Hazard (Perry County), 1920-40 (Pt.1)

Editor's Note: Through the years Bill Manning has shared many of his memories of living and working in Perry County, especially around First Creek and Blue Diamond, with readers of The Kentucky Explorer. However, in the following account he recounts his memories of businesses in Hazard, the county seat of Perry County, during the era of 1920-1940. It is a valuable study, since most of the old firms are now long gone and mostly forgotten.
By Bill Manning - 2000
(Part One)

I don't remember much about Hazard, other than the railroad station when my family stopped there in March 1916, on our way to Haymond, in Letcher County, Kentucky. There were always restaurant hawkers yelling, "Poke lunches for sale." Mother got off of the train and bought eight lunches. There were Mother, Elmeta, Mildred, Aunt Lou Scruggs, Lou's three girls, and me.

The lunches consisted of two sandwiches and an apple, for 25 cents each, for a total of $2.00. That was more than a day's wages for most workers back in those days.

I do, however, remember seeing the backside of a long row of buildings. It was the backside of the Main Street buildings, as we passed through Hazard, relocating to Blue Diamond, Kentucky, on First Creek in Perry County in 1918.

I remember Hazard a few years later, when Dad allowed me to accompany him on a train trip to town. I also remember my early work years there. It was early spring and Main Street was a quagmire. The two-way traffic of team-drawn buggies and wagons and individual horse and mule riders were weaving in and out of the web of deep ruts in the muddy street. It must have been court day. There were a lot of people in town.

We crossed the street in front of the courthouse on square cut stones, placed there as a walkway from one side of the street to the other. They were spaced so vehicles could drive between them. Dad had to keep me across the street. I probably would have fallen in the mud. There probably were other crossings up Main Street toward the jail.

We had to come to town to have a deed recorded on a piece of property that Dad had bought on First Creek. We were in town about three hours, walking up and down Main Street on wooden and dirt sidewalks, looking in the store windows.

As we passed the Major Department Store, Uncle Sol Major took Dad by the arm and tried to pull him into the store. He said he had something he wanted to show him. Of course, Uncle Sol had something to sell Dad. He didn't succeed though. Folks called this "Uncle Sol's tow-in technique."

In this article, I endeavor to locate and identify the early businesses and institutions on Main, Bridge, and High Streets. Viewing the accompanying sketch, I locate each subject by number. I begin at the upper end of Main Street, where the parking garage now stands. (The numbers given with the name of the businesses can be found on the map of Hazard on page 60.)

1. The Piggly-Wiggly Store. A franchise chain grocery store owned and operated by Rachel Tye Baker. Tuffy Whitaker was the manager.

2. The Baker Apartment Building, owned and operated by Rachel Tye Baker.

3. This building once housed a buggy and wagon dealership, according to former Mayor Gene Baker. Gene started his car business here in 1937.

4. A Greek restaurant, owned and operated by a Greek gentleman that was known as "Tommy the Greek." I never knew his real name.

5. Smith Maytag Company. Zeke Smith was the owner. He had worked for the original company that had introduced the Maytag washing machine to Perry County. They sold and delivered Maytag machines all over the county. I remember Zeke bringing a railroad boxcar load of machines to Blue Diamond, Kentucky. They brought probably 50 machines. He sold them all in a week. Dad bought the first one he sold. The Maytag liberated the women from the rubbing board and tub.

6. The First Baptist Church. The first church was a frame building built in 1898. It burned down in 1910 and was replaced with a brick building in 1912. The bricks were made across Main Street from the church. Rev. A. S. Petrey was the driving force to get a church built for the Missionary Baptists of Hazard and the surrounding areas. He was encouraged and greatly assisted by Dr. B. B. Baker and Pearl Combs on both projects.

7. The Kentucky and West Virginia Power Company Office. The company's name was later changed to Kentucky Power Company, and now is American Electric Power Company. When I started to work for Kentucky and West Virginia Power Company, in 1943, the American Electric Company was the parent company of Kentucky and West Virginia Power Company and several other of the leading electric distribution systems in the eastern United States.

On January 25, 1940, an explosion occurred in the basement of the building, killing Joe Curtiss and injuring several other people. Most of the staff was out to lunch, according to Mrs. Paul Petrey, who worked for the company at the time, or the injuries could have been much greater.

8. The Engle Hardware and Funeral Directors. This is where the Engle Funeral Home business was started. It was owned and operated by Wm. "Uncle Billy" Engle, Sr.

9. The Lykins Grocery Store, owned and operated by Lee Lykins, Sr.

10. The First National Bank. Jesse Morgan was the president. It closed during the Depression, and the building was sold to the Peoples Bank; one of the few banks throughout Kentucky that remained solvent.

Simon Stacy was the president of the Peoples Bank, and Finley Cisco was the vice-president and manager. The Peoples Bank was organized and operated a few years, about 1922-23, at Vicco, before it was moved to Hazard. They had leased the old Perry County State Bank building on the Taxi Alley corner, and it was operated there until they purchased the First National Bank building.

11. The Patton-Moore Wholesale Dry Goods Company. Ed Purdon was the manager. My first job in Hazard was working there in the shipping department with Jim Owens. We packed orders to be shipped up and down the river, on the Railroad-Railway Express to their rural customers.

12. The A. and P. Store. It was owned and operated by the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, an old company of the sailing ship days. The food store branch was organized during the Civil War through their endeavor to help feed the soldiers, horses, and mules of the Northern Army.

13. The Hazard Drug Company, owned and operated by Brock Fouts. My brother, Roy, and I installed the first fluorescent lights to come to Hazard here in this store.

14. The Hazard Hardware Company. I remember the store, but don't know who owned it.

15. The Perry County State Bank. As I remember, Leonard Brashear was the manager. I remember three people who worked with Mr. Brashear. They were Irene Snyder Hancock, Lela Nicholson Baker, and Print Baker.

16. The Hazard Laundry and Dry Cleaning Company. As I remember, a Mr. Jones was the manager. I remember three of the drivers who hustled up the dry cleaning and laundry. They were Gene Baker, former Mayor of Hazard, and owner of Gene Baker Motors of Main and East Main Streets; Kermit Grigsby; and Luther Johnson. Gene and Kermit drove Willy's "Whippet" Vans, the first vans I remember seeing. Luther drove a 1929 Ford Tudor Sedan. He had removed the back seat cushions and installed a piece of metal pipe across it to hang dry cleaning on.

17. The R. O. Davis Store, general merchandise.

18. The Savoy Restaurant. I don't remember who operated it. Don Fouts had a restaurant at this location for years. The lot on which business #17 and 18 were located was once occupied by the Davis Hotel Boarding House. It was torn down after the new Combs Hotel was completed.

19. The Papania Jewelry Store, owned and operated by Sam Papania.

20. The Combs Hotel, owned and operated by D. Y. Combs.

21. The J. J. Newberry Store. The first 10-cent chain store to come to Hazard.

22. the Ideal Furniture Store, owned and operated by W. E. Mattingly.

23. The Sterling Hardware Company. This business was started to furnish supplies for the coal mining companies of Southeast Kentucky. They later acquired a wholesale dealership for the Philco line of appliances and radios. My second job in Hazard was driving a big cab-over engine truck. It was the longest and largest truck in Perry County at the time. I delivered hardware and appliances from Hazard to Jenkins, and from Hazard to Prestonsburg, Paintsville, and Pikeville.

24. The Major Department Store, owned and operated by Maurice, Herman, and Solomon Major. This was the first complete clothing store to come to Hazard. They closed up and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, during WWII, after the government rationed shoes. You could only buy shoes by presenting a ration stamp. It was the same for sugar and gasoline.

25. A drug store. I don't remember who operated it. It was later operated by Bill Fouts and Clyde Baumgardner.

26. The Johnson Department Store, owned and operated by Nell Johnson.

27. The Hibler Hotel, owned and operated by "Ma" Hibler. Later purchased by Judge Josh Smith. Judge Smith lost his life when the hotel burned.

The following people contributed information to this article: Joe Eversole, Mrs. Paul Petrey, Bill Gorman, Bill Morton, and Frank "Judge" Miller.

(Continued Next Month)
Bill Manning, 7180 Ironworks Road, Winchester, KY 40391, shares his articles with our readers from time to time.