"I Remember:" By Our Readers

Every reader of The Kentucky Explorer, no doubt, has a special memory. Why not write it down and share it here in this column? Help preserve the story of our vanishing past for today and tomorrow. We need memories and photographs from every part of Kentucky and beyond. Thanks!

Just Like Gary Cooper

After the war was over, and I was waiting my turn to be able to get a ship home, I had a lot of different experiences. I would like to point out how big a 20-year-old boy felt, when he was the highest authority for several days at a German prisoner of war camp. To my knowledge there was no higher for many miles. There was 10,000 or more prisoners there. My quarters were at the main gate. A German First Sergeant was detailed to keep my fire going for me. The German generals, and other high officers, would salute me when they were marching their men around on work detail. They enforced the rules on their own ranks. Everything went like clockwork all the time, as the Germans were well-trained to obey orders from their officers.

I always remembered the German First Sergeant whining to me about how he would go home a beaten person, and I would go home a hero. I would feel ten feet tall. A few times a day, I would circle the barbed wire enclosure. My .45 automatic pistol was strapped to my hip, and the leather strings from the bottom of the holster were tied around my leg. This was done so I could be able to make a quick draw, like Gary Cooper would have done.

Grover C. Thurman
261 N. Galloway Street
Xenia, OH 45385

The Girl In The Window

A pleasurable pastime of the majority of children has always involved listening to cherished tales and fantasies of imaginary places, inanimate objects that talk, and happy endings. Naturally, one found these stories entertaining as a child. However, often it was those stories based on facts, real characters, and morals to be learned that captivated and held our interest beyond those adolescent years. The numerous tales, lovingly recited to us by our grandparents, exemplify this statement.

One example took place in Russellville, Kentucky, in the mid-1920s. As the story goes, a young teenage girl had been invited to attend a dance. Her parents reluctantly agreed to her request. She could attend the event if it were not held during stormy weather. Surprised, but pleased with their permission, she anxiously awaited the event.

As luck would have it, that night, the sky was ominous. Threatening clouds hung overhead. Nonetheless, the girl prepared herself for the evening, hoping deep down inside that her parents were naive enough not to notice the storm brewing. The girl had just descended the stairs when her nervous eyes met the disapproving gaze of her parents. Despite her begging and pleading, she was not permitted to attend the dance.

Outraged and terribly disappointed, she climbed the stairs back to her bedroom, slammed the door shut, and thrust herself against the window. There she flung aside the dainty lace curtains, and holding back tears, she began to stare at the dark sky. Then she heard the rumble of thunder above her. She cursed God, and she blamed Him for the disastrous weather, and most importantly, for her canceled plans. At that moment, a crackle of lighting was heard overhead. Still, she cursed God. His warnings ignored; a bolt of lighting struck the girl.

To this very day, it is believed if a person were to drive by this seemingly quaint house, he would discover the upstairs window painted over. Also, it is rumored that if one were to look inside on a stormy night, where the painted window is, he would see the silhouette of a girl in that very spot, where she stood almost a century ago, cursing God.

Nancy S. McCauley
1311 Old Gratton Road
Clarksville, TN 37043

Remembering The Allens

Here is a woman and man who gave a lot to our country. Birdie Allen was a superwoman. She was a housewife in Walkertown, Kentucky, on the end of Hazard, Kentucky. Her husband, Jim Allen, was a field worker for a coal company. His office was over the Greyhound Bus station on Main Street in Hazard. He was also a preacher. Jim and Birdie have a son, Samuel (Bucky); and a granddaughter, Brenda Allen Combs, who still live in Kentucky. They had another granddaughter named Charlene. These little girls were left without their fathers, who were killed in WWII; both being the two oldest sons, Charlie and Jim Allen, Jr.

Their other son, J. B., went to service and is lucky to be alive. He had parents that prayed for him. When he got home from his hospital stay, he married Jenny Peddicord. Jenny was my schoolteacher at Blue Diamond, Kentucky. J. B. was the pastor of the First Creek Baptist Church. They left there and moved to Cookville, Tennessee.

Jim and Birdie had three sons, who were killed in service: Charlie and Jim, Jr., WWII; and Bucky, the youngest, was killed in Vietnam. He died like his brother did, trying to save a friend. They are buried at Riverside Cemetery. Jim and Birdie took the two little girls and raised them. The last Allen son, J. B. Allen, of Tennessee, died April 1999. He wrote two books that were all about his mother, and his calling to the ministry. J. B.'s only son, J. C., preaches at his church, Praise Restoration Center, in Sparta, Tennessee. Jim and Birdie's son, Ed, lost his leg, and the other son, Ellis, became a minister. Jim and Birdie Allen were great people. They had a lot of courage to go on through their lives.

Mae Gussett
P. O. Box 4094 Sta. F
Cincinnati, OH 45204

Working At Blue Diamond

Sixty-six years ago, I left my home near Lexington, Kentucky by train to work in the office at the commissary of Blue Diamond Coal Company. After six hours I arrived at Hazard, Kentucky. I was met by a taxi driven by a Mr. Barker. He put my trunk on the running board of his car and started over Crawford Hill to Blue Diamond. This was in March, and the mud road was slick, but he did not have to put the tire chains on.

After arriving at Blue Diamond, I was met by Henry Daniels (he lives at Loyall, Kentucky now). He took me over to the clubhouse, where he introduced me to Dr. W. H. Hobbs, who was the company doctor; several schoolteachers, of which I found out were from around Lexington: Peggy Marrs, Essie Salmon, Mildred and Evangline Gritton, and Cecil Washburn; and others of the store and office personnel.

I went over to the building called the "Y" for a tour. There I found a barbershop, beauty shop, theatre, pool room, fountain and lunch bar, and a game room. Having been reading the papers, I never dreamed of such a nice place, and it being in the heart of the Depression, jobs were not very plentiful. I would have gone anywhere for employment. I want to say at this point, the mountain people have been given a bad name, but I have never been around and worked where the people were any nicer.

After a good night's rest, I went over to the commissary. There I met my boss, Mr. L. J. Hammel, and the rest of the store workers. Irene Crutchfield was in charge of the ladies department; Dewey Collins, the men's department and hardware; Norman Ritchie and Chester Hensley, the grocery department; George Buckner, the drug department; Chester Jennings, the meat department; and Henry Daniels, the stockroom. From there, I went into the company mine office and met J. O. Archer, office manager; Tom Crutchfield; Shorty Johns; and Mr. Cobb, mine superintendent.

The commissary was a three-story building, with elevator and stairs. In the basement were surplus grocery stock and an ice plant, where ice was made and delivered all over the camp by two horse wagons. The ground floor was the main retail section. The third story contained furniture and appliances, with one end being the casket room. Between the retail section and the third floor was the office, where the manager could look at all the different departments. At this time, most all of the supplies came in by train, as there were very few cars and trucks to travel the creek beds for a road. A trestle was built over the creek, from the railroad to the store, and a tram car was used to bring the supplies to the store. It was pulled by Dad Panky. It didn't have a motor.

Now for the camp, the bathhouse was at the end of the "Y," going to the tipple and mine entrance. Many houses were on the hills, and all were situated so deliveries could be made by wagons. All the houses had running water and electricity. The doctor's office and dentist office, along with the post office, were in a building near the store. In what we called "the lot," as it was fenced in, was the tennis court and croquet court, near the clubhouse. The school was on the road going to the Harveyton Coal Company, near Sapphire store, which later became a school. Church services were held in the school building.

I worked for Blue Diamond from 1933 to 1954, with years in service, and I worked in all of the company stores in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. My last employment was as store manager at Eagan, Tennessee, and I went to Kingsport, Tennessee, to work for a supermarket for 20 years. I retired in 1977. Since my retirement, I have put together several albums containing photos and newspaper clippings from the first days at Blue Diamond.

I well remember the trips to Hazard on the weekends, with road conditions over Crawford Hill so bad we would have to leave the car and walk the rest of the way. At Hazard, I remember going to Rhineland Garden for dances, with Ritchie's Orchestra. They also had dances at the Masonic Hall. People would always meet at Don Fouts' drugstore for refreshments.

Ernest Denny
P. O. Box 233
Woodbine, KY 40771

My Memories

This story was told to me many years ago by my mother, Sylvia Whiteman Patrick. This really happened.
One time when Mother was a little girl, her parents moved their family into an old house, which was located somewhere in Bath County, Kentucky. No one else would live in that house, because according to the former tenants, the house was haunted. My grandparents were desperate for a house to rent, so they overlooked the ghost stories and moved their family into the spooky old house.

Mother slept downstairs on the living room couch. One rainy night she couldn't go to sleep, so she decided to get up and look out the window and watch the rain come down. She pressed her hands and face against the window pane and looked out at the rain. Flashes of lightening illuminated the sky, and what she saw next would have frightened a lot of adults out of their wits, especially the ones who had heard and believed the ghost stories.

Mother saw a little old woman walking around the yard, carrying a big knife in one hand, and a basket in the other one. The old woman would dig up something out of the ground and put it into the basket. Most children would have run and jumped into bed with their parents, but not Mother. She was curious, so she stayed to see what was going on. She watched the old woman for a few minutes, and then all of a sudden, the old woman turned and looked toward the window. She walked right up to the window, pressed her face and the palms of her hands right against it, and looked right into Mother's face. They stood there staring at each other for a few seconds, and then the old woman turned around and walked away.

After Mother told me this bizarre story, I asked her, "Were you scared?" She answered, "No, I just wondered what she was doing out there." I have been wondering the same thing for more than half a century. Who was that little old woman, and why was she digging up my grandparent's yard in the middle of the night, during a rainstorm? Maybe she was just out looking for night crawlers. Who knows?

Anyway, whoever she was, she was probably the reason that the landlord couldn't keep tenants very long. They didn't know who she was, what she was doing, why she was doing it, and they certainly didn't intend to stay around there long enough to find out.


Ann Crouch
611 Stanley Street
Middletown, OH 45044

Training For Elvis

In March 1958, as an Army Major, I was stationed at HQ Fourth Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. On March 28, 1958, Elvis Presley was inducted into the Army and ordered to Camp Chaffee, Arkansas for his basic training. Camp Chaffee was one of our subordinate installations. It just so happened that I was the staff duty officer for HQ Fourth Army on March 28, 1958.

The staff duty officer remains on duty in the headquarters from 5:00 p. m., quitting time, until 08:00 a. m. the following morning, when the Commanding General and other staff officers report for work. During the evening and night, the staff duty officer receives all incoming messages and phone calls for the HQ, and takes whatever actions are necessary. All routine actions he takes on his own initiative. If it is of sufficient importance and requires command attention he calls the commanding general at home to obtain instructions as to what should be done.

At 5:00 p. m., on the 28th, Lt. Gen. Guy Meloy, the Army Commander, left the office and said to me, "Jim, you are in charge. Call if you need me." About two hours later, I received a phone call from the Commanding General at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. He informed me that Private Elvis Presley had reported to Camp Chaffee that day for his basic training. He said Presley was accompanied by an entourage, which included his manager, Col. Tom Parker; bodyguards; girlfriends; and other hangers on. He told me that Private Presley was going to be treated just like any other soldier. He said, "Tomorrow he is going to get a GI haircut, he will be issued the standard GI clothing, and he will receive the same training as all other recruits." He further said, "I am going to kick Tom Parker's butt off the base, and all the rest of the entourage, and tell them not to come back. There will be no photo sessions, no press conferences, no interviews with the press, and no special time off." He said, "If the Army Commander has any objections to the way I propose to handle Presley's training, tell him to give me a call."

I thought this was a rather routine action, and one which I could handle on my own initiative, without having to bother the Army Commander at home. So I told the Commander of Camp Chaffee, that speaking for the Army Commander, I approved the plan he had outlined to me for Private Presley's training. No special privilege, GI haircut, fatigue uniforms, no photo sessions, and no press releases. I said, "You will treat him the same as you treat all the other soldiers in his unit." He thanked me, and he hung up the phone.

The following morning, when I briefed the Army Commander on what had happened during the night, I told him about the phone call I had received from the Commander of Camp Chaffee, regarding the basic training of Elvis Presley. I also told him I had approved the plan for his training. He chuckled when I told him about the comment to kick Tom Parker's butt off the base. He said, "You did well, and I agree with everything you said."

Elvis Presley received his basic training with little or no publicity and was treated just like the rest of the soldiers in his unit. He did not ask for special privilege, and he received none. He was an excellent soldier.
I was born and raised in Letcher County, Kentucky.

James W. Witt
426 Lilly Road NE, Apt. 11
Olympia, WA 98506

Life As A Social Worker

Back in the 1950s, I was employed as a social worker for the Kentucky Department of Economic Security Bureau of Public Assistance (renamed Department for Human Resources Bureau for Social Insurance).
Home visits were required for each applicant for assistance. If eligibility was established, annual visits to the aged, blind, and disabled; and semiannual visits to the home of eligible children were made. All workers confronted unexpected things in making these calls, but one particular day it seemed I met more than the daily allowance.

I went to the Berry Ferry community, in Livingston County, and off a side road, across a cattle crossing, I entered a field where a number of donkeys were grazing. Most of them moved slowly off the drive, but I stopped to make sure they were all clear of the car. When I stopped I could hear a click, click, click, and I thought the fan belt or something must be loose. I got out to lift the hood, and when I got to the front of the car there was this tiny, tiny little donkey, with his ears laid back and kicking the bumper; which was as high as he could reach, just as fast as his little legs could recoil. I got his ear and pulled him from the drive, with all four feet planted solidly in resistance. He probably grew up to be a very stubborn donkey.

I drove on through the field, past a house, and was easing into an old roadway; which was a deep, narrow cut with banks about as high as the car. I had the window down and was not noticing the banks. As I got even with this peacock, which was almost within my reach, he suddenly spread his plumage and loudly screamed, "Help, Help, Help." It was me who needed help. I was on the other side of the car when I realized what it was, and that I had left the controls.

As I approached the next house, I had to go through a gate and another field, where there were several horses. For fear of letting one out in getting the car through, I decided to leave the car and walk to the house. Having always lived on a farm, and not fearing animals, I entered the field and started walking. This gentle three-year-old filly was following me, and suddenly she started rearing up to play with me. I was afraid she might strike me with her hoofs. I knew I needed a halter to lead her, but that was something the trainers had not told us to carry when they told us about chains and shovels. I happened to be wearing a dress with a long sash tied at the waist, so I set down my briefcase, removed the sash, looped it around her neck and nose, and led her quietly to the house with no problem.

At the house, I got the opportunity to really meet the peafowls. I had never been close to one, that is, until a few minutes earlier. A dozen or so were lying around the yard in the sun, and my client asked her daughter to play the piano so I could see the birds dance. I was amazed. When they heard the music, they slowly stood up, shook off the dust, and started to sway back and forth with the grace of a hula dancer. The filly was waiting for me when I left the house, and again, we had to have the halter to the gate. I returned to the highway, without encountering the donkeys, and drove out another side road, where I had clients.

First, I stopped to interview a son of a client. I entered a little gate in a low plank fence; climbed to the porch, where a large shepherd dog was lying, apparently not noticing me at all; and when no one was home, I started back to the car. I was about to open the little gate when I heard the dog growling, and he jumped off the porch. I placed my hands on top of the fence and went over it with all the agility of any ten-year-old boy. He got to the car door and managed to scratch it, just half a second too late to get me. I am sure I was a bit more shaken than he was, however.

I moved on to the next house, where I found my client was not at home. As I returned slowly to the car, looking at the flowers in her yard, I heard this rushing noise. I looked around, and there was a turkey gobbler, with his head down and his wings and feathers spread out, coming at me fast. I was near enough to leap into the car, and this time my door really got scratched, as he flogged it.

The last visit was made at the next house, and I had told this lady about my experiences at her neighbors' houses. We had laughed about it, and she suggested that maybe I should just call it a day and go home. I was standing beside the car, and she was on the porch when she yelled, "Watch that goat." It was barely in time for me to side step this charging billy goat, with two children right behind him, trying to catch him. I got into the car, and I told her I was taking her advice. I was going home. It was only two o'clock, but it had been a long, hard day, and both the car and I showed it.

My husband and I were living with my parents, and when I went in, of course, my mother thought I was sick. I told her of my day, while I ate lunch. I decided I would make up the time at a later date, and I took the rest of the day off. These little attacks happen often, but never in my 40 years of social work did I have another day like that. Thank goodness I was not a city girl trying to work in this area.

Hazel Robertson
420 Alley Lane
Salem, KY 42078

J. D. Anderson


J. D. (James Daniel) Anderson was a postmaster of Vi, Kentucky, and he owned a grocery store. He was the son of Bill (William) Anderson and Emma Williamson Anderson. J. D. was born January 25, 1878, in Pike County. He died April 4, 1964.

J. D. married Rachel Justice, the daughter of William Thompson Justice. William Thompson was born February 25, 1850, in Pike County. He died April 27, 1928. William Thompson married Cosby Haven. She was born September 11, 1845. She died December 29, 1894. They were the parents of four sons and four daughters. Rachel and J. D. were the parents of four sons and three daughters, all born in the same area.

J. D. was a Gospel preacher of the Church of Christ. He performed my wedding ceremony to Ernestine Thacker on April 14, 1948. He was a docent man and was mighty in the scriptures. He preached all through Pike County and all the surrounding counties. He baptised 23 people at one service. People were eager to hear and obey the truth.

Harper Keene, an officer of our area, was present at one of our baptizings. When he heard the truth, he reached his gun to a friend, Tom Norman, and was baptised. Then Tom Norman gave the gun to someone else and was baptised, also. J. D. baptised hundreds of people. J. D. was a very caring person. He was a blessing to his community.

McAdoo Williamson
4829 Sherwood Drive
Ashland, KY 41101

The Day I Hit Mama

I was born February 22, 1920, in the beautiful little river town of Roches...

Editor's Note: This is only about half the "I Remember" stories found in the April 2000 issue. For remaining letters, stories, photos, and other features, get your hardcopy of the Kentucky Explorer at your favorite news stand or vendor. Thank You!