© Jerry F. Couch 2018
QUESTION: What would $19,000 buy for St. Paul in 1950?
ANSWER: A swimming pool!
How did this come about? Well, it’s a long story that had its beginnings at Dante in the late 1940’s. After unionization of Clinchfield Coal Corporation’s mines and the sale of the company houses to Dante residents, Roanoke Hill became a less-desirable place for executives of the Clinchfield Coal Corporation to live. Gradually, they began to colonize nearby St. Paul.*
For the most part, Clinchfield’s executives were not natives of Southwest Virginia. They were leaders in their respective fields, with extensive business and financial expertise. Having no local roots and little commonality with the local population, they sought to recreate the wider-world lifestyle to which they were accustomed.
Provincial was out and metropolitan was in. New civic organizations were formed in St. Paul. One of them, the St. Paul – Dante Lions Club, would prove to be very beneficial to the community during its years of existence (later, I’ll write a separate, detailed article about the club). Today we’re going to focus on one of the club’s earliest projects: A community pool for St. Paul.
One of the pool project’s most important backers was Miss L. V. Myles of New York City. Miss Myles was the owner of Mylecraft, a garment factory in St. Paul, one of several sewing factories she operated in rural communities.
Miss Myles sought to invest in her employees’ quality of life by promoting improvement projects in their communities. Companies still do this today, but few do it in the same spirit. When Miss Myles died in 1955, her will stipulated that her estate was to be equally divided among her employees. Employee-employer loyalty was still considered a two-way street 75 years ago. You seldom hear of it today.
In those days, the wheels of Southwest Virginia were not greased with “grant money.” Community projects were funded by the community. Miss Myles offered $7,500 as seed money for the pool project. The following article describing fundraising efforts was written by George Coleman, proprietor of the Cavalier Theatre in St. Paul. The article appeared in the May 4, 1950 edition of the Kingsport News.
Girls In St. Paul So Pretty Judges Had To Close Eyes
St. Paul, Va. — The girls were so beautiful, the judges of two contests held to raise funds for the swimming pool had practically to close their eyes and point out the winners Tuesday night at the Cavalier Theatre.
The fairest of them all were chosen to be: Mary Wynn Richmond, fourth-grade student and daughter of W. D. Richmond, Wise County school supervisor and Mrs. Richmond; and Miss Ruth Jacobs.
Enough money has been raised to begin construction of the pool within the next two weeks on lots near the school. A contribution of $7,500 has been made by Miss L. V. Myles, New York, owner of a garment plant here.
The St. Paul-Dante Lions Club has underwritten funds needed to complete the project. Other civic organizations have cooperated for the pool, and the Town of St. Paul is to furnish water for it.
A popularity contest held before the beauty contest ended in the following winners in the order named: Peggy Stanforth, Shirley Burton, Clariece Evans, and Dana Brooks.
Deborah Lyttle and Fern Livingston were named runners-up to Miss Jacobs in the main event in which 24 girls competed.
They included: Lynn Williams, Leota Sutherland, Doris Ramey, Shelby Brooks, Shirley Hillman, Merle Jordan, Mavis Couch, Loretta Brooks, Shirley Glover, Shirley Burton, Nina Shook, Shirley Greer, Phyllis Counts, Peggy Stanforth, Clariece Evans, Nell Glover, Geraldine Evans, Pauline Robinson, Rita Sparks, Dana Brooks, and Emma Gray Sparks.
In the Junior Beauties Parade, little Miss Richmond was the judges’ choice in the preliminary contest. Other contestants were: Brenda Glover, Eleanor Williams, Teefy Deen, Ruth Griffith, Genoa Minton, Judy Dye, Catherine Matthews, Shirley Salyers, Arline Jessee, and Rachel Glover. All contestants from the first to the fourth grades were formally dressed.
*St. Paul has been colonized several times in the years since the town took form in 1889.