It was near midnight. Rain had been pouring for hours. Four weary, sleepy, tired soldiers came up the stairs of the Hazard Service Men's Club, following the janitor who had met the last bus from Lexington.
One soldier was from Mousie over on the Beaver Creek side of Knott County. He had only four days to get from Camp McCain Mississippi to Mousie and return in order that he might see his wife and mother. Time meant a lot to him.
Another of the four was from Neon, far up in the upper end of Letcher County. Another from Wooton, in Leslie County and the fourth from Delphia, in the Leatherwood country, up near the Harlan County line. Not a one of the four could find transportation out of Hazard that night.
They were grateful for the accommodations of the club. When they found free cold drinks they were thankful. All were sober and courteous, proud of the uniform they wore and with a feeling that somebody in Perry County had looked ahead and provided for the service man who may be stranded in a strange town.
Some of these boys could have gone to a hotel, probably and spent the night. Some of them didn't have the money, or at least could not well afford to spend the little amount left from their small Army pay.
Two others had registered earlier in the night and were sleeping soundly, after taking a hot shower and crawling into a nice clean bed. They appeared at the club wet from head to foot, with water standing in their shoes. They had hitch-hiked twelve miles in the rain, finally catching a ride into Hazard. They wanted to know "how much it cost for rooms there."
In looking over the register kept by the club hostess, I learned that more than 2,100 different boys have registered at the club, with hundreds of them returning numerous times to take advantage of the club's accommodations. The number who have spent the night there is approaching the thousand mark rapidly. The club was opened last October.
Some of the boys may have been forced to walk the streets, cold and hungry, if the club had not been there. We will never know the exact number who went out of Hazard with an undying feeling of gratitude for the thoughtfulness of the people here providing a place for them to spend the night.
This club is maintained by donations from a small number of business and professional people. Money comes from Hazard with some donations from the outside. It takes about six thousand dollars a year to operate the place.
An interesting book could be written dealing with the experiences of the boys who have found rest and comfort at our little club here. 1944