Tuesday, March 22

Blue Backed Speller

He learned the three R's from the old blue backed speller while sitting in seats of hewn logs and writing lessons on slates. Jim Fields of Typo was born on March 21, 1876 on Big Creek (now Avawam). Young Jim's schooling was limited but he remembers his first teacher, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Smiley who taught the regular school term of three months.

The school building was made of hewed logs, and the seats were long benches, each made a half log, the split side was hewed smooth and the peg-like legs fit right into holes made from an old time auger.

Instead of tablets or notebooks, the students had slates on which to write and cipher (ciphering is now termed arithmetic). Slates at the time cost five cents each and pencils were just a penny. The buying of textbooks was no problem because there were none. The only book necessary until the 4th grade, when counting classes were organized, was the blue backed speller. The old blue-back served as speller and reader and from it many good, moral lessons were learned from characters such as "Old Dog Tray" who got into trouble because he was caught in bad company.

No doubt the school building on the point near Woodson Couch's store was an imposing structure and a passer-by resting there a moment could hear Mr. Smiley carefully pronouncing the words to be spelled. The teacher in those days required beginners to go through the book one time, pronouncing words by syllables as they were spelled.

This process required about two months and the remainder was used to spell off the book. Jim agrees that it was everlasting credit to the teacher to finally teach phonetics. By the time the primary class was ready for the advance class of 5th reader, every pupil could pronounce the words in the Blue Back Webster's Speller.

At an early age, Jim had great admiration for a certain little girl, Liza Jane, the daughter of Jim Eversole and granddaughter of Uncle Irvin Eversole, pioneer Regular Baptist preacher of Perry County. "Pon my honor Liza Jane was the prettiest brown-eyed, red checked girl I had ever seen," he said. The two were married on June 12, 1901.

Not long after the wedding, Jim recalls he was out with the boys one night and took one too many. He rode home on "Old Barney," the mule and at the gate, his loving wife helped him to the ground after which she gave corn and fodder to Barney. Then she spoon-fed her husband and the "old boy" fell asleep.

Next morning Jim was thinking of the kindness and gentleness of that pretty brown-eyed girl, when suddenly to his surprise, she appeared. Apparently in good humor, but with firmness in her voice, Liza Jane said, "Jim, I've have no drinking around here." Convinced by her manner that she meant it, Jim left off drinking ever since.

Sunday, March 20

I remember Pauline Beams' restaurant on East Main Street. It was awesome with its crisp linens, etc. I was never in her restaurant at the Hurst Hotel. I did go by it time and again and the aroma made my tummy growl loudly and I knew whomever was partaking of her food was getting Hazard's best. However, I was a teenager and was not highly interested in anything at that time but Steele's Drug, Don's and Nell's, what I called Babe Noplis' little hotdog diner that sat right beside the Virginia Theater.

Pauline was the sister of Doug and Marcus Combs. Years later my husband worked for Don Beams as an electrician for a while. Pauline and Don lived across from Collins Grocery on East Main and later I remember a filling station there I think might have been run by Don, but the house was a big house and I remember Don's sister, Mickey, living there so it must have been their family home. My best friend lived on Chester Street right behind the house. We would go and sit down on the top of the Seale Motor Company Garage and watch the fellers work and flirt with them .

Thursday, March 17

Hard Nosed But Tender Hearted

Hazard High School coach Pat Payne was one of the most successful coaches in the state of Kentucky. He came to Hazard in the fall of 1926 and immediately set forth with the idea that Hazard could compete with the Lexington and Louisville schools. "It took Pat sometime to convince the people of Hazard that was possible," said Sanders Petrey, a former player.

In 1930 Payne led the Hazard girls team to the state championship and in 1932 took the HHS boys to the state title. (The only coach ever to accomplish this feat in Kentucky).

He was a coach in almost every sport. In 17 years (1926-43) his teams won 101 and lost 41 football games, and won 345 and lost 70 basketball games.

Payne served as golf coach, baseball manager, track coach as well as being an excellent chemistry and physics teacher.

Some of those who played under the legendary coach are Sanders Petrey, Pappy Edwards, Boots Steele, Hoot Combs, Roscoe and Bill Davis, Arnett Strong, Johnny Horn, Fred Bowles, Morton Combs, Bill Morton, and Talmon Barker, to mention a few.

Sanders Petrey: "Pat was as fine a man as I ever knew. He never taught us anything dirty about sports, only the way it should be played. He stressed defense and rebounding. He was a hard-nosed coach but a tender hearted one. I remember we were playing Irvine on a Saturday night on the road. Hoot Combs looked over at me while we were warming up and said we may have a bad game. I agreed with him. Irvine had a small team and sure enough at the half we were behind 9 to 1. Well, we expected a good chewing out from Pat. We walked in the dressing room and kept an eye on the door. Two minutes past, then five, still no coach. Finally when it was about time for us to go back for the second half, Coach Payne poked his head around the door and said 'Gentlemen, we've tried everyway possible at Hazard High to have the best. We stay at the best hotels, eat fair and try to be pretty fair ball players. But tonight I'm ashamed to be part of this.' When the second half started Pat wasn't anywhere around. We knew who would start so we went out and won 39-9. About midway through the final quarter Pat showed up and sent in some subs."

Johnny Horn: "We were playing Irvine and Pat always made me room next to him. He wouldn't let me out of his sight. We were supposed to be in our room but I wasn't. I heard him coming but didn't have to get in my room so I jumped in his closet and pulled the clothes rack around me."

Pappy Edwards: "He was one of the best if not the best that ever coached. When he said something he meant it. If he caught a player downtown in the pool room he would say, 'boy, don't you need to he home resting?' Pat knew I'd be gone, but checked anyway. After he left I snuck in bed and pretended like I had been asleep all the time. Until he passed, he never knew where I was."

Wednesday, March 16

They Knew How To Dress A Window

I worked near George's Shoe Store on Main Street in Hazard and everyday I had occasion to go by the business several times. I stopped and gave his shoes a big "Double O" (as Frankie Avalon said in one of his movies, a "double O" is a big "once over" to see what had been added or taken away. I was a on the spot shopper and if a pair of shoes in his window hit my fancy, I'd count my extra cash and if I was so endowed I would go in and get what I wanted. Sometimes I would put the old ones in a box and wear the new ones out. That way I was assured most of the time that no one would notice I had on new shoes. George Kawaja and his staff knew how to dress a window for shoppers, no doubt about it. I remember a lot of times seeing his wife, and the children would play around inside. It was a store to enhance Hazard's Main Street.

Tuesday, March 15

Spending Ourselves Into Prosperity

It seems that the County Judge and Fiscal Court have decided to tear down the Court House and build another one on the same spot. To me it is a shame, and I think the public generally feels the same way I do about it. The Court House we have has ample room, good heat and good lights and is substantial building. It seems wrong to me to just destroy valuable property; but there are a lot of people who seem to feel it to be their duty to get all the money they can out Federal Treasury. Wonder what they will do when the Government goes broke? We can not always keep spending ourselves into prosperity.

Well, the old Court House was destroyed by fire in the Fall of 1911, along with the Jailer's residence. By hard work, the records of the two Clerk's offices were saved. That was before any train had come into Hazard and the bucket brigade kept the fire from spreading to other buildings. I remember that Si Wright had his barber shop in the old Eversole store building, where the Fuller building occupied by Citizens State Bank and others is now located. The boys jokingly said that Si got so excited that he carried his barber chairs and equipment down to the edge of the river. Well, J.G. Campbell was the County Judge. He and the Fiscal Court went to work immediately to get a new Court House. The cost would and did exceed the indebtedness permitted by the Constitution, but Judge Campbell was able to get a contractor to build the Court House. A bond issue was voted by the citizens to pay for it. As I remember it was completed in the latter part of 1912. I can remember that I filed for nomination for County Attorney in 1913 and it then had been constructed and was in use, and Judge L.D. Lewis presided over the Circuit Court terms in that year.

Well, it would seem to me now, that it will take at least two years to erect a new Court House. It is my information that they plan to move the offices down to the Lincoln Hotel building. It is going to be hard on me and Scott Duff and Vernon Faulkner and Ernest to have to walk all the way down there every time we have to go to one of the Clerk's offices.

All of it seems to me to be a foolish and unwise step, but I guess I am a little bit old fashioned. In my younger days we did not have any Government hand-outs. We had to pay our own way. Let us just hope that it will turn out for the better. 1964

Monday, March 14

Basketball Draws Up Closer Together

This the 14th day of the good old spring month of March 1965 has brought on more talk here than the weather or planting those gardens. The main topic has been basketball which is one of the finest competitive games I know of. Folks, it draws us closer together here in our region. This week we will broaden our steps as we have done before. We will move into the bright lights of our neighbors down state way. We have had two fine tournaments in both the district in Hazard and the regional in the new gym in Jackson. One of the finest things I have heard so far is the fine sportsmanship that has prevailed throughout these two tournaments. Reminds me of the days of my youth. Lets get behind our team that will represent us at Louisville at the state tournament.1965

Wednesday, March 9

The Ultimate Escape

When I was around 7 or 8 years old I discovered the wonderful world of movies. Since we had two movie theaters in town within walking distance that only charged 10 cents admission, made it easy. I soon found out that there was something better in life other than playing stick ball, shooting marbles, chasing the girls and pulling their pigtails and swimming in the Kentucky River. The movies were full of fabulous adventures, beautiful women, risk taking heroes with their swords, guns and horses and fast cars. I couldn't get enough. All the movies were great. Adventures, tragedies, love stories, musicals, war stories and pirates of the seven seas. When I wasn't in the movies I was day dreaming about movies. Sitting in the swing on the front porch I might be flying my speedy P-40 high in the sun, my eyes peeled for the ruthless ME-109s over Germany, showing them no mercy. I could be romancing the beautiful Hedy Lamar trying to steal a kiss or two and then dancing off gracefully into the night, even better than Fred Astair. Or day dreaming during arithmetic in Mrs. Waltman's third grade imagining that the slap on the shoulder was the Human Monster trying to drag me down into his darkened dungeon.

All this stuff was just great but could there be anything better than this? Yes there was. Westerns. I had discovered the greatest thing in the world. The Saturday Matinees, the black & white shoot-em-ups, the double feature horse operas. The ultimate in entertainment. The definitive good triumphs over evil, one hour at a time. The great looking cowboys with the immaculate white hats, silver pistols, and fire breathing stallions with the flowing manes and the hearty cry, "High Yo Silver, Away!

In the Virginia Theater on Saturday afternoon sitting half way down in the middle, my world went to the next level. I was consumed by the gun shots, the horses racing over the trails through the clouds of dust. The good guys in constant peril kept me on on the edge of my seat often missing my mouth with my popcorn. This was my new world and I loved it and I never wanted to come back. I, soon, learned all about Colt 45s and Winchesters and how exciting it was to draw you pistol in the middle of Main Street and shoot the rustlers, bank robbers, and all those vicious Indians who seemed to be everywhere.

After it was all over and it was time to go home and resume my boring real life, I still tried to avoid reality. Who would I be on the way home and for the rest of the day? The Lone Ranger? No, everybody wanted to be the Lone Ranger. Or Zoro, with his black whip, his flashing sabre, his two gun rig and his amazingly beautiful ebony horse with the long flowing tail? Hopalong Cassidy was good. How about Bob Steele? He made 120 movies and I think I saw them all. But Humphrey Bogart shot and killed him in "The Big Sleep" and I never forgot that. How about Don "Red" Barry? Nah, he is too short. Him and Alan Ladd could have been twins. I like "Wild Bill Elliot" Big tough good looking guy.He had an two gun rig that he wore backwards. Usually played "Red Ryder" with "Little Beaver". I heard that Robert Blake hated that name. He was a peaceable man. Gene Autry was a great cowboy. Always wore those fancy, pointed toe boots. I wondered if his socks were just as fancy.

Wait a minute! I forgot! On the way home I go right past the Family Theater. Tex Ritter is on there in: "Blood on the Saddle". I'll have time to see that before supper time.Another hour in Horse Opera Heaven, WOW!

Tuesday, March 8

We are entering into a fringe of a great season that is basketball. Let's hope that we will see the finest of all sportsmanship displayed thoroughout these contests. I've heard some say that maybe the public didn't appreciate the teams of today as years ago, nor do they have the respect for the officiating as was done years ago. Above all, I would say - keep the game as it should be, because the kids that are playing during these tournaments are the ones to be considered. 1965

Monday, March 7

One Shoe

I had bought me a new pair of penny loafers and went to see Hindman vs. Hazard. It got down to the last minutes and one point was holding Hindman and I remember so well the Referee made a call that me and the rest of the crowd thought was entirely out of order and I got carried away, pulled off one of my new shoes and threw it at the Ref hitting him right in the back. They started looking for someone with only one shoe and my boyfriend told me to fake a faint sort of which I did. He covered me up with a big coat and carried me to safety and to this day I don't think anyone except those nearby ever knew what happened.

Saturday, March 5


James C. Riley of New Albany, Indiana, sent me the following poem some time ago.

Such a wee, small thing is a cherry smile, as we pass along life's way. But it means much more to those we meet, than we could begin to say. If we go through the day with never a smile, we may count that day as lost. But we've done one thing worthwhile if we've smiled. And not a cent has it cost. The folks that we meet on life's busy street, have problems we never can know. But a passing smile as we go along, will brighten the way that they go. If you doubt what I say why not make the test? And look for the ones who smile. Then watch the gloom on the smileless face, and see if its been worthwhile? In business, in school, in the home, on the street, it will ever win the day. For a smile is one of the dear Lord's means of driving dull care away. And though no reward is offered this one, who brightens life's way all the while, He will always be known and remembered by those who've been helped by his bright cherry smile. 1961

Friday, March 4

Not Fit For A Table

I ran into Mrs. Tucker Bowling and Mrs. Floyd Bowling recently. Both had to move from the Buckhorn section. Water will make anyone move. So glad to know that you have adjusted yourselves to an area near Booneville. Good to see you ladies back in Hazard again. Mrs. Tucker stated while she was buying some flowers, that her good husband said that they were not fit for a table. Mrs. Bowling replied since there is not a good looking man around the place, the home must have something to keep it up. 1961

Thursday, March 3

That Little Blue Box

I love the dark chocolate milky ways and I was recently enjoying a bar when all of a sudden I went back in time to my childhood and my first bitter taste of "dark chocolate". Yep, my family kept a medicine cabinet sort of what they thought was out of my reach but they didn't know what I could do if I set my mind to it, and that day I set my mind on that little blue box which I kept seeing them partake of so I decided it was time I found out about the goodness inside that little box. I got a chair, put it in range of the blue box and "I got it", placed the chair back, and laughed heartedly because I had pulled a good one. I opened the box of ex-lax and took me out two bars (I guess it would have been more if there had been more), but I hurriedly put them in my mouth and got the shock of my life...this was not what I was wanting, no, not at all; it was not a bar of Hershey, by a long shot, but afraid to spit it out, I swallowed it, and shuddered all the while. The next morning I was brushing my teeth, a pain hit me in the butt and right then and there they found out right fast what I had done...it was a ghastly mess, and that little blue box took a big bite out of me and to this day I cannot eat a dark chocolate bar without reliving that bitter taste of ex-lax. They scolded me good but did not whip my butt because they figured that little part of my anatomy had paid a dear price already. Needless to say, I never ventured to open another box of ex-lax and have never dared give my children any either.

Tuesday, March 1


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.