A 65th anniversary


Henry Ruppenthal enjoyed celebrity status as a teenager as a result of being a cooperative weather observer for Morgan County, W.Va. He holds a clipping of a class field trip at which Henry was the speaker.

Henry Ruppenthal enjoyed celebrity status as a teenager as a result of being a cooperative weather observer for Morgan County, W.Va. He holds a clipping of a class field trip at which Henry was the speaker.

Last month marked a 65th anniversary for Henry Ruppenthal III of Wheeling, W.Va.

It was the 65th anniversary of his becoming a cooperative weather observer. At the time, Henry was living in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., where his father was the county’s only professional photographer and camera shop owner. His dad heard about the job opening and encouraged his son to apply.

Henry was accepted and, with a little help from his father, soon found his picture and story in national newspapers. He became somewhat a celebrity in his hometown, and was called upon by teachers at his school to host field trips to his observation station and explain his important work as a weather observer.

Although he was just shy of his 12th birthday when named to the post, Henry proved that he could make accurate observations and complete the monthly reports that were required. For years, he faithfully checked the guages and thermometers at 6 p.m. and recorded his findings. He even did a weather report for the local radio station, which eventually took over his job when Henry moved away from the Eastern Panhandle.

Henry’s story will be in a future issue of Goldenseal Magazine. It was a pleasure to catch up with him in Wheeling several weeks ago and look at his scrapbook. Amazingly, he still has all his weather records from 65 years ago. One to keep up with technology, Henry is in the process of digitizing them.

You can learn more about this fascinating man, who grew up just a short distance from the Berkeley Castle, by visiting his website, http://www.ruppenthalweb.com/Henryiii.htm

A working man’s room

Traveling across West Virginia, writing and photographing as I go, I am compelled to stay in economical accommodations. I look for rooms that cost under $50 a night, all taxes included.

And so it was that began my autumnal pilgrimage in Bridgeport, where the clerk asked me if I wanted a “Working Man’s Room” or a “Nice Room.” After inquiring about the price and noting the nearly $40 premium for a nice room, I went for the Working Man’s Room. After all, this was a working trip.

The thing that immediately struck me was the shabby condition of the hallway leading to the room. It must have been built before brooms were invented.

The room itself was, well, working class. It should have been gutted years ago and everything updated. Rather, stop-gap repairs were done as necessary using materials salvaged from other rooms, I would guess.

The bathroom was particularly interesting — it was the first time I’d seen the walls of a plastic shower stall cracking and broken, patched with caulking and otherwise feeble attempts to keep the moisture from invading the unit below.

The room obviously had plumbing issues; a large section of the wall had been removed to access the pipes and, rather than re-seal that section, the piece of wallboard was just resting against wall. I found out that by moving it and looking down the hole, I had a nice view of the plumbing in the unit below.

The carpet was stained and ripped, one section was missing. My socks stayed on my feet the whole time, and after showering, I made a path from the shower to the bed using my dirty clothes to protect my bare feet from the oil and gas field residue.

Speaking of the shower, the fixtures were so worn, the bathtub continued to fill with water even when the flow was redirected to the shower head. And I soon discovered that the control that mixes the hot and cold water did not work when it was turned to shower. It was either all hot or all cold.

The lighting was dingy, which was probably a good thing. It keeps guests from fully grasping the despair of the place.

Since I was in the working man’s section of the motel, I had to contend with the late-night revelers and the early risers, whose paths began to cross around 3 a.m.  

 When I called my wife with an update about the trip thus far and state of the accommodations, she warned me not to take my bag of clean clothes into the room and DO NOT bring home any bed bugs. I hadn’t even thought of that possibility.

It appears as if I escaped Bridgeport without any hitchhikers on my clothes or body. Two two nights later, in Marlinton, I was able to rent a room for the same amount of money at the Greenbrier Grille and Lodge. I enjoyed accommodations that were clean and smelled fresh. Although not modern, the room and its furnishings were very nice and the workmanship top notch. The shower was incredible.

 The depot at Marlinton is a short distance from the Greenbrier, a comfortable lodge with very reasonable prices.

I highly recommend the Greenbrierier if you are ever in Marlinton and need accommodations or a place to eat. The waitressing staff was very friendly and helpful. Be sure to order their hand-cut french fries; they are so good! The brown rice veggie burger was excellent, too. However, avoid the thick pancakes for breakfast. They are so thick, they reminded me of a three-layer cake without the frosting and had me longing for Buckwheat cakes from Melanie’s in Aurora.

One other great feature of the Greenbrier — there is an assortment of ducks that hang out on the river next to Lodge’s deck. For 50 cents, you can purchase a bag of corn and feed the ducks (proceeds go to an animal shelter). And no, I didn’t see duck on the menu!