My Memory of Yesterdays By Chester L. Clemens

I was born of goodly parents at Lawton, Carter County Kentucky and lived in that area as well as I remember for two or three years before moving to Olive Hill KY. Which was about four miles from Lawton and my father had a job at the brickyard and I remember carrying his lunch to him at the brickyard along with my brother Dewey who was two years older than I was. The thing that brings back my memory so much was my younger sister Betty when she was burned so bad by a pot of beans falling off the heating stove in the living room, as well as I remember the stove had a bright chrome plated ring around the bottom of it and Betty my sister was rocking in a rocking chair close to the stove and each time she would rock the chair she would touch the stove with her foot and after doing that for several minutes the pot of beans finally fell off the stove and burned her awfully bad over most of her body and of course the doctors was not trained to treat severe burns in those days and the most the doctor could do for her was to give her Morphine to ease the pain till she died, We lived on Clark hill at that time, a part of Olive Hill. As well as I remember we did not stay in Olive Hill very long after Betty died because we moved back to Lawton where we lived till we moved to West Virginia and that was quite an experience because moved to W. Va. In a boxcar along with a man by the name of Milton Cline, each family had one end of the boxcar and since we were moving to the same place everything worked out all right, there was no trucks to move one in those days and very few automobiles, one might see a half dozen autos a week and there was no paved roads, we moved to an area called Rex Camp which was owned by the coal company, I think it was the year of 1920 when we made that move and that would have made me about eight years old at that time, it could have been 1919 when we moved, I do remember that I was very young and I had never heard anyone talk in a foreign language and it sounded so silly to me, it took me a long time to get used to it because we had foreigners living all around us but they had their own schools and the black people had their own so we managed to get along allright with everyone but it still was a lot different than Kentucky, my oldest brother Russel and my father both worked in the coal mines and although we were poor people I cannot remember a time when we went to bed hungry. Letís go back for a moment when we were moving to W. Va., I remember that we were in a passenger coach on the train and the boxcar with our household furniture in it was the last car on the train so we did not get there before our belongings did and one thing I remember so well is that my uncle Logan Brown was sharing the same seat on the train and I got awfully sick and I begged him to let me sit next to the window so that I could vomit out the window and he would not do it and when the train stopped I could not hold it any longer so I vomited all over him and he was very mad about it and I told my father what happened and he told Logan that if had let me to the window it would not have happened. As well as I remember we lived there about one year or more before trouble started, the union was trying to organize the coal fields and the coal companies didnít want that to happen and there was fighting all around, the union men were coming over Blair Mountain into Logan County and all who would not join the union were called red necks and my uncle Arthur Fitzpatrick, a big Irishman who had just gotten out of the army in 1918 and he was tough but they arrested him because marshal law had been declared and him and me started to walk to Logan about four miles away and a deputy sheriff inquired where we was going and he told him it was none of his business and he arrested him, and he handed me his big 45 army colt and he told me not to let anyone take it from me and I took it back to my aunt Etta Bee and gave it to her and they blackballed him out of Logan County and never would let him come back, it was not easy living under marshal law but we did it for about two years or more. During the war between the union and non union there were many people killed on Blair mountain, the sheriff of Logan county and some of his deputies was killed and many coal miners went to work and never returned. The army moved heavy artillery right by our house by mule team and we could hear the heavy artillery being fired from our home, nothing looked good at all for a long time but we finally come out all together. My father finally moved back to Kentucky about 1924 of 25 and went back to work again at the brickyard and my brother Russel stayed in W. Va and after a while he got married to June Belcher and they lived at Ethel W. Va for several years, we lived in Olive Hill for some time and then my father bought a farm on the head of Tygart creek and I believe there was 109 acres in that farm but the ground was very poor and it was very hard to make a living off the farm but we made the best of it that we could while we were there. Let us return to page one for a moment to paragraph two because I recall something that happened that I think all of you would want to hear about, I was in school at that time but I believe my mother told us that after Bettyís burn quit hurting so bad that she was rocking her in that same rocker and Betty started singing a song that we all sang in church and at home from time to time and the name of the song was, Heavens bells are ringing and Iím going home Heavens bells are ringing and Iím going home Heavens bells are ringing and Iím going home, away to beauliland. That song has come to my mind many times during my lifetime and something tells me that she went right straight to the presence of God, it would be hard to make me believe anything different. My oldest sister Mary was always kind to those of us that were younger than her and we all loved her for her kindness, My oldest brother Cecil died before I was born and my older brother Russell come very near getting killed by a train because we lived in the old log house where I was borned and it was on a stiff curve on the railroad and mother was washing clothes on the backside of the house and she told us that Russel was just learning to crawl good and he had craweled upon the railroad and a train was coming around the curve and she heard it whistle and rain around the house just in time to see the engineer on the cowcatcher and he picked Russel up by his dresstail, the fireman held the engineer by his hand while he picked Russel up, and the engineer got a citation for the job he had done and fireman got nothing. Now we will go back to the farm where I left off a few minutes ago and pick up where I left off, as well as I can recall I was about 13 years when we moved there and the work was hard, we had to cut all the wood we burned including wood for the kitchen stove and that kept us pretty busy most of the time and we had two cows to milk and we had plowing to do and we grubbing to do, that is cutting sprouts off the fields and also gathering rocks off the fields, it was hard work. After the third year My brother Dewey got a job working in the clay mines and that left me with all the farm work to do and it seemed to me like the harder I worked the more I got behind with my work, so I began to get disgusted with the farm work, I didnít mind it too much as long as I had Dewey to help me so I began to think about getting a job and leaving the farm, My oldest brother Russel was still in West Virginia and that started me thinking things over. Let us go back to Olive Hill for a moment and catch up on some things that I almost forgot to mention while we lived there, my first job that I ever had was picking strawberries for a Mrs. Tabor she told me that she would pay me a nickel a quart and all that I cared to eat and I got fired on the first quart because she told me that she had been watching me and that I had eaten more than Iw as putting in the basket, but she put me to doing something else. While we lived there I remember the KU-KLUX-KLAN operating in full force, no one but the members knew who they were, but they watched over the community pretty close and when they heard of some one stepping out on his wife the first thing they would do would be to lay a large bunch of switches at his door during the night for a warning and he did it again they would burn a cross in his yard in the wee hours of the morning and go in and get him out of bed and take him out in some deserted place and give him a whipping with some more switches like they had laid at his door and that was the end of his stepping out on his wife. I think that I stayed in the forth grade in school at least two years while we lived there because I was very slow in learning to do mathematics, I just wasnít cut out to do it, but later on in life I had to learn to do it after I dropped out of school. While still the farm I took a job for my grandfather Beau Collier at Lawton working in the sand quarry and I had to walk seven miles each way to work, I would start to walk to work before daylight and wouldnít get back home till after dark, and it just took one summer to do me in with that kind of job. We lived on the next farm joining Marion Gilliam and that is where My brother Dewey met his wife Edna and they later was married, My father quit working in the clay mines and went to work for Mr. Watt Hillman who owned the Tygart Limestone Co. at Lawton and a little later I went to Ethel W. Va. To work in the coal mines where my oldest brother Russel worked, I had a very dangerous job there and the worst thing about the job was that they put me to work with a Polish man and we could not understand each other, so we had to use our own sign language that we made up between us but I liked to work with him after we learned to understand each other through our sign language, we worked together more than a year and got along just fine. I was not yet sixteen years old when I went to work in the coal mines and I had to use the truth a little recklessly to obtain the job in the coal mines but I was never questioned about my age so I worked at that job till the mines worked out, or in other words they run out of coal at their lease lines and then I had to look for another job, one of my friends told me that he knew where we could find a job and I started out with him and when we arrived there we got a job but in the meantime I found out that it was a very hot mines, in other words there was a lot of gas in the mines, subject to an explosion at any time so I didnít take the job but we had spent all our money, and he had a sister who lived there and he stayed there with her and her husband that left me by myself without any money or anything to eat but I learned to be a hobo, because there was not many automobiles in those days. Finally I made my way back into the New River country and into the Hanawah River country and I went over to the river to a ferry boat and bummed my way across the river on the ferry, I told the owner I didnít have ny money and promised to send it to him when I got hold of some, and I also told him that I hadnít had much to eat the last three days and he bid me get on the boat, I was cold and hungry but I got across and started up the river bank I found a dime melted in the ice and I picked it up and took it to the boat owner and I offered it to him for my fare and he wouldnít take it, then he told me to take it to a little store up the road and buy myself a dimes worth of cheese and crackers and they sure tasted good just like they were sent from Heaven. I finally made my way back to Ethel where my brother Russel was and then I went back across Blair Mountain to the Boone County Coal Corp. and got a job but that was the most dangerous job that I ever had in the coal mines and I only worked there long enough to get some money to take me back to Kentucky and when I arrived at the farm I felt like the prodical son and I started back to work on the farm again, This was during the depression years and times were really hard, after a year or two my father decided to give up trying to farm and work at the plant at Lawton, so we moved back to Lawton and I obtained a job working for Mr. Hillman in the rock quarry and I worked there until I got married and almost everyone of my friends that I worked with was jealous of me because I married the foremanís daughter. Lets got back to the farm for a moment and review something that I had almost forgotten to mention, my oldest sister Mary had met a man by the name of Samuel Stone and they married while we lived on the farm and they lived in Olive Hill, Ky which was about eleven miles from the farm and he worked at the brickyard, as I mentioned before we were in the worst depression that the whole nation had ever witnessed and Sam as we all called him lost his job and they had to move in the house with us and that made it a little crowded and beside that my brother Russel lost his Job in West Virginia dna him and his wife also moved in with us and that the number to fifteen living on the farm and my father was the only one that was working and went on till the depression ended and it did not end soon. My father was working every day but with so many to feed on his wages he could not keep up the payments on the farm and he decided to move to Lawton where he was working each of us got a job working for mr. Hillman where my father was working and we managed to live a little better, Thanks to Mr. Hillman for taking us all in and being good to all of us. As I mentioned before I met my bossíes daughter after I came back from school at Berea College, in Berea, Ky and after about two years we decided to get married, and a funny thing happened, neither of her parents wanted us to marry, but I perposed to her one Sunday afternoon and we both asked her parents if it was O.K. with them and her father finally said yes but her mother never would agree to it so I went to Olive Hill the next morning and got our marriage license and we got Richard Hillman to drive us to Morehead, Ky. And we were married by the Justice Of Peace and when her Father came in from work that afternoon and found that we were married, he said he felt a littleleft out because we didnít let him know that we were getting married so soon and didnít invite him to our wedding and he said that, I felt bad, about but we were afraid he would back on his agreement but I will say that I could never have had a better pair of in-lawsif I had searched the world over, they treated me like I was their own son and I feel that I can never repay them for being so good to me. He even helped us to build a small house on his property and that is where our oldest daughter Fern was born and Jean was born there two years later. We hired a single girl named Tony Flannery stay with us when Jean was born and that is where Jean got her first name and she got her middle name from a neighbor who was named Genoa Hillman who was Wall Hillmans mother, my wife liked her an awful lot and we named Jean after her and therefore Jeanís name became Tony Genoa Clemens. After living in that little house about two years we built a kitchen and dining room combined onto the house and we liked it very much but my wifeís father purchased a large farm in Rowan County and it had two houses on the place and we moved with them to Rowan Co, which was about four miles west of Morehead, Ky. But we still worked at Lawton and we had to drive over twenty miles to work, we lived there till October 1938 and decided to move to West Virginia and I went to work in the coal mines again, My brother Russel had moved back to W. Va. And we lived about two miles from him and his family, He and his first wife had divorced and he had married a girl by the name of Burnzie Viars and they raised a large family before Burnzie finally passed away. After a few years in the coal mines I went to work for the Imperial Ice cream co in Stollings W. Va which was about one mile from Logan, W. Va. And after a while I went back to the coal mines, but didnít work too long this time and I quit the job. After a few days the owner of the Pepsi-Cola Co which was right across the road in front of my house came over to my yard and asked me if I was looking for a job and he asked me if I would like to be foreman of the Pepsi plant and after I looked the job over I went to work for him but I was only there a short time till I was drafted in the Navy and I had spend after my training in the states ten months in Pearl Harbor. It was very hard to leave my wife and three little girls to go over seas but I had no choice but I felt that I was blessed by not having to go into a battle zone any farther than Pearl Harbor, I did not have much education, only fifth grade and that wasnít much for a man in service and all the men in the company that I was in had at least a high school education and some of them was college graduates and the job I was doing required at least a high school education but somehow I managed to get by on all the tests and my commander sort of took a liking to me and I think it was because I was the only one in his group with children. While I was at Pearl Harbor I seen many ships come in with heavy casualities and severe damage to the ships, I saw the Aircraft carrier Franklin come into the harbor with nine hundred dead and wounded and it was still burning when it steamed into the harbor, I saw destroyer escorts come into the harbor with the whole bow blown off and other ships with holes in the sides big enough to drive a car into, somehow I feel that my Lord was watching over me all the time.

Submitted by: Peggy Clemens Lauritzen - misspeggy55 at gmail.com