Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Ice Cave

In 1945 at the Kentucky State Fair, Wayne County placed fourth in natural resources with things like oil, timber, coal, the largest number of miles of natural fishing streams and abundant wildlife and natural scenery resources like the 'ice cave.'

An ice cave?

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported in 1899 that there was an ice cave on old "Uncle" Tom Kelsey's farm, about 14 miles east of Albany and 1.5 miles from Gap Creek Store, near the Clinton/Wayne county line, on a spur of Poplar Mountain. Inside, a sink of some eighty yards almost perpendicular opened up a cavity in the earth filled with rooms of various sizes and dimensions. On all sides was large deposits of the most perfect process of the refrigerator, compact pure, lasting and perfect in every respect. The cave was high up on the ridge and anybody in the surrounding community having a yen for ice could go in and get it.

The newspaper wrote that Mammoth Cave had been praised and eulogized time and again as being the greatest curiosity of Kentucky, and even of the world, but It remained for the county of Clinton to come to the front with a phenomenon in the nature of a cave that surpassed all others.

In the article, Bony Baker and William Cheek, who had visited the cave and used the ice, vouched for "the truth of it, and said ice cave was the finest refrigerator In the world. They reported that people for miles and miles around would go there during the summer for their ice. Cheek said he explored the cave on July 4, 1880, took out a lump of ice, wrapped it In a bed blanket and drove to Somerset, where the Ice weighed fifty pounds, thus showing Its compactness and endurancs of heat.

In 1933, the Times Tribune in Corbin, Kentucky said Ice Cave had gotten its name because of its ability to preserve ice through the summer months. Kelsay said he had known of ice being removed from the cave as late as September. The ice formed early in the spring and if properly taken care of would be a great help to a family through the summer. Cheek had gone into the cave in late May of 1933 and brought out ice for freezing ice cream.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

A Joyous Day for Pauline

Pauline Conner accepted the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump on behalf of her late husband, 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner, on June 26, 2018 at a White House ceremony in Washington, D.C. After the 89-year-old Pauline rose from her wheelchair to give the President a hug and a kiss on the cheek before receiving the award, a beaming Trump said, "I like her."

It was a joyous day in the East Room for Pauline, who had fought to attain the medal for her husband for 22 years. "If he were present, Murl would feel highly honored," Pauline told Pentagon reporters. "I just wish he was here to get it," she said. Of her husband, who died at age 79 in 1998, Pauline said "my husband was a very humble man. He was my hero for 53 years."

When the news came that Murl was being awarded the MOH, Pauline thought it was a scam, but she gathered family members to her home to be by her side in case that call did come and it was real. After two decades of trying, Pauline had almost given up on Murl receiving the MOH. So when her phone rang in the spring of 2018 and the voice on the line belonged to Trump — who told her he had read her late husband's impressive file and intended to award him the Medal of Honor — she said, “You gotta be kidding.” But he wasn’t kidding. In fact, he called Murl an “incredible hero” who had finally taken his rightful place in the eternal chronicle of American valor. "You sound just like an old country girl," President Donald Trump told her after confirming what she had been waiting so many years to hear. "Tell that beautiful wife of yours to give you a big hug and kiss," she told the President.

At the Pentagon, Pauline's eyes welled up with tears as she spoke before a large audience at 1st Lt. Conner's induction into the Hall of Heroes. With her son, Paul, looking on with her four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, she said "We did it Murl," her voice quivering. "No more regrets." It was the most touching moment of the entire trip.

When Murl returned to Albany in the summer of 1945, a 15-year old Pauline was in the crowd that gathered to celebrate their war hero. Even the great Sgt. Alvin York himself, the Medal of Honor recipient from WWI, had shown up for the "speakin'. Pauline wasn't quite sure which one he was but she had read stories about him in the newspaper and wanted to meet him. She didn't think much of the scrawny fellow they were making all the fuss about with a parade and the speeches. "I was expecting a giant of a man," she said. But Murl was maybe 5-foot-6 and about 120 pounds at the time. She turned to her mother and said, "My God, Mama, that little guy couldn't have done all of what they said he'd done. All of what they said he had done included earning the Distinguished Service Cross, four Silver Star's, three purple hearts and a battlefield promotion from tech sergeant to first lieutenant.

One year later, they were married. "Our beautiful life together was simple," she said. "Our calling was having a family, building a home and a farm; and helping family and friends -- especially veterans who returned home with hardships. With the help of Pauline, Murl had found a way to still serve others by volunteering to help other veterans with benefits. He would do the interviews and she did the paperwork Even after he died in 1998, Pauline kept on doing it until she no longer was able.

By the way, the documentary, "From Honor to Medal: The Story of Garlin M. Conner," which was originally released in 2020 and tells Murl's story as one of the most decorated soldiers in American military history, will be shown on May 27th at 7pm and May 29th at 12:30am and 3am on KET. Albany native and UK School of Journalism and Media Professor Al Cross was the executive producer.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

A Father and his Son

Billy Graham once said, "The greatest tribute a boy can give to his father is to say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be just like my dad.”

By the time Todd Messer came to Clinton County to be the basketball coach, his daddy had already made a name for himself in Eastern Kentucky. A veteran basketball official of 27 years, Leighman Messer had called multiple regional championship games, all a state tournaments and the girls Sweet 16. He had coached football and girls and boys basketball and had been an assistant basketball coach at Clay County. Along the way, he made a lifelong impact on hundreds of kids.

Coming to Clinton County would become icing on the cake in Leighman Messer's already celebrated career. For 16 years, as he helped his son coach the Mighty Bulldogs, he witnessed Todd become one of the most respected coaches in Kentucky.

Coach Leighman Messer was on the sidelines for six all a classic regional championships, an all a state tournament runner up, seven district championships, 13 appearances in the regular regional tournament and nine seasons of 20 or more wins, and when the Kentucky State Senate honored Todd when he became the all-time winningest head coach in Clinton County High School history - 314 wins against 166 career losses, it was an especially proud moment for Leighman, an exclamation point on a beautiful 'like father, like son' story.

On Facebook, Amanda Messer posted a beautiful photo of her husband and their daughter, Lexi, and with it she wrote, "Sometimes all you need is your dad." How very apropos. I am sure going to miss Leighman Messer and his faithfulness to Todd and his family in Clinton County. It has sure been a joy to watch.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

My 78 RPM Disks (1905-1924)

1. Albert Campbell - Dreaming (3701). Steve Porter - Flanagan At The Vocal Teacher's (3705). Standard Talking Machine Company 1907.

2. All Star Trio - Poor Little Butterfly Is A Fly Gal Now (18641-A). Fluffy Ruffles (18641-B). Victor Records 1919.

3. American Quartet - When You Wore A Tulip (17652A). Peerless Quartet - The Red, White and Blue (17652-B). Victor Records 1914.

4. Andre Benoist - Old Black Joe (50292-L). Valse In E Flat (50292-R). Edison Records 1915.

5. Anna Case - Old Folks At Home (83059-L). Annie Laurie (83059-R). Edison Records 1916.

6. Billy Murray - When Tony Goes Over The Top (18510-A). Arthur Fields - Good Morning Mr. Zip-Zip-Zip! (18510-B). Victor Records 1918.

7. Charles Hart, Elliot Shaw and The Calvary Choir - Shall You? Shall I? (80529-L). Charles Hart & Elliot Shaw - Is My Name Written There? (80529-R). Edison Records 1919.

8. Chatauqua Preachers Quartette - Softly Now The Light Of Day (39476). Let The Lower Lights Be Burning (39477). Standard Talking Machine Company 1914.

9. Chester Gaylord - Love's Old Sweet Song (80613-L). Edna White - Recollections of 1861-65 (80613-R). Edison Records. 1920.

10. Collins and Harlan - Just Help Yourself (3695). Cal Stewart - Uncle Josh Joins The Grangers (3706). Standard Talking Machine Company 1907.

11. Collins and Harlan - On The 5:15, United Talking Machine Company (39697). Ruff Johnson's Harmony Band (39698). Standard Talking Machine Company 1915.

12. Columbia Quartette - War Song Hits - Part I (A2428). War Song Hits - Part 2 (A2428). Columbia Records 1918.

13. Dabney's Band - Beautiful Ohio (A-12081). Hindustan (B-12081). Aerolian Vocalion 1919.

14. Edison Band - Medley Of American Patriotic Airs (50212-L). Medley Of American War Songs (50212-R). Edison Records 1914.

15. Edison Quartet - The Star Spangled Banner (80172-L). America (My Country 'Tis Of Thee (80172-R). Edison Records 1914.

16. Edison Quartet - He Lifted Me (80204-L). Let The Lower Lights Be Burning (80204-R). Edison Records 1914.

17. Edward Hamilton - Just Like The Rose (4725). Charles Hart & Elliot Shaw - Let The Rest Of The World Go By (4726). Emerson Records 1919.

18. Elizabeth Spencer & Henry Burr - You're Still An Old Sweetheart Of Mine (18590-A). Lewis James and Shannon Four - The Gates Of Gladness (18590-B). Victor Records 1919.

19. Elizabeth Spencer - Call Me Your Darling Again (80098-L) 1916. Metropolitan Quartet - Annie Laurie (80098-R). Edison Records 1914.

20. Elizabeth Spencer & Thomas Chalmers - Abide With Me (80276-L). John Young & Frederick Wheeler - When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder (80276-R). Edison Records 1915.

21. Ernest L. Stevens Trio - If I Had My Way Pretty Baby (51026-L). Red Mon Waltz (51026-R). Edison Records 1922.

22. Esther Walker - How Sorry You'll Be (Wait'll You See) (18657-A) Nov. 18, 1919. Billy Murray - He Went In Like A Lion And Came Out Like A Lamb (18657-B). Victor Records Jan. 2, 1920.

23. Frank Ferera/Anthony Franchini - Bright Moon (19088-A). Hawaiian Nights (19088-B). Victor Records 1920.

24. Fred Bacon - Old Black Joe (50351-L) 1916. Massa's In De Cold, Cold Ground (50351-R). Edison Records 1915.

25. Fred Van Eps - Medley Of Southern Melodies (51145-L) April 1923. Darkey's Dream and Darkey's Awakening (51145-R) 1922. Edison Records.

26. Geoffrey O'Hara - Send Me A Curl (18441-A). Lewis James and Shannon Four - All Aboard For Home Sweet Home (18441-B). Victor Records 1918.

27. Happy Six - I'm Nobody's Baby (79798). Cherie (79802). Columbia Records 1921.

28. Helen Clark & George Wilton Ballard - In The Old Sweet Way (50534-L). I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles (50534-R). Edison Records 1919.

29. Henry Burr - Are You From Heaven (18435-A) 1917. Sterling Trio - Give Me The Right To Love You (18435-B). Victor Records 1919.

30. Henry Burr - Then You'll Remember Me (414). Mrs. Stewart Holt and Frank C. Stanley - 'Tis But A Little Faded Flower (3402). Standard Talking Machine Company 1910.

31. Henry Burr - Throw Out The Life Line (3205) 1905. Stanley and Burr - What A Friend We Have In Jesus (3756). Talking Machine Company 1907.

32. Henry Burr - Abide With Me (A236). Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight (A236). United Talking Machine Company 1908.

33. Henry Burr and Peerless Quartet - Broadway Rose (18710-A). Sterling Trio - Mother's Lullaby (18710-B). Victor Records 1920.

34. Henry Burr - That Wonderful Mother Of Mine (18524-A) 1919. Charles Anthony/Lewis James - Salvation Lassie Of Mine (18524-B). Victor Records 1919.

35. Henry Burr - Just A Baby's Prayer At Twilight (18439-A). Percy Hemus - On The Road To Home Sweet Home (18439-B). Victor Records 1918.

36. Irving Kaufman - Oh! Oh! Oh! Those Landlords (78445). Billy Murray - And He'd Say Oo-La La! Wee-Wee (78536). Columbia Records 1919.

37. James Craven - Georgia Rose (2172-A). Ernest Hare - I Want My Mammy (2172-B). Brunswick Records 1921.

38. Jaudas' Society Orchestra - The Missouri Waltz (50428-L). Poor Butterfly (50428-R). Edison Records 1917.

39. Joe Hayman - Cohen Telephones the Health Department (29685). Prince's Orchestra - Serenade (46167). Columbia Records 1915 R.

40. John Steel - Tell Me Little Gypsy (18687-A). The Girl Of My Dreams (18687-B). Victor Records 1920.

41. Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra - Alice Blue Gown (18700-A). Tripoli (18700-B). Victor Records 1921.

42. Kelly Harrell - Hand Me Down My Walking Cane (20103A). My Horses Ain't Hungry (20103B). Victor Records 1914.

43. Lewis James and Peerless Quartet - Smile And The World Smiles With You (18545-A). Sterling Trio - That Tumble Down Shack In Athlone (18545-B). Victor Records 1919.

44. Louise, Ferera and Greenus - Kawaihau Waltz (77798). Hawaiian Breezes (77884). Columbia Records 1918.

45. Maggie Teyte - Ma Curly-Headed Babby (82159-L). I'se Gwine Back To Dixie (82159-R). Edison Records 1919.

46. Metropolitan Quartet - I Will Sing Of My Redeemer (80300-L). I Love To Tell The Story (80300-R). Edison Records 1914.

47. Metropolitan Quartet - Come Where The Lillie's Bloom (80321-L) 1915. Thomas Chalmers - My Old Kentucky Home, (80321-R). Edison Records 1914.

48. Metropolitan Quartet - The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane (80484-L) 1918. Betsy Lane Shepherd - I'll Remember You, Love In My Prayers (80484-R). Edison Records 1917.

49. Metropolitan Quartet - Darling Nellie Gray (80010-L) 1914. Elizabeth Spencer & Vernon Archibald - Ever Of Thee I'm Fondly Dreaming (80010-R). Edison Records 1920.

50. Orpheus Male Chorus - Dixieland Memories No. 2 (80395-L). Dixieland No. 1 (80395-R). Edison Records 1917.

51. Pale K. Lua and David Kaili (Irene West Royal Hawaiians) - Cunha Medley (17774-A). Hula Medley (17774-B). Victor Records 1915.

52. Rae Eleanor Ball; Jessie L. Deppen - Havana Moon (50857-L). Wonderland Of Dreams (50857-R). Edison Records 1921.

53. Sam Ash - On The Road To Happiness (46130). Reed Miller and Frederick Wheeler - Keep The Home Fires Burning (46135). Columbia Records 1915.

54. Sam Ash - When I Leave The World Behind (45647). Herbert Stuart - When The Lusitania Went Down (45660). Standard Talking Machine Company 1915.

55. S.C. (Steve) Porter [Chimes] - Safe In The Arms Of Jesus (A239) 1902. Henry Burr - Savior Lead me Lest I Stray (A239). Standard Talking Machine Company 1905.

56. Selvin's Novelty Orchestra - Dardanella (18633-A). My Isle Of Golden Dreams (1863-B). Victor Records 1919.

57. Sibyl Sanderson Fagan - L'Ardita - Magnetic Waltz (80453-L). Sibyl Sanderson, Fred Hager and Harvey Wilson - Sundown In Birdland (80453-R). Edison Records 1918.

58. Sousa's Band - U.S. Field Artillery March (18430-A). Liberty Loan March (18430-B). Victor Records Dec. 21, 1917.

59. S.W. Smith, U.S.N. And Bugle Squad - U.S. Army Bugle Calls Pt. 1. (50452-R). U.S. Army Bugle Calls Pt. 2 (50452-L). Edison Records 1918.

60. Thomas Chalmers - Nearer My God To Thee (50002-L) July 21, 1913. Elizabeth Spencer & Frederick Wheeler - Dreams Of Galilee (50002-R). Edison Records 1915.

61. Thomas Chalmers - Beulah Land (80549-L). Fred East & Lewis James - Only A Step To Jesus (80549-R). Edison Records 1920.

62. Thomas Chalmers - The Palms (82055-L). O Holy Night (82055-R). Edison Records 1914.

63. Thomas Chalmers - Recessional (82133-L). Battle Hymn Of The Republic (82133-R). Edison Records 1917.

64. Toots Paka Hawaiian Company - Kilima Waltz (4795). Hilo March (4798). Emerson Records 1919.

65. Vasa Prihoda - On Wings Of Song (82236-L). (a) Songs My Mother Taught Me (b) Poem (82236-R). Edison Records 1921.

66. Venetian Instrumental Quartet - On The High Alps (50065-L) 1914. American Symphony Orchestra - Wedding Of The Winds Waltzes (50065-R). Edison Records 1912.

67. Waikiki Hawaiian Orchestra - One, Two, Three, Four Medley (50455-L) 1917. Ford Hawaiians - Ellis March (50455-R). Edison Records 1916.

68. Walter Van Brunt - Hickey Dula (50348-L). Collins and Harlan - On The Hoko Moko Isle (50348-R). Edison Records 1916.

69. Walter Van Brunt - Don't Bite The Hand That Feeds You (50357-L). Billy Murray - Are You From Dixie ('Cause I'm From Dixie Too) (50357-R). Edison Records 1916.

70. Walter Van Brunt & Elizabeth Spencer - On The Banks Of The Brandywine (80160-L). I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen (80160-R). Edison Records 1914.

71. Whitney Brothers Quartet - Home Of The Soul (16372-A). Stanley and Burr - I Am Praying For You (16372-B). Victor Records 1912.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Our National Anthem

On Sept. 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that officially became the United States national anthem ON THIS DAY IN 1931. Key’s words gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which generations of Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories.

"He said, I don't like to brag, but we're kinda proud of that ragged old flag....you see, we got a little hole in that flag there when Washington took it across the Delaware, and it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key sat watching it, writing say can you see."

(Taken from the National Museum of American History and Johnny Cash's Ragged Old Flag.)

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

There’s more – Immeasurably more.

On the ocean, waves are generated by wind during storms at sea. They start out in different sizes, heights and lengths, and travel thousands of miles losing only a small amount of energy. Storms of life are often hard to handle, but God’s love for us stretches far beyond anything we can comprehend.

Ephesians 3:20 says "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,"

'Exceedingly abundantly' means something immeasurable. God's love is immeasurable. A poem I found and published on my blog several years ago is worth repeating -

"We can only see a little of the ocean
Just a few miles distant from the rocky shore,
But out there – far beyond our eyes’ horizon,
There’s more – immeasurably more.

We can only see a little of God’s loving –
A few rich treasures from His mighty store;
But out there – far beyond our eyes’ horizon,
There’s more – immeasurably more.”

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Bill Asberry was a Most Valuable Player


Looking through the Clinton County News from back in the day brought back a lot of memories of watching the Clinton County greats who played softball, but the one player I was looking for Bill Asberry.

The 1976 Albany Men's Softball League ended with Brown and Polston defeating J's Discount of Burkesville to win the Division A championship. Had J's won, Brown and Polston would have ended the season tied with Albany RC and a playoff would have been necessary. J's opened with a big inning but Brown and Polston came up with a seven run inning later and cruised to a 16-9 victory.

It was the first time in several years that Albany RC had been denied a champion­ship. When the winning trophy was pre­sented to Brown and Polston manager John E. Polston, he held it high over his head and shook it at RC manager Dowell Wallace, yelling, "Look here, Dowell!" The crowd roared.

The division's Most Valuable Player Award went to Bill Asberry of Brown and Polston. A golden glove outfielder and solid hitter, Bill's clutch performance helped Brown-Polston win the decisive game. Bill was a solid all-around player on the softball field and very valuable to his team. He an all-star player during his career. Other teams he played for were Royster, Albany Merchants and Albany RC. All of the old softball players talk about how great of a player he was.

In 1968 he played on Dowell Wallace's Albany Independent team along with Wayne Ryan, Sherman York, Steve Bell, Gary Thomas, Gary Farley, Gary Davis, Kenneth Conner, Jackie Amonett, Jackie McWhorter, Ray Guffey, Don Stockton, Ernest Cross and Wendell Burchett.

The 1973 Albany RC team included Coach John E . Poison, manager Dowell Wallace and players Bill Asberry, Runt Lowhorn, Bill Brown, Randy Brown, Ricky Wallace, Steve Bell, Jimmy Parrigin, Kay Flowers, Ken Con­ner, Donnie Poore, Jimmy Brown, Ronnie Guthrie, Gary Basham and Gary Farley.

In 1980, Terry White Ford went undefeated in 21 games. Coached by Rob Stockton and managed by Kay Flowers, the team consisted of Flowers, Bill, Charles and David Asberry, Steve and Tim Bell, Rick Wallace, Jimmy K. Brown, Tom Thrasher and Steve Lowhorn.

Bill was all about softball and baseball. Usually his teams won. The 1963 Braves baseball team he was on won the Babe Ruth league. The players were Bill Asberry, Gary Guffey, Jackie McWhorter, Jimmy Vincent, Gary Thomas, Dale Tallent, Eddie Luttrell, Don Tallent, Gary Tallent, Shelby McWhorter, JD Cooksey, Keith Conner, Preston Cook, Wayne Ryan, Junior Polston and Rudy Thomas. J B. Burchett, James Cooksey and Keith Conner were the managers.

Those are a sample of the teams Bill Asberry played on. There were others. Great memories for a whole lot of people. I love reminiscing about them. So many stories to tell. I can't wait to hear yours.

The memories of the old Poverty Park that was out by the high school are dear to a lot of people like myself. While there may have been very little funds to keep it running, the place was rich with good times. Bill sure did his part to make them enjoyable. I saw him awhile back at the grocery store. I said "how about a game of softball?" He smiled and said, "those were great days." Indeed they were.

Blene and Dean Asberry raised a great family in their Christian home at Pikeview, with Johnny, Bill, Jimmy, Ada, Charles, Danny K., Mary Dean and David....all well-known and loved by everyone. Pray for his mom, his wife, Connie, their children and grandchildren, and for the rest of the family and his many friends and his co-workers at Gaddie Shamrock, where he worked what would have been 51 years this coming April.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

The Manhattan Project: Lyda Speck's Story

In her early years during the Great Depression, Lyda Speck, who held a college degree in chemistry, had been an elementary school teacher in Livingston, but when school attendance dropped she was let go and in May of 1941 became a rural mail carrier.

And then came Dec. 7, 1941. “I remember it distinctly,” she said of the day of the surprise attack from the Japanese Navy at the U. S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. “It was on a Sunday. Momma had just told us lunch was ready, and they broke into the news on the radio before we got to the dinner table. It was just unbelievable.” Suddenly there were jobs. The war brought the Depression to an end. As the men volunteered or were drafted for service overseas, the women stepped up to handle the jobs on the homefront. Lyda had felt the patriotism itch and in 1943 took a leave of absence from her mail route to join the Women’s Army Corps. She volunteered for anywhere in the world that she was needed. She thought her service would have something to do with the mail since that was what she did, but her high score on an Army intelligence test caught the eye of those involved in a top-secret project to produce the first atomic bomb.

After basic training, Lyda’s entire company of women awaited their orders. Eventually, they started shipping out her fellow soldiers more and more until Lyda was the only one left. She thought that perhaps she was the only woman that they can’t find anything for her to do. She was only told to await “special orders.” Soon, she was on a train bound for the Army base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, which was the point from which troops were sent overseas. But it was all a sham, a way to keep hidden the secret job that awaited her in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where she would serve as part of the Provisional Engineer Detachment. She was debriefed about what she could say or not say. The one thing missing was the truth. It took her a while to figure out what the “truth” was. She was actually going to help build a bomb.

I have written stories about how my aunt Mada Boles Allen had moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee in early 1944 to work at the Y-12 Electromagnetic Separation Plant, whose purpose was to make enriched uranium, and about she and the others had no clue what they were doing until after the fact. The Clinton County News reported in 2022 that Opal Talbott of Albany had celebrated her 101st birthday at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, where decades earlier she had worked on the Manhattan Project. She showed the media the silver pin they had given her for her work.

It seems strange to think that a woman from Livingston, Tennessee would end up working with materials that were sent to New Mexico from Oak Ridge, so close to her home, but Lyda's part in the process at Los Alamos involved day after day of being in a physics lab. She tried to tell her boss that the Army had been misinformed about her schooling, that her major had been chemistry, not physics, but she was told she would be taught what they wanted her to know.

While assisting physicists in the experimental physics group, she became the only woman to work with the Van de Graaff accelerator, whose initial motivation for development was as a source of high voltage to accelerate particles for nuclear physics experiments. Her job was to develop the photographic emulsions and make the thousands of measurements of tracks needed to determine neutron energy. Over the next couple of years she got to know her microscope extremely well. Measuring the tracks would help scientists perfect the explosion. It had to do with determining what size the bomb would have to be to go off. Her job was tedious and nerve-racking, and though no one ever said the word “bomb,” it became clear to Lyda that a devastating weapon was coming together.

Lyda also never said the word “bomb," but the thought that she was contributing to the creation of such a device was never far from the young sergeant’s mind as she pushed slide after slide through her microscope, carefully measuring between what looked like constellations amidst a starry sky, not that anyone ever confirmed her suspicion and not that she ever asked, but nothing was left to doubt on July 16, 1945 as she gazed into the New Mexico desert sky from her vantage point on “the hill” and was among the first to witness a level of explosive fury the world had yet to experience.

It was a blast so powerful it could destroy an entire city, with shock waves felt more than 100 miles away, erupting into a monstrous mushroom cloud and leaving a crater of jagged radioactive glass where once was sand. The first test shot detonation had confirmed for her that the two and a half years she had contributed to the top secret research and development endeavor known as the Manhattan Project had not been in vain.

"It was always referred to as a gadget by thscientists and everybody else. I never heard anyone mention that it was a bomb.”

After the war, Lyda returned home to Livingston. There was no hero’s welcome, not even a mention of her arrival in the local newspaper. Life resumed as it had been, back to her mail route, a job Lyda would hold for more than 30 years, but in her home was a reminder of her contribution to the war effort, a small bit of jagged glass enclosed in a globe, a momento of that day in the desert. “That first test shot had everybody so nervous,” she would say. “We didn’t know if it was going to work and when it happened, the view from the hill was amazing."

On Sept. 28, 1945, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Director of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, wrote Lyda a commendation, which said in part, "For the past twenty months you have worked as an assistant in our research laboratory making microscopic measurements which called for a great deal of judgements on your part. This work was extremely tedious and involved a good deal if nervous strain. Nevertheless you have performed your duties in a cheerful and diligent manner and it must be clear to you that you have made a real contribution to the success of the project."

Lyda Speck died at Livingston Regional Hospital in 2014. She was 100 years old. Her parents were Floyd Morgan and Narcissa Allred Speck. Her grandparents were Magness and Delia Looper Speck. She was the great-granddaughter of Morgan Speck, brother of my 3rd great-grandfather, Calvin.

From a story about Lyda Speck at ajlambert.com

Monday, January 1, 2024

Today is a New Day


Here we are in a new year. What we do with it is up to us. Put your best foot forward and make every day count. Of course, the best way to go about it is to put God first in your life. Where would we be without His guidance? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Putting God first is the best way to proceed into 2024. That is the best advice one can receive. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote down some good advice in a letter he sent to his daughter, Ellen, on April 8, 1854. It was a father's guidance to his daughter about maintaining a positive attitude toward each new day. Over the years, it has been rewritten, editor rearranged, but in essence he said, "Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays." Here is a prayer for the New Year from 1 Chronicles 4:10 - "And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, 'Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.'" God granted Jabez that which he requested. Try it and see what God has in store for you in 2024.

"Happy New Year!"

*Thanks to Crystal Thacker for allowing me use her beautiful photo!*

Over 138,000 people visited my blog in 2023, including 12,347 people in December. Overall, the visitor count was at 937,693 at the end of 2023.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Peg McKamey Bean Made it by God's Amazing Grace

Peg McKamey Bean went home to be with the Lord this morning (Tuesday). On Dec. 11th, the family said she had been admitted to the hospital with a stroke. (She underwent triple bypass surgery six years ago tomorrow, Wednesday).

Peg was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall Of Fame in 2016. "Known for her spirited style on stage, you knew when Peg took the stage with her white hanky that God was going to be honored,” said SGMA President, Arthur Rice.

The group was originally formed as a trio of sisters: Dora, Peg, and Carol McKamey, in 1954 in Clinton, Tennessee. Their father was a preacher. The group went on to become one of the most popular gospel groups ever. In 2018, they announced that they would end full-time touring in November of 2019. In 2021, Peg and her husband, Reuben's daughter, Connie Fortner, her husband, Roger, and their son, Eli, began performing as McKamey Legacy.

The McKamey's signature song, at least for Peg, was "God On The Mountain” written by Southern Gospel Song Hall of Fame member Tracy Dartt in 1973. It is one of the most well-known Southern Gospel songs ever and has been recorded over 200 times, but (in my opinion) no one will ever sing it like Peg did. The McKamey's released the song on their 1988 album "Gone to Meetin' Live" (MorningStar). It became their third of sixteen #1 hits.

The McKamey's sang at Holy Temple Separate Baptist Church in Clinton County on Sunday, Nov. 20, 1983. On Sunday, Oct. 21, 1984, they performed with the Lyles on the square at the Foothills Festival. Their song, "Who Put the Tears (In the Eyes of the Lamb?)," from the "Tennessee Live!" album, had just become their first #1 hit and because of their popularity, it would be the first time ever that a huge crowd would pack the square on a Sunday afternoon at the festival. (The festival stopped having Sunday events several years ago).

"So let me sing you one more song in case I leave
I know how I made it, I made it by God's amazing grace"
- "Made it by Grace" (Joy in the Journey/2011)


Friday, December 8, 2023

Ralph Cundiff: From County Agent to KIA in WW2

Ralph Cundiff had just begun what was expected to be a bright and promising career in agriculture until World War II came along. Born in 1911 and raised in the Faubush community of Pulaski County, he graduated from Berea college with a degree in agriculture in 1938. Later that year he became the assistant county agent in Wayne County, serving until March of 1939, at which time he was appointed county agent of Clinton County. A prominent and highly respected citizen, he was a Deacon at Albany First Baptist Church and was a leading member of the Albany Lions Club. He had married Hazel Dalton, daughter of Walter Dalton.

Then came his induction into the U.S. Army in October 1942. He was assigned to Unit I Company, 330th Infantry Regiment of the 83rd Division, commanded by Major General Robert C. Macon. News correspondents nicknamed the 83rd "The Rag-Tag Circus" due to the resourcefulness of Major General Macon, who would order the supplementing of the division's transport with anything that moved with an attitude of "no questions asked."

The 83rd arrived in England on April 16, 1944 with its first divisional headquarters at Keele Hall in Staffordshire. After training in Wales, the division, took part in the Allied invasion of Normandy, landing at Omaha Beach on June 18th 1944. Nine days later they entered the hedgerow struggle south of Carentan.

"Mrs. Ralph Cundiff has been notified by the War Department of the death of her husband, SSgt. Ralph Cundiff, on July 6, 1944 in France."

He was 33.

The Allied forces' hard-won foothold on the bloody beaches of Normandy on D-Day was only the beginning of what would become a costly, foot-slogging effort to retake, field by field, town by town and house by house, all French ground the Germans had occupied since 1940. By the beginning of July the Allied invasion of Normandy, was not progressing as rapidly as anticipated.

The British Second Army had yet to secure one of its primary objectives, the pivotal crossroads city of Caen, effectively halting its advance on Paris before it began. To block the advancement the Germans deployed a staggering force of tanks and armored fighting vehicles along a tight 20-mile front. The most formidable obstruction was the countryside itself, dotted with small farms or orchards, each bordered by thick hedgerows that ranged anywhere from 4 to 15 feet in height. The Germans did not defend every hedgerow, but no one knew without stepping out into the spotlight which ones he did defend. As GIs emerged from the rows they became easy targets for German artillery and nested machine guns. The fighting continued for two days, ending with the Germans in retreat, but the battle was costly, as there were more than 15,000 American casualties.

Six other soldiers from Cundiff's company were also killed that day. He was awarded a Purple Heart, the WWII Victory Medal and a Combat Infantryman Badge. He is buried at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France. His widow later married John Dorris Jr. She died in 1975 and is buried at Goodlettsville. Ralph Cundiff's name is on two monuments, the War Veterans Monument located outside the Clinton County Courthouse and on a monument outside the Pulaski County Courthouse.

By the way, Cundiff's replacement as Clinton County Agricultural Extension Agent was D.E. Salisbury, who moved from assistant county agent in Wayne County to county agent in Clinton County at the beginning of 1943.



Ice Cave

In 1945 at the Kentucky State Fair, Wayne County placed fourth in natural resources with things like oil, timber, coal, the largest number o...