I’m told that I had a bad upbringing. Oh, no one says I had bad parents, mind you. Nevertheless, I had it bad. Why? I grew up in Eastern Kentucky. Apparently, that’s bad.
I’ve written about Eastern Kentucky before and probably will again. I haven’t lived there in three decades, but it is as much a part of my life today as it was then. It’s home.
WHERE (OR WHAT) IS LOYALL?
I grew up in Loyall, Kentucky. Here’s where Loyall is:
Exactly where is THAT? As I told a guy who picked me up hitchhiking, it’s three miles outside Harlan, to which he responded “Where the hell is that?” Harlan is the county seat of Harlan, County, Kentucky in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields. When I was growing up, about 40,000 people lived in Harlan County. Today, that number is closer to 30,000 and dwindling everyday.
The first thing to know is how to pronounce “Loyall.” It’s not LOY-al, like the word “loyal.” It’s kind of like “Lole.” More accurately, it’s pronounced “Lowell” but without the “w.”
Harlan County is known for two things: Coal mining and stone cold bad asses. There’s not nearly as much mining as there used to be and there never were as many bad asses as people thought.
Here’s what I can tell you about in which I was raised:
- I always heard it was named after a railroad executive. That might be true.
- It had around 1,000 residents when I was a kid. The welcome sign now says 776. Frankly, that might be a bit of stretch.
- Loyall consists of two parts: Loyall and Old Loyall. Old Loyall is exactly what it sounds like–the old part of Loyall.
- The CSX Railroad Yard is in Old Loyall. When I was kid it was the Louisville & Nashville Yard. A lot of people in Loyall worked at the yard.
- Trains ran day and night out of the yard hauling coal out of the county.
- We had one traffic light. It’s still there.
- We had a full service gas station (long gone now). They’d fill your car, clean your window and always ask: “Check that oil for ya?”
- We had a soda fountain, The Corner Store. It sat on the corner, of course, by the traffic light. They had fountain drinks and excellent hotdogs with chili. They also had a pinball machine.
- We had a movie theater until I was about 6 or 7.
- We had a barber, Gene Harber. Very nice man. He always asked “How do you want it? ‘Bout the same?”
- The Cumberland River ran through Loyall and washed us away in 1977. Thanks to the largesse of the federal government, the river now runs through a man-made channel so it won’t flood. Of course, they cut the town in half for that bit of high-tech engineering.
- We had a school. It was Loyall High School until the late ’60’s and then became Loyall Elementary and Junior High. It still stands but hasn’t been a school for several years now.
- We had a post office, City Hall, Fire Department and Chief of Police.
In other words, it was Small Town, USA. You knew your neighbors and lots of the folks in town. We slept with the windows open and the doors unlocked.
I must confess that I was not raised within the city limits of Loyall. I spend my first twelve years in Rio Vista, a neighborhood just outside Loyall. I spend the last years on my childhood on Park Hill which overlooks Loyall. Still, we thought of it as Loyall.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH HARLAN COUNTY?
I thought it was a pretty good place, but I learned differently. My first lesson was when I attended the University of Kentucky. I talked funny. Evidently, I had (and have) an accent. That’s weird because I never noticed it. I did know people at home with heavy accents, but I wasn’t one of them…or WAS I? I was also a redneck, at least by Lexington standards. Trust me on this one, but I was NOWHERE close to being a redneck by Harlan County standards.
I took a class at the University of Kentucky called “Appalachian History” or something like that. It was taught by an odd fellow who had visited Harlan County on several occasions. He had read Harry Caudill’s book Night Comes to the Cumberlands. He had been to Evarts (where my father grew up), which he pronounced EE-varts. So, he was some kind of an expert.
I was told three things that I didn’t know:
- I was the victim of abusive Robber Barons who operated coal companies. OR I was the victim of a well-meaning but misguided government which institutionalized poverty. OR both.
- As a result, I lived in stifling poverty.
- It was likely that I was too ignorant to comprehend points 1 and 2.
I had a substandard education and health care. Bad teeth, too. Inadequate clothing. Wow. You’d think I would have noticed some of that, but I didn’t–maybe all the inbreeding made me less perceptive.
Later, after I graduated from the University of Kentucky with degrees in Finance and Law, I continued to learn about my homeland. It was a bad, bad place. Bad coal. Bad government. Bad drugs. Bad, bad, bad.
Eastern Kentuckians, it seems, can’t take care of, or think for, themselves. Others, though, can do it for them. They need help. Here’s why:
- Schools are horrible.
- Health care is horrible.
- Everyone is poor, even people with jobs.
- All the unemployed people are victims of something or other.
- Everyone is a drug addict.
- There is no drinking water.
- There are no roads that can be driven on.
- The people aren’t smart enough to know that they are unhappy.
Honest to God, it sounds like Somalia. How the Hell did I survive?
LIVING IN REALITY
Fortunately, I grew up in the Real World. It wasn’t a perfect world, mind you, but it was far from what was (or is) portrayed. Imagine if your hometown–whether small town or large city–were always portrayed according to lowest and worst performers. I now live in Lexington, Kentucky, the self-proclaimed “Horse Capital of the World.” We have about 300,000 people here, but it’s a college town at heart. It’s a nice place to live, and I’ve enjoyed raising my family here. We don’t promote Lexington by showing our homeless shelters, the rundown shotgun shacks that litter downtown, the hobo jungle or our public housing projects. If we did, one would wonder why anyone would set foot here–except maybe for the horses who wouldn’t know any better.
I like Lexington, but honestly I don’t see it as being that much better than Harlan County. Lexington has poor people–a lot of them. Unlike my life in Harlan County, I don’t see them here. They don’t live near me. My kids might go to school with them, but they really don’t socialize with each other. That’s just how works. You won’t see Lexington’s homeless shelters, unless you go looking for them. The last time I went to one of them, I saw two men I know–LIVING IN THE SHELTER! I didn’t know anyone who was homeless in Loyall.
In Harlan County, there was no insulation. Your friends might live in poverty. I had a good friend who lived in a housing project. Housing projects in Harlan County are no nicer than anywhere else. His father was chronically unemployed. It didn’t matter. We were friends. Same with my friend whose father was illiterate. He was a good man. He just couldn’t read and write at any functional level. I don’t see that here in Lexington, not because it doesn’t exist, but because it’s well-hidden.
My friends’ parents included teachers, railroad workers, government workers, politicians, coal miners, coal operators, dentists, barbers, doctors, lawyers and just about every other walk of life in the mountains. Both of my parents were college graduates. That certainly was not common in those days, but I was hardly the only kid with that distinction.
Growing up, we lived like kids. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Little League Baseball, school, dances, romances, fights and all the rest. I have raised two sons to adulthood and have been surprised how they occupied their time much like we did–chasing girls, hanging out with friends, watching TV, all the while complaining about having nothing to do. Like my kids, we had all the teen angst that exists everywhere else–wanting to leave our small town, broken hearts, drinking, drugs and general teen mayhem. We just happened to be in Harlan County while it was going on.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THAT BAD STUFF?
There were plenty of people who had hard lives in Harlan County and elsewhere in the mountains. Poverty and unemployment rates have always been high and, in the remote parts of the county, people could live bleak existences.
As far as I know, my parents weren’t related to each other. I did know a guy who married his cousin, but I know someone who did that in Lexington, too. That kind of thing is frowned upon everywhere.
Did I know people who didn’t have indoor plumbing? Yep. I had an uncle in Pike County, Kentucky who had an outdoor toilet until the mid-70’s. By the way, my wife’s grandparents had an outdoor toilet, too. But they lived in Franklin County, Kentucky, home of our state capital. That’s not as sensational as one in Harlan County.
Did I know people on food stamps? Yes sir. I also knew people whose only goal in life was to “draw a check,” our Harlan County way of saying that a person just wanted to be on the dole. Some did. My Dad called them “people living off the grid.” They were cautionary tales.
Did I know any criminals or, as we liked to say, “outlaws?” You bet–a bunch of them, too. My Dad had a friend who killed his own father-in-law. The guy who lived across the road from us served time for attempted murder. For a time, we lived next door to a notorious bootlegger. I knew a bunch of people who’d been shot. Like I said, it’s a small place. You don’t get to hide from people.
Some parts of our county were so remote that most Harlan Countians never saw them. Jones Creek, Bailey’s Creek, Smith, Black Star, Holmes Mill and many such places were well off the beaten path. Still, those folks went to church and school and had jobs–a good number of them, at least.
The funny thing, though, is that the overwhelming majority of folks I knew didn’t fit these extreme profiles. Most people had jobs and took care of their families. Some families, like mine, had two working parents. Like parents everywhere, most wanted something better for their children and tried to help them. It was nothing unusual, just typical American life.
SO, WHAT’S THE DEAL?
Have things changed since I left Harlan County? Of course. Time changes everything. When I grew up, good jobs were fairly plentiful. That’s not the case today. The economic base in Eastern Kentucky is shrinking and may well not recover. The population continues to decrease and is likely to drop precipitously as the Baby Boomers fade. We didn’t have the prescription drug scourge that has devastated Eastern Kentucky in the past few years. Regardless of the changes, on my frequent trips to the mountains, I see the same sorts of folks I knew growing up. These aren’t characters from a Norman Rockwell painting nor are they the “salt of the Earth” or any other such overblown characterization. They’re just good, solid people for the most part. They don’t see themselves as victims nor are they trawling for handouts. They’re just living their lives as best they can.
I had an uncle who was fond of saying “Mountain people have mountain ways.” He meant that there were certain things about life in the mountains that were different–and not always different “good.” For instance, a lot of people threw their trash in the river. If we had high water, you see it hanging in trees when the river receded. We use to have a county trash dump on the side of mountain. No, it wasn’t a landfill. It was exactly what it was called–a big, stinking trash dump. People would line up on the side of the road and shoot the rats. It was really fun, but you don’t see that everywhere.
Now, as then, some people don’t take care of themselves or their families, either. They don’t go to the doctor or dentist or do much else. They pretty much live like their ancestors. Some of us might have called these folks “trash.” I’ve never been any place in this country that doesn’t have its pockets of trash.
Of course, like anywhere else, some people are born into bad circumstances and struggle. Sometimes, they can’t overcome that. They aren’t bad people. They just start life with two strikes against them. That still happens. Everywhere.
Are some of my memories skewed by the prism of nostalgia? Of course. My father used to rail against people talking about the “good old days.” He would then talk about Harlan County in the 1930’s when he grew up. He always concluded with “There were no good old days.” Fortunately, I don’t have those memories. I remember the good people and the nice life we had. Like a lot of people, I didn’t appreciate it enough at the time and probably spent too much time wanting to “get out.”
You may have never been to Eastern Kentucky, and this may not make you want to even visit. You may have lived there in tough times or under bad circumstances. Maybe your memories are not fond. Consider this: People from every part of this country have the same experiences. Perhaps we should condemn their culture or treat them all as victims. I leave that to you. All I can tell you is what happened to me and most of the people I knew. We were alright.
You could switch Loyall, KY with Oak Hill, WV and read nearly my same take on things. It’s strange to me that so many people look so negatively on Appalachia in general when there are just as many problems and issues everywhere. But for me, I’m proud of where I’m from and I’m proud of being a “mountain man.” What can I say, Montani Semper Liberi.
I like your post here! Well said. I grew up in Cumberland till the mid 90s my parents are from Cumberland. And as far as I know my grand parents were from around there as well both parents. That’s how I see it as well.
My mother graduated from Cumberland High Scholl (’47). My Dad’s cousin J.R. Williams was Harlan County’s last cobbler. His shop was in Cumberland. You may be ralated to Red Disney, who was Cumberland’s town “character” for many years. I saw him tell a telephone poll: “It takes a smart man to know his own mother!”
Mr. John … Just want to thank you for the chuckle I got when I read about the mothers.
Very well written! I am also from Harlan County, but am quite younger (25 y/o) so, although most people know one another, we are probably not acquainted. I really enjoyed this post; I lived in Lawnvale until I was 6, then we had to move to Baxter because the Army Corps of Engineers took our property to redirect the river, like you mentioned. A lot of my family lived in Loyall for many years before that, too. I live in Richmond now (and am a high school teacher) and, while I would never move back to Harlan, I still cherish it. It has changed so much, even in the past 7 years that I’ve been gone. Anyway, great post! You are a great writer and while I blog over at Blogspot, hopefully I can find a way to follow your blog (I’m really not the best with technology).
Thanks! Like all small towns, life can be easy or very hard. I found my personal and professional opportunies elsewhere, too. At your age (I’m twice your age!), the opportunities are very limited now.
Glen, good job.
Loved this!! Exactly what I’ve been saying. I also have to find a way to follow your blog! Here is mine. http://appalachianheartwood.blogspot.com/2013/06/what-does-it-mean-to-be-appalachian.html
All I knew of Harlan County before this was from the documentary “Harlan County USA” about the coal mines and union battles. I was shocked that people in this country lived in company housing without running water late into the 20th century.
That’s where a lot of people get their view of the county. That was a very small pocket of folks in a county of 40,000 people. Yes, they did live like that, but I must point out that no one was forced to live in those houses. The vast majority of the miners didn’t live like that nor did they have to do so.
You obviously had Dr Reid at UK in the Appalachian Studies class. He and I did not get along once I challenged his theories and pointed out their fallacies. Once he found out I came from a successful family he didn’t like me. Once he discovered I was a Republican he almost failed me but once I pointed out I would take the class as a repeat of he failed me he passed me with a C-
I grew up in Harlan and what I remember most was what a very happy childhood my sister’s and I had. Great friendz, neighbors, teachers and friendly people everywhere for the most part. Yes, the bad lived among us too but it seemz the good folkz outweighed the bad! I played little league baseball for 4 yrs.on the belkz simpson team for coach Goss. We won penate 4 yrs.in a roll! Im proud of being from Harlan! Most of the people I went to school with were and still are great people! As far as the jokez about inbreedz and all that, im sure it happened but not in my family or the kidz I grew up with! People like to laugh and make jokez about southern folkz in general it seemz but if ya want to see real redneckz in action, just go to a few barz in Lexington or a ballgame and then we’ll talk about redneckz! I loved my childhood and miss a lot of the good people I grew up with! Excuse my lack of writing skillz, im sure you can all tell that I skipped english class quite often but I think I got my point across ok! I enjoy reading about Harlan and you did a good job, thx and hey to all my baseball budz and friendz from Harlan. Our team Belkz rocked in baseball 4 yrs. Strate!
So very well written. I appreciate this much! I am from Pine Creek in Letcher County – the other side of the mountain. I did not know how poor, deprived and under educated I was until someone told me. When I came to UK as a junior I was told I “Slaughtered the King’s English”, But I knew in my heart that due to our pockets of isolation that I spoke nearer to the King’s English. The draw to move back is still overwhelming after 30 years. There is no place or people like us Mountain people. God Bless you for standing up for all of us.
If they took all the Mountain people out of Lexington it would just fall in!
True, but we have folks in Lexington that seem embarrassed about their mountain background. I’ve never been embarrassed about it–not for one second.
Not me, I always tell them where I am from proudly. Just ask around there are plenty of us transplants.
That family that was known as “hiding out” was my family, they lived in Smith for around 150 years. My roots relate back to an inbred family tree. I don’t see it as anything bad, they didn’t know they were marrying their first cousin or uncle for that matter. I still live here, and just purchased a house free and clear and expect to live the rest of my life here (I’m 22).
Doing the best you can, friend. Isn’t that what life is about? I went to high school with the late Norman Smith who was from Smith–as fine a fellow as you ever met.
wait. Brad, are you related to Greg Hobbs?
i wish you the best! 🙂
You did this very well, I intend to share this with my Facebook friends. I’m from the small town of Clintwood Va. and I too have had my problems with the view held of my home land. I love these old mountains and care very little for the “foreigner’s” opinions
This is great!!! I live in Holmes Mill, Ky!! I was born in the old Harlan hospital, and at 5 weeks old my parents moved to Chicago for work. We lived in and around the Chicago area my whole childhood. BUT, the best times I had were when we came to Closplint once or twice a year to see my grandparents. I loved those summers and I always begged to stay here. When I was 20 I moved to Closplint and lived
with my grandparents until I married the following year. I married a coal miner. My kids went to Evarts to school. I love this place and would rather live here than any place I know of, especially Chicago!
Dad, Earl Williams, was born and raised in Evarts. His sister is 95 and still lives there. My Uncle Paul is 80 and has been the Circuit Court Clerk for 35 years. I know Holmes Mill well.
My goodness I loved this! I was not raised in Harlan, but spent almost every summer from age 4 to around age 15 with my Mammy (Hazel Wilson) who lived in Tremont. She was the postmaster for years on Tremont. Every person I came in contact touched my life in ways I will never forget. The kids Spent time with went to the mall, played baseball, went to the movies and so on, just like the kids in Dayton, OH where I am from. Those summers hold some of my fondest memories.
My first though about this article was to put here on the comments where I grew up. But I will wait for that. This article really spoke to me. The Author was right in so many ways. Not all “mountain” people grew up in a shack, or married their cousins, or bad teeth or uneducated “hicks”. But you and I both know that that is the preconception of “hillbilly’s”. Here in Michigan where I know live. I see the same conditions where I came from. No…not all of the Northern’s are in shacks…but if for a moment….if one could put up some mountains…..you get the idea. Now I will tell you where I came from. Lynch Kentucky at the foot of Black Mountain the highest point in Kentucky. Coal mining was king. United States Steel built the town and owned all of it. I graduated from High School in Tennessee. My parents died when I was young. Mother went first, the ten years or so later Day went, from a broken heart is my guess. My dad did not mine, but I had Uncles who did. In closing let me say this….I think about home all the time. Why? Because I loved the people and the way of life. Oh we did not have it easy either, times where tough and it was unpleasant at times. But you know what? I would not trade those days for anything. Lynch Kentucky, a true American town. Thanks for reading.
I too was raised in Harlan Co. One of 12 kids. And I also went to Loyall Jr. High. I hear all the time that we were backward people, very slow. Yep we were poor. But life was so much easier then. And no matter how we dressed we were at least clean. And guess what even though I was backward and poor, I went on to be a cheerleader and was voted Miss Cawood High School WOW. I was raised in a little place called Rhea Ky. in Harlan Co. And we lived just above the old airport. Yea we had one of those years ago. But anyway, I am proud of where I’m from. Matter of fact, I was just there for my brothers funeral and I bought a T-shirt that said I survived Bloody Harlan, Come visit if you dare. It even had fake bullet holes on the front. I wear my t-shirt proudly
hey now i’m from Holmes mill and the reason you’all didn’t see us is cause we didn’t like you big city people from loyal……..hahaha..lol
I also grew up on park hill in the 70s wouldn’t change it for the world
Life on that hill wasn’t so bad, was it? John
I grew up in Harlan County and graduated from Cumberland High School 56 years ago, but lived up the river in Blair. I remember your uncle’s “shoe shop” and many other things you mention. This was very well written and is an example of the achievements of many who grew up in our mountains. Thank you.
I was raised in evarts. I had a great childhood. I didn’t know I was poor until some city kids told me. Evarts was a great place to grow up. We didnt even have to lock our doors at night. I graduated from Evarts high school in ’65 and worked for the gov. For 31 yrs. folks wouldn’t leave after graduating if there had been jobs there.i ve never been on welfare or food stamps. If people need to be that’s ok but if they re just too lazy to work then that’s not right. There are good and bad people all over the world, and it doesn’t t matter where you live, you can be what u want to be. Just takes a little effort. GOD bless you.
My mother taught Home Ec at Evarts for almost 30 years.
I’m proud to say I was one of those people that grew up in Smith. We had outside toilets, no running water. A family of 8, grew up very close family. I went to school in my thirties and became a registered nurse. After I had married a wonderful man and had four children. Opportunity arose and I took advantage. I still live in Harlan at Cawood. I have a very comfortable home, running water and all LOL. All my children attended college except one who made a decent living as a trucker. My husband passed 10 years ago. We lived in other states and saw worse conditions. There’s no place like home. Good ol Harlan ky. Love it. Proud to be here. Life here has been good. I could write a book if I had time. LOL
I enjoyed your perspective on growing up in Eastern Kentucky. We have been going on mission trips there for the last 18 years…to Stinking Creek and to Cumberland/Benham/Lynch. We always look forward to our week in the mountains 🙂
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I was stranded in the Loyall fire house during that flood in ’77. I joined the army in1990 and never moved back. Yeah we were poor but never as poor as what the media portrays. Hell we had satellite by the mid 70’s and cable in the 80’s. As a kid I was secure and had more freedoms then most kids now days. Grew up in Rosspoint and went to school at Harlan City. 22 years Army, retired now.
i bet you knew Art Halcomb. that fire department was his life.
Good stuff man. I lived in Loyall for several years after moving from Dressen. My uncle was constable there for quite a while…lots of great memories in that town.
Thanks, I appreciate the comment
I have enjoyed your writings so much and anxious to share your site with family and friends. I also was born and raised in Harlan Co., Benham to be specific. I left in the early 90’s. I graduated from Cumberland High School in 1978, and much of your comments bring back memories for me. I also remember your uncle’s shoe shop, government cheese (and butter). I am very proud of my heritage and always respond “I’m from Harlan Co.” when talking with people. No matter where I go or how long I’m gone Benham will always be my one true home. I am a proud coal miners daughter! Thanks and keep up the great writing.
Thanks! My Mom graduated from Cumberland and her father worked in the mines at Benham. If you search “Harlan” on my blog, you’ll find other posts about growing up there. Thanks again
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My father graduated from Loyall High School in 1953 and went into the Army soon afterwards. I’m afraid the one thing I remember about Loyall is the water treatment plant there.
I lived close to the water plant. Know it well.
I graduated from Loyally High School in 1955.I live in Florida now,and people still tell me I have that mountain ,accent.All tho. it has been many years ago since I lived there, it’s still home. The mountains are the most beautiful of any.
It’s not often that I hear of a Loyal HS alumni. I was there for first semester of my junior year in 1954 and my teacher was Mrs Gilley.
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I grew up in Loyall and graduated in 1941, it’s been a while. Thanks for writing our story. Loyall High School had a band with 75 members. Some band friends were David, Maurice (Mop) and Wayne Livingston. David (PhD) became professor of Music at Western KU. Not bad for a boy from Loyall. I got to be the drum major my junior and senior years. I left Loyall in 1943 to join the Navy. I went back to Loyall this spring (2016) and couldn’t find my home over the bridge in Upper Loyall across from the L&N railyard, somebody moved the river and built a new bridge and changed the railroad to CSX. I finally found the old City Hall and RC Cola bottling plant where I worked one summer, then I found my way.
I found the drug store that became a launder mat (that was closed), and the gas station on the corner with the red light, which was in your painting (now a quick shop). Then memories started coming back. Driving back up the road found Rio Vista, with a sign at the turn in. I lived down 5th street where the Saylors lived in the stone house (still there). Now you have to walk over the levee to go fish the Cumberland River.
Thanks for reminding me about what it was like to grow up in Loyall. Gene
My mom and dad lived in Loyall in 1945 after the war. Dad was from Evarts and mom was from Ages. Keith King and June Wallace.
My dad was from Evarts, Earl Williams. His sister Emma married a Wallace from Cloverfork.
Wow, I have had Harlan on my mind for the last few weeks, since my father passed. My grandparents, Nick and Belma Brewer were amazing people and I will forever be grateful for my Harlan roots as I like to call them. I see so many things that call it a “bad place” and yes like all areas there are good and bad things about it. Thank you for highlighting more of the good than the bad!
You’re grandparents were GREAT people. Mrs. Brewer was my 3rd grade teacher. I had a year in school when I had a lot of emotional problems, and Mr. Brewer–who terrified EVERY kid–took me under his wing and helped me so much. BTW, he was a little scary!
Oh my what memories this brought back!!! I lived in Loyall for two years in the early 70’s. My Dad pastored the Church of Christ and we lived right by it in the parsonage. Unlike most kids who just go through life without noticing anything, I knew at the time, living in Loyall was the best place in the world to be a kid! I have lived all over the country (Florida, Georgia, even North Dakota) and I can tell you without hesitation that Loyall was heaven on earth. I loved it and have been back a couple of times to walk around and remember how things used to be. I’ve even brought my kids to show them where I “grew up”. The Corner Store, Mike’s, Fox’s Grocery aren’t there anymore (as I remember anyway) but the memories live on. Open-campus lunches while at Loyall Jr. High, the Fall Festival, Little League Baseball and Basketball, Boy Scouts, my tree-house made from wood I may have stolen from my next-door-neighbor, accidently burning Unthank Cemetery (there, I finally confessed), hitch-hiking into Harlan to go swimming at the municipal pool (hope my Mom doesn’t read this), filling up on Scotty’s hamburgers after swimming all day, hitch-hiking back.. I often drift back in time and remember all the good times living in Loyall. Thank you so, so much for this blog. Great stuff!!
Terry: I remember you! Glad you enjoyed my nostalgia.
Man, when I looked at the name, I immediately remembered you too. I went back and looked at the baseball picture just to make sure. That’s so awesome! Do you remember the name of that Coach? I had him one season (the only one I played). Good hearing from you. You’re a great writer! Thank you for bringing back such great memories.
Thanks. Not sure which picture you looked at, but my LL coaches were Bill Messer and Henry Brock. John
I’m from Loyal ky. I know one thing I wouldn’t change my childhood for nothing. I was never bored and sit in the house playing video games all day. There where so many kids in Loyal and they was always enough to get a good game of fox and the hounds or any sport u wanted to play that day. Actually I wouldn’t wanted to grow up any where else. I did leave Harlan when I turned 18 because there wasnt any jobs. I now reside in Kingsport Tn.
Walling Creeker here! I moved to Richmond for college, and then moved to Lexington. I get a lot of comments on my accent (didn’t know I had one until I moved up here!). I still visit my grandparents twice a month in Harlan. I really enjoyed your story, and I can relate to a lot of it as well!
Does anyone know for sure if the house pictured is the one on the corner of county pike just across the bridge going into old Loyall? Looks like the house where Scott Horn lived around 1980.
It’s in Rio Vista. On 1st street. I lived there until I was 12.
Hey John, love from your old neighbor across the street. Darlene Brown (Lester) Actually used to babysit when you were small. You played with my Sister Kris. Perfect story. Loyall. Harlan County the place I know and love. Still here!!
I remember you all. My brother Tom and Kris were big buds when they were little . I also remember you baby-sitting us!
I lived in Loyall until I finished 5th grade. (1953) i lived on the street by the railroad track. My grandfather owned most of the houses as well as a store on that street. I loved Loyall and all my great friends. We didn’t know about poverty or drugs or any such thing during those days. The Corner Drug Store, church and the movie house were special to us. And the swinging bridge!!!!
This reading took me back many years to Lynch, in Harlan Co. I have never been ashamed of my heritage. My memories of growing up there are wonderful. Our Grade school, our High School, the Company store, the different Churches and the different Races, Hungarian, Czechs, Italian, Slovocs, Mexican, Black, What a melting pot! The only guns on the street might be a BB gun, any other gun was kept put up for hunting. Everyone looked out for each other. Maybe we didn’t have much but we were rich without realizing it. Sure miss “what used to be.”
My law partner, Marco Rajkovich, grew up in Lynch.
I also grew up in Lynch and agree with Margaret’s above comments…and yours. I enjoyed reading your piece. You did a nice job!
Thanks. My law partner, Marco Rajkovich, is a Lynch boy.
Enjoyed your blog! I lived in Loyall and was around 10 at the time of the flood. It was shocking to see the waters rise as my friend Karen Davenport and I roamed about. I lived in Jackson, Pikeville, Paintsville, and Loyall before moving to Central Ky, then Louisville. The long i’s are the thing people found most interesting about my accent. When I got my first job in the city, one of my fancy coworkers from Louisville was sent to audit a gun powder company near Hazard. The management team in Hazard sent him packing when he was overly amused by their culture and thought it was a good idea to make fun of their accents. In our office the chatter was, “What about that girl we just hired with the accent?” Next thing I found myself worrying about rivets on blue jeans not creating a problem for me in a powder magazine in Eastern Kentucky coal country!
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I enjoyed reading the article I was born and raised in Harlan county I went to loyall school when I was in kindergarten, first, moved to letcher county when I was in the 2nd grade. We lived behind the RC plant in loyal I also lived in pine mountain, fresh meadows, growing up I have probably lived in some other places of Harlan. My father was born in brookside my mother was born in Perry county ky I moved away from Harlan county in 1998 to dandridge tn I’m know happily married living in Newport tn I still have family lives in Harlan I miss my hometown but I don’t miss what has become of it with people on drugs. I pray one day this county becomes an outstanding place with jobs and drug free.