the middle of July, 1920 - and that was 56 years ago - I was one of the
two-teacher mining camp school at
Bon Jellico about two miles west of Williamsburg. The school superintendent,
Sam Walker, had persuaded the trustee, Sherman West, to give me a try at
teaching. The other teacher was Ethel Stines West.
I was in summer school at Eastern, so I left Richmond on the midnight
train arriving in Williamsburg about 1 a.m. on Friday. I walked down to my Aunt
house, about one mile across from the old water plant. I slept until about 6
and prepared to spend Friday and Saturday visiting the parents and prospective
students in their homes.
I was a believer in the school of thought that a teacher needed
to know the parents and the kind of homes that the children were coming from
could do a
good job teaching. The school district began near the Becks Creek Road and took
in all the territory around Jellico Mountain to the top, and up Briar Creek and
included Bon Hollow, about three-a-half by the two miles area. The two rooms
enrolled 94 students.
I was warmly welcomed by the parents and students. They told me
was a first by a teacher before school commenced in the community.
After two days, Friday and Saturday, walking from house to house,
I still had not visited in every home, but I had met a lot of people. I knew
living in the school district. That was Luther Lovett with whom I had been in
school at Cumberland and he was then in Harlan County.
Bon Jellico in 1920 was a prosperous community. The mines were going full blast
and they had clean homes and some of the best cooks anywhere. Now, I took advantage
of every invitation to eat with different families and repeated on several. I'll
not designate the best cook, but, at least, it would be truthful to say that
the one I preferred was the home where the cook was about my age and single.
I ate there often - at every invitation.
No community could have done more to support their teachers and
school than the parents at Bon Jellico. When we needed curtains, books or supplies
to do was to have a pie supper or a school play or skit. They'd fill the house.
Now, of course, some of the pies brought extravagant prices when the boys would
get together, pool their resources, and make a fellow pay dearly for his girls'
We took the school to the District School Fair at Alsile and to
the County School Fair at Williamsburg, winning first prize at both meetings.
We were all
Another event that attracted a lot of interest was a political
debate on the League of Nations in the presidential race between Harding and
debaters were Republicans, but by the flip of the coin, J. Love Lawson and I
had the affirmative and Dan Prewitt and A.J. Ball had the negative. Each speaker
was given 30 minutes. I can't recall what was said, each side had enthusiastic
supporters in the room filled audience. I do remember that our side won the decision
of the judges.
That 1920 was the first year women could vote in a presidential race. I recall
Mrs. Hess from Savoy making a talk urging women to vote (Republican, of course)
and that was at a time when a lot of women, and men too, thought that a woman's
place was in the kitchen. Gee, how things have changed - now they wear breeches.
Fifty-six years have now passed. Bon Jellico began to mine and
ship coal in the spring of 1912. It continued until the spring of 1937, 25 years.
are gone; one can't locate the site of the power house or tipple, nor the homes
of friends so often visited. It is now Bon Hollow.
A few years ago, a park and recreation shelter was opened. It is a beautiful
place for picnic purposes and frequently used. Several Bon Jellico residents
now live in this area. Often I meet one and we recall some of the events of the
long ago. Frequently, former students will stop and talk to me about Bon. So
I still am being compensated for the time I spent there.
"Bon" is a borrowed Franch word meaning good. It is also
a Japanese Buddhist's word designating a celebration July 13-16, which is a festival
departed spirits and on those days they proclaim that the dead return and visit.
It's vacation time; more later, maybe.
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