frank Henline family lived in Clarksburg and only infrequently visited Orlando, they also were unaware that Frank’s brother Pid had a son named “Denver Owen.”
Does Red Hair Make a Mischievous Child?
An outstanding physical feature of Denver was his fiery red hair, and, as was custom in Orlando, everyone seemed to have a nickname. It was a given therefore to call a red-headed boy simply as “Red.” And so it was with Denver Owen Henline, son of Pid and Minnie (Riffle) Henline, who would go through life known as “Red,” rather than Denver, or Owen, or Denver Owen.

Speaking from personal experience, red-headed boys are frequently suspected of mischievous behavior by their school teachers. Just as red capes incite a bull in a ring, so too does red hair excite the suspicions of harried school teachers when their backs are turned. Perhaps there was a kernel of truth of the connection between hair coloration and mischievous behavior in the case of “Red” Henline. According to Stanley Barton, his son-in-law, many tales of school-related pranks were told by “Red” to his children as they were growing up.

Teacher on a Sled
Stanley Barton recalls an amusing story his father-in-law told about one of his female teachers, believed to be Beth Curry, at the Three Lick School. It seems that during recess one winter day the boys of the school were engaged in sled riding when icy conditions made sled riding a bit hazardous for one’s safety. The boys, including “Red,” made the observation that if one were not careful, the ice on the hill could propel the sled so fast that it would run all the way to Three Lick Creek. Naturally devious minds think up devilish pranks to pull on unsuspecting teachers. “Red” was delegated to convince their teacher that she would enjoy the fun of a slide down the hill. Reluctantly, Miss Curry agreed to appease the boys and assumed the prone position on the sled. With more than adequate vigor, the boys gave her a hearty shove, and off Miss Curry went toward Three Lick. Of course there are no brakes on a sled and an inexperienced rider would not know to apply the “shoe-dragging” technique of stopping a fast moving sled. With a “whoop and a holler,” Miss Curry and the sled disappeared over the creek bank of Three Lick. The boys quickly scurried down the hill to see if their teacher survived the “ride of her life.” Stanley did not know what sort of punishment his father-in-law may have received as the result of the perilous prank. Presumably, his color of his rear-end matched the cardinal of his hair when he went home that day after school.

Right: Denver Owen in boots in the front. Elmer Pumphrey behind him in the middle, sister Ruth Ellen is beside him in front.

Paddling of a Teacher
As we get older, tales of our youth become bolder. Of course facts often gets in the way of a good story, and the “good” story always seems to win out. Since the following tale makes for an interesting story, veracity-notwithstanding, it is here re-told. Again, according to Stanley Barton, “Red” related a school-boy tale of the teacher who got a paddling. The teacher in this episode most assuredly was Lynn Riffle who taught at Three Lick School from 1931 to 1937. It seems that the Three Lick School boys had been particularly nettlesome on a certain school day and a number of them had earned a few strokes of the old hickory paddle. With his back turned to a gaggle of boys at his rear and the old hickory paddle laying in easy reach on the teacher’s desk, some emboldened red-headed boy, deftly picked up the paddle and administered a decisive whack to the teacher’s rear-end, and quickly returned the paddle to its original position. There is no word on whether the culprit was apprehended or the nature of the retribution exacted. At any rate, after six years of Three Lick schooling, “Red” achieved the pinnacle of his educational history, and left his empty seat to some younger scholar.

Ghosts and Coon Hunting
Every respectable Orlando boy during the 1930’s knew a thing or two about coon-hunting and “Red” was no exception. “Red” and his friend, Elmer Pumphrey, frequently marched through the hills of the “Free State” on the trail of the wily coon. On one coon hunt, “Red” and Elmer were joined by Elmer’s brother Harley. The boys were chasing the raccoon in the neighborhood of the head of Rocky Fork and the Heater Cemetery. Harley, it seems, had been poking behind and “Red” and Elmer decided to give introduce him to some graveyard humor. The night was dark and moonless and stumbling through the hills was par for the course. Taking up positions behind tombstones in the Heater Cemetery, the boys remained quiet as the confused Harley listened in vain for their voices within a stone’s throw of their hiding places. Every self-respecting Orlando boy could also give a good imitation of a graveyard ghost and “Red” and Elmer were quite good in imitating old “Casper.” Without the ready and present support of his brother and friend, Harley’s confidence was no match for the wretched cries of the graveyard ghosts, and more than terrified, he beat a quick and hasty retreat toward home, as a result of the graveyard humor of “Red” and Elmer.

After “Red” left school in the midst of the Depression, he took up employment doing farm work on his father’s farm. Wages weren’t lavish, but he had a roof over his head, and food to eat. Of course he had no automobile given his meager income but country boys were used to walking. “Red’s” son-in-law, Stanley Barton, recalls that “Red” and his brothers, Bud and Ed, frequently walked to Burnsville to see a movie. Not many youth of today would walk five miles to see a movie and then walk back home in the dark.
World War II
“Red” was twenty years old when his number was called at the local draft board. In 1942 ‘’Red” left his Three Lick home for a home with Uncle Sam. As was the common practice of the military during World War II, if a conscriptee had minimal education he was either assigned to the infantry or some similar front-line position. “Red,” by chance, was assigned to training as a machine gunner and it was in that position that he served during World War II in the North African and Italian theaters of war with nearly two years in overseas service. Although “Red” did not talk much about his service in World War II, Stanley Barton does recall that his father-in-law mentioned the bravery of French nurses who were serving in Sicily. During an artillery bombardment, the French nurses went into the field of battle to care for the wounded despite the artillery blasts which were occurring all around them. The French nurses won “Red’s” undying admiration for that heroic act. Stanley also recalls his father-in-law’s reminiscence of a happy, but brief, reunion with his older brother “Bud” when they both were serving in North Africa until their respective units went their separate ways. Stanley also relates that the nearest that his father-in-law came to being injured during the war was when his machine gun “blew up” during an engagement, causing a serious eye injury. Although “Red” recovered from that mishap, later in life he lost the sight in the eye which had been injured when the machine gun exploded.

Left, above: Draftees. Denver Owen is in the back row, fourth from the left.
Right: Poster celebrating the French nurses.
Left: Denver Owen Henline

After the war was over, and the military issuing discharges, “Red” again became a civilian. Returning home and starting courting in earnest to make up for lost time, “Red” couldn’t believe his luck when the pretty seventeen- year-old Gladys Katherine Hitt of Bendale said “Yes” to his marriage proposal in September 1946. Married in Weston, most of their married life was spent there where they raised seven children.

Right: Gladys Katherine Hitt

Post War Employment
Coal Mining
During the war, Pid and Minnie Henline decided to give up life on Three Lick and moved to the metropolis of Weston and its suburb of Shadybrook. It was to this home that “Red” returned when he was discharged from the service in December 1945. After a period of re-adjustment to civilian life and surveying the employment prospects, “Red” decided to take employment in the coal mines of Webster County and he and Gladys moved to the Webster County town of Cowen. The small town of Tioga was the location of a deep mine which was welcoming returning veterans for coal mining jobs and “Red” signed on. According to Stanley Barton, the seams of coal in the Tioga mine were five to six feet thick. Being only five feet and four inches tall, “Red” didn’t have to bend his head much to work in the lower seams of coal. Although high coal was much better to work in than low coal, a troublesome aspect of the Tioga mine was the frequency of roof falls which endangered the miners. “Red” reported to his family that “glory holes,” nearly twenty feet high would appear in the mine roofs after a roof fall and shoring up such a cavity was problematic and scary to the miners who worked there. After less than a year living in Cowen and working in the Tioga mine, “Red” didn’t want to press his luck any further and left the wilds of Webster County and a “death trap” coal mine for the more placid countryside around Jackson’s Mill where he found employment loading coal on coal cars for Bitner Fuel. For the next thirty-five years, “Red” was employed by Bitner Fuel.

After his employment in the coal industry, late in his working career, “Red” found employment with Louie Glass of Weston mixing batches of glass, sand and lime for use in making for stemware, glasses and pitchers. Later, he worked for West Virginia Glass carrying hot stemware.
Black Lung
Stanley Barton recalled that his father-in-law had a terrible cough when he first came to know him. Pneumoconiosis or “black lung” was not then widely recognized as a disease of coal miners but from his years breathing fine coal dust, “Red” came to know the disease well. Black lung disease often exacerbates existing heart troubles.

During his later years, “Red” often asked family members to drive him to Orlando, the home of his youth. “He loved Orlando,” recalled his son-in-law Stanley Barton, who frequently was the driver for the Orlando excursions. Besides Three Lick, one place in Orlando which especially drew him was the Orlando Cemetery, a place where he found peace and contentment. “Red” passed away in 1996 at the age of 74 and now rests in the Orlando Cemetery. In November 2000, his wife Gladys joined him and reposes by his side.

The Other Denver Owen Henline –
“Frank and Audra's Boy”
The gathering place for the children of Samantha Henline who lived away when they visited Orlando was the Samantha Henline home place located across Oil Creek from St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Samantha’s son Frank, his wife Audrey, and their family lived for most of their lives in Clarksburg and Doddridge County. Born in 1925, the second son of Coy Clarence "Frank" and Audra or Audrey Henline was named Denver Owen Henline. Frank and Audrey are believed to have been unaware that "Frank’s" brother “Pid” had also named his son, born in 1922, Denver Owen Henline.

The Samantha Henline family was peculiar when it concerned names of individuals or animals. For example, the family always had farm dogs but there seemed to be no consensus among the family as to the name of a particular dog. Some family members referred to a dog as “Bullet,” while others called the same dog “Sandy,” and then others called it “Porter.” This of course caused endless confusion to the poor dog because it never knew what its name might be from one minute to the next. The same confusion reigned when it came to the names of Beham and Samantha Henline's children. William, the oldest, was known as “Todd,” Estella was known as “Estie” or “Stellie,” Ernest was known as “Heaterhuck,” Erza was known as “Pid,” Clora was known as “Cooch,” Margaret was known as “Mag,” Verdis was known as “Polar,” and Coy was known as “Frank.” So, what to do about two grandchildren, both named “Denver Owen Henline?” Imagine, if you will, the old folks sitting around the Henline living room chuckling and discussing how to identify each of the two boys. One might suppose that one could be referred to as “Frank’s boy, Denver” or “Pid’s boy, Denver.” Of course, substituting the name “Owen” wouldn’t work either because Samantha already had a grandson named Owen Thomas. Just as the diehard Henline family members continued to call the same dog “Bullet,” “Sandy,” and “Porter,” they never worried about the incongruity of having two close-in-age grandsons of Samatha Henline who were both named “Denver Owen Henline."

Although Samantha Henline and her children who remained in Orlando would have enjoyed their brother Frank’s company more often, the fact of the matter is that he lived in either Clarksburg or in Doddridge County and didn’t make it back to Orlando that often. As the old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind,” so having two Denver Owen Henlines in the family didn’t cause that much confusion.

Uncle Sam Finds Another Recruit
Frank Henline’s son, Denver Owen, was born in 1925, the third of four children. Although he was born in Doddridge County, Denver went to Washington Irving High School in Clarksburg. His father had found war-time employment in Clarksburg and the family lived in the Northview section of the city. In Denver Owen, as well as in the minds of many young high school boys during World War II, the urge to be of service to country trumped the idea of finishing high school. Consequently, in 1943, before finishing school, Denver prevailed upon his parents to consent to his enlistment in the United States Navy and, with a nod, off he went to the Great Lakes Training Center in Illinois. After basic seaman training, Denver was assigned to the destroyer, U. S. S. Van Valkenburgh, DD-656, and service in the Pacific.
Left: Frank's son Denver Owen Henline.
Right: the U.S.S. Van Valkenburgh

The war in the Pacific was for the most part a hazardous occupation for naval ships. During the battles for the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Japanese pilots, flying one way trips laden with bombs, found many American warships as targets. The U. S. S. Van Valkenburgh was in the thick of the fighting for the well-defended Japanese islands. One after another, the Japanese kamikazes struck the harried American fleet. Denver served as a pilot for the landing ships which carried the Marine invasion force to the beaches. Fighting was intense during the early months of 1945 and Denver was in the thick of it. Fortunately, like his cousin Denver, he came through the fighting relatively unscathed. Like most veterans of the great conflict, he spoke little of it to his family after the war.

Left: Example of a Kamikaze attack.

Married Life and Weirton Steel
Soon after the war, Denver married the former Doris Williams in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. They lived their married life in the Weirton area and were the parents of two sons and a daughter.
Denver found employment with Weirton Steel and later with its successor, National Steel. He retired from the latter corporation with many years service as a loader at the Riverdocks.
It’s Not Denver, It’s Owen, or Is It
Doris Henline, Denver’s widow, stated that she never cared for the name “Denver,” so she always called her husband “Owen.” Likewise, his brother Burlin Henline always referred to him as “Owen.” Doris however said that at work, his co-workers didn’t call him “Owen” but called him “Denver.” When he died in 1994 at the age of 69, his obituary referred to him as “Denver O. Henline.”
What’s in a Name?
Not only did their names mirror the other, but in many respects the lives of the two Denver Owen Henlines were lived in much the same fashion. Both men were rooted in Orlando, both served their country honorably during World War II, were good providers for their respective families but lived simply. Neither man seemed attached to his first given name, perhaps to avoid the confusion which resulted in both being named Denver Owen Henline.

. . . . .

Comment 1: from Lora Lee (Swiger) Gilmore:
I am the granddaughter of Coy (Frank) and Audra (Audrey) Henline. Just wanted to comment that it is incorrect when it states that Owen the 3rd child of Frank and Audra. Owen was the second child. My mother Ernestine Rose was the third child. Irma Lee the fourth child. Also, in the names of the two cousins, Owen was called Owen because his older brother Burlin couldn't say Denver and called him "O" and that transferred into Owen. Grandpa and Grandma were not aware of the other Denver when they named Owen, Denver Owen. Uncle Owen served during the war in Australia also. Uncle Owen didn't come away from the war without some damage. Grandma always told me that Owen returned "Shell Shocked" because his ship was torpedoed. His head and body shock when came home. It eventually went away, but returned sometime prior to his death. I talked to him by phone a number of times not long before he died.
Left: Lora Gilmore's graduation portrait
Right: Lora Gilmore's school picture at 12 years of age.

I was also wondering if much is known about Uncle Todd. I have a picture him. He was a handsome man. Grandpa did not talk about him much. I too have fond memories of Orlando. We always went to Orlando when Burlin would come up from Marietta and get us. I lived with Frank and Audra and they raised me. For most of my life my grandparents and I were alone as all the other children had moved away. I have very found memories of them and I miss them to this day. They loved me very much and had great faith in me. My grandfather used to tell me not to depend on a man for a living. He said that I should get myself and education and be able to be self sufficient. Prior to getting married to Ed Gilmore in 1970 I did just that by becoming a nurse.

We were always very happy when Burlin came and took us to Orlando. Grandpa or Papaw as I called him did not own a car and could not drive. I even remember riding with Burlin by myself to Orlando so I could be with him. He was a very special Uncle to me. I saw him just recently back in June. It was so good to see him since it had been 10 years when I last saw him. Burlin would sit me up on his school books so I could see out the window. I remember once when I went with Burlin to Orlando; I went to barn with Uncle Heater in the morning to see the animals and I got my socks wet from the dew. Aunt Clorie told me she was going to spank me for getting my socks wet. She made me stand by the hot coal fueled potbellied stove. As a young child I disliked her and was afraid of her because of the sock incident, but as I grew into a teenager I knew her as a very sweet, loving, and kind. Great Aunt.

My favorite thing to do in Orlando was to go to Coleman and Helen's house. She was such a great cook. I always got to play with her children and we would run around the farm. Once Charles Jefferies and I collected leaves in the woods for a school project I had and I got poison oak and was in really bad shape for awhile.

I'll sign off now. Sincerely, Lora Gilmore

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