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Fall Frolic recalls days of old

Apple butter, crafts and music highlight annual event

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Gary Copeland plays the banjo inside the Quiet Dell Schoolhouse for the Apple Butter Makin' and Fall Frolic Saturday. Staff photo by Leslie Moses


CLARKSBURG — The scene of neighbors gathered around a steaming kettle of apple butter would have been familiar to West Virginians long gone.

And on Saturday, five people took turns to jar the sweet sauce at the Apple Butter Makin’ and Fall Frolic.

They stood under a tarp behind the Quiet Dell Schoolhouse in cool weather, carrying on a West Virginia fall tradition.

In days gone by, people would bring farm apples to a school, church or somebody’s backyard and boil them down. Women brought food and they’d all have a picnic, according to Carol Schweiker of Bridgeport.

“It would be an all-day affair,” she said.

“We try to preserve Appalachian and West Virginian history by doing this,” said Iris Wickenhofer, ladling apple butter into jars.

Wickenhofer was the “apple dipper,” and Butch Wickenhofer, who boiled empty jars before putting them on the table, was the “jar lifter,” according to Schweiker.

“We’ve been making it out here for 22 years,” Iris Wickenhofer said.

Inside the old schoolhouse, the idea of all things West Virginian continued.

“Oh my, it’s different than anyplace,” said Dot Lemon.

“Everything in here is handmade by the crafters ... who are all West Virginians.”

They sold jellies, quilts and West Virginia coal — “our best seller,” Lemon said.

On a table before her spread with handmade blankets, Lemon wondered about one blue afghan: Was it a shawl or table cloth?

“It could be either, but I think it was a tablecloth,” said Frances Stiles, who talked with Lemon.

Stiles always attends the annual event, and brought family Saturday.

“We like old-fashioned things,” the Stonewood woman said.

And the apple butter, “oh, it’s good,” Stiles said.

Her favorite kind was cooking outside with oil of cinnamon, lots of sugar and boiled-down apple sauce.

In the corner of the room, Stiles’ granddaughter took brief music lessons from Cleo Rollins, 88.

Rollins was a teacher there, and pointed to a neighboring room where she taught music to fifth- and sixth-grade students in the 1960s.

She handed Jessica Nuzum, 7, a stick outfitted with a coffee can and fretboard.

“Instead of a banjo, it’s a canjo?” Nuzum asked her.

Rollins played classical music and the viola for the Buckhannon Chamber Orchestra, “but this is more fun,” she said of teaching Nuzum.

She helped the girl play songs on multiple instruments before Nuzum picked out bits of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

The room also had 12 framed black-and-white photos of “boys” of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They worked in Franklin Roosevelt’s “CCC” during the New Deal era to ease unemployment in the Great Depression.

“It gave people work all over,” Lemon said.

The building was the site of Camp Harrison, one of 67 camps in the state during that time.

Two men Saturday found their picture on the wall after coming from the morning’s CCC Jubilee across the street at Quiet Dell United Methodist Church, according to Lemon.

Lee Kelley, of Walnut Hills, said his uncle was one of the “boys.” He mentioned CCC projects, but didn’t know if his uncle was pictured on the wall.

That’s not why he was there Saturday.

“I came to get me some apple butter,” Kelley said.

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Gary Copeland plays the banjo inside the Quiet Dell Schoolhouse for the Apple Butter Makin' and Fall Frolic Saturday. Staff photo by Leslie Moses