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.