Social life

Social life in Jellico in those years depended strictly on what we could make of it. There was no television, no clubs, no soccer leagues, no Little League, not even a high school band. We had the Gay Theater on Main Street that played five or six films a week, including the Saturday double feature. But they were all second-run films that had been out for weeks or months before they got to us. The adults had parties, garden clubs, sewing clubs, and the like. And there were the inevitable church socials and pot-luck dinners. Kids played games. During the day we played sports—softball, touch football, and, later on, even tennis. We also played cowboys and Indians and soldiers.

Our little group from kindergarten remained together throughout elementary school, with several newcomers added to our number. The others included my cousin Sheffy Miller, a year older than his sister, Lida Margaret, who was my age; JoAnne Ketchersid, whose father was a pharmacist at the Central Drug Store; Janice Ausmus, whose father was a doctor; Nancy Cross, who lived across the street when we moved to Fifth Street; Wayne McMillan, who lived at the top of the hill above our Fifth Street house, Charles Dodge, Frazier Smith, and a few others.

As we approached the teen years, the girls got together and decided to organize a party. With the cooperation of our parents, the party would be on Friday night. Thus was born the Friday Night Club and a series of weekly parties that would bind us even closer together. The parties rotated from home to home and grew in sophistication as we grew in age. But it is that first party that sticks out in my mind. My “date” would be Doris Ellison, daughter of Ray and Lucille Ellison. Doris was quite a bit bigger than I, both taller and heavier. At the appointed hour that rainy Friday night, Uncle Hugh Vaughan drove me to the imposing Ellison house atop a hill off of Cumberland Avenue. I went to the door to collect Doris. Her entire family was gathered to see her off. Feeling very big and important dressed up in our party finery, we bid the Ellison family farewell and started down the steps. The steps were made of stone that had been worn slick over the years. When I hit the top step in my leather-soled shoes, my feet slipped out from under me. Doris, without missing a beat, reached over and grabbed me by the nape of the neck and set me back up on my feet so that we could continue our way. She saved me from a bruising fall, but she didn’t prevent the bruises to my ego.

After we could drive, dating consisted of driving 15 miles to Williamsburg, Kentucky, to see a first-run movie, or just driving around in the car hoping that the girl would agree to park and neck. The old highway to Williamsburg was the favorite locale for the latter.

The first time I got to use the family car—a green, 1950 Ford four-door sedan—on a date was for the junior-senior banquet when I was a junior. Emma Jo was going with Charles Dodge. Barbara McIntyre, who lived in Pruden about 20 miles away, was spending the night with her and became my date for the event. I think the three of us sang at the banquet. I was very proud to be driving Daddy’s Ford. After the banquet, we drove around a little while, then drove to Emma Jo’s house—the old Moore family home—and parked. We sat there talking into the night, hardly noticing that it had started to snow or that it was almost midnight. Suddenly Daddy appeared coming toward us like a ghost emerging from the heavily falling snow. I knew he wasn’t out for a late-night stroll. I jumped out of the car, fearing a dressing down for being out so late, but Daddy brushed on by saying he was going downtown to get cigarettes. Where he expected to get cigarettes at that time of night, I don’t know. We took the girls to the door, I drove Charles home and circled back to pick up Daddy. He acted as if nothing had happened, but I know he was worried that we were out running around on the snow-covered streets.

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