Whitesburg KY
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy

Graveyard Hollow, a good place to live

Everyone asks me, “Why don’t you write something about Graveyard Hollow?” Okay, here goes.

We moved from Marlowe to Graveyard Hollow (you can call it Westwood, but I never will) in August, 1944. World War II was still going on. It was the end of the Great Depression. I am the son of Curt and Thelma Cornett. My dad worked in the mines at Marlowe, and my grandpa, Fred Hughes, was a foreman there.

I didn’t know anyone at Graveyard Hollow. Lots of kids gathered by the fence, watching us unload the truck. They didn’t talk, and neither did I. Soon Dave Smith, who was a year younger, came over and we have been friends ever since.

There were lots of kids my age, older and younger, to play with — and we played. From daylight to dark, we were busy doing something, and would have played all night if our parents had allowed it. No one had a TV. Video games hadn’t been invented. Only a few people had a radio. No one had a record player. We were all miners’ children, and the kids who lived in the city at Whitesburg called us, “miner trash.”

But we had fun. I’d like to thank whoever put that rock wall around the graveyard. It was a favorite place to play. We could make it into a fort and defend all enemies. We could sit on it every Friday night and watch the Whitesburg High School football games. We could sit side by side with our girlfriends. I wrote once about us boys burying a dead monkey there, and Dave Smith preached its funeral. A set of twins that came too early are buried just outside and to the left of the gate. Arlin Caudill helped bury them.

The field was full of white clover and daisies. We would line up and run through it, our fingers just touching the top of the weeds, making noises like an airplane. The horseweeds would grow tall, and they would make excellent spears to throw when you stripped off the leaves. In the weed patch was also a good place to hide.

A carnival or a circus would come to town and set up right where the Whitesburg swimming pool is now located. We all went. It just cost a quarter to get in most of the sideshows or ride the rides. Most of the time, you could pick up 25 Coke or Pepsi bottles on the side of the road and save them, and turn them in for a penny apiece to make a quarter.

One Saturday morning, we noticed an old car with a large tent set up under that large sycamore tree that we called, “The Big Tree.” They had some kids who were playing around the car. Slowly, we worked our way down to them, and only one of them could speak English. A family of gypsies was something big in the hollow. We played games with them; they taught us a few games, and their father made us whistles from a small tree limb. Then one morning, they were gone.

Everyone played marbles and some got pretty good at shooting them out of the circle. My parents would never let us play ‘keeps’ because that was gambling. We played round town by digging small holes in the yard. We had no grass to cut. We played in the yard so much we kept it bare ground. Daddy said, “I ain’t growing grass; I’m growing boys.”

Up in the right-hand hollow (where the doctor built his large house) was a whole tribe of Cassells and Halcombs. James Grant Cassell and I had the same initials. I’d carve mine and Janice’s initials in a tree and he’d say, “That’s my initials there with Janice,” and we’d fight. Then a few minutes later we were friends again. Thula Jane Cassell and her friends put on a sideshow one time that was out of this world. All of us boys paid a penny apiece to see her dance.

Sammy Blair was another friend. He and I and Gwen and Carmalyn played cowboys and Indians. I never could kill Sammy. I’d shoot him and he’d say, “You only got me in the shoulder.” After his parents moved to Lexington, they had more children. Gwen played a lot with my future wife, Janice Caudill.

Clyde Fields and I got into a lot of things together. We snared fish, found a $10 bill and it took us three months to spend it all, and smoked when we could get them.

Willa Mae, Georgeann and Harvey Ison were our neighbors. We played cards and other games at their house. Dave Smith once shot Willa Mae in the leg with my Red Rider BB gun, then handed the gun to me. Daddy made me go apologize to her for shooting her. They had some visitors one time, and we took them snipe hunting in the woods and left them there. It was two hours before they came home. I remember after the war was over, a relative of theirs came home with some kind of skin disease on his hands. He would scream with pain and wore gloves all of the time.

Dave Smith and I dug foxholes all over the hollow, and furnished them with home- made bows and arrows. No Jap or German was going to invade Graveyard Hollow and get away with it! We covered them with tin and weeds. Someone found some of them and filled them with garbage and made us mad. Up in the mountain we cut down small trees and built a log house, about eight feet square, with windows. We also played in a manmade, tworoom cave on a sandstone cliff overlooking Whitesburg. Dave and I got caught in a forest fire there once, and ran through the fire to get home.

The hillside was covered with sagebrush. In the winter, with snow on the ground, a sled would literally fly off the hill. In the summer, when the sagebrush was high, a piece of cardboard with the front end rolled up made a pretty good sled. Now, the hillside is covered with trees.

Rosie Brown and her brother took us up into the mountain behind their house, and we found a field of huckleberries. We picked some and brought them home, and Mom made jelly.

During the war, we gathered scrap iron and piled it in one corner of our yard. We could get lots of it at the Whitesburg trash dump. They dumped trash into the river, just below the bridge coming out of Whitesburg below the Mill Dam at Caudilltown. We once dragged a whole car top home, and got 50 cents for it. The scrap iron man would come around once a month.

The ice man came every other day. A block of ice was a quarter, and it would last two days in your icebox. A sliver of ice was a treat, and he passed out a lot of them to our dirty hands. Even if we didn’t eat the ice or drink the melting water, it was fun to sling cold water on each other. We made our own fun. A hillside could be carved into roads and garages. Weeds could be made into houses. Rocks could be piled up into a wall, and your enemy could throw some rocks and see who could tear down the other wall first. Everything was fun to us.

I fell in love with my neighbor, Janice Caudill. We were sweethearts from 1944 to about 1952. Even though he was younger, Johnny B. Cornett also liked Janice. I have a scar in the middle of forehead put there by Johnny B. Cornett in a fight over Janice. I call it my battle scar.

In 1949, Dad had made some bad investments with his brother in leasing some coal mines, and we lost our house at Graveyard Hollow. We moved to a new house Dad had built in Blackey. I saw Janice again at a high school folk dance at Whitesburg in 1954. I saw her again at the Whitesburg reunion in 1995. We married on Dec. 5, 1998. She’s my Graveyard Hollow girl.

Who owns the hillside between the rock-walled graveyard and the highway beside the football field? I want to buy it and cut down all of those trees so the people in Graveyard Hollow can go up there and take blankets, candy and popcorn and watch the football games, just the way we used to.

There are many other stories that can be told about Graveyard Hollow. I’ll write a few of them down as I think of them, and tell them later in the paper.

Leave a Reply