Whitesburg KY

Victor Cornett attended a little one-room school

A long, long time ago, my dad Victor Cornett was born Aug. 1, 1899 to D.D. “Dock” Cornett and Rachel (Frazier) Cornett, their firstborn child.

Grandpa Dock was born in 1869, and married Rachel, my grandma, who was born in 1879. They lived on Cornett’s Branch of Linefork.

My dad got old enough to go to school and they sent him to the little one-room school that was built on the property up on the hill from where the old Kingdom Come School was built. It was about a mile or so for them to walk to school, around the mountain from their home on Cornett’s Branch.

Back in those days they didn’t have good clothing to wear. Most of the boys who went to school had to wear big, long-tailed shirts their mothers made for them and go barefooted in the summer months. They were very poverty stricken. All of them were in the same shape, just about.

They didn’t have good homes — they were cold in winter and hot in the summer. The children had to help in the fields and gardens.

When Dad started school he had a teacher by the name of Wes Banks. He was a rough old person on the children. He only had an eighth-grade training in those days. They could teach if they got eighth grade. He would get mad and whip the children, Dad said, with a big, long switch off of a tree. He would bring blood, too. That was bad.

Dad had a little friend born on the same day that Dad was. They played together a lot. His mom and dad never could pick out a name for him, so they called him Big Babe. He had a hard way of learning at school. His parents couldn’t help him because they were uneducated themselves.

They couldn’t read or write or count. They didn’t know how to do much of anything. That’s why they could never give him a proper name.

Dad’s parents couldn’t do any of that stuff either. They just learned to do the things other people did around the neighborhood.

Grandpa learned how to be a rail-splitter to build fences. They old-time rail fences — and that’s what he did for a living. Then he learned how to be a blacksmith and made horseshoes and farm equipment like hoes, plows, shovels, and pokers for the fireplace.

He could do good doing that kind of work. People came to him to shoe their mules and horses and make bull-tongue plows to plow the fields and gardens. He could make pretty pokers. He made one for Dad and it was made like a twisted piece of candy. It was pretty.

But anyway, I’ll get back to the school and Wes Banks.

Dad and Big Babe got in trouble one day, and Wes caught them and was getting his big switch to give them a lashing. They got so scared they started running up the mountain to go home. They were about seven or eight years old.

Wes tried to make them come back, but they kept running away and he couldn’t catch them. After that, they both quit going to school. Dad got into the third grade.

He had an uncle who could read, write, and do math real well. He could write beautifully, real artistic writing. He helped my dad learn more than the teachers did. They were in school for three or four years when they quit.

They lived near Uncle Jasper Cornett. He ran the post office, a good job in those days.

Big Babe never did learn much of anything. I believe his dad was Ely Ingram. He finally grew up and married a woman and had some children. He got a job with W. M. Ritter Lumber Co., and helped them build a railroad from Gordon down to Defeated Creek in the ‘40s.

He would see Dad and always would ask, “How old are we now, Victor?” Dad would tell him, but he would forget it after a little while, then he would ask again. He just couldn’t remember.

When Dad would go to school, he was about seven or eight, they always took their lunch in a four-pound lard bucket, milk and bread.

Sometimes the cows would get with calf and go dry during the last part of the pregnancy. He would go down the branch by Jeff Foutch’s house or to his aunt’s house, and she would be milking her cow and would say, “Have you got any milk in your bucket?”

He’d tell her no, and she would say, “Bring that bucket over here and I’ll milk you some from my cow,” and she would cover his cornbread with fresh milk and send him on his way.

(So sweet. That is a true story.)

One time Babe wanted to be baptized and they dammed up a hole of water and told him to come on in. He waded out in the water and stood there for awhile and said, “I want you to be careful and not bump my head against that.”

He wanted to put something over his ears because he was afraid sand would get in them. He wasn’t worried about getting baptized, he was afraid they’d hurt him or get sand in his ears. Dad said it was real funny, but he liked Babe.

Once when they got together, Babe told my dad that if he (my dad) died some time that he would also die the next day, because they were born on the same day.

But Babe died before my dad did by several years.

Dad told us about this kind of stuff when we were growing up. He said that the day they ran away from school that Babe was running so fast that you could have played marbles on his shirttail.

That was so funny to think about.

I am so glad that we don’t have teachers like Wes Banks, so mean and uneducated that he hated to try teaching them what he could. Education is something that helps us make it a better life in this world.

Reading is wonderful. It brings the world to us. We don’t have to go searching. Writing helps us to keep in touch with everyone we know and love.

Math is so important to help us take care of our money and how to spend it wisely. Keep learning!

Pray for our country to be safe from terrorists and pray for all the sick and helpless.

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