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Williamsburg, Whitley County

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Head of the Cumberland River

 

Memories of My Childhood

Page 2

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My Father at age 25

My Father at age 70

 
 

 

 

 
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I was born on January 14th, 1932 in Scuddy Hollow, or as we pronounced it "Scuddy Holler". My Father was Robert Feltner. He was the son of Garrett Feltner of Glomawr; a father of fourteen children. My mother's maiden name was Callie Jent. She was the daughter of Thomas and Clarenda Jent.  When my mother and father met, my father was a widower with one child, Roy, and my mother was a widow with two children, Watson and James Combs. They were eight years old when my parents were married around 1927. They had six children: Marcus Wilburn, Royal Francis, Fred Lonnie Dean, Baxter Gene, Robert Alvin, and Cleta Mae. I was always called Francis so I would not be confused with my oldest brother Roy. No one ever knew me by any other name until I went into the Air Force in 1950 where I had to use my first name. My Mother's Aunt Maggie Breashear was Jean Richie Aunt. Jean Ritchie is from Viper and one of the foremost folksingers in the United States. My older brothers went to school with her. Jean Richie's  biography

Hear her sing with Pete Seeger, Emmy Lou Harris, and solo.

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Jean Ritchie

 

I am the only Royal Francis Feltner in the world. In 1932, my mother and father attended the Methodist church in Vicco.  Royal and Francis Baldwin were the pastors. I was named after them. Years later, while I was at Mt. Carmel, I met Royal Baldwin. I was starting my sophomore year and his daughter, Janet, was enrolling in her freshman year


I never learned  much about my father's life before he met my mother. I did know that his first wife was a well known singer. She wanted to travel and he didn't so they were divorced. She later moved to Florida. His second wife was Melinda Halliday. They had four children. Three of them died as small infants. She also died and left Dad with his son, Roy.


Scuddy is nine miles East of Hazard on old Rt 15, now a super highway. Highway 15 ran from Whitesburg, thirty miles East of Hazard to Winchester, near Lexington. It was a long and twisted road. It took us about four hours to drive it. Now with the super highway, it is only one hour and a half. Carrs Creek, part of North Fork of the Kentucky River, ran parallel to the highway from Whitesburg to Jeff.   If you traveled from Scuddy to Hazard, you would go through Defiance, Happy, Jeff, and Glomawr, all mining towns. Then you would go through Christopher, Fourseam, and Lothair. If I remember correctly, Lothair was the main terminal for the L & N coal trains. It was also about two miles to Vicco, named after the Virginia Iron and Coke Company.


 

A typical coal tipple, coal grader, at every coal mine

 
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Scuddy Coal Camp

 

If you traveled east from Hazard to Vicco, the highway was on the left side of Carr Creek. As you passed Defiance and drove over a railroad track, you would see a gristmill, grocery store, a beer joint, and that all there was of Scuddy on the highway. Scuddy was so small that if you were riding on a bus and pulled the cord at the railroad tracks, you would be pass Scuddy before the bus could stop. One side of the sign said welcome to Scuddy and the other side said goodbye and come back again. There were a lot of wild Saturday nights at the beer joint. A lot of drinking, knife fights, and shootings were common. There was a bridge over Carr Creek leading to the coal camp and to Scuddy Hollow.

The coal camp was located by the raildroad tracks. It was like any other coal mining town with company houses, comissary, post office inside another grocery store, and welfare building. There was a dirt road leading up a hollow between two hills where the farming community lived. The road was only only car wide. There was a huge tipple, coal grading machine, that stood at the mouth of the hollow. The coal cars from the mine would dump the coal in a shute that ran down the mountain side to the tipple. The machine would grade each piece of coal and dump it into four waiting train cars. A lot of coal would fall of the shute and run down to the bottom of the hill. A lot of families would pick it up and take it home.

This was also a play ground for the boys. There was a huge slate dump that ran down the hillside. We would get something to sit on and ride it down to the bottom. There would be some empty coal mine cars on the track from the mine to the coal shute. We would ride them back and forth. Sometimes we would play on the tipple which was strictly forbidden. We would jump from the tipple into the train cars that were partially loaded. One day when we were playing, I noticed that there was a crank telephone. I picked up the ear piece and gave it a couple of cranks. I heard a voice saying hello. I didn't say anything. The person said that he knew where we were and what we were doing and he was coming after us. I ran down the steps shouting at the top of my voice for everyone to get out. We all started running up the road and we never played there again.

Around 1940, a huge billboard was built near the bridge on the coal camp side. It read, "What has a man gained if he rules the whole world but loses his soul?" This was erected by the families of two men who were sentenced to death for murdering a taxi driver. Two men from the coal camp had picked up two women from the beer joint and were going to Hazard. They stopped a taxi and headed for town. When they were paying for their fare, they noticed that the driver had a large sum of money. The four of them decided to kill him for it.  Somewhere between Happy and Jeff, they made him stop and get out. The two men beat the driver to death and dragged his body into a culvert. The women held newspapers under his head to catch the blood. They left him there and went on their way. The next morning, a man was driving past the spot happened to see a newspaper with blood on it. He was curious so he stopped to see why it was there. He discovered the body an called the sheriff. The sheriff knew the man for he had been driving that route for years. Soon word was spread about the killing. Some of the customers in the beer jont saw the four get into the taxi. They were turned in, tried, convicted, and the men received the death penalty. The women got twenty years for assisting. The two men's families felt such great remorse for what had been done that they had this billboard made.

We used the water-powered gristmill to grind our corn into meal. If you took five bushels of corn, you gave the mill owners two bushels in payment. One day Marcus, James, and I were carrying corn to the grist mill when we met Dad heading for home. We had thought that he was going to the store. We asked him what was the matter and he said that a dog bit him. He was about to continue on to the store when he happened to notice that his pants were ripped and he was bleeding. He decided to go back home and change trousers. We gave it no further thought and had our corn ground to meal.. When we got home, Mom told us what had happened. When Dad passed us going home, he met Fred up the road with some of my cousins. Fred was bleeding from a serious dog bite on the wrist. They had heard Fred screaming. When they came out to look, they scared the dog off. Dad took Fred home to tell my mother what happened and he was taking Fred to the doctor to have his wound taken care of. When the doctor saw the wound, he told Dad that they were bitten by a rabid dog. He had to give them a shot a day for fourteen days in the stomach. The next day, a friend told us that he had killed the dog. He said that the dog was rabid. The dog had passed us before it got to Fred. James said that the dog was acting funny. He had a gun and thought about killing the dog.

The people who lived in the hollow were always thought to be a notch higher on the social scale, which could be thought of now as being 1-1/2. Everyone worked in the coal mines and when they came home, they all looked the same, black. The coal camps have disappeared and the highway goes by as if they never existed. They did! What a lot of fond memories I have for this place and the people who I knew. There was a lot of friction between the residents of the camp and the people from the hollow. It seemed as if everytime we went to the grocery store or the postoffice, there were three brothers always waiting for Fred, Baxter, and me. They were always trying to start a fight with us, but we usually ignored them. One time, we could not. One of the boys threw a rock at Baxter. It missed Baxter, but hit Fred. That was their mistake. Fred really got mad and took off after them. Baxter and I also starting chasing them. We never caught them because they got to their house and closed the door on us. Their mother came out and started calling us names for picking on her boys. We told her that they started it and if they did it again, next time,we would catch them. They never bothered us again.

There were no degrading names of Negroes in our house. Our parents made sure that we showed respect for everyone. He said that you will call the older people by Mr. or Mrs. When I was about five years old, we had a Negro minister for Sunday dinner. One time when he took me to the Mont Mary Hospital in Hazard for a physical, a Negro boy about my age was eating a Baby Ruth candy bar. He offered me a piece, but I declined his offer. Not because he was colored, but I did not want any. My Dad told me that he wanted to give me a piece so I should take it and I did.  One time, a woman down the road was dating a Negro. Her brother told my brothers about him and if he came again, he wanted them to put on some masks and beat him up. My brothers told him that it was her business and not his and they wanted no part of it. They also told them to leave the man alone. Doctor Combs who lived in Hazard was one of the best doctors in the region. He was black. Everyone loved Doc Combs.

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Jean Ritchie after a performance on April 26, 2008.

Her Picture at her performance in April 2008

My Father
Royal Feltner
April 30th, 2008

He gets up in the morning before the rooster crows
Fixes us a breakfast before he goes
At half past five to get to the mine
To pick up his shovel and stand in line
For the coal mine cars to take the men inside
Where the these poor souls work and friends have died.

He works this place for its a  job that he needs.
He has a wife and eight kids who he feeds.
He has no thoughts about how hard it is;
He's just thankful that this job is his.

With a carbide lamp to give him light,
He starts picking and shoveling with all his might.
After loading a car,  he catches his breath
Of coal dust air that may cause his death.

He wants to stop, but he can't quit
Because he needs every dolllar  he can get.
He keeps on working as hard as he can,
Because he knows that he's
a coal-loading man.

He heads for home at the end of the day,
All tired out with little pay.
He's as black as any man can be.
But he's home and well and is met with glee.

Warm soapy water fills a number two tub
And all kids waiting to take take turns to scrub.
How do I know that this takes place?
It's our father sitting there with a big smile on his face.

Copyrited


When I was twelve years old, he told me one thing that has always been with me. He said that the only thing you will take to your grave is your reputation.


Little Boy Fishing
Royal Feltner

There's a little boy sitting by a brook
With a line in the water and a worm on a hook;
Not a worry in the world, but one big wish
That he would get a bite from a great big fish.
With his pole in the sand and a bobber on his line,
He can sit and wait in the warm sunshine;
He's in no hurry and with nothing to do
But to watch the clouds in the sky so blue.

He laid there watching until about noon;
He knew he had to be going home soon;
Then what he saw was such a surprise
That he could could not believe his eyes.
He sees his bobber going up and down;
He grabbed his pole from the ground
And with a heave ever so strong,
He landed a big sucker about six inches long.
When he saw that fish, he gave a shout;
This is what fishing is all about.
He held it tight so it couldn't flail;
Pulled out the hook and put it in his pail;

Because he was so proud for what he had,
He ran as fast he could to show his dad;
His dad said that I'm proud of you son,
For that fish there is a mighty big one.
When your mom sees this, I know what she will do,
She'll clean and fry this one just for you;
So off they walked this very proud man
With his barefoot son with a pail in his hand.


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Noble Ray Price
1926-
"The Cherokee Cowboy"

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Clarence Eugene "Hank" Snow
1914-1999
"I'm Moving On"

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