Tuesday, May 31

Dodging Bomb Craters

It seems a long time since we heard such a flowery story about “Steve” and what he was preparing to do for us in the way of making roads in the county. (Steve is the State Highway boss).

The story included repaving Main Street through Hazard. This road is getting almost impassable as all drivers are find out. Going up “Hospital Hill” is like dodging bomb craters in No Man’s Land. You are lucky to get through without losing a wheel or breaking an axle.

We’d like to have this road repaired with real road material. That malarkey they used before has faded, as most political bunk usually does. 1945

Monday, May 30

The Only Subject Was - Invasion

The invasion news reached me at 8:20 yesterday morning and my ear was glued to the radio for hours listening to details of what our boys were doing. I have been fearful of the results of trying to land on the French coast.

All through the day, along the streets, in the barber shops, the stores, anywhere you went in Hazard, the only subject was - invasion.

Thousands of boys had tumbled from airplanes into enemy territory, loaded with dynamite, grenades, tommy guns, knives, and everything else necessary to fight at close quarters. Other thousands were wading into the fire of German coastal guns, getting their feet planted on enemy soil at great cost in lives.

Relatives of men known to be in England went about their duties through the day in sadness, praying for the welfare of their sons.

When night came most of us heard ministers gather in front of the Perry County Court House and praying earnestly for the welfare of our soldiers, while the crowd stood in silence.

We came home to listen to President Roosevelt lead a hundred and thirty million people in prayer, pleading with Almighty God to be with our boys in time of great trouble. "They will be sore, tired, by night and by day, without rest until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent with noise and flame," he said.

"Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy Kingdom. And for us at home - fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them, help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice," he prayed.

The President continued, "Give us strength, too - strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces."

A reporter related the sad scene of a boat bringing the dead and wounded back to the shores of England. Our fellow Americans who went out there to fight - that we may live and have peace. 1944

Thursday, May 26

Corner of Main & Fleet

Sometime around 1940 I was walking around downtown when I came across some kind of construction project on the corner of Main and Fleet Streets. Right there by our one and only traffic light. They were putting up some kind of prefab building in two parts partly on the sidewalk and partly on the street. It was all white. One of the guys said is was a new kind of restaurant that specialized in five cent hamburgers. All this stuff was hauled in on an L&N flat car. Sure enough, after it was finished, I went in and sat on a stool and bought a hamburger for a nickel. I thought that was a great deal. I think the name of the place was the Krystal Burger. It did not last very long though. That’s about all I remember. I do not know what happened to it. I guess they found out you had to sell a lot of five cent hamburgers to make any money. Fleet Street was re-named Lovern Street in 1954.

Wednesday, May 25

Chickens & Dogs

Every spring, every year, in every section of Hazard, we have the same complaints. Chickens and dogs destroying gardens. Having only enough of the "Good Earth" for a house seat, I possess neither chickens, dogs, nor a garden. If I had either, I feel sure I would not bother other people with them. In the case of dogs or chickens, I would keep my animals and fowls at home. If I had a garden being destroyed by other people's live stock, I would take action also. 1945

Tuesday, May 24

Drive Downtown Around The Loop

My Dad's Refrigeration Service and Sluder's Recapping Shop were directly across the street from the Methodist Church. I think the Methodist Church Parsonage was next door on the right. There were two brothers that lived there: Roland & Roger Combs. I assume their Dad was the Methodist preacher at that time.

The newspaper headlines announced the end of WWII. I would guess that was the Louisville Courier Journal, which was the dominant newspaper back then, especially the Sunday edition. Some people subscribed to the Lexington Herald and my buddy and I sold the Knoxville News Sentinel on the street downtown after 5:00 O'Clock during the week. All came in on the L&N passenger train every day.

I heard Bobby Rankin died at an early age. We went to Grammar school together. Bill Horn was a year older than me and worked for Sluder off and on. He was the last guy I shook hands with when I left Hazard. Next to Sluder's shop was a bowling alley. I used to go there at night and set pins the old hard way for 10 cents a game. Dad parked his 1938 Oldsmobile behind the building across from the rear of the Post Office. There was a large parking lot there, always empty. That's where I learned to drive, at an early age. Used to sneak it out and drive downtown around the loop. I had to sit very upright to see over the dashboard. Sometimes I would take Roland & Roger along. We thought that was a great adventure. Never got caught...

Monday, May 23

Corn-Pone Soup Beans No More

Traveling men tell me that it is almost impossible to get anything to eat in Hazard. That is not so strange, but they go further and say that this condition could be remedied by people who live here.

One man who makes Hazard at regular intervals and who knows the local people, tells me that Hazard people rush down to the eating places and "hog the show" every day, using up food that should go toward feeding those who visit us and have no place else to eat.

That seems to be a general condition all over the country. Louisville eating places are broadcasting urgent appeals to those who have homes to take their meals there.

Butter and meals are scarce. They are getting more scarce daily. Money is plentiful. People who lived on corn-pone soup beans in days gone by have the cold cash to buy their meals away from home. It is easy to go down town and eat in order to save points that are scarce in the ration books.

That isn't the important thing. Most of us are getting along with the ration allowed us without suffering. We eat at home regardless of what we are allowed. We leave room for our visitors in the few eating places left in Hazard. That seems the sensible thing to do.

Eat less, chew more,
Ride less, walk more,
Clothe less, bathe more,
Worry less, work more,
Idle less, play more,
Go less, sleep more,
Waste less, give more,
Scold less, laugh more,
Preach less, practice more.


Friday, May 20

Stranded In A Strange Town

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

Thursday, May 19

What I Heard Along Main Street

Most of my comments here are the outgrowth of something that is discussed along Main Street, at the post office, around the court house and in many other places where I find myself witnessing what is going on.

This happens to be one of the days when I take no responsibility for what is said, other than to quote some mighty good people who were talking up and down Main Street in Hazard on Saturday afternoon.

Members of the Business and Professional Women's Club and the United Mine Workers were hotter than Herman Goering when the first airplanes bombed Berlin, Saturday afternoon. As they told their story: The good women volunteered to hold forth along Main Street the previous Saturday with tables whereby the passing public could be asked for donations to the Red Cross. Some good money had been spent to prepare for these solicitations. More good money has been gathered in the previous Saturday to swell the Red Cross fund.

As they told it, still not my story, one merchant told them to "scram" from in front of a place of business where money had been collected the preceding Saturday. "We lost more than $300 last Saturday by this table being near our place," the merchant said.

The table was moved in compliance with the order given, but the talk failed to die down. In fact it got hotter and hotter. Ed Reynolds, speaking for the mine workers, made no bones about how his organization felt and said this would be not the last of this matter.

Some of the good women called attention to the fact that our boys could not make $300 in a whole year, spreading their precious blood over the snows and in the foxholes of Germany.

Ed Reynolds says he feels sure that St. Peter won't allow anybody to take money inside the pearly gates. This will be a sad disappointment to some people, he seems to think.

That's what I heard along Main Street. 1945

Wednesday, May 18

Panic At Mount Mary

Back in the 30s and 40s, my dad, Sebe Watts, started the first refrigeration service business in Hazard. He originally was a brakeman on the L&N railroad but lost his job during the hard times of the depression. Forced to start another career of some kind he decided to go to an electrical trade school in Chicago. There he studied radio and refrigeration, with the help of President Roosevelt and a Federal training program. Both the radio and refrigeration industries were just beginning to grow during that time. Turned out to be a good move.

When he graduated and came back to Hazard he had a shop on the second floor of Sterling Hardware. He assembled, set up, and serviced the new modern refrigerators that Sterling Hardware sold in Hazard and all the surrounding towns and coal camps. Sterling was probably the first big refrigerator retailer in that part of Kentucky. They sold Kelvinator, GE, Philco, Norge, Crosley and the awesome Frigidaire. By 1941 there were more than 3 million electric refrigerators in American homes.

Eventually, he opened up his own place on High Street right next door to Sluders Tire Recapping shop. During WWII the coal industry was booming. All the big coal camp commissaries had refrigeration units and freezers for their meat and dairy products. Dad serviced them all, no matter how far up the holler they were. He traveled in a Model A Coupe with a "C" gasoline sticker on the windshield. I remember the commissary managers would slip him a carton of Avalon cigarettes to keep him happy. During the War cigarettes were hard to come by.

Servicing these big units was not all fun and games. Back then there was a variety of gasses that were used for cooling. Freon, F-12, Ammonia and dichlorodifluoromethane were just a few. Some were toxic and dangerous to breathe. One night Sebe got an emergency call from the Hazard Hospital. Their air conditioning system was leaking gas out into the hospital wards. Knowing what could happen, dad rushed over to see what had to be done. Now, he had a gas mask for emergencies like this but it was in the shop, not the car. He went in and found the leak and he could tolerate some of the gas but during the repair the old rusty pipe broke and the gas came out under pressure. He had no choice but to stay there and fix the leak. It only took a few minutes but by then he had inhaled too much gas. He was almost blinded and had trouble breathing. They rushed him upstairs and he ended up being there for two days. In another week he was back to normal and happy that he had saved the day for the hospital. He was still a railroad man and a tough old bird...

Tuesday, May 17

Feeding The Kitty

In watching a policeman yesterday covering the "Mail-call" beat in front of the post office, wearing out a good pencil writing tickets for every motorist who dared to run in and get his or her mail without feeding the kitty, I was made to wonder just how much ill will had been built up (or down) for the good city of Hazard through tactless and deliberate tagging of every car that stops in the city without paying the meters.

I wondered just how many people have been sworn never to stop in Hazard again, after finding their cars tagged in front of a local hospital, the post office, along the highway, or around the court house, and having gone to the city hall to be told they could either pay up or else. Service men have not been given much consideration in the matter of these tickets when they went to the city hall, we are told. The police judge never assesses a fine against a service man for failing to pay the meters.

No doubt the meters serve some good purpose on Main Street, but they should never be in front of the post office nor the hospitals. 1945

Monday, May 16

Met...Wooed...& Wed

So far as I know only one of our Perry County boys has married an Australian girl. I met and had a nice talk with Sergeant William C. Autry of the U.S. Marine Corps this week, the lucky man who is helping to cement relations between our country and the good country of Australia.

Serving as Communications Chief of a crack U.S. Marine unit, Sergeant Autry was located in a town in Australia for eleven months. There he met, wooed, and wed one of the fine girls from the country down under. He hasn't seen her for 17 months, but he is looking forward to the time when transportation will be available for her to visit the country she has dreamed about but never hoped to see until the Marines landed down there.

Sergeant Autry lived at Vicco before entering the service some four and a half years ago. He has served in most important islands of the South Pacific, wears a ribbon with two Presidential unit citations, and has been in numerous major battle engagements.

This fine Marine thinks well of the Australian people and is able to tell more than the average returning service man about the country. The people are quiet, religious, and home-loving, with girls taking an interest in house-keeping and other duties of the homes and farms, he tells me.

In questioning him, I got the impression that jitterbugging roadhouse whoopee, all night parties, hell bent driving of automobiles, and wild life in general has not reached that country yet, which makes some of us cast longing glances in that direction at times.

The old-fashioned girl is not something that brings memories of the past in that country, but a reality, I learn.

Sergeant Autry said nothing against the girls of his own country, except that this was the only country in the world for him. I was genuinely interested in learning something of the character of the people on the other side of the world from us. This Marine is proud of the girl he married, as well he should be. We all look forward to the time she will visit this community. 1945

Friday, May 13

Main Street at Night

The downtown stores in Hazard are normally open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day. But now stores are staying open on Monday nights until 9 pm.

Vic Tedesco, Papania's - "I'm in favor of opening on Monday nights. I think it will work out fine. You can't do any business with your door closed."

Ray Newkirk, Newberry's - "I think it's wonderful to give the people of Perry and surrounding counties the opportunity to shop one evening during the week."

Nelle Harper, Johnson's - "I like it. I couldn't tell much about it last Monday night because of the rain. I think it is better than Saturday night because most people want to go someplace and relax on the weekend."

Jim Altizer, Ammar Brothers - "We'll cooperate in every way to help business. If everyone wants to stay open, we'll be glad to go along."

George Kawaja, George's Shoe Store - "I think the first night went over fairly good. It's a good idea if the merchants will continue backing it up. Perhaps some special bargains would encourage the people to come down town after work."

Hugh Beeler, Stiles - "I'm in favor of it. I think it will take time to educate the people about the stores being open on Monday night. I believe we should stay open one night a week."

Willie Dawahare, Dawahares - "I've been open at nights for a year and have found it very satisfactory. It gives the family with children a chance to come to town and shop. It also helps the working people and the folks in the county." 1961

Finest Man

A mighty good Louisville & Nashville Railroad conductor made his last official trip out of Hazard this morning when passenger Train No. 4 started toward Lexington. C.S. (Charlie) Mount left here headed toward retirement not waiting to see the outcome of the move by the railroad to discontinue his train.

I remember Charlie Mount because I made two trips with him late last year. If he asked me once If I wore comfortable, he asked me a dozen times during the 145-mile ride. He was that way with other passengers.

It was purely by accident that I found out about his last run and retirement plans. A call to the office of Master of Trains V. B. Rogers to find out the number of out-going passenger train brought T. A. Sutton, operator, to the phone. When I mentioned Train No. 4, Sutton said he was just then ready to go out of the ticket office and bid goodbye to Mount.

Later, Sutton called and said "there were tears in the old boy's eyes this morning, and I felt them in mine, too."

"He is a fine fellow, and we hate to see him leave the field," Sutton added. "He knew his old passengers by name and he knew their families. He was as friendly as they make them."

Rogers also added his tribute to Mount, calling him one of the finest men who ever walked between the aisles.

Mount has rounded out 45 years in service, three fourths of it on the Lexington - Hazard runs. 1955

Wednesday, May 11

Here & There

Out at Begley's Drug Store in Hazard last night Carl Begley was running around looking for a fountain pen he had "lost." After accusing every one in the store of taking it or hiding it, he looked at his shirt pocket...and there it was. He tried to apologize but it didn't go over very well.

Which recalled the time I lost my pen at the office. I knew that one of the visitors had taken it and I said some very uncomplimentary things about it. I found my pen on my shirt under a tie.

And that brought on another remembrance. Mrs. E.E. Begley was fussing and fuming about the house not long ago about an alarm clock that was missing. She knew someone had broken into the house and taken it. Dr. Begley, the dentist, later went to the ice box for a snack, and there was the alarm clock making good time. 1955

Tuesday, May 10

We Have To Find This Monster

One Saturday morning back in 1942 Dad came running into the shop, on High Street, almost out of breath. He tells me to lock up and go with him. We have to drive home and pick up his shotgun. He had just come back from a service call over at Blue Diamond and on his way back he saw this big Canadian goose land in a cornfield along the river. He says we have to get back there right away and find this monster. So we pack up the 12 gauge Browning automatic, a box of shells and I grab my .22 Stevens automatic rifle. Now, I was only 11 years old and not an avid goose hunter but I figured if I'm going out in the country around the river I will get a chance to fire a few rounds at targets.

It was a cool December day but it was clear and calm. We were about ten miles up the road when Dad slammed on the brakes of the old "Model A." He looks all around for a second and decides this is the place. He loads up the Browning and walks off Route 15 down the hill into a large cornfield full of stalks in a bottom next to the river. I sit by the car with my rifle in my lap just enjoying the adventure. I had never really seen a big Canadian goose up close. I had seen thousands flying South in the big vee formations but had never shot at one.

It seemed Dad had been moving around down there forever and I was getting a little bored. Because of the cover in the bottom I couldn't see him all the time and I wondered what was going on. I was just beginning to nod off when I heard him yell "There he goes!" I hear two big blasts from the 12 gauge. And sure enough he had flushed the goose. Dad is on target but he is just too far away to knock him down. The goose is flapping those giant wings and he is getting out of Dodge as fast as he can. I was watching all the action there with my mouth hanging open, like I was catching flies, when I see the goose make a hard right turn and now he is coming directly at me gaining altitude and picking up speed all the time. It was not until that moment that I saw just how big he was. I heard Dad yell, "Get him Sonny!" Being a little slow to react I finally raised my rifle to fire. I wasn't ready for this. The big bird was directly overhead now. I had to turn to get a him in my sights. I tried to be calm and take my time, but again, he was up pretty high and moving away fast. I fired four rounds in quick succession and remember seeing tail feathers fly but he kept on going. "No Christmas goose for you pal."

When Dad made it back up to the road he was a mess. He was unhappy, wet and covered with mud. Just as we were getting into the car I looked up and could barely see the goose circling way up high in the sun. He had survived the hunt but he didn't want to leave his place by the river. Maybe he didn't feel like flying all the way to Florida this Winter.

Sunday, May 8

Let The Celebrations Begin!

On May 8, 1945, VE Day, the news went out all over the World. World War II in Germany was officially over. All those Names and places we had lived with for the last four years were now headed for the History books. Eisenhower, Clark, Patton, Churchill, MacArthur, Roosevelt, Stalin, Truman and hundreds more would never be forgotten. Let the celebrations begin!

How would a 14 year old kid celebrate the biggest event ever in Hazard?

Cromwell Sluder had a nice clean 1941 light blue Plymouth coupe. That car had been washed so many times I thought we were going to wear it out. A couple of years earlier, Sluder was up around Vicco one Sunday afternoon when he spied this same car sitting in a front yard. The first thing he noticed was the car had no wheels. It was just sitting there on big wooden blocks. Sluder went in and talked to the lady sitting on the porch and wanted to know if the car was for sale. This was not unusual for that time. During the War automobile tires became very scarce along with a lot of other things. If people who owned cars that weren't being used because Dad or a son had gone off to war they soon realized that they could take the tires off and sell them at a good price. Those were the old standard 600/16 inch tires with the inner tubes. When the lady told Sluder the car was for sale he quickly made her an offer and bought it. Tires would be no problem for him because he owned the only tire recapping shop in Hazard. It wasn't long before Sluder was bopping around town in a practically new Plymouth with four whitewall synthetic rubber camelback recapped tires. l Yes it had a radio, heater and a column stick shift. One day a guy from Lexington came in the shop and sold Cromwell a giant air horn taken off a diesel locomotive. Another new adventure. We rigged an air pressure tank in the trunk and ran a hose under the frame to the front end. The horn was mounted behind the front grille pointing down. When the hood was closed nothing showed.

We had a lot of fun with that horn riding around Perry County blowing at everybody, bicycles, cars and trucks. That thing was really loud. When I reached down and pulled that lever the whole car vibrated and you couldn't hear a thing above that blast. So getting back to the celebration; We pumped up the tank with a 100 pounds of air and drove down town. We were going to make our mark that day. The crowd along Main Street was huge. I never knew there were that many people in this town. Screaming, hollering, dancing around, waving flags and throwing stuff. What a day! When we got in front of the Court House I pulled the lever on the horn and held on tight. The blast covered up all the rest of the noise in town. It was like everything was suddenly quiet. All you could hear was that horn. We were going to give the people something to remember that day. With the horn blowing full blast the air supply only lasted to the end of Main Street . So, we turned left back on High Street to the shop and pumped it up again. I think we made at least four more trips. My head was getting sore. Sluder and I were very proud of the fact that we got to participate in Hazard's greatest celebration. I wonder what happened to that old horn. It had to be illegal.

Saturday, May 7

Think Of These Boys Of Ours

War minded citizens of Hazard and Perry County have during the last two years been assigned home front war jobs to do by the hundreds and they have done them well.

General Eisenhower has promised victory against Germany this year but he makes it plain that it will come only if the home front continues to function in high gear.

We all want our sons back and we know they want to come back. We are expecting them to win this war with their own blood and they must certainly have the right to expect us here at home to help with our time and money...

In 1944 the grim reaper will begin to exact a terrible price from the mothers and fathers in the lives of their sons, so let us not falter or fail them in this most trying year.

As you close your eyes tonight think of that boy across the street or perhaps our own son freezing on the side of a high mountain in Italy; wading the deep mud half crazed from the roar of big guns and death everywhere about him. Think of him in the steaming jungles of the South Pacific fighting a fiendish and cunning enemy that may ask of him the supreme sacrifice any minute. Think of these boys of ours all over the world tonight, thousands of them making their peace with God knowing the end is near. Yes, draw on your mind for a real picture of what war really is.

L.O. Davis 1944

Editor's note: Two years later, in 1946, L.O. Davis' only son, Bobby Davis, was killed while serving oversees in Germany. He died in a train wreck two days before his 20th birthday. L.O. Davis' gift to his son and the city of Hazard was a living memorial, The Bobby Davis Library, Park and swimming pool. Today it is known as the Bobby Davis Museum.

Thursday, May 5

Clear Hazard Champion

Around 1944 a fourteen year old kid from Hazard was, for a while, the most famous young man in Kentucky. His name was E. L. Adams.

He was our All American Soapbox Derby Champion from Hazard and later went on to Louisville and became the State Champion. E.L. was three years older than me and I didn't know him at all until we began participating in the annual Soapbox races held at Cornett Hill. By the rules, E.L. designed, built, and raced his own car. I remember it very well. He built a solid, good looking car. Smooth as glass.
After four different heat races he was the clear Hazard Champion.

That was the last time I saw him and I don't really don't know why. Just like all the other kids I knew, we all eventually went out separate ways. I read in the Louisville Courier Journal that he won the Kentucky event and was on his way to the Nationals in Akron, Ohio. The competition in Akron was tough. Local champs from all the 48 states and Hawaii were there. I think Adams actually finished third overall. Which was a great achievement for a kid from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.

Back in 1990 I researched Soapbox Derby records on line to verify his success. I could only find the results of the Louisville races. Later on I came across in an older gentleman who was an official during the Akron races. He had all those records in a box in his basement. He checked them out and verified what I remembered about 1944.

Months later, after things quieted down in Hazard, I was strolling down Main Street and something caught my eye in the window of a little shop next to Don's. It was a big golden globe of the World and it had a small Soapbox Racer on the top. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It turned out to be the Championship Trophy from the Kentucky finals in Louisville. It was on display for several months and every time I went to town I would stop there and marvel at that
wonderful example of teenage ingenuity.

I noticed that E.L. Adams passed away in April at age 83. Hazard may have forgotten him but I didn't.

Wednesday, May 4

The Ultimate Vacation

In 1938 Grandpa Henry Lee McCollum bought a brand new Pontiac four door sedan. Remember the suicide front doors?
It was well equipped with a radio and a heater. Pretty nice. Grandpa had decided to take the ultimate vacation, a trip to Florida. He had a Brother that lived in Fitzjerald, Georgia and a brother that lived in West Palm Beach, Florida. He wanted to visit them both with one trip. This was not something a guy from Hazard did very often.

So it was decided that Grandma and her three daughters would go on this great journey. They threw me in for good measure. A seven year old kid wouldn't take up too much room. It was pretty crowed though. It was a long trip through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia on that old two lane road. It took grandpa 3 days driving time to get to West Palm Beach. We stayed all night at different "tourist homes." Along the road. People would rent out bedrooms to travelers in their own homes. they would also serve breakfast before you left the next morning. There weren't very many motels along the highways back then. It was all fun to me. I saw a lot of new and interesting things on that trip.

When we finally got to Florida we saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time just south of St. Augustine. Grandpa parked the car and took out the old Kodak box camera. The girls took their shoes off and walked barefoot on the beach. I waded into the water and romped around in the surf. The Ocean and the waves were awesome to see. What a great day! We also enjoyed West Palm Beach with the orange trees and the coconut trees in the back yard. Then after a great vacation week in Florida we packed up and started back to the mountains, wishing we could come back again someday.

In the photo left to right: Aunt Lorene Huff, my mother, Lilly Mae Watts, Grandma, Dora lee McCollum, Aunt Norma McCollum and me.

Monday, May 2

I've Been Working On The Railroad

During WW II one of the most desirable jobs a man could have in Kentucky and Tennessee was working on the L & N Railroad.

Practically all the men in our family were "Railroad Men". My Dad, my Grandpa, Grandpa's brother-in-law, Grandpa's son, and two of my my aunt's husbands.

The L & N passenger trains and freight trains ranged from Hazard, Leatherwood, Jenkins, Whitesburg, Jackson, Irvine, Lexington and Louisville. Their famous passenger train, "The Hummingbird" ran daily from Chicago to Louisville, to Nashville and on to New Orleans and back. I rode the Hummingbird during the War when it carried a record number of coaches filled with Service Men and Women plus regular travelers. The seats were all filled and the aisles and the vestibules were also full of passengers either standing or sitting on their suitcases or duffel bags. WWII was an exciting time for railroad travel and entirely necessary for the War Effort.

The main L & N service for us were the freight trains with hundreds and hundreds of coal gondolas each carrying 16 tons of coal out of the Hazard Holler to all points of the United States. The rail tracks from Hazard to Lexington had to be one of the most difficult routes in the world for a heavy coal train to navigate. All those sharp curves and up and down the mountains. All those skinny trestles across the Kentucky River. The Engineer could only see down the tracks for about a quarter of a mile, night and day, rain or shine. Back then freight trains carried an engineer, a fireman, a conductor, brakeman, and flagman. The conductor, brakeman, and flagman traveled it the famous old caboose car at the rear of the train. It was equipped with a sink, toilet, bunk beds and a coal burning pot bellied stove for heat and cooking. Some times a crew might spend two or three days on a run.

Grandpa's job was to marshall these coal trains in the Hazard yards and then send them North, every day. I can still remember, like it was yesterday, hearing the giant coal burning steam engines churning its heavy wheels with giant puffs of smoke straining to get a 120 car coal train moving up to speed. No Diesels in Hazard, yet. If you lived anywhere in town that noise was just routine. The smoke was always hovering over downtown and the smell was just as bad. After a while you paid no attention. It was our way of life.

The other exciting L & N service was the Passenger Train to Lexington. That's the part I loved. It came in from Whitesburg every morning and continued on to Jackson and Lexington. Grandpa would get me a pass every so often during the summer and it was good on any L & N train. I used to ride to Oakdale and visit my uncle's farm for a couple of weeks then ride the train back home. When my Dad and I rode to Lexington I remember the girls in Jackson that set up their stands and sold box lunches to the passengers for Fifty Cents. Several times we went all the way to Cincinnati to see the Reds play baseball. What an adventure that was. Equal to sledding down Baker Hill, Hazard Bulldog Basketball and Ma Combs peach cobbler. The evening train came in from Lexington around 4:30 pm carrying passengers, various newspaper bundles, Railway express mail and packages and 20 gallon cans of fresh milk for the City.

Well the song is right: "The L & N don't stop here any more, but I'll never forget it...