Miss Carleen Kilgore was my third-grade teacher at Whitesburg Elementary School. Valentine’s Day was coming up and we decorated the room with hearts.
She knew that some of us were too poor to buy Valentines for everyone, so she showed us how to make our own. We were told to give Valentines to our friends.
At the Hobbs 5&10 Cent Store (where the library is now), they sold packages of 12 Valentines for 10 cents. My daddy was a coal miner, and a dime was hard to come by.
At the grocery store and service station at the mouth of Graveyard Hollow, they would give you a penny for every empty pop bottle you brought in.
We walked the highway and picked up bottles. More could be found at the trash dump, located where the drugstore is now at the bottom of the hill at the end of the HWY 15 Bypass. When I had saved up 30 cents, I had enough to buy everyone a Valentine.
I was one of the richer of the coal miners’ kids. I had a paper route, delivering 20 papers (The Knoxville Sentinel) in Graveyard Hollow. I made a nickel a day.
I went to the movie for 20 cents, and had enough left over for a bag of popcorn, a pop and a bar of candy.
Not many people liked our classmate, Gene. He had a medical problem, with a dirty piece of twine coming out of the top of his shirt, over his ear, and into his nostril. All the girls shied away from him, and a few of the boys. He was a good student, always making straight A’s.
He walked to school with us from his home in Shagtown, along with myself, Bert Francis, Garland Stallard and others. I would go to his house and play marbles with him.
On Valentine’s Day, a lunch sack was given to each student, and we put our names on them. These bags were attached to the wall with a thumbtack.
At the given signal, we put our Valentines into the bags of our favorite students and friends.
I noticed that other than the one I gave him, Gene wasn’t getting any Valentines. I pointed this out to Miss Kilgore.
When it was all over, Gene had a bag full of Valentines. Miss Kilgore had put all of hers in Gene’s bag.
When I left Whitesburg in 1949, I lost track of my buddy, Gene. A few years ago I found out that Donald Gene Bates had died. He had a master’s degree, and was a high school teacher in Cleveland, Oh.