Friday, May 15

The railroad in Hazard was once a gathering place up and down the river for friends to meet at train time. Nobody was going any place, it was just something to do or a place to go, they wanted to see if any strangers got off the train at that point. Believe me if he wasn’t known, they usually found out his business before he got to the boarding house. Today we call them hotels and motels. I can recall when we had a passenger train leaving Hazard that had a chair car, a private room if you wanted it, plus a Pullman car with upper and lower berths. I have had the privilege of using them all. In those days a good many drummers used the train. Today they are called salesmen, or representatives of their firms. After reaching Hazard they would hire a horse and buggy to haul their samples to various stores in the area, which some times I am told would take them a week to call on so few merchants.

Times have changed a lot since those days. I have heard a lot of comments that if the Railroad had a good passenger train out of here it would be used. Maybe so. I don’t know. Since the day of the automobiles, our highways have been so crowded, and it is possible that a good train could offer better transportation. At least it might be safer.

Speaking of the changing times, I have heard the Railroad blasted from here to yonder because they went to using oil for fuel instead of coal. I will admit they don’t sound just right with this type of fuel being used. I must say look and listen before you make a crossing over any railroad tracks anymore. These darn diesels will slip upon you without any puffing of steam and etc.

We can’t argue one clause without the other, Railroads went to oil, household users changed from oil to electricity. Now you can flip a switch and you have lights. I can recall carrying a coal oil lamp to bed, always being cautioned, “don’t drop or break the globe.” Or you could even go farther back when pine knots were used for lights.

Around the cycle goes and where it will stop I am sure no one knows. Yes folks, the times have changed so often in such a short span of time. I often wonder if we really appreciate what we have today. 1961


  1. I love Roscoe's use of the old school terms like "drummers" which were salesmen, and "boarding houses" which were motels and hotels. Anything else stick out in this one to you? I thought it was a great story with everyone in town soon learning the business of a traveling salesman. Come on people, post your thoughts. We want to hear what you think.

  2. Roscoe, you would be sad because they have torn down the "gathering place" you so fondly speak of. But, I have not forgotten the Sunday rides I got to take on the passenger train; from Hazard to Typo where we would enjoy family fun with Ruth, Aunt Stella, and Dorothy; or maybe from Hazard to Jeff, where we would go on up to Kenmont Aunt Pearl, Ben, Jimmy, and Anna; I couldn't wait for the Conductor to walk through the train hollering out the little places we were coming into, and one I remember so well was "Sunfire, all out for Sunfire". I bet not many remember that. The "drummers" were many and their suitcases with their wares were neatly placed by the seat in which they were sitting. Some of them were dressed like "dudes" and yet some were just "hawkers", "panhandlers", and fellers trying to make a living by bringing into the mountain towns the latest in "doo dads", "what-cha-may-call-its", and "trinkets".

    Really, if Roscoe could have seen "The Music Man" he would have loved it, watching Professor Hill as he by hook or crook outdid the other panhandlers.

    The Hazard Depot is etched in my memory as a "gathering place" to see and be seen, to swap recipes, new babies, and to watch the parade of fashionable ladies and gents, some wearing the finest in hats, etc., oh, yes, and then watching the crowd thin out as the Conductor yelled "all aboard" and as the train pulled out of the old depot, the locals heaved a heavy sigh and soon the station was empty except maybe an old dog sniffing to see if he could find a trace of a bite to eat that someone had dropped. Yep, Roscoe, your vision of a change has made it, and progess seems to be moving Hazard right along.

  3. I remember going down to the train station just to watch the train come in. During the war, there was a sign right where you crossed the bridge that said, "IS THIS TRIP NECESSARY?" In wartime, it was considered unpatriotic to travel unless it was absolutely necessary. There was one of those signs at the bus station, too.

    Believe it or not, Hazard had better public transportation than most towns have today. I live in a town in Tennessee that is very much like Hazard. I can't get on a bus, or a train or even hire a taxi. In Hazard you had all of those choices even in 1940. I often rode the train between Blackey and Hazard. Blacket was a dinky little town in those days, but it had railroad passenger service. So did Neon, Whitesburg, Prestonsburg, Harlan and just about any other town you could mention. Compared to that, we are back in the dark ages.