Meeting her was the reason he drove all the way down there

Posted by | November 14, 2013

The mines started laying off workers. Julia Varga had two boarders that had to leave because they were laid off. They left crying, owed money, and with promise to pay they left. Her husband Paul was laid off too; money in the bank was going down fast. Julia and Paul decided to invest in a small farm. Two other friends were looking into getting farms, too.  Paul, Mr. Lavisco & Mr. Martin knew of a friend who left Berwind, WV for North Carolina years before for farming. The three of them left together for Castle Hayne, NC.

All three men invested in farms separately. Mr. Martin bought only land, near Burgaw, and decided to build his house. He did, but never moved into it because work had picked up by the time the house was finished. Paul moved down first. Mr. Lavisco about 6 months later.

Paul had bought a dog before leaving Berwind, a beautiful German Police named ‘Lindy.’ A very smart, loyal dog, which stayed by his daughter Helen’s side without being called along, especially appreciated when she had to go to a small store to get something.

They then moved to St. Helena, NC, a small community that was friendly and helpful. Paul bought a one-eyed mule that knew how to plow and cultivate better than he. He learned to love that mule and dog, and it was a sad day when he lost each of them, especially the dog, Lindy.

1940s aerial view of agricultural colony at St. Helena, near Wilmington, NC.

Helen worked hard on the farm, helping Mom & Dad (Julia & Paul); we all learned how to “truck farm.” First years were rough, but we all had lots of fun. Went to small church together on Sunday mornings and always a group going to the beach in summer, went for walks in groups, and had small parties. On Saturday nights (summer & winter) there were dances at the hall.

Paul bought a small truck from some “smart” salesman for $150, and an old cow he didn’t know how to get rid of. “It was a pleasure to see him and the salesman bicker. Dad was calm and so sure of himself,” according to Helen. The man left with a huff and puff. He didn’t like Paul’s offer, but Paul said, “he’ll be back.” Helen didn’t think so, but he did come back. He took Paul’s offer and walked away with the old cow and left them with the truck. Helen asked Dad, “Now who’s going to drive it?” and Paul answered “You!” And Helen did. Helen was 14 or 15 years old when she drove her first motor vehicle.

New people came down from Ohio by the name of Tokoly’s. Everybody would go to welcome newcomers, everyone was just friendly. One Sunday Paul asked Helen to drive him to visit them. Helen usually stayed in the truck. There were three young men there (Jimmy, Andy, and Steve Tokoly).

To Helen’s surprise a young girl about her age was also there and came out to the truck to talk to Helen. The young girl limped. She was visiting the Tokoly’s with her mother. She too, was from Ohio and had 4 older brothers and 1 older sister. The girls became friends. She explained to Helen she had polio. Her name was Margaret Jasper, sister of Jim.

Margaret would begin writing Jim about Helen in an attempt to “fix them up.” She would tell Helen about all her brothers, so Helen had no idea which one Margaret was trying to set her up with. Jim, on the other hand, was excited to meet Helen and would soon make a trip to meet this wonderful girl Margaret was writing about!

Saturday before Christmas 1932 or 1933 Jim and close friend Frank Batko drove Jim’s and his brother John’s Dodge from Yorkville, OH to St. Helena to visit Ma (Katie) Jasper and Margaret, 550 miles away driving. (Jim and John had bought the 1927 Dodge together for $75.00.) They arrived and had dinner at the Tokoly’s.

After dinner that evening, Ma, Margaret, Jim, and Frank visited the Barbely’s. Helen Varga, the Barbely’s step daughter, and Margaret, had become friends. The Jasper, Barbely, and Tokoly families were all Hungarian immigrants.

They didn’t visit long that evening because the guys were so tired from the drive. After meeting everybody, Jim felt like he needed to leave. Helen wasn’t too happy about this. At that first meeting, Helen wasn’t at all impressed with Jim because he was trying so hard to impress her. Jim had heard a lot about Helen in his letters from Margaret and meeting her was part of the reason he drove all the way down there in a $75 car!

written by John R. Jasper, Austin TX, 2004

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