Whitesburg KY
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The Way We Were

Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907
Brothers created their own ‘newspaper’ Hobart “Bill” Combs was only 15 years old in 1943 when he and his brother, Richard “Dick” Combs, with the help of Courtney Collier, published their first edition of The Shagtown News, which took its name from a community on the west end of Whitesburg. Bill Combs’s daughter, Patricia Combs Darnell of Alameda, California, provided a photocopy of the paper to The Mountain Eagle. The Combs brothers were born here to Hobart and Nona Combs. Dick Combs is now living in Arizona after retiring as a dentist in California. He is a brother to Ina Combs Hunsucker, formerly of Whitesburg, who now lives Ft. Myers, Florida.

Brothers created their own ‘newspaper’ Hobart “Bill” Combs was only 15 years old in 1943 when he and his brother, Richard “Dick” Combs, with the help of Courtney Collier, published their first edition of The Shagtown News, which took its name from a community on the west end of Whitesburg. Bill Combs’s daughter, Patricia Combs Darnell of Alameda, California, provided a photocopy of the paper to The Mountain Eagle. The Combs brothers were born here to Hobart and Nona Combs. Dick Combs is now living in Arizona after retiring as a dentist in California. He is a brother to Ina Combs Hunsucker, formerly of Whitesburg, who now lives Ft. Myers, Florida.

THURSDAY, JULY 22, 1909

A 14-page edition of The Mountain Eagle, the largest in the paper’s nearly two years of operation, with each of its three sections entitled “Industrial Edition.” Noting that aside from the logging of much of its large virgin poplar and black walnut trees, “little progress” has been made since Letcher County was formed in 1842 from parts of Harlan, Perry and Pike counties. A story on the front page of the special edition predicts the county’s large coal seams will soon be mined by “foreign interests” that have been buying it up. “There is enough coal in Letcher County … to light up the world and fire its industries for a thousand years,” the story exclaims. “Big talk, this, isn’t it? Well, [not] when you begin to figure in the amount of coal in a single vein from eight to 13 feet in thickness spread over 300,000 acres of land. The largest coal by far is in the Boone, Elkhorn, Millstone, and Upper Rockhouse regions, though good judges say that while the coal is thickest in these regions it is equally fair in all other sections of the county. … In the Cumberland River and Black Mountain regions of the county, the coal is said to be of equal value to any. As yet, these great coalfields are untouched and a great portion of our people stand ready to welcome the magic hand of development. They believe that they stand on the edge of a dawning day that will break to light and show to the world the greatest and richest coalfields the earth has ever known.”

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In its 14-page “Industrial Edition,” The Mountain Eagle carries a front-page story stating that, “At this time agriculture on a local scale is the occupation on ninetenths of the people. From a rough and rugged hill land, they are drawing succulence and, in a sense, [are] happy and contented.”

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“Whitesburg, the county seat, has the preeminence of being the only town in the county,” The Mountain Eagle reports in its first “Industrial Edition,” a 14-page publication. “To be accurate, [it] has 300 inhabitants. It has six good general stores, over twice as many practicing attorneys, five good physicians, carpenters, mechanics, [and] farmers. It has a good public school building, the equal of any courthouse and jail in the mountains, three different fraternal orders, two good drugstores, three good church buildings, one of the strongest banks in the state, two good hotels, a livery stable, a blacksmith shop and a printing office. There is a telephone system that penetrates almost every section of the county and puts us in direct connection with all the outside world.”

THURSDAY, JULY 28, 1949

Construction was started this week on a new building for the Boone Motor Company near Railroad Street in Whitesburg. The new building, designed by Roy Crawford, is expected to take five months to build. The new building will have a plate glass front, above which will be glass blocks. A complete new service department, new offices, and a new showroom are planned. Boone Motor handles Chevrolet cars and trucks and distributes Texaco gasoline and oil.

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A Letcher County constable remains in serious condition after being shot three times by his ex-convict brother. Constable Brady Collins was hospitalized after his brother, Vernon Collins, 20, tried to kill him during a fight at a beer hall at Isom. Vernon Collins is charged with shooting with intent to kill. He returned to Letcher County just recently after being released on probation from the Virginia prison system, where he served a term for car theft.

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Funeral services were held at Payne Gap today for Roscoe M. Miller, a 64-yearold section foreman who was killed by a “slate fall” at Consolidation Coal Company’s Mine 204 at Marshall’s Branch. He is survived by his wife, six children, and seven grandchildren.

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Mr. and Mrs. Harry M. Caudill are the proud parents of a seven-pound baby boy, James Kenneth Caudill, who was born July 20.

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A former Whitesburg cab driver was arrested Saturday on two charges of store breaking. John Novak, 35, is accused of burglarizing Baker’s Grocery at Sandlick and Ed Williams’s store at Pine Mountain Junction.

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Funeral services were held July 17 for Army soldier Lee Craft “Dickie” Bates, whose body arrived in Letcher County last week from Okinawa, Japan, where he was killed in action by machine-gun fire. On May 7, 1945, Bates and other members of the 77th Infantry Division landed on Okinawa. “Halfway up [a] rocky ridge, Bates, seeing a Japanese machine-gun nest, advanced ahead of his comrades and threw in a hand grenade,” The Mountain Eagle reports. “After the explosion he walked up to the cave. At that moment the concealed Japanese shot him three times. … He was carrying with him the book he loved most, the Bible.” Lee Bates was a son of Herman Bates.

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Before the United Mine Workers of America began organizing Letcher County coal operations in June 1933, non-union miners were being paid $1.50 to $2.80 for working 14-hour days, while men who worked as coal loaders were paid only 15 cents per ton. So says an advertisement paid for by members of UMWA District No. 30.

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Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford star in “The Loves of Carmen,” showing July 31-August 1 at Haymond Theatre at Cromona.

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William Bendix and Claire Trevor star in “The Babe Ruth Story,” showing July 31 at the Elinda Ann Drive-In Theatre in Whitesburg.

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Neon is going to boast a new and modern theater in the future, as the new structure being erected on Dr. D.V. Bentley’s property by the Virginia Amusement Company of Hazard is gradually taking shape. The new show house is located across the street from Manie’s Chili Bowl and next door to Collier’s Furniture. Virginia Amusement also owns the Bentley Theatre in Neon.

THURSDAY, JULY 30, 1959

Whitesburg Mayor Arthur T. Banks told city council members he would like to remain mayor for a few more months despite the fact he and his family have moved to Louisville as part of his job with Belknap Hardware Co., which he has represented as a salesman here for several years. Banks’s term as mayor does not end for two more years. City Attorney Leroy Fields says he will have too look into the matter before determining whether Banks can legally continue as mayor since Banks is also keeping his home in Whitesburg.

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Spokesmen for the United Mine Workers of America and nonunion truck coal mines operators differed sharply today over whether the stalemate in the coal strike has come to an end. The UMW released a statement saying “virtually all mines and ramps in the Hazard field are under contract.” Operators say that while some ramps and mines have signed with the union, no major breakthrough by the union has occurred.

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Walter Enlow is the new president of the Whitesburg Lions Club. He succeeds Cossie Quillen.

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Woodrow Dawahare was installed recently at president of the Whitesburg Rotary Club.

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Carol Brown, the newly-crowned Miss Kentucky from Whitesburg, will make two television appearances next week. From 1 to 1:30 p.m. on Monday she will appear on WCYB-TV in Bristol, Tennessee (Channel 5). On Thursday afternoon she will be in New York City, where she will appear on the CBS program, “The Big Payoff.”

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Ten years ago, in 1949, there were only 595 telephones in Letcher County. The number of phones here today is 2,336, an increase of 1,741, says the Southern Bell Telephone Company.

THURSDAY, JULY 24, 1969

CBS producer Bernard Birnbaum came to Letcher County to film residents as part of a program about what Americans were doing during the moon landing. He talked with Whitesburg author Harry M. Caudill, visited with Mountain Eagle correspondent Siller Brown, toured the Millstone Sewing Center, looked at the newly opened Fishpond Lake, filmed a wedding, attended a talent show, and viewed stripmines from a chartered helicopter. Birnbaum says he has enough footage for an hour-long documentary, but the show has to cover the rest of the U.S. too, so Letcher County’s segment will be 10 to 15 minutes long.

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Whitesburg received an additional $177,893 grant of federal money to complete its urban renewal project. The project provides for installation of streets, sewers, water lines, curbs and site grading of a large tract of landing in West Whitesburg surrounding the public housing project.

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Army Capt. Christine R. Cook received the Army Commendation medal in Vietnam June 28. She served as a nurse with the 24th Eva. Hospital in Long Bien. She has been an Army nurse for two and half years and is now home visiting her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Cook of Fleming.

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Dr. Richard Keeler, Letcher County’s health officer since 1965, will leave in August to return to school for further training in public health work. He came to Letcher County under the auspices of the Mennonite Central Committee Voluntary Services.

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A display of drawings by Head Start students from throughout Letcher County will be on exhibit in the Whitesburg Library this weekend under sponsorship of the Whitesburg Woman’s Club.

THURSDAY, JULY 19, 1979

A water tank above Jenkins ruptured Sunday evening, and sent more than 300,000 gallons of water rushing down the mountainside. The water destroyed two homes and a grocery at the junction of U.S. 23 and KY 805 and killed Dr. T.M. Perry as it carried his home off its foundation and 200 feet down the mountainside.

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Strikes or threats of strikes affected three Letcher County firms this week. Employees of South-East Coal, a non-union mine, are threatening to strike Sunday in protest of the company’s cutback in health insurance benefits and cancellation of life insurance policies. Employees of Scotia Coal Co. went on strike at midnight Sunday after rejecting a new contract offered by the company but then returned to work after the company objected to the strike. Approximately 90 United Steel Workers were back on the job in Jenkins following a two-week strike at Adams Corp., a group of businesses dealing with limestone mining and crushing, blacktop and concrete production, road construction and transportation of concrete products.

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“Good Guys Wear Black” starring Chuck Norris will play this weekend at the Alene Theatre in Whitesburg.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 1989

Whitesburg will ask the state highway department to study traffic within the city to determine if changes should be made in its streets and signs. The city council heard several suggestions for changes at its July meeting, including requests that three streets be made one-way, that two dead-end streets be connected, and that the city extend the 35 mile-per-hour speed limit.

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LKLP Community Action Agency has applied for money to build 16 units of elderly and handicapped apartments in Whitesburg. The agency has applied for $675,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and $5,000 would come from LKLP.

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Neon Volunteer Fire Department will no longer make ambulance runs outside Letcher County. In a letter to hospital administrators, chief Carter Bevins said the “physical drain on our volunteers and the financial drain on our department” have forced new guidelines so that emergency service can continue.

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The Letcher County Fiscal Court should fine candidates for public office who don’t remove their campaign signs after elections, a Letcher County Grand Jury has concluded. In its report the June grand jury recommended the court pass an ordinance requiring candidates to remove their signs within a reasonable time and impose a penalty similar to that provided in the county anti-litter ordinance.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 1999

The City of Whitesburg has given Image Entry Inc. two and half months to find a building of its own or start paying rent on the space it is using in City Hall. The data entry firm has been using space in City Hall rent-free since January.

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Most property owners along the Little Shepherd Trail say they aren’t willing to sell their land to allow the state to widen the trail to two lanes, according to a study on the proposal. Construction of a two-lane road along Little Shepherd Trail would cost an estimated $8.2 million to $8.4 million, even without right-of-ways figured in.

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State Rep. Howard Cornett said he will file a formal complaint with the Public Service Commission about phone service in Letcher County that requires residents to pay long distance charges to dial from one side of the county to the other.

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Workers have finished installing 33 signs around Fishpond Lake as part of a self-guided nature walk around the county park. They include 17 trail signs and 16 tree signs, part of an environmental education trail, said Tracy Frazier, community development director of the Letcher County Action Team.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 22, 2009

The Letcher Fiscal Court voted Monday to establish a special law enforcement agency to deal with vandalism and other illegal activity at Letcher County parks and county trails. Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said court members are fed up with vandalism and the dumping of garbage at Fishpond Lake and other county parks. The new law enforcement agency will be the Letcher County Rangers.

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Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft said Veolia Water Co. and the city are both responsible for the city being $300,000 in debt to Veolia, which manages the city’s water and sewer systems. Veolia district manager John Stallard told the city council that because neither Veolia nor the city had adjusted its respective budget to cover additional costs in chemicals, electrical power and lab fees, the city owes the company approximately $300,000 for the 2007- 2008 fiscal year.

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Police are warning drivers in Kentucky to slow down. State police have begun a campaign called “Blue Lights Across the Bluegrass” in which they target speeding and reckless drivers.

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The Jenkins Lady Cavaliers participated in the Bluegrass State Games fast-pitch softball tournament, 16 and under division. They won three games but lost in the finals, earning them a silver medal.

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