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.


  1. Carlene ShackelfordMarch 12, 2009 at 11:16 AM

    I was living a sheltered life in l948 so I did not know about the bootlegging. These blogs by Max Smith are very interesting. I was about 12 years old at this time and do not remember much of this so it is really fun for me to read it now.

  2. I was 14 in 1949 and didn't yet have my Whizzer Motor bike (and a yellow Harley 125 motorcycle later on) so I was peddling around the Backwoods from my home on Cedar Street by bicycle. I was pretty sheltered, too, like Carlene. In fact, I didn't really know much about anything except basketball, Lionel trains and later motorcycles and French horn (which I have played for 59 years, still have trains and a motorcycle! Nothing much has changed, it seems. I relish these blogs about early Hazard! Thanks for all the comments! Joe Baker