The Wisdom of Age Project—Hampton Roads, Va. 2013 Documenting Life Stories & How We Get By
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"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.”