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Monday, January 31, 2011

SCHOOL SEGREGATION: THERE WAS A TIME -- NO LONGER

Middletown School -- Class of 1922
Courtesy of Jesse Ward, Madison County School District
Middletown School was one of many that were segregated in Kentucky until President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which disallowed segregation in schools along with giving rights of equality. 


February is Black History month. Segregation was a part of the history of Madison County, Kentucky where this photo was taken in 1922. Not only was segregation prevavlent in Kentucky it was widespread across the nation. It was a time of complexities that left an indelible mark on our nation. 


This photo was taken when Middletown School was a wooden building. It would later be rebuilt as a brick school as seen in the following photos. 

Middletown School -- Class of 1934-35
Courtesy of Jesse Ward, Madison County School District
Jesse Ward, Madison County School District Historian has compiled old school histories of Madison County for some time now -- they include one room school- houses as well as former segregated schools.I sat down with him to view some of his photos and talk about his findings.

The class members above came with a student teacher list.  Jesse had it copied and placed on a CD with some other great photos for me to keep with some of my research on Madison County. What a great guy.
Class of 1934-35 -- Student Teacher List
Courtesy of Jesse Ward, Madison County School District


The last graduation class of Middleton School.
Courtesy of Jesse Ward, Madison County School District
The 1964 year meant the above students would be phased into the public schools. It took a long time to end this separate but equal charade.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

RURAL DAY OF 58 DEGREES AND SUNSHINE


At last the sun is shining here in Central Kentucky and the temptures rose to an unbeliable 58 degree Fahrenheit. When I was growing up in Michigan we would call this the January thaw.


Spent the day outside and took a few photos. One is the old barn above with its vote for Holt for sheriff. No I don't know Holt. Notice the clear blue sky -- haven't seen one for weeks.



A perfect ending to the lovely day was this wonderful sunset seen from my front porch. I hope you are having a good weekend wherever you are.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

INSIDE THE COX FAMILY HARDWARE -- WHERE OLD MEETS NEW IN A SMALL TOWN COMMUNITY

COX HARDWARE STORE


Martha spoke to me on the phone today telling me she is the last Cox of the family to run the Cox Hardware store. The year it opened its doors for business was 1907 -- 104 years ago. Martha's husband was the last in the line of four generations to keep the business running. 


People in town asked her after her husband passed last year if she was going to sell the place. She responded to them with, "no, I have fun running this old hardware store."  She told me that she has worked in the store for thirty years and is very familiar with its operation. I asked her if Cox Hardware was independent. She quickly answered, "a hundred percent independent!" 

ASSORTED ITEMS FOR SALE PLACED ON OLD SHELVES AND BENCHES


Cox Hardware is located on Main Street in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky. It is a great store to find just what you need in the hardware line -- even one screw or two nails if that is all you need. Any questions -- someone is there to answer with a friendly smile. 

THE ORIGINAL OLD POT BELLY AND AN OLD SITTIN' BENCH


You can find newer types of paraphernalia here as well as the old. An example of an older type item would be oil lamps with chimneys and the oil to burn in  the lamps. Of course I can't list every new or old type of item that they carry as the list would be very long. 


It is a large hardware in an old brick storefront displaying lots of character with shiny original wood floors and antique items hanging or sitting around the store. Many of the cases and bins are original old  pieces. 

OLD HARDWARE BINS


At one time most small towns had a hardware store. Many have disappeared. Some say it is because of the influx of the big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot. But some family-owned hardware stores say that they are doing fine. They claim that their personal service and community attachments allow them to survive. They have met the challenge of having  the old ways remain while implementing some new practices. 

ONE OF MANY CASES TO HOLD STORE  ITEMS
Some small hardwares have become cooperatives, meaning they form as a group selling the products of a chain. And some have remained independent like Cox Hardware -- meaning running their own show. 

ANTIQUE GLASS DISPLAY CASES


Will the small town hardware stores survive? That is a question that can only be answered by the future.. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MOODS OF WINTER

MYSTICAL RIDGES RISING 

Today I woke to a softhearted falling  snow. It quickly encapsulated my country place in  a dream like gauze. I could feel its many moods.  I stepped outside and attempted to capture a bit of it here on my post. 


UNDISTURBED SITTIN'


MUFFLED WOODLAND SECRETS

Saturday, January 22, 2011

ABANDONED HOUSE


Ted Kooser wrote a poem titled  "Abandoned House." In his poem he paints a picture of a family that lived a rather destitute life in a country house. I have selected a few of Kooser's lines to portray the depravity that led ultimately to the house's abandonment.
He was a big man, says the size of his shoes . . .


A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs
 . . .

Money was scarce . . .


Something went wrong, says the empty house . . .

she left in a nervous haste.




Perhaps the family lived in an old country home like the one I have pictured here. Now almost biting the dust.



I'm sure you have had  thoughts about who the persons were that once occupied an uninhabited house along some farm road. 

Mr. Kooser uses words to draw pictures, attempting to capture the lives that once existed in his poem's vacant house.





Ted Kooser was the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 -2006.He has had nineteen books published on poetry. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his book titled Delights and Shadows. He also has illustrated children's books. 

Source: "Abandoned House," Sure Signs, New Selected Poems, Ted Kooser, Zoland Books

Photos: abandoned farm house, Madison County, Kentucky



Thursday, January 20, 2011

MY CANYON DOG WALKER

MY DAUGHTER WITH SOME OF HER CANYON CANINES
 DURING A SNOW STORM -- BREAKING TRAIL.
My daughter loves dogs. About ten years ago she announced to her husband that she was going to become a dog walker. His response was, WHAT! But with a mind of her own she preceded to start her business and ten years later she has a busy, healthy enterprise -- one that she loves as well as her dogs love.

What does she do that is different from being the ordinary dog walker? Well, she takes the dogs into the canyons of the Uinta Mountains -- come rain or come shine. Let me explain, she lives up against the Uintas in Utah. It's a wild place and the dogs absolutely love it. Of course, she has had confrontations with mountain rattlers, dog and moose stand-offs, porcupine quill attacks, odoriferous skunks, and other critters big and small. She feels it's all in the game of doing what she loves. She carries all types of paraphernalia in her back pack to counter any attacks by critters. 

She calls her dogs her "clients." and some have been with her almost from the start of her business. She makes two trips a day to the canyon trails and walks each group of "clients" six miles off leash. Altogether that's twelve miles of steep ups and downs a day. Her legs have become like iron.

TREAT TIME

She drives an old SUV that she lugs the dogs around in. She details the car once a week but the in-between days produce a lot of hair and dog-wear. Her daughter is used to riding with a friend or two in a dog messy vehicle along with usually a few dogs on their way back to their individual homes. It has become all part of the game with daughter and friends.


But, husband drives his own car where dogs are not allowed. It's not all in the game with him. But after ten years of her dog business he rather tolerates it. He has progressed to giving out a few treats once in a while. Maybe in a few years her business will be all in the game for him -- perhaps? 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

OLD BARN -- OLD DOG

OLD DOG -- OLD BARN
I met up with this old dog on a large tract of vacant land. I was told he belonged to the caretaker of the property. We bonded and he politely showed me the highlights -- crooked trees, tall seedy weeds, rock boulders, tons of fallen leaves, secret passages in the ground, tiny water holes and an old unused barn. He was the master of this domain. It was an absolutely beautiful tour and I thanked him as I left with a few pats on the back and some soothing soft words.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

AMERICA'S GREAT BLACK MIGRATION



Caflin University, in the photo above, opened in 1869 in south Carolina, four years after the Civil War ended. It represented one of several small new independent beginnings for African Americans in the United States. Although the slaves were theoretically free after the war they were in reality not free in southern states. The intent of white southerns was to form a caste system labeled the Jim Crow laws that kept blacks in servitude which closely replicated the former slave days. If they stepped outside the Jim Crow boundary lines, the results were often death by hanging or being burnt alive. Fear ruled the southern blacks. A fear that eventually caused a reaction.


THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson is a profound book documenting the story of the movement of the southern blacks to the northern and western parts of our country. This migration was the reaction by blacks to the Jim Crow caste system according to the author.


In her book she says that this movement just grew naturally and individually – eventually into thousands of blacks packing and leaving the south. This "leaving" began to hurt the south in unexpected ways. The labor pool for housekeepers, sharecroppers and such became scarce and had an effect on the already weak southern economy after the civil war. If you were black and thinking about leaving you didn’t mention it. Here is a quote from her book:



There is no mistaking
what is going on;
it is a regular exodus.
It is without head, tail, or leadership.
Its greatest factor is momentum,
and this is increasing,
despite amazing efforts on the part
of white Southerners to stop it.
People are leaving their homes
and everything about them,
under the cover of night,
as though they were going
on a day’s journey –
leaving forever.

The Cleveland Advocate
April 28, 1917


Isabel Wilkerson peels back the layers of this mighty migration revealing the magnitude of it during the years of 1915 through 1970. 

 She employs the narratives of migratory blacks from this period. 

Her documentation is precise and through.



Wilkerson seems to spell out the real reason for leaving was not so much that jobs were available in the north and west but rather the “leavers” were trying to escape the caste system of the south.

Blacks fled to urban destinations outside the south beyond the reach of Jim Crow.  We can find an example of the population impact when we look at the changing number of blacks in Chicago which grew from about 44,103 to over one million by the end of this great migration

I recommend this book highly as another part of our history that has been under wraps for way too long.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

PAINTED LADIES OF DANVILLE, KENTUCKY

The city of San Francisco, California, home of the renown houses dubbed the Painted Ladies, has nothing on Danville, Kentucky Only in Danville, the Painted Ladies are the commercial buildings located within the historic main street section. Above and below are a few examples of Danville Painted Ladies.

Multiple varieties of early ornamentation march along the blue and purple front facade of this storefront.


A thick wooden door with a very large one paned window greets customers. 
This pub provides cheer to their customers as does the rose and white colors on the facade.

Storefront colors of sky blue and cool white provide soft contrasts

A three story building splashes a cool aqua along 
its tall side wall at its corner position. 
Various Victorian-type ornamentation 
is painted out in various colors. 
Danville is a small town of 15,477 according to the 2000 census. In 2001 the town received a Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Applause for its active awareness of its heritage.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

A ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE IN BEREA KENTUCKY

CONSTRUCTING THE SEATING AREA AT INDIAN FORT 
AMPHITHEATRE DESIGN 
1954 VINTAGE PHOTO 
Courtesy: Berea College Special Collections

From what I’ve read, outdoor theaters are popular with folks. The idea of being in an outdoor atmosphere, watching a play or  band can be relaxing or exciting depending on your preference.  As  far as construction of these outdoor theaters -- they come in all different configurations and materials.

ANCIENT ROMAN ORANGE AMPHITHEATRE, PARIS, FRANCE
CONSTUCTION: ARC AND ASCENDING SEATING
Courtesy: Simply Groups

I am familiar with a particular theater that is configured as an amphitheatre. It was built to celebrate the 1955 centennial of Kentucky’s Berea College. The seating ascends downward toward the stage -- the audience sits in a curving arc facing the stage -- both are traditional building practices of the ancient Roman amphitheatres.


PARTIAL VIEW OF THE CURVING ARC OF THE SEATING AREA
FOLDING CHAIRS WERE SET-UP ALONG THE TOPS OF THE LIMESTONE ROWS.
SEE PHOTO SECOND FROM BOTTOM

The theatre I am speaking of is called Indian Fort. Its entire arc of seating is stacked limestone. This construction is very graphic visually. Similarly, ancient Roman amphitheatres used limestone frequently.

I thought I could find another U.S. amphitheatre made of limestone online but had no such luck. Natural limestone is found abundantly in Kentucky. Historically it became customary to use it for construction of both simple and formal buildings and decoration. It probably presented itself as the natural stone of choice for the centennial construction.  

VIEW OF THE WORKMANSHIP OF THE STACKED STONE ROWS 
The labor to build Indian Fort would have been skilled. Stacking rock requires knowledgeable masons. The entire project cost $100.000. This included a wooden entrance structure that held the ticket office, rest rooms and associated needs

THE CHAIRS ALL IN PLACE ON THE LIMESTONE-STACKED ROWS 
WAITING FOR THE CROWD.
VINTAGE PHOTO
Coutesy Berea College Special Collections

During the 1950s through the 1970s a commonly held play at the Indian Fort was Wilderness Road by Paul  Green. Other activities such as Berea College graduations were once held at the amphitheatre.  

CROWDS RELAXING IN THE FRESH AIR WHILE 
WATCHING A PLAY AT INDIAN FORT.
VINTAGE PHOTO
Courtesy Berea College Special College

During the past few years the Indian Fort location has been the venue for the  popular Berea Craft Festival which draws crowds from several different states.

The attendees probably are unaware they are getting a taste of ancient Roman architecture as they gaze at crafts from Kentucky and beyond. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

AFGHANS -- A WOMAN'S TEXTILE TRADITION

SMALL BOX OF OLD PATTERNS

Recently, a small box stuffed with patterns for quilts, afghans and needlepoint fell into my possession. As of today, I have not completely finished going through the material to see what all it contains but I recognized that most of the patterns were torn from pages of magazines dated during the 70s and 80s. That puts most of the box’s material in the range of 30 to 40 years old.
.
Now why would a small cardboard box filled with this kind of stuff interest me? Well, it wouldn’t have maybe 30 or 40 years ago but now it does. Why?  About in the early 90s I attended an older woman’s estate sale and spied a colorful afghan. For some crazy reason I was smitten with the colors and the workmanship that had gone into it. As perhaps some of you know, I do like women’s handwork -- but usually in the form of quilts. Afghans had never really appealed to me -- I had an instant change of heart as I carried away the beautiful estate sale afghan.


1970S WOMAN'S DAY MAGAZINE ARTICLE ON GRANNY SQUARES 

Since that sale I have been attempting (at a slow pace) to find out more about afghans. This box of patterns would perhaps contribute answers to several of the questions I had regarding them.

Old books about constructing afghans can be found in the library. But, they do not include what were some of the popular patterns over the past years -- or the social history surrounding them. So finding torn-out pages from magazines like Woman’s Day and McCall’s Patterns in the box gave me a snippet of information of what seemed to be popular --  it appeared that the crocheted granny square was the winner since the 70s and perhaps before? Or perhaps since I found this box in Kentucky, the granny square only reflects what was popular here?


BORDER DESIGN OF AFGHAN BELOW
UNIDENTIFIED PATTERN

Over the years the type I came to prefer were the granny squares. Also, I gravitate toward afghans with fringeless borders that are patterned with earthy colors of yarn. Many Kentucky quilts have earthy colors and I am assuming that perhaps their colors influenced Kentucky made afghans. 

After all these years, since I first found that afghan, I feel I am just at the starting line of figuring out their patterns --  knitted or crochet styles, and other attributes of  these wonderfully worked afghans.


UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN PATTERN WITH CURVY BORDER



Perhaps, you have made afghans or someone in your family has. I do not have the ability to make such textiles as quilts or afghans. I can however stand back and admire afghans for what they represent. I label them in the category of woman’s traditions. They evidently have a role in women’s cultural history but little seems to be documented.  

Sunday, January 2, 2011

20th CENTURY FOLK GRAVE MARKER

CHESTER ALLEN -- GRAVE MARKER
Some time ago, meandering out in the Appalachian plateau area, I came upon a small family graveyard. It was the first of many that I was to eventually discover over the next couple years. 

That day, I saw a grave marker made out of cement with a hand scrawled epitaph. I took a photo (shown above) as I had never  seen one made out of cement. It was definitely handmade -- not  commercial  -- and was the only  cement one in the back-country graveyard. There were other interesting grave markers but I didn't have my senses about me to take more photos. I really didn't have a strong idea then of what I was seeing. 

That graveyard exerience ignited a comversation. It was with Ann Johnson, a Kentucky State Historical Society expert on Kentucky graveyards. She gave me a great book recommendation titled, Texas Graveyards: A Cultural Legacy, by Terry G. Jordan. I bought it second-hand on Amazon and soon devoured his book --  and have since discovered others that offer material on folk graveyards and grave markers.

With Jordan's book I learned a few things about cement markers:
  • They fall into the folk category.
  • Commercial cement was adopted by rural southern folk to use for handmade markers in the early 1900s.
  •  Folks made molds in which to pour the cement -- waited until it was almost hard -- then they used a pointed instrument to scratch the epitaph into the cement
  • Commercially made markers eventually caused the decline of folk cement markers.


The markers seem to last. I figure that Chester Allen's  is about 93 years old. His epitaph is short and simple:

Chester Allen
Born
June 31 ????
Died Oct 11, 1918

Perhaps if you  find a cement marker someday, while walking in a graveyard, you might be left with the thoughts of a low-income family that cared enough to construct a marker for their loved one as stone cutter's markers were expensive during the early twentieth century. Their alternative choice would have been a plain rock marker.