By Dawn Reed
Someone told me several years ago that I start sounding like Loretta Lynn when I get excited. I can’t help it! It’s in my roots! I’m not a coal miner’s daughter but I AM a coal miner’s grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter! (My Appalachian accent is probably why I have so much trouble with Spanish!) No matter where I go, we can take the girl out of the mountains but we sure can’t take the mountains out of the girl! Last weekend, I went back home.
My mother and I went to the Pond Creek Reunion. As always, several events were scheduled. This year, a luncheon was held at the old Henry Ford house at Stone, KY. Dating back to the early 1900’s, it has been magnificently restored and updated by its new owners, Bill and Darlene Ball. The grounds had been beautifully re-done as well. (As a kid, we called it “the Christmas tree house” because each year the ginormous tree in the front yard was filled with equally ginormous Christmas lights.)
I’ve heard several stories about the Ford house and am now more curious about it than ever. Mr. Ford had entertained there, with guests being dropped off the train right in front of the house. There were staircases for servants and secretly placed buzzers to call them into service. Standing at the front door, I got chills. It was like being transported in time!
Lunch was good, too! The barbeque was delicious, among other tasty dishes. Live music was played as everyone milled about.
Afterward, my mom and I headed to The Stone Heritage Museum. The museum, just up the road from the Ford house, is in one of the old Red Robin buildings which were built by Fordson Coal Company around 1923. Fordson Coal was purchased by Eastern Coal Company in the mid 1930’s. Years ago, they held a drug store, a doctor’s office, a snack bar, complete department store, a movie theater and mining offices. The red brick buildings have been icons of the Stone (and coal) community for all of my life. I had seen changes on the outside, but was unsure of what we would see inside. Peggy King, a former employee of Eastern Coal Company and whose father had also worked there, gave us a tour.
My mother and I moved from display to display. The history of coal on Pond Creek was shown in great detail. Many large framed pictures showed area coal tipples in the early 1900’s. My heart was stirred and tears filled my eyes as I saw old mines I remembered from my childhood in full swing. Other pictures were of numerous camps where the coal miners’ families lived. A room-sized vault held decades of payroll records (I viewed one from 1944) and newsletters called “The Red Robin” and “The Pioneer”, which regularly kept the county informed of all that was going on locally and in the world. The Red Robin newsletter from August 1, 1943 showed a large chunk of coal and read: I AM ADOLF HITLER’S WORST ENEMY.
More than coal was displayed at the museum. On several walls hung pictures of local new mothers in the late 40s to early 50s with their newborns. Each one was in crisp black and white print. There were tons and I read nearly every name! I couldn’t help smiling wondering what their futures had held.
One area in the museum was dedicated to Veterans. Countless clippings were shown from both World Wars, with many of them listing those who were killed in action. (My heart raced. Each face was so young. I couldn’t hold back some tears.) A newspaper from August 15, 1945 declared “PEACE-Truman Announces Japs Surrender” in large letters.
Rooms were set up with furniture as they would have been in a typical coal camp home. There was even an early 1900’s funeral home exhibit complete with tools of the trade. Many Belfry High School uniforms, trophies and memorabilia were showcased as well. I have been to other museums, but not one that was so close to my heart! There was so much to see we’ve decided we will have to go back!
Next, we decided to take another trip down memory lane. My great-grandparents lived at Homemade Hollow in McVeigh, KY. I recently found out that my great-grandfather, Reece Moneyhun (sounds like “honey bun”), was a supervisor at the McVeigh mine. They had the only radio in the hollow, so on Saturday nights, my great-grandmother, Luda, fried potatoes and served pickles to all who came by to listen. (Potatoes and cucumbers were in abundance from the garden.) Then everyone played Rook! It had been almost a hundred years ago. I wondered if the house was still standing. It was! There it stood at the mouth of the hollow. Seeing it brought the story to life!
I dropped my Mom at home and then headed back to Prestonsburg. It had been a good day and an emotional one. Lots of reminiscing and memory making…Pond Creek, the Henry Ford house, coal and war history, school memories, searching for an old homeplace…
We may go far in life or in miles, but let us never forget where we’re from!