A Collection of Little-Known Facts About West Virginia, the Mountain State

2009 December 16
by mockers

pavarottiwvThe celebrated tenor Luciano Pavarotti is considered by many to be quintessentially Italian. And while it is true Pavarotti was born of Italian parents, and spent most of his formative years in Modena, Italy, few are aware that his mother actually gave birth to him in Wood County, West Virginia, in the small town of Mineral Springs.

Pavarotti’s father, Fernando, was a pilot in the Italian Air Force (Règia Aeronautica), and was captured during World War II by American forces fighting in the bloody Garden of the Olives Offensive. Fernando was brought to a POW camp in Parkersburg, WV, and because his wife Adele was technically a U.S. citizen (it’s quite complicated), she was allowed to establish residence in the nearby 48 States Motor Lodge.

Pregnant and miserable, Adele took in ironing and performed with the Mineral Springs Opera Company to help pay her motel and food bills. During this time she also developed what she termed her “shameful American weakness,” an addiction to the popular spiced luncheon loaf, Treet; or as it was known to the locals, Treet meat. She would struggle with this “weakness” for the rest of her life, as would her famous son.

It was a difficult period for the Pavarottis and when Luciano was born on October 13, 1942, with his father in a military prison, life didn’t get any easier. From day one, it was reported, the boy could eat. It wasn’t an easy task, during wartime, to keep the child (and the mother) in spiced loaf.

Fernando was finally released from his jail cell at the end of the war, and the family soon returned to Italy. But not before young Luciano had befriended several West Virginia “hill children,” and picked up the nickname Bimbo.

Pavarotti wrote of his nearly-forgotten connection to West Virginia in a 1987 magazine article titled “Mountain Maestro.” In it he reminisced about rolling down a hill in a tractor tire and soiling his kerchief, swinging from a rope above Big Shitstain Creek, and learning to play bottleneck blues guitar from “an old negro gentleman” with the curious name of Griddlecakes “Joe” Armstrong.

Bimbo Pavarotti died on September 6, 2007, at the age of 64. A bronze interpretation of his iconic facial hair has been erected in downtown Mineral Springs, in honor of the great man and his tie to the town. Unfortunately, it is reported, many modern-day residents know little of Pavarotti, and seem to believe the statue is nothing more than an especially fancy bus stop.

Did you also know?

  • West Virginia is home to the only town in America with a zip code that contains a character other than a number. It’s true! Because of an ancient and still-uncorrected clerical error, the zip code for Pax, WV is 259,4.
  • The West Virginia state constitution, drafted in 1862, contains the phrase “I am Kid Dyn-o-mite!”
  • Locals often claim that if the many mountains and hills of West Virginia were somehow flattened-out, the state would be larger than Texas. While it is difficult to substantiate such an assertion, topography experts have concluded that if West Virginia were made flat it would assume, almost exactly, the shape of the “tongue and lips” logo used by legendary rock ‘n’ roll band the Rolling Stones.
  • West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd once had a female secretary named Lincoln, and Abraham Lincoln once had a female secretary named Senator Robert C. Byrd.
5 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 December 16
    SeanInSac permalink

    Why am I getting feelings of Deja Vu…It’s like I’ve heard this story before, a long time ago, in a Surf Report far, far away…
    Oh, and First!!

  2. 2009 December 16
    t-storm permalink

    Do you mean mineral wells, WV? Just sayin’.

  3. 2009 December 16
    Zazu permalink

    Gee – who knew West Va was so cool?

  4. 2009 December 19
    Chuck in Belpre permalink

    1) A possum is a flat animal that sleeps in the middle of the road.
    2) There are 5,000 types of snakes and 4,998 of them live in WV.
    3) There are 10,000 types of spiders, and all 10,000 of them live in WV.
    4) If it grows, it’ll stick ya. If it crawls, it’ll bite cha.
    5) “Onced” and “Twiced” are words.
    6) It is not a shopping cart, it’s a buggy.
    7) “Jaw-P?” means, “Did y’all go to the bathroom?”
    8) People actually grow and eat okra.
    9) “Fixinto” is one word.
    10) There is no such thing as lunch. There is only dinner and then there is supper…
    11) Iced tea is appropriate for all meals, and you start drinking it when you’r two. We do like a little tea with our sugar.
    12) Backwards and forwards means, “I know everythin’ bout you.”
    13) The word “jeet” is actually a phrase meaning, “Did you eat?”
    14) You don’t have to wear a watch, because it doesn’t matter what time it is. You work until you’re done or it’s too dark to see…
    15) You don’t PUSH buttons, you MASH em.
    16) You measure distance in minutes.
    17) You switch from heat to A/C in the same day.
    18) All the festivals across the state are named after fruit, vegetables, grains, insects or animals.
    19) You know what a “Dawg” is.
    20) You carry jumper cables in your car – for your own car.
    21) You only own five spices: salt, pepper, Texas Pete, Tabasco, ketchup.
    22) The local papers cover national and international news on one page, but require 6 pages for local gossip, WVU and high school football.
    23) You think that the first day of deer season is a national holiday.
    24) You find 100 degrees “a bit warm.”
    25) You know all four seasons: Almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas.
    26) Going to Walmart is a favorite past time known as “goin ‘Walmartin” or “off to Wally World.”
    27) You describe the first cool snap (below 70 degrees) as good hog killin’ weather.
    28) Fried catfish is the other white meat.
    29) We don’t need no dang Driver’s Ed. If our mama says we can drive, we can drive dag-nabbit.

  5. 2009 December 21

    i never nowed that Poverottie feller was on the Opree!!

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