Saturday, October 31

I was watching Dancin' With The Stars tonight and my daughter said, "what would Auntie say if she were here and saw these scanty outfits and the throwing of legs, etc?" At that I left the here and now and my mind went racing back to that night on Liberty Street in the 60's when we all were sitting around our tv watching the Glen Campbell Show. I forget who the dancer was but my Auntie and Granny had sat down to watch the show with us. Bear in mind they were not tv watchers and it was "of the devil".

The ballet dancers were great and they faded back a little and he picked her up above his head and in pure form there she was giving it her all; Granny about fainted as she said, "Lordy, Lordy, Laura, have you ever seen sich a sight, she's pite-nite naked, dancin' round in her "shimmey shirt and drawers". Auntie started squirming and her mouth was moving but nothing was coming out. My young daughter (who is now 55) thought Auntie was having a "fit". About that time he brought her down and lifted her back up and put his hand in under her to obtain a good stance and all Hell broke lose at 109 Liberty Street. Auntie jumped up, grabbed Granny, all the time letting me have it, "Idy, turn that devil machine off, not fit for youngans or old folks" Granny chimed in, "Idy, never saw sich vulgar dancing in my life, why she was half naked and that twern't enuf for that feller, he had to grab her by her crotch and lift her above his head again....mercy, mercy, land sakes a-live, them youngans don't need to see sich as that, turn it off, turn it off...hey, Matt, put yore foot through that thang right now." Uncle Matt just laughed and kept on puffing on his pipe. Honest, I liked to have never calmed them down to listen to what they really saw. Bless their hearts they were in golden years both of them and I think this was the first show they had seen and I look back with their eyes and it must have been nerve-racking to them.

Anyhow, that was then and this is now and they would have both passed clean out I am sure to see some of the costumes and dancers of this day and time. They are both long gone but their reaction to their first ballet dance we will never forget.

Wednesday, October 21

60 Years Ago

The Grand Vue Drive In Theater opened on October 22, 1949, under the management of J. C. Amusement Company, a partnership of Gene Combs and Dick Johnson. This was before television found its way to eastern Kentucky.

“Blue Lagoon," a 1st run Technicolor movie starring Jene Simmons, was the first feature shown at the Grand Vue, which was located on the Combs Road in the Airport Gardens section of Perry County. The price of admission was 49 cents for adults, children were admitted free, and the lot held a capacity of 300 autos. At that time, there were only a few residents in the area, no hospital, schools, or businesses. The Grand Vue was the first of its kind in the Hazard area.

The 1957 flood, which got two feet over the top of the concession stand at the Grand Vue, brought about a lot of changes. The screen was enlarged for Cinemascope to 60 x 80 feet, to make it the largest in eastern Kentucky. Also, the sound system was converted to stereo and the lot was enlarged to handle 500 vehicles.

When the screen was first erected, the J.C. Amusement Company received a bit of static from the federal Aeronautics Association in Washington. The screen supposedly interfered with the flight traffic pattern of the nearby airport. The Grand Vue owners were told to tear down the screen. In arguing that the screen offered no obstruction, Dick Johnson told the Federal folks, “If they (the pilots) fly into it and that doesn’t kill them, we will.” The controversy soon died down and business went on as usual.

In 1957 - Kenneth Zimmerman took over as manager and maintained the position until his retirement in the spring of 1975. His wife, Goldie, put in her share of the work wherever needed. In the earlier years, this job was handled by co-owner Gene Combs, Ken’s brother-in-law, and, the concession stand was operated by Gene’s wife, Katie.

According to Gene Combs, who bought out his partner, Dick Johnson, in the mid-60’s, Hazard's Grand Vue was the first drive-in this part of the country to play first-run movies. One of the first major features was “Samson and Delilah.” Traffic was backed up for several miles in each direction – as far as the Colonial Club on one end and past Combs on the other end – with people waiting to get in to see this film.

Other popular movies included: “The Ten Commandments,” which ran for five days; Walt Disney’s “The Shaggy Dog,” and “Gone With The Wind,” which ran several different times over the years. In the early '70s “Walking Tall,” drew a huge crowd.

On one occasion, a nearby auto accident knocked out a power pole that affected only the sound system at the drive-in. However, this caused no alarm, nor refunds because the film happened to be a silent one, Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights.”

The Grand Vue offered the people a form of entertainment other than movies. Country music and western celebrities of the day came to Hazard to perform from the top of the concession stand. Among those bringing their stage shows to the Grand Vue were: Flatt & Scruggs, Johnny Mack Brown, Lash LaRue, Don Red Barry, the Carter Family, featuring June Carter Cash and Mother Maybelle, and the Carter Brothers. One Flatt & Scruggs show, which was taped by the NBC network drew 1,500 people. The Ink Spots, the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, Actor - Fuzzy Knight, Smiley Burnett and Tim Holt also made personal appearances.

The Grand Vue owners were also community minded. They offered their facilities to the Perry County Ministerial Association and the public for the purpose of Easter Sunrise Services for many years. The annual fireworks display was an event people looked forward to each 4th of July. Some will remember their "dusk to dawn" shows when the public was treated to five different movies. Then there was a period where the drive-in was used as a race track for go-carts on weekends, known as the Grand Vue Speedway.

Every Walt Disney film ever produced was shown "first run" at the Grand Vue. Surprisingly, Disney films were the most expensive to obtain. One in particular, “The Shaggy Dog,” proved to be the most expensive of all because the distributors forced theaters to charge 50 cents for children and required 50 per cent of the gate.

The end of an era came in 1977 when the Grand Vue Drive Theater ended its long run of nearly 30 years. The fence, marquee, concession stand, screen, playground and speakers were all dismantled to make way for progress. The Grand Vue Plaza Shopping Center would be built here.In recounting his memories of the Grand Vue’s performance, Gene Combs stated that they, the management, “enjoyed seeing so many people and made a lot of acquaintances and friends over the years.” They employed an average of ten people during each of the March 1 – November 1 seasons. The employee of the longest tenure was Mrs. Emily Emeurer, who was the concession stand cashier for over 20 years.When the Grand Vue opened in 1949, the price of admission was 49 cents. Rising costs and inflation forced them to to increase the price of admission to $2.00 by the 1970s. Children under 12 were still admitted free.The last movies ever shown at the Grand Vue Drive In were seen on March 13th 1977, a double billing – Clint Eastwood starring in “Hang ‘em High,” and Max Baer’s production of “Ode to Billy Joe.”

Monday, October 12

"Evening Fellers"

It was around 1950 and I was in High School. Everyone was wondering what they were going to dress up as to go here and there for Halloween. Hazard's Main Street always was the place to go and see everyone. Honestly, it reminded me of the Easter Parade on 5th Avenue. Well, I was determined to really have a good one lined up for this one. Mom dressed up like an old Hobo, Dad was dressed up like a fine young lady, and me, well, I had to hide to get myself ready for my surprise.

My good friend and I were hatching up an idea that had been circling in our brains for a day or two and we figured Halloween would be the night to carry this plot out. You see, her Dad had been visiting The Wheel that sat on the corner of Main Street, an eyesore for the community, most would say, and my Dad had admonished me, "don't you walk by that place, cross the street, and when you get by that honky-tonk then you can recross and continue on your way." Well, I didn't listen to him at all and I was determined to show him how wrong he was about just walking by this place of business. So, I did, and guess what, a fight had commenced inside and it sounded like all Hell had broken loose. My heart raced and I started to cross the street and as I did someone inside threw a pepper shaker at someone leaving and it hit me square in the head. After a long I told you so conversation I promised never to pass that place again.

I did not, always crossed over by Ishmael Stacy's Gas Station, but the more I thought of this place and the things I had heard about its reputation, the more I was intrigued by it all. In talking with my friend, she and I decided to dress up that night and try our hand at getting inside this awful place of ill repute. We were just teens, "skeered" stiff really, but wanting to see what there was about this place that made it bear the name of a place of ill repute. We knew we had to look much older and decided we could not do that as girls so we dressed up like two old men, ragged but clean old men, with pipes, mustaches, the works, along with two hats that I slipped out of the house belonging to Uncle Matt. We looked good, and passed the test when we walked down our street and were greeted with "Evening fellers".

Off to The Wheel we went. Needless to say things were abuzzing inside, and we were lucky because the smoke filled room gave us a good curtain to pull off getting in and out without any trouble. We sat down at a booth near the door so we could run and the waitress came and took our order, two root beers with lots of ice. Looking at us with a funny frown, she headed to get our order. She walked right up to this nice looking dude, who looked like he had just stepped out of a magazine, got a little too close for my friend because, you see, that was her Pop. She was telling him something because she pointed at us and we knew something was in the air. My friend was ready to high tale it out the door when guess what???? Coming through that door was my Mom and Pop dressed as I stated above. The smoke was like a thick fog coming in off of the ocean, and we could tell they were looking for someone because this was not the place they would be either. I heard my mother in a deep voice that she could do, "Lookin' fer two teens who are out of place in this establishment, have you seen anyone like that?" They didn't get the chance to find us because on a whiff of the smoke we got lost in the haze and made it to the door. Both of us considered ourselves very lucky because we would have gotten a good whomping for entering this "evil place".

This is not all. We were standing down the street toward Reda's Grocery and I saw my half sister who was working at the A & P coming down the street. She was going to catch the train for her ride home to Jeff. My Mom and Pop siddled up to her and my Mom put her arm around her and said, "How about a date, you good looking thing?" My sister who had no idea who this was hauled off and belted my Mom knocking her back and Pop caught her. What a surprise when my half-sister discovered that she had just knocked her Mom out, almost anyhow. Apologies brought tears and then tears turned to laughter and that Halloween night went down in history for us. Now, where could this have happened but in Hazard Ky on a cold October Halloween night?

Tuesday, October 6

Fathers and mothers, soon another Halloween night will roll around. I know many of you are planning some type of party for the little ones, please don’t forget the larger kids from 12 and up – plan something for them also. Don’t leave it up to them to find their own amusement on this occasion. Did you ever stop to think that it could cause trouble? I am sure with the proper instruction in regard to what Halloween night should be, you will never have any regrets in regard to what kids do. I can recall in my boyhood days that many things were done on this night that caused people to suffer from it. For instance, turning over their outhouses, taking the wheels off their wagons, today it would be taking the wheels off their cars. It would be pretty hard trying to turn over the present day out houses, most are built in the house itself. Regardless if it was twenty five years ago to the pranks that were played on this night, it still will cost the owner as much or more to replace today. As a word to both old and young, please heed to the occasion of being considerate of your deeds on this coming Halloween night. Kids have a big time on this gala event, remember that dollars don’t grow on trees. You could cost some poor soul his or her monthly security check. Please be careful, have your fun, lets do it in the modern way of education. 1957