2017-09-06 / Columns

The Way We Were


The Breaks … 80 years ago Eighty years ago this week, action was taken in Washington, D.C., to officially add “the Breaks of the Big Sandy River” to Jefferson National Forest. The meeting, attended by leaders including Kentucky Governor A.B. “Happy” Chandler, Virginia U.S. Rep. John W. Flanagan Jr., and Kentucky Senator Alben Barkley, did not end until after the tract of 130,489 acres was accepted by the National Forest Reservation Committee. “The way is now cleared for the Breaks to become one of the greatest tourist attractions in the country,” said a news release announcing the event. As noted by the website Wikipedia.com, the Breaks, also referred as the “Grand Canyon of the South,” is the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River, through which run the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River (pictured above) and CSX Railroad, formerly the Clinchfield. The park is accessible via Highway 80 to Haysi, Va., and Elkhorn City, Ky., and passes through the community of Breaks, Virginia east of the park. (AP Photo/Roger Alford) The Breaks … 80 years ago Eighty years ago this week, action was taken in Washington, D.C., to officially add “the Breaks of the Big Sandy River” to Jefferson National Forest. The meeting, attended by leaders including Kentucky Governor A.B. “Happy” Chandler, Virginia U.S. Rep. John W. Flanagan Jr., and Kentucky Senator Alben Barkley, did not end until after the tract of 130,489 acres was accepted by the National Forest Reservation Committee. “The way is now cleared for the Breaks to become one of the greatest tourist attractions in the country,” said a news release announcing the event. As noted by the website Wikipedia.com, the Breaks, also referred as the “Grand Canyon of the South,” is the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River, through which run the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River (pictured above) and CSX Railroad, formerly the Clinchfield. The park is accessible via Highway 80 to Haysi, Va., and Elkhorn City, Ky., and passes through the community of Breaks, Virginia east of the park. (AP Photo/Roger Alford) Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907

Thursday, September 8, 1927

The Spanish-American War proved beyond reasonable doubt that typhoid fever can be controlled by vaccination, says Dr. Glass, Letcher County’s health officer. Noting that one in every seven in the Army contracted typhoid fever when no vaccination was available, Dr. Glass says the figure fell to one of every 3,756 Army soldiers contracting typhoid after use of the vaccination started. Typhoid vaccinations will be available this Saturday in the health office, located inside the John A. Webb Building on Main Street in Whitesburg.

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A Whitesburg city garbage dump was opened below town to coincide with the Cleanup Day proclaimed by Mayor B.C. Bach. “It is expected that all trash will be taken there instead of being scattered in the alleys and little used streets,” The Mountain Eagle reports.

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Harlan County led all 20 coal-producing counties in eastern Kentucky in coal tonnage for 1926, the state says. Harlan County produced 13.1 million tons last year. Pike County’s 7.7 million tons was the closest competitor. The Eastern Kentucky Coalfields was responsible for 75.42 percent of the state’s total coal output for 1926.

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Residents of Whitesburg and elsewhere in Letcher County were shocked and saddened Saturday to learn of the tragic death of little Mabel Tice, who was struck and killed by a passing car on Sandlick Road. The child had been enjoying a ride with her parents and other family members when they stopped by the roadside for a few minutes. Little Mabel was a student at Stuart Robinson School at Blackey. She was hit when the passing car did not see her come out from behind the car in which she had been riding.

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An L&N Railroad operator suffered fatal injuries September 1 after falling from the observation platform of a moving train in Morgan County. The deceased, I.N. Pluckett, 50, of Lexington, had been talking with Ward Renaker, manger of the Whitesburg branch of Kyva Motor Company, when the accident occurred. The two men were discussing old acquaintances from Whitesburg as they rode on the observation platform of the train. Renaker said the train was traveling at about 50 miles per hour and had just turned a curve when Pluckett lost his balance and fell.

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The Blackey State Bank will move into its splendid new quarters next Monday (September 12). The bank’s new brick home will include safety deposit boxes and restrooms. The Blackey State Bank was organized in 1920 to meet the needs of the town. Lewis E. Harvie serves as president and A.C. Peed is the cashier. Other board members include Dr. G.D. Ison, Jesse Morgan, and G.H. Zimmerman.

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“The most remarkable feature of American journalism is the growth, development, and influence of the country weekly newspaper and the small town daily, says a report in Industrial News.

Thursday, September 9, 1937

Taxi driver Monroe Hensley was found in critical condition lying in his car on the other side of Pine Mountain today and taken to the Seco hospital for treatment of head injuries. Authorities say Hensley suffered the injuries after being beaten by a robber or robbers who took a considerable amount of cash from him. Police are combing the Cumberland River section for culprits in the case.

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U.S. coal production reached nine million tons for the week ending August 20, says the National Coal Association.

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Bill Collins, the live wire candidate for mayor of Whitesburg, started off his campaign with a bang this week, making his formal announcement after arriving at the offices of The Mountain Eagle with four beers under his arm. “While this was quite acceptable to The Eagle’s force, we wonder if Bill might by any chance have been trying to bribe us,” says a front-page report. “A beer for every vote will get mighty expensive before the campaign closes, we fear.”

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United Mine Workers of America field representative Rufus Miller died in Hazard about 10 o’clock Monday night after being shot six times on the streets of Hazard, apparently by Perry County Deputy Sheriff Marion Banks. Miller had been active in the promotion of the Coal Carnival Festival of Hazard, which drew a crowd of more than 35,000. Miller and the deputy had been seen talking to each other shortly before the incident.

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The Coca-Cola Bottling Works and the Nehi Bottling Company are the latest two Letcher County businesses to sign contracts with the Committee on Industrial Organization (CIO). Charters have been installed and local unions are functioning at both work places. This comes after 100 percent of Whitesburg’s taxi drivers agreed to a CIO contract.

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The Breaks of the Big Sandy River will be added to Jefferson National Forest. A tract of 130,489 acres of land was accepted by the National Forest Reservation Committee during a meeting in Washington late last week. The action was strongly recommended by Kentucky Governor A.B. “Happy” Chandler and Virginia U.S. Rep. John W. Flanagan Jr., and Kentucky Senator Alben Barkley. “The way is now cleared for the Breaks to become one of the greatest tourist attractions in the country,” says a news release announcing the addition of the tract to the forest.

Thursday, September 11, 1947

Whitesburg sports fans enjoyed their first thrill on the newly lighted football field last Friday night when Whitesburg defeated Wayland, 31-0, before one of the largest crowds ever to attend a local game.

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The Community Theatre is now open in Blackey under the management of Fred. S. McComas. Coming movies are “Margie,” “Up In Mable’s Room,” “The Fabulous Dorseys,” and “Law of the Lash.” Movies show nightly at 6:30.

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M.F. Compton of Neon has opened and Army & Navy Store adjoining his shoe shop business in Neon.

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One of only two toll bridges remaining in operation in Kentucky — the Milton- Madison Bridge over the Ohio River — will begin operating without tolls after a “freeing ceremony” to be held sometime soon. Tolls are also still collected on the Rockport Bridge over the Green River in western Kentucky.

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A No. 2-sized can of Heinz Pork and Beans is now on sale for 16 cents at the A&L Grocery in Neon. A half-pint jar of Miracle Whip now costs 23 cents.

Thursday, September 12, 1956

The Letcher County Board of Education is taking bids for a nine-classroom addition to the Whitesburg High School gymnasium and hopes to award a contract for construction work on the planned $100,000 project next month.

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A North Carolina truck driver was killed and two other people were injured seriously in a bus-truck collision on U.S. 119 at Thornton Tuesday. Killed was Dewey Walser of Blowing Rock, N.C., who was pronounced dead on arrival at the Whitesburg hospital. Injured are bus driver Barney Gilliam and bus rider C.S. Holston. State Trooper Ottis Anderson said the wreck was caused when the bus swerved on the wet road and hit the truck head-on. The bus was on its way to Jenkins from Whitesburg when the mishap occurred about 8:30 a.m. The truck was hauling building blocks toward Whitesburg.

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Radio station WNKY of Neon will soon have four times its present broadcasting power. The Federal Communications Commission has granted the station permission to boost its facilities from 1450 kilocycles with 250 watts of power to 1480 kilocycles with 1000 watts of power. The station completed its first year of broadcasting on September 1.

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Funeral services were held in Sergent Wednesday for Mrs. Eva M. King Amburgey, who was one of four people killed Sunday in a traffic accident in near Lima, Ohio. Also killed were Mrs. Amburgey’s son-in-law, Corbin Earls, and her two grandchildren, Laverne Earls, 11, and Luther Earls, 7. The four were on their way to the Earls home in Flint, Michigan when the car occupied by the four swerved and was sitting sideways in the road when another car hit it broadside. The driver of the other car was not injured. Charges are not expected.

Thursday, September 7, 1967

The City of Whitesburg is preparing a formal protest to the Kentucky Water Pollution Control Commission concerning the opening of a limestone quarry on Pert Creek just below High Rock of Pine Mountain.

City officials fear the quarry, just being developed, will pollute the city’s water supply and destroy the effectiveness of a dam now being built on the North Fork of the Kentucky River near Whitesburg. The dam is designed to create a pool from which the city may draw water to supply the customers of the city water system.

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Amos Tyree, 38, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on new KY 15 at the mouth of Dry Fork. Officers said Tyree apparently was killed almost instantly. State police are investigating the death by have made no arrests.

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Three Letcher County soldiers are assigned to Co. E, 18th Battalion, 5th Brigade, at Fort Knox for training. They are Pvt. Daniel E. Ashbrook, son of Mr. and Mrs. Vince Ashbrook, Sergent; Pvt. Jackie D. Peace, son of William Peace of Seco, and Pvt. Thomas L. Yonts, son of Mr. and Mrs. Lonzo Yonts of Deane.

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The Whitesburg Yellowjackets defeated Cawood 53-0 and Wheelwright 12-6 in games here over the Labor Day weekend. The Jenkins Cavaliers defeated the M.C. Napier Navajos 35-13.

Thursday, September 1, 1977

Four members of the Fleming-Neon High School football team — Steven Reach, Eddie Cantrell, Dallas Hollon and Arthur Cantrell — were injured by shotgun pellets during Friday night’s game at Wheelwright. The shots were aimed at a mobile home near the football field, splattering players and spectators by mistake, according to Kentucky State Police.

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Blue Diamond Coal Co. has asked the U.S. District Court for Eastern Kentucky to bar the release of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration technical report on the twin March, 1976 explosions at the company’s Scotia Mine until after a civil suit filed by the widows of the first explosion is heard and decided.

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A group of angry Cumberland River parents are vowing they will not send their children over Pine Mountain to school until a gaping break in U.S. 119 is permanently repaired. The damaged portion of highway lies directly above a quarry operated by State Stone and Contracting and Stone Co., a subsidiary of Iowa-based Medusa Aggreattes. It is the site of frequent slippage and repeated repairs by the state highway department, and was the cause of a $100,000 damage suit filed against State Stone by Commonwealth attorneys earlier this year.

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The ranks of striking miners evidently continued to dwindle this week as an undetermined number of eastern Kentucky mines reopened and all but about 12,000 United Mine Workers members in West Virginia went back to work.

Wednesday, September 2, 1987

Letcher District Judge Larry D. Collins has ruled that Donnie Ray Mullins, 30, of Sergent, “used reasonable and just force” when he killed 32-year-old Rocky Lynn Sergent. Mullins was charged with firstdegree manslaughter after he shot Sergent three times with a .38-caliber handgun outside Mullins’s home.

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The state Commission for Health Economics Control will decide in two weeks in American Health Development Corporation of Nashville, Tenn., should be allowed to build a nursing home in Letcher County. Twelve persons, including nine Letcher County residents, testified in support of the proposed facility.

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Thursday, most of Fleming-Neon High School’s 360 students refused to eat at school, choosing instead to spend their lunch break standing outside in a heavy rain as a sign of protest. Eleven students were suspended from school for one day because of their actions. The students say they were complaining about cold food and a poor menu selection. For the first time in modern history, students in the county system’s three high schools are being required to remain on school property during their 30-minute lunch periods.

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Nanetta Dingus of Neon and Carl Banks of Whitesburg are Woman and Man of the Year for this year’s Mountain Heritage Festival. Seven people will be inducted into the Mountain Heritage Hall of Fame: Frank Abdoo, Neon; Lois Adams Baker, Blackey; the late Ray Biggerstaff, Whitesburg; the late Dr. Thomas Reed Collier, Whitesburg; J.D. Maggard, Eolia; the late Comis Tyler, Dry Fork; and the late Lillian Russell Fugate Webb, Neon.

Wednesday, September 3, 1997

U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, talked with eight miners in Hazard who gave him some horrifying accounts of present-day safety conditions in some of Appalachia’s underground and surface coal mines. Wellstone also retraced U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy’s footsteps in visiting a Head Start program and back roads and creek beds by van as part of his national “Children’s Tour.” He was accompanied here by his wife, Sheila, a member of the Ison family of Kingdom Come.

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“Fire Down Below,” a film starring action hero Steven Seagal, will open in Nashville tomorrow night. The film, scenes of which were shot in Letcher County, will open at the Whitesburg Cinema on Friday.

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Eastern Kentucky children are “suffering and dying at a much higher rate” than children in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, says the Charles L. Baker, director of the Presbyterian Child Welfare Agency at Buckhorn in Perry County. Baker wants a joint federal-state study of statistics for the past four years to compare problems of children in Kentucky and other Appalachian states to the problems of children in the rest of the nation.

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Some of the largest crowds ever turned out for the 1997 Jenkins Homecoming Festival held in August. Special guests for the festival were the 1957 undefeated Jenkins High School football team and former JHS homecoming queens.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Veolia Water North America is demanding an extra $188,687 a year to continue its management of the City of Whitesburg’s water and sewage systems. Tony O’Brien, area vice president for Houston-based Veolia, pressed the Whitesburg City Council for an answer to the company’s demands, but Mayor James W. Craft said no decision would be made before the council’s regular monthly meeting.

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A black bear, referred to by one teacher as “Abe the Bear,” has been seen near Arlie Boggs Elementary School recently. Bonnie King, a cook at ABES, says she has never seen a bear while children were at the school. Sightings have always been early in the mornings or late in the evenings.

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Letcher County’s unemployment rate fell slightly in July, even though 13 fewer people had jobs here than in the month before. The jobless rate for July in Letcher County was 7.7 percent, down from 8.3 percent in June.

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Dayne Marvin Jarrett, 72, of Whitesburg, died August 27 at Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital. He was a popular volunteer disc jockey on WMMTFM in Whitesburg, where he was known as Starvin’ Marvin. He was also known to many Letcher County residents for his years of employment at Pigman Brothers Dry Cleaners in Whitesburg.

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