My dear loved ones, friends, and cousins out in the country. I’ve been missing everyone so much in the last few weeks.
It has been lonely since the holidays are over, and I was so sick before Christmas that I didn’t even put up a tree. I always look forward to a pretty tree and all the decorations.
It is the first time since I was married that I have done that, 58 years. The first one was Dec. 25, 1950, 68 years ago. Claude got out and found a pretty cedar tree and we decorated it really pretty. We lived in the old Wesley Cornett house, down by the Cornett Cemetery.
He was working in a coalmine on Camp Branch, close to his dad and mom’s home. He and his brother inlaw, Lawrence Cornett, leased the coal from Harry Caudill (lawyer) at Whitesburg.
They had it hauled to Roxana to a place where they sold it. Lois Baker and husband owned the place where the train picked it up to haul it out of there.
They worked that for a long while, then they opened up a mine up in Bug’s Branch, owned by Bug Halcomb. They leased the coal from Bug, who was Lawrence’s grandpa on his mother’s side, Aunt Jane. She was married to my uncle, Sam Cornett, my grandfather, D.D. Dock Cornett’s brother. So it was how we made money to live on in 1950 and ‘51.
Uncle Sam had a little one-room shack over across the branch from Claude’s mom and dad. He let us live in it just to fix it up. It was 12 feet wide and 24 feet long. We cleaned it out real good, and my mom and I papered it with pretty paper, and got two 12×12 linoleum rugs to put on the floor. They fit it just perfect.
We had bought an electric stove at the other house, and a breakfast set, and a big white cabinet. That’s all we had in the kitchen, and we had a full-size bed, and my dad gave me a half-bed and we had a small, coal and wood heating stove in the middle of the room to keep us warm in the winter.
We finally got electricity put in the shack so we could cook. We lived there and ate at Lawrence and his wife, Ophia’s, who was Claude’s older sister. She cooked for us every day until we got electricity hooked up. I washed at their house, also. She had a washing machine, and I helped her get water for us to wash. We hung the clothes on big lines to dry. It took all day to do all that, and cook meals.
She had three children, Reva, Charles and Dovie, then a baby girl, Dorothy Lynn, and I had a baby son, Roger Dale. Roger was born June 10, and Dorothy on July 3, in 1951. Then about two years later, Ophia had Irene. Roger was four and a half, and I had my second son, David.
We had moved from that shack to Kingscreek up on Carrion Branch. Roger learned how to walk really well. I was afraid at that house, and I kept my sisters all the time, and some of Claude’s sisters or Ophia’s daughter, Reva. We had a lot of good times playing and dancing, and music on the radio. It was a lot better than being alone.
Claude had gotten a job at Jewell Ridge on Leatherwood on the second shift. We left there and moved to a house up at Frank and Thelma Cornett’s across the creek from their store and post office. We stayed there about four years, and we fixed up another shack house on his dad’s property.
It had two rooms, and we built a big kitchen on the side of the two other rooms.
I had got me a washer and a small refrigerator while we lived on Carrion Branch, and we began to live a lot better.
I had a porch to sit out on and a good-sized yard and a garden for vegetables, and a big shady tree in the front yard. We still didn’t have a bathroom — just an outside toilet.
We fattened up two big hogs and got a freezer for those and a bunch of chickens. I always loved to cook big dinners, and have my friends and family members to come to eat. I loved to make cakes and pies and candy.
Claude worked at Jewel Ridge Coal Company on Leatherwood for 12 years. Then they closed down. We had to move away to Illinois to work for Peabody Coal Company.
We moved to Marion, Ill., after Claude bought us a new trailer — 12×60 feet. It was not the most beautiful place I’d ever seen in my life, inside that home. It had a bathroom (a dream come true), three bedrooms, a big living room, and kitchen, and we were so pleased.
I cried and cried. I never dreamed of anything so nice in my whole life. I got me a new washing machine to go in the bathroom, but had to take the clothes to the laundromat to dry. I finally got a dryer years later.
I became pregnant there and had my baby son, Randy Darren. Then when he was nine days old, we had to move the trailer to Harrisburg, Ill., because the mines closed there and moved to Shawnee Town, about 35 miles from where we moved at Harrisburg in Winter’s Trailer Park.
Mr. Winter’s wife was Reta. They were just starting a trailer court, and we were their first rents. We loved it. He helped us get set up and only charged $25 per month for rent.
It was close to school for the boys in grade school and high school. It was not too far away for Roger and David. The hospital was very close also, and the ballpark was real close so the boys could play baseball.
We had some good neighbors all around us. I attended the P.T.A. at the grade school and got elected president of that. I made lots of good friends.
Harrisburg was a very nice town. There were lots of lakes to go to fish with Claude and the boys. They liked that. Claude loved to fish and he always caught a lot.
I loved to fish also. I went one day and caught 12 big bass. I beat Claude that day. I had a red cap on, and I told him that was my trick. He got himself a red cap after that.
One of my good and closest friends was Thelma Lane. Her husband was Bud Lane. He worked at the mine also.
We loved to get out on weekends and go down south of where we lived to the Ohio River to a cave in a rock. There was the Ohio River and a huge, big cliff with a cave back inside of it. It was huge, and then on the outside was a big, grassy hillside where the boys could run a play. We went there on Easter Sunday to hide eggs for them to hunt. They really had fun.
Claude was a good dad to his five boys. We never had a girl. I always hoped for a girl, but I just enjoyed God’s gifts to me, my five sons, and we would get out on Sundays a lot of times and go to where the Ohio River would run into the big Mississippi. That was so heartwarming to see. So big and so swift.
We had to go by a big college, and you could see all kinds of young people. Some of the girls wore long dresses, and they wore a star on their foreheads. They were beautiful. The students at that college were from all walks of life.
There was a big lake close to Marion and we got a big boat and went out there to ride. It was so lovely and exciting. In fall, the wild geese would come through that area, heading south for the winter. There would be hundreds of them flying, and wild ducks and sometimes eagles would come. You could see them for miles. It was like big clouds until they got closer to us.
Claude’s dad came to see us one time, and his two daughters, Joy and Jeannie. They went out there with us. Claude’s dad really enjoyed seeing that. He got sick with stomach pains, and I went to the drugstore and got him some medicine and it helped him. So he was able to enjoy the sights of the geese, ducks, and especially the eagles. He had never seen them before.
Claude’s mom never did get to come to visit. She didn’t enjoy traveling that good. She raised nine children and was a good woman. She was so good to me. I loved her. She always came to me if I got sick or needed her in any way. His dad was good to us also. We moved back to our shack until we got the trailer home.
Lonnie Mae was like a daughter to me. She would come and stay with me a lot and help me. Carl Edward was good also. He had a friend, Dale Huff, and they would come and cut weeds at the back of the house on the hillside. I always paid them to help me, and they liked that. They were young.
I would get behind on all my work and tending to the boys, and his mom would come up and help me catch up. I didn’t like to wash dishes, and she would do that for me while I ironed and cleaned house and did other chores.
She knew I didn’t like to wash dishes, and I still don’t most of the time. Sometimes I love to. I love to wash pretty dishes and glasses and pretty silverware. She would ask me how I made the glasses so shiny.
I loved to cook good meals and have people to come and eat with us. I did that a lot of times for family and friends.
We had a big coming home party on Saturday night, and all my cousins came to be with us and we danced the night away. Oh! What a good time.