In June 1943, I went to Scaffold Cane to see my grandma and grandpa and tell them that I had gotten a letter from the war department that said, "Greetings, I want you."
We all called them Maw and Pappy. Pappy, Waller Cook Brock, was born during the Civil War, 1861. His father, Irvan Brock, was a teamster in the Civil War, 14th Cavalry Ky. Volunteer, Company D. His oldest son, Linsey Brock, was in World War I. My brother was the oldest. He was married and went to war later.
Here I am, his first grandson to go to World War II. My grandfather walked with me to the truck, and his last words he said to me were, "Every time they get up a crop of boys they have a war and kill them off." He walked away with his hands clasp behind his back. Walking very slow, he knew this would be the last time he would ever see me. I cry every time I think about that moment.
My grandfather died in 1944. I was stationed in Camp Stewart, Georgia. They would not let me come home for the funeral, because I did not live with him. Grandma died a year later. I don't remember where I was at. They wrote me a letter telling me of her death a few weeks after her funeral.
Clarence E. Brock
RR 3 Box 271
Mt. Vernon, KY 40456
Cornbread And Milk
Compared to today's convenience foods, the lowly glass of cornbread and milk seems kind of humble. However, a glass or bowl of crumbled up cornbread, left over from the lunch time meal, covered with cold cow's milk, was an appetizing treat for what we commonly called supper when I was a youngster. In fact, I had a cousin, Norma Jean Parson Richerson (1927-1983), that I heard express many times that cornbread and milk were one of her favorite things to eat.
I grew up in the Oak Hill section of western Rockcastle County. We lived on a farm, and we always seemed to have plenty to eat. We always had plenty of hot biscuits, gravy, and oatmeal for breakfast. Of course, we had our share of pinto beans and other vegetables for lunch. After hog killing time in the fall, we had fresh pork for a long time. However, we frequently ate leftovers or improvised with some kind of snack for supper. Many times the snack was a bowl or glass of crumbled up cornbread, covered with milk. Try it sometime. It's pretty good.
3400 Capri Drive
Louisville, KY 40218
A Cold-Hearted Man
My great-grandmother, Martha Matilda Culbertson Powers, was married first to Benjamin Powers, my great-grandfather. They had some children, and then Benjamin died at the age of 30.
Later, she married a Mr. Coyle, and they had some children. Their last child was a little girl, whom they named Cynthia. I believe they were living in Bath County at the time.
When Cynthia was about three years old, she became very ill. Her father was away from home at the time, so my great-grandmother didn't have a way to take her to the doctor. She was very desperate, so she went to a neighbor for help. The neighbor owned a farm, which was adjacent to my great-grandmother's property.
Great-Grandmother asked the neighbor to lend her a horse and buggy, so that she could take her child to the doctor. She told him that her child was very ill. The neighbor showed absolutely no concern for the child. He refused to lend her the horse and buggy. There wasn't another neighbor close by to whom she could go for help, so she took her child home, and she did all she could to help her and nurse her back to health. Cynthia died a short time later, at the age of three. The cemetery in which she was buried was within sight of my great-grandmother's house. All she had to do was to look out her door, and her baby's gravesite was within view.
Several months later, there were some heavy rains, which caused a flood. One day there was a knock at my great-grandmother's door. She opened the door, and there stood the neighbor to whom she had gone for help. He asked her for permission to drive his cows across her property, so that he could take them to market. His property was being flooded, and it was impassable. She said, "No, you may not!" She pointed toward the cemetery where her baby was laid to rest. "Do you see that cemetery over there?" she asked. "My baby is buried over there. I asked you to lend me a horse and buggy so that I could take her to a doctor, but you refused, and she died. No, you may not cut across my property!"
It is my opinion that my great-grandmother's neighbor was extremely brazen. I don't see how he had the audacity to knock on her door and ask her for a favor, after he turned his back on her child, who was gravely ill; and who died shortly after that.
In his warped way of thinking, his cows were more important than anyone's sick child. He didn't care about how sick Cynthia was, but when he was faced with the possibility or probability of losing his cows, which meant he could lose money, he didn't hesitate to ask my great-grandmother for a favor. He was obviously a very cold-hearted and shameless person.
My mother told me a story about her mother when I was very young.
My maternal grandmother, Martha Elizabeth Powers Whiteman, was born in March 1885. Her birthplace was Frenchburg, Kentucky. Her parents were Martha Matilda Culbertson Powers and Benjamin Powers.
One day when my grandmother was a baby, her mother decided to put her outside so that she could benefit from the fresh air. It was a beautiful day, and my great-grandmother knew that her baby would really enjoy that, so she placed her on a pallet under a shade tree. I don't know how old my grandmother was at the time, but I do know that she was old enough to eat biscuits, because that's what her mother gave her for a snack.
Of course, her mother checked on her quite frequently, and it's a good thing that she did, because the company the baby was keeping wasn't exactly ideal for a baby or anyone else. Of course, the baby was having a wonderful time. It isn't every day that a little girl has the opportunity to share her afternoon snack with a bunch of baby copperheads. They were eating right out of her hand.
611 Stanley Street
Middletown, OH 45044
A Barwick Postmaster
I grew up at Barwick, Breathitt County, Kentucky. My father was Laney Davidson, and my mother was Mary Whittaker from Perry County. My father was the postmaster at Barwick for 12 years (1943 to 1955). Roscoe Shackelford was retiring from the job, and my father applied for it and got it. He also got the mail carrying job to and from the trains. That is how we learned most of the train men. I helped him with the post office and carrying the mail. In June 1956, the railroad company decided to discontinue the passenger trains, which put an end to the mail carrying job. My father could have kept the post office, but would have had to cross the mountain on a mule to Chavies to get the mail, and he wanted no part of that. Johnny Akeman had just recently retired from the Marines, so he said he would like to have the job. He applied for it and got it.
My father decided to sell his farm and move away, as we were going to be stranded, because of the passenger trains being discontinued. He found a place he liked in Georgetown, Kentucky, close to doctors, hospitals, and a good highway going right in front of our place. That was 44 years ago.
My father passed away suddenly in September 1967, at the age of 73; and my mother passed away suddenly in July 1981, at the age of 88. They are buried in the Hillcrest Memorial Park in Lexington, Kentucky.
My father had an old camera and loved going all over the neighborhood taking pictures. He developed them himself.
Edith Davidson Duff
5493 Paris Pike
Georgetown, KY 40324
School Days In Elliott County
There were 50 or more one-room school buildings in the 1930s in Elliott County, Kentucky. This is the story of one school that I attended.
The name of the school was Mauk School. Like most one-room schools, it was long, with a bell house on top. It had one door and three long windows on two sides. Inside there were two sections of seats. Some for one person, and some seated three. There was a hardwood desk in front. The front was covered by a blackboard that extended from wall to wall. It was about 30 feet long, and painted black, but did well with chalk. A pot-bellied, coal burning stove was in the center of the room. In back were shelves for the dinner buckets and water jars.
There were no school buses, so I walked to school each day. We all took our lunch in buckets. Since there was no water, we took our own in glass fruit jars. I remember how delighted I was to get my first thermos bottle. This was something new.
There was one teacher who taught all eight grades. All subjects were covered each day, except history and geography, which alternated each day.
There was no electricity at that time. The only lights we required was during "pie suppers." This was a formal social that occurred once a year. Mostly, the girls would bring their pies, which were auctioned off. Usually, their boyfriends or sweethearts paid a high price to get their pies. So the price was pushed up higher and higher during the bidding. This was usually in the fall of the year.
School started in July and ended in January. The last day of school was a time for treats. Each student received a brown bag full of candy. Visitors also received treats. The candy was sugar stick candy, sold in a two-pound box to the teachers for 25 cents. The flavors were cream, wintergreen, lemon, and peppermint. My favorite was cream candy.
Any awards that were to be given were given at that time. Anyone with perfect attendance was given an award. Others got a New Testament.
The school day started at 8:00 a. m. and ended at 4:00 p. m. We had one hour for lunch and prayer. We took "books" the first thing. Kentucky law mandated that each school day began with the reading of one chapter of the Bible without comment. Also, each child could say a verse from memory and qualify for a New Testament at the end of the school year. Then we sang one song from the school song book. There was always "Old Kentucky Home," "America The Beautiful," "Brother John," and many others. Many of the students had a good voice.
Many of the children went barefooted in the summer. In winter, we dressed well. About that time, we had what we called aviator caps (like Charles A. Lindbergh). These were covered with rubber and black. They fit almost closer than the skin and were very cold. They also had snap-on goggles. They kept out the wind, but not the cold. A sheepskin jacket was also welcome.
In autumn, on the way home from school, we looked for chestnuts. The brown burrs had a velvet lining and two chestnuts. Sometimes there were more. Later, the blight hit the chestnut trees. There were also some red haws from the spiny hawthorne trees and pawpaws. When ripe, these were delicious. They could be hidden in the leaves to mature to ripeness.
Games were many; joining hands and circling around, while singing "Like The Thread That Runs So True" or "Ring Around The Mulberry Bush." All in all, it was a wholesome school, with no real problems. We respected the teacher, and he respected us.
There were 50 or more children to a room for the one teacher. It did require cooperation. I believe the teachers really cared and were concerned about the children. Most of the winter was avoided by being out in January. Since we all walked to school, this was better back then. It is a pleasant memory that I have.
RR 3, Box 360
Olive Hill, KY 41164
My First Car Ride
Grandpa went to Oklahoma in connection with an estate settlement, in which his wife's brother was killed in a vehicle accident. His wife's brother owned interest in oil wells, and left a considerable amount of property to several brothers and sisters. However, being so many of them, none of them got a lot, but that was the good old days when one could make a little go a long way, if they had the will and ability to do so.
After Grandpa's work was over, he came home in a Model-T Ford car, driven by a younger relative. Roads were not so far advanced back in those days, and getting back home was quite a challenge. After driving over many miles of rough roads, he finally made it back home to Morgan County.
I suppose everyone likes to bring home a souvenir. Grandpa brought a coyote, tied in the rumble seat compartment of the Model-T Ford car. For fear the coyote might escape, he tied it under the grist mill floor. I remember being told not to go near it, as it would bite me. Later it began catching chickens and had to be destroyed. The hide was tanned and displayed on the living room wall, where it hung for many years as a memento of his stay in Oklahoma. I visited Grandpa and Grandma when I was two and a half years old. When it was time to go home, Grandpa said, "I will take you home in the car." Mama, holding my baby sister, sat beside him, while I stood on the floor, holding the dash. I remember how the little car rattled over that rugged dirt road. We were soon safely home. That first car ride is as clear in my mind as if it were yesterday.
My grandma was a very clever woman. She looked ahead, and with her small inheritance, she made a better life for herself and her family. She purchased several acres of land up by the roadside. She had a new house built; a far cry from the old run down log cabin they had lived in for so many years. She also had built a livestock barn, corn crib, smokehouse, and other farm buildings. She bought two horses and two cows. She also raised hogs, chickens, and sheep, which she sheared and spun the wool into yarn. She sent the wool to a company to have blankets and throws made. She knitted us gloves, caps, and socks.
Grandpa and Grandma planted a large orchard, which in a few years was bearing fruit. They also had a large building constructed, which they rented. It housed a post office and a grocery store. Since there were few grocery stores in the area, it was a help to the neighborhood. It also afforded a little income for themselves.
Grandpa and Grandma had a grist mill, operated by my dad, for several years. Each Saturday residents of the community brought their "turn of corn," which was usually a bushel of shelled corn. I suppose the phrase "turn of corn" was derived from the old adage, "first come, first served;" which was the way it was. My dad's pay was a gallon of shelled corn from each bushel of corn. We always had plenty of good oven-baked cornbread; which was mighty good served with fresh garden vegetables, home-cured meats, as well as home-churned milk and butter. The butter was great served on a slice of freshly baked cornbread. Back in those days, with a little hard work and effort, people really ate well.
After everything that happened to make a better way of life, Grandpa still loved his old log cabin well enough to put his blacksmith shop in it. He, along with his faithful dog, "Old Bob," spent many happy hours tinkering and passing the time away.
Grandpa walked with a cane, which came in mighty handy when he heard the dinner bell ring. It helped him to climb that briary hillside back to Grandma's delicious dinners, which were well worth the effort.
Grandpa and Grandma were deep-thinking people. They did not pet or spoil us to the extent we did not know our responsibilities. They knew as time went forward we would need to know how to stand on our own two feet. I am sure they loved us very much.
RR 1 Box 555
West Liberty, KY 41472
Memories Of Wayland
I was born in Wayland on August 28, 1920. I was delivered by Dr. Wicker. My parents were Forrest G. and Dorothy Frazier Long. My mother had been a telephone operator at Estill, Kentucky, and my dad worked for the railroad at Wayland. They lived in a two-family house rented from the coal company. Dad's sister, Ora Cheek, and her husband, Ernest, lived in the other side. Their son, Rex, was born a month before me.
My uncle, Ray Long, was the manager of the company butcher shop. He later bought the store and ran it for many years.
My family moved to Martin when I was an infant, but I spent much of my time in Wayland, as my grandmother, Alice Long, lived with my uncle, Ray. So my cousin, Rex, and I visited them often in the summer when school was out.
I remember many things about Wayland. I remember the soda fountain, the post office, the bank, and the movie house. Uncle Ray ran the projector, so we kids got in free.
One of my fondest memories is taking the train from Martin to Wayland to visit my grandmother, Uncle Ray, and his wife, Joan. They had one son, Paul. Uncle Ray is deceased, but Joan, Paul, and his wife, Margie, moved to Illinois, where they still live. My mother's first cousin, Sherril Frazier, was a teacher at Wayland.
When I was 14, my family bought a farm, and we moved to this small town named Index, near West Liberty, Kentucky in Morgan County. There I met my husband, Paul Thomas. He was born at Jackson, Kentucky. His father was the station agent and telegrapher at O. and K. Junction for the Ohio and Kentucky Railroad for several years. His name was James Tom Thomas. He purchased a large farm and moved his family to Index before my family. Paul and I have been married for 62 years.
Our roots go deep into the Kentucky soil, although we moved to Ohio and have lived here many years and reared our three children. Our daughters, Connie and Shirley, were born in Kentucky. Our son, Larry, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.
As the saying goes, "You can take the people out of Kentucky, but you can't take Kentucky out of the people." A part of every Kentuckian will always remain in those mountains.
Verda Long Thomas
887 Cann Road
Moscow, OH 45153
When The Ice Broke
We lived in Graves County, in the Symsonia area, closer to the smaller Koler village, and one-fourth of a mile from Sugar Creek. Ponds froze over far more than they do now. This was in 1929.
When there was snow on the ground, we did not cut firewood on Saturdays. This was such a Saturday. We were sledding on a frozen pond, about one and one-half miles from home. There was a medium-sized pond away from any house. George Shemwell, Neil Talbott, Murrel Read, and I were running with our sleds, and falling on the sleds onto the snow, just as we were reaching the icy pond. The other boys had homemade sleds. My sled would slide further on the ice. The weather had warmed, and the ice would begin to melt in another day or so. The ice had already started to yellow, indicating a weaker, softening ice.
All the factors that came together to warn me were pushing me to ignore crackling sounds in the ice. If you could go all the way across the pond without coming to a halt out on the ice, it was not likely to break through into the water below. I was exulting in crossing the pond without breaking through. I made my run with my steel runners, passing several of the others. This would be my last attempt. My speed was enough to cross the pond, but the ice failed as we were in the middle. We went partially under the remaining unbroken ice. The pond was not deep. It was only up to my waist. The sled was retrieved. Kate, the short-haired pointer bird dog, had been running across the ice with me. Kate and I plundered ashore, sopping wet, and my shoes were full of water. Going home wet was not an option. No boy there dared let any adult know we fell through the ice. George Shemwell was handy with a fire. Soon, I was naked, and all my clothes were on stakes and steaming in the heat from the fire. The shoes were upside down on stakes in order to get all the water drained. The long-handled underwear was difficult to dry. Kate, the dog, and I shivered and turned often to prevent blistering on one side and freezing on the other side. Kate really stuck with me. It took over an hour to dry that underwear enough to get it on again. By this time it was nearly noon and time to get home for dinner. No one mentioned secrecy. It wasn't necessary. No one wanted their parents to know. Kate was fine. I was chilled to my bone marrow. Kate and I ran and carried the sled the one and one-half miles home. A typical Saturday morning for an 11-year-old country boy.
Edgar B. Morgan
4614 Hanford Lane
Louisville, KY 40207
Memories Of Owsley County
I was raised in Owsley County, Kentucky. My father was Sherman Spencer, and my mother was Bessie Baker Abner. I remember one time when my mother got upset at me over pulling the green tomatoes before they got ripe. After I did this, I went out behind our log house, looked straight up that tall rock chimney, closed my eyes, and said, "Oh, Lord, my mother has told me that if I was a good little girl, that I could ask you for wishes and you would grant them. So I am praying Lord, please let this old chimney fall on me; that would make my mom sorry for yelling at me." I will never forget that. I told my mother what I did after I was married.
We first lived on Indian Creek, then we moved to Cow Creek. There my dad farmed and cut and sold wood. He would saw the logs in pieces, then take a double-bit ax and split the wood in cords. When I was 12, I would help Dad by pulling on one end of the cross-cut saw, and Dad would be on the other. When I would get tired, my brother, Cleveland Spencer, would take over for me.
When it was raining, and we could not work the fields, I would get a coffee sack and a hoe and take off into the woods looking for May apple roots. I would bring them home, wash them, and dry them in the sun, so I could send them to the wholesale place in Lexington. They, in return, would mail me a check. I also gathered ginseng, and blood roots. These roots were used to make medicine.
One day when I was digging roots, I saw a big rattlesnake. It was all coiled up and ready to strike. I was scared to death and knew I had no time to run. I started chopping on it as fast as I could. Blood starting squirting everywhere, and I threw the hoe down and starting running for home. I ran straight to my room and fell into my bed. My mother came in, and I told her what I had done. Later, I went back with my dad to get the hoe. My brother, Cleveland, often went up behind our house in the woods to gather "mountain tea," which makes good tea. Men chewed it just like chewing tobacco.
I remember the harvest trees that grew in the woods. These trees were the size of dogwood trees. Harvest trees have a small red berry on them, and they were good. A blithe came in 1958 and killed the trees out. I also remember the pawpaw bushes. I would take Daddy's tobacco bag and fill it full of beech nuts.
When I was 17, my neighbor asked me if I would like to go with her the next day and visit her kinfolks. I had never been in a wagon before. The next day, we headed off in a wagon. We went about six miles. The neighbor was Chester Combs, and his wife, Alice Baker Combs. Their daughter and I laid a blanket on the floor of the wagon and sat on it. We came back the same day, and my body was so stiff from going over the rocks.
631 Woodlawn #314
Hamilton, OH 45015
Losing A Father
On April 15, 1947 at Barwick, Breathitt County, Kentucky, about 9:30 a. m., a piece of slate fell on 150 pounds of black powder. The powder was used for blasting. Holes were drilled in the coal and two or three sticks of powder were put in the holes. The holes and dirt rolled up in paper were tamped. Behind it a fuse extended to the outside end of the hole. When ready, the fuse would be set on fire, and it would blast the coal loose.
My dad and two other of his men friends were trying to salvage the powder, which had been crushed, and covered the floor of the mine. Later, the mine operator said he told them to let it go. It was too dangerous. He said that he walked several steps when the powder caught fire. The explosion was so hot it burned his eyebrows off, but he carried the three injured men to a mine car to transport them outside. Their names were Tom Henry McQueen, 44 years old; Don Deaton, 35 years old; and Brent Turner, 32 years ago. My dad had seven children, six younger than me. I was about 17. Mr. Deaton had five children. Mr. Turner had three or four children. I had been working with my dad, but had stayed home to farm. I went with our mule and sled to get seed potatoes that morning. I was there when they brought the mine car out with these poor men in it. They all were still alive, talking and begging for water.
Back then, at Barwick, there were no roads, so the closest phone was three to five miles away. Someone went and called and had the freight train to stop. The men were put in the caboose. They were taken to Chavies, where they met the ambulance. They arrived at the hospital alive, but didn't live long. All of their clothing was burnt off. Mr. Deaton's ears were gone and all of his hair. Mr. Turner's hair was all gone.
My dad often read the Bible by the light of the fire, and he always read aloud. I've often thought that may be this is where the Lord started dealing with my heart. I met my wife the next year after my dad's death. Shortly after that, we became Christians, and the Lord started giving me gospel songs. I have songs about almost everyone that the Bible talks about.
P. O. Box 201
Tyner, KY 40486
Life In A Coal Mining Camp
I was born May 27, 1921 at Allais, Kentucky; which was in the north part of Hazard. There were two mines there, the Number Four and Number Five, of the Columbus Mining Company. They had as principal owners the J. B. Hilton family business empire, and a bank in Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Hilton visited the mines twice in my memory. The second time he visited my father, T. E. Pfaff, at our home in Allais. My father was the operator for the company.
In my younger days, during the 1920s, work was very good, and I would see men at the commissary company store, flipping gold and silver coins in the air and catching them as they fell. One of the officials of the company, every Christmas, would give dimes to all the kids who came by, which was all of us. That dime went a long way. Christmas was a good time for all of us. At the commissary the large show window would be converted into a toy wonderland. The window would be covered until the day after Thanksgiving. We would all try to be there at 9:00 a. m.
Thanksgiving and Christmas were our favorite days. The turkey and ham dinners were the best foods I ever knew. The turkey would be purchased live and dressed out the day before. I will always remember the wonderful smell of the dressing cooking. I don't think anyone makes this dressing, also called stuffing, anymore.
No one I knew had electric Christmas lights back then. A few people would put a red bulb in a homemade wreath and hang it in the window. Christmas trees were mostly decorated with homemade decorations. Trees were cut live in the hills, and we would be looking for a nice one long before we needed it. We all got toys, but not as many as children get today. For Christmas we also got lots of candy and fruit. Sometimes we also got sick from so many goodies.
The Fourth of July was a much wished for day. Folks usually bought ice cream packed in dry ice, and we also cranked up a five-gallon container if we had a freezer. We young children could start the cranking, but gave up when the ice cream began to set up. We also tried to see who could hold their hand in the saltwater the longest. No one could for very long. We were given small fire crackers and other items, such as sparklers. Sometimes we went to Pine Mountain, in Letcher County, for a picnic. We enjoyed this sort of thing, and no one had to tell us to go to bed in the evening. Whole cooked hams, potato salad, or fried chicken were the food items for this event.
When the highway out of Hazard came through the coal camp at Allais, we children would stand on our front porch and watch for cars. We could see them a long way off. Not many cars were on the road then. Cars had to travel down Walker Branch, and then cross the river to get back on dry road, near where the old Dan Abner store is. When the river was up, the road was closed. Many people would take their cars to the crossing and wash them. We didn't have car washes then. Our car washes were free. We children loved to play and swim below the crossing. We would roll our pants up as high as they would go and wade. The bottom was mostly rock and had moss growing, so sometimes we fell and got pockets full of water. We had to try and explain this when we got home. We hoped the pants would sun dry before we got home, or they were dryed or heated up from another source.
Train watching was another of our coal camp games. Twice a day passenger trains went from Hazard to Lotts Creek. My oldest sister's husband was an engineer on the L. and N. and made that run every day. My two sisters and I would watch from our front porch and wave at him. He always gave us a nice toot with the whistle and waved back.
Some sad and bad things also occurred at times. In 1927 the North Fork of the Kentucky River was hit by a flood. The likes of that had not been seen before. Many people lost their homes and businesses. Most highway bridges were washed out. The railroad train was the only way to get into Hazard.
Later in that same year, in Allais, a fire burned about eight homes to the ground. Some had been under water a few months before. We had no fire equipment, and I think at the time, Hazard's fire truck was being rebuilt, after a fire at the Combs Hotel. The L. and N. railroads sent a tank car full of water, and pumped water onto the fires, but it was too late to do anything, but save two houses. I lived in one of these houses after I married. The houses were rebuilt, and the company got a mobile hose for any future fires. It was never used.
The bad times were when the whistle on top of the commissary blew three times. It meant a coal miner had died. We were thankful that this did not happen often, but when it did, we all helped the families as much as we could.
The Depression hit the coal fields hard. We were lucky if enough orders for coal were received to work one day a month, and many months we worked no days. The best time was the fall of the year when "lake orders" were received. This coal was sent to the Great Lakes for export to other countries.
The camp was our playground, as well as our jobs. Below the commissary was a level place, and folks had built a playground that had a horseshoe court, stick ball area, a seesaw, and a merry-go-round. In the summer, many children and adults played there until darkness sent us all home.
At home the radio was our chief entertainment. All had their favorite programs. After Lum and Abner and the news, the young folks had the radio all to themselves. We had a piano, and some played it and some tried. One played the trumpet, and I played the drums. We all danced and had a great time, when we were all home at the same time. There was nine of us, and someone always seemed to have business elsewhere.
Shopping at the company store was an event. We all had our favorite clerk and would stand in line to have him wait on us. I recall Mr. Norman, the store manager; Mr. Bartlett; Mr. Ross, and a Mr. Meadows. Potatoes and pinto beans were the big sellers for a long time. Beans came loose and were ordered by the pound. I will never forget when a clerk was scooping up beans from the large bin under the counter, and he threw a scoop of them in the floor under the counter. Come to find out someone had forgotten to close the lid at closing time, and the cat found a new litter box. Bread came unwrapped; eggs loose; and if you wanted meat, Mr. Bartlett, the butcher, cut it on order for you.
The company doctor came to the office twice a day and cared for our sickness and injuries. I can remember Dr. Ray, Sr.; Dr. Ray, Jr.; Dr. Gilbert; and Dr. Lindel Combs. Sometimes the doctor would go into the mines when someone was injured, and early treatment was required. Most mines had a first aid tram that could respond to slate falls or gas. The team for gas wore huge oxygen tanks on their backs. How they got into some of the low coal mines, I'll never know.
I was a substitute on the first aid team, but never got into active competition. Our team won the district a couple of times and went to the state meet. Team members from Hazard would go to the Big Sandy meet and be the judges of problems. Once after a problem, every judge, except me and a fellow judge, were called to the main judge platform. I asked my fellow judge what we had done wrong to be left out of such a meeting. As it turned out, the problem called for the "injured person" to be transported by stretcher, and no team did this. As it turned out, we were the only ones who had "docked" our team for this failure. All the other judges had to correct their score cards, and we were the "heros" of the day.
I began working in the coal mines at age 16, and worked until I was 20, when I left for Army service during WWII in 1942. When I was discharged in 1945, I went back to work there for about a year, but left to join the old Kentucky Highway Patrol.
Sometimes I wonder how we managed as officers in those days, as we did not have but one shotgun, and didn't even have a pair of handcuffs. We furnished our own side arms.
Curtis R. Pfaff
4592 Kalida Avenue
Dayton, OH 45424
Life Of A Kentucky Boy
On one of our visits to each other, my cousin and I decided to go from my house to his. About one mile down river was a hollow and a small hill, and around the curve in the road we saw a big snake lying in the dust, all curled up. We thought someone had killed it and coiled it up to scare someone. Well, the scared part was right, but not the dead part. We were both barefooted and Earl Frances, my cousin, wanted me to think, as he did, that the copperhead was dead. He said to me, "Watch me stomp the guts out of this critter." He proceeded to raise his foot high, and about that time the snake struck at his heel, only missing by inches. Boy, were we ever surprised. Our hearts were in our throats, as we immediately sought rocks to finish the fight before he got away. I don't think Earl wanted to show his courage after that.
Another time, when I was alone on my way to catch the school bus at Chavies and going to Buckhorn, I had to feel my way through the dark railroad tunnel called the Line Tunnel; since one end was in Breathitt County, and the other was in Perry County. I was always thinking of the story of a man being murdered in or near the center of the tunnel, and all of the sudden I felt something pulling at my pant legs. I stopped walking and breathing. This is my day to depart this life, I thought, as I reached down to feel whomever had seized me, only to find a big number nine wire had been partially buried under a tie and had a crooked end which caught my pants. I reached out and got my heart and brought it back in and was glad to get to the other end of the tunnel and some fresh air to breath.
On a recent trip to my cousin, who lives at Newton, Kentucky, I found out that the person whom I believed was murdered was killed by a train, as he evidently had passed out from drinking too much and had fallen, and the train cut his head off.
Harlan M. Day
407 W. US HWY 50
Versailles, IN 47042
First Woman Sheriff
To hear of a woman sheriff, nowadays, is probably not so uncommon, but not so in 1934. In fact, we have always believed that my grandmother, Sarah Jane Morris, was probably the first woman elected sheriff in the state of Kentucky. No doubt, you're curious as to how this all came about. Here is the story as related by my family.
My grandfather, Johnnie Morris, was elected to the position of high sheriff (they always referred to it as high sheriff) on August 5, 1933. He took the oath of office in January 1934. He was serving the people of Jackson County faithfully when, on September 23, 1934, he was called to investigate a disturbance at a local church in Sand Gap, Kentucky. While trying to arrest the three men who were suspected of causing the disturbance, he was shot and killed.
The judge, who was John Davis, at that time appointed Sarah Jane Morris, the wife of Johnnie Morris, to serve until the election of 1935. Mrs. Morris was 45 years old at the time. After a heated election campaign in 1935, opposed by a former deputy, Sarah Jane Morris was elected by the people of Jackson County to serve out her husband's term.
She served the office of sheriff, striving hard to please the people that had given her this opportunity. The work consisted primarily of collecting taxes, while her deputies made most of the arrests. However, she never shirked her duty if it became necessary to go out to make an arrest.
Just recently, a good friend of the family told us about coming along when she was having to arrest a person. This friend stopped and assisted her. I don't know if she had met with resistance, or he just felt she might need a helping hand. Somehow, I think it might have been welcomed.
Sarah Jane, left with a family to still support and raise, found it necessary to leave Jackson County and move to Detroit, Michigan; and later Norwood, Ohio to find work. Here, she found herself still helping the people she loved by furnishing room and board to young men who had gone North to get work during the early 1940s. Many of the young men found a "home away from home" under her roof.
My grandmother, Sarah Jane, lived to be nearly 90 years old. She died in Winter Haven, Florida in 1979. Her body was brought back to Jackson County, the place she always cherished, and she was laid to rest by her devoted husband, Johnnie C. Morris. Their graves are in the Wright Cemetery on Route 30 toward Booneville.
Johnnie and Sarah Jane had five children: Dewey, Dovie Madden, Dorothy Baker, Ed, and Edith Lowry. They have a legacy in Kentucky with grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, as well as many friends and relatives who still remember them.
165 Dogwood Trail
London, KY 40741
Among my gifts this Christmas, I received a large peppermint stick. This reminded me of Christmas with my grandmother.
Mommy, as most of us called her, loved peppermint. At Christmas one of us would buy her the largest stick we could find. Mommy had a special handkerchief just for her candy. She would break off a piece and roll it up in the handkerchief. She would then smash it with a hammer.
Mommy would munch on this candy all year until the next Christmas. If we were good, she would give us some when we went for a visit.
James R. Slone
432 English Avenue
Harrodsburg, KY 40330
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