Category Archives: Uncategorized

Juliette Low establishes First Girl Scout camp

Posted by | June 9, 2015

Camp Juliette Low, in Chattooga County GA, today is a private, non-profit summer camp for girls ages 7 to 17. Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, was instrumental in getting this camp underway; in fact it’s the only camp she personally helped establish.

Low brought girl scouting to her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, with a troop of just eighteen girls. She envisioned, however, that Girl Scouting would eventually be “for all the girls of America.” And indeed, more than fifty million women and girls have belonged to the organization since its founding on March 12, 1912.

As the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low correctly intuited what activities girls would enjoy. She envisioned an organization that would combine play, work, and healthy values to shape girls into active, modern women. The group participated in outdoor activities, camping, and sports, attracting girls and women with leadership qualities.

Camp Juliette Gordon LowGypsy Troop at Camp Juliette Gordon Low attend campfire, 1927.

In 1921 John and Will Ledbetter, representing the Cloudland Park Corporation, developers of the mountain resort known as Cloudland, gave a ten-acre tract of land to the Cherokee Council of Boy Scouts at Cloudland for camp purposes, at the same time donating nearby land for what became Camp Juliette Low.

Dorris Hough, who headed of the Southern Regional Headquarters for Girl Scouting, was the first camp director.

A few shacks were built by the boys in 1921, and in 1922 others were added. The girls had an assembly hall 40×72 ft. A portion of the adjacent Little River was dammed to create a swimming area for campers. Camp stay was two weeks, and the camp stayed open for 8 weeks in the summer, taking on about 100 girls per season.

The county surrounding the camp is named for the Chattooga River, which flows through the area and is the smaller of two Georgia rivers bearing that name. (The larger Chattooga River forms part of the state’s northeast border between Georgia and South Carolina.) The county may be best known as the longtime home of folk artist and country philosopher Howard Finster and as the place where Sequoyah developed a written alphabet for the Cherokee language.

Camp Juliette Low dissolved its affiliation with the Girl Scouts in 1937, when it incorporated as a non-profit camp.


A history of Rome and Floyd County, State of Georgia, United States of America, by George Magruder Battey


The Coon Creek Girls play the White House

Posted by | June 8, 2015

On the evening of June 8,1939 limousines began to deliver the cream of Washington D.C. society to the East Room of the White House. President and First Lady, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were entertaining King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England and had arranged a command performance in their honor.

The Coon Creek Girls

Music for the evening was provided by the finest representatives of American culture, including opera tenor Lawrence Tibbett, classical musician Marion Anderson, pop diva Kate Smith, and Alan Lomax singing Western songs. The evening also featured four energetic young women called the Coon Creek Girls, who would play traditional stringband music and accompany Bascom Lunsford’s square dance group from North Carolina.

“Coon Creek Girls was a very happy time. As far as I know, we were the first all-girl string band,” recalled band leader Lily May Ledford at Berea College during a 1980 solo performance there. “We startled the audience by being all girls — our sound was drowned out by the uproar of applause and yelling.”

Ledford has been widely recognized in Kentucky and throughout the nation by scholars, musicians, and listeners who have unanimously credited her with bringing the musical culture of eastern Kentucky to the world. She was an inspiration to generations of younger musicians, including Pete Seeger.

Ledford learned to play on an old discarded fiddle formerly belonging to “Gran’pappy Tackett,” who was a famous old-time fiddler of the Kentucky mountains, as was her father, White Ledford. She told the story of how she made her first fiddle bow from a willow switch and a generous portion of the tail of “Ole Maudie,” “Gran’pappy’s” white mare.

In 1936, at the age of nineteen, Lily May left Pinch-em-Tight Hollow, KY to begin her public music career in Chicago, where she joined the National Barn Dance. A year later she ventured on to Cincinnati, where she became a regular on musical promoter John Lair’s newly formed Renfro Valley Barn Dance.

It was here that Lair, an early promoter of women entertainers, encouraged Lily May along with her sister Rosie, Violet Koehler, and Daisy Lange to form the Coon Creek Girls. It was called that “so that people will know at once what kind of music they’re going to hear,” Lair said. The group made its broadcast debut on October 9, 1937.

Both photos: Berea College Archives/Southern Appalachian Archives/John Lair papers

Both photos: Berea College Archives/Southern Appalachian Archives/John Lair papers


How Many Biscuits Can You Eat? was their first number at the White House soiree, featuring Lily May’s outstanding five-string banjo, Rosie on guitar, Violet on mandolin, and Daisy on bass, with all four sharing the comical verses. They knew this piece was a favorite of Mr. Roosevelt and had performed it countless times back home in Kentucky and Ohio. Another FDR favorite, Get Along Miss Cindy was planned as well as an English ballad, The Soldier and the Lady, in honor of the royal couple.

Meantime John Lair, in order to get in to see the performance, had to pose as the the bass fiddle carrier for the group. Lily May said they laughed in the back of the limo as Lair lugged the big bass along, “Law, how times has changed, back home he’s king, and we’re the subjects you know, up here we’re riding in the limo, and he’s trailing along totin’ the bass fiddle—that done us good!”

In 1939, after Koehler and Lange left the band, the Ledfords were joined by their other sister Susie. The high mountain harmonies of the group proved to be an exciting contrast to the sentimental home-and-mother styles of the period. The trio, singing and playing with the true family mountain sound, served as a musical standard for the old-time genre for years to come.

At a time when traditional music was being brushed aside by many in favor of bluegrass, swing, and smooth country crooning, the Coon Creek Girls stepped up to the mike with a fresh, energetic approach to tunes, songs, and instrumental styles that were as old as the hills.


Listen here to Coon Creek Girls play ‘Flowers in the Wildwood’ —>


“Lily May Ledford: A Legend in Our Time,” by Kennty C. Hull, undated booklet, collection of Western Kentucky University



“You would wear yourself down winding it up”

Posted by | June 5, 2015

Polish miner, 1938, Westover, West Virginia
“I don’t know when I got my first radio, but Daddy had one of the first radios there was in Ceres. It was about as big as television is now. They have the soap operas on the TV now. Then they had “Amos and Andy” on the radio. They came on in the afternoon. You set down and listened to “Amos and Andy” just like the soap operas are now.”

Mallie Tibbs
b. 1918
Ceres, VA

“We got our first radio before we moved to Bastian. We lived down there in Cussin Hollow, we had one down there in Marco. It was in the CCC camp and he got Mommy a radio, it was run by batteries because we didn’t have electricity. I listened to string music, and the Grand Ole Opry, Jean Autry, Roy Rogers, Amos and Andy. Amos and Andy was the funny show we’d listen to on the radio. And lets see, Little Orphan Annie, that’s just about it.”

Edna Sarver
b. 1922
Chatham Hill, VA

“I got my first radio and it was a talk machine that you had to wind up, then it would run down and it wasn’t much of nothing. You would wear yourself down winding it up.”

Thelma Akers
b. 1927
Rocky Gap, VA

“I guess I was about twelve years old, when we got our first radio. Mother got a little tiny one when we first got electricity. See, we had kerosene lamps, and when I was about twelve and we moved up Wolf Creek, they put lights up there. And that’s when we got our first little radio. We listened to it a lot! We’d take it to bed with us, and listen to the Grand Ole Opry. One of my favorite shows was The Squeaking Door. There was a lot of daytime programs to listen to in the summertime. Electricity changed our lives. We were thrilled about it.”

Georgia Havens
b. 1928
Suiter, VA


Source: The Stories of the People of Bland County [VA], Bland County History Archives


A Wheeling bellhop rises to hotel greatness

Posted by | June 4, 2015

From a 13-year-old bellhop at Wheeling, WV’s McLure House to a business giant and multimillionaire—Ellsworth Milton Statler, virtually without benefit of formal education, climbed to the pinnacle of the hotel business.

In 1950 he was proclaimed by his industry as the person who had contributed most to the science of inn-keeping and was hailed as “the hotel man of the half-century.”

Ellsworth Statler at about age 18.

Ellsworth Statler at about age 18.

E.M. Statler was born on October 26, 1863 near Gettysburg, PA into the family of a poor pastor, William Jackson Statler. Six years later, the Statler family moved to Bridgeport, OH, across the river from Wheeling, WV.

At age nine, Ellsworth went to work lugging buckets of coal in the local LaBelle Glass Factory. “When he started he got 25 cents a turn at his job, two turns a day,” noted the NY Times in a 1922 profile of Statler’s career. “This meant 50 cents daily for the family budget. When he left, EM Statler, aged 12, was making the wages of 45 cents a turn, two turns, 90 cents.

“He did not leave his job in the glass factory for one offering richer monetary rewards. He left it in the casual fashion of youth when he heard that the McClure House in Wheeling wanted a bell boy.”

The hotel business fascinated Statler. By 15, he was head bellboy, then clerk. By the time he was 16, he could handle the hotel books. “While he was night clerk, he got an inkling of the profits made by hotel keepers,” said the NY Times. “The brother of the owner was bookkeeper. He taught the young clerk the rudiments of credits and debits. As Mr. Statler puts it, this was caused more by a desire to shove some of the work onto his shoulders than to help him, but the knowledge he gained was not confined to bookkeeping.” At 19 he was the untitled manager.

Enterprising and innovative, Statler leased the McLure billiard room and made it a profitable venture. He set up a railroad ticket booth, which was the first transportation department in a U. S. Hotel. He bought out a company that had been operating the Musee Bowling Lanes. He also opened a lunchroom, “The Pie House,” in the Musee building, and his mother and sister were soon baking there.

“About 15 years after he had quit the [glass factory job], he was making between $4,000 and $5,000 a year. That was a considerable income then,” according to the Times article. “He became a man of the world. The thing that he had missed most as a child was play. He decided he would make up for those lost hours, and began making annual trips to Canada for fishing.”

McClure House Hotel, undated photo.

McClure House Hotel, undated photo.

On the way home from these fishing expeditions, Statler often stopped in Buffalo, NY. Heading back to Wheeling from an 1895 getaway, the 32-year-old entrepreneur discovered Buffalo’s block-long Ellicott Square Building, not yet complete. Upon inquiring, he learned that the large basement space was unleased, and Statler determined to occupy it for a restaurant. As an outsider, he faced numerous obstacles in Buffalo, but finding investors was not among them. He invested $10,000 of his own savings, borrowed $11,000 from a kitchenware manufacturer, $17,000 from a restaurant equipment manufacturer, and a year’s lease funds of $8,500 from George House, a credit store manager. He got married and took his new wife with him to Buffalo to begin his venture as a restaurant operator.

Statler’s dream was to have his own hotel and in 1907, that dream became a reality. He opened the Buffalo Statler and offered “a room and a bath for a dollar and a half.”

Statler’s Buffalo hotel was the first middle-class hotel to have a bath in every room rather than the large public baths common at that time. His architect tried to dissuade him, arguing that it would be impossible to recapture the investment required to provide this convenience at the rates that Statler planned to charge. Statler then explained that the baths would be constructed back to back, with common plumbing shafts. These plumbing shafts would also carry electrical conduit and hot water for the heating system.

Buffalo’s Hotel Statler, corner of Swan and Washington Streets.

Buffalo’s Hotel Statler, corner of Swan and Washington Streets.

The Statler plumbing shaft soon became a standard feature in building construction. “The new commercial hotels,” observed the June 1909 issue of trade magazine The Hotel Monthly, “are now mostly planned for rooms with private bath.” Travelers could now live as well as at home if not better. Statler’s hotel offered conveniences to the average American that at the time were only found in luxury hotels, setting a new standard for his competition.

He became the first to put telephones and radios in every guest room, along with full-length mirrors, built-in closets and a special faucet for ice water. Other hotelmen referred to him as Statler the Startler and invented a new verb, to Statlerize.

Eventually, Statler opened hotels in Boston, Cleveland, Detroit and New York. Emphasizing that “the guest is always right,” he demanded top performance from employees, but was also caring about their needs. Statler understood that by taking good care of his employees and fostering a sense of pride in where they worked, his employees would be more sensitive to customer needs. As part of his internal marketing program, he developed an employee publication called the Statler Salesman in which he promoted a Statler Code of service to guests. He also developed a profit-sharing plan for all employees, a radical policy at the time. His program of job and retirement security was unique to that era.

Following his death in 1928, Pittsburgh and Washington hotels were added to the empire. After 1950, Los Angeles, Hartford and Dallas Statlers were built.

1922 etching of Statler that accompanied NY Times article about his career.

1922 etching of Statler that accompanied NY Times article about his career.

On Oct. 27, 1954, the chain was purchased by Conrad Hilton for $111,000,000. For its time, this multi-million dollar acquisition was both the priciest transaction in the history of the hotel industry, and the largest real estate buy to date.

Statler’s own formal schooling ended with the second grade, but he valued education. The terms of his will established the Statler Foundation, whose major beneficiary is the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

In 1984, Ellsworth Statler was inducted into the Wheeling Hall of Fame.


sources: “A Bell Boy’s Rise: EM Statler, Owner of Big Hotels, Began Work at Nine Years,” NY Times, June 4, 1922
Statler, America’s extraordinary hotelman, by Floyd Miller, 1968, Statler Foundation


Home and the school-house had both become too hot for me

Posted by | June 3, 2015

Folk hero Davy Crockett (1786-1836) was born in Greene County, TN. He remained in East Tennessee until 1811, when he and his family moved to Lincoln County. They moved again in 1813 to Franklin County, where the following took place.

I remained with my father until the next fall, at which time he took it into his head to send me to a little country school, which was kept in the neighborhood by a man whose name was Benjamin Kitchen; though I believe he was no way connected with the cabinet.

I went four days and had just began to learn my letters a little, when I had an unfortunate falling out with one of the scholars—a boy much larger and older than myself. I knew well enough that though the school-house might do for a still hunt, it wouldn’t do for a drive, and so I concluded to wait until I could get him out, and then I was determined to give him salt and vinegar.

I waited till in the evening, and when the larger scholars were spelling I slipp’d out, and going some distance along his road, I lay by the way-side in the bushes, waiting for him to come along.

After awhile, he and his company came on sure enough, and I pitched out from the bushes and set on him like a wild cat. I scratched his face all to a flitter jig, and soon made him cry out for quarters in good earnest.

The fight being over, I went on home, and the next morning was started again to school; but do you think I went? No, indeed. I was very clear of it; for I expected the master would lick me up as bad as I had the boy. So, instead of going to the school-house, I laid out in the woods all day until in the evening the scholars were dismissed, and my brothers, who were also going to school, came along, returning home. I wanted to conceal this whole business fro my father, and I persuaded them not to tell on me, which they agreed to.

Things went on this way for several days; I starting with them to school in the morning, and returning with them in the evening, but lying out in the woods all day. At last, however, the master wrote a note to my father, inquiring why I was not sent to school.

When he read this note he called me up, and I knew very well that I was in a devil of a hobble, for my father had been taking a few horns, and was in a good condition to make the fur fly.

He called on me to know why I had not been at school. I told him I was afraid to go, and that the master would whip me, for I knew quite well if I was turned over to this old Kitchen, I should be cooked up to a cracklin’ in little or no time.

But I soon found that I was not expect a much better fate at home; for my father told me, in a very angry manner, that he would whip me an eternal sight worse than the master if I didn’t start immediately to the school.

I tried again to beg off, but nothing would do but to go to the school. Finding me rather too slow about starting, he gathered about a two year old hickory, and broke after me.

I put out with all my might, and soon we were both up to the top of our speed. We had a tolerable tough race for about a mile; but mind me, not on the school-house road, for I was trying to get as far the t’other way as possible. And I yet believe, if my father and the schoolmaster could both have levied on me about that time, I should never have been called on to sit in the councils of the nation, for I think they would have used me up.

But fortunately for me, about this time I saw just before me a hill, over which I made headway, like a young steamboat. AS soon as I had passed over it, I turned to one side, and hid myself in the bushes. Here I waited until the old gentleman passed by, puffing and blowing, as though his steam was high enough to burst his boilers.

I waited until he gave up the hunt, and passed back again: I then cut out, and went to the house of an acquaintance a few miles off, who was just about to start with a drove. His name was Jesse Cheek, and I hired myself to go with him, determining not to return home, as home and the school-house had both become too hot for me.


—excerpt from Davy Crockett’s Own Story As Written By Himself: The Autobiography of America’s Great Folk Hero. Illustrated by Milton Glaser, Stamford, Conn.: Longmeadow Press, 1992

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