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Growing up in Louisa – Fun?

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

 Like many older folks, when I was busy growing older, there came a tendency to fill my conversations with ‘war stories,’ or memories  from ‘back when.’ That explains why it was so tempting to ‘over-expound after a grandchild asked, “Papaw, what did you do for fun when you were a kid?” I smiled and leaned back in my easy chair and starting thinking through a rush of possible answers. I remembered, too, when I had asked a similar question of my grandmother. Time does march on, does it not? Whew, I thought, Given the changes that have taken place since those days how can I make these babies understand my answers?

Talk about stress! I nearly tripped all my internal circuit-breakers while trying to come up with a short, concise, but definitive answer they could understand. Begging for a moment to think, I luckily found them patient, but attentive, awaiting an answer from the dark ages. I was busy sifting through the deep chasms of my memory banks in hopes of finding a meaningful response. I explained that my childhood was a long time ago and complex, but to do my duty for them, I took another breath and dug deeper. I spent a few frantic minutes navigating through a long list of fuzzy recollections. After all, I was a kid for several years, I thought. Maybe I could pick out activities from a couple of periods of growing up and keep my answer reasonably short; else, we’d be working on this for days. 

To give a thoughtful answer, I began listing activities that might meet their definition of ‘fun.’ After all, what was fun when I was six would not have been of interest when I was sixteen. Maybe, when very young, I may have thought it fun to play in my crib, or to sit in my high chair in the kitchen while mom cooked. Later, running around screaming, playing tag, or making ‘gun noises’ during a make-believe war game was fun. That still might not have been suitable when I was a teenager. For the first six years of school, I know that I thought ‘recess’ meant fun. In high school, there were all the emotional and social struggles that I had to learn to face. There’s no doubt that some of that might have been ‘fun,’ but then again, the growing pains during those years can be tough, too. Those were not fun.

By that time, I had a very long list of activities, some passive and some very active, that fell into a general category of ‘entertainment.’ When I was quite young I enjoyed those times when mom read fairy tales to me at bedtime. She read to me on most evenings as she tucked me in. I know that Hans Christian Andersen, and Grim Fairy Tales were foundational, as were some other classics of the day. I remember that those stories always had lessons for me to learn. Mom was sure to ask me if I knew the moral of that night’s subject, and we’d talk through those to cap off the evening. I would lay thinking of those until sweet slumber overtook my worries or concerns.

Even before my grade school years, mom would call me into the kitchen so I could listen to certain programs as they played on the radio. I would discover later in life that mom had played trumpet in the LHS band during her school years. That was not that many years earlier. She had me when she was eighteen. I suppose she traded in her LHS uniform for a maternity smock. My point is that her love for music was deeply ingrained and she intended to see that I had a good appreciation for music. A favorite program I still listen to from time-to-time is ‘Peter and the Wolf.’ It had musical themes that played in the background of the story as read by Boris Karloff. I learned the sound of the flute, the obo, the bassoon, and several other instruments. The radio became a friend as I listened to popular tunes of the time, usually hit parade songs. There were also many programs such as “Sargent Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,” and “Sky King” and the “Lone Ranger.” I know we listened to “Amos and Andy,” “Jack Benny,” “Don McNeil and the Breakfast Club,” and others. Even the commercials were musical. I remember Hank Williams singing “Happy Family, baking powder…” While radio was a big part of my life, I often would watch or help my mother as she cooked while listening to the programing. Shall my answer to the ‘fun’ question be ‘listening to radio’? I thought on.

As it happens humans are more complex than such a quick answer might indicate. I had toys, games, and two cousins that were near my age with which to play. We also had neighbor kids on the block and nearby. We made roads in the dust for our toy cars, trucks and construction equipment, but we also played board games, jacks, hopscotch, jump-rope, tag, and hide-and-seek. As we grew older many of us got involved in band. The two neighbor Thompson girls (Wanda and Elizabeth) played instruments, as did my live-in cousin Julia. We all spent a lot of time learning to read music, learning scales, and practicing music that we found difficult during band practices.

There were big neighborhood games, like ‘choose-up’ baseball and basketball that kept the boys out of trouble. Sometimes the girls would join in, but that wasn’t often. They either watched, or played with dolls, playhouses, and jump-rope. I remember them cutting out paper dolls and collecting wardrobes that even royalty could not afford. The girls would sometimes come over and watch the games, but as often as not they spent their time talking to each other instead of watching, or even understanding the rules of the game. I’m sure they had fun anyway. As we grew older the focus was more about social issues and relationships. We guys had an urge to make amends to the girls for the neglect visited upon them over the years. Suddenly, they were interesting and even pretty. Win or lose, the challenge was to make friends and have ‘fun.’

Television had come into our homes during our grade school years and was now making it possible to see many favorite programs, including some of those that had been radio programs. To actually see ‘Amos and Andy,’ and ‘Jack Benny,’ made it all the better. We boys also joined the grownup men to listen to baseball, and football, on the radio. It was many times better to watch Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas play their respective skills instead of hearing descriptions. The grownup ladies watched ‘soap operas,’ as I remember, but I preferred ‘Have Gun, will Travel,’ with Richard Boone. I looked forward to the Ed Sullivan Show that had a variety of great performers every week. Elvis and the Beatles both played on that show and added to a whole new era in music. Rock and Roll arrived and grew during these days. The old ‘hit parade’ program was great, but somehow it seemed calm and a little old fashioned once rock and roll had kicked off. We watched ‘Dragnet,’ and wrestling (more about that, later), and ‘Howdy Doody,’ which preceded the ‘Mickey Mouse Club,’ but both had live audiences made up of kids called ‘peanut galleries.’ Yes, indeed, TV was fun and became even better when reception improved and color was added. Our lives as we had known it, dramatically changed. The ‘Rose Bowl Parade,’ was spectacular with all those colors!  Somehow, even back in those dark days we had ‘fun.’

I think the first movie I ever saw in preschool days was either ‘Song of the South,’ or ‘Bambi.’ I think I was carried out of both when serious trauma set in after I witnessed the goring of a little boy by a bull, (I quickly learned to fear bulls), or the killing of Bambi’s mother during hunting season. Meant to be ‘fun,’ those clearly it was not right for me. I think mom tried again, so I saw Snow White next. That one was not nearly so scary, although the wicked witch and that bright red apple made me slide down low in my seat. As I grew older I attended nearly every Saturday matinee and watched the likes of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, or Lash LaRue. I actually saw Roy, Dale and the gang at the field house in Huntington when I was a youngster. It was rare, but exciting, when the Garden Theater would have a ‘double-feature.’ Think about it! Two movies for the price of one. When that happened on a Saturday Matinee I noticed I had lost a big part of the day when I finally emerged out of the theater. Why it was nearly dark out!

As I grew older, I would sometimes take girls on a ‘date’ to the evening showing of movies even if I had already seen the feature. The point was being with her. The picture show was just an excuse, or something to do. I really tried to be a true gentleman and treat the young lady as best I knew how. I was typically scared to death that I’d misstep and disappoint my date. Nonetheless, make no mistake about it, I had ‘fun.’

During my teen years Hollywood switched from cowboy and gangster movies, to love stories. Many of these were musicals. The big screen nearly overwhelmed us with beautiful scenery and wonderful sounds woven into stories that made us feel good. At the same time, we learned some of life’s lessons. The same kinds of morals I mentioned about fairy tales was taught to wide audiences across the nation by means of the silver screen. The movie “South Pacific” was full of laughs, beautiful scenery, but contained deep lessons on bigotry, too. “Picnic” and “Showboat,” delighted us but taught us more lessons. I remember that several band selections grew out of some of these screenplays. Once, when we were at band camp, we were shown the movie ‘Brigadoon.’ The next morning, we found the score for that on our music stands. Sneaky! As we played the wonderful music we’d just were introduced to the night before, the story lived on in our hearts. That was ‘fun.’

One time during the heyday of professional wrestling. It was before I was convinced it was merely an act, a roped ring was built in the gymnasium at LHS. It seemed as if the whole town showed up as chairs were set up all over the floor and the bleachers were filled to standing room only. Of course, the ‘good guy’ won, but not before being bloodied by that cheating ‘bad guy.’ Hitting one over the head with a chair just wasn’t fair in my book. The crowd seemed ready to rise up, grab the bad guy, and lynch him, but calm prevailed when the good guy held up his hand to calm the crowd. He then proceeded to defeat his foe right there in front of us. Hearts lightened as good triumphed over evil. We all left the gym happy with the result. That night, we all had ‘fun.’

Another time the gym was used was for a game of donkey basketball. Well-known men of the community, including church leaders, teachers, and merchants played donkey ball for our enjoyment. They had two teams, both which had to ride donkeys up and down the court to play. It was a laugh a minute. I remember seeing a game played by the Harlem Globe Trotters about that time, too, but that may have been at the field house in Huntington. My memory is a bit foggy on that one. In any case, these were very entertaining and we all had ‘fun.’    

What did I do for fun back in the dark ages? I’m thinking that life was slower and safer in those days. As a kid, I could ride my bike to just about anywhere in town to see friends, or just to see what may be happening somewhere else. I could visit with a shopkeeper, look at the locks, judge the depth of the river, or I could go up on town hill and watch the whole town. I could see several streets and backyards at a time. I sometimes watched the clouds and guessed about how the weather might change. I could watch a train and its trail of smoke rumble through town. I could meet up with friends and get up a ballgame, or maybe just throw a ball around for a while. I could feel the breeze in my unkempt hair and in my unbuttoned shirt when I rode my out-of-control bike down town hill at a scary speed. I could only hang on and hope I didn’t wreck. That was foolish, but ‘fun.’

Sometimes I would sit on my front porch and read comics. If a friend came by we could read together, or maybe trade some ‘read’ ones for some ‘unread’ ones. We had no clue they’d be collectable and pull down high prices that they do today. Baseball cards were collected by nearly all of us guys. I’d buy a box of Topps from Andy York (York’s Grocery) when I had enough money. He would cut me a deal and sell them at his cost. Those, are long gone, but I enjoyed my collection when I had it. Some were very old, including Babe Ruth’s and others. I had a few tobacco cards which bring good money today, but I was collecting for ‘fun.’

During my teen years, I used to go to Panel’s Roller Rink and skate for hours. I fell and hurt an arm once, but I continued to skate and became pretty good. I remember being embarrassed as a young teen when the announcer would call out ‘couples only.’ That meant that I would have to sit down, or ask some girl to skate with me. I was shy, but I did ask girls to skate a few times. They relented so skate we did. Otherwise, we had to wait for the ‘all skate’ announcement. I still remember that feeling after taking off the skates at the end of a skating session. Trying to walk was an issue because the ground seemed further away than it should have been. I felt that I was walking like a prancing horse. I’m sure I looked foolish those first few steps, but it was ‘fun.’

During the high school years I was active in the Louisa Methodist Church, including the Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF). We met on Sunday nights. I came to be close friends with the members. We visited the MYF groups in Paintsville and other places. While we had a good time, I don’t remember a great deal about those events. Singing in the choir was another thing I did. Many of my classmates also sang, including Kaye Sheppard, a young lady I really liked during those days. Her dad was the preacher and she sometimes played piano during evening services. She became a registered nurse. I attended her capping and was very proud of her. My daughter also became a registered nurse so I understood the importance of her capping ceremony. While there certainly was a serious side to attending church, there were times when it was fun to be there. Whether it was ‘pot-luck’ dinners, a funny play put on by the men of the church, the laughter at choir practices, or the tricks and pranks we played on each other behind the scenes, it was always ‘fun.’

I remember visiting with friends nearly every day. We had birthday parties, too, but those were fairly rare. Girls sometimes held ‘slumber parties’ where the girls would stay the night, but boys were allowed for just the first part of the evening. I remember visiting one friend’s home every week for a while. She was on a temporary restriction and was a good friend, so I’d go over to practice music, or to play board games with her. We weren’t dating, but we were really good friends. Another classmate would often go with me. I remember going to different friend’s house and discovering that some of his relatives were playing with guitars, a banjo and fiddle. I wasn’t a strong fan of country music, but this was too good not to enjoy. I had watched Flat & Scruggs on TV for some time and had heard gospel and old time music downtown at the bandstand over the years. Later, in college, I would build a banjo and learn to play a couple of songs. Running into jam sessions with fellow band members and friends was just plain ‘fun.’

I remember that LHS seniors put on an annual play each year. During my senior year, I played the part of a detective. Through an off-script ‘set up’ prank, I ended up having to frisk a girl on stage. It was as if she dared me to do it. I swallowed and went into her pocket to retrieve the evidence I needed to arrest her. The audience screamed and I’m sure I turned several shades of red. I remember other plays in prior years that had delighted me with laughter. I saw one of those home movies out on ‘You Tube,’ filmed by Hugh Whitt. Mary Eva Berry and others were laughing and cutting up in their play costumes in front of the old building. School in those days was exciting and always eventful. The kids I had the privilege to know, were beyond funny. While they were still respectful to others, they knew how to have good, clean fun. Our ‘class clown,’ Kay Varney Maynard, was a laugh a minute. Whether it was spraying shaving cream on the band director, or just generally stirring up mischief, she was always on her game. The school, the teachers and the student-body alike were all delighted and loved her for her humor. Those days were ‘fun.’

I remember visiting some other Thompson girls (Judy & Sue) in High Bottom. In spite of being warned, I climbed a fence into their pigpen and was subsequently chased by their sow. I ran hard and cleared the fence just in time! Scary thing, that, but the visit and good conversation were always fun. I made it a point to ride my bike out there from time to time. I remember another time when I visited Stanley Brown at his home. His little sister had a friend over and they were sitting in the kitchen. Stanley and I decided to have some fun with the girls. For effect, he picked up a raw egg, broke it open and let it slide into his mouth and down his throat. The girls screamed in disgust as they watched him swallow the raw egg. That was exactly the desired effect we wanted, so I picked up an egg and did the same thing. Again, they squirmed and squealed. That was good! I decided to go for a third egg, so I picked up another. This one turned out to be a ‘bad egg,’ having been fertilized. I was soon spitting out gook and some nasty, partially developed feathers. Yuk! I put my head under the running kitchen faucet to wash out my mouth. All I can say is they had ‘fun.’ For me? Not so much, but a lesson was learned.

We had a Boy Scout troop that met at the Christian Church on Madison, just down the block from the grade school. It didn’t last long, but we went on some hikes and camped. During high school, many of my friends were members of Future Farmers of America (FFA). They had regular meetings and had programs throughout the year. Many of them proudly worn their blue corduroy jackets with the big logo, to school. These young farmers were instrumental in the development of County Fairs back in the day. They had livestock shows/contests, vegetable growing contests, and rodeo shows. Many of the girls were members of the Future Homemakers of America (FHA), and learned to cook various dishes, and how to sew things like aprons, dresses, blouses, etc. They sponsored a school dance every year, too. They also participated in the County Fair with their sewing, quilting, canning, and other crafts. Some also showed sheep, goats, chickens and other livestock. Whether participating or just attending, the various events were ‘fun,’ too.

There were sports, band, Glee Club, various school-related clubs, field trips, and other events sponsored by LHS. There was the prom and other school dances, pep rallies, and lots of dating. These things took a good bite out of our discretionary time. The band took trips to Morehead State College for camps, musical competitions, and even to see a football game. We marched in Frankfort for the new Governor’s inauguration parade on one very cold winter’s day. Many of us were involved in fund raisers for charity, and the band was there to help the Governor open a new highway #23. (#3 prior to that) Those took effort and patience, but were in the end, ‘fun.’

When I was a junior/senior in high school, I was a member of the volunteer fire department. We had weekly meeting and practices laying hose, climbing ladders, priming the pump, and discussing the latest training given us by the Mayo Clinic. We responded to several fires in those years, including Blaine High School, and other structures, mostly around town. It was difficult, dangerous, and hard work, but rewarding. I suppose we thought of it as helping people, which should always be ‘fun.’

So, what’s my answer to the question my grandchild posed to me? After all, we didn’t have a way to email, or text our friends, or make new friends in chat rooms. There were no electronic games to entertain us. We didn’t have portable radios and earphones, no CD’s, no personal computers, and there was no internet. The only phone we had was stuck on a wall, had a crank, and was often on a party-line. Conversations couldn’t last long and even then, was restricted to one space. Ours was mounted so high that I had to stand to use it.

We had never seen a skate board or even a shopping center. We pretty much had to walk or ride a bike to go anywhere. We didn’t have a microwave or any prepared foods to warm. Fast food places didn’t exist. Until my teens I hadn’t even heard of pizza. The only ‘carnival rides’ were an hour away, and big theme parks didn’t exist. Besides, we’d have no way to get there. We only had one theater and one evening show time, and one Saturday matinee. The single main feature would run for a week, one showing at a time. The nearest drive-in movie was in Ironton, so that was a rare thing for us to do. For the early years, we had no TV and even after we got one, the picture was fuzzy. We’d spend hours trying to adjust the antenna to improve the picture. There was no such thing as cable, and no one had a satellite dish. In fact, they were still working on the first rockets so no GPS! We didn’t have a recorder of any kind, especially in High Def. I was a teenager before we got our first drive-in restaurant with ‘car hops,’ but when Dee’s came in, it definitely became the ‘hot-spot’ for meeting friends. I still eat there when I’m in town. Still, many of my classmates worked on their family farm. They weren’t in town often in the summer, so church and community celebrations were their best shot at having fun. In town, some of us mowed grass or made deliveries to make money. I used to deliver calendars for Young Funeral Home every year, usually from the cold back of a pickup truck in December. Burrrr! By a miracle, though, we still found a few ways to try and have ‘fun,’ but it was uphill, wouldn’t you say?

I don’t know that video games measure up, or that texting is better than the freedom of seeing our friends in person. I personally think we worked harder and played harder in those days, but I have to admit the resources today, along with transportation improvements make it easier to have ‘fun.’ The grandkids will have this article to read in the future, but meanwhile, my verbal answer to their question, is … “We did this and that, but we tried to have fun when doing just about anything. After all, fun isn’t an event, but an attitude.” Whoops, was that the moral to this story?

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The Wayne County Historical Society held a dedication ceremony for the roadside marker of Revolutionary War Soldier, James Maynard on Saturday August 12th in Dunlow, West Va.

There are at least fourteen members of Louisa Chapter DAR that are direct descendants of soldier James Maynard.

Descendants of Revolutionary War Soldier James Maynard that were present for the dedication.Descendants of Revolutionary War Soldier James Maynard that were present for the dedication. 

According to DAR Regent, Sabrina May, the Louisa Chapter was represented well, plus they got to meet some members from Westmoreland and Poage Chapters.

Dedication ceremonies were held August 12Dedication ceremonies were held August 12

Pictures were taken by Sabrina May, Wanda Cassady, and Reba Whitt.

Louisa DAR members L to R- Dottie Copley, Sabrina May, Reba Whitt, Wanda Cassady and Lynn Chaffin.Louisa DAR members L to R- Dottie Copley, Sabrina May, Reba Whitt, Wanda Cassady and Lynn Chaffin.

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Growing up in Louisa – Let there be Light!

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

The reader can relax. This article isn’t about the way I looked as a young man. The thrown-back memories I plan to discuss are from a time prior to this posing for a college yearbook. Unlike many vintage photographic images, many of my earliest memories are fuzzy, very dark and unclear, more like an under/over developed picture that was so common in the days of Brownie cameras.

I suspect that I, like most people, can remember very little about preschool days, and even then, only those events make an impression. For example, the apartment we lived in at the Louisa Inn appear in my mind as almost totally dark images. It is as if there was little natural, or any artificial lighting. I remember from my exploring of parts of the building that gas lights were still in place on the third floor, but the first and second floors had electric ones. While I don’t specifically remember, my intellect tells me we must have had some kinds of lamps, or at least an occasional bare bulb. I’m fairly sure it’s my memory that isn’t well illuminated.

My memory banks are restricted to a few minor details of our family kitchen. It was well-lit by a large window over the sink and a back door that had glass in the upper portion. It was often open to expose a screen door which kept me inside and the flies out. I’m guessing I spent most of my time in the kitchen because I have memories of sitting in a high chair and watching mom warm my bottled milk in a wire rack of some kind over the cook-stove. I can see she in my mind’s eye testing test the temperature of the milk by placing a drop on her wrist before she would pass the bottle to me. I’m guessing that like Pavlov’s dogs, I salivated in anticipation of the warm brew that promised to follow. I also remember the old ice-box that sat near the large porcelain sink, and the kitchen table used by the grownups. I can still see my great aunt Shirley Chapman sitting, reading a newspaper, and drinking coffee at that table.

The ice-box didn’t work that well because I remember several times when my mother discovered that the bottled milk had clabbered. It looked bad to me and smelled worse. That meant that my bottle would be slow getting to hungry little me. It was a good time to scream and log a complaint to management. That almost always brought results. Thank goodness, the milk man came often. My little cousin Julia was an infant, and I was still yet to be weaned from the bottle, too. I think the milkman was Eddie Boggs, but I would figure that out much later. He was just a guy in a white outfit to me. On the other hand, the ice man only came every few days. The old ice-box system of that time was hard-pressed to keep the milk cold enough to not spoil in the summer.

 Hurricane lamps Hurricane lamps When I was a couple of years older my cousin George and I would chase after the ice man, grabbing whatever clean chips of ice we could reach on the truck bed. Those chips really flew when the iceman picked away on a block of ice to make indentations for the tongs he used grasp and hold the ice during the trip from the truck to the kitchen. I recall when a real electric refrigerator arrived to replace the icebox. By that time, I was more interested in the refrigerator box than the appliance. That reinforced cardboard box made a great playhouse for us kids. Sadly, a heavy rain came along and destroyed it before we could. I remember looking out of the window during the storm and seeing the box fall apart. Maybe Billy Elkins’ dad would buy a refrigerator and we’d get the box, I thought.

I was around five when we moved into my great-grandmother’s new home on the corner of Clay Street and Franklin. She had good lighting, but even in this wired, modern house there were times when Edison’s life-changing invention failed us. In those days, incandescent bulbs didn’t last very long and power outages were also common with the town’s young, still-developing power grid. I remember that during even minor storms it was common for our lights to blink and go out.

Because electricity was still relatively new, my great-grandmother, in her wisdom, kept some ‘hurricane lamps’ stationed around the house. She also still had a few fancy lamps with cut glass and sparkly colors, and some with fancy, fringed shades. One was loaded with prisms that we later used to make rainbows on the wall. These lamps were filled with kerosene and at the ready. They were handy for us to use to navigate dark spaces during outages, or maybe to do some ‘light’ reading. When the power was restored after the storm, it would be my job to trim the wicks, and polish the shades and chimneys. It is likely that I broke one or two of those chimneys, but back then they were common items carried in good supply in the stores. They were cheap and easy to replace.

I also remember using candles, but those had an open flame and were more dangerous. Mom taught me to never place a candle near anything that would catch fire. She told me stories of candles setting off curtains and burning down houses. I also heard the stories of bathrobes catching fire and killing the person who stood too close to a fireplace or stove with open flames. I always wondered how the old Christmas trees were lit with candles without burning up the tree, house, and contents. When I asked Granny once she said there were a lot of fires caused by the trees, but the wise only lit them when they could be carefully watched.

 Dinner candlelight Dinner candlelight There’s a couple of things about candles that I think we all still appreciate. They are so blooming romantic. Who hasn’t had, or wished they had a candlelight dinner with their sweetheart? As a youth, due to a shortage of sweethearts, I never had a dinner like that. The family did eat by candlelight once or twice just after a storm when the lines were apparently knocked down. Candles are also attractive because they are often scented. That can add ambiance or cure a ‘sick’ smell brought on by cooking fish, or another nasty source.

Candles were fun to use to cast a flickering light when playing board games when the electric lights went out. Those candlelit rooms would simply dance with light and shadows on the walls. I remember some who were talented at making great shadows with their fingers and hands. Candles were especially useful during times when families sat around telling swapping ghost stories. You could count on the children running to lite up the lamps or candles during power failures. Those times gave me an appreciation of how mankind had lived all through history. I could picture scenes in my mind of our nation’s forefathers drafting the constitution, or Bill of Rights by candle light.

Just think, since the beginning of time mankind had to use oil lamps to see how to paint the walls of their caves, palaces and tombs. Metal, ceramic, and glass oil lamps and wax candles were used every day when the sun went down. My great-grandmother was of the first generation that saw those marvelous changes brought on by electricity. Her first house as an adult was not lit by electricity, nor was her parent’s home in Peach Orchard. Even when I was growing up some of my county friends still didn’t have power. Generally, it was the 1930’s before many outlying towns in America had electricity. Populated areas would have power decades before some smaller communities, but gradually the power poles were set and the grid grew to fit a rapidly growing demand. Most had power before the second world war, but the folks back in the hollows and hills still had to wait.

 Vintage lampsVintage lampsLighting for those new ‘horse-less carriages’ of Granny’s day underwent a metamorphosis, too. They no longer had lamps that used candles, carbide, or kerosene, that at best gave off a dim light. The new ones were powered from batteries, or straight out of a generator connected to the car’s engine. Gone was the historical requirement for someone to walk ahead of the car, or wagon to ensure the traveler would not leave the path. Usually they used a lantern to both light their way and to help the driver see which way to go. In the mountains, a misstep could be tragic.

Railroaders, farmers, factory workers, miners and others used lanterns to light their path or to signal others. Commonly lit by a candle, it was 1899 when the first battery-operated light made its debut, but that first model only provided a quick ‘flash’ of light, thus the name ‘flashlight,’ was coined. Except for North American, they are better known as a torch, but we must LED LED admit that they have made a huge impact on today’s lighting scene. Used by policemen, firemen, rescuers, and workers, they began to be commonly available during and just after the first World War. We always kept one in a certain place so we could see to replace a blown fuse. I remember having Julia hold the light while I unscrewed the old glass fuse.  Of course, we have breakers today and the flashlights have improved over time. They are many times brighter now, most using LED lights that can emit a blinding light. Sadly, these new lights aren’t one bit romantic. I mean, dinner by LED? Candle-makers are still busy in gigantic ‘candle-factories’ that are popping up in outlets across the country, and that’s a good thing in my mind. But, really, have you checked the prices? Makes me want to dip my own.   

  

 Ghost story Ghost story Let’s face it. Ghost stories just aren’t as good without that flickering light that threatens to go out with the first crisp breeze. Candles or campfires are the best for that. My wife, Suzie, and I still have a selection of kerosene lamps and boxes of candles spread around the house. That’s just in case the power goes out and our generator doesn’t work. (Aren’t we spoiled?) Grandchildren beware. Lights can still go off when you least expect it. Maybe that’s because grandpa (me) shuts off the breakers. Heh, heh. After all, we all need a few dark memories. . .     

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