"Papa" John Warren interviews
A Wedding & First Lady
About the Documentarians
"Papa" John Warren during his U.S. Navy years.
"Papa" John Warren Interviews
"Born at Home" (1:42)
"One Brother" (0:44)
"Farm Life" (0:40)
"Philosophy of Life" (0:41)
"Pulling Tobacco" (1:04)
John & Nancy’s Wedding March 21, 1960
IT WAS A RAINY DAY, pouring down raining, as he reminisced the day of his wedding at the Methodist church in Chase City, Virginia. John, his wife Nancy, the minister, and the witness were the only people present. John recalled, “My leg was shakin' so much that Nancy had to put her leg against mine to keep it from movin'.” The wedding was a simple but extremely happy time for the young couple. “It was nothin' big, nothin’ fancy. It was a good day.
A Letter from the First Lady
WHILE WE WERE IN JOHN'S HOUSE in Chesapeake for the first time, John pointed to a framed letter on the wall and said, “James, read that letter.” I read it, and it looked like a simple congratulatory letter, congratulating John on graduating high school in 1954. He said, “Now read the signature.” It was signed by Mamie Doud Eisenhower, the wife of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the First Lady of the United States.
We sat down to hear the story behind the letter. “When I was a senior in high school,” said John, “I was gettin’ ready to send out invitations to the graduation, and there was a bunch of us standin’ around after class talkin’ about it, and I said, ‘I think I’ll send the President an invitation.’ And somebody said, ‘I dare you.’ Well, ‘I dare you’ in my day, was just like any other day. Your gonna do it then. So I sent an invitation, and that’s the answer I got back, signed by Mamie Doud Eisenhower.”
The letter still hangs on his wall in his living room. The letter is only a few lines long, and most pass by it without a second look. But to John, it is a proud moment for him, brought on by a simple dare from a schoolmate.
James Hardigg was born and raised in Annandale, Virginia. He is a student at Christopher Newport University, majoring in English with a concentration in writing. He loves to write in and outside of class. He is the president of the Coloring Club and has been a member of the Rugby Club for the past year and a half. When he graduates, he hopes to work in politics.
Christine Warren is the oldest granddaughter of John Warren. She is a student at Christopher Newport University, majoring in English with a concentration in writing. She enjoys playing video games, reading, going to the beach, and loves hanging out with her boyfriend and her cousin, Sara.
"Papa" John Warren with granddaughter documentarian Christine Warren.
A Simple Farm Boy
John Warren is 76 years old, and he currently lives at home in Chesapeake, Virginia, with his son, Johnny. He spends his days reading, sleeping, watching NASCAR and NCIS, and visiting his father-in-law, Melvin. Most of his family lives nearby, and they visit on a regular basis. He truly enjoys seeing them as often as he can.
"Raised on a Tobacco Farm"
by Christine Warren & James Hardigg
JOHN WAS BORN THE ELDEST SON OF A FARMER, James, and his wife, Minnie, in Crewe, Nottoway County, Virginia. He and his younger brother, Gene, were both born at home, which feels is important. Back then, in Nottoway County, almost ninety percent of the children that he grew up with and went to school with were born at home, and there just was no money to go to the hospital to have a child.
He was raised on a small, small tobacco farm, which was his family’s only cash crop. They raised everything that they ate, including cows, chickens, and hogs. They also grew corn, snaps, and butter beans among others. While he, his brother, and father did all of the farm work, his mother worked in the factory, did all of the housework, and canned enough food to get them through the winter.
On a typical day in his childhood, his day would begin at quarter to five when he would begin his chores, which included cleaning his room, bringing the cows in, and whatnot. Then his mother would fix breakfast and he would go to school. Then after school, he would work on the farm until dusk.
He graduated from Crewe High School in 1954, which he attended for eleven years. They did not have twelve years, only eleven. The grade school and the high school were in the same building. He hated to miss school because for him it was fun. It got him off the farm and in with the city kids and other farm kids. He considered school as more of a social thing for him. After high school, he spent a couple of years at Lynchburg College, where he lettered playing baseball. After a year, he dropped out because of a girl and joined the navy. He chose to join the navy after finding out that he was number three in the county on the draft list for the army. After twenty years in the navy, he retired and went into the ship repair business. During this time, he was married for forty years and had three children, Vickie, Johnny and Jimmy.
His answers during our interviews with him seemed to reveal much about him. They were simple and to the point, just as he considered his own life; nothing extraordinary, nothing glamorous. “Wasn’t every day of it perfect, wasn’t every day of it bad, but we sure had a good time.”