Mrs. McCallister and the Sr. Center

This is a second story in what I hope will be an ongoing AMR series of Bath Senior Citizens saying their piece. Mrs. Helen McCallister, who operated a general store with her husband in Hot Springs for many, many years recently turned ninety-six years old. She enjoys going to the Bath Senior Center, and when I met her there, I asked what that ninety-sixth birthday had been like.

“Well, I have degeneration of the eyes, and I had an eye appointment. So, I went to the eye doctor, and bless his heart, he came in singing “Happy Birthday.” He said, ‘Now get ready for the big celebration.’ I come to the center because it keeps me motivating, knowing that I have something to do, and it does make a big difference.

A big part of what’s out here has touched my life, down through the years.”

Although Mrs. McCallister has spent the majority of her years, and raised children here, she cheerfully described what was home before Bath County.

“See I’m not from Virginia. I was born and raised way down south in New Orleans, and I didn’t come to Virginia ‘til ’38. It was a big, big change for me, because I had never seen anything higher than a levee. I had never seen a live tree, and we had one snow before we left and we had to go a whole city block to make a snowball. And I had a rude awakening when I came to Virginia.”

I asked Mrs. McCallister what brought her to these mountains, and she said it was because she had gotten married. Mr. McCallister, who lived in Bath County, sometimes worked in Washington D.C. in those days, and that’s where they met.

“Well, we were kind of double related; he was related through the McCallisters, and one of the McCallisters was married in my family, so that . . . “

“But it wasn’t an arranged marriage?”

“Oh no, no, no. No.” (laughter).

Hot Springs was a lot easier to come and go from during that time when the train was still running. These days Mrs. McCallister is one of quite a few Seniors who catch a van ride when they need it. Members are welcome to drive themselves to the center, but the van is what makes it possible for quite a few more to attend regularly. This spring the Center is beginning a fund drive to raise money for a new van, as the one they’re currently using needs to be replaced. Stay tuned to learn more about that fundraiser.

Also, please consider suggesting a senior you’d like to hear from by contacting

When I asked Mrs. McCallister if it were the crafts, the gentle exercise, the lunch or Bingo, or that motivates her to join fun and friends on Mondays, Tuesdays or Thursdays, she said,

“You never know from one day to the next what’s going to happen. You don’t want to miss nothing.’”

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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