Boy Goes to Town, pgs. 168-171
I was ten years of age in 1926. The corn had just been "laid by," and neither the mule nor I was needed in the garden for the next two or three days. Uncle Joe Contingame
came riding by our house late one afternoon and invited me to ride Myrtle, "Old Myrt" for short, to town with him the following day. He told my father that he
"needed" an extra nag to carry farm items that he would be purchasing in Hazard. But the real reason for making the trip was to buy pigs. When Uncle Joe was a young man, he
worked for Harrison Combs and his wife Cynthia on their farm on the river below Hazard. Mr. Combs had since died, but his widow still operated the farm and Joe knew that she kept a good
breed of pigs. Those who knew her called her Aunt Cynthia. I was up early the following morning ready for the big day. My father saddled the mule and shortened the stirrup straps to fit
my ten-year-old legs. At that moment, Uncle Joe rode up on old Dock, and we were off on a seven-mile trip, the longest trip that I would take until 1931, when I attended Highland
Institute near Jackson in Breathitt County.
Our trip (from Avawan) took us down Big Creek, then up Browns fork and across Town Mountain, which was mostly populated by Blacks. As we traveled along, Uncle Joe chatted with people
that he saw along the road. He seemed to know everyone, and it appeared that everyone knew him. He spoke to Alex Cornett, Shade Baker, the Olinger brothers (Palmer and Stanley), and
other black people that we met along the way. As we turned down Blue Grass Hollow, coming to the hairpin curve in the road, he pointed out the old log school that was once the school for
the black children. This, to me, seemed sad until I learned later that while black children were attending school in log school buildings, my father and mother had also attended school
in a log schoolhouse on Big Creek. In fact, log schoolhouses were common through the state until just a few years earlier. However, at that time black and white students were attending
After the one and one half-hour ride, which covered five miles, we arrived in Hazard. Uncle Joe elected to ford the river at the mouth of Blue Grass Hollow. By doing so, we avoided
paying the two cents toll for each horse and rider at the toll bridge. The river where we forded was not very wide, nor very deep. The water on Big Creek was never that deep and not half
as wide, but I felt relieved when we reached the path that led us up to Tin Pan Alley and higher ground. We hitched our nags, as Uncle Joe called them, at the hitching post beside the
livery stable. Grapette Bottling Company operated their bottling plant in a corrugated metal building by the livery stable found behind Engle Hardware and Undertakers where Peoples Bank
lot is today. Drinks were dispensed from an ice-filled tub that sat on the floor. As we walked toward Main Street, he pointed out to me that the dwelling house in Tin Pan was the home of
Dr. C. Britt Combs, and that he practiced medicine from his home. Dr. Combs was the first black doctor to practice medicine from his home. His modest home was across the alley from the
First Baptist Church parking lot.
Uncle Joe wanted to make this trip one that I would long remember, so our next stop was at Bob Edwardís hot stand. Mr. Edwardís stand was an eight by eight-foot cubicle at the
most, and was on the side of the alley near the end of the Depot Bridge near Goadís Hardware store. The hot dogs were equal to Coney Islandís in every way, and only cost five cents
each. After eating our hot dogs, we walked back to Tin Pan Alley, going down what today is called Taxi Alley alongside of the Perry County State Bank. We mounted our nags and were soon
on our way again to Aunt Cynthiaís farm. We rode out from where we had hitched up an hour earlier, and rode through the alley by the Hazard Baptist Church. We turned left down Main
Street to Jail Street where Main Street ended at the county jail. Taking a straight path through Jack and Mossie Campbellís property, we came to North Main Street. We traveled down the
Walkertown Road and crossed the bridge that had recently been completed. It seemed that the road through Wabaco, down to Aunt Cynthiaís farm, was only, at its best, an improved wagon
road. The farm was across the road from the building built to resemble a goose, and probably included the property where it stands today. I say that it was across from the Goose, but the
Goose had not become the imagination of George Stacy at the time. Neither had many of the other buildings been built that we see there today.
On our return trip, we followed the same route until we came to Jail and High Streets. We traveled up High to a Black Smith shop at the mouth of a ravine that the country people who
hitched there called Shop Hollow. The shop was under the squeaky wooden bridge connecting Baker Hill and High Street. Uncle Joe knew John Napier, who with his long and sinewy arms was a
smithy after the order of "The Village Blacksmith" and indeed a very strong man. As a young man John had left his Bull Creek home in Leslie County, and like many of his
neighbors, moved to Washington, or Newton County, Arkansas. However, John did not stay, but returned to Leslie County. Later he came to Hazard where he became another one of the many
proprietors who had at one time owned the shop. Other John Napiers were living in Hazard and Big Creek, so his friends called him "Arkansas John." John was a brother, I
believe, of Mack Napier who lived on Big Creek and where several of the Napier Clans are living today.
After hitching our horse and mule at Mr. Napierís shop, we went to Red Bobís Stand for another hot dog and Grapette. While we were standing there eating, a rumbling noise was
heard coming up Main Street. Soon I discovered that it was a Standard Oil gasoline truck. I admired the shiny green truck with the gold letters painted along the side of the tank, and
the driver sat high in the open seat. The speed of the truck was such that I see that the tires were molded to the wheel, and that two large sprocket chains connected to sprockets on
each side of the truckís rear wheels provided the locomotion. The driver wheeled the tanker into the little station near where we had hitched our nags, unloaded large kerosene and oil
cans to be filled for another dayís run. Iva Perkins Osborne whose father owned a grocery store across the street at that time, told me recently that Frank Faulkner was the driver,
distributor, and the owner of the station. We stopped again at Bobís Hot Dog Stand for another Coney. We then came across the toll bridge, and paid the toll for each of us. We may have
stopped at Mahan Wholesale Store on the corner, at the end of the bridge which a year later was washed away by the 1927 Flood. Years later, Home Lumber located on the site. I do
remember, though, that we hitched Myrt and Dock, and took a tour of the L & N Depot, and the freight platforms. We walked into the menís waiting room, and peeped in the two rooms,
one reserved for Women and the other reserved for Colored people as black people were called then.
Soon we left the depot and followed the narrow wagon road through Blue Grass hollow in front of the commissary. Passing the commissary, we followed the road that veered to the right,
which would lead us back over Town Mountain. A few yards farther along the road, we passed under the coal chute and conveyor that lowered the coal from the number seven vein down to the
tipple where it was loaded into gondolas. I was happy when we were clear of falling bits of coal as we passed under the conveyor. In a little more than an hour and a half, we were home
again. Before leaving for his home, Uncle Joe handed me a large one dollar bill. It was large in the sense that it was a huge amount of money for a ten-year-old boy, but it was also
large, because it would be another ten years until paper currency would be reduced to its present size.
Why did Uncle Joe take me along with him that day? Why do uncles take their nephews to see the Wildcats play basketball, or see the Reds or Orioles play baseball? I am sure he didnít
need me and that I wasnít much company to him. I rode too far behind him counting the L & N steam engines in the yards, and the automobiles on the streets. And, he did not need the
extra nag to carry an additional load. If it had not been of some benefit to a ten-year-old boy, I seriously doubt that I would remember his kind deed, and count it as one of the most
enjoyable days of my early youth.
Naming of Post Office at Avawam pg.27
In 1891 it was a long walk over hill and dale for the residents of Willard, Big Creek and Wooton to walk to the nearest post office. The only places to mail a letter of a Civil War
veteran to receive his pension check within a five-mile radius was Hazard, Farler on Masonís Creek, grapevine, or Maddog at the mouth of McIntosh. Alfred Couch, one of the leading
citizens on the creek, submitted a proposal on September 24, 1892 for the establishment of a post office on Big Creek. Since there were several Couch families "living on the
creek", Mr. Couch proposed Couch for the name of the little office to be located in his store at the mouth of Browns Fork on Big Creek. Mr. Couchís father Wiley had served in the
Civil War and his son may have wanted to have a post office named in his fatherís honor. In 1890 some, if not all veterans were receiving pensions. Wesley fields began receiving eight
dollars a month July 23, 1890. For two years they walked the eight miles to Hazard to get their check. Undoubtedly, one of Mr. Couchís motives may have been to help his neighbors. For
a reason that cannot be determined by the Post Office Archives, the name was not acceptable. An unknown official had marked through the suggested name and had written Avawam to the side.
The name arouses curiosity when one travels and is asked about the meaning of the odd name. Most people assume Avawam to an Indian proper name. Cora Fields was told that Avawam was an
Indian name meaning one hundred. Stewart Couch, the first postmasterís son had been told that the name Wigwam was submitted to the Postmaster General and that there was an error in
Washington in the spelling. Since there were perhaps fewer than one hundred post offices in Perry County at that time, it is very doubtful that Avawam was an Indian name meaning
one-hundred. It is also my opinion, too, that the postal workers in Washington could have spelled Wigwam correctly. The post office was almost certainty form the beginning. Benjamin
Harrison was the president of the United States and had appointed John Wanamaker Postmaster General. The wealthy clothing-manufacturing king dispensed post offices at the rate that some
fast food eating-places dispense their main line hamburgers. The Democrats criticized the President for appropriating one billion dollars to run the government. President Harrison
decried their complaint by replying, "We have a billion-dollar country upon which to spend this billion-dollar appropriation." In one year the Postmaster General established
more than 30,000 new post offices, and Avawam was in that number.
Trails and Tales of My People
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Hazard, KY 41701
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