"I had a conversation with General Patton. We were down at Alsace-Lorraine chasing the guys on the other side. A siren started going off. Here comes this Jeep. I saluted and said, 'Good morning, General.' He said, 'Good morning, soldier.' That qualifies as a conversation, doesn't it?
"When the war ended, I was in Czechoslovakia. When I got home, my parents threw a big party. The next day at dinner, my father said to everyone, 'What do you think Nicky should do now that he has his honorable Army discharge?' They all said something. My father turned in his chair and said, 'We never had a Winowich who went to college.' I got my message.
"I went to the second semester at Bethany on the GI Bill. I couldn't get a job in the spring, so I went to Pitt and took some summer classes. I did that again the next year. I had enough credits that transferred that I graduated in '49 after entering in '46.
"I majored in history and education. I was going to be a teacher. I would have been a damn good teacher. But after student teaching, I decided I didn't want that.
"A college librarian recruited me. He said I should go to Carnegie, that it was accredited by the American Library Association. I got married and went to graduate school and got my master's in 1950.
"I spent two years at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, then went to the library in McKeesport, Pa., and stayed four years.
"When my cataloger was ill, I cataloged. When my children's librarian was absent, I did children's library work. When the custodian was ill, I had to be the custodian. In the winter, I had to shovel coal in that furnace.
"Then I got a call from a man at the Kanawha County Library saying he was leaving and would like to recommend me. I flew down. I think the round-trip fare was $75.
"The library was where Huntington Banks is now. So the library board and I built a new library in St. Albans, Dunbar and a couple of other places. We got some federal money and money from the building we sold, so it didn't cost the county a dime.
"That drive-in window was the first one in the United States. The first couple of years, a lot of people thought we were part of Charleston National Bank, and they would drive in wanting to make deposits.
"When I came, we still had the card catalog. Computers were introduced in 1967, I think, through a grant. They were damn slow compared to today.
"We added another elevator and invited kids from all over the county to come in. For some, it was the first elevator ride they ever had. I hope they turned out to be library users.
"There were challenges. The TV station wanted me to have a debate with Mayor Copenhaver about 'Peyton Place.' Some people tried to get it banned, but Mary Lee Settle and Jim Lewis and a host of other people rose up in defense of the library.
"I retired after exactly 30 years. The first week at home was really boring, so I became a volunteer with Manna Meals and Covenant House. Then I moved over to Charleston Memorial. I still volunteer there every Tuesday.
"My first wife, Ruth Fleming, died of brain cancer in 1977. My kids said I should become a track and field official to keep busy. So I did that. Natalie got into it. Each of us has a master rating.
"We've been to Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans. We officiated in two Olympic trials. I called it a career this year.
"I had perfect health until the Wednesday before Easter when I had five bypasses and spent about two weeks in the hospital.
"I went in the hospital at 173. As of yesterday, I am 159. I'm also a diabetic and have been for 15 years. The lower weight is good for my blood sugar. I feel great.
"If I had it all to do over again, I would do it just exactly the way it turned out. If I ever come back, I'm going to teach medieval history. Will you sign up for my class?"Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.