Articles & Stories

Perry County, Kentucky

Blue Diamond Bonds

Strong, Lasting

By Ray Aldridge - 2007

Bonds formed between the people who lived in Blue
Diamond, Perry County, Kentucky, and whose family members worked in the coal mines are strong and lasting. James and Rose Hickman and their 14 offspring were an early part of that network, moving into Blue Diamond in the early 1900s.
Two of the Hickman siblings, Len and Bess, came to the coal camp as youngsters and stayed until the 1960s when Blue Diamond Coal Company phased out its operation. Those years were filled with friendships that would last a lifetime and beyond.
When the mining industry phased out, Blue Diamond families went their separate ways to find employment, further their education, and, for some, retire. Some families purchased their camp houses and moved them to other locations, preserving even more memories.
Scattered all over this great country of ours, the Blue Diamond people continue to touch thousands of lives and share their Appalachian heritage. Through the years, many have kept in touch with each other and passed on a special and unique heritage. Through children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and generations to come, the proud Blue Diamond people will keep the memory of the little, coal mining town alive. Networking between the generations will continue based in a solid foundation set in Appalachia.

Len and Bess Hickman at Blue Diamond, Perry County, Kentucky, in 1935.

The communities of Harveyton, Bonnyman, and Typo were home to many of the Blue Diamond coal miners. Some of the residents had other occupations and professions. Postal workers, educators, store owners, and farmers were a few of them. Many of these families or their descendants still live in the small close-knit communities. They are happy to see many former residents who travel back to the area annually for a reunion. Mallie Elrod and Leona Gibson organized the first reunion shortly after Blue Diamond shutdown. Today, fellow reunion participants keep the tradition going. The group meets at Buckhorn Lodge the weekend after Labor Day each year. People come from several states including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. These reunions provide an opportunity for the group to renew friendships and share memories.

It Was A Great Sport To Travel

Miles To An Ice Cream Supper

Money Raised Usually Went

To A School Or Church

Ice cream socials and pie suppers were once two major fundraisers for schools and churches in Eastern Kentucky. These five young adults enjoyed an evening at a pie supper held in September 1940 at Quicksand School in Breathitt County, Kentucky. The money collected was used for repairs and supplies at the school. (Marion Post Wolcott photo.)

By Gordon Wilson - 1939

When ice cream was a luxury rather than a part of
many normal meals, it was a great sport to go
miles across country to an ice cream supper. Though this function is hardly dead as yet, it has so changed that I can write its obituary. It has been some 15 years since I last attended one that had all the earmarks of the only genuine one.
Most ice cream suppers were ostensibly to raise money for some worthy cause, usually school or church. The women of the community contributed eggs, milk, sugar, and flavoring. Sometimes I have seen the cream made by dumping all of these items, raw, into a freezer; I have even eaten such. Stylish ones cooked the materials into a custard and chilled the custard in the well or cistern, along with the milk, using coolers especially designed for the spring or cistern. Some boys or man was dispatched to the county seat to get ice and some other things that went along with ice cream such as candy chewing gum, cigars, soda pop, and Crackerjacks. Meanwhile, the women cooked tea cakes and other cookies to be served with the cream.
The great day arrived. Dusty buggies and wagons hove into sight. The stands had been built, and the ice cream was being manufactured in freezers. The other things were laid out, beyond the reach of bad boys, in the stands. Often a barker stood a few yards away and called the attention of the crowd to what could be bought. One such boy that I knew smoked the fine cigar that others could buy merely by stepping up. Much envied boys or men ran the stands. I always wanted to be one of these and actually became one a few times. It increased one's social standing considerably among the smaller boys.
Soda pop used to come in heavy bottle with a strange stopper. It almost hurt the hand to press down the stopper slowly, and to hit it suddenly caused an explosion. One was sure to get some of the colored water and sugar and flavoring on his Sunday-go-to-meeting shirt.
The ice cream was the big thing, of course. It was served in saucers with teacakes added. Once when I was selling cream, a boy ate three saucers in rapid succession and walked off without paying, just as a joke on the stand. My dignity has not yet recovered from that affront. Boys were either too stingy or too poor to spend anything. We fellows who ran the stands felt ashamed of them and sometimes told them so.
Candy was just candy then, nothing fancy. Stick candy was the kind most often sold. We had whole buckets of it in pound packages and sold it with considerable profiteering, though custom forbade our asking more than a nickel for a bottle of pop. Crackerjacks, often pretty stale, were devoured in great gobs. In each package was a prize, often kept indefinitely, some little metal toy or a small balloon, worth about 5¢ a hundred.
The numerous things we sold were just extra. The real eating came with the dinner on the ground. By mid-afternoon, we could count on seeing several small children and sometimes older people who had eaten so much that they had become sick. Thus did we enjoy ourselves, creating lifelong stomach ailments for some of us.

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