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Collection Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection

Midlife Trials

Appalachian Power plant, Glen Lyn, Virginia, September 2, 1996. Photograph by Karen Singer Jabbour, reproduced with permission.

Two midlife events disturbed this lively serenity. The first occurred at the power plant. A move had developed to organize workers at Appalachian Power, and management had responded by requiring workers to attest that they had not been involved in private discussions about forming a union. Henry Reed refused. Years later, looking back at the showdown, he recalled indignantly a remark by an Appalachian Power official during a meeting with workers: "Now remember, boys, when we came in here you didn't have any shoes on your feet." The result of this altercation was that, after years of service, he was out of a job.

Although he was able to find odd jobs, the end of his employment with Appalachian Power Company led to the loss of the farm where they lived above Glen Lyn, and the family moved into a rented house. There calamity struck in 1939, when a fire burned down their home and destroyed all their possessions. Henry Reed later reported saying, as they contemplated the disaster, "Well, Nettie, we haven't lost everything, because we still have our health."

The Reed family home in Glen Lyn, Virginia, with the Appalachian Power plant in the background, September 2, 1996. Photograph by Karen Singer Jabbour, reproduced with permission.

Henry Reed took a new job, which became a second career, at the Celanese Corporation, which had opened a manufacturing plant in Narrows, a few miles up the river from Glen Lyn. As he had predicted, their good health and hard work eventually made it possible to build a new home at the top of the hill overlooking Glen Lyn. The property had relatively level acreage for a vegetable garden, a field, and an orchard that Henry Reed planted. There he and Nettie lived till they passed away in the later 1960s.

This homeplace stayed in the family till 1996, and it still stirs feelings of attachment among them. Though some of Henry Reed's children moved to other states, others still live within a few miles of Glen Lyn. Several children and their spouses worked at the Celanese plant over the years, and his son Dean served as a shop steward for the union at the plant--perhaps an echo in his generation of his father's earlier encounter with labor-management strife.

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