Tuesday, March 31

The coming of spring means clean-up time in more ways than one. Many of you will be cleaning up yards, gardens & others fields & painting, house cleaning, scrubbing, pruning, and so many versions of clean up. Folks, when the sap starts up in the trees sure as you are born it starts in humans also. Did you ever watch a few warm days in a row and see what a change comes over people. A few days ago I asked a son about his father over at Big Creek way who was around 82 years young; it was pretty chilly that day. I figured he would be whittling around the fire maybe. No, by granny, his boy told me he left his dad grubbing in new ground. How ‘bout that? What do you think you will be doing at 82? This is a fine example of what we can do if is the good Lord’s will. So start now thinking of your town and county and what you should do to improve it this spring. Clean up our riverbanks, highways, streets, take a little pride in your community.

It is the time of year when our thoughts drift toward the flowers, trees, bees, and other objects of nature. The bees must have started on their stinging spree early. Have you noticed all the marriage licensees being issued in Hazard? Come rain, flood, storm or what have you, that love bug continues to dominate them all. Congratulations to you Shirley Martin and your bride Sissy. It’s hard to think of this gal as being the same one that I use to tuck into a mail pouch; more power to you all. That was a long time ago.

Mr. Brewer, the milkman from out Bulan way, says he doesn’t know what is the matter with the younger generation. He just can’t understand anyone not knowing all the old -time sayings. He said that he went into a service station a few days ago and asked the young man there if he could use his privey. He got a reply back, “haven’t got any.” He said, “can you imagine anyone not knowing that?” I will agree with him.

Monday, March 30

Where else could you find a sign in an eating-place that reads “SHUCKY BEANS TODAY” other than right here in our section? Well, it happens now and then because I saw it with my own peepers. I had to give a complete rundown on what shucky beans was to a stranger in our area that saw it. I doubt if you could find any other restaurant offering shucky beans anywhere else in the country - other than here. It caught my eye because it has been a long time since my old boarding house days where shuckey beans were a regular part of my diet. Boys, how many of you can remember - and would like to see a boarding house table again? I can recall eating at Ma Dukes and also Ma Combs when she was at Vicco. Come to think of it, did you hear anything about ulcers in those days? Memories of the boarding house days have stayed with me; I'd like to try it out again sometime.

Sunday, March 29

The wheel of father time continues to roll and where it stops nobody knows. At least that is the opinion of Cromwell Sluder who has been waiting out a granny frolic for almost three weeks. He says this has just about got the best of him through all this hot weather. He thinks some miscalculating has gone haywire down the line somewhere. All I can say is take it easy ole boy, you are not by yourself. It seems an epidemic of this happens ever so often, believe it is something like the measles, once they get started it is hard to stop. Why not get an old fashion bean stringin going or canning bee. That is the way they use to celebrate this event. Since this is canning time this could be utilized as a profitable event, Sluder.
Granny Frolic by James Still

Old granny haste your bonnet on and hie to Wolfpen Creek, Go bit and bridle your scar-hocked nag, go rein, go ride and hurry, Sid Gentry's woman's time is nigh and he's a-plague with worry, O he's a-plague with all the signs the almanac can carry. Go riding swift to Wolfpen Creek, on yon side of Dead Mare Hollow, Go chin the ridge, go shoe the trail, go thresh the laurel thicket, For this is Gentry's woman's first, the first child she's a-bearing; And fotch a horn of spirits along to keep Sid in the clearing.

Sid's made a little crib of oak - A cradle short and narrow; He's whittled a poke of pretties And he's tuck a rattler's rattle; He's rid a coon of all its hide. He's cured it thick and furry - But hap it be a girl-child Young Sid will be to bury.

Old Granny gallop. Old Granny lope. Go like a hawk-bird flying, Go split the wind, go fork the night, Go knife the hoot-owl's crying, And fotch a pot o' barley tea, O hurry clap the lid, Bring all your quare needcessites, And bring a nip to Sid;

Young Sid is thorned by all the fears, O he is pale and lorn, For he had hung his pride atop a lean moon's tipply horn

O haste a sawyer and his tools, A coffin-box be ready, For hap it be a girl-child Young Sid will be to bury.

Old Granny alight. Old Granny stay. Come dance a mite for joy, Sid Gentry's firing his pistols off - Hell's bangers, it's a boy.

Saturday, March 28

Remember the old days ... eating sour kraut, shucky beans, and turnip greens? Long ago the old folks used to hole up their taters, pumpkins, and turnips. I remember bean stringings and sorghum making-time. This was done mostly at night with all the neighbors pitching in. You talk about courting days - there has been many a young lass that got her first stolen kiss at a sorghum makin'. The young ones, what we call our teenagers, might get into a game called "Hide & Seek." Sometimes you would have to seek them out when they found the right boy. Nine times out of ten both were too bashful to touch the other, although both would go off and hide together; by granny - times sure have changed. If you don’t think they have, don’t let your eyes wander too far around the drive-ins or cars on the roads, you can see a gal almost sitting on the driver. I’ve accepted that we are living in a different age. If I had known what I know now when I was growing up I guess I would have been considered a ring tail tooter. That was a by word as I can remember when some boy was always getting himself in a mess; most of the time he came out of it without a blemish.

Friday, March 27

I well remember seeing Tex Ritter entering the rear entrance of the Virginia Theater in Hazard in 1939. I did not see his stage show which was at the Family Theater that Sunday. My friend and I saw him as we were coming down Baker Hill from our 6th grade class. We spotted him and ran over and asked for his autograph. We had our school books and one of us had a brand new package of Blue Horse notebook paper which was a popular brand in those days. Tex signed the back of the label, thusly: "Sy Tex Ritter." You may think coming down Baker Hill from the sixth grade sounds odd since that was where the high school was located. However at the time, sixth grade was taught by Mrs. Larid (Florence) Watts in the Hazard High School building. She was my favorite teacher over all the twelve years of school. She used to drive a long way every day from where she lived, somewhere beyond Vicco I think. One winter when there was a lot of snow on the ground, she could not make it up Baker Hill. My brother, who was about sixteen at the time, and got behind the wheel and drove her up to the school.

In 1942 I met Wild Bill Elliott, a popular cowboy of yesteryear. He specialized in playing the rugged heroes of B-Westerns, particularly in the Red Ryder series of films. Elliott did a stage show at my grand-uncle's movie house, the Pastime Theater in Vicco. He stayed at my relatives home because, I'm assuming, there were no hotels in Vicco. I don't recall seeing any there in those days. We all had dinner together the next day. I remember my cousin Nellie and I took sandwiches and lemonade to Elliott and his wife who stayed in one of the girls' bedrooms. The two of them were still in bed and had a little dog that slept between them. Another Hollywood star that appeared at the Pastime in 1941 or 1942 was a character actor by the name of Chris-Pin Martin. He was of Mexican descent, and he put on a good stage show with music, skits, etc. He had a large trailer, where he and his entourage stayed. If you've seen any of the old Betty Grable movies, Chris-Pen Martin would be the man who drove the wagon on the hayride or the person who took care of the stables.

Thursday, March 26

Part 12 ... Bobby Davis Memorial Park was one of the first places I visited when I came to Hazard in 1948. It had a lot of tan colored stone work and a swimming pool with changing rooms for men and women. There was a wall by the main building that contained the names of all the Perry county boys who were killed in WW II. I remember I was invited to a graduation party that a number of the parents had for their graduates at the park. It was a grand affair with Chinese lanterns all around the outside of the pool area. The tables were elegantly set and there was a small band playing. There were black waiters all dressed in white jackets.

In 1973 my wife and I and another couple took a trip to Nashville to see the Grand ole Opry and as a side trip we came through Hazard. We stayed up on the mountain at La Citadelle Motel. Coming down from the motel I recognized the entrance to the park and I had them stop so I could get out. The park was such a source of pride when I was there.
Return to Hazard ... In July of 2006 my son was about to make a delivery in his truck to one of his regular stops just outside of Hazard. Since I was retired and didn't have too much going on I decided to go with him to make one last trip to Hazard. We started early one morning and the next afternoon we had arrived. I had been in touch with the station so they knew we were coming. After getting turned around and not knowing where we were I finally called the station and Shane Sparkman with WKIC and WSGS came and found us. (Can you imagine getting lost in Hazard?). We followed Shane and when we got to Main Street every thing looked familiar to me - even after almost 60 years. Shane had everything planned out for us and when we got to the station he had us wait just outside the studio and he soon came back with a lady who he introduced as Norma Strong. She was Charley Metcalf's typist when I was there and she typed up the daily log and commercials for WKIC. From there we went in and met with Ernest Sparkman who I only knew by his nickname, String. I never could call him Ernest. Shane had some old tapes that he played of myself, Hugh Dunbar, String and George Davis. I knew that the original studios were gone as they had been ruined by one of the floods in the 50's but I did want to see what was left if anything.
We went outside and proceeded to the stairway to the old studios in the basement of the bank. As soon as I entered the stairway and started down it was almost like I was that 19 year old kid again. Just inside the door was where the Coke machine used to stand where I always got a bottle before my shift. I opened up at least once a week and it was always that Coke and a cigarette for breakfast. When we were there the whole basement was being remodeled to be used as a lunch room for the People's Bank. As we wandered down the hall "String" and I would point out where things were when we were there. We spent many hours in those studios in the early days of WKIC. He was a singer who had a early morning show when I worked there in the late 1940s. Although the walls were no longer there, we could visualize the old studios. Liz Warren was the receptionist and the first person you met when you came in. The main studio was on the right and at the end of the hall was Fred Bullard's office. Next to Fred was Dick Goodlette's office and then Charlie Metcalf's. To the left at the end of the hall was the news directors office - Paul Combs. The teletype machine was here. Then there was the small studio just large enough for one person To the right was the control room. This is where I spent all my time. I usually worked the afternoon shift which included the Singing Miner , the Man on the Street program with Hugh Dunbar, Queen For A Day, Downbeat With Don and the 1340 Club.

Wednesday, March 25

Part 11 ... I didn't have a lot to do in Hazard when I wasn't working and I spent some of my off time at WKIC. I remember coming down to the studios in the basement of People's Bank one Sunday afternoon when Announcer - Hugh Dunbar was suppose to be working. Hugh had been drinking and his girlfriend was trying to get him in shape to go on the air. I filled in for him the rest of his shift. The next day I was called into Fred Bullard's office and asked why I was on the air instead of Hugh. I know I could have gotten Hugh in a lot of trouble but I told Fred that Hugh didn't feel good. I don't know if he believed me or not. Anyway nothing came of it. I do know I had to fill in for Hugh Dunbar and Jerry Leighton many times. I stayed only two blocks from the station and the engineers had my number and I was called several times and had to rush to the station to cover.

I remember the very first state basketball tournament that was on WKIC in 1948. The games were broadcast from the Louisville Armory with Dick Goodlette, Mark Halleck and Fred Bullard. It was a big deal and I think every one in town listened to it. I also remember broadcasting all the U.K. games in '48. I got to be a real U.K. fan. I still remember the Fabulous Five, Ralph Beard, Cliff Barker, Wa Wa Jones, Alex Groza and Kenny Rollins. Sports was always a big event in Hazard.

In 1948 - WKIC raised money for the Red Cross. Hugh Dunbar claimed he could raise more money than Jerry Leighton. It went back and forth and one of them challenged the other on the air that the loser had to push the winner in a wheel borrow down Main Street in Hazard. Hugh ended up pushing Jerry that day.

WKIC use to do a "live" broadcast from Taulbee Furniture store on High Street, right across from where I lived. It was called Taulbee's Talent Scout and was hosted by Jerry Leighton. Since I often had nothing to do I would sometimes go to the store and do some of the commercials for Jerry during the broadcast. Jerry came to Hazard from New York City. He claimed to have had a small part in the 1947 movie "The Farmer's Daughter" with Loretta Young.

I use to do a show called "Downbeat with Don" that was sponsored by Don's Restaurant. I played the popular music of the day. I liked Jazz and the Blues so I played a lot of that. I really liked Frankie Laine and played a lot of his records. Nat King Cole was also very popular at the time. We had two big turntables in the control room for playing 16 inch transcriptions. They had 2 speeds - 33 rpm and 78 rpm. A transcription held about 30 minutes of recording. The 45s didn't come out until later. The only other recording device we had was a wire recorder that the station used to delay Red's baseball games if we couldn't schedule them "live" for some reason. I well remember "String" (Ernest) Sparkman coming in for the early morning shows on WKIC after he had been out playing the night before. They were good days for me.

We had three engineers, Gene Adams, Jim French and Marvin Young. Cecil Miller came in to cover for the other engineers when they went on vacation. Cecil came from some place not too far from Hazard. Once he came back with a quart jar of moonshine and he introduced it to me at transmitter one night. I see where they get the name White Lightning.

Click here to listen to Max who was known as "Don Smith" on WKIC in 1948.

Tuesday, March 24

Part 10 ... I was home in Aikin, Minnesota only a few days when I got a letter from the owner of the Paintsville radio station. Now what? I opened the letter and inside was a check for two weeks salary and a short note to me I had been terminated - fired. I sure they felt since I was a thousand miles away that would be the last they would see of me. Since I had left without all my things I had to go back and get them. I packed up my few belongings in Paintsville and again made it back to Minnesota. I hadn't been home but a few days when I got my orders to report for my draft physical. I was drafted into the Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Camp Rucker Alabama for two years. When I came out I had been out of radio for 2 and half years and decided on another career. I went to work for Prudential Insurance Company in Minneapolis in 1953 and stayed on for 35 years. I married a home town girl and we have three boys and a girl. We have five grandchildren. In 1988 we built a home on Sugar Lake in northern Minnesota. In the winter we go to St. Augustine, Florida where we have a condo on the ocean so we have the best of both worlds - Sugar Lake in the summer and St. Augustine in the winter. Although it's been over 60 years I think of WKIC in Hazard with very fond memories.

Sunday, March 22

Part 9 ... There wasn't much to do in Paintsville - the movies and drug store for Cokes but not much else. Work was going ok except for a run-in with the program director at the Paintsville radio station. He made a couple of remarks about one of my shows and he and I had words but I promptly forgot about it; he didn't. I hadn't been home in Minnesota in over two years so I asked for two weeks vacation in mid-May. My idea was to leave work on Friday and be home on Sunday for Mother's Day. I only told my sisters the plan so it would be a surprise for my parents. I had them arrange to have a Mother's Day dinner at our house and I'd be there by noon. I left Paintsville at 11:00 and planned to drive straight through. I didn't get too far and had car trouble that delayed me several hours. I was in Wisconsin some time Saturday night and stopped at a drive-in. I had now been up 40 some hours and still had 6 hours to Minneapolis. I planned on staying overnight with my cousin and go on to Aitkin the next day. I had a sandwich and coffee and the waitress asked how far I was going. When I said Minneapolis she said, "You'll never make it." She talked me into taking an hour nap in the car and told me she'd wake me. I didn't really sleep but I did rest. True to her word she came to the car and I was on my way again. I got to Minneapolis around one Sunday morning. I drove to Aitkin the next morning. When I got to the house everyone was there and my mother was in the kitchen at the stove with her back to the door so she didn't see me come in. I walked up behind her and said "What's for desert, Mom?" (I never did ask what was for dinner. It was always what's for desert). She just stood there for the longest time and then we hugged and cried. This was Mother's Day 1950.

Friday, March 20

Part 8 ... Just before Christmas in 1949 I had two days off and went back to Hazard to see the guys at WKIC and to see Shirley; I really hadn't gotten over her. We had exchanged letters but they were bland and cold. She was working at Syles Jewelry on Main Street when I stopped in to see her and we talked a while. When I told her I wanted to see her that night she said, "Oh really - I have other plans." Now I was really crushed; I left. Since I didn't have anything else to do - I went up to see the woman who was like a mother to me in Hazard, Elsie Snyder. I told her of my problems and she offered me a beer, then two, and more. We sat around the whole afternoon drinking beer while she played the organ and I sang Christmas carols. She had a book of poems that I liked, The Best Loved Poems Of The American People. I remembered it from high school. I read poems and she played the appropriate music. We passed the entire afternoon drinking beer, singing, and reading poetry; It was a memorable afternoon. Two months after our afternoon together, I received a package from Elsie. In it was The Best Love Poems Of The American People. In the front cover she penned, "To my youngin'. May you reach your goal with a lot to spare." She also included this poem that I liked, "Prescription for Pride," "Carry defeat with a conquering air, lest passers pity, lest strangers stare/ Shelter sorrow in shimmering pride, lest friend deplore, lest for deride/ But weep, weep well when you're all alone/ Lest your heart congeal to as all cold stone." I didn't know it at the time but Elsie had breast cancer and died 19 months later; she was a wonderful person.

Wednesday, March 18

Part 7 ... The summer of 1949 passed all to quickly and soon it was September and I was driving Shirley back to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. Her first year in school, we wrote each other all the time as phone calls were far to costly. When she went back to school this time her letters were less frequent and the tone of the letters changed. I didn't know it at the time but she had found someone else at college. I wrote but she didn't. One Friday afternoon the Program Director - Charlie Metcalf came in and told me the manager - Fred Bullard wanted to see me in his office when my shift was over. I went in and I knew something was wrong when he shut the door. He never really looked at me and started telling me how things had changed in the last 6-8 months and how the mines closing had affected the station. He finally got to the point and said that I was going to be laid off - fired - effective in two weeks. I wasn't the only one. They also laid off the receptionist and the record librarian at the station. So in a period of two weeks I had lost my girlfriend and my job. I don't believe I have ever felt so low as I did at that time.

After feeling sorry for myself for a day or so I knew I had to figure out what I wanted to do. I had a few dollars saved but I knew that wouldn't last long. I had rent, food, and car payments to make and I was a thousand miles from home. I knew I wanted to stay in radio so I sent out resumes' as fast as I could to stations all over. There were no duplicating machines so I had to type each letter which was time consuming. I had been out of work for a week or two when I was talking to George Davis and he was on his way to Pikeville to play at the station there and he said why not come with him and apply in person at that station. Good idea. So while George did his program I talked to the program director. They didn't have any openings but I auditioned for him anyway. On the way back to Hazard George remembered a station in Paintsville and why not try there since it was only a few miles out of our way. We got there and I talked to the station manager and it so happened one of his announcers had just quit that day and he wanted to know how soon I could start. No audition or anything. That was on Friday and by Monday I was on WSIP. The station was owned by Howes Meade who had been a U.S. Senator for one or two terms and he set up WSIP as cheaply as possible. Where as WKIC was set up in the basement of the bank building, and had bright studios that had been built specifically for broadcasting, WSIP was located upstairs in an old department store. The studios were just three rooms that they just tore out a wall and put in some glass so you could see in from the control room. The news machine sat out in the hall along with a few records that made up the record collection. They were just piled up one on top of the another. All the announcer had records of their own that they used for some of their programs. Worst of all none of the studios were air conditioned. I only worked at the Paintsville station from October to May so I can only imagine what the summer months must have been like. But for all of it's faults I was happy just to be working again at something I liked.

The first week I was there a young girl came into the control room saying she had heard me and wanted to meet me. Her name was Barbara King. We talked awhile and she said she had dated the announcer that had just left. She invited me to a party at her house the following weekend. Since I had nothing to do I said yes as I was anxious to get acquainted in Paintsville. She met me at the station on Friday and we drove to her house. When we arrived I noticed there was no one else there but I just thought they would come later. When I asked her who else was coming she said, "just you." This bothered me since she looked like she was just 16 or 17 years old. I stuck around an hour or so. I was 21 at the time. Barbara kept coming to the station and I took her home a few times. I found out a little later that she was just 15 years old. It made me even more uncomfortable when I found out her father was the County Attorney. I immediately started looking elsewhere.

Monday, March 16

Part 6 ... 1948 ... I came to Hazard with just an old green wool suit and a sport coat. Even though I was only making $40 a week, the cost of living was such that I was able to finally get rid of the wool suit and buy some better clothes. By the end of 1948 I had three suits and several good slacks and sport shirts that I bought at Dawahare's on Main Street. One of the suits, as seen in the photograph, was a gabardine and patterned after the "zoot suit" that was popular then. The jacket was double breasted with lapels that came up past my shoulder. They were so long that I had to pin the lapel to the jacket to keep it from falling forward. There was enough material for two suits. I think I paid $75 for it which was quit a sum at the time. In the Spring of 1949 I had enough money for the down payment on a car. It was a 1940 Dodge Club Coupe. It had been well taken care of and I think I paid around $500 for it. I was really proud of that car.

I really didn't notice it at the time but in 1949 Hazard and all of Eastern Kentucky were experiencing hard times. When I was there in 1948 the mines were operating at full force and there was not that much unemployment but a year later that all changed. The mines that were operating were down to 3 or 4 days a week. People were leaving for work "up north" in Chicago, Detroit and Cincinnati. Businesses were beginning to fail. I came to work one morning to find a guy going through the garbage cans looking for food. I was in the Styles Jewelry store where Shirley worked one day and a little girl of 4 or 5 came in all alone. Her face and hands were dirty and her dress was torn and as dirty as she was, she had a note in her hand and she came up to everyone and handed them the note. It read, "please give my girl some money. We are starving and have no food to eat." This was another culture shock as I had never seen people go hungry. I did notice that there were fewer commercials and sponsors but it really didn't sink in to me as I was doing something I liked, I had my car and my girl. Shirley came home and everything was just like the summer before. Shirley was back at Styles Jewelry and time off was spent partying and now with the car - parking out. Click on image to enlarge

Sunday, March 15

We hope everyone is enjoying Max Smith's story on Hazard's blog from the past. As you can imagine, a lot of works goes into posting a blog each day, especially from the past. We'd like to hear from viewers if you would like for the blog to continue. We only have eight "followers" who have signed up so far but we are hopeful that there are many others who are reading who have not left any comments. Please sign up as a "follower" or click on the comments link and let us know you are out there. We may have bitten off more than we can chew trying to come up with a daily blog from the past. It is kind of a wild idea and we're not sure how much interest there is. Thank you.

One other note - it has been a great weekend and I have to admit the Wanderer has been cutting a rug at the VFW Club in Hazard. I'm posting a picture. It is hard to keep up with all the new dances but I enjoy trying and the VFW Club is the place to be on a Saturday night.

Saturday, March 14

Part 5 ... Sometime in 1948 another announcer left and his replacement was a Jewish kid from New York City by the name of Gerald Lenhoff. He was known as Jerry Leighton on WKIC in Hazard. Jerry was a very pleasant guy who was a born comic. He'd do anything for a laugh and it didn't make any difference if the audience was one or a hundred. He especially enjoyed breaking me up on the air. One time he came in when I was dong a record show and we started chatting on the air. After a while he said, "Well Don are you through?" I said "Yes I guess so." At that he leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Well then wipe yourself." Another time he came in just seconds before I was to go on with a commercial for one of Hazard's restaurants. He had it timed just right so just as I turned on the mic for the commercial he handed me a new commercial and said, "Charlie wants you to use this one rather than the one in the book." I didn't have time to review it so I started it cold. The first few lines were like any commercial but then it started to refer to the waitresses and I started to get suspicious. I paused and glanced at the next few lines. He had expanded on the waitresses attributes and started to describe their beautiful big busts and their cute behinds. I ad-libbed the rest of the commercial and somehow got through it. All the time Jerry was behind me snickering. When I finished I screamed at him and called him a few of the names I learned on the railroad. But the best stunt Jerry pulled was on George Davis - The Singing Miner. George was the WKIC celebrity that had two live shows a day. He sang the old mountain songs and coal mining songs he had written. He claimed he was the one that wrote "Sixteen Tons" and not Merle Travis. I don't know but I know George was singing it in 1948, long before Tennessee Ernie Ford made a big hit of it. George had a theme song that had words in it to the effect, "Just have chicken and I'll drop in for a spell." George always had a few people who would come to the studio and watch him do his show. This one morning a lady in the audience brought him a live chicken. It was in a gunnysack. George always finished his show with the hymn of the day. Jerry found out about the chicken and as George was in the middle of "Rock of Ages" Jerry came into the studio with the chicken in his arms and threw it up in the air. The chicken flew around the studio with Jerry chasing it. All the time George was trying to finish the hymn. Everyone but George thought it was hilarious. He was mad as hell and it's a good thing Jerry left the station before George was off the air. Jerry was dating an Italian girl from New York and after Jerry was here for a while she moved to Hazard. They were married in the Perry County Court House by Judge Taylor Witt. WKIC receptionist Elizabeth Warren was a witness. They had me and Shirley over a few times and this one time she had all the ingredients sent from New York to Hazard and made a pizza pie. I never dreamed that it would be as popular as it is today.

Friday, March 13

Part 4 ... 1948 ... I hadn't been in Hazard long and I passed the court house on a Saturday morning when I heard what I thought was an auction sale. There was a big crowd and I wandered over. On the top step was a boy of 10 or so and he'd read a passage from the Bible and the preacher would pick up on the reading and would pace back and forth and preach a small sermon. On the reading, he'd once again pace back and forth and jump up and down while he preached. The crowd would add the "amens." I saw the same thing on Sunday mornings when I opened up at WKIC. It was another culture shock. I had always attended the Congregational Church in Aitkin, Minnesota, and the most animated the Reverend Lenord got was when he would raise his voice and bang his hand on the pulpit; mountain religion was different. My mother and dad came to visit me the first year I was in Hazard and I took dad with me to the radio studios on Sunday morning. Sunday mornings were all taken up with half hour services purchased by various mountain churches. The first service that morning had a preacher that was completely bald and he was especially enthusiastic and he jumped up and down and paced back and forth while he delivered his sermon. When his half hour was over I gave him the signal to wind it up but he just kept going so I turned down his microphone and turned mine on to give the closing, "you have been listening to the Reverend so and so." At this time my Dad, who was sitting beside me, yelled out, "look at that ... they've got to carry him out." I shut off my mic and said, "Dad, quiet, I'm on the air." Knowing Dad it's surprising that he didn't have a few cuss words to say.

The summer of '48 passed very quickly and before I knew it Shirley had left to go to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. I caught a bus there a couple of times, but for the most part the only time I saw Shirley was Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. New Years (1948) was spent with some of her friends at O. G. Synder's house. O.G. was going with another of Shirley's friends and me and O.G. were close friends. I liked his mother and she became my "mother away from home." She was born and raised in "Bloody Breathitt" County, which adjoins Perry County. Helen's grandparents on her mother's side - the Banks - also came from Breathitt County and her mother was born there. Elsie Snyder was a wonderful person and when Shirley and O.G. went back to school, I'd go over to their place when I had time off. We'd sit around and have a beer or two and she'd tell me of her early days growing up in the hills. Just before midnight on New Years, O. G. disappeared and came back with shotguns, pistols, and boxes of shells. At midnight we all went outside and shot up in the air. You could hear other guns firing all around the town. It was their way of welcoming in the New Year. Click on the image to enlarge.

Thursday, March 12

Part 3 ... 1948 ... I was now broadcasting on WKIC in Hazard. I did record shows, news, sports and whatever else was on my shift. We didn't have much of a record collection but Fred Bullard's brother owned a record shop so we kept up with all the latest hits. Slowly I got to know a number of the local people; the station personnel helped me gain acceptance in Hazard. Hugh Dunbar was the Chief Announcer and he had a girlfriend - Rebecca Stiles. He was doing a show from the record shop, (I had been there about two weeks) and he called me from the store and said Rebecca had a friend that wanted to meet me. We met at Don's Restaurant. Hugh and Rebecca were there with her girl friend - Shirley Carson. We talked a while and then I had to go back to work but before I did Rebecca invited me to a tea at her house that weekend. Of course I accepted. I got my second culture shock at Don's. There were two young women next to us and one had a small baby that started to fuss. With no hesitation she unbuttoned her dress and lifted her bra and nursed the baby. It upset Shirley and Rebecca and they made a remark about those dumb "hillbillies."

That weekend after the tea I walked Shirley home and didn't ask her to go out again. After a few days Hugh asked me why I hadn't called Shirley as Rebecca had said she wanted to go out with me. So I called that night and we went to a show the following night. From then I was with her whenever I was free from work. She was a Senior in high school when I met her in May and she graduated in June. Her mother had graduated from Eastern Kentucky University and that's where Shirley was going in the fall. We spent the summer going to parties, movies, and the local swimming pool at the Bobby Davis Park. I got to meet a lot of local people through her.

We went to some of the dance halls in Hazard but they were on the rough side so you tended to mind your "p's" and "q's." I remember going to one where a poker game was going on in a back room and there was a pot that had more money on the table than I'd ever seen - many hundreds of dollars. I found out later that there were many professional gamblers in Hazard. There were also several F.B.I. agents in town and Hazard had a big bootlegging operation. Hazard is the county seat of Perry County and in 1948 it was a dry county, not that you couldn't get beer or booze but it was all controlled by the bootleggers. This was another culture shock - with bootlegging came the crime element. They use to say that you could find liquor anywhere but the Baptist Church. There was big money to be made transporting booze and it caused many shootings. I had lived all my life in Aitkin, Minnesota and really don't remember any shootings or killings but in Perry County you could count on one or two a week from bootlegging or old family feuds. I witnessed bootlegging up close one night when I was at the VFW Club. The VFW was located at the intersection of Main and High Streets where they came together in a "V." The building didn't have a rear or side entrance so they had to park on Main Street and unload in a hurry. Although the cops in Hazard knew the VFW served beer and liquor they looked the other way and it was allowed. However it wasn't so with the bootleggers themselves and the ones who transported it. To make the delivery as quick as possible they enlisted the aid of anyone who would help. I volunteered and went outside to assist them. There were three guys from the truck, one was up in the vehickle handing the cases down to his partner who then handed them to me and I passed them on. The third guy was the lookout. All of a sudden he yelled, "Here come the cops," as he spotted a car on High Street. The guy next to me yelled, "get the guns, get the guns." This was enough for me. I went back inside and finished my beer. I was just 19 at the time but had no trouble buying beer at the VFW or any of the taverns. The cops didn't see anything or just ignored it and keep on driving and nothing came of it but it just went to show how close violence was at all times. Something did come of an encounter when two bootleggers met one Sunday afternoon. Bootlegger "A" was out for a drive with his wife when he was stopped by Bootlegger "B." "A" got out of his car and ran around to get his guns from the trunk when "B" and his gang opened up with shotguns and machine guns. "A" and his wife were killed instantly. I saw the car in Hazard several times and it looked like the pictures of Bonnie and Clyde's car after it got shot up. The owner of one of the car dealers was also into bootlegging. One of his trucks got stopped with a load of beer coming into town. The cops took it to a garage since it was late at night when they stopped it. They left someone to guard it. Later that night the car dealer sent his people to the garage where they bribed the guard and unloaded the full beer cases and replaced them with empty beer bottles. The next morning when the Sheriff came all he had was a truck load of empty beer cases.

Wednesday, March 11

Part 2 ... 1948 ... I finally arrived in Hazard sometime after dark. I got off the bus in my green wool plaid suit. It was a hot spring evening. With my two old suitcases I started down the streets of Hazard looking for a place to spend the night. For it's size Hazard had a great number of taxi cabs. All the cab drivers stood on Main Street and I had to walk by them. Now Hazard was not the most cosmopolitan town but I know I looked like some hick from out of town. There were comments made but I just kept on walking. There were three hotels in town and the first two were filled. The last was a run down place at the end of the street and yes they did have a room. I took it. It was a mess and none too clean but at that point I'd have slept anywhere. There was a bathroom down the hall. It was noisy, but I slept soundly. The next morning I started looking for WKIC. In doing so it was back down the same street past the same cab drivers. To get to WKIC you walked down an alley and down the back stairs under the People's Bank. It was a hot morning and I was still wearing the wool suit and I was sweating when I went in. I was pleasantly surprised to find a brightly painted interior with air conditioning. The receptionist, Elizabeth Warren, was expecting me and took me in to meet the manager - Fred Bullard. He got the Program Director - Charlie Metcalf and Sales Manager - Dick Goodlette and I started feeling better all the time. The first thing they asked was where I spent the night and when I told them they started to laugh. It seems that I spent my first night in Hazard in Hazard's house of ill repute. The next thing Fred told me was that they wanted to give me a new radio name - and change my first name Max to Don. I would be Don Smith on WKIC. I hadn't thought of it but the "x" in Max and the "s" in Smith run together when you say them together. Also, although they didn't say it, but Max sounds Jewish. Don Smith was fine with me. They gave me the afternoon shift and I was to be on the air from 12 to 7 and every third weekend I opened up and worked the morning shift. I was to be paid 90 cents an hour, $36.00 a week or about the same as I made in the mines but here I was safe, clean, dry and doing something I really wanted to do. Fred had made arrangements for a room with an older couple just a block from the station on High Street. He took me to meet them. I stayed at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Tatum. He was retired and his wife worked at the post office. The first thing I did was to shave and take a bath which I really needed. I went back to the station and met with the announcer I was to replace. He was doing a record show at the time and we talked off the air a few minutes and when the record ended he introduced me and turned the show over to me. Just like that I was a radio announcer.

Tuesday, March 10

Max Smith, who would became a radio announcer on WKIC in Hazard in 1948, takes us back over 60 years. His trip to Hazard was his first time out of Minnesota and at the age of 19 he'll take us along for the ride. Would he experience a culture shock and how would he adjust to life in the mountains of East Kentucky? WSGS.com welcomes Max to the daily Hazard blog from the past. His story begins at his hometown in Aitkin, Minnesota when one of his friends told him about a Radio School in Minneapolis. Each day you can follow his journey on this blog. Please click on the comments section of each post to let Max know what you think.
Part 1 ... 1948 ... I had had enough of the mines to know that it was something I didn't want to do the rest of my life. The radio school cost $400.00 - just what I had in the bank so I made up my mind to go for an audition. I figured I could work part time to pay for room and board. Of course I passed. (I doubt if anyone ever failed). The first thing I had to do when we got to Minneapolis was to find a part time job to pay for bus fare and meals. There was a restaurant that specialized in pancakes and they needed someone to stand in the window flipping pancakes. So that's what I did for a week or so. When they hired a newer guy, he took my job and I started waiting tables. I made 50 cents an hour plus tips and two meals a day. I worked from 7 at night until 1 in the morning and then caught the bus and walked home. I started sending out inquires to radio stations in Minnesota. When I got little response I started writing stations all over the U.S. I must have sent out 50 inquires and a few audition discs but no takers. Finally school was over and I had no choice but to return to my hometown of Aitkin, Minnesota. Around the first of April I got a phone call from the station in Hazard, Kentucky. It was the station manager and they were in need of an announcer and if I was interested I could have the job. I accepted of course. I hadn't even asked the salary - I was so anxious to get into radio that I probably would have worked for nothing. Now --- where in the hell was Hazard, Kentucky? I found a map and there it was - way back in the Appalachian mountains just about in West Virginia. But that didn't make any difference - I was going to be a radio announcer. When I told my friends they were excited for me and said, "Kentucky - that's the state of beautiful women and fast horses" or is it "fast women and beautiful horses." I had never been out of Minnesota before even thou I had been on my own for over a year so this was the start of a brand new period of my life.

In mid April 1948 I was on my way to fame and fortune. At this time I owned very few good clothes. I had the sport coat I bought for the prom and a bright yellow sport coat I bought with the tip money I made working at Langfords Cafe and a couple pair of slacks and that was about all. I had two old suitcases that contained all my worldly possessions. It was fitting that as I walked out the door the radio was on and Arthur Godfrey was singing, "The Maori Farewell." song. In Minneapolis I caught the Hiawatha Limited to Chicago. I had been on the train from Aitkin to Brainard but this was a stream liner with a club car and dinning car. We left Minneapolis about 8 PM and got into Chicago early the next morning. I slept very little that night. I changed trains in Chicago and went to Lexington, Kentucky. As we crossed the border going into Kentucky I got the first of many cultural shocks. We stopped at a depot just across the border. I looked out and there was a sign over the drinking fountain "white only" and next to it "colored only." The same sign was over the restrooms. Up to then I had only met a few black people so I hadn't thought much about the differences in the races - much less about segregation. From Lexington I caught the bus to Hazard. Not to far out of Lexington we changed buses in Winchester. By this time I had been on the way for over 36 hours and was mighty tired and edgy. The Winchester bus depot was like a big warehouse with benches around the outside to sit on. It was dark, dirty, crowded and smelled and at that point it was exactly how I felt. Finally the bus to Hazard loaded and I got on. If the bus depot was dirty, crowded and smelled, the bus was even worse. The aisle was full of cigarette butts and looked like it hadn't been cleaned for months. I think everyone on the bus smoked (including me) and when they finished they just crushed them in the aisle. Not to far out of Winchester we starting climbing into the mountains. I found out later that the road to Hazard had only been built a few years earlier and prior to that the only way in (other than walking) was by train. The road wound up and down and around and around. Some of the curves felt like you were going to meet yourself. They were so tight. Most of the passengers were mountain people whose only means of transportation was bus. You saw very few cars by the houses. So the bus was always stopping to pick up and drop off someone. The bus would pull up at a wide spot in the road and there would be a path leading to a swinging bridge over a river and that led to another path that led up to a cabin. Almost all cabins had a front porch that was up on stilts with the back of the cabin on the mountain side. Most porches had a rocker or two on them. I was extremely interested in the things I was seeing on the trip but by now I was so tired all I wanted to do was to get to Hazard.

Monday, March 9

After the 1939 flood was all over, we started moving stuff back into our family business, Reda's Grocery, which is located at the end of Main Street in Hazard. My sister and I were lying across the bed in our parents' bedroom and a great big rat jumped across the bed! Our wooden floors are warped in some rooms and the mud is a real mess. Before the water got high enough to enter the building, my brother and his friend, Sidney Jett, shot at rats floating on pieces of wood from our kitchen window. The people on the rooftop of our store in the photo are from Ma Duke's Boarding House. Her building adjoins ours and they can easily step from their back porch onto our roof. One of the people on the roof is Sophronia (Fronie) Horn, Ma Duke's daughter. During the flood we stayed in a room at the Central Hotel. One could go on the Main Street bridge and see the rushing water carrying all kinds of debris.

Reda's Grocery is part beer joint and part meeting place for the coalminers and their friends. Although it is unusual for the races to mix, my parents (born in Italy) do not discriminate. Once when I was a young teenager alone in the store, a local police officer (his first name was Joe) came in and told me that we could not "serve colored." I told him that he would have to speak to my father. A few days later Ernest Faulkner, the City Attorney, came to the store for a beer, which he does quite often, and I told him about the police officer. Mr. Faulkner's reply was "Don't worry about him." That was the end of that.

As one first enters the store, you'll see an ice cream cooler. There's a candy counter, and a long counter where people drink their beer and/or soda pop, eat a sandwich and commiserate. Then there is the refrigerated case where we keep the meats, lunch meats, beer, milk, soda pop, cheeses, etc. This is in the middle of the store. Going on around to the left are the grocery shelves with all sorts of canned goods, sugar, coffee, beans, household items such as bathroom tissue, also snuff and tobacco products, cigars, etc. When you look through the front windows of the store, you can see the fruits, green beans, lettuce, cabbage, apples, bananas, and oranges. We also sell kerosene and carbide for the miner's lamps. We have a pot-belly stove in the middle of the store and a revolving fan from the ceiling.

We have an account with the Powell-Hackney Company located across the Main Street bridge. I think it is the son of one of the owners who is the salesman for Powell-Hackney. We buy our meat products through Asher McGuire and Leo Graef. The McGuire family live in Big Bottom and the Graef lives on Baker Hill. Then there is the soft drink and beer vendors. We buy Hudepohl brand beer from a woman salesperson who cries if Dad doesn't order. (So weird). We carry many brands of beer, including Red Top, Miller, Bruck's, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Weidemann and Bay Horse. We also have Red Top and Bay Horse Ale. Our soft drinks include the Nehi flavors of strawberry, and lemon lime, and we have Coca-Cola, Double Cola, R. C. Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Barq's root beer, lemonette, grapette, and limette. We've only had one fight in the store. It happened on a Saturday night. A man tried to cut his wife with a razor and she jumped behind our counter, so he only nicked her a bit on the neck. A week or so later, while he was in the shower at their home in Bluegrass Holler, she shot him dead.

Sunday, March 8

1939 ... I guess everyone is still recovering from last month's flood in Hazard. The water reached a depth of 30 feet and was surpassed only by the water of May 27th 1927 and a bad one back in 1890. Most serious to the majority of Hazard residents was the failure of the water supply. The water was off for about 48 hours but thanks to the continuous work of emergency crews, the system starting pumping again two days later. The flood waters reached a 30 foot crest about 4 p.m. on Friday February 3rd 1939. About 100 houses in the low Big Bottom and Blue Grass sections of Hazard were flooded, many almost completely submerged and furnishings destroyed. Two to four inches of mud left by the receding waters caused the most serious damage and will require months to clean. A dozen businesses and three filling stations near the intersections of East Main and High Streets were in eight to ten feet of water. Low lying sections near the Y.M.C.A. building were in water up to ten feet deep. East Main Street was under water nearly as far up as the Hobbs' Motor Service and Maple Street was inundated between the residence of Curt Combs and Mrs. Richmond Combs. Flooded basements on Main street caused thousands of dollars worth of damage. Moore Brothers Garage on the Walkertown Road was washed away and the upper side of the Mountain Auto Service was crushed. Nearly 100 mining families have been forced out of their homes by the flood. When the waters starting rising rapidly and it was evident they would reach the level on which the two giant motors sat at the Hazard Water Plant, it was decided to disconnect them. The motors, which furnish Hazard residents with their water supply, were taken loose from the pumps and moved to higher ground. Continuous ringing of the telephone by persons wanting to know how long before the water would be back on, kept one person busy at the water plant. An example was the lady who called Saturday afternoon. The following conversation took place. Lady: "City Water Company, this is Mrs. ---------- speaking. Will you please tell me when the water will be turned on?" Water Plant: "Probably tonight or tomorrow, as soon as possible." Lady: "I would like it very much if you would turn it on for about half an hour so that I may have some water to cook with." Water Plant: "We're sorry, but the motors are out and the electrical equipment is flooded. We may be able to turn it on late tonight." Lady: "I would appreciate it immensely if you would turn it on now as I only need a small amount." Water Plant: (after hanging up) "You and about 7,999 others."

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Saturday, March 7

June 1949 ... JoAnn, Joyce and myself are trying to find something to do until time to go down by the Sweet Shoppe, find us a booth, and play some good music while eating one of Nell’s good hotdogs. We had been to Steele’s Drug earlier and had us a good cherry coke and thought since we had made the rounds we would go up to my house on Liberty Street, and hope that Dwight Gross would come by. He was one of our favorites to keep company with. One thing about Dwight he was so bashful and we always hugged on him making him turn so beety red.We heard a odd sound coming from East Main and lo and behold it was Dwight turning up toward Liberty Street. The odd sound was coming from his brand new 1949 125 Harley Davidson Motorbike or Motorcycle. We had heard that he had bought it June 3, 1949, so it was brand new, at least to us, for we had never seen it, or really had never seen up close one of those machines.My granny was sitting on the front porch smoking her old clay pipe muttering to herself, “what is that honery critter doing, and I think a feller sots upon it, Idy, one would likely get kilt on that whatever you call it.” I told Granny that was only Dwight Gross coming to show us his new bike and to give us all a ride. Down off the porch we go, Jo Ann in front and she hopped up behind Dwight before he could say, “You all want a ride on my new Harley?” Joyce and I watched as they sped off, Jo Ann waiving at us left behind. Joyce asks me if I was going to take a chance and ride on it. I told her I definitely would not turn a ride down, but I was thinking about asking him to let me take a turn at taking it for a spin just me and his new Harley.I thought they were gone a little long but I reckon they had made a complete round of East Main down to Collins’ Market, turning in to Maple Street, whizzing on up Maple, to the Dr. Pepper Plant, then turning back down East Main Street and finally stopping between Joyce and I. Joyce decided she did not want to ride at this time but would try one later. That left me and I asked Dwight to let me take a stab at riding this Harley by myself. Now, he had just come from delivering papers up on Laurel Street, Pine Street, Lyttle Blvd. and Cedar Street and I knew he was tired. I told him he could rest and talk to Jo Ann while I rode just a little piece up Liberty Street and I would make a turn at the Liberty Street School House and come back down. Bless his heart I could tell he was wanting to turn me down but he let me go, and I had no trouble getting in the seat and starting it up, and I told him I would go slowly because all the neighborhood kids were out playing in the road and I surely didn’t want to skin one of them. What a ride, I had learned to get upon the bike, turn it on, but did not ask how to start and did not know the first thing about stopping this thing. I slowed down to almost a stop and knowing I had to stop I chose to siddle up to the steps of the Liberty Street School which not only slowed me down, it completely stopped me, skining the right side of my leg a little but when I picked up the bike, to my amazement and lucky, Dwight’s Harley was a little dusty but no dents as I could tell.I slowed down to a crawl and Dwight stepped out in front of me to stop me for I reckon he knew I didn’t know how to stop it. Granny was hollering over the bannisters, “Idy, git off that honery critter, fer you don’t have no insurance for riding something like that and if you break your limbs won’t you be a pretty sight all stoved up?” Granny always made sure she was in on what was going on on Liberty Street as all the neighbors will attest to. I threw her a big kiss into the air and she grunted a little and went right on back to rocking and smoking.Such was a priceless day marking memories with my friends, Dwight Gross, Jo Ann and Joyce in the Summer of 1949 ... (Update: Dwight married Janice Hurt and they live in Alabama. He worked for government contractors on space projects until he retired. Joyce passed away, leaving her husband, Jack Bellis, of Lexington, Ky. And JoAnn lives in Louisville, Ky.)

Friday, March 6

Take a walk down the streets of Hazard and you'll see some of the world's most interesting characters. There is Annie Mae and Bill. Annie works for Mrs. Dix who lives above "Jett's Jot 'Em Down Store." Then, there is Petsheep, a poor soul who would not harm a flea. She just roams the streets and alleys of Hazard with her knapsack flung across her shoulders making sure she doesn't miss one trash can. At the end of the day she heads home to Peach Street with her daily stash. I don't think she has to do this, but chooses to as she is from a good family. Silver-eyed Jane is a local resident and I don't believe anyone knows her actual name. Old Slim never bothers anyone. He sleeps under the Jett's porch and he often ventures into Ralph Reda's Grocery on East Main Street for what he calls a "cold bottle of beeah." (beer). His favorite is Red Top Ale. One arm Simon makes "hootch" under the garage at Seal Motor Company. He makes his brew in dry times and wet. He just doesn't care because he bootlegs for money to spend on his girlfriend. A lady by the name of Vernie came into the store looking for her boyfriend, who was married. She was told he had not been there and Vernie lifted her coat and pulled out a gun and said, "that's okay, when I find him I'll hang a bullet in his ---. Then there is old Cap Cantor who came from a very well known family in Hazard. He spends a lot of time on the riverbanks fishing. He is a good man and is well loved by everyone who loves to hear his fish tales. There is Mollie Cottontail who wears expensive hose but her perfume is not of the expensive kind. It might be "Blue Waltz" from Newberry's Five and Dime. How we know about her perfume so well is she once left her coat in Reda's Grocery for safekeeping one evening and the aroma lingered long after she was gone, say months. There is Mrs. Riley who had children by the score and it seems one of them was always hungry and she used nature's own bottle to satisfy the appetite of her young ones no matter where she was, in a store or on the street, or in the theater, she nourished her young brood to the chagrin of onlookers. "Pokey" is a local equestrienne who roams the hills and hollers always looking for her feller. She found him one day and he aimed and evidently aimed well as he put her in the hospital in Lexington where she remained for several months, only to come back to Hazard and take up with him once more. Many interesting characters visit Ralph Reda's store on East Main Street including Cross-eyed John Henry who comes by each day to serenade the other customers. If there is no one there, he serenades the walls. All he wants in payment is a cold bottle of beer. His entire musical score is the song, "Corinna, Corinna" and he shakes his leg, strums his guitar, and hollars, "Corinna, Corinna, where you been so long?" And he grins and shows his two teeth. There is Frank, a tall man with a handlebar mustache which curls up on both ends. He is a pack peddler who loves pimento cheese and smokes cigarettes out of a long holder. He enters the store asking for a nickel's worth of "tamato cheese" (pimento cheese) and he cautions the store clerk, Billie Reda, "Don't cheat me now." All the while he is blowing cigarette smoke through his mustache. A blessed soul is "Vernie" who roams the streets, hills and hollers in and around Perry County. It seems she never really had a home as she always is on the move. She has a "howdy" for the people she meets and loves to sing old hymns. One of her favorite places to sit and rest is high atop Gorman Hill, where if one would just listen, especially at dusk just before darkness settles in, they could hear the strains of her lilting voice that carries across town. There is "Hunky Steve" who pulls a little red wagon around Hazard with about three "slop buckets" resting thereon gathering scraps to feed his hogs. As he meets each person along his way, his standard greeting is "God bless you, God bless your soul." There is a man who identifies himself as "Dr. Jack Vice" who appeared on the scene one day. Nobody in town knows where "Dr. Vice" came from. However, he will occasionally produce a well-worn document (from his tattered and disheveled attire) which proclaims that he is from Liverpool, England and has the authority to prescribe herbal remedies for any and all ailments. He comes to Reda's Grocery on occasion to purchase a soft drink. To pay for his purchase, he turns his back to the store clerk and pulls a pouch from inside his pants. From this pouch, he pulls out coins and lays them on the countertop. One time a couple of young boys were in the grocery while "Dr. Vice" was drinking his beverage. They had heard it rumored that he could look at one's palm and diagnose any physical malady. Of course, these boys did not believe it and decided they would just test the good doctor and have a good laugh at the old man's expense. "Dr. Vice" took each boy's hand, studied the palm for a few moments and told them he knew exactly what their problems were. When they asked what the diagnosis was, the good doctor politely informed them, "Both of you are full of ----." He finished his drink and left the store with the boys' mouths' agape. Ida Lee Stacy Hansel, Billie Reda Sowers and Anna Mullins Smith contributed to today's blog.

Thursday, March 5

Nothing can be more pleasant to the ears than the sound of beautiful music, and our little town really puts the icing on the cake. Every day melodic sounds come from the chimes that are atop the Methodist Church on High Street. Every day when the old clock nears 5:00 p.m., all at once people hurrying here and there stop when they hear the sound of what I like to call, the ringing of the bells. After a day’s work is over and you’re tired to the bone, an old song lifts up the spirits as your steps get lighter as you sing along with Rock of Ages, Bless Be The Tie That Binds or Sweet Hour of Prayer. The sound of a good old hymn is so healing to the mind, and your cares seem to vanish at this precise time every day. The Methodist Church is the home of these chimes and sometimes people just pull over and park on High Street at the Church, I suppose to be nearer the hallowed place that send forth these soothing strains. Myself when the sound of the bells from the Methodist Church ring out, it is just like clockwork, for I know when the chimes play, it is time for my play to end, and as always, I start my descent down the hill singing along with the chimes, and a young girl doesn’t have too many troubles, but amidst the toil and trouble and cares of every day, I know it is a blessing to hear these chimes ring out from atop Hazard’s Methodist Church.Precious Memories, one of a kind.

Wednesday, March 4

Sterling Hardware has been around for a long time. During hard times in the '30's, my dad, Sebe Watts, lost his Brakeman job on the L & N Railroad. He eventually went to Coyne Electrical School in Chicago where he studied radio & refrigeration service & repair. Returning to Hazard he went to work for Sterling Hardware. He had a shop on the second floor. That was around 1936. Sterling is a good business selling everything, hardware, refrigerators, radios, sporting goods, toys, & bicycles. My first American Flyer electric train, basketball, football, and Converse basketball shoes all came from there. Dad, later went out on his own. Billy Douglas worked with him for a while just after he returned from the war. Back then if you made a phone call you talked to the operator and gave her a three digit number... During and after the war, rubber products were not available. Around 1945 or '46 Roy Eversole had to buy gym shoes for the Hazard basketball team that had synthetic rubber soles. We had just refinished and painted the gym floor. To our surprise the black synthetic shoe soles left horrible skid marks on the floor. After a couple games the floor was marked up so bad you couldn't use it. It was a tough job to clean up those marks. The new basketballs had synthetic bladders and they did not bounce very well, either. In the training room we had four big hampers of old shoes and stuff that had been discarded. I remember spending a lot of time trying to find shoes that could still be used. Don McGuire was the older team manager then, along with Jimmy Elkhorn. Hazard had a good team: Kern Price, Bobby McGuire, Jack Steel, and Bill Strong. Over the years, I knew Sammy Burke, Bill Barbeaux, Bill Zoellers, Howard Lusk, Dick Mitchell, Joe P. Ray, Bobby Cisco, and Garland Townes who later was a member of the great 1947-48 Kentucky Wildcat team. There was another guy in the group, Dick Mitchell. Tough kid. He went on to play for the U.K. Football team. I saw him play against Georgia Tech in Lexington in 1952.

Tuesday, March 3

1951 ... Here we are…my bestest friend, Joyce, who lives in Lothair is spending the day with me. When she comes we always head up the mountain to Birch Rock where we can spend time talking about our fellers, going over what’s happening at HHS, and tell each other the inner secrets of our soul. We walk out just a bit from Birch Rock and we look down on Lothair to watch the carnival set up. What a view we get from our perch! We make plans to go to the carnival, see the sights, and get lots of sawdust in our shoes. We’ve got two options to get to the carnival. One is walk up the highway, staying on the side away from the traffic, or cross over Woodland Park Bridge, and head into the dark railroad tunnel, dark, damp and scary tunnel that leads from Woodland Park to Lothair. My family does not own a vehicle and we always walk everywhere we go. Joyce thinks we had better walk up the highway unless Dad can go through the tunnel with us. We dare not venture into that dark crevice just the two of us. There are so many eerie sounds once you get into the heart of the tunnel. The water constantly drips from somewhere and the echo it makes could be the background of a good, monster movie. It’s best not to get caught in there when it is time for the L&N but we have many times and Dad instructed us to jump over near the wall of the tunnel and hug it as close as we can until we see the caboose at the other end of the tunnel. We pretty well know the L & N tunnel times, so we shy away as much as we can. You pretty much hold your breath til you see the light at the other end of the tunnel. WHEW!! When we walk up the highway we leave the house, go up East Main past the Howards, the Lykins, the Johnsons, the Heaths, the Maggards, the McGuires, the Shuttes, (this is only one side of my beloved street). Mr. Frost is always out front of his filling station, and we always stop and listen to his cautions for us, Pole Fields’ house sits on the hill. We always cross over at the Frost Filling Station and go past the Water Plant, waiving to Uncle Matt as we pass, past the Chat & Chew, then following the river up past the Dipsy Doodle Curve, and then the Power Company is in sight, and just up the way will be the carnival. We have made our plans to use the highway route this time. The sun is beginning to slowly move over the mountain and Joyce and I both know that we need to head back down to Big Bottom. It is suppertime as we see the smoke from all the chimneys rising upward and the aroma coming from the kitchens below make us ever so eager to start our way down the mountain.It’s always a good day when two friends can make plans to go to the carnival and route out the perfect way of getting there. This is what Joyce and myself accomplish on this day in the Summer of 1951.

Monday, March 2

1942 ... The Sweet Shop is located on the left of the Virginia Theater entrance. You can buy Cokes and popcorn and take them into the theater. If you are inside the theater the ticket girl will let you go out and buy something and then let you return. Everybody knows each other. The Virginia Theater has a balcony that is divided, white on one side and black on the other. No blacks ever sit in the main theater. The Family Theater has a Midnight Show on Saturday night. It starts about 11:00 pm. Usually four or five of us kids will go together for security, maybe once a month. It is always monster movies - Frankenstein, Dracula, or Wolf Man. I don't think those are too scary, but some of the others are. The Cat People and the Human Monster are very creepy. We all stay close together on the way home. A woman was recently murdered on Baker Hill which is on everyone's minds. We enjoy the funny guys like Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Laurel & Hardy, etc. The adventure and war movies are great, but the Westerns are our favorite. We realize the cowboy with the white horse or the white hat, or a shiny nickel plated Colt and a fancy rig is always the good guy. Tex Ritter, Bob Steel, Don Red Barry, Bill Elliot, Johnny Mack Brown are our heroes. After seeing the horse opera movies at both theaters, we go home and grab our cap pistols and become cowboys ourselves. There is just something about the horses and the guns and the excitement. Everything in the Westerns are black & white, good or bad, and the good guys always win and the bad guys always lose, always. The new full length cartoon movies are big hits. Snow White, Pinocchio, Gulliver's Travels, etc. Errol Flynn's Robin Hood is big. Rita Hayworth and Glen Ford in Gilda. Alan Ladd & Veronica Lake are sensational. I think at one time or the other, I've been in love with every movie actress on the screen. Be sure to click on the image to get a close up view of the Virginia Theater.

Sunday, March 1

1945 ... The sun is streaming through my open window, Granny is still asleep in her featherbed and I have a big day planned. I am going up the hill near the top where my hide-away is waiting. There are times I just want to go and spend time there alone, well not alone for I have my forest friends who hide and watch me as I make believe. The water tank looms over my hide-away and I feel safe and secure amid the majestic trees standing guard.I bid Mom good morning, packed me a little brown poke of goodies and was on my way. However, my little neighbor, “Cager” Napier was watching me as I started my climb up the hill. He darted out from his yard and started following me, “Idy, I want to go too.” “Please let me come play too.” I cautioned him that his mother, Jo, would skin both of us if I let him follow me up the mountain, cause he was still too little to venture that far from home, even with me. I directed him back home, stood my ground til I was sure he was safe in his yard, then I continued on up the mountain. Huffing and puffing, I reached my hide-away, a big moss covered rock. The birds flitted to and from welcoming me for they knew I was no stranger. I had been here too much. I could look over the rock and see almost all of Big Bottom below me. I watched Mr. and Mrs. P. L. Johnson get into their 1938 Plymouth and pull away, probably going to the A & P. The aroma from the Bakery filled the mountain air. I laughed as I looked down and watched Denver, Ralph, and G. I. step outside the hot bakery for a breath of cool air for they had no idea that someone was watching them from atop the mountain. My eyes wandered to Maple Street as I saw Mrs. Doc Adams busying about in her flower garden. Roy and Minnie Baker were up and sitting on their porch. Ma Brewer was watching as swimmers were headed toward the Brewer Hole to cool off. I stopped peeking on Big Bottom and turned around, “I am going to be a movie star today.” I could be whomever I wanted to be there in the shelter of my hide-away. Who I was depended on the movie that I saw on Sunday. Most of the time it was a good musical. I was a master of pretending and I sat about reliving and doing a scene or two from the movie I had seen. It was such a good day and so complete to be a young girl living in a place called Big Bottom, and yet being carried away to a place called Hollywood or New York.I stepped out from my hide-away to look down on my street below to see what my folks were up to. There they all sat on the porch, smoking their pipes and blowing smoke rings into the air. OOPS, one was dipping snuff. Next door, Mary had Jack laid across her lap and was making sure he had no blackheads on his face. Back into my fantasy world, I sang and danced and pranced around on my rock until I was getting tired and I knew it was time for me to head down the mountain, back to the hustle and bustle of the sleepy little town called Hazard, and best of all, Big Bottom, the bestest place to be alive, thirteen and making believe.