Rick Payne grew up in East Wheeling and then along Lynwood Street in Wheeling, so he is familiar with the Friendly City, and he knows the Upper Ohio Valley quite well, too, since he has owned and operated the Heavenly Ham eatery in the Ohio Valley Plaza since 1996.

And so do his brothers Brian, Terry, Jimmy, and Syd, and even as children they noticed their parents repeating certain phrases of which they didn’t know the meaning.

“My Dad would always say when I was younger, ‘What are you waiting for, the Bellaire game?’  My brothers and I never really knew what that meant, but we did know is that he likely didn’t think we should have been doing what we were doing,” Payne said. “And my mom would always say, ‘Worshington’ instead of Washington, and it would always be ‘Little Worshington.’ But she’s always pronounced Washington, D.C. correctly.”

Properly pronouncing the word "creek" seems to be difficult for folks in the Upper Ohio Valley.

Properly pronouncing the word “creek” seems to be difficult for folks in the Upper Ohio Valley.

“You can always tell when people have grown up in Wheeling when they pronounce Eoff Street correctly, and the same thing goes for Chapline Street,” he said. “As soon as you hear ‘EE-off Street,’ you know automatically that they aren’t from here.”

That is why, on August 30, Rick decided to make a post on one of his favorite Facebook pages, “Memories of Wheeling, WV.” “You might be from the Ohio Valley if …” is how his posting began, and he added those “bread-bag” boots, playing spot sheets by the age of 10, and his parents threatening to send him to the Pruntytown prison for kids if he didn’t behave.

And that is when others joined in.

Gary: “You use the phrase ‘red up’ to describe cleaning, clearing, or organizing something.”

Kevin: “You watched the horse races on TV on Sunday and rooted for your horse from the ticket you got at Foodland.”

James: “At wedding receptions you pay for a shot of whiskey and a dance with the bride.”

Jean: “When you lived in Ohio, you rode the bus over town (Wheeling) to shop.”

James: “If you knew someone who had a camp out at the creek, you would sneak out there in the summer and drink beer at night.”

Joseph: “When someone wants to play Euchre and not Spades or Hearts.”

DiCarlo's is one of the most popular pizzas through the Wheeling area but is not found often outside the region.

DiCarlo’s is one of the most popular pizzas throughout the Wheeling area but such a recipe is not found often outside the region.

“I really enjoy that Facebook page because a lot of different people share a lot of different memories, and it’s great to visit when you feel like taking a trip back in time,” Payne said. “So I thought it would be fun to share some of those things unique to this area while I grew up here in Wheeling, and those things that I did share really stood out to me.

“Based on the reaction on the page I found out that a lot of people had some of the same experiences that I did,” he continued. “I’m pretty surprised at the reaction because several others added a lot of neat examples right away, and then the post went quiet for a little while, but then someone added something to it the other day and it’s been going strong again. Maybe it was the Thanksgiving holiday that made people start to think about Wheeling again.”

So … You might be from the Ohio Valley if …

  • You ate as many pieces of square, raw-cheese pizza slices your stomach could fit – in a parking lot.
  • Thirty percent of your wardrobe is dedicated to one high school in the Upper Ohio Valley.
  • You enjoy hot meat or chicken, and maybe even a few French fries, on a perfectly good salad.
Here in the Upper Ohio Valley the chicken and steak salads are popular menu items.

Here in the Upper Ohio Valley the chicken and steak salad are popular menu items.

“I’ve always thought Wheeling was a really unique place to grow up because of its being in the panhandle and along the Ohio River, and it’s obvious to me that a lot of other folks feel the same way,” Payne said. “With this past election cycle I think people really enjoyed having something else to think about because if you looked anywhere else, the presidential election was most likely in your face.

“Plus, Wheeling and this whole area has gone through a lot of changes through the years, and the downtowns have changed, too,” he said. “I think everyone knows that a lot of the people we went to school with had to move away to find jobs, so I think there’s a little bit of the Ohio Valley all over the country if not around the world.”

So … You might be from the Ohio Valley if …

  • If you fail to realize the vast majority of cities in America do not have parks like Oglebay and Wheeling Park.
  • If driving in three different states on the same day is not unusual to you.
  • If two words, “Roney’s Point,” sort of scares ya.
When folks from the Upper Ohio Valley have moved or traveled to other areas that have learned that the steak fry is unique to this area.

When folks from the Upper Ohio Valley have moved or traveled to other areas they have learned that the steak fry is unique to this area.

“Right out of high school I left the Wheeling area for Morgantown and WVU, and after I graduated, I moved to Dayton for a job and lived there for 13 years before deciding to move home. I didn’t like living away from here,” Payne admitted. “So when we started talking about moving home, I really didn’t see much opportunity for me as far as a job was concerned, so we made the decision to start a new business to create our jobs.

“It was always my goal to move home, so that’s how we did it, and thankfully it’s pretty much worked out for us,” he said. “Lori and I are still great friends even though the marriage didn’t work out, but we raised a great family and accomplished a lot when we were together.”

So … You might be from the Ohio Valley if …

  • If you have memories of a Christmas tree that talked and always seemed to know your name.
  • If you know who the man on the bike is.
  • If you know what a steak fry is and how it works; if you pronounce “creek” “crick;” if you know how to score in corn hole; if you own memories of when the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival was staged along Market Street.
High school athletics usually attracts large crowds with dedicated fans.

High school athletics usually attracts large crowds with dedicated fans.

“And I believe there’s going to be a lot more of those unique things about this area because of the progress I am seeing in the Valley right now,” Payne insisted. “I couldn’t be more optimistic about Wheeling right now because the business did hit a stagnant period about six years ago, but the last three years it’s really picked up, and we’ve never been this busy,” Payne reported. “You can just tell that there’s been a big influx of money in this Valley because of the natural gas, but you can also tell that there’s a lot more taking place in this area right now.

“I think that what is taking place in downtown Wheeling is an awesome thing to watch, and it’s really going to become a different place in a few years,” he said. “With the Health Plan and the housing, new businesses will follow because that’s really how that works. You get the people there, and those people are going to have their needs, and that’s where the private sectors come into play.”

(Photos by Steve Novotney; cover photo by Travis Broadwater)

11 Responses

  1. Cynthia Kartman Dooley.

    I remember saying “change the garbage” when it was time to take the garbage out to the outside cans. Many years later I heard my daughter in law from Cincinnati say this. It was magical as I had given up that phrase years before. I left Wheeling in 1977 for marriage and living in Cleveland Oh. I have many warm memories of growing up in Wheeling and now enjoy these stories in Weelunk.


    I am a Wheeling High school graduate class of 1965. My parents didn’t cause that term: ” Saving it for the Bellaire game” but I knew right away what it meant. Wheeling High and Bellaire always, always always was the last football game of the season. When being played at Bellaire, the game was played in the daytime because Bellaire’ s field did not have lights like the Wheeling Island stadium.

  3. JoAnne Hand

    We are Wheeling ‘s people from up and down the river! The music is of every type ,lots of country tho ! We gather for Jamboree in the hills the Italian Festival , and hundreds of Festival for every nationality and events of all types Pumpkin Festival, Dean Martin Day, Serbian Picnic, Parades,Boat races , Steam boats visits , Festival if Lights at Ogleby Park ! Talk about being blessed . Our Sign used to say Welcome to Wild Wonderful West Virginia! Wheeling West Virginia Take me home country roads!!!❤️??✝️

  4. Anonymous

    “What are you doing, saving it for the Bellaire game?” I first heard that expression at Yorkville Mill in the 70’s. I then heard it again at the MF mill in the 90’s. Nobody had to explain It to me, it was always used in a very understandable context…unrelated to any Bellaire game.
    I guess every body in the Valley saved their stuff for the Bellaire game.

  5. Rick N.

    “Properly pronouncing the word “creek” seems to be difficult for folks in the Upper Ohio Valley.” Weelunk

    No. The world seems to have a difficult time understanding that cricks are indigenous only to the UOV and everywhere else they are called creeks.

  6. Rojene Simms

    Wheeling was such old school to me. I live in NYC but always came home every Summer and twice a year to visit family in Bridgeport and St. Clairsville Ohio. I remember downtown being so retro. The piano store where my cousins learned to play in the window, Marsh Wheeling Stogies building and the swinging bridge that linked Bridgeport to Wheeling and so much more…..

  7. dr dng

    I can’t believe this article started with one of my father’s favorite lines. “Saving it (or waiting) for the Bellaire game.” The origin comes from the fact that Triadelphia HS often played their last football game of the season against Bellaire (it may have been on Thanksgiving). Anyway, the football coach would start practicing that special play such as the double reverse pass at the beginning of the season. During the season, when he was ask, “Coach, why don’t we use that play now?” He would respond, “We are saving it for the Bellaire game.”

    I had no idea that someone other than my father used that line
    as well. We still use it today although we have shortened it to “Bellaire gaming it.”

  8. Anonymous

    What a great place to grow up. Went to St. Michael’s and Wheeling Central. Great memories. Been gone a long time but love coming
    (home) to Wheeling to visit family and friends.

  9. Anonymous

    Most of our teachers at Wheeling Central were Marist Brothers from the New York – Boston area. Many times they would laugh at our OV colloquialisms. During more relaxed classroom sessions they would point out to us the oddities that we “spoke” for granted such as, “I’m waiting ON Mike after school”. WRONG preposition gentlemen!!
    We had the opportunity to laugh and point out their New England accents and word pronunciations too.
    Another memory was in downtown movie theaters. Prior to the feature there would be a series of “professionally” produced advertisements for local businesses with a theater-voiced announcer doing the commercials. The one that always got a laugh was when the pro would give the address of the business as Chap-LINE Street. That mispronunciation completely blew his cover as an authority on what he was selling.

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