Morgan County Office Building

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This building is very familiar to most folks who grew up in Morgan County, Kentucky and have lived there anytime from the 1930’s til now.

Currently this building houses offices of the Morgan County government. Many of us Morgan Countians know this building has the “old” Morgan County High School. This school building was opened in 1937. It was built as part of the Works Progress Administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tenure in the White House. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, actually came to West Liberty to dedicate the new school.

This school building stopped being used as a high school in 1974, my junior year. We moved to the “new” high school in August of 1974. I was part of the first graduating class of the “new” high school. Now those of you who are good at cipherin’ numbers should be able to calculate that the “new” high school has now been in use longer than the “old” high school. I think it’s time some of us should probably drop the “new” in our description of the current high school.

As was usually the case in years past in small towns in Kentucky and probably America, the school buildings that were built in this era of history housed more than the high school grades of the school system. This was the case at Morgan County.

I started in this building in the fifth grade. It was close enough that I could walk to school with my brother and some friends. This daily ritual changed over the years. My brother, who was four years older, graduated when I entered high school and for some reason my friends wanted to get to school on time so they stopped waiting on me. Evidently my punctuality gene stopped working at about fifteen years of age. I think I was late every day of high school. My leisurely walks to school turned into all-out sprints.

I “stayed back” in the eighth grade with two of my friends. Now for those of you who do not live in eastern Kentucky, this was a fairly common occurrence among boys who thought they had prominent athletic careers ahead of them. Staying back or repeating an early grade would give the young athlete another year to mature and thus be able to dominate those of the proper-aged-in-the-appropriate-grade athlete. It seems this premise only works if the said repeatee would actually grow to be larger than those he was supposed to dominate. In my case that, unfortunately, was not the case.

When I told my wife, who is a product of the parochial schools, that I “stayed back”, she thought a repeat of the eighth grade meant something else entirely so she started speaking slower to me. I knew I had to tell her why I added another year to my education experience so she would not question my intellectual capabilities. However, I was in a quandary. If I told her that I stayed back for an enhanced athletic superiority, she would think it foolish since I obviously had not had much of a career. So I told her the other reason, “that it was to make me more mature as a person.”

“Well”, she replied, “that did not work either.”

If you like this photo, you can see more of my photos here.

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Returning From the Market

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Though I have only made two short visits to Haiti, I was left with a lasting impression at the strength of the Haitian populace.

A typical Haitian resident wakes up each morning in poverty, not United States poverty but third world poverty. They have no prospects of getting out of poverty. There are no government advocates to help them, no housing authorities, no sanitation inspectors, no health departments, no school boards to see to it that a child gets an education.

Now some anti-government Americans may think that this is Nirvana, but I can assure you that it is not. The Haitian people live a hard life and yet they smile a lot. For instance the ladies in this photo live in a region called Savanne Plate in the northeast mountains of Haiti, close to the Dominican border. Each week, usually on Saturdays, they walk about five miles over this dirt road, which incidentally is the main road in an out of this area. They go to the market, get their goods for the week, what little they can afford, then walk back with the goods on their heads…for another five miles. They move with so much grace and ease. Miss America contestants should be envious at the way these women move through life.

As I stood by this road and watched them approach, I was struck by the routineness of their lives. They were in light-hearted banter(probably talking about the goofy-looking blanc standing by the side of the road). They were comfortable with friends that have made this weekly trek countless times.

I was reminded of being with my grandmother as a young boy. She would be with a group of ladies in her church basement, preparing food, and they would chat and laugh. It is the same feeling at my church when the ladies are working in the kitchen. These ladies in Haiti could be a ladies aid group or a quilting circle or just a group of women cooking in a kitchen somewhere.

We made the four-hour trip out to Savanne Plate on a refurbished Morgan County school bus. We left on a Friday morning from Port-au-Prince. Two of my companions and myself sat on top of the bus. It was one of the most exhilarating rides I have ever experienced, especially after we escaped the snarls and congestion of the city and drove through the Haitian countryside and into the mountains. I was having the time of my life until we were stopped by the Haitian police in one town and said they had a law against stupidity and made us get off the roof of the bus.

I have other stories of Savanne Plate, but I don’t want to suck all the bytes out of the blogosphere. They will be for another time. Oh…if sometimes you think our government is not beneficial in our lives, go to Haiti for a visit and see if that gives you a different perspective.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe

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I was distraught when I read Lynn’s Paradise Cafe had closed its doors. My wife and I loved eating breakfast at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe when we were in Louisville, Kentucky.

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe was one of those restaurants that was special. It was loud because people were having a good time and eating exceptional food. Usually the tables were filled with families and large groups of friends. The decor was unlike any restaurant I had experienced. It was artsy and gaudy and over-the-top…so nouveau kitsch.

It was so enjoyable eating at Lynn’s, like eating at the fun aunt’s house, you know the one that never married because she had a career in the city and wanted to spread her wings and saw a life beyond what she knew from her upbringing. She traveled. She cooked exotic foods and didn’t care if you dropped stuff on the floor because it would be a treat for her two dogs and four cats.

My wife would order French toast at Lynn’s, the portion being the size of a beret worn by a big, bulbous-headed futuristic Frenchman. I would have an omelette as big as a small hen-house.

I love to eat. My sister-in-law calls me “the locust”. I informed her on a recent visit that I have started fasting on Sunday morning. She reported this surprising development to her husband who responded,”Does that mean he wants only two pancakes with his eggs and bacon?”

We plan our vacation destinations on the availability of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and only travel during the times when the “hot” light goes off. Whenever we go to the southeast coast we time our travel so we will be eating lunch at Maurice’s Bar-B-Q (also known as the Piggy Park) in Columbia, South Carolina.

My son was about six years old when he first dined at Maurice’s. We were driving to the beach from our eastern Kentucky home. I kept telling him how wonderful the food was at Maurice’s as we passed the hours on the road. He was a picky eater, as most boys are at that age. I knew he would not want the barbecue. He only wanted a plain hot dog.

I don’t know if it was the 8-hour build up or the excitement of going to the beach, but he proclaimed to all who would listen that “this is the best hot dog I have ever eaten!”.

I took this photo of Lynn’s Paradise Cafe one morning last April as we were waiting to get a table. I will miss Lynn’s. I hope she will reconsider her decision. I don’t think France’s economy will survive the loss of income from exporting their toast.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my photos here.

Basketball Goal Over Barn Door

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10…9…8…We were counting down to a new decade on New Year’s Eve in 1969. I was 13 years old and spending the night with my best friend.

As we watched the countdown on TV, I was cradling a basketball in high anticipation for the perfect execution of this brilliant display of athletic prowess that would occur in a few seconds.

7…6…5…My friend was oblivious as to what was about to unfold. Now the basketball started to feel as big and heavy as the lump in my throat. “I have to pull this off. I will only have one chance”, I thought to myself as I went over the plan again in my mind.

4…3…2…Arising nonchalantly with a fake yawn, I did not wish to arouse the suspicion of my friend who I knew would try to steal my plan and execute it himself. A quick glance over in his direction assured me that he was as clueless as Custer. He was laying there in a sloth-like state after ingesting a concoction of chips and Twinkies and HO-HO’s and Oreos and washing it down with Coca-Colas and chocolate milk. He had enough sugar in him to ferment if I could sprinkle a little yeast on him.

You see in my mind, I was going to be a basketball superstar. I would start my organized basketball career this year and I envisioned record-setting statistics as a point guard-extraordinaire throughout my junior high and high school days at Morgan County. Surely this 4 foot 11 inch, 95 pound body would grow to NBA proportions.

Tonight would be the ceremonial and symbolic beginning of that career…if I could pull this off.

As I made a subtle move toward the front door, I peered one more time at my friend to gauge his level of awareness. Much to my surprise, he had the look my dog gets when a pork chop bone materializes in
front of her. He was rising to his feet as I bolted.

1…0…Happy New Year 1970!!!!

I was in a full sprint toward the front door. “What tipped him?,” I wondered.

The Twinkies must have kicked in because he caught me as I grabbed the door knob. We elbowed and muscled our way through the door as two pre-adolescent sumos who were not big enough or strong enough to move each other off their chosen path. We both were small enough to fit through the door at the same time, so there was no use in trying to push one another out of the way.

He was putting up a fight, but I still had the basketball in my possession. As we hit the front stoop and then the sidewalk, my boosters kicked in and my PF Flyers were barely touching the ground as I was able to separate from my defender, giving me a clear path to the basketball goal in the drive-way. It was then I put down my first dribble (because it had to be a basketball move to count).

With my friend, who was now my adversary, a step behind, I dribbled up to the goal and with all of the strength in my spindly legs pushing me upward to my destiny, I laid in the perfect lay-up. My friend hammered me after the release and we both crashed onto the frozen, now-January turf. I did it! I just made the first basket in the eastern time zone of the decade of the 70’s…and also drew the first foul.

My basketball career was not too stellar. My career scoring average probably begins with a “point”, as in .7 per game. I am still waiting on that NBA body to materialize. Though it can’t be validated that I actually made the first basket of the seventies, which turned out to be the pinnacle of my basketball career, no one has yet to dispute the fact.

I took this photo of an old basketball goal in Maytown, KY in western Morgan County. Basketball goals over barn doors were very common when I was growing up. Unfortunately, they are fewer in number now.

I want to wish everyone a very happy and healthy and prosperous New Year in 2013.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.