At Kingdom Come School
I attended school at the Kingdom Come Grade School, in Letcher County, from first grade through eighth grade, from 1944 to 1952. My last teacher there was Sally Ison. Some of my other teachers were Myrtle Frazier, Florene Ison, Monroe Caudill, Glen B. Ison, and Harding Ison.
My stepfather was Andy Fields. My mother was Ellen Fields. We lived on Spicewood Hollow.
When I first started school at Kingdom Come Grade School, there were so many students. Sometimes, we would sit three to a desk, but the last year I attended there, we only needed one room.
The holidays were special. Our parents would bring food, and the desks were lined up to make a long table. We had a feast. We made all of our Christmas decorations.
We didn't have playground equipment, so at recess, we played basketball, baseball, jump rope, and tag. On Friday afternoons, after we had all our lessons done, our teacher, Mr. Harding Ison, would read stories to us. My favorite was Briar Rabbit.
The health doctor and nurse came to the schools to give us our shots. The missionaries would come to the school and tell us stories from the Bible. They would also use felt pictures to help tell the stories. After I finished the eighth grade, Mother moved us to Blackey, Kentucky, and I attended school at Fleming Neon and Stuart Robinson High School.
Each year, when I visited Mother, we would take a drive up to the old schoolhouse. The last time I was there was in 1982. We had a picnic. I would love to hear from anyone who attended the school with me.
I have lived in Milwaukee, Texas, Colorado, and Oregon, but none of these places can compare to the beautiful wildflowers or the magnificent color of the leaves in the fall to those in Kentucky.
Joyce Caudill Milner
11911 NE Siskiyou Street
Portland, OR 97220
One time, when Ollie was a tiny baby, his mother placed him in the middle of a large bed. She needed a bucket of water, and she had to walk to a spring to get it. She couldn't carry Ollie and the bucket of water at the same time, so she decided to leave little Ollie on the bed, while she hurried to the spring.
There wasn't anyone else at home to watch little Ollie, while she was gone, but she felt he would be perfectly safe; she wasn't going to be gone long. Ollie was too young to roll over, so she didn't have to worry about that.
Mary picked up her water bucket and hurried to the spring. She filled her bucket with cool spring water, and then she hurried on home. She didn't want to leave her baby any longer than necessary.
When Mary arrived at her house, she got the surprise of her life. Ollie wasn't on the bed, he was on the floor. He wasn't crying, and he was apparently very content. How did Ollie get on the floor? This is a mystery, which nobody has ever been able to solve.
611 Stanley Street
Middletown, OH 45044
Kenvir is located in Harlan County, which is in the southeastern part of Kentucky. Kenvir is also known as Black Mountain by the local residents. It is about three miles east of Evarts, Kentucky. It seems that Kentucky and Virginia both had claimed the area, which eventually became known as Kenvir. In the end, Kentucky ended up with the land. Because of the dispute, it is said that the first three letters of Kentucky (Ken) and the first three letters of Virginia (Vir) were joined to make up the name Kenvir.
The school was known as Black Mountain. I've seen wonderful pictures of the school, as it set atop the hill, standing out in view for all to see. Like the saying, "A city set on a hill cannot be hid, showing the winding road that led up to it." The school had wonderful programs for its students. I haven't forgotten the girls' home economics class. We learned how to sew and the shortcuts to sewing. We learned how to iron a shirt and blouse, and how to be a clean housekeeper. We learned the ingredients for a pie crust, and how to make a good cherry pie. We'd get to sample the pie when it was done. The guys, on the other hand, had their own programs to enjoy.
Kenvir was a great, booming place for the coal mines. My father worked
in the coal mines there from 1946-1950. Though his wages were small, we
endured those days with dignity.
The houses were constructed well and populated with wonderful people. The homes in Camp #1 had four rooms, with a front porch. The row my family lived in faced toward the camp's dump, looking west. We had running water, but no indoor plumbing for bath and toilet facilities. For baths, we used a galvanized washtub.
Our family didn't own a refrigerator, only an icebox. It had a round piece on top, like a wheel. Every week, the iceman would come with a block of ice and a pair of sharp scissors. The ice was 50 cents. Our heat in winter was a fireplace. Outside toilets were with every row of houses, one to each two families. When the cleansing time came for them, sanitation workers would do their work at night, while everyone was in bed. We could hear the roaring of the motors of the trucks doing their job.
Mr. Hatmaker was the man who drove the rolling store on wheels, with all the goodies. He should be well remembered by everyone. He brought food to us at reasonable prices. His counter was up in front, and we could step up into a bus to get waited on. He'd be ready, with a smile, for us to buy something good. It was sort of like ice cream trucks are today.
Glenn Wagers Robbins describes his memories of Kenvir like this: "As you crossed the old railroad tracks, near the coal tipple, going straight was the road to Camp #2, the school, etc. Making a hard left would put you in front of the company store, which was on the right side. The first door on the right was for the main store. The next door to the left was the butcher shop, the third and last door was the post office. There was no service in the store."
Glenn remembers handing his grandmother's shopping list to Mr. Howell (the clerk), who would pull the order. There was a large lot to the left of the store, with gas pumps near the walkway. To the back was the bridge across the creek, with the boardinghouse first, Rexall Drug Store to the left, and the saloon was last. The theatre was to the left of the lot, and a soda fountain was to the left of the theatre. The soda fountain was called the Confectioner Store.
Next was the restaurant and then the camp doctor's office. At that time, the paved road ended near the first row of houses in the doctor's office. Our families lived in Camp #1, past the doctor's office. A small bridge led over into Camp #1. Glenn told me that walking home at night, after a movie, with no street lights, was a real adventure; that is, if it were a moonless night.
Glenn tells how he remembers that at Christmas time, he would help pass out the brown bags of fruit and candy for the children of Kenvir. The occasion took place near the company store. He said by the time he helped pass them out, there would be none left for him. He would go home empty-handed.
Glenn left Kenvir in 1947, to pursue other interests. He later joined the U. S. Navy and was assigned to the ship USS Twining in San Diego, California. My family left Kenvir in 1950, moving back to Hazard, Perry County, Kentucky. Now out of the coal mines, my father, Palmer, worked on a road being built up Cutshin, Kentucky, with Claude Booth. Yet, the memories of Kenvir linger with us. A great part of Kentucky is alive in our hearts and mind. When Bill Monroe sang "Blue Moon Of Kentucky, Keep On Shining," it was for every part of Kentucky, even Kenvir. Kenvir, Kentucky, the place Kentucky got to keep as its own.
Gertie Ellen Stidham Eachus
32 N. Horton Street
Dayton, OH 45403
Dad knew a lot of people. He never met a stranger that didn't become a passing acquaintance or friend. Dad was a farmer most of his life. He also worked on the old farmers' market in Louisville. At one time, he worked for Lannis Fence Company. He married Georgia Mae Armstrong on October 2, 1937, in Versailles, Kentucky, and they began a life of 59 years together.
Dad was born to a family that consisted of nine children, and he outlived them all. The family head, David Thomas, was an alcoholic (a lot of the Harrods of the old generation were), and I guess that was his escape from the problem of the times they lived in. Dad did not get the love and attention he should have, as a child. It seemed to pass to myself and my siblings. He was never one to say, "I love you," give a hug, or give a word of encouragement. But in his own way, he cared deeply for us. He worshiped Mom to the point of being too possessive of her. Sometimes, you could see Dad wipe a tear from his eyes, when something good would happen to one of his own. He was proud, but couldn't show it, personally.
Another thing about Dad was a nickname he got as a young man. They called him "Lying Bill." He didn't lie so much, as stretch the truth. That's what I have always believed. People have told me stories about Dad that help keep his memory alive, such as the time he was sent to get a railroad tie to use for firewood and was gone for three months. He had stayed at his uncle and aunt's (Enoch and Hazey Harrod) house for the entire three months, but came back home with the railroad tie he had been sent for to begin with.
As I said before, Dad knew a lot of people. Once, he and Mom went to Pennsylvania to visit my uncle and aunt, Orville and Lillie Armstrong Cohorn. My uncle took him downtown to sightsee and made the remark that he wouldn't know anyone in this town. About five minutes later, someone hollered from across the street, "Hey, Bill. What are you doing up here?"
Dad was also the kind of person who would loan you the shirt off his back, if you needed it. He never liked to see anyone go hungry, especially a child. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren believed there was no one like Papaw Bill. So, through the good times and the hard times, Dad was always there to help. He has brought sacks of potatoes and other food to my house and my siblings to feed us, when we had no other means to do so.
Dad passed away November 21, 1996, and was cremated (as was his wish), so that he could be laid to rest with Momma, when her time comes. He is missed and thought of every day, because when he was born, they broke the mold. There will never be another like our Dad. See you in heaven, Dad.
883 Overdale Drive
Louisville, KY 40229
Lying flat on the ice, I reached out to her. When she got a hold of my arms, I think she must have gotten a death hold, because she was pulling me toward her. I remember screaming at her, "If you pull me in with you, I will never save you again." Well, somehow both of us survived. Today, we just laugh about it.
Another time, in the late summer, we were working in the cornfield, stripping the blades of corn stalks to make fodder for the farm animals. I hated that job, because there was some kind of stinging worm that always managed to get me, no matter how hard I tried to avoid it. Maybe one of your readers out there might know the correct name of these pesky, little monsters. We just called them "packsaddles." After each time I would get stung, I would think, "Why couldn't I have a pair of gloves." The truth was we didn't have any money. If I complained, it was just to myself.
Another chore I had was taking care of our cows. After they grazed during the day, I would go out and round them up and drive them home in the evening. One day, I was within view of home, when one of the young ones decided to stop; I think we had three altogether. Without thinking, I picked up a small rock and threw it in the direction of the younger cow. I was never very accurate at knocking over cans or bottles that I had set up on fence posts, but on this day, I hit that cow dead center between the eyes. That cow went down, as if it had been shot. I ran to it and locked my arms around its neck and began pulling on it.
At that time, I weighed about 70 pounds, so there was no way I was going to get that cow up. I kept looking toward our house, and hoping my grandmother had not seen what I had done to one of her cows. More than likely, I would have gotten a spanking, if that cow had died. Well, after about 15 minutes, it got up by itself. Everything was okay, and I never did tell anyone about that incident.
Ray C. Lewis
2584 S. Kathwood Circle
Cincinnati, OH 45236
We lived in a mining camp for awhile, before moving to Johnson Fork. Dad didn't want us around many of the people in the mining camps, because some of them were pretty rough people. Our father was very protective of us.
The Caudills and Whilatus owned most of the holler. They were my mother's
family. Fraziers also owned land on Johnson Fork. Everyone was related,
in one way or another.
The happiest time of my childhood was playing and going to school with all my cousins. We all walked out of the holler to Hot Spot School. Oh, what fun we had on the way!
There was a waterfall beside Grandma Rachel's house. We called it Slick Rock. We would slide all the way down it. We always wore the seat of our britches out. We would play in the creek and catch frogs and snakes. Of course, the boys would try to put them on the girls, just to hear us scream. All of the girls had to wear dresses. Mom would always put our brothers' long johns on us, under our dresses, in the wintertime. The Fraziers had an old barn at the mouth of the holler, where we stopped and took the long johns off, before going on to school.
We would tell each other ghost stories about haunted houses and scare each other to death. Florobell and Corine, my oldest sisters, talked about a house on Johnson Fork, where someone was supposed to have been killed and buried under the house. They told that a person could hear the woman screaming at night. I think all of our parents would tell us kids these stories to keep us from roaming too far from home. It worked.
There were deep ditches behind the school. During recess, all of us kids jumped in those ditches. I don't know what kept us from breaking an arm or a leg. We all ran in and out of each other's houses, like they were our own. All the parents treated us as if we were their own children.
My mother's brother, Hiram Caudill, was killed in an automobile accident, when I was fairly young. Hiram and his wife had a house full of kids, at the time. I think there was 11 or 12 of them. His wife, Aunt Dixie, reared every one of them by herself. She never remarried. She was the sweetest woman that I ever knew. She took in everyone's kids. We stayed almost every weekend with her. She would pop popcorn and make homemade candy for us. It seemed as if there were 50 kids running in and out of her house. We would always tear her house upside down.
I never heard Aunt Dixie ever complain. She was a beautiful person. I was the one who told ghost stories and kept everyone up. Aunt Dixie would say, "Betty, isn't it about time for the story to end?" I would just look at her and say, "Just a little more, Aunt Dixie." God rest her soul. I miss her. Her daughter, Martha, and I are really close. She is like a sister to me. We always go home to see her family two or three times a year.
My brother, Doug, got married September 1999, on Aunt Dixie and Uncle Hiram's mountain. Their kids have built cabins on the property. We took our 87-year-old mother, Alma Bryant, there. All of our aunts and uncles, in their 70s and 80s, were there. It meant a lot to Doug. He had been away for 30 years, and he had been all over the world. He retired from the Air Force. The saying "You can't go home again" isn't true.
Doug told of the time, when he walked home from the movies, one night, with our cousin Junior Caudill. Junior was older, and he escorted Doug, Florobell, and Corine home. He would always scare the people that were with him. He would jump up on a fence and yell, like someone had a hold of him. One night, he did this and fell over the fence on a cow that was asleep. I guess when the cow hauled out, he thought something really did have a hold of him.
We all have so many happy memories of our childhood. Our father, Earl Bryant, worked hard in the coal mines, and he reared 11 children. Dad passed away eight years ago, but we still have our mother. All 11 of their children are living. We are truly blessed. Mother's mind is still very sharp and clear.
The children of today would benefit from some of the ways we had, when we were growing up. We respected our elders. We had a sense of family. My family has made my life worthwhile.
Betty L. Kelly
126 Warren Avenue
Franklin, OH 45005