Thursday, September 3, 2015

Don't Know Much About History, Geography


Ah yes, the old Sam Cooke song lyrics.....♪♫"Don't know much about history. Don't know much about geography...."♪♫

Well, folks, today we're going to have a history / geography lesson, and today's history / geography lesson is about my home state....West Virginia.
West Virginia - a state separate from Virginia since 1863
West Virginia is the northernmost southern state, and the southernmost northern state. We are one of two states formed during the civil war, the only state to form by separating from a Confederate state (if you guessed Virginia, extra credit for you!). Yes, we are a state separate from Virginia - since 1863. This is always a good refresher before football season starts, as most ESPN sportscasters seem to forget that we are NOT part of Virginia, and they frequently call out "Virginia (this)" and  "Virginia (that)".

Here are a few facts you may not know about my home state that you simply just cannot live without:
  • The Mason-Dixon line was drawn in 1763 at West Virginia's northern border, where we intersect with Pennsylvania and Maryland, along State Rt 218 in Marshall County. It was the line made famous for distinguishing between free states (everything north, including PA and MD) and slave states (including WV). We slashed that line 100 years later.
  • The "slaw line" - maybe more important than the Mason-Dixon line, is where we draw the line on what we call everything when ordering a hot dog. Pretty much anywhere south of the intersection of I-79 and Route 50 (Clarksburg, and all points south), if you order a hot dog with everything, it'll include ketchup, mustard, chili, onions and slaw - coleslaw. Yep. We even have an historical marker on our I-79 at mile marker 111. It reads: "SLAW LINE Near this spot lies a culinary and cultural boundary known as the "slaw line" where it crosses Interstate 79. South of this point West Virginians are smart enough to order coleslaw on their hot dogs, while north of this point people have no idea what real West Virginia hot dogs are". :D
    You can see my slaw in the buffet line at my 4th of July shindig below, where the arrow is pointing, right next to the chili. And chili gets sweeter the further south in West Virginia you go, spicier up near Clarksburg.
The "slaw" line
  • Speaking of Clarksburg, have you ever tried a pepperoni roll? You simply must! It was just recently voted our state food item. You know - state bird, state flower, state food item. Well, these rolls originated in Clarksburg, West Virginia, nearly 100 years ago. Here's a recent NY Times article on WV's famous pepperoni rolls. Another culinary delectable, ramps (wild onions), came close to being our state food. There's even a festival built around ramps harvested in West Virginia each spring. 
Pepperoni Rolls
  • More on the food front (after all, we are #1 leading the nation's obesity rate as of 2014) - Shoney's "Big Boy" and Tudor's Biscuit World restaurants both originated in Charleston, West Virginia. Hey, Alex Shoenbaum had great foresight when he named that mascot "Big Boy" in 1947, what more can I say? And where else, besides Tudor's, can you eat a "Politician"(bologna, cheese and egg on a homemade biscuit).
  • Did you know that Mountain Stage with Larry Groce, the home of live music on public radio, originated in Charleston, West Virginia in 1983? Yep, and it still records and broadcasts about 26 shows annually, on over 150 stations nationwide, mostly from its home base in Charleston, West Virginia.
  • Did you know Melungeons were part of the mixed racial people who are, most likely, the descendants of many West Virginians (as well as Virginians, Carolinians, Kentuckians, and Tennesseans, collectively labeled Appalachia)? There's a lot of scholarly controversy on Melungeons' original ethnicity, linguistics, and culture, but chances are, many of us have European (Scotch-Irish, in my case), Native American and African-American lineage. It's worth looking up, especially when you read that Abraham Lincoln himself may have been a Melungeon. If so, one could argue that the US's first African-American president being listed as Barack Obama is not correct, but I digress.
  • Of all the sweet spots one could travel to in West Virginia (besides The New River Gorge National Park in WV), here's one that's not to be missed: The Mystery Hole. I can't tell you any more than that. Then it wouldn't be a mystery, silly.
Well, that's it for today's history / geography lesson. Don't be surprised if, when you meet a West Virginian, and you ask, "that's close to Roanoke, isn't it?", they don't start humming the Sam Cooke tune, ♪♫"Don't know much about geography......"♪♫. It's close, though, about 3 hours east, in the next state over - Virginia.

All kidding aside, we take all this and the hillbilly jokes in stride - most of the time. Hey, if we weren't residents here, we'd probably get the geography wrong, too. After all, we ranked 47th in the nation in education in 2013, sittin' pretty in the bottom 5 along with AZ, MI, NM, and NV. One thing's for sure - we can laugh at ourselves. But you can't laugh at us. ;)

Before we go, I'll leave you with this link to our home girl, Jennifer Garner, on Conan (from 2012), as she nails her history on West Virginia. It's well worth watching. To Ben, "Big mistake. Huge."

As always, thank you for your visit. It's a pleasure to have you here!
Rita C. at Panoply
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