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The porches were screened but the coal dust still came in

Posted by | July 25, 2017

Moore Hollow boomed during 30’s and 40’s
By Lois Kleffman
Jackson County Sun [KY]
Date Unknown

What was it like in Moore Hollow after the mines got started?

Luther Powell of Sand Gap says, “It was booming. New York didn’t have any more business than Moore Hollow. You could sell any piece of coal you could get out. There was plenty of coal, there was plenty of work.”

Luther started working in 1933 first for the Penningtons, then the Sand Gap Coal Company, then the Jackson County Coal Company whose owner M.K. Marlow bought out Scrivener and Moore. At the peak of production in Moore Hollow, Marlow ran three shifts averaging about 3,000 tons per day, and trucks would be lined up from the hollow clear to Sand Gap waiting to be loaded.

Powell walked every day from Kerry Knob to earn $1.50 per day as a weigh man. He says, “Everyone came to the Gap and Moore Hollow to loaf on weekends and evenings.”

Odis Isaacs of Sand Gap recollects, “You could get anything there from whiskey to a woman.”

The Little Brothers and “Boss” Marcum had licenses to sell alcohol in the Gap and there was a bootlegger in the hollow.
Odis remembers the pool hall and restaurant run by John Johnston. He remembers that little Johnny Johnston would “spit your eye full of tobacco juice and he smoked cigars when he was five or six years old.”

The larger mines paid their employees with scrip good for buying at their company store. Odis still has a copper scrip coin issued by the Jackson County Coal Company in 1939 that was “payable in merchandise only “ at the company commissary.

Odis started working for the mines when he was 12 and worked in Moore Hollow until Howard Smith got killed in Marlow’s mine in 1946. Smith ran a motor in the mine when the accident happened and Odis was coupling at the end of the cars that Smith was pulling.

pie chart of Kentucky coal producing counties, 1935This 1935 pie chart from ‘Geology of Kentucky’ indicates leading Kentucky coal producing counties. Harlan, Pike, and Letcher Counties lead the pack. At the other extreme counties Boyd, Breathitt and Magoffin each produced about 1/2% of the state total that year. Jackson County, for all the hustle bustle of this article, is not even on the chart!


It was the last trip of the day and Smith wanted to get out as much as he could so he was pulling 22 cars, which was way too many. Coming down a hill, apparently the hot sand that was used to slow down the motor couldn’t do the job and Smith hit a snag with so much speed that the motor and seven cars jumped the track.

Odis remembers Smith as a “fine man.” That day Smith had given Odis a ham sandwich for his lunch. After Smith’s death, Odis left Moore Hollow and went to Travis Creek.

Where did the miners live when they came to Jackson County from Manchester, Hazard, Beattyville and other places?

Outside of Moore Hollow toward the Gap, there was a group of two and three room, flat roofed plank houses called “Slack Town” because the slack coal, too fine to sell, was dumped there. In Sand Gap there was another shantytown near the sand bank.

And right in Moore Hollow, in 1934 Caroline Isaacs kept boarders in a big boarding house built by her brother Charley Pennington on his property, which was like a bunk house. Mostly Caroline cooked for the truck drivers and miners for two years there.

Then N.U. Bond built a modern motel in the hollow in 1939 and Caroline ran it for him. The motel had a lobby downstairs and a big long dining room and it had hot and cold running water. The motel averaged 11 boarders full time and kept five reserved bedrooms for truckers from out of town who would spend just one night there waiting to get their trucks loaded.

It is rumored that women visited the men in their trucks at night, but Caroline maintains that no women were allowed with the men in the motel.

“I never saw any fights,” she says. “The miners were very good people. There never was a truck driver that came here that was out of the way.” Sheriff Joe Pence searched the drivers to see if they were bringing whiskey in or out of the hollow.

And according to Caroline, “The men were just as clean as they could be, they never went to bed without taking a shower. One man tried to sleep with his clothes on and I had to get rid of him.”

Caroline remembers that “the roads were awful. We had to cover the plates to keep the coal dust off. We had the front and back porches screened but the dust still came in.”

The saddest remembrance of her experiences in the hollow was an accident on Big Hill in which Johnny Brockman, a truck driver, was killed. Earlier in the day, Johnny had ordered eggs, bacon and country biscuits from Caroline and told her “Lady, I haven’t got any money to pay for this.” Caroline said, “Well you eat this, you looked tired.” Caroline feels that his death taught her “to be good to people.”

‘Geology of Kentucky,’ by Arthur C. McFarlan, University of Ky, 1943


Bank Night at the Met

Posted by | July 24, 2017

The Metropolitan Theatre in Morgantown, WV is one of that city’s best examples of Neo-classical Revival architecture. The 1,300 seat theatre opened on July 24, 1924 with “seven acts of vaudeville sent by the BF Keith Amusement Company from its New York Office.” Over the years Gene Autry, Peggy Lee, Count Basie, the Andrews Sisters, Bob Hope & Bing Crosby, and Duke Ellington all graced its stage.

The theatre hosted both live acts and films. Owner George Comuntzis installed a $50,000 “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ in 1928 to provide accompaniment for that era’s silent films. The Met was one of a handful of theatres around the country to show films on a pre-release basis, so that production companies could gauge response. As an “index town,” Morgantown was privileged to see new movies as early as 60 days prior to national release.

Metropolitan Theatre, Morgantown WVThe Met was the first theatre in northern WV to install Vitaphone sound systems, and one of the first theatres in the country to install air conditioning.

The theatre also sponsored games that were played on the screen for cash from the mid – 1930s to late 1940s. One such game was “Wahoo,” a spin game projected on the screen in which a button would be pressed by those in the audience causing the spin; the jack pot increased by $25/week, and, when the spin stopped, the Comuntzis paid whatever percentage (l00%, 50%, 25%, 10%) showed on the screen.

“Bank Night” was another popular game; those entering the game daily signed a journal opposite a number, which was placed in a large drum. On “Bank Night” a number would be drawn for each $500 increment in the jackpot, and if the winner was in the audience, he or she received the cash immediately.

Bank Night caused quite a controversy nationwide, in fact. “According to figures released last week, gross box-office receipts for the cinema industry in 1936 were a billion dollars, $250,000,000 more than last year,” reported Time magazine on Jan 11, 1937. “A contributing reason was undoubtedly ‘Bank Night’—currently a weekly fiesta at 5,000 of the 15,000 active U. S. cinema theatres.

“Bank Night is a copyright scheme invented by a onetime Fox booking agent named Charles U. Yaeger, who leases it to theatres for from $5 to $50 a week depending on their size. What it amounts to is a clever evasion of state & municipal lottery laws whereby, by registering his name at a theatre, a patron becomes eligible to win a substantial prize if he is present at the theatre on ‘Bank Night’— when the prize is awarded to the holder of a lucky ticket after a drawing on the theatre stage.

“Since Bank Nights started in 1931, Inventor Yaeger’s enterprise has grown from a two-room office to a Denver building and a chain of theatres. [Bank Night is] perpetually under fire from state and municipal authorities who hope to find some way in which to bring it under local lottery laws. In Topeka, Kans., the Supreme Court ruled that Bank Night as practiced by certain Fox Theatres was illegal. In Albany, N. Y., the Court of Appeals ruled Bank Nights legal.”



We would have to just do everwhat she wanted us to do

Posted by | July 21, 2017

“Well, of course, we had to help with the housework, all . . . we had to do the sweeping and the dishwashing and the scrubbing of floors. We . . . we just had wood floors, no . . . with no paint on ‘em, no nothing on ‘em, and . . . and we scrubbed those with . . . with the lye soap and . . . and . . . and, of course, swept ‘em with a broom. You didn’t have any vacuum cleaners or anything of that nature. We’d all pitch in. Sometimes even . . . I mean, the boys, I’m s-. . . remember them helping scrub the . . porches and things and, you know.

“But the chores of girls were to . . . of course, we had to go draw water from the well and . . . and bring it in. We had to . . . Mother always did the milking, but we had to h-. . . I remember we’d have to “bug the beans.” You’d go out and pick the bean bugs off the beans. And you’d go out and you’d pull weeds out of the onions. You’d…I mean, all kids did that. We would have to just do everwhat she wanted us to do, which was anything a child could do, I guess, that would make it a little easier for them as parents.

“Dad worked in the field, we’d have to carry him water to drink, and if he was far away where it would interrupt his work a lot, we’d take his lunch to him. Mother’d cook and put it in…well, we’d carry it in buckets, you know, as in…things she’d get lids on…that would keep the…from getting it dirty or spilling it. But most of the time he was close enough that he’d come in and eat. But I remember carrying his dinner up on that hill to where he would be so far back hoeing corn.

Kentucky girl listens to radio“I’d walk up to my Grandmother Frazier’s every day at noontime. My brother and sister, if we could get all of our jobs done, why, Mother’d let us go up there and listen to “The Midday Merry-Go-Round” which was a comedy-type show out of Knoxville. Minnie Pearl was on it, and you’ve heard of Minnie Pearl, and all of her comic . . . comics. And she would . . . and then there was Rod Brassfield. And I remember all those . . . now I’ve forgotten ‘em, but . . . but we’d just sit there and listen and laugh.”

Florene Smith
b. 1929
interviewed May 30, 1991
Whitesburg, Kentucky

University of Kentucky Oral History Program
Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Elizabeth Albert, Interviewer


related post: “You would wear yourself down winding it up”


We can still see the townhouse, changed long ago to solid rock, but the people are invisible and immortal

Posted by | July 20, 2017

Long ago, long before the Cherokee were driven from their homes in 1838, the people on Valley river and Hiwassee heard voices of invisible spirits in the air calling and warning them of wars and misfortunes which the future held in store, and inviting them to come and live with the Nûñnë’hï, the Immortals, in their homes under the mountains and under the waters. For days the voices hung in the air, and the people listened until they heard the spirits, say “If you would live with us, gather everyone in your townhouses and fast there for seven days and no one must raise a shout or a warwhoop in all that time. Do this and we shall come and you will see us and we shall take you to live with us.”

The people were afraid of the evils that were to come, and they knew that the Immortals of the mountains and the waters were happy forever, so they counciled in their townhouses and decided to go with them. Those of Anisgayâ’yï town came all together into their townhouse and prayed and fasted for six days.

Reduced scale reconstruction of the Cherokee council house (or townhouse) at the Red Clay site, Red Clay State Park in Bradley County, TN. Benches would have circled the building as those pictured, to seat the delegates from the eight districts. The original council house would have been much larger in order to accommodate the nearly 5000 people who would have gathered there.


On the seventh day there was a sound from the distant mountains, and it came nearer and grew louder until a roar of thunder was all about the townhouse and they felt the ground shake under them. Now they were frightened, and despite the warning some of them screamed out. The Nûñnë’hï, who had already lifted up the townhouse with its mound to carry it away, were startled by the cry and let a part of it fall to the earth, where now we see the mound of Së`tsï. They steadied themselves again and bore the rest of the townhouse, with all the people in it, to the top of Tsuda’ye`lûñ’yï (Lone Peak), near the head of Cheowa, where we can still see it, changed long ago to solid rock, but the people are invisible and immortal.

The people of another town, on Hiwassee, at the place which we call now Du’stiya`lûñ’yï, where Shooting creek comes in, also prayed and fasted, and at the end of seven days the Nûñnë’hï came and took them away down under the water. They are there now, and on a warm summer day, when the wind ripples the surface, those who listen well can hear them talking below. When the Cherokee drag the river for fish the fish-drag always stops and catches there, although the water is deep, and the people know it is being held by their lost kinsmen, who do not want to be forgotten.

When the Cherokee were forcibly removed to the West one of the greatest regrets of those along Hiwassee and Valley Rivers was that they were compelled to leave behind forever their relatives who had gone to the Nûñnë’hï.

In the Tennessee river, near Kingston, 18 miles below Loudon, Tennessee, is a place which the Cherokee call Gustï’, where there once was a settlement long ago, but one night while the people were gathered in the townhouse for a dance the bank caved in and carried them all down into the river. Boatmen passing the spot in their canoes see the round dome of the townhouse–now turned to stone–in the water below them and sometimes hear the sound of the drum and dance coming up, and they never fail to throw food into the water in return for being allowed to cross in safety.

Source: “Myths of the Cherokee,” by James Mooney, Bureau of American Ethnology, 19th Annual Report to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Congressional Serial Set, publ. by US Government Printing Office, 1900


The over-wrought child requires quiet methods

Posted by | July 19, 2017

Bulletin of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Immigration,
published in Richmond, distributed statewide
July 1921, Bulletin No. 166, p. 74

“Have you studied this subject seriously—the nervous child?”

Should there be one rigid rule for the training of all children? I am convinced that there should not. And if there is one exception it is for the over-sensitive, over-nervous child about being put to bed.

The average country child gets too little sleep. This is partly due to living in few rooms, to busy mothers and to lack of understanding of what sleep means to children. The very nervous child should have even more sleep than the average child, but it is not always easy to get her to sleep.

In the first place, she resists going to sleep with every fiber of her being and this makes people think her cross. The more she resists the more nervous she becomes until she is in a perfect quiver. To whip her then, the natural impulse of worried adults, is to give her a shock from which she might never be quite the same again.

The over-wrought child requires the quiet methods of one who has herself under control. This is easier said than done, I grant you, but who will say that a little child’s welfare is not worth any effort of self-control? Not you and not I. When she screams take her in your arms gently and smilingly; keep a soft old blanket around her, particularly around her feet and rock her slightly, singing a low tune as soon as she quiets a little.

mother and children at bedtime, 1915“But you object to rocking a child to sleep,” some one will say. The well, sturdy child, yes, but there is something about the movement of rocking that will often tempt the sick, overwrought child to slumber.

Regularity is one of the important factors in training a nervous baby to go to sleep easily. Have her bed comfortable, with sheets and all-wool covers. Quilts are heavy and overburden her.

Then lie down beside her every night and tell her stories, not exciting ones about bears and bad men, but tell her about the quiet affectionate lamb you had when you were a little girl, about its fleece and how funny it looked.

Never give her more than one story a night, string the same one out if need be. Then when she is over her nervous spell in a week or two, talk to her reasonably and explain to her that you must darn some socks for Daddy that night and you want her to see what kind of stories she can tell herself.

If often helps to wrap a soft blanket around her feet when you lay her down. Remember that the brain requires blood to think and blood that is in the feet is not in the brain. Sometimes if she has not eaten much and is restless, a glass of warm milk or a cracker or two will attract the blood from the brain to the stomach.

A soft doll is a real comfort to the nervous, restless child, especially if you do not seem to listen to her when she talks aloud to it. Some children like to hold a flower. I know one mother who sometimes puts a single drop of violet water on the baby’s pillow, and she lies there so long smelling it that she drops off to sleep.

New-born babies should sleep nearly all the time; children of about four should sleep about thirteen hours; of seven, twelve; of eight or nine, eleven; of twelve, ten. A child sleeping in the open air can get best development with a little less than this, but one with her head in the corner of a room requires a little more sleep.

Things to be avoided are:

1) Teasing.
2) Tickling.
3) Tossing.
4) Anger.
5) Great fear.
6) Terrifying stories.
7) Violent rocking.
8) Bright sunlight in unshaded eyes.
9) Glaring windows.
10) Hard white walls.
11) Places of public gathering.
12) Food difficult to digest.

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