If you cut Richard Bashlor’s finger, he’d bleed Elk River. That’s how he describes his love for his community.
He came from a family of eight in Elkview and didn’t realize he was poor.
“I was telling someone how I grew up, and they said, ‘You were poor, weren’t you?’”
Bashlor said, “I don’t know. We had food on the table, we had love, everybody sat down at the table and ate together. If we were poor, I didn’t know it. Growing up, you didn’t know you were poor if you were poor. You had love, you had fellowship, you had a family.”
That’s all he needed to love the place he calls home.
Now he and a handful of other residents along the Elk River in Kanawha County are sharing pieces of what makes the communities in the area so special with a museum in the Elk River Community Center.
Inside, a row of old letterman jackets hangs from the ceiling between red and blue pom-poms.
Glass soda bottles, boots, an ax and a fire bell line a shelf underneath hanging U.S. Navy uniforms and peacoats.
None of the items go together, but each comes with a story representing a specific point in time. All of it pertains to someone in one of the Elk River communities in Kanawha County. Housed inside the old Elkview Elementary School, even the room itself is something of an artifact. It once was an intermediate classroom.
Bashlor has been collecting the items for more than a year to open the museum, which is called the Museum of Elk River Communities in Kanawha County. You can find it in room 203 at the community center. Visitors are welcome from 10 a.m. to noon every Thursday or by appointment.
Bashlor saved newspapers, programs, photos and other memorabilia through the years. His Navy uniform from the 1960s was taking up space in the back of a closet. He thought he could share those things with the community and see what others had to contribute.
“I started posting on Facebook, and the first thing I heard was a guy from Texas who went to school with me. Then it just kept going and going and going,” he said.
Bashlor already was a member of a committee that published three different books about the history and stories of Elk River communities in Kanawha County. He wanted to create a museum about Elkview High School, and Harry Lynn suggested instead Bashlor make a museum that covers all of the Elk River communities.
“The communities go from Charleston city limits all the way to the Clay County line,” Bashlor said. “It’s all the feeder communities that feed into Elk River. We’re collecting items from old stores, schools, everything from all of the communities up Elk River, and the stuff is just pouring in.”
Because of an influx of items coming in, the museum soon may need to find a second room or to become more selective.
While most of the items are connected to schools, the group wanted to showcase history from veterans, sports and local businesses, too.
Lynn, a retired locksmith for Kanawha County Schools, contributed a glass showcase from the Blue Creek post office.
“They closed that post office back in probably ’52 or ’53,” he said. “Me and my brother-in-law got the old showcase out of it.”
What sits inside now are eyeglasses, telephone-operator switchboard plugs and wooden planks from the original Herbert Hoover High School gym floor.
Visitors to the museum are encouraged to take their time looking through the items, photos and books. Bashlor said the majority of those who have stopped by have been middle-aged.
“You learn about what it took to make our communities, and you appreciate your heritage,” Bashlor said. “This stirs up where we come from. We appreciate our background, our parents and what they’ve done and what we come from.”
The museum has helped people make connections to their past. One visitor saw a picture of his great-grandfather for the first time at the museum.
“He didn’t even know what he looked like,” Lynn said. “So we made him a copy.”
Others have asked for copies of yearbooks and pictures because theirs were damaged or destroyed in the 2016 flood.
Carolyn Pirnat said the museum needs more representation from certain areas. Specifically she mentioned Clendenin, the drive-in theater and old yearbooks from Herbert Hoover High School.
“Anytime anybody walks in here, they’re impressed, and they really want to see it grow,” Bashlor said. “When they have class reunions, we are going to open it up so they can see it then, too.”
Anyone who would like to contribute to the museum may call Bashlor at 304-965-6596 or Pirnat at 304-965-3991.
Elk River Community Center, which houses the museum, is located at 1078 Main St., in Elkview.
Reach Anna Taylor at
304-348-4881 or follow
@byannataylor on Twitter.