Rowell’s Words: Shortening the Bench

Published 12:35 pm Sunday, March 27, 2022

I have been fortunate in my life to meet many interesting people.

They were not the celebrities or athletics that grab all the headlines; but, common folk that only get their name in the paper when they marry and when they die.

Such a person was Pete. We both married into the same family. Pete in the 1940’s and me in the 1960’s. Our wives were aunt and niece; and, I don’t know what that made us other than lifelong pals. I taught him the game of golf and he taught me the game of life.

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Pete was born and raised during the depression era in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. He had nine or ten brothers and sisters that survived into adulthood. They lived in a log cabin in a hollow where they saw the sun around 9:00AM and it went down around midafternoon.

The family took their meals at a long table with Papa’s chair at one end and Momma’s at the other. The kids sat on each side on long benches. As the children matured, they would leave home to start their own life.

When a child would leave their father would actually saw off the end of that bench. That child, literally, no longer had a seat at the table.

The message was clear that they were on their own; and, they had to make it in the world. There was no running back to the family for assistance or sympathy.

It worked well as not a single child returned to the mountains a failure. I don’t think a single one got a high school diploma; but, they quickly learned the value of a dollar and the rewards of hard work.

Pete started out as a bricklayer’s apprentice in nearby Roanoke, VA and over time became a general contractor. He built quality buildings and invested his money wisely. He moved the family to Greensboro, NC later and opened two restaurants. They were successful also and he later sold them at a profit. He was one of the first people I knew that was “flipping” property. He would buy old houses, fix them up, and rent them for several years before selling them. He and his wife raised two children that have done well also.

I believe the success of his family is more than luck. The values that his parents passed on to him made Pete the successful business man he became. I know for a fact that he passed that on to his children and anyone else that would listen.

All of that generation has since passed. Mother and father are still on the mountain in the family cemetery. The have joined the two or three siblings that never reached adulthood.

I recently saw his daughter and granddaughter at a family wedding. It had been a long time since our last visit and we enjoyed retelling old stories. The family has grown and prospered since Pete had his end of the bench sawed off

We read a lot today about children returning to live with their parents. There can be various reasons for this. I have to wonder though if some of this could have been avoided if people still had benches in their kitchen. Just a thought!

God bless and have a great day.

A sage and columnist whose writings appear in many newspapers, William Rowell can be reached at