Thursday, July 4

Another Fourth of July

The Fourth of July: No work to do except to find ways to pass the day without boredom. Nobody invited me on a picnic or offered me a piece of watermelon. I didn’t mind. Picnics have too many crawling things about them; watermelon is too high for a person to expect a donation like it. Lots of cars parked downtown but not many persons in sight. Visiting golfers came in to get started in the Hazard Country Club’s Invitational Tournament. Bob Mansfield late for his usual breakfast hour. Everybody taking it easy on Independence Day.

Had a dish of ice cream with Jonah Daniel at Don’s. Met Phyllis Rollins, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Rollins, whom I hadn’t seen in more than five years when they lived in Harlan: Also Susan Daniel, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jonah Daniel. Both mighty pretty representatives of Hazard.

In the lobby of the Grand Hotel, a long conversation with Judge Courtney Wells and Dr. K. N. Salyers. Met several of the Harlan baseball players over for a game with the Bombers. Jimmy Polos, of Lynch, one of the finest little fellows to ever mix with a bunch, was looking for a pair of paints in which to play golf. All clothing stores closed.

Ride to Bomber Park for ball game only for the ride. Although only a sprinkle hit most of town, the ball park got a drenching. All hands agreed it was too wet for safe playing. I was disappointed, but I never like to see ball players take a chance in the mud.

Back to the Grand Hotel lobby where I dozed in one of those comfortable chairs. People coming in and out bothered my rest.

Took off for Harlan at 4:30 with Father Anthony Kraff, Father Richard Reimondo, and Herbert Turlich, the latter a fireman for the L & N. and a hot box of a baseball fan. Not a dull moment in that car. We got to the ball park in time. Good game but mighty few Hazard fans there. Back to Hazard with Dick Goodlette and his father-in-law.

A good holiday except for the accidents and shootings in the county. One man shot to death. Too bad things like that happen. Nobody gained, everybody lost. Plenty of persons in trouble after such an incident. Didn’t see a drunk during the whole day, which is unusual on a holiday as far as I’m concerned. Only one person offered me a drink. That’s not so unusual. So, another Fourth of July. 1952

Monday, June 17

Stopping the Train

Dropping things from local trains seems to be a habit lately.  The other day, a well known citizen of Perry County was on the Lotts Creek train.  Suddenly, the bell cord was jerked and the train came to an instant and noisy halt.  Conductor George Hart rushed back to the coach, asking in angry tones who had stopped the train.
Our friend mumbled something which the conductor finally understood to mean that he had lost his false teeth from the train and they were a few yards  back on the track.  The teeth were recovered. 

Then there was the plight of another well known citizen yesterday.  He and his wife were on the way out and just before the train reached Hazard, this gentleman lost his keys from the train.  He alighted at the next station and went back after the keys.  When he reached Hazard, train and wife had gone on north.  His Hazard friends say that he dropped the keys on purpose as he seemed to enjoy his visit here that night.  1928

Friday, June 14


Every writer kids himself now and then with the thought that everybody reads his “stuff” and likes it. Just as he’s about to believe his own kidding, along comes someone who brings him back to reality. A good example of this occurred a few days ago. I was complimented by a friend and I felt mighty good about my success. Then I went into Patton Moore Dry Goods Company and was introduced to Mrs. Howard (Louise) Hatmaker, the bookkeeper. “Yes, I have read some of your writing but I don’t have much time for that,” she said very pleasantly. 

 Not knowing much about the North Fork of the Kentucky River, I asked last night during the heavy rain if floods ever bother us here. I was told that now and then Hazardites must sweep out from under high waters. Most mountain cities have to do that, because our woods have been denuded and our laws have not forced reforestation. 

 The American barber is a great institution. It can be classified just that because there is nothing else like it, unless it’s a woman’s beauty parlor. My head was sheared and clipped Saturday in the chair of Willard Evans of Shelton’s Barber Shop. Philip Wright did my shoes over. You can get all sides of local and world affairs from either the barbers or the customers. Whenever I feel that my knowledge is slipping, I head for the barbershop. Men don’t gossip in a barbershop like women do in a beauty parlor: the men seek enlightenment on potent developments. 1952

Thursday, June 13

I Watch Them Every Day

The Mount Mary Hospital is located just a few feet from the Hurst-Snyder Hospital in Hazard. There is considerable hospital traffic along this short section of High Street and Fleet Street, traffic to and from these institutions.

Looking at the entrance of Mount Mary, I can see patients whose beds have been placed near the second floor windows...and they are children. I watch them every day; now and then I wave to a little fellow who stands in a crib or leans his head into the window. Now and then one of them waves back, and I'm glad when that happens because I know he is better. 

Over the past couple of weeks, the faces in the windows have changed several times. And always there are new faces of adults, some smiling in one window, others serious and unsmiling in another. 

On the street I see many hospital visitors, families and friends of those inside. Now and then I speak to someone waiting on the sidewalk in front of Mount Mary or on the corner of Hurst-Snyder. It's not hard to make friends with persons who are in trouble.

A few days ago I ran into a tall, smiling man on the sidewalk. I'd never seen him before, but I spoke and asked him if he had folks in the hospital. "Yes sir, I do!" he beamed. "My wife just gave me a nine pound girl." And before I could congratulate him, he continued, "I don't have a single cigar with me, I just gave a whole box away." I told him I didn't smoke cigars. I then gave him a cigar that another new father had given me a few hours before. He took it and thanked me. "Now, ain't that nice," he said as he walked away with a man who had been standing with him. 1952

Wednesday, June 12

Riverboat Man

 If you lived in Hazard, KY through the 1930’s and 1960’s, you probably witnessed some of the most disastrous floods in the history of Eastern Kentucky. I lived on Combs Street which was just a little bit more elevated than North Main Street.

      From that vantage point, I had a front row view of the entire disaster. I would walk down to the water’s edge to watch the dead mules, hogs and cadavers float by. The broken-down homes and fractured barns were also of great interest. It was fun to try and identify the remnants as they floated by. I would say, “That’s part of a house or that’s part of a barn.” And, I would have a real good laugh if some poor soul lost his outhouse to the North Fork of the Kentucky River. And, several of them were observed to be floating down the river with their roof-top facing downward and being partially-submerged.

      I was tempted to try and haul some of the booty to the shore but, the current was too strong for me, a young lad of just five years of age. Little did I know that the force of the current would probably have drawn me into the water if I had had tried to apply any salvage operations. I did try to use my lasso rope like Will Rogers did but I was not talented enough with the lariat toss to rope anything or to pull anything ashore.

      So, I had to devise another way if I was to play the salvage game. And, for this part of the story, we have to flashback about six months earlier before the time that I became a legendary riverboat man. I knew that a flood would be forthcoming and I had formed a magnificent plan.

      I had been collecting my building material for a long time previous to the time that my actual construction phase began. The design intent was to make my boat lighter than most of the other boats so I used small sections of bushel baskets that the grocers in town had discarded.

      They would ask me why I needed them and, when I said, “I am going to build a light-weight boat, they all laughed at me.” Then they said, “You can take all of the baskets that you can carry.” And, I did just that. Time and time again. Our basement became the home of about 100 bushel baskets.

      My boat was designed to be the first known example of a composite materials rowboat. I wove the basket ply at a 45-degree orientation and I sealed them together with roof tar. It took about six months to finish the Project and I was almost six-years old when it was finished.

      I talked my bodyguard friend (John Russell Muncy) into helping me with the task of taking the finished boat out of our basement and carrying it to where the water was located. It was an extremely light rowboat and both he and I were very proud of our joint creation.

      The master plan was that John would sit at the stern and be responsible for the dumping of any water that might need to be discharged from the vessel. I had given him a large coffee can for dipping purposes, if and when any unwanted water might need to be collected.

      I had tied three sections of bamboo together with electrical tape as a steerage pole and my position was to be at the bow for guidance purposes. The length of my pole was about twelve-feet long. And, the flood stage was about nine feet above normal levels when we decided to launch the ‘SS-Hays’. Trouble began immediately after we left the beachfront property.

      John Russell was a huge person even at that age. He tipped the weighing scales at about 150-lbs while I was less than that with about 90-lbs. So we had no idea of the effect that a heavy load of 240-lbs might have on our maiden voyage.

      In the design phase, I didn’t consider anything about buoyancy or tare weights. When John got into the boat, the bow went up in the air and the water level at the stern was about one or two-inches from the topside of the boat. I boarded the bow section to counteract the weight problem but I wasn’t heavy enough for righting the vessel. We both panicked after we had sprung a major water leak.

      John was screaming, “We are going to die.” He said this over and over again. I responded with, “Not if you keep on dipping the onboard water. I replied, “Shut up and dip as hard as you can. I have a plan. We will survive if you will dip at a much faster rate.”  The last time that I looked his way he was moving those stout arms of his faster than ever before. I do believe that if I had taken a photograph of John’s swinging arms, they would have been out of focus and just a blur on the printed picture.

      He was dipping fast enough but we took on more water because his large body forced the stern to be submerged when he tossed the water. The boat would pitch sideways back and forth as he emptied his pail on the port or starboard side. At that time, he was causing us to take on more water than he doused.      I yelled at him but he was too scared to listen. He had a strange look on his face and I then learned what a person does when he is facing death. He goes a little ghoulish or morbid, if you get my drift. So, I concentrated on the steerage of the boat.

      I knew that there was a large bend in the river ahead of us and it was about one mile from our launching point. I kept using the long pole and when I would strike the bottommost portion of the river bed, my face would become very close to the top surface of the water. It was a terrifying experience. I was left with the thought that both the pole and I were too short for that particular application.

      John kept screaming, “We are going to die. Why did I let you talk me into this? This is entirely your fault, Charley.” So I ignored what had to be ignored as I continued to edge the boat’s path toward that bend in the river. It was a landing where John and I always went fishing. At the top of the hillside where North Main Street existed there was Thacker’s Garage and across the street from Thacker was where Elmer Davis operated his Gulf Gasoline Station.

      I beached the ‘SS-Hays’ boat successfully and I have never built another boat. Both John Russell Muncy and I are still afraid of any deep water, although it has been an interim of about seventy-five years since. We shared our adventure with Mr. Thacker and Elmer Davis as we were very proud of our bravery.

      Thacker was a man that few people liked but I was very thankful for his landing which saved our lives because neither John nor I knew how to swim. Davis, a man that everyone loved said, “Sounds like a fun trip to me.” And, that’s the end of my mini-story about our joint involvement with the big flood.

Tuesday, June 11

God Bless You, Honey

One of Hazard’s greatest street characters of all time was a man known only as “Steve”. In the 1940’s and 50’s he would parade up and down Main Street saying hello to every person that he met. He was high-spirited man and new visitors to Hazard from other places just didn't know what to make of him and his hyperactive behavior. But, the Hazardites who knew him and loved him were not disturbed by his strange antics.

      He had a fine moustache and it was always groomed to perfection. His face was hardened by the rigors of many long years in that he had numerous wrinkles and an over-abundance of aging lines. Obviously, he had been affected by too much work during his time. Or, perhaps, he just spent too many hours under the Sun. In any case, his countenance was badly weathered.

      Steve was Slavic in nature and he spoke broken English with a very strong dialect. People who knew him better than I did have said that he came from some Country in Europe’s Middle East, either Romania or Hungary. His best friend on the street was Moses Lasslo, a shoe maker. If a rain storm passed over the mountains, he would take refuge in Lasso’s Shoe Shop and Lasso’s Jewelry Shop which was run by Mrs. Lasso, mother of Jay Lasso.

      His daily route would begin at the Railroad Depot Bridge and it would end at the old Greyhound Bus Depot or the US Post Office, depending upon which side of the street that he was on, either the Eastward or the Westward. He liked to meet and greet every new bus that came into town. And, it wasn’t too much longer before he was dubbed as Hazard’s one-man-greeting spokesperson.

      He would pace up and down Main Street on both sides of the road, (riverside and hillside) saying to each of the pedestrians this same identical expression; “God bless you honey. Gimmee a nickel.” And, as a result of his comical appearance and his magnanimous smile, most people would dig deep into their pockets and purses to give him his token request, a 5-cent coin.

      I learned how to judge people by watching old Steve work the streets. The richer ones who cherished a nickel most would cross the street in order to avoid him and his repartee. The poorer ones, like myself, would give freely exactly what he asked for, a five-cent piece. And, the children of Hazard, they would stand in line to make a proper donation.

      We citizens of Hazard and all of the people from the outlying regions were completely awed by this man’s audacity. That was the way that it was when everybody came to Hazard town for shopping on Main Street. It was truly the best of Hazard’s Glory Years and I shall never forget them, not ever.

      “God Bless you Honey. Gimmee a nickel” became his slogan and, as I said, people couldn’t wait to make a contribution. He had an old fedora which he would remove from his head and it would serve as his coin collection container. Maybe that is why he was so strongly sun-tanned, who knows?

      He was much older than I when I knew him during the 1940’s and 1950’s. And, I believe that he died while I was at UK in about 1956. But, the salient point is this particular statement. The Sheriff was asked to search his little shack near the Bluegrass part of town. His clapboard living quarters rested very near the L&N railroad tracks where no one else in the whole wide World would want to live. I think that he camped-out on Railroad property but I am not completely certain about the separation lines.

      In any case, the Sheriff discovered a cache of $10,000 and it was all in nickels. They used the money to pay for his funeral since he had no known descendants. But, he didn’t die as a pauper, did he? I was much impressed by the lesson that he taught each of us. “Save your money kid or you’ll end up like little old me.” He was Hazard’s only street beggar and I loved that old man. Does anyone know his proper surname?

Saturday, June 8

This Store Is Air Conditioned

From time to time, a lot of little changes take place on Main Street in Hazard or in the stores which improve the attractiveness of the business district.  Take the new air-conditioning at Major’s, for instance.  The store has been a real oasis during the hot days of this past week.  Major’s has probably had its share of window shoppers who have dropped in to enjoy the new service.  Another angle about it, too, is that it puts Carl Weiss and Willie Dawahare on even terms so far as dangling the “This Store is Air-Conditioned.” bait before the eyes of their prospective customers is concerned. 

Floyd Hall has made a remarkable transformation on the interior appearance at Hallnap’s by the use of a little elbow grease and ingenuity.  Floyd has rearranged his display cases and counters in such a way that it looks like a different store and it makes the store look larger, too.

Joe Eversole got the bug for knotty pine counters and they along with a new arrangement of counters, etc., have given Sterling Hardware a new look.  The “new look” was further improved by the new paint job on the windows and front of the store.  “Pooner” Phelps wasn’t sure he was going to like being surrounded by his new pine-panelled, U-shaped desk but latest reports say he’s happy about the whole thing.  1952