Tuesday, June 11

God Bless You, Honey


One of Hazard’s greatest street characters of all time was a man known only as “Steve”. In the 1940’s and 50’s he would parade up and down Main Street saying hello to every person that he met. He was high-spirited man and new visitors to Hazard from other places just didn't know what to make of him and his hyperactive behavior. But, the Hazardites who knew him and loved him were not disturbed by his strange antics.


      He had a fine moustache and it was always groomed to perfection. His face was hardened by the rigors of many long years in that he had numerous wrinkles and an over-abundance of aging lines. Obviously, he had been affected by too much work during his time. Or, perhaps, he just spent too many hours under the Sun. In any case, his countenance was badly weathered.

      Steve was Slavic in nature and he spoke broken English with a very strong dialect. People who knew him better than I did have said that he came from some Country in Europe’s Middle East, either Romania or Hungary. His best friend on the street was Moses Lasslo, a shoe maker. If a rain storm passed over the mountains, he would take refuge in Lasso’s Shoe Shop and Lasso’s Jewelry Shop which was run by Mrs. Lasso, mother of Jay Lasso.

      His daily route would begin at the Railroad Depot Bridge and it would end at the old Greyhound Bus Depot or the US Post Office, depending upon which side of the street that he was on, either the Eastward or the Westward. He liked to meet and greet every new bus that came into town. And, it wasn’t too much longer before he was dubbed as Hazard’s one-man-greeting spokesperson.

      He would pace up and down Main Street on both sides of the road, (riverside and hillside) saying to each of the pedestrians this same identical expression; “God bless you honey. Gimmee a nickel.” And, as a result of his comical appearance and his magnanimous smile, most people would dig deep into their pockets and purses to give him his token request, a 5-cent coin.

      I learned how to judge people by watching old Steve work the streets. The richer ones who cherished a nickel most would cross the street in order to avoid him and his repartee. The poorer ones, like myself, would give freely exactly what he asked for, a five-cent piece. And, the children of Hazard, they would stand in line to make a proper donation.

      We citizens of Hazard and all of the people from the outlying regions were completely awed by this man’s audacity. That was the way that it was when everybody came to Hazard town for shopping on Main Street. It was truly the best of Hazard’s Glory Years and I shall never forget them, not ever.

      “God Bless you Honey. Gimmee a nickel” became his slogan and, as I said, people couldn’t wait to make a contribution. He had an old fedora which he would remove from his head and it would serve as his coin collection container. Maybe that is why he was so strongly sun-tanned, who knows?

      He was much older than I when I knew him during the 1940’s and 1950’s. And, I believe that he died while I was at UK in about 1956. But, the salient point is this particular statement. The Sheriff was asked to search his little shack near the Bluegrass part of town. His clapboard living quarters rested very near the L&N railroad tracks where no one else in the whole wide World would want to live. I think that he camped-out on Railroad property but I am not completely certain about the separation lines.

      In any case, the Sheriff discovered a cache of $10,000 and it was all in nickels. They used the money to pay for his funeral since he had no known descendants. But, he didn’t die as a pauper, did he? I was much impressed by the lesson that he taught each of us. “Save your money kid or you’ll end up like little old me.” He was Hazard’s only street beggar and I loved that old man. Does anyone know his proper surname?

15 comments:

  1. Good memories of Hunky Steve...with his handle bar mustache and that long cigarette holder. I thought he was a "Dude". He looked like he had just stepped out of a picture. He made his way daily to Reda's Grocery and Billie has some good stories on him and another fellow that was known as Dr. Vice.

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    1. Now I have to change the above as I got two of our favorite characters mixed up when I in haste worte the above comment. You see, there was Hunky Steve, who had two daughters, I thnk and did live near the tracks; the other was Frank who was stately looking, smoke a cigarette from a big holder, and appeared to be educated or I thought. He looked like the Dude. Frank is the one who made daily trips to Reda's to get a nickles worth of pimento cheese and he would tell Billie, "now don't cheat me now". Sorry for mixing the two characters of Hazard past mixed up. Beg your pardon, Charles.

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  2. TO IDA LEE, CHARLES, AND SHANE: I REMEMBER "HUNKY STEVE" WELL. I THINK HE WAS HUNGARIAN, HENCE THE SOBRIQUET "HUNKY." I REMEMBER HIM AS ALWAYS SAYING, "GOD BLESS YOU" FOLLOWED BY "GOD BLESS YOUR HEART." HE CAME INTO OUR GROCERY STORE (RALPH REDA GROCERY) ALMOST DAILY, PULLING A WAGON ON WHICH WAS A RATHER LARGE BUCKET CONTAINING "SLOP" WHICH HE WOULD GATHER, I KNOW NOT WHERE, FOR HIS HOGS. YES, HE WAS MARRIED AND LIVED IN THAT HOUSE BY THE RAILROAD TRACKS; HE HAD TWO CHILDREN LIVING THERE, MARTHA AND HER BROTHER, KNOWN AS JUNIOR BAILLIS. BAILLIS WAS THEIR SURNAME. WHEN MARTHA, AT A VERY YOUNG AGE, MARRIED AN OLDER MAN NAMED "PEEROO", THERE WAS A WRITE-UP IN THE HAZARD HERALD'S SOCIETY COLUMN. NOW, THIS COUPLE DID NOT HAVE TWO NICKELS TO RUB TOGETHER, YET THE ARTICLE IN THE NEWSPAPER WAS WRITTEN UP AS IF IT WERE A BIGTIME EVENT. I DON'T REMEMBER WHO WROTE THE "SOCIETY" PAGE AT THE TIME (EITHER LUCILLE NOE, ARBUTUS HADDIX, OR PAULINE BINGHAM COMBS (ALL OF WHOM WROTE THAT COLUMN IN THE 1940'S AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER) BUT I COULD NOT MAKE MY MIND UP IF THEY WERE TRYING TO RIDICULE THIS MARRIAGE OR THEY WERE JUST SHORT OF HAVING ANYTHING TO WRITE ABOUT.

    BILLIE REDA SOWERS
    DAYTON, OHIO

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  3. I worked in the A & P store near the corner at the Express Office bridge in 1947. I used to see Steve nearly every day. I asked about his name and was told it was Pailles. I guess maybe the guy said 'Bailles' and I misunderstood. I knew his daughter also. She came by about twice a week. He would stand at the meat counter and say, "That is no good. Throw that away." Sometimes he was right and we would throw the thing away, and he would salvage it from the garbage.

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    1. searching in MichiganMarch 12, 2015 at 12:57 AM

      I was wondering if you or anyone you know 'remember a tavern in Hazard called the Little Inn. My Uncle John Batista owned it. I don't have much info on it.Would love to find out anything if possible.

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  4. I enjoyed your posting. My sister, Anna Mullins, worked for the A&P on Main St. and I wonder if that is the one you are speaking of. I cannot remember the Express Office Bridge, unless you are talking about the little place between Ma Combs Rest. and the Hibler Hotel. I talked with my friend, Billie, whose father's grocery was across the street. Can you tell me where your A&P was located at that time. Also, were there two A&Ps on Main? Martha was his daughter and he had a son, Junior, and they lived across the bridge near the railroad tracks. Hunky Steve is the man in the foreground in this picture above these postings. Is that how you remember him also? Good memories, huh, of our old town of Hazard, and it has changed so much over the years. My name is IdaLee Stacy Hansel. I was 14 at the time you are speaking of.

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  5. My name is Billie Reda Sowers. My family had the Ralph Reda Grocery at 375 East Main Street. Anonymous' statement about the Express Bridge Office baffles me, as there was the Central Hotel on one corner, A&P on one corner, on another corner and the Hibler Hotel on the other corner. Between the two hotels was the Main Street Bridge. I do not remember an express office unless Anonymous was thinking of Federal Express all the way across the Main Street Bridge.

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