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The Way We Were

‘Thunder Road’ comes to Letcher County

‘Thunder Road’ comes to Letcher County

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6, 1928

The entire town of Sergent was sold outright at public auction on Monday for the sum of $22,000. The winning bidder was M.K. Marlowe, a coal operator and manager of the Sandlick Coal operations. If Marlowe’s bid is approved by the federal government he will have bought the entire coal lease at Sergent, all real estate including the camp houses, and everything else pertaining to the town of 500 residents, nearly all of whom depend on the coal operation there for their living.

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One of the first families to settle in what is now Letcher County was that of Moses Adams, who settled near the mouth of Pert Creek on the North Fork of the Kentucky River in 1806. Adams came to eastern Kentucky from North Carolina.

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Officers with the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department returned to Whitesburg on Monday after destroying some Christmas cheer on Cumberland River. Sheriff Morgan Reynolds and deputies N.B. Hall and Oscar Marcum demolished one 50-gallon still and 1,000 gallons of beer during the raid, which resulted in the arrest of an elderly man whose name was not released.

Sixty years ago next week — December 7 through 10 — the much-anticipated movie “Thunder Road,” a crime-drama set in the mountains of Kentucky and North Carolina, made its first showing at Isaac’s Alene Theatre in Whitesburg. Pictured above is a 1958 poster featuring the lead actor, Robert Mitchum, who portrays moonshine runner Luke Doolin. In the photo below, Luke Doolin is taken into custody by a revenue agent.

Sixty years ago next week — December 7 through 10 — the much-anticipated movie “Thunder Road,” a crime-drama set in the mountains of Kentucky and North Carolina, made its first showing at Isaac’s Alene Theatre in Whitesburg. Pictured above is a 1958 poster featuring the lead actor, Robert Mitchum, who portrays moonshine runner Luke Doolin. In the photo below, Luke Doolin is taken into custody by a revenue agent.

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Six-year-old Bonnie Bentley was released from the Seco hospital and is now at her parents’ home recovering from injuries she received during a recent accident involving a train. Young Bonny is a daughter of Lincoln Bentley of Whitaker. She was injured after she got caught between the train rails and cattle guard while she and a group of friends were crossing the railroad track on their way home from school. “In some way, Bonnie … got caught between the rails and a portion of the cattle guard,” The Mountain Eagle reports, “and the children found it impossible to release her. Several of them ran screaming down the tracks in an attempt to flag the oncoming train. But Irene, her little eight-year-old sister, refused to leave her. She climbed on the first board of the cattle fence, clasped one tiny arm around the upper board and grasped Bonnie with the other, drawing all of her body except one foot clear of the rail. The engineer attempted to stop as soon as he saw the terrified children running down the tracks. He nearly succeeded in doing so, for he was running so slowly when he struck the little girl that her foot was knocked loose and Irene dragged her … to safety, (with) only her toes on one foot being cut off. No braver deed was ever done than this, performed by an eight-year-old child who is small for her age.”

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The Stuart Robinson School basketball team is off to a perfect start to the season, with seven wins and no losses.

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The Kingdom Come Settlement School selling chewing gum to raise funds to buy a new basketball. The school will be presented with the ball if it sells $12 worth of the gum.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1938

John W. Bastin, 75, a longtime coal operator and brother of Sam Bastin of Kona, died recently at the Bastin family home at Central City in western Kentucky. John Bastin began working in the coal industry at Pittsburg, Kentucky, near London, before moving to the western coalfield. Like is brother Sam, a coal operator here, he was quite successful in the business.

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The Kentucky Fish and Game Division last week released more than 4,000 crappie and bream in the Upper Cumberland River in Letcher County.

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Mining operations at Lynch in Harlan County have been at a high pitch and are increasing everyday. One thousand miners are now employed at the Lynch operation and U.S. Steel is expected to add another 1,000 mining jobs soon. Coal mined in Lynch and in neighboring Benham is used by the big steel mills, which are now operating near full capacity.

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Word came this evening just before press time that Jason Adams, 74, was run over by a train near Whitesburg.

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The Fleming High School football team traveled to Lexington over the Thanksgiving weekend to watch the Kentucky vs. Tennessee football game. The players reported enjoying the trip other than having to suffer through cold weather during the game.

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John Collins was the owner of the largest hog killed on Mill Branch this season. It tipped the scales at 700 pounds. The next largest hog butchered, weighing in at 450 pounds, belonged to Silas Caudill.

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Two persons — May Sergent and H. Addington — have filed applications to operate roadhouses on Sandlick. I.H. Kimbley has applied for a roadhouse license at Blackey.

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The Hazard-Jenkins Bus Line has extended its route to include McRoberts. The bus will make seven round trips from Neon each day. The bus schedule operates on Central Standard Time.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 2, 1948

A crowd of about 150 people showed up at the Letcher County Courthouse in Whitesburg on Tuesday to demand improvements to a crime wave they say has been plaguing the county for the past two years. “I have been told that 23 murders have been committed in the past 24 months,” said Elder Kirby Ison. “This is a deplorable state of affairs. But of all these, none touched me half as much as the running down and killing of little Jimmy Flinchum while he was taking his pumpkin home on Halloween eve at Mayking.” Ison identified the driver as “a drunk.” A second meeting will be held January 1, 1949 at 1 p.m.

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Police are still looking for a grey Mercury car that was stolen during daylight from the parking lot of the hospital in Jenkins on November 15. The car belongs to Dr. Floyd.

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The Whitesburg City Council has authorized the purchase and installation of four stoplights in the city’s downtown. The lights will be installed at the corner of Craft Funeral Home [where Main Street intersects with Bentley Avenue]; at the Baker Maytag Store [at Main and the road along the East side of the courthouse]; at the cross street by the A&P Store [the junction of Main and Jenkins Road], and at the railroad crossing near the depot. “It would seem from these lights that Whitesburg is growing and may even reach the big city stage,” observes Mountain Eagle editor W.P. Nolan.

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Police officers Jim Short and John Gose arrested two men and charged them with breaking into the Millstone Post Office less than one hour after the crime was committed. The two suspects, Junior Scuddy and Emmett Taylor, will be turned over to U.S. Postal Inspectors.

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Harry M. Caudill, son of Mr. and Mrs. Cro Caudill, has opened his law office in the Bank Building in Whitesburg. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, he was admitted to the Kentucky State Bar in October.

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Don Reed, the former owner of a liquor store in the Cumberland River section of Letcher County, was shot and killed Wednesday night by Deputy Harlan County Constable J.M. Massey. Reed owned and operated a restaurant in Cumberland. No reason for the shooting was known at press time.

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For the first time in many years, the Kingdom Come High School Wildcats defeated the Jenkins High School Cavaliers in what may wind up as being the game of the season. The Wildcats fell behind early on the Jenkins floor, but came from behind to win, 37 to 31.

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A beautiful Baldwin electric organ was installed Monday at the Baptist Church in Whitesburg.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1958

The Whitesburg City Council’s plan to increase city occupational license fees drew opposition this week from officials of the Whitesburg Memorial Hospital. Hospital administrator Joe Doney issued a statement early Thursday saying several persons on the hospital staff feel they are being singled out for special taxation and are being asked to carry an unfair share of the city’s tax load. The council’s proposal calls for the license fee on doctors to rise from $15 per year to $50 per year.

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New contracts signed Wednesday between John L. Lewis’s United Mine Workers and Appalachian coal operators might spell disaster for non-union truck mines and other small-mine operators in Letcher County and elsewhere in eastern Kentucky. Enforcement of the new contracts is expected to adversely affect the non-union truck mines here and elsewhere that pay less-than-union wages but sell their coal to larger union operations.

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Whitesburg Mayor Arthur T. Banks expressed his thanks to the L&N Railroad for its paving of the “Railroad Street” portion of Main Street.

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Actor Robert Mitchum stars as Korean War vet turned moonshiner Luke Doolin in “Thunder Road,” the hit movie about running moonshine in the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee. The movie will show at Isaac’s Alene Theatre in Whitesburg December 7 through December 10.

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A crowd of more than 700 people attended the 14th annual Minstrel Show fundraising event sponsored by the Jenkins Kiwanis Club November 14-15 at the Jenkins Field House.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 1968

One man died and another was seriously injured when fire gutted the upper stories of the Lakeside Hotel at Jenkins early in the morning of November 25. E.L. Castle, 50, a driver for Trailways Bus Lines, died in his room. Logan Mullins of Punchy, occupant of the room where the fire is believed to have started, was seriously injured. The fire started about 5:30 a.m. and burned for most of the day. Jenkins Mayor R. Percy Elkins said occupants of the building were aroused and evacuated soon after the fire was discovered. Authorities believe Castle returned to his room for some purpose and was overcome by smoke. The hotel building was a former coal company “clubhouse” and was operated by Pittsburgh Consolidated Coal Co. as a guest house for visitors to Jenkins from the time it was built in 1914 until it was sold in the late 1950s.

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John Fugate of Knott County has resigned as chairman of the board of directors of the LKLP Community Action Council. He is succeeded by Perry County Judge Harve Hensley, who had been vice chairman. Fugate’s action came in the middle of a session involving hiring and firing policies for staff members of the anti-poverty agency. Fugate had feuded periodically with officials of the federal Office of Economic Opportunity over what he considered dictatorial policies. The feuding intensified after an evaluation team criticized LKLP for permitting its chairman to control too many of its boards and committees.

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U.S. Rep. Carl D. Perkins says he does not foresee any great effect on federal education programs as a result of the election of President Richard M. Nixon. “They’re so drastically underfunded now,” he said, “I don’t think any new president would dare suggest further cutbacks.” He said it was “only a question of time until education becomes one of the biggest businesses in the country — very probably as soon as the Vietnam problem is solved.”

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The Millstone Sewing Center, a Letcher County anti-poverty program financed by the federal Office of Economic Opportunity, is featured in a news release distributed statewide by the Kentucky Department of Public Information. The center employs older mountain women to transform used clothing into useful and stylish clothing for mountain families.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1978

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, The Mountain Eagle is published on Tuesday this week. Next week’s Eagle will appear on Thursday, November 30.

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A shortage of railroad cars for transporting coal has forced Beth-Elkhorn to cut the workweek in four mines. Eleven hundred employees working in Mines 22, 25, 26 and 29 are affected by the cutback.

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The new Coast to Coast store in Parkway Plaza shopping center has been sold. The new owners are Joe Walters, a co-owner of Superior Foods in Whitesburg, and William Griffin of Jenkins. The 8,000-square-foot store will be ready to open soon after fixtures and equipment have been installed.

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Mr. and Mrs. Sherd Martin celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in October. The couple have 12 children and 22 grandchildren.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 1988

State officials began testing gas tanks Monday to find out what is causing the gasoline odor that has caused businesses along Main Street in Jenkins to keep their doors open and air conditioners on, while some residents plugged kitchen and bathroom drains with rags. The odor has brought complaints for years, but in the past few weeks the smell has worsened and spread.

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Volunteer fire departments all over Letcher County are suffering from the same problem this year — lack of money. In a letter to County Judge/Executive Ruben Watts, Letcher Fire and Rescue Chief Wallace Bolling and Larry Collins, chairman of the board, gave three possibilities for the department’s future: terminating fire services completely; terminating ambulance services completely; or restricting ambulance and fire service to fire district area. (The fire districts are proposed areas and have never been approved by the fiscal court.)

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Indian Creek residents attended the November fiscal court meeting in force to protest road conditions. Henry Sergent, spokesman for the group, said the road is filled with potholes and there is no gravel left in the unpaved hollow. When it rains there is mud, when it doesn’t rain there is dust, Sergent said.

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Letcher County native Martin Van Buren Bates is the subject of a column by William T. Cornett. Bates stopped growing at the age of 28, when he was seven feet, eleven and a half inches tall and weighed about 475 pounds. He joined the P.T. Barnum circus and later retired to Nova Scotia, Canada, where he died at age 73.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1998

Letcher County has nearly a half million dollars worth of past-due garbage bills. The bills date from the beginning of the change from franchise collectors to collection by county employees. Some of them are as large as $600. The county charges each household $9 a month to pick up garbage one day a week. The service is mandatory.

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Construction of the Letcher County Recycling Center is proceeding, but the center probably will not start accepting materials to be recycled until early January. The construction of the conveyor system needed to operate the center is taking longer than expected. A $70,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and $29,000 in matching money from the county are paying from most of the construction and equipment of the recycling center.

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Members of the Hemphill community near Neon want to lease the former Hemphill school building from the Letcher County Board of Education. Mable Johnson, a member of the Hemphill Community Committee, has written a proposal to the school board explaining how the community would like to use the school building. She said the building and grounds would become a community meeting place.

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H.R. Hall came home to Letcher County $2 million richer than he was on his last visit here. Hall was in Jackson when he bought several lottery tickets. The last ticket he purchased was a $10 one that won him $2 million.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2008

Tom Gish, publisher of The Mountain Eagle for more than 50 years, died on November 21 at the age of 82. Born at Seco, he was the son of Benjamin Franklin Gish, a coal miner and mine manager, and Ora Lucille Gish. He and his wife, Patricia Burnett Gish, met at the University of Kentucky and after graduating both went to work as reporters — he for the United Press and she for the Lexington Leader. Pearl and Martha Nolan, the then-owners of The Mountain Eagle, decided to put up the newspaper — founded in 1907 by Nehemiah Webb— for sale, and the Gishes became the new owners on January 1, 1957. Tom Gish was known for writing hard-hitting editorials marked by forcefulness and clarity.

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The seven Letcher County Senior Citizens Centers joined together at Kingscreek to enjoy an early Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 19 writes columnist Lizzie M. Wright. “We had turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and drinks. The food was delicious.”

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