"Good Morning Earlington:
Memories of Mary Grace Cloern"

Memorial week I mentioned the four Cloern brothers who served during WW II. Something I might add here is there was a fifth brother Ed (whose son Charles "Buddy" was a Marine) and two sisters Annie Laurie "Tobie" Dadisman (mid ‘20’s EHS basketball star) and Mary Grace (Mrs. Louis Finley). I received a phone call from Mrs. Mary Grace who asked if I would be interested in two high school annuals she had. Now, anyone who knows me knows if it has to do with Hopkins County or Earlington history I would want it. I drove to Madisonville and there we spent a couple of hours then (and later) reminiscing. It seems that my Aunt Ruth Cothran Egloff was a classmate and we swapped family stories.

I got to "fill in some blanks" in my Earlington history while listening to Mary Grace’s stories. Her mother was Fannie Farquhar (of rural Hanson) and her father was James G(rayson) Cloern a miner for St. Bernard and West Kentucky. Mary Grace’s father was christened Grayson for the county in which he was born and his first-born daughter inherited that tradition although Mary Grayson’s grandmother soon shortened her name to Mary Grace. At the time Mary Grace was born many miners lived in what was known as mining housing. She was born in one of those on Buckner Ridge October 19, 1908. (Yes, this fall she will be 92.) Later the Cloerns would have their own house built on the corner of Moss and Robinson (a home later owned by Bobby Brooks). It’s it amazing how history just seems to fall into place and you can almost visualize the time lines?

James Cloern wanted to make a better life for his family and was presented with the opportunity in 1920 or ’21 to go to Lexington to take a mining course. The family didn’t have a great deal of money so Mrs. Cloern took in washing to help pay for the course. Mary Grace remembers that Mr. L.J. McGinley (who taught geography and history) was not yet married to Mrs. Lucy (who would later teach 4th grade and read from Singing Wheels). Mr. Mac, as he was affectionally called, hired Mrs. Cloern to wash his shirts (until the end of his bachelorhood). Mary Grace was 12 years old at this time and a student at the old John Bond Atkinson Memorial. She remembers going to chapel programs in the large auditorium on the old third floor that was prohibited to many of us "later" students due to rotting floors. She also remembers her teachers: Miss Mary Mothershead (lst and 2nd grade), Ann Vannada (3rd & 4th grade), and Fern Stokes (5th grade). The 8th & 9th grade teachers were Mr. McGinley, Mr.L.W. Allen (math and girls’ basketball coach). Annie Cato Perkins (who was later to marry Mr. Montgomery) taught English, and Mr. A.P. Prather taught high school math.

Due to eye problems Mary Grace says she did not graduate with her class at Earlington, but she did attend one year at Madisonville High School where she was fortunate to meet her husband Louis. Later she graduated from Bowling Green Business College and returned in 1927 or ’28 to work for St. Bernard as a secretary for the EMBA (Employees’ Mutual Benefits Association) which oversaw employees’ health care. The two doctors were Dr. W.K.Nisbet and Dr. Johnson. Toy Todd was the nurse for Dr. Johnson. Mary Grace says she had nothing to do with the medical work; she typed, filed, and took shorthand. She was paid $1 a day and worked for Rex Hamby who was in charge of the Earlington office. She also worked under Mr. O.H. Wilcox. Now, this is where I come in. Mr. Wilcox realizing that Mary Grace didn’t graduate with her class and wouldn’t get an annual purchased one for her and it is inscribed.

The following year when West Kentucky bought St. Bernard and the EMBA was closed, Mary Grace was moved from the Victory Building over the post office to an office above the West Ky Store. Here she worked for

Malcolm Wilkey who was the controller in the shipping department. Mr. Wilkey had four men under him who traveled and sold the coal. Four of the men were Bill Basset (who left to be postmaster), Charles Trehern, a Mr. Jenkins, and Rash Wells. And there Mary Grace worked climbing up and down stairs at the Victory Building and the West Kentucky offices’ stairs for seven years until she married her beloved Louis Feb 17, 1934.

Soon Mary Grace will be moving to a retirement home. Her Louis passed away 17 years ago. She said she just wanted to tell me that this column brought back many memories for her and she thought as I seemed to have a thirst for Earlington history I might give her annuals a good home. I appreciated the thought and there is truth in her statement. Her annuals have already found a place at my dining room table. And so I thank Mrs. Mary Grace Cloern Finley for her hospitality and her angels.

"Years by themselves do not make a place historic. It is men (and women) who give the color of history to a place by their deeds there or by merely having lived there." – Simeon Strinsky’s No Mean City

Ann Gipson 12-13-2001