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Growing up in Louisa – Landmarks!

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

Before that time when this writer came to be, there were few features in the pleasant little town that had strong meaning.

There were things that the adult population had seen as leftovers from the past. Some of those structures survived long enough for me to see, but others are known to me only by the pictures I viewed such as those found in J. Lynn See’s creation of Old Louisa Remembered. Some of the things I intend to cite as examples of landmarks may yet exist in some form while others may have gone from our sight. The Bible says in the book of Proverbs that we are reminded of the importance of landmarks and memorials, but when things lose their purpose or stand in the way of true progress, it’s a hard decision we sometimes have to make.

Most often when the term ‘landmark’ is used it refers to a geographic feature, but to broaden the description and to admit we all have memories of what we once knew, I will include man-made memorials, statues, and other salient features of the surrounding that either tell us where we are, or what works may have been carried out during earlier times. So what are the ‘landmarks’ I’m going to list?

Memory is a fickle thing, especially when left to old people. Besides, what is embedded in our memories sometimes take some real prodding to extract. Add to that the fact that some memories are rather myopic. For example, I seem to remember a house across from the post office, perhaps just next to Land’s Sundry, but I can’t remember more than an iron picket fence and a magnolia tree of considerable dimensions. I used to think the maturing pods looked like hand grenades, so I stole one or two for using in a mock battle. Today, I think I’m a block off, as opposed to being ‘off my block.’ The house was most likely the one that recently burned on the corner of Main Street and Lock Avenue.

A carnival was held in the center of town much like Septemberfest is today.A carnival was held in the center of town much like Septemberfest is today.

A lot of memories are stirred from something someone says or while thinking of something else altogether; a spin off. The better way for me is to look at pictures of old. Photographs of ‘what used to be’ reminds us of the things we saw every day and took for granted. An example is the ‘courthouse square.’ This property has undergone several changes over the years, yet remains much the same. The old church building where I used to worship was vacated in favor of a new church built up on the ridge between Town Hill and Pine Hill. Nonetheless, the courthouse itself is mostly there, even if covered by an addition. The old wrought-iron fence and gas lights that I know were there, but was never seen by yours truly, have long disappeared. I remember when workers tore down the bandstand and built a stronger and slightly larger one. The latest edition of the replacement bandstand remains. Mr. Chief Justice Vinson’s birthplace is gone but a memorial stands to mark the place. I remember when the plaque was dedicated. What a crowd!

Prior to my time sidewalks were elevated along Main Cross. I seem to remember an old horse-trough was removed, causing annoyance to some. But, those shadows are heavy and block any image that might have confirmed the occurrence. Perhaps it is one of those things I remember that really wasn’t true. I have a weak idea that it was someone near the Brunswick Hotel, or just down around where the flower shop or Western Auto was. By the time I was running the streets the need to water horses had greatly diminished as did the need for hitching posts. Granted, I still saw some buckboards pull into town on Saturday mornings, but they were quite rare. Was the little I remember really a part of some movie I saw and not real? Maybe. Perhaps someone out there has a similar memory.

A major landmark that was common to the experiences of surely everyone in town, was the old Kentucky Normal College at the southern end of Main Cross. I can still see Bascomb Boyd standing on the top step next to the doorway, waiting to see who would be late for class. Perhaps five years after I had left for the military I made a visit home. The Superintendent Bill Cheek proudly showed me the new building that had replaced the old brick edifice. He showed me how his office looked up the campus so he could see students coming and going while still at his desk. I was polite, but inside my heart was breaking. I could still remember the smell of those musty oiled floors and hear the creak of the wooden steps as hordes of students ascended or descended in their travels in the old building. My mother had attended school there, as did nearly everyone I knew.

A few years ago now, the old Louisa Supply Co., “Big Mill” burned as did the old Judge Stewart house just recently. The biggest shock to me when I made a return visit was the demise of the depot and the businesses across the tracks. Nearly all of that block is gone or changed so not to be recognizable. Another shocker was the first ‘by-pass’ cut through town hill that changed the character of the town. I remember that I regularly climbed that hill from the grade school site. One cannot make that climb now. Another chance few care about, I guess, is the shopping center that resides over the town dump where I shot rats on Sundays to get in some ‘target practice.’

During my time the locks were broken so only the skeleton of the ‘first needle dam,’ surveyed by George Washington in his younger days, was visible. Those were fixed after a big flood and lots of properties were threatened. The fix was later than my tenure in the town, so I only can say I have visited them and have seen them working.

In my day, we would drive into town from the north and would first see a sloping road that suddenly paralleled the river and railway. At the point where the road was actually lower than the rails I remember the Hinkle Motel and Restaurant. One of our class reunions was held there. It was the last time I would see the guest of honor, Bill Cheek, and sadly several of my classmates. The road continues to cross the tracks. Just at the end of the first block, a large white house rose up on a mound. It was the home-place for the VanHoose family. Teenie was a classmate and remains a friend.

The swimming pool on Lock Avenue means little to me except that we also celebrated a reunion there once. It was built after I left town. I had friends all up and down Lock Avenue, and have written about some of them. Andy’s Grocery was a favorite hangout. The highway wound all through town, passing buildings we all saw nearly every day. The Town Hall, a forgotten blacksmith shop, Louisa General Hospital, a service station that was owned by a classmate, Melvin Salyers. The pool room, the restaurants, and Ern Compton’s newsstand, all are memories. The ‘Bargain Store,’ and all the businesses that lined Main Cross, we saw. In many cases there were businesses such as law offices, the telephone switchboard, a dentist office, the registration board, and the Brunswick hotel. I had been in several of those, but I missed some, too. Maybe you know of others?

Many of the hardware stores are closed. The stores I used to patronize are either empty or completely different in character. Many of the landmarks are gone. So what now? The box stores out on the other bypass, and the improved routes to larger markets north, makes it very difficult for a business to hope for better days if isolated downtown. Traffic downtown is mostly coal trucks, or courthouse induced. There’s next to no one even seeing the pieces left of old town.

I still believe that a developer with savvy could demolish the skeleton of old Louisa downtown and build new, updated buildings with ‘niche’ businesses and overhead apartments. That’s the trend all across America and I see no reason my little hometown should not be part of that. Whether it is ice cream stores, Starbucks, a book store, some restaurants and some stores featuring upscale and interesting items, even a historical museum with pictures and artifacts, the town could become a destination which, in turn, would encourage investments. The town could grow into a fun place to visit and move into. Perhaps the Town Council could see the vision and find ways to encourage those kinds of investments. It would go well with an already planned river walk, a family-friendly park, some theaters or amusements, and promotion of musical events aimed to draw younger, affluent families. When landmarks are gone it is time for a ‘landmark’ decision. The time is ripe to get started with a dream that can lead to a bright future for a very neat little town full of some really great people. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

PS: Got a nasty infection and spent my time trying to get well this week. Lying in the hospital with tubes connected to me gave me time to think about the buildings and geographic features I grew up with. I hammered this effort out quickly to make a deadline. I hope you find something in here that stirs up a pleasant memory for you --Mike.

 

Where Elliot 'Coke' Jones got his name

 

These are my grandparents, Elliott “Coke” Jones and Sara Jones, when the Coca-Cola Bottling Company 1907 started. --Fred These are my grandparents, Elliott “Coke” Jones and Sara Jones, when the Coca-Cola Bottling Company 1907 started. --Fred C.P Brazenton established the Louisa Coca-Cola Bottling plant in 1905 in Lawrence county, Kentucky. Fred Jones' (of Louisa) grandfather, Elliott "Coke" Jones (shown in the photo on the right) came to Louisa from Greensboro North Carolina to help set up the plant. Elliott's wife Sarah Kate Allison Jones, is shown with him in the photo.

Charles Tyler "C.T." Britton bought the Coca-Cola plant in 1925 from C. P. Brazenton. C.T. Britton was mayor of Louisa for two terms. Shown outside the bottling company in 1907 are ( l-r) C.P. Brazenton, Jeb Heston, and Elliott "Coke" Jones. The others are unknown.

Shown outside the bottling company in 1907 are ( l-r) C.P. Brazenton, Jeb Heston, and Elliott "Coke" Jones. The others are unknown.Shown outside the bottling company in 1907 are ( l-r) C.P. Brazenton, Jeb Heston, and Elliott "Coke" Jones. The others are unknown.The Louisa Coca-Cola company is located on Clay Street in Louisa and was owned and operated by the Britton family for many years. It is now closed.

Max Young, 842 Rebecca Dr., Lexington, KY 40502, submits these photos which were shared with him by Fred Jones.

 

Growing up in Louisa – Walking?

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

The forgotten art of walking is something that we have left behind almost without notice. I’m not talking about just going for a stroll, but I’m talking about walking with the intention of traveling to some point without the aid of a vehicle. It was common during my time in the old home town because in part the community was only about a mile long and at best, half that wide. There were very few places that was outside of reasonable walking distance. This was a ‘normal’ way to get someplace. Of course, some adults used their cars, if they had one, but that wasn’t the way for many kids and adults. As a kid, I usually had a bike, but when it had a flat or if I had to carry something, we just hit the pavement. I remember times that a number of us boys would walk to the ballfield, or somewhere, all talking and enjoying the company. 

We used sidewalks wherever they were available, but otherwise we walked the streets or on the train tracks. This habit of hoofing it encouraged good health by burning unnecessary calories and giving us opportunities to think, dream, or otherwise pass the time. The benefits of walking are well documented, as a method to cool off, avoid or get over frustration, or to work out solutions to a difficult problem. 

Anyway, since bikes and cars tend to break down and involved an expense, we often had little choice but to walk. As for me and my friends, much of the time during those school years we were without a driver’s license. Even if we had one, we had no ‘wheels’ to use. When I was an older teen, I loved to ‘double-date’ with a friend who borrowed their ‘dads’ car, but that didn’t always work either. Even when we had a car we didn’t want to use up that expensive $.25 a gallon gasoline. Speaking of that, I remember when we would sit on the curb at the filling station to see who would buy gas that day, and how much. Those rare “fill ‘er up” commands made by a driver gave us the perception that family must be rich. 

Another reason we enjoyed walking was that we stood a good chance of seeing friends along the route. Sometimes we’d even take a route that was most likely to bump into certain parties. We could then hear the latest news, or enjoy greeting an acquaintance. Yes, as a youth, I remember walking and kicking a can, or a rock, ahead of me, while I relaxed. This was a time that gave me a chance to relax while accomplishing a purpose. My family took the frequent trips to the grocery store, post office, or the ballfield by walking and we walked to school, to church, and to the homes of family friends. 

The world as we knew it has changed so much that parents are loath to allow a child to walk alone. We read every day of kidnappings and murders, and we are often in fear of our children being randomly assaulted. In the forties and fifties, we never thought twice about walking to most any place in town, day or night. The people we passed were friendly, and were known to us. The adults in the town watched over each other and would step out if it looked as if we were endangered. We never considered that we were at risk. 

The point is that this idea of walking is a foreign idea to younger people, today. Perhaps with good reason. Things are a good deal more spread out and the dangers of walking make it unattractive. People today drive everywhere. We go further without thought, and faster than we need. Doing that may avoid all kinds of risks and certainly give more choices of destinations.  Today, our goals aren’t to see people that we know on the street, but rather to get to where we’re going. We gain and lose something by driving. There may be safety, but the benefits I’ve already outlined are lost. We fit more things into our lives, but it is impersonal and shallow. We rush, rush, and rush.

I thought of this subject to write about when I recently attended a national conference in the Washington, D.C. area. While I was attending I found that I had to hike from the ballroom to a breakout session meeting held somewhere that seemed to be on another planet. Seriously, the amount of walking in those places makes me wonder why they don’t have people movers like some airports. It could take ten or fifteen minutes to move from one class to another.  

Today, there are a few who walk, or even jog, through the neighborhoods, but those amount to a small percentage of the population and are thought of as health freaks. I’m thinking they are more health aware than the rest of us. Some are tying on a pedometer and hitting the sidewalks, but with entirely different goals. In the larger cities, they use the parks and back roads are used by those from more rural areas. New mothers and sometimes, fathers, walk of run while pushing a stroller, or a baby buggy. They do this to stay fit, or as an excuse to ‘unwind’ and get away from the busy hustle and bustle of life. I watch some people jogging or walking, and talking on their cell phone, but at least they are exercising their bodies. 

In today’s world, neighbors barely know each other and mistrust or resent intrusions. I suspect that because of this we have become a lonely people in a crowed world. I’m not one to preach against change, understand. I have been a catalyst for change for most of my life, but for selective change. Getting to a hospital faster makes sense. Traveling from place to place safer and quicker is a good thing. Turning our lifestyles into non-caring people by reason that life is a blur, is not a good thing. Can we take what was good about the past and what’s good about the future, and marry those somehow? Cities and towns are building communities within communities these days with their own parks, housing and storefronts. 

I remember the little town where the grade school bell was rung and I had to run to be there before Quincy had rung it a second time. I also remember the evening hymns and chimes broadcast from the church roof downtown. Having a local theater and plenty of friendly places to grab a soft drink, or milkshake was wonderful. Seeing friends and relatives on the streets and catching up on the news at the barber shop, or the beauty shop, was just plain fun and was important to us during that day. This atmosphere of community also lent itself to a caring public. Neighbors would help neighbors, and all was right with the world. Small-town life was good. 

Maybe we should all make time to ‘take a walk’ and discover old friends, meet new ones, improve our health, and bask in the richness of belonging.   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.