2017-09-13 / Columns

The Way We Were

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907

Thursday, September 15, 1927 The open house celebration held Monday at the new Blackey State Bank in Blackey, built at a cost of $10,000, went better than expected as the bank’s deposits increased from $149,176 to $168,366. Among the new bank building’s top attractions is the vault door made by the Mosier Safe and Lock Company of Hamilton, Ohio. The door is seven and one-half inches think, three inches of which are solid steel, and weight two and one-half tons. The walls of the new vault are 18 inches thick with three tons of steel reinforcement.

. The Letcher County Board of Education will soon award construction bids for new school buildings at Campbell’s Branch, Lower Kings Creek, and Middle Colly.

. Nearly 300 people attended the box supper held at the Smoot Creek School Saturday night. The crowd bought enough pies and other foods to raise about $50, which will be used to buy flags, books and other equipment.

. The City of Whitesburg’s sewer system will be enlarged soon to include Railroad Street, running from First Street to Main Street, and from the North Fork of the Kentucky River to the school property on College Hill.

Thursday, September 16, 1937 Police are still looking for two men wanted in connection with the murder of Whitesburg taxicab driver Monroe Hensley, who died at the Seco hospital September 4 after he was beaten and robbed of $20. The two men are believed to have hired Hensley to drive them to the Cumberland River area of Letcher County, where they then robbed and beat him and left him for dead. Hensley was buried September 9 at Smoot Creek.

. Whitesburg Police Chief Newt Sturgill III is at home recovering from injuries he suffered after slipping on rocks on the side of Pine Mountain, where he had been taking part in the manhunt for two men who robbed and murdered Whitesburg taxi driver Monroe Hensley earlier this month.

. Letcher County automobile dealer Wilson Renaker, a founding partner of Kyva Motor Company of Millstone and Whitesburg, has left Whitesburg for an extended stay in Asheville, North Carolina in an effort to regain his failing health.

. After hearing what he thought was the sound of a hacksaw cutting through steel earlier this week, Deputy Letcher County Jailer Jim Stamper searched all jail inmates and recovered two hacksaw blades. Unfortunately, Stamper did not find the third blade that was used to cut through the steel bars of a jail window Wednesday afternoon, allowing three prisoners to escape. As of today (Thursday), two of the prisoners were caught, while one remained at large.

. Three Floyd County high school boys escaped injury last week from a falling meteorite at Betsy Layne. The meteorite, the second to fall at Betsy Layne in a 10-day period, fell just a few feet from the boys, who located it while the smell of burning sulphur was still in the air. It weighed 35 pounds and measured 18 inches in length.

. A Whitesburg boy received 20 stitches in his hand after being cut with a “buzz saw” while helping to construct a choir loft at the new Presbyterian Church. The boy, Alton Moore, son of attorney Harry L. Moore, was helping the Rev. O.V. Caudill work up rough lumber for the floor of the choir loft when the mishap occurred. Dr. Crawford, the attending physician, says the hand will be as good ever after the healing is done.

. If all goes according to plan, the Fleming-Neon High School Pirates will play under the lights for the first time ever at their football field when they host Virginia’s Norton High School on September 25. The Fleming-Neon High School Athletics Association is organizing and paying for the lighting project with community donations.

. The Whitesburg Yellowjackets will host the Van Lear Bank Mules at 1:45 p.m. on Friday in the season-opening football game for both teams. Admission will be 10 cents for students and 25 cents for adults.

Thursday, September 18, 1947 Lieutenant Commander Archie R. Fields, an aerologist from Whitesburg, was among 10 Navy airmen known as “hurricane hunters” who on the night of September 13 flew through the center of a hurricane that was moving through San Juan, Puerto Rico as the storm considered one of the worst ever moving toward the Atlantic seaboard. Throughout the flight, Fields gave a running description of the hurricane into a wire recording outfit. Weathermen can now play back Fields’s commentary and learn more about what makes hurricanes tick. Also onboard the flight was United Press reporter Milton Carr, who said the experience could be described in one word: “Terrifying.”

. The U.S. Bureau of Mines says as re-inspection of the Premium Coals Inc. mine at Premium, which employs 102 miners, found the mine in better shape after managers and employees adopted minimum

timbering standards and compliance with recognized standards related to coal dust control.

. In a statement to citizens, the Letcher County Board of Education says it has been trying to find ways to pay for and build an eight-room grade school at Hemphill and a gymnasium at Whitesburg, but the construction costs of plans approved by the state school board “were so unreasonable that it was rejected by a unanimous vote” of the local board.

. Ernest “Bun” Campbell, 23, of Hallie, was killed early Wednesday morning when his loaded coal truck went out of gear and crashed over a steep hill. Campbell, a veteran of World War II with the Army in Japan, was fatally injured when he jumped from the moving truck.

. Unable to escape a large slate fall he saw coming, Letcher County miner Chester Combs shouted “Lord have mercy” as the roof caved in on him about 10 a.m. Wednesday inside a mine owned by Steve Ison [location not printed]. His body was recovered some two hours later. Combs, 32, is survived by his widow and five small children. He was buried on Craft’s Colly.

. Billed as “America’s Greatest Fighting Cowboy,” Bob Steele will appear live on stage at the King Coal Theatre in Jenkins on September 20.

. The City Café, owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Pennington, is celebrating its one-year anniversary in Whitesburg.

. Smittie’s Dry Cleaners of Whitesburg says there is no truth to rumors the business is closing after nine years of operation. Smittie says that while he did spend some time in Florida resting recently, he is now back in Letcher County and “will take charge of the work inside the plant and will personally see that all work is in perfect condition” before being delivered to customers “in one of two trucks.”

. T.A. Dixon is building a fine new home near the mouth of Elk Creek on some good ground where the old pioneer, John Dixon, erected a log hut about 1804. The property has been in possession of the

Dixon family since that time.

Thursday, September 19, 1957 Dr. Owen Pigman, 80, a Whitesburg physician who has practiced medicine since 1907, was honored today as the “1957 General Practitioner of the Year” by the Kentucky State Medical Society. The medical society paid tribute to Dr. Pigman for his longtime service to coal miners in Letcher and Knott counties. The medical society also pointed out that Dr. Pigman has delivered as many as 3,000 babies. He has been in private medical practice with his son, Dr. Carl Pigman, since 1950.

. The lack of classroom space and the need for better school buildings will be discussed at a public meeting to be held in the Letcher Circuit Courtroom on September 26.

. The City of Whitesburg was still without any declared candidates for city council at Mountain Eagle press time today. The deadline for filing is midnight tomorrow (Friday).

. One or more hoodlums dynamited two outdoor toilets at Middle Millstone Grade School about 4 a.m. last Thursday, apparently after a nightlong drunken brawl. Sheriff Robert Collins said the vandalism occurred after a party involving both Millstone and out-of-state residents.

. Actress Jayne Mansfield stars in “The Girl Can’t Help It” this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Isaac’s Alene Theatre in Whitesburg.

Thursday, September 14, 1967 A flood control dam proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers would cross the lower end of Letcher County from a point between Ulvah and Blackey to the lower end of Whitesburg on the North Fork and the upper end of Isom on Rockhouse Creek. The dam would be named the Kingdom Come Dam. Rumors of the proposed dam have been circulating in Letcher County for several years.

. A new policy of notifying individual landowners of applications filed in Frankfort by coal operators to strip-mine on the landowner’s property has been started by the Kentucky Department of Natural

Resources. The policy, requested by Gov. Edward T. Breathitt, calls for notification by registered to the property owner that a strip mine request is pending. In addition, a public notice will be placed at the courthouse of the county where the land is located.

. Billy R. Hall, son of Estill and Opal Hall, formerly of Neon, is serving in the armed forces in Vietnam. He attended Neon Grade School before his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio.

. Work is underway on construction of a swimming pool at the rear of the Suburban Motel in Whitesburg.

Thursday, September 8, 1977 Coal produced in Letcher County sold for an average of $28.42 per ton during the fiscal year which ended June 30, by far the highest average price in Kentucky. The second highest average was in a western Kentucky county, Webster, at $23.53 and the lowest was in Edmonson County, an average of $9.77

. The summer-long United Mine Workers strike approached an unstable end this week with only a few mines in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia remaining out, but miners and industry officials both say the situation is unpredictable. “It’s just like working over a keg of dynamite,” said one miner.

. Opening statements were given Wednesday in the trial in which widows of miners killed in the Scotia disaster are suing Blue Diamond Coal Co., alleging that negligence

. Three former Whitesburg High School stars are playing at Morehead State University this year. They are Roger Yonts, freshman defensive lineman; Tom Day, junior defensive tackle; and Steve Meade, freshman middle guard.

Wednesday, September 9, 1987 The Letcher County Fiscal Court must “strictly comply” with state orders on the Letcher County Landfill or face judicial penalties and fines, which an engineer says could bankrupt the county government. An agreed order with the state Natu-

ral Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet requires the county to get the Millstone landfill into compliance with state standards and keep in compliance. It also requires the fiscal court to pay a $75,000 surety bond the county could forfeit if the landfill is not kept up.

. Police and federal agents are looking for a person or persons who attempted to blow up a county bridge on Colson. Police say someone stuffed dynamite into six drain holes in the piers of the Loves Branch bridge late on Aug. 30. Police said the explosives were packed improperly and failed to collapse the bridge. The force of the explosion blew out the ends of the open holes instead of destroying the piers, and caused about $73,000 of damage. No arrests have been made, police say they suspect it was part of a land dispute.

. Willard Stanley, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals, says the possibility of political repercussions in Letcher County caused him to delay action against miners reportedly illegally stripping coal. Only after a citizen called and warned him there was likely to be another flood like the one on Buffalo Creek, W.Va., in 1972 (125 people were killed in the Buffalo Creek disaster) did he take action. Stanley said that delaying enforcement action only complicates the situation. “The people in these operations know that you’ve been notified and you’re not doing anything about it and as time goes on, they’ll take a little more advantage of those kinds of things.”

. Eight-year-old Jessie Banks, a third-grader at Letcher Elementary School, won a blue ribbon at the Kentucky State Fair in the State 4-H Vegetable Judging Contest. She was the youngest person in the contest and possibly the youngest girl or boy ever to represent Letcher County in a state 4-H event, said Paul Morris, county Extension agent. She is the daughter of Bob and Delana Banks of Letcher.

Wednesday, September 10, 1997 U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, has urged other members of the U.S. Senate to support a proposal now before the Senate to provide money to hire 24 additional full-time federal inspectors to monitor the sampling of respirable dust in coal mines. Coal dust is the major cause of black lung disease. Wellstone spoke on the Senate floor shortly after returning from a five-day trip to Letcher County, where he met with a group of coal miners and listened to their descriptions of working in underground coal mines.

. A strike by 25 independent coal truck owners and drivers for an increase in hauling rates has ended. Kentucky May Coal Co. officials and three truck owners, Darrell Hall, Herbert Hall and Jeff Little — reached an agreement and nine other truck owners also signed a contract with Kentucky May to haul coal at the increased rate of $4.90 per ton. Before the strike, truckers said they were losing money hauling coal at a rate of $4.35 per ton.

. James Monroe and Nina Mae Caudill recently brought a gift, a cassette recording of songs of the Old Regular Baptists produced by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, for Blackey correspondent Diana Combs. The recording includes songs “by members of the Indian Bottom Association, Old Regular Baptists at Defeated Creek Church, Linefork,” she writes. “A small brochure accompanied written by Elwood Cornett, moderator of the Indian Bottom Association.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 As Letcher County continues to be enveloped in one of the worst droughts since the 1930s, the cities of Fleming-Neon and Jenkins have issued water shortage warnings while the county government has placed a ban on all outdoor burning. The drought has raised the threat of major forest fires in Kentucky.

. The annual Neon Days festival was cancelled on the same day it opened last week after the death of Timothy Wayne Hall, a longtime festival volunteer. Hall died early Friday night after performing in a concert with the Soggier Bottom Boys, a novelty act he cofounded.

. The national Insurance Services Office now recognizes the Blackey Fire Station, lowering insurance rates for residents living within a five-mile radius of the station. The Blackey Fire Station is a branch of the Letcher County Fire and Rescue Service, and is equipped with two fire trucks donated by the Jasper Volunteer Fire Department in Big Stone Gap, Va.

Sherd Martin, 100, died September 6. He and his wife, the late Alma Hickman Martin, were often featured in The Mountain Eagle in columns written by their friend, the late Mable Kiser, who wrote the Millstone news. Mrs. Martin died May 9.

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