J.B. Johnson, Sr.
About the middle
of July, 1920 I was one of the teachers in the two-teacher mining
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
Florence Bryant's 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 childred were coming from
before he could do a good job teaching. The school district began near the
Creek Road and took in
all the territory aroudn Jellico Mountain to the top, and up Briar
Creek and included Bon Hollow, about three-and-half by two mile area.
The two rooms enrolled 94 students.
was warmly welcomed by the parents and students. They told me that
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 every home, but I had met a lot of people I know only
one person living in the school district. That was Luther Lovitt 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 need curtains, books or supplies
all we had to do was to have a pie supper or a school play 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
his girl's pie.
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 elated.
Another event that attracted a lot of interest was a political
debate on the League of Nations in the presidential race between Harding and
Cox. All four 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 out
won the decision of the judges.
That 1920 was the first year women could vote in a presidential
race. I recall Mrs. Hess for 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 women's place was in the kitchen. Gee things have changed - now they
Fifty-eight yeasr 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. The camp homes are gone; one can't locate the site of the power house
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
So I still am being compensated for the time I spent there.
"Bon is a borrowed French 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.
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