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The way we were



Clips from Mountain Eagle front pages over the past 50 years

November 30, 1961

The Kentucky fire marshal’s office had some sharp words this week for the Letcher County school system’s failure to follow fire-safety recommendations made during an inspection of county school buildings last year. Warren Southworth, chief inspector for the fire marshal’s office, wrote Supt. of Schools Sanford Adams that he was “most disappointed” to learn that “evidently little or no effort has been made toward the elimination of serious life and fire hazards” in the county schools since the state inspection last year. He submitted a new list of fire hazards existing in the schools. The fire marshal listed 107 conditions which should be corrected, but noted that only 21 have been.

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Ten men have lost their jobs with the state highway department in Letcher County as a result of the economy.

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The City of Whitesburg has contracted with a Lexington engineering firm to survey Whitesburg’s water system and decided what should be done to improve it.

December 2, 1971

A county-wide garbage pickup is scheduled for the first week in December.

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Twelve road-improvement projects are scheduled in Letcher County as part of President Nixon’s new emergency employment program.

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The Kentucky Department of Highways has submitted its plan for the Whitesburg bypass to the federal government for approval. Officials say the actual road work will not start for another year.

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Several Letcher County residents have been invited to testify before Congress on the problems of strip mining, but they have not received any word as to when they should go to Washington. Joe Begley and Katherine Haynes of Blackey, longtime foes of strip mining; Whitesburg Atty. Harry Caudill, and Warren Wright of Burdine are among those whose names are on the witness list but who have not been notified as to when they can testify. Caudill submitted a written statement. Begley and Haynes say they don’t have the time or money to go to Washington and then not be heard. Wright withdrew his name from the list after seeing the way the committee members treated antistrip mining witnesses such as Jim Branscombe, director of Save Our Kentucky.

December 3, 1981

Venetia Clark, the first woman coal miner hired by South East Coal Co., says mining isn’t as hard as being a waitress. She said she had encountered no sexual harassment on the job and, in fact, the men on her shift are sometimes overly protective. “I finally just had to show them that I could work the equipment and I could take risks,” she said.

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A ruling by Letcher Circuit Judge F. Byrd Hogg has cleared the way for the trial of one of the two men accused of the 1975 murder of William Harvey Johnson. Hogg’s ruling admits the testimony of a woman who said she had witnessed the murder. Johnson, a native of Pike County, was found dead outside his home on US 119 at Payne Gap on the morning of July 17, 1975. He had been shot 14 times in the head and chest with a .22 caliber weapon.

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The decision by the Appalachian Regional Commission not to rebuild US 119 from Cumberland to Whitesburg “is a severe blow to mountain people” says an Eagle editorial. “The decision means that eastern Kentucky will continue to be divided by its rivers and its mountains into three main entities — the Kentucky River area, the Big Sandy River area and the Cumberland River area — each relatively isolated from the other, and each weakened by the division. . . .One of the great truths of the situation is that the road network that has been constructed has served more to funnel traffic out of the mountains that it has served to promote new growth within the mountains.”

December 4, 1991

State police investigators took possession of some of the records of the Letcher Fiscal Court this week. County Attorney Harold Bolling said the records requested related from 1989 to the present and included checks, invoices and purchase orders, along with all records dealing with purchases of coal or culverts.

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A second 19-year-old volunteer firefighter died this week as the result of burns received in a forest fire near Neon. He was John Randall Adams, 19, of Mayking. Another volunteer, John Emerson Spangler, also 19, and also of Mayking, died at the scene of the fire. Two other firefighters were seriously injured. They are David Polis, 20, and Robert Wayne Cox, 22, of Mayking. All but Spangler shared a trailer at Mayking.

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Heavy rains caused minor flooding at Jenkins, Fleming, Millstone and Cowan.

December 5, 2001

Construction of a water system between Jeremiah and Isom could begin by mid-February. The water commission voted to award a contract to build the system to M&S General Construction of Pikeville.

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American Electric Power says it’s not leaving Whitesburg, even though it has leased its building on Madison Street to Coastal Coal.

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A steering committee appointed to decide what the proposed Letcher County central high school will look like and what programs it will include will begin surveying parents and students “as soon as possible”.

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Unemployment fell again in October in Letcher County to 4.6 percent, less than half the rate of a year earlier.

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Whitesburg High School students participated in the Letcher County Inter-Agency’s Food Drive to collect canned goods for Thanksgiving baskets for families throughout the county. The students, staff and faculty collected 4,051 cans of food and $400 toward the purchase of turkeys and hams.



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