Whitesburg KY

The way we were



Clips from Mountain Eagle front pages over the past 50 years

February 13, 1958

The 10-room Fleming-Neon High School was destroyed by fire Wednesday night, leaving 380 high school pupils without a place to go to school. The fire was discovered in the teachers’ lounge at the school at about 6 p.m. Firemen from Fleming and Neon, Jenkins and Whitesburg fought the flames for several hours but were unable to save any portion of the building. Cause of the fire has not been determined, but firemen ruled out the possibility of arson.

Kentucky Attorney General Jo M. Ferguson has ruled that meetings of fiscal courts must be public and open for all to attend. The Ferguson ruling was given to Tom Gish, editor of The Mountain Eagle, during a conference in the Attorney’s General office. The question arose after the Letcher Fiscal Court voted to conduct the affairs of Letcher County behind closed doors, excluding the public.

“Desk Set” starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn is being shown at the Alene Theater in Whitesburg.

February 15, 1968

Robert F. Kennedy came to eastern Kentucky this week for a firsthand look at some of the poorest counties in all Appalachia. After two days of touring and talking with residents, he termed many conditions in the Kentucky mountains “intolerable”, “unacceptable”, and “unsatisfactory.”

In a statement at the Senate hearing here attended by Robert F. Kennedy, Whitesburg Attorney Harry M. Caudill said, “As Roosevelt was the magic name in American politics in the 1930s, Kennedy is the charismatic, the magical, the rallying name in these troubled years. Your presence here today, Sen. Kennedy, must bring encouragement to Appalachian mountaineers everywhere.”

Gov. Louie B. Nunn presented a record $2.471 billion two-year budget to the Kentucky Legislature Tuesday and asked for an increase in the sales tax from 3 to 5 percent and an increase in the auto license tags from $5 to $12.50.

February 16, 1978

The United Mine Workers has added three members to its contract negotiating team, reportedly in response to the union bargaining council’s insistence and partly in response to demands from coal operators. The change in council membership came as President Carter called union and coal company representatives to the White House in an effort to reach a settlement in the record coal strike.

Construction of both the Whitesburg and the Hazard bypasses will get under way during the coming year if a proposed $240 million energy road package is approved. Under the plan to be submitted to the Kentucky Legislature by Gov. Julian Carroll, $12 million would be spent on the Whitesburg bypass and $22 on the Hazard bypass.

A Beth-Elkhorn Coal Corp. refuse dam near Jenkins is one of 16 dams listed as unsafe after a survey by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. The Beth-Elkhorn dam also was listed as unsafe in a report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, last fall.

February 17, 1988

With unemployed workers far outnumbering new jobs, Letcher County is losing population as residents once again leave the mountains in search of work. The unemployment rate fell more than six percent in Letcher County during 1987, but figures from the U.S. Bureau of Census and two state agencies show that both the number of persons in the labor force and the population have decreased steadily.

A low-flying airplane and a forest fire apparently contributed to the rumor of a plane crash that sent local police rushing to the scene to find nothing. Kentucky State Police, the Letcher County Sheriff’s Department, and the Whitesburg City Police last Wednesday were sent on a wild goose chase when frightened residents reported that a military aircraft was in trouble over Whitesburg.

Fleming-Neon native Jim Kincer has merged his Copy Corporation, Kentucky’s largest copier and office machinery dealer, with Alco Standard Corporation. Kincer, who founded the Louisvillebased Copy Corporation in 1978, will remain as president of the firm and will also become a member of the Alco Office Products Executive Board. Kincer is a 1959 graduate of Fleming-Neon High School and was a disc jockey at WNKY is Neon from the age of 14 to 17.

February 18, 1998

A four-year legal battle over unmined minerals taxes ended Monday when six local government agencies received a total of $237,264.23 from Kentucky Criterion Coal Company. The awards were a result of action taken by Letcher Judge/Executive Carroll A. Smith shortly after he took office in 1994. At that time the coal company was demanding refunds of $31,977 plus $16,294 interest from the county government and $38,141 plus $19,434 interest from the Letcher County Board of Education, saying it had overpaid the taxes. The coal company claimed its unmined coal was worth only $2.9 million for tax purposes, though it had bought the coal from Bethlehem Mines Corp. for $18 million just a year earlier. Smith challenged the refund demand and won. Kentucky Criterion has since sold its Letcher County holdings to Consolidation Coal Company for more than $32 million.

The unemployment rate in Letcher County fell to 6.9 percent in December, according to figures released by the state Workforce Development Cabinet.

The old Kingdom Come Settlement School building at Linefork, which has been deteriorating over the past few years, succumbed to the February 3-9 snowstorm, which collapsed the building’s roof. Demolition crews pulled the rest of the building down late last week.

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