The following are some of my mother's memories.
My mother, Alice Hensley Fee, was born April 7, 1904, the daughter of Enos "Bear" and Louanna Hensley. She was first married to Byrd Hensley, who was killed in the mines near Wallin's Creek, Kentucky. She is now 95 years old and married to Roscoe Fee. They live at Totz, Kentucky.
"I remember the winters were so very cold. The snows seemed to stay on the ground for weeks and weeks. The Martin's Fork River (Harlan County) and the little creeks stayed frozen most of the winter. We were so cold most of the time that getting warm became one of the mostimportant things in our lives.
"We had to work so hard to survive. There were chores for everyone, no matter what age or how small. It was our way of life to make everything we ate or needed. We did not waste time dreaming of another way of life, because we knew no other way. We just did the best that we could and never complained. We did not think of ourselves as deprived and were never jealous of anyone. Our thoughts were of getting finished with our chores and returning home to Mammy.
"It was so wonderful when we did get to go to school. What joy it was to hear our teacher read to us or tell us of so many interesting things that had happened in the past. I was so happy when I could recite a poem or verse that my teacher had given me to memorize. How wonderful it was to learn arithmetic and to write on our slates. When we had spelling bees I was so proud of myself, because I was usually the best speller. What fun it was to go outside to play games with the other children or to go down to the creek and eat our milk and bread that we had brought in our little buckets. I missed it so much when I did not get to go.
"I remember getting up before daybreak to build a fire in our big wood-burning fireplace. It would be so very cold with the wind blowing through the cracks of our three-bedroom, log house. Sometimes it was so hard to get the fire going, because I did not have enough dry wood. After making a fire in the fireplace, I would build a fire in our old cookstove, and then I would grind enough coffee for breakfast. The dread of getting up and the cold was soon forgotten when I proudly woke Mammy. She would get up and finish making our breakfast of cornmeal gravy, fatback, and cornbread.
"After breakfast, my beloved brother, Corbitt, and I would get into our one-horse wagon and begin our chores for the day. We had to hunt our cows and bring them home to milk. We learned to recognize the sound of all the cowbells which made it easier to find our cows. We had to saw and gather wood for our cookstove and fireplace. After dark, we still had to feed the horses and bring in water. Our thoughts of our mother and getting warm occupied our minds and helped us through the long, hard, cold days. We knew our days would end like all other days, by going home to our log house with Mammy there with a nice warm fire in the fireplace. It was usually so cold that Mammy would pull our big homemade table close to the fireplace, and we would sit around it eating our cornbread and buttermilk.
"Sometimes we sat on the floor by the fire, and Mammy would read her Bible to us by the light of the old oil lamp. How beautiful those words sounded, and how sweet was Mammy's voice. How we wished those moments could go on and on. How I wish I could go back and hear her once more.
"Sometimes those wonderful moments were interrupted by the sound of Pappy's gun to announce his homecoming. This only happened when Pappy came home drunk. This happened when he played cards and gambled with some of the other men. When he was drunk, we all knew to go to bed and get out of his way. Mammy would go outside to help him off his horse. She would bring him inside, take off his boots, and help him get comfortable and warm in front of the fireplace.
"I remember the fear we had for Pappy, and I also remember the love and respect we had for him. He taught us to love and care for our family and others. I remember one very cold winter when he sent my brother, Corbitt, and me to cut wood for my married sister, Nettie, and her children. We loved them, and it made us feel so good inside, because we might have kept those children from freezing to death that winter.
"I know Pappy had his faults with too much drinking and too much gambling, but he did so much good that it more than made up for the bad. I guess our fear for him was that he was such a tall and powerful man. He was the county sheriff and wore his pistol in a shoulder holster under his jacket. He was always clean and was a very good-looking man. Pappy was considered by many people to a be a better doctor than the real doctors in town. People came to him for everything from delivering babies to treating the bad disease. They came to him for his home remedies, when the doctors in town had failed to help them. Home remedies that he made were with alum, yellow roots, and other herbs that Mammy had gathered. I remember he treated some people who were so sick that Pappy kept them in an isolated room in our home until they got well.
"Pappy also owned a little general store down the road from our log house. We were so glad, because sometimes Mammy would slip us a little stick of hard candy. Pappy would give each of us a pair of shoes every year. First, he would put tacks on the soles of our shoes to keep us from sliding on the ice and to make the shoes last longer. How happy Pappy made us when he allowed Corbitt and me to hold hands and dance around the room, while he played his banjo. We had so much respect for him, and we knew that he would always take care of us and would never really harm us in any way.
"The memory of hard times is so easily forgotten, but the good memories live with us forever and ever. Good memories like getting into our beds at the end of a long, hard, cold day of working. Beds were shuck mattresses and a nice big feather bed that we pulled on top of us. I remember that it felt so good not to be cold or hungry. We felt like the luckiest people in the world.
"My best memories are those of my beloved mother. She was so small in size, but her heart was the biggest in the world. Mammy was such a good and humble woman and everyone loved her. There was nothing in the world more wonderful than to sit by her side and listen to her read from her Bible or talk to us. I can still hear her voice as she told us that the happiest time of her life was when her children were getting along and loving one another. Those words didn't mean much to me at the time, but now that I have children of my own, I understand what she was saying. I can still hear her laughter as she told us about one Christmas Eve. We were suppose to be asleep while she was busy putting a little bag of candy into our stockings. My dear brother, Starling, raised up in bed and said, 'Mammy, put the most in my stocking!' She enjoyed telling little stories like that so very much. We knew that we had a wonderful mother, and we loved her dearly. I still grieve for her so much, but I would not want to bring her back to this world of worry and pain. She deserves the peace that Heaven offers. If she were here, I would be so happy to carry her in my arms and take care of her like a baby. I love and miss her so very much.
"Those good old days are gone forever, but those good old days also remain in my memory forever and ever."
The following was written by my sister, Pat Miles, as a tribute to our mother, Alma Bryant.
"Just wait until your dad gets home!" These words struck fear in my heart, for I knew my mommy's patience had run out. She kept a "reminder" just out of my reach, on top of our kitchen cabinet. A homemade fly swatter did the job just as well, though.
My mom was as patient as could be, but when you are raising 11 children, discipline must be dealt with immediately. Mommy did not have an easy life. When she was nine years old, she was stricken with polio, which left her with one leg shorter than the other. She never owned a pair of shoes, which had a built up heel to compensate for her short leg.
Yet, instead of complaining, she put in 12 hours of cooking, cleaning, canning, sewing, and nurturing children every day. Sometimes I wonder if I could have done her job. I know I couldn't have without the help of the good Lord.
No matter how bad times got, she could always find something to laugh about. You could hear her singing while she was cooking. We certainly didn't have a lot of things, but what we had we kept clean. Mommy saw to that. Occasionally, one of the girls stayed home from school on "washing clothes" day or "wash day," as she called it. When you have 20 loads of clothes to do on a wringer-type washing machine, you need some help.
Our drinking water and other water were brought from a spring near our house. My sisters and I carried water in water buckets to fill up the washer, so Mommy could wash our clothes. I remember the smell of bleach, vividly, for our white clothes were not off-white. She took such care of our clothes, for Daddy could not afford a whole lot of clothes. He was busy working to try to feed 11 kids.
Mommy made our clothes on her sewing machine, and she would say, "Children, you may not have many clothes, but what you have will be clean."
Our beds were to sleep on, not to play upon. Of course, a big, fluffy, feather bed was just too tempting sometimes. When I gave into that temptation, I regretted it. Mommy put the feather beds out on our porch to sun them. We had a wire fence around our porch to keep the small kids from falling. If you happened to fall off our porch, you would fall about 12 feet to the ground. Mommy placed the feather beds on the wire fence. My biggest challenge was to see if I could jump on the feather bed without going over the top. I do not understand to this day how my brothers and sisters never had a broken arm or leg.
Mommy allowed us to play and have fun, but playtime was after our chores were done. Oh, how I hated hoeing in the garden, but I knew when it was finished we could go swimming in the river.
Before I was born, Mommy lost three children. To this day she cries when she tells me about it. It hurt her so deeply. She said she almost gave up when her little boy died. Her own mother told her to remember she had other children who needed care, and she could have more. This certainly was true, for she had eight more children after that.
Although there were times when we weren't sure if we were going to have food next week, Mommy always said, "Where there is a will, there is a way." This always proved true, for we never were without food.
Mommy would stand on her feet for hours and
hours, canning hundreds of jars of vegetables and fruits. Daddy
would kill a hog, and she would put the meat away.
Mommy told me how she worked for her older
brothers and other kinfolk to make money. She bought her own
clothes when she was a teenager. Having a handicap never deterred
my mother. She and Daddy were married when she was 16 years old.
She loves her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She buys each one a gift on their birthday. She insists on staying by herself in her trailer, next door to my sister.
When it comes to courage, my mother has more than enough. Her name is Alma Bryant, and she is 86 years old.
The Orr, Kentucky, post office was started by Martin Hensley in the early 1920s at Needmore, Lawrence County, Kentucky. Martin ran a mill about one-fourth mile down the road from Lonnie Blevins' store. Martin would hang a basket on the wall of the mill, and people would put their outgoing mail in the basket. The mail carrier, who was on horseback would pick up the mail and return the incoming mail back to the basket.
Martin decided to apply for a post office. He filled out his application and put down several possible names for them to choose from. "Orr," he said, "anything you want to call it," so they picked Orr for the name.
Soon after Martin got the post office he built a small store building. He ran the post office for a few years. Then there was an administrative change, so they took the post office away from him and gave it to Hester Boggs. Her husband, Johnnie Boggs, ran a store down the road a couple hundred yards. She ran the post office until she and Johnnie divorced. Then Martin's daughter-in-law, Lena Murphy Hensley, got the post office. She ran it until she died in 1954. I would go there to get a haircut. She would cut my hair for 25 cents. She would give the 25 cents to one of the kids, and they would head for Lonnie's store. You could get five candy bars for 25 cents back then. After Lena died Lonnie Blevins became postmaster. He had the only store left on the creek. Lonnie built his house and store after he came back from WWI. He had a big store building, a potbellied stove, and benches for people to sit on. They would come in on cold days, sit around the stove, and tell tall tales. Lonnie sold everything from pinto beans to steel traps. He ran the post office until the government started closing a lot of the small country post offices in the early 1970s. Then he soon closed the store. Lonnie and his wife, Effie Kitchen Blevins, died in the early 1980s.
When Dad carried it, I was about 13 years old. I would meet him on what they call Sourwood, which was about two miles around the ridge from where we lived, with a fresh horse to finish the route. He needed about three head of horses or mules so he could rotate them. I met him out there one day and there was a set of drawbars across the road, and you had to get off your horse and let one end down to get through. I was sitting on top of the drawbars when he came up the hill.
I don't know what kind of look I had on my face, but when he got close, he said, "What the blankity blank hell is wrong now?" I said, "Roger Lee has shot himself."
Roger Lee was my five-year-old brother. Dad kept a .38 pistol hanging at the head of the bed. Roger climbed up there and got it. It being heavy with a six-inch barrel, he pointed it down, pulled the trigger, and burned a hole between his big toe and second toe.
Dad went on to the Orr Post Office and got someone to finish his route. He came home and got Roger on his back and headed around the ridge to Cherokee Gap, which was about three miles, to a friend, Amos Caldwell, who took him to the doctor in his old '37 Chevy. The shot didn't do much damage. Roger always said he just "turned it on" one time.
We didn't have a car. If we had, we couldn't have gotten to where we lived. If we went anywhere locally, we road a horse or walked. We farmed with a team of mules or horses. If we had anything to haul, we used a team and sled or a wagon like most people. But that was the way things were done.
That was also the end of an era. And I am proud to have been a small part of it.
Donal G. Mulkey
The following story was given to me by my Aunt Violet back in 1995. Since then my Uncle Glen has passed away. The family is diminished.
"Looking back on my childhood days, I can remember the good times with my family and friends. We always had the neighbor kids to play with. I was reared in Carter County, Kentucky, on Tygart's Creek near Iron Hill in a little valley called Ross Branch. Iron Hill is between Grayson and Carter City on Route 7.
"Dad was really strict with us. We could only go somewhere with someone he knew, or we could go to church. He would wait for us on the front porch until we came back home. Dad raised two families. His first wife died after having seven children. Dad was old when we were growing up. I was number five of nine children from his second family. I remember he would always try to take us to the Greenup County Fair every year. I enjoyed that. My dad's name was Jeff Harlow. He is now buried on Lost Creek Road, in the Montgomery Cemetery, Greenup County.
"Mom was always a special mother to me. She was so kind and understanding with all her children. She did the cooking, canning, washing, and sewing. She always found time to cook a big pot of soup beans and cornbread for supper. Her name was Maggie Flake, daughter of Joe Flake and Carry Pence. She is buried in the Kaiser Cemetery right off Lost Creek Road.
"Mom and Dad mostly took care of the
garden.They didn't want us children to cut anything down. We
all worked in the tobacco some. I didn't like that job. I did
raise my own tobacco crop one year. It was an acre. I took care
of it all summer, then Dad finished it in the fall. He gave me
all the money, which was about $300. I was so proud. I bought
school clothes with the money. I was about 15 or 16 at that time.
"This was a happy time in my life. Mom would take us kids to Fultz Store at Iron Hill to buy shoes. I was so proud to get new patent leather shoes. We had tokens which could be used for shoes or other things like margarine. I remember the margarine came with a packet of orange coloring. We would mix it and make the margarine yellow.
"I also remember walking to the Fairview School to meet the 'Huckster' to buy some bread we called light bread. I think it was about ten cents a loaf. We could buy enough for a week. We always had plenty to eat, but hardly any money. I remember when I got older and started to high school, Mom had a cow she milked and sold the milk for my lunch money, which was 15 cents. We thought that was a lot of money back then. I sometimes worked in the cafeteria for my lunch. Mom always tried to do with what she had to do with. She could take anything and make something with it.
"Dad loved sweet potatoes. He would take care of them. He dug them out of the ground and brought them inside the house in the fall. He made a big playpen and painted it dark blue. The playpen went upstairs in the middle of the floor in our bedroom. He then filled it full of sweet potatoes. If the sweet potatoes went in the corncrib, the rats ate them. We kids were all afraid of the old house. We were always told it was haunted. Sometimes when we went to bed, we covered our heads and were afraid to breathe.
"Mom did a lot of sewing. She made quilts
on her old, treadle sewing machine. She gave me all her scrap
materials. I would pretend I was making dresses. I did a lot
of cutting, but only made a big mess. I never did learn to sew
"There is so much to remember and be thankful for. I really don't know where to begin and where to stop.
"I have now been happily married for 41 years to Glenn Hall from Pennsylvania. We met while he was in the Army. We have five children, nine grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
"I have so much to be thankful for. My children and grandchildren are all healthy and happy. Now, when I look back on my life, I can say I have had a good life, not only my childhood, but my married life as well. My husband is 63 years old, and I turned 61 years old the 7th of November. We have always worked together. At present, we are building another new home. This will probably be the last one. We plan to do some traveling now."
Did you ever wonder what was on the mind of a toddler? The theory is that lifelong memories result from a very early first experience that involved extreme fright, discomfort, pleasure, wonder, pain, or other strong feelings. These are my vivid memories of 1920, when I was three years old. You might not think some of them would be very impressive to a youngster.
For about a year my family lived in Ohio County, Kentucky. My father operated a postal star route between the village of Taffy and the county seat of Hartford. So I was between three and three and a half when I watched in wonder as he sorted the packages, circulars, and letters on the living room floor of our small house; probably two rooms and a kitchen, plus a back porch, where I recall yellow onions covering one side.
Outdoor memories of 1920 included the lonesome sound of whippoorwills at dusk. I was always fascinated with our two horses. They were allowed to graze in our yard. One was my mother's pet mare, Bonnie, that her father had given her on one of her birthdays before she married. The other was a feisty scamp named Prince. Despite my mother's watchful eye, I managed to sneak out, occasionally, to wander around the horses, meandering back and forth under their bellies. Neither of them ever seemed to notice me.
A memory not at all trivial was the time my dad managed to grab one of my ankles as I tumbled into our backyard well. Yeah, that was a bit exciting to me, too.
I well remember that in those days some young boys, including myself, occasionally had to wear dresses like our sisters! Let's forget that. Most of the time my mother dressed me in short pants that buttoned to a blouse. This I remember clearly, except as to the type of pants I was wearing. Could have been a diaper at the time. Due to missing buttons or enlarged button holes, my less than trusty drawers slipped off one day as I was on my way up the road to a neighbor's house to have an extra meal with them. That was a habit of mine I was slow to grow out of.
I really don't recollect much about my character in those early years, but I must have been lacking in modesty and absolutely ignorant in matters of etiquette, because I simply stepped out of my droopy drawers and continued on my uninvited visit to the neighbor family. That was a memorable event for all, especially for my mother.
The final event of that stage of my life was our move back to Hancock County in the late summer of 1920. It was a trip of about 20 miles by winding dirt roads. By horse and buggy that would have been around a three-hour journey on a good day. But we started out (my mother, sister, and I) on a moonless night, as dark as the inside of our cow, which was, by the way, tied behind our buggy with my dad plodding behind her. One of my cousins, a teenager, rode ahead on our other horse.
Almost immediately, Mother dropped the useless reins and left the navigation to her beloved mare. For the rest of the trip the horse had no problem negotiating the sharp bends and narrow country roads and bridges. I suppose I fell asleep before we reached our new home, but it remains one of my most memorable journeys.
Mamie Yates Ferguson was born December 20, 1880, to T. H. and Mattie Yates in the bustling little Livingston County town of Carrsville. Her father died when she was quite young, and her mother was remarried to W. C. Brewer, whom Mamie seemed to adore.
She started school at age seven and was placed in third grade, because her mother, a well-educated woman, had taught her at home. Some of her teachers at Carrsville were distinguished men, one being Dr. C. C. Howard, from Mississippi; and another was Blanton M. Boyd of Salem. Both had college degrees, which were rare in those days.
After Carrsville she went to Bowling Green Normal, now Western State College, and started teaching in 1904 in the grade school in Carrsville. She then taught several years in Smithland, where she met a teacher, Charles Ferguson, who was an up and coming attorney. They were married on December 28, 1911, in Paducah at the Palmer Hotel by Rev. Charles K. Gregston, attended by Mr. and Mrs. Will Bridges. They rode to Paducah on the steamer Joe Fowler for the wedding and returned to Smithland to the L. C. Hibbs house on the corner of Court Street and what is now Highway 60, where they continued to reside.
In 1920 Miss Mamie, as she was affectionately known, was asked by the county school board, upon recommendation by County Judge Harry F. Green, to become Livingston County school superintendent, succeeding Horrie Millen. This was in the days when it was unheard of for a woman to hold such a position. The county had 48 one-room schools with larger schools in the towns, and all on dirt roads, which Miss Mamie traveled regularly to visit in her Model-T Ford. She had inherited a $30,000 school board debt, which was paid off in a few years under her management.
In 1938 a different school board was elected. Mrs. Ferguson stepped aside and, for three years she was a housewife, though she admitted to many cooking burns; WPA certifying agent; and welfare worker. In 1941 the board asked her to resume duties as superintendent. There were still few women in this position, but she returned, and much like the first time, faced another $30,000 debt. In a few years it was paid off, and the larger schools had been rebuilt. One-room schools were closing at the rate of half a dozen each year. It was a trying job, and she never accepted much money for her work, often setting her salary lower than her teachers, never over $2,000 per year, and many times she paid her own office expenses.
On April 18, 1947, tragedy struck when Mr. Ferguson was shot and killed by his mentally ill sister, who also took her own life. This was very difficult for Mrs. Ferguson, and the county suffered a great loss. He was a highly respected citizen and an able attorney, who had served as both county and commonwealth attorney. He had been solicited several times as a candidate for circuit judge, but had always declined. Friends were always amused at the loyalty of this couple to their political parties. Mr. Ferguson was a very active Republican, and she a staunch Democrat all through their lives. Miss Mamie said he was the best Republican she had ever known.
By 1951, as much as Miss Mamie loved her pupils and teachers, she was beginning to tire and decided to retire. The one-room schools were gone, buses were running throughout the county, debts were paid off, and she felt it was time to go; much to the grief of the teachers, parents, and pupils.
During her first term she had done all of
the work alone, both administrative and clerical. Just before
the end of that term she had Mr. Franklin Crutcher as attendance
officer. All during the last term Miss Emma Lucus was her right-hand
person, as pupil personnel officer. The two of them are lovingly
remembered for their hard work and accomplishments in the county
school system. Miss Mamie's aim all along was consolidation with
equal opportunity for the children, and she lived to see it happen.
She can be held responsible for the many improvements in the
county schools. She looked far into the future and saw possibilities
others were unable to see. She worked toward those goals, sometimes
to the apprehension of the board.
It was my good fortune to work in the same building with Miss Mamie and Miss Emma all those last ten years and enjoy long conversations with them. Those two had a lasting influence on my life, and I am forever grateful for time spent with them.
I remember growing up in the small town of Bradfordsville, Kentucky (Marion County), situated between Lebanon and Liberty on Highway 49. In Bradfordsville, in the 1940s, there lived two elderly brothers, Crit and Vess Followell. They liked to turtle hunt, which meant going down the river (Rolling Fork), Crit on one side of the river and Vess on the other, feeling under the waterline and back into the banks for turtles. They call this "noodling." When they would decide to go "noodling," they would get me to carry the gunnysack that was used to carry the turtles they caught. I would carry this while wading the river, usually the middle, so I could get to either side when either Crit or Vess caught a turtle. We would go for miles down the river. We'd usually start at the old pump house and go all the way to the second iron bridge (the old iron bridges were replaced with brand new concrete bridges), and by that time we would usually have a full sack of turtles.
Behind the Followells' house we would clean and divide the turtle meat. That evening Mom Anderson and I would have our fill of fried turtle, and it was really good. Something like that one never forgets. Thinking back now, I'm sure that Crit and Vess got me to go along, cause they had to have someone to handle the sack, but they knew Mom and I needed the meat to eat. Crit and Vess are gone now, but the memory of them, turtle meat, and "noodling" remains.
In September 1937 my husband and I met on Second Creek in Hazard, Kentucky, where I was born. It was love at first sight. We were married on February 5, 1938, in Walkertown and were married 60 years and three months. Ernie passed away on May 1, 1998.
The men would always find ways to have a good time after their hard laboring days serving in the CCCs. One thing is for sure, Ernie was always proud of the work he did.
I was born April 5, 1923, in Raccoon, Kentucky. Raccoon is about seven miles from Pikeville, Kentucky, in Eastern Kentucky. I have so many good memories of our home in Kentucky.
My father died when I was 11 years old, and
my mother managed things from there. Things were slow in Kentucky
in 1934. My youngest sister was only 18 months old at this time,
and we had a farm with lots of work to be done. Some things we
enjoyed doing and others we didn't, like always getting up so
early to start our work. My father was Thomas Coleman, born June
10, 1885, and my mother was Mollie Thacker Coleman, born August
12,1890. There were 12 children in all, but only nine survived
early childhood. My mother used to spin yarn. She had this big
spinning wheel, and I liked to watch her spin. She knitted warm
clothes for winter, and she also had to card the wool. It was
interesting to watch her make little rolls and spin them together
into thread for socks, shawls, and sweaters. She also made several
quilts each winter.
We cooked on a wood stove, burned coal in the fireplace, and we got our water from a well. Our house would get so hot when we were canning we would sit out in the shade until it cooled off. We had no air conditioning back then. Canning time was a busy time. We canned, dried, and pickled some of our food. I liked to string the beans to dry. We would hang them up until they dried, and then we stored them away for the winter. We had walnuts to gather in the fall, and we got our hands stained; it was just fun. I enjoyed going to the molasses mill to watch them grind the juice to make the molasses. We grew our own corn and ground our own cornmeal, which we had to sift ourselves. We had to churn our milk and make butter. We made lye soap, which we used to wash clothes; not for baths, faces, or hands. We had hogs, chickens, ducks, and other farm animals to feed and cows to milk. Taking care of them, and raising feed for them kept us busy. Hog killing day was a big day, since we started before daylight with big kettles of water and sometimes killed a couple of hogs. We shared the meat with the neighbors. There were wash days, where we had to carry water to the big iron kettle and heat our own water to clean our clothes. Then we had to hang the clothes on lines running from poles.
I attended a one-room school with a potbellied stove for heat, and we carried drinking water from the neighbor's house; we all wanted to get the water. We didn't have electric lights in our school. Our school started with roll call. We would answer "here" or "present," then we would sing our Old Kentucky Home and sometimes the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
It was against the rules to whisper at school. I remember it was getting toward the end of the school year, and the teacher said, "I am going to let all of those who whispered just come on up yourself," pointing to two long benches in the front. The boys all went up to get their punishment, but we girls did not. They looked back at us and said, "Bessie Coleman whispered to us today;" other girls were mentioned, also. My brother watched everything I did at school and ran home telling everything. Once some of the boys put another boy up to coming over and hugging me. I was carrying my shoes, and I hit him with them blacking his eye. Of course, I got in trouble for that. As I said, my brother watched everything.
I moved from Pike County in 1953, with five young children: Tex Thompson, age 12; Frank Charles, age 9; Molly Charles, age 7; Barbara Charles, age 6; and Ray Charles, age 4. In 1963 I married John Brewer, who was from Middlesboro, Kentucky. We lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, for ten years before moving to Aurora, Indiana. We lived in Aurora for 21 years, until John died in 1994.
The Hatfield and McCoy feud happened in Pike County, Kentucky, in the late 1800s or early 1900s. I have a granddaughter who married a Hatfield and a nephew who was married to one of the real McCoys. I have made some good friends in Aurora. I also have some nice friends in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where I have lived since 1994. But I go back to my home in Kentucky to visit every year.
Hazel Conkright Carmichael Karrick was a person of incredible inner strength. She was born on Groundhog's Day, February 2,1927, at the "head of Hog Creek" near the Powell and Montgomery county line, between Clay City and Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. She was the second of ten children born to Jess Conkright and Annie Willoughby Conkright. When she was 16 years old she married 17-year-old Carl Clayton Carmichael, with whom she eventually had five children; one of who was born dead. While her husband was in the Navy in Chicago, before going overseas during WWII, Hazel and a friend, Yareva King Donaldson, went to Chicago and worked in the 5 & 10 cent store to be near their husbands. Hazel had never been away from Mt. Sterling before this, and she had no experience as a cashier, but she figured it out and worked there until Carl was sent overseas; where he served on the USS Kitty Hawk during the war.
After the war was over, Carl and Hazel lived and worked on the W. K. Prewitt farm in northern Montgomery County for many years. They raised cattle and tobacco and milked on the halves with the landowner, Mr. W. K. Prewitt. The farm was so large that it ran from U. S. 460 all the way through to Arron's Run Road. It is still in the Prewitt family today, being operated by W. K.'s grandson, Allen "Buck" Prewitt. At the time Carl and Hazel lived and worked on the farm, there were four tenant families there, including Hazel's parents, Jess and Annie Conkright. Carl and Hazel first lived on the Arron's Run Road side of the farm and later, in 1959, moved to the "front" of the place which faced U. S. 460, also known as the Paris Pike.
On May 28,1962, Hazel's husband, Carl, died at age 36, from a kidney disorder called Brite's Disease. Hazel was 35; and her children, three boys and a girl, were 6, 8, 12, and 13. On the day of Carl's funeral, May 29,1962, everyone wondered why Hazel's youngest brother, Tony Conkright, was not at the funeral. Later that day Tony; his wife, Faye; and their three-year-old son, Nigel, were all found shot to death in their apartment in the Henry Clay Apartment Building near the Viaduct in Mt. Sterling. There had apparently been an awful domestic dispute that resulted in the deaths of all three. Hazel had lost her husband, brother, sister-in-law, and three-year-old nephew in a span of two days.
Being a young widow with four children to
raise did not stop Hazel. She was determined that they would
stay together as a family and that they would go to church every
time the doors were open. She kept both of these promises.
After their marriage Hazel went to work at the Hobart Manufacturing Plant in Mt. Sterling, where they made Kitchen Aide dishwashers. She stayed there until her retirement in the mid-1980s. About a year after their marriage Hazel and Ewell bought five acres of land with a large old farmhouse on it from Nick and Hazel Haddon. It was closer to Mt. Sterling in the community of Upper Spencer. They loved this place and worked hard to make it a nice, comfortable home for themselves and their family. They lived there until Ewell had a heart attack and heart surgery in 1980, when they sold the place at auction to Marion Highley. They then bought a house in a subdivision in Carmargo, where they lived the rest of their lives. Ewell died of lung cancer in 1983, and Hazel died of viral pneumonia on Mother's Day, May 13, 1990.
I remember my mother, Hazel Conkright Carmichael Karrick, as a strong Christian woman, who met hardship and heartache head on. I am sure that her strong faith in God was what carried her through the many trials of her life. It is my prayer that she is resting peacefully in a better place now.
Jerry W. Carmichael
I was six years old when I started school. We walked about half mile or more to school and crossed two creeks, wading them in summer, if the water was low; if not, we went up and around a hill and crossed a swinging bridge. A swinging bridge was fastened on each end with boards nailed together, wire on the sides, and it swayed as you walked. My cousin, Marie Tackett, started the same year. Her two brothers were older and were supposed to take care of us. They lived in the last house in the school district. Other children joined us on the way to school. We had a good time then. School began at 8:00 a.m. We had a 15-minute recess before and after dinner, one hour for dinner, and school ended at 4:00 p.m.
When we started home on the first day I said, "I am hungry." Harvey, the older cousin, said, "We will soon be at Grandma's house, and she will have a snack for us." She had made extra biscuits that morning, and in her old, wooden safe, she let us look and decide what we wanted to eat. Fried apples, apple butter, jelly, butter, and more. In the warming closet over the stove was bacon. This was our everyday stopping place for a snack, until after the schoolhouse burned. More children were added as they reached school age. Grandma died January 4, 1926, and she was buried on my 13th birthday.
After our schoolhouse burned we went to school farther up Long Fork for two years, until the Virgie School was ready. In 1929 I started high school at Virgie, Pike County, Kentucky, graduating in 1933; the first full four-year class.
The younger children never had the pleasure
of knowing our grandma, Mary Ann Martin Tackett, our dad's mother.
She died in 1904, on his birthday, May 10th.
As he went into the water she lost her footing and began swimming. "Edgar you hold onto saddlehorn, and she will take you out." Elsie held me tightly, as he felt me rise up by the water. He put one arm around me. Men were running along the edge of the creek hoping we would come to the side, but the current kept us on other side. At last, we got to where our horse had grounded, and she got out of the swift water. We got off, and Papa wiped her face and body. She was shaking. We still had Long Fork to cross, but it was not so deep.
When we got home Papa dried the mare off and fed her. The next day she was alright. God was with us that day, as He always is.
Elsie Anderson Hudson
My mom and dad always called the sap we gathered from the sugar maples and processed down to a very hard cake "tree sugar." At one time we had about 100 trees tapped. With fond memories I am writing my story at the age of 57, as it brings back happy memories of childhood in Kentucky.
On cold evenings Dad walked close by the branch (a part of the stream where the elder bush grew) and cut the bush's branches. Then, he took them back to the house and completed his work by firelight.
Dad cut the branches about 12 inches long. Then about three inches down, he cut away the top part to make a drain for the sap.
Mom and the rest of the family helped him take the white and spongy pith out of the branches, so he could make spouts. They were scrubbed clean, then stacked back ready to carry to the trees for tapping. The trees could be tapped many years.
When the sap was ready, we took the spouts, axe, and hand auger to do the work. Dad chopped one time at an angle down the tree, then once straight into the tree. This gave him a place to bore into the tree with the auger and position the spout. With the spout slightly tilted downward, we set our buckets under it making sure that the containers were level. Rocks found close by made good leveling devices, and any buckets were good. Some were from lard. Any other products were bought from the store.
Up the hill was a wide strip of flat land with lots of the trees. My dad, mom, and older brothers and sisters made a "leading trough." Two boards were nailed together to make a deep angle, small at the bottom and wide at the top.
We carried the sugar water from the trees to the trough. The sap drained into barrels at the sugar camp. This saved us a lot of work, but there were still trees on little hills.
We carried the sugar water to the camp twice daily. Sometimes, we got scared when we picked up a bucket to empty and a salamander (a water dog) moved in the wet leaves under the bucket.
The camp contained two furnaces, one smaller and one larger, side by side. They were made from rock and clay or mud. The camp had a roof large enough to cover pans and some extra wood. The sides had boards to knock off the weather and cold winds.
The boiling pans were large (about six feet long) with handles. All the family had to work at keeping the fire going under the pans. It took lots of wood to keep the water boiling. Huge logs were carried to burn.
Once the sap was boiling, it was playtime for my sister, Trish, and me. Under a few boards leaned against the side of the camp, we made clay animals or played whatever games came to mind. Sometimes, we got an extra barrel and rolled down the hill. If snow was not on the ground, we played in large piles of leaves. When snow was on the ground, we had a homemade sled we rode, or my sister and I tracked rabbits in the snow.
Now, evening was near and the sugar water had boiled down to the bottom of the pans. The water, to which nothing had been added, was put in containers and carried to the house to be finished.
Before leaving, we checked all trees again and ran the sugar water to the barrels for the last daytime work. The furnace fires were covered with ashes or doused with water; it depended upon the size of the fire.
At the house the sugar water was put in a large cast iron kettle that we called a stove boiler and boiled down to a hard sugar.
The outside chores were done, and we were so sleepy that often we went to bed and left our parents to wait for the finish.
They tested it very often, until it formed a hard ball when dropped in cold water. It was then put into buttered teacups to mold overnight. We were awakened to scrape the delicious sugar from the kettle.
The teacup sugar cakes were taken from the cup and stacked on white linen until people came to buy them. There was always someone coming for sugar. It would sell for ten cents a teacup cake.
To me, this was not work, and I think of it with so many happy memories. The last we made was in the early 1940s. My parents were older and most of the children were married.
At that time I was writing to a boy in the submarine service in Hawaii. He asked me to save a cake of sugar for him. I did, and he came for it when WWII was over. Later, we were married.
The trees were sold, and over the years the old camp fell down and everything changed. I never went back to the old place after Mom and Dad moved. Seeing the "run down" of the camp would have made me sad.
My sister and her daughter used to go back often. One day I had the happiest surprise. My niece, who had been walking with her mother on the sugar campgrounds brought me a rock from my precious campgrounds.
Betty Jane Reynolds
Whenever I smell oranges I think of Christmas, and whenever I think of Christmas, I think of home. Home was, is, and always will be the little four-room house which sat at the mouth of Malachai, one mile below the Stopover Post Office in the far eastern corner of Pike County, Kentucky. The actual building burned in 1980, but the images of the life we lived inside those walls are forever imprinted upon my mind's eye, and the memories of those days are never far from me.
Oranges and Christmas are not an unlikely combination, not if you grew up in Appalachia in the 1950s, when fruit, candy, and toys were unheard of during the year; but were hoped for, longed for, and only occasionally received during the holidays. Times were hard for everyone back then. We were as rich as our neighbors, and as content as we would allow ourselves to be. Sometimes there were oranges, but mostly, there was snow cream.
In the 1950s the upper atmosphere had not been polluted by rockets, space ships, space shuttles, and nuclear radiation. Acid rain was still light years away. When the snow came down, it often fell heavily in those long-ago days. It was so clean that you could actually eat it.
On a typical Appalachian morning the first sound, upon waking, would be the gurgling coffeepot perking away, and the smell of it would fill the entire house. Mixed with that was the aroma of homemade biscuits, fried bacon, sometimes homemade syrup, and the glorious fragrance of burning wood from the cook stove in the kitchen. My parents were early risers, and they often used those moments when they were alone to discuss relatives, neighbors, and matters of privacy, which children were not privileged to hear. I learned many family secrets by lying in bed, quietly, and listening when I was supposed to be sleeping.
The long winters, though harsh, were nonetheless beautiful. Often snow would fall silently during the night and bring about wondrous changes to our small world. Outside, through frosted windows, the earth we saw was different from the one we had seen just hours before. Gone were the brown, dead leaves; broken twigs; and ugly, frozen mud, replaced by the silvery sheen of fairyland. Jack Frost had waved his wand and weaved his magic, and the transformation was extraordinary. Everything, including the coal pile, was now an object of beauty and delight.
Sometime during mid-morning, after the breakfast dishes were washed and dried, and everyone was trying to think of ways to enjoy the day, someone would suggest snow cream. Mother would always say, "If you're going to make snow cream, be sure to get the snow from the top of the cellar that way you will know it is clean." She meant clean from animal droppings, not from upper air pollution. Since I was the youngest, I was never the one chosen to go get the snow. I always wanted to go, and I always watched, longingly, from the bedroom window; but usually it was Rossie, Jackie, or Betty who was given that honor. After dressing warmly they would go out the back door with a large dish pan and dipper in hand, wade through the snow to the cellar roof, and start scooping. It didn't take long. Soon, they were back inside the warm house and the fun began.
If you have never made or tasted snow cream, you have missed a treat. With the snow you mix pure cream, sugar, and a small amount of vanilla flavoring; then stir. I suppose snow cream was the forerunner of snow cones, but snow cream is better. I must add making it was as much fun as eating it.
Across the creek from our house, in the middle of our garden, stood a large holly tree. Growing up I always thought it was the largest tree in the world, and even now, as an adult, I have never seen a finer holly tree. The tree did not grow on one large stalk, but on several that grew up and out, forming an open space at the bottom. It was special, not just because of its size, but also because, at Christmastime, it was full of berries. Our parents always told us never to eat the poisonous, red berries. I often wondered why the birds ate the berries without any ill effects, but I never brought it up in conversation. It was the 1950s, and children did not question their parents' wisdom.
Through the snow we would go with saw and ax in hand to cut branches from the tree. The holly boughs which we took from the tree were placed in the windows of our house for decorations. We were not the only ones to enjoy this festive sight. People from neighboring communities would come by and ask for a sampling of the bright, colorful branches for their own decorating needs. We knew we were special to be the caretakers of such an important tree.
At times on a cold, December afternoon I would sneak out the back door alone, cross the creek on the log bridge which led to the garden, and stand between the large, spiraling trunks of the holly tree. From that place, well hidden from view, I would gaze upward at the mighty tree, and for a few moments know a sense of peace and contentment and an even greater sense of oneness with the tree and with all living things forever. Within the confines of the tree I felt secure and sheltered while the wind howled, and the snow blew around me. Overhead, in the upper branches, snug within their cozy nests, birds called out their merry tunes, and I knew that they, too, felt the wonder of the moment.
The holly tree no longer stands in its place of honor in the center of the garden. It is no longer the 1950s, and nothing is nor ever will be like that time and place. The tree was cut down by those who did not appreciate its beauty nor recognize its value as a priceless treasure. My family and I have mourned its passing on many occasions, as one might grieve for a beloved pet. Although we have looked through boxes of pictures, we are unable to find even one of that most favored tree. It is some consolation to us, as we pass by the old homeplace, to see small shoots of holly tree branches grow ing up from the old roots. Despite all the attempts to destroy it completely, it makes an annual effort to be reborn. Perhaps, in 100 years or so the people living in that time will ride by and see again the beauty that once was ours to enjoy.
One of my parents' friends was a mailman when the mail was still delivered on horseback in Estill County. He knew that he wouldn't be able to ride his route one day, so he asked Dad to fill in for him. Dad was used to riding horseback, because it was still the most common means of transportation in the area, and like everyone else in that isolated area, he knew each member of every family for miles around and where they all lived. Thinking he would have an easy day of it, Dad readily agreed. The friend told Dad that he could use the horse that he normally rode on the route and that the horse knew the route.
Dad got up early the next morning and rode to the post office to pick up the day's mail. Shortly afterwards he began to suspect that the horse knew the route too well. In those days the "roads" were little more than paths wondering through the woods. They led over rock outcroppings, up and down steep hills, through deep mudholes, and down the creek bank to follow the creek for awhile before climbing back out. When the regular carrier would come to one of these places, he would get off and lead the horse in order to save his strength. The horse knew each and every one of these places. When he got to one, he would stop and wouldn't go another step until Dad got off and led him around the bad place. This continued the entire route, going and coming home. Get on and ride, get off and lead the horse through a bad place, get back on and ride to the next bad place.
They finally got to the gate that led into the field surrounding our house. When Dad got off to open the gate he was too sore to even get back on the horse. Here they came across the field, Dad so tired he could barely get one foot in front of the other one, leading the horse who was in fine fettle.
Dad was so sore and stiff he could hardly get out of bed the next morning. Come to think of it, he didn't move very fast for the rest of the week. Dad never again carried the mail.
Lois K. Embry