In 1943 Howard Hughes' new movie blockbuster "The Outlaw" came to Hazard. It was well advertised and publicized for months before it arrived. And we were all right down there on "Cowboy Row" with our cap pistols. We had seen all the movie previews, newspaper ads, billboards and now it was finally here. I'll admit it was a pretty racy movie for its time. But for a twelve year old movie fan I thought it was a flop. Jack Beutel was no Clark Gable and Jane Russell was no Vivien Leigh. Beutel as Billy the Kid was unbelievably corny. Jane Russell was O.K. but she had this shrill high pitched voice that caused you to wince every time she spoke. When I left the theater I wondered what all that hype was about. What a loser. I probably would have liked it better if I had not already seen Robin Hood, Stagecoach, Tarzan, Beau Geste, Sherlock Holmes, Drums along the Mohawk and GWTW. My buddies and I were not impressed and we didn't go home and play Cowboys and Indians the rest of that day. Jane Russell went on to be a Hollywood Super Star, but Jack Beutel made one more movie and then disappeared.
Reading the news of Jane Russell's passing brought back the memories, once again, of the all the hours we spent in the Virginia and Family theaters watching all those old movies. Not realizing at the time that we were actually being educated to the ways of the outside world eons away from a small Eastern Kentucky town buried way back in the hills. What would we have done without all those old black & white Horse Operas and Serials on Saturday. Tex Ritter, Don Red Berry, Zorro, Flash Gordon, Tarzan. Those were our big stars. Even now we can tune in to TCM and still relive all those old adventures just like it was yesterday. I enjoy living in the past. I, often, think about Hazard in the 30s and 40s. Riding our bikes all over town, hiking through the mountains, swimming in the Kentucky River, sledding down the hills in the winter, even playing basketball in the old Hazard High Gym which was the center of the universe to us kids. Listening to the "Grand Ole' Opry" on the radio on Saturday night. And all the unforgettable characters that I grew up with. Cheerleader Lois Faye Lusk, and her brother, Howard. Ball players like Garland Townes, Jack Steel, Sammy Burke. Coaches like the great Roy Eversole and Pop Collins. The Roll twins and Troop 100. Cromwell Sluder and his tire recapping shop. I enjoyed a lot of lunches at Ma Combs restaurant. Window shopping the Sterling Hardware electric trains at Christmas time. I remember what a great thrill it was to go across the bridge to the L&N Railroad station and climb aboard the passenger train to Lexington. Even now, when we have a snow storm I can still see the cars trying to get up Baker Hill with those chains on the rear tires. Yes, those were the "good ole" days" and I was fortunate to enjoy them all.