Saturday, February 28
1947 ... Well, here I sit on Henry Combs’ Double Cola steps trying to strap on my skates. Gosh, Gene Baker’s boys are busy over there and I guess I’ll have to wait until the last one leaves before I can venture across the street. You see I love doing all kinds of turns, etc. while watching myself in Gene’s big glass windows. I lose myself and am free to become Sonja Henie on rollers, or whomever I choose. Oh, well, I guess I will skate down this side of East Main (Big Bottom) right now. Here I go, “Howdy, Mr. Garnett”, “Doing good today, Mrs. Bell”, “Mrs. Draughn, you say you love watching me, thanks a heap.”Well, they’re still busy as bees here at Seals, but it is clear enough for me to skate back through the lot there to see what Bill, George and the rest are up too. “Howdy, fellers, thought I'd check in on you working boys!” What’s that, someone hollers from up above the garage, and it’s Kathleen. She doesn’t skate much so I think I’ll take off my skates and go up and sit on the steps with her. “Hey, wait, she beckons, I’ll come down and we can go over to Collins’ Grocery and get us a pop and a bag of peanuts.” Oh, boy, something to eat. Through the door we go and there is Preacher Vermillion behind the counter. He grins from ear to ear. I found out that Preacher (Ernest) gets real red when confronted by a girl, so I manage to siddle up to the counter, “Howdy, Preacher” that is all I needed to say cause he got so red I thought he was on fire. Kathleen got our pop and peanuts, we paid for them, and started out the door. Standing there on the steps I looked around and there was Taylor Bingham sitting in his chair, leaned back against his home, enjoying the afternoon sun as it was about to go down over the mountain. I waved at Dora Baker and Lil Bit sitting on their porch. Lil Bit was my buddy.I hear Kathleen’s mother hollering from her front door, so I am going to bid Kathleen “bye now”, put on my skates and skate up to Gene Baker’s to see if they have closed for the day so I can practice my Sonja Henie routines. I love his big plate glass windows. I was sort of sorry to see the old Faulkner House go cause I loved to skate by and talk with old Mr. Faulkner, but I guess progress was ready for Hazard but is Hazard ready for progress. It sure looks so from the eyes of this beholder.
Friday, February 27
1945 ... the War is over now and the model airplane industry is really booming. We read in a M/A/P magazine that a jet engine is now available. Wow, think of all the possibilities there. Are we up to doing something that big and can Sluder afford it? Of course we can and he will furnish the budget. We get the engine and the special model plane it requires in about two weeks. Five minutes later we have the engine mounted on the test block and are digesting the instructions. The fist requirement is an air hose with 100 lbs. of pressure. Just like you inflate your tires. Being in a tire recapping shop that is a given, already. We fill the small gas tank with fuel and he sticks the air hose to the engine valve. The turbine blades are turning about 10,000 RPMs and it starts to scream. I'm getting scared, already, because I know when I flip that ignition on its probably going to explode and we will be in the headlines of the Hazard Herald tomorrow. But I suck it up and do it anyway. I flip the switch and there is a tremendous blast and a sheet of flame comes out the jet about five feet long. We are both frozen in amazement hoping it will run out of fuel soon because I ain't getting any closer until it stops. Sluder is really happy with the test. The plane, itself, is almost solid balsa wood and fairly simple. If its wings were any shorter it would be a rocket. The engine is mounted on the top towards the rear just like the German V-1 Buzz Bomb. The fuselage has a fiberglass strip glued along the top so the heat won't burn the plane. And its off to the ball park. Its late in the evening and some of the lights are on. We start it up, Sluder grabs the control and I pull the pin. It, actually, starts rolling slower than I thought. But as it gets airborne it starts to accelerate. There is no speed control. After the second revolution it really starts to move. I look over at Cromwell and he is spinning around like a top. The plane is now up around the the lights. After about six laps the engine pops and quits and it comes into a smooth landing. What a relief. We thought it ran out of fuel but after close inspection we found out it had sucked a big Junebug into the intake and that shut it down. Sluder says he was glad it quit, he was about to let it go. As far as I know that was the last time he flew the jet.
Thursday, February 26
1942 ... We kids are hearing more about the War every day. In the Newspapers, on the Radio, and in the Newsreels at the Movies.Music of the times includes "Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer, White Cliffs of Dover, I’ll Walk Alone, Rum and Coca-Cola, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree," Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, Long Ago and Far Away, and White Christmas. We love the Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra, Harry James, Ella Fitzgerald, Kate Smith, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Guy Lombardo, the Dorsey Brothers, Vaughn Monroe, and Glen Miller. We are buying savings stamps and War Bonds. We have gas rationing stamps on the car windshields: A, B, & C. We use food stamps at the grocery store. We are now receiving V-Mail from our soldiers and sailors, overseas. In the evening, if you have a good radio and a better antennae on the roof you can get WHAS in Louisville, WLW in Cincinnati and WSM in Nashville. Lowell Thomas, Fulton Lewis Jr., H.V. Kaltenborn, Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid and Edward R. Murrow are giving us the War news from all the battlefronts. The news is not always good and we are all concerned. We see a lot of stars hanging in the windows all over town. There are a lot of war movies coming out of Hollywood with Errol Flynn, Robert Taylor, Lloyd Nolan, John Wayne, and Dana Andrews. They are designed to get us to hate the enemy and it worked. The word was: "If Hitler ever invades this country, he will never get through Perry County." Us kids on Laurel Street spent all last week knocking on doors and cruising neighborhoods collecting aluminum, copper, and rubber. Anything that can be used in the War effort. We made a lot of trips with our wagons. We walked the river banks looking for old rubber tires, digging them up out of the sand and mud. My old Silver King all aluminum bicycle needed parts and repair so I went ahead and tossed it into the pile, too. Yesterday I was walking down Baker Hill and I heard the roar of an airplane over my head. I looked up and saw a P-51 passing over down town making a turn and coming back for another pass as he pulled up he did a barrel roll and went on his way. I didn't know who it was but I knew he was from Hazard.. What a thrill that was for a 12 year old kid. Be sure to click on the above image for a close up view.
Tuesday, February 24
1939 ... A huge crowd is expected to attend the District Basketball Tournament this week at the Hazard College Gymnasium. Eleven teams from Perry and Leslie Counties will compete. Tournament manager - Clarence Maggard of Dudley High School, has been busy installing new 200 watt lights in the gym, spreading cinders along the approach and generally fixing up to have everything ready for the opening whistle. A large basketball trophy will be awarded the winner and runner up in the tourney and a cup for the team showing the best sportsmanship. Small individual gold basketballs will be presented to the members of the winning team and silver basketballs to the runner up. Hazard takes on Stinnett, it is Buckhorn vs. Hardburly, Hyden will play First Creek, Sollar takes on Dudley, and Combs vs. Viper, Vicco drew a bye. Who do think are the favorites to win the 1939 district? Post your answers in the "comments" section. The 1939 14th Regional Tournament will be played at Breathitt County High School Gym. Perry County has three basketball teams that are are undisputed leaders and two of them will undoubtedly meet in the finals of the 1939 district tournament this week. The leading county team, Viper, unfortunately will probably meet Hazard in the semi-final Saturday as they are in the same bracket and even the most enthusiastic backer of the Viper boys do not give them much chance of beating the city team. This means that the favorites to meet in the final are Hazard and Dudley. Hazard let two or three teams they were favored to beat slip up on them this season and it could happen again. Anyway, the tournament is going to be at the H. B. I. gymnasium and everybody should back their team by being present this week.
Monday, February 23
1945 ... After enjoying the "electric train craze" for a year, Cromwell Sluder and I have decided to move into the world of "model airplanes" .We have, finally, finished our first project: A "B class" Republic P-47 which we ordered from Chicago. After about a week of balsa wood, glue, paper, and several razor blade cuts on the fingers, the plane looks great with the silver paint and decals. Gas powered Model Airplanes come in 3 classes: A, B, and C. We couldn't find a B class engine so we decided to go for the more powerful "OK C Super Sixty".We have been running the engine on a test block in Sluder's Tire Recapping shop. Lots of power there. Cranking it up is a little hard on the fingers because it backfires sometimes. Sluder decided to build a contraption with a 2 inch pipe, rubber bands and a crank to make start ups easier, but when we tried it the first time it ripped the prop right of the engine. So much for that. On Saturday we took it down to the ball park for our very first test flight. This was a fly by wire model. We had it on a 50 foot cable to start with. I drove a stake in the ground and hooked the tail to it with a quick release. So I held the plane while Sluder cranked it up. It started the first time. He tuned it a little and it was really humming. Now you have to remember this was our very first experience with a gasoline powered model. Sluder goes back to the pitchers mound and picks up the cable control, gives me the nod and I pull the pin on the tail. The P-47 by passes the taxi and take off procedure. With all that power and lift the plane gets airborne instantly, goes straight up until it runs out of wire peels over and dives straight down to the ground into a cloud of dust. After we recover from the shock we picked up the pieces and its now back in the shop for repairs. Next Saturday we shall return.
Sunday, February 22
1939 ... Hazard is growing in population. It has been growing rapidly for many years and will continue to grow for many more. It has every modern convenience in 1939, the same as any other city however large. It has splendid schools and churches and an intelligent educated public but it lacks one cultural advantage found in most all other cities its size and that is a Public Library. Some twenty years ago a movement was started here to obtain a Carnegie Library and it would have succeeded, the only thing that prevented it was a small contribution locally. Why not start a movement now to obtain a Public Library, especially in as much as a building can be obtained through the N.Y.A. or W.P.A. A nominal cost of procuring books would take care of itself. Let's start the movement before it is too late to obtain help from one of the Government agencies.
Friday, February 20
1939 ... The old saying, "Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face," was never more truly demonstrated than by action of schools in this district voting to hold next week's 1939 District Basketball Tournament at the HBI gymnasium, when they could have the Hazard High School Gym on Baker Hill for the asking. "Feuds" are an old mountain custom and it seems we must even carry it to the basketball court. County and city athletic representatives ought to meet each other half way and patch up their differences, real or imaginary. Because of the "feud" coaches players and fans will have to: 1. Wade a muddy field to get to the H.B.I. gymnasium. 2. Stand up to watch the games. 3. Choke from clouds of dust and dirt. 4. Freeze if the weather is cold. 5. Get wet from a leaky roof or see the players endangered by a wet floor. 6. Strain their eyes from inadequate lighting. What do you think?
L. O. Davis helped turn me into a big movie fan. He was a great fan of the movies himself. He took time to explain to me how the movie house business worked. How he selected and ordered movies for the Virginia Theater in Hazard. When I saw him, occasionally, he would say:"Sonny, guess what we have coming next month!" We thought it was great when he would have "Double Feature" Cowboy movies on Saturday. Two shoot em' ups for the price of one. Saturday was always our favorite day in Hazard. When the Masonic building on Main Street exploded in 1940, it also blew the front off the Family Theater directly across the street. It was closed for repairs for a long time. Besides, the cowboy movie on Saturdays there was also a Serial. (The Lone Ranger, Zorro, Flash Gordon, etc.) Mr. Davis continued the Family Serial by showing it at the Virginia Theater along with the feature there. Cowboys and two Serials for fifteen cents. What a deal that was... I remember, particularly, when all my buddies & I heard that "Tarzan Triumphs"was "coming soon." Tarzan VS the Nazi's in the jungle. WOW! Back then the movie would run uninterrupted through the afternoon and night. We all sat through it twice. Didn't get any better than that. Ed Sonny Watts
Thursday, February 19
The other day, someone on the HazardKentucky.com Forum mentioned Comic books from the Hazard Drug store. That recollection hit me like a ton of bricks. I was a serious Comic Book fan. Although around 1938 and on, we called them "Funny Books." Hazard Drug was the place to go. I spent hours in there. They had them all. Superman, Batman & Robin, The Flash, Captain America, Captain Marvel. All 10 cents a piece and a thrill a minute. Each one came out on time every month. I must have spent a small Hazard schoolboy fortune at that drug store. Also, did a lot of Funny Book trading with the other kids. The other good comics were in the Sunday Courier Journal. I remember Lil' Abner, Tailspin Tommy, Smokey Stover, Terry and the Pirates. And don't forget Popeye and his skinny girlfriend, Olive Oil and his hamburger eatin' buddy, Wimpie. Between the Funny Books, the newspaper comics and the Sears Roebuck catalogs I think our generation learned to be better than average readers. The issue of Detective Comics cost just 10 cents at Hazard Drug in 1939. It is now worth $475. Ed Sonny Watts
Wednesday, February 18
1939 ... Everyone is still buzzing over Tex Ritter's appearance at the Virginia Theater in Hazard on February 1st 1939. This is the first big movie star to ever appear in Hazard. He's my favorite shoot em up western star. There were two shows - Matinee was 16 cents and the night show was 38 cents. Hopefully some of you got a picture or autograph. That would be nice to see on the blog. Als0 - we hope you got to see the concert put on by singer - Jessica Dragonette last month at the Hazard High School Auditorium. Jessica is popular on radio. It's good to see a well known radio star come to Hazard. Have any of you tried the new Swedish massage clinic? Is this a first for Hazard? It recently opened on the 2nd floor of the Baker Building opposite the court house in the Baker apartments. It is operated by H. C. Ingram. If I see you coming out of the Baker Building with a smile, I'll know the reason. The District Basketball Tournament is just around the corner. Who do you think will win this year? Hyden will play 1st Creek, Solar vs. Dudley, Combs vs. Viper, Hardburly will play Buckhorn and Hazard will play Stinnett. Vicco drew a bye. The games will be played at the Hazard College Gym. The Regional tournament will be played at Breathitt County High School this year.
Monday, February 16
1939 ... The little girl is Elizabeth Snyder Duncan, a regular contributor to HazardKentucky.com and WSGS.com. Hazard has several new stores in 1939 - the Firestone Auto and Supply Company opened on High Street in the Taulbee Building and is managed by William Sousley, formerly of Lexington. The Western Auto Store opened at 210 Main Street a few months ago, owned by Walker Taylor and Ernest Evans. The Leader Store also opened in the old Perry County State Bank Building and is operated by Max Mazer. We also have the new Country Club in Hazard that opened last year. Zack White & his orchestra performed at the grand opening. Work is progressing on new homes in the Woodland Park section of Hazard. The six homes should be completed soon. L. O. Davis is in charge of the project. They are going to offer land to the public at an auction soon. I expect these lots will go quickly so you better be there before they're all gone.