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2019-05-10 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Butcher Holler and the Coal Miner’s Daughter – Day #16

We began today by spending time at OSCAR, the Oil Springs Cultural Arts and Recreation center; it is located in a school that was sold off in 1955 when the mining industry shut down and the population plummeted… (more on the mines later…)  The school was purchased by a local businessman who has lent it to OSCAR for the past many years…

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We did crafts.  Just like – well, you know… There was wood carving, tin punching, painting, wire art, and several other things that we could try our hand at…  We spent the morning crafting away, and they even provided a tasty mid-morning snack…

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I did a little relief carving of an apple…

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Lynda made something out of tin…

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Some others made these wall plaques…

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The sky was roiling when we returned to the Villa; we had a light lunch in the Airstream, and then we headed out for our next tour.  The rain held off for the rest of the day…

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We carpooled to the town of Van Lear, and the Webb General Store… About 1 1/2 miles down the road from the store is Butcher Hollow, or, in Kentuckian, Butcher Holler…

Here the story begins…

Loretta Lynn was born Loretta Webb on April 14, 1932, in Butcher Holler, in the “house” that is still standing today.  She is the eldest daughter and second child born to Clary and Ted Webb.  Ted was a coal miner and subsistence farmer.  The youngest Webb daughter was Crystal Gayle (born Brenda Gail Webb).  There were six other children born to Clary and Ted, but you only need to remember Herman, Loretta’s immediate younger brother.

Butcher Holler was one of many communities that loosely made up the town of Van Lear, KY.  There were five coal and slate mines in the area dating from the early 20th century, with 2,500 miners, and four railroad lines serving the mines.  These mines supported a community of 15,000 to 20,000 people.  When the mines closed in 1955 the population plummeted.  There is little remaining today of this thriving community.  Today, even with recent “suburban” style growth, Van Lear has fewer than 2,000 people.

On January 10, 1948, 15-year-old Loretta Webb married Oliver Lynn, better known as “Doo”, or “Mooney”.  They had met only a month earlier.  Despite Doo’s promise to Loretta’s father never to take her away from Butcher Holler, the Lynns left Kentucky and moved to the logging community of Custer, Washington, north of Bellingham, when Loretta was seven months pregnant with the first of their six children.  The happiness and heartache of her early years of marriage would help to inspire Lynn’s songwriting.  In 1953, Doo bought her a $17 Harmony guitar.  She taught herself to play the instrument, and over the following three years, she worked to improve her guitar playing.  With Doo’s encouragement, Lynn began singing in local clubs in the late 1950s.  (In the Movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, she mentions that she was going to be playing in a “nasty ol’ honky tonk over to Lyndon”.  I sincerely doubt that Lyndon ever had a “nasty ol’ honky tonk”…) 

Lynn signed her first recording contract and cut her first record, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”, in February 1960.  Her first album was recorded in Hollywood.  The Lynns toured the country to promote the release to country stations.  By the time the Lynns reached Nashville, the song was a hit, climbing to No. 14 on Billboard’s Country and Western chart, prompting her first appearances on the Grand Ole Opry in 1960.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Her best-selling 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was made into an Academy Award–winning film of the same title in 1980, starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.  Spacek won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Lynn.

Back to Lynn’s brother, Herman Webb.  After the mines closed most of the Webb family moved to Indiana.  But Herman always wanted to return.  In 1975, he bought the local general store near Butcher Holler.  He named it Webb’s Store and ran it until his death in 2018.  Today his son and daughter run the store and offer tours of the house where Loretta Lynn grew up…

Butcher Holler is a fer piece down the road, about 2 miles past Van Lear, and about 10 miles past Paintsville, (pop. 5,700 today).  Butcher Holler is way back in the hills…

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This is Webb’s store…

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The sign is a little worn…

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There are signs everywhere hawking the tours in case no one is at the store…

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A shuttle took us up the 1 1/2 mile one lane road to the house.  We shouldn’t complain – when the Webbs lived here there was no road, just a footpath.  (In the movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, Doo drives his Jeep to the house by driving in the creek…)

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The house is pretty much original.  When Herman moved back to Butcher Holler in 1975 he did shore up the foundation and replace much of the front porch using 1970s techniques and design.  (If you notice the front porch guardrail you will see that it is VERY similar guardrails in 1970s era apartment buildings in Orange County, CA…)

Inside the house we were given a tour by Hermasina, Herman’s daughter.  There are four rooms plus two attic bedrooms.  Much of the furniture is original to the house; there is a lot of memorabilia from the Webb and Lynn families…

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This view up the valley was not like this when the mines were operation.  There were few trees; any tree over 6″ in diameter would be needed as shoring in the mines, so this view would have extended miles up the valley.  The area would be farmland for residents to raise their own vegetable gardens…

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It was a great tour – very authentic and not too much hype and certainly no glossy brochures…

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This road was only a footpath in the 1940s…

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We forewent the shuttle ride and walked back to the Webb Store…

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We did pass one of the entrances to one of the mines…

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The store isn’t much – more memorabilia, a few staples, candy, and lots of moon pies and RC Colas…

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Other than the store, just about all evidence of this thriving community is gone… No train tracks, no industry, no other businesses, very few people…

So we returned to the Villa.  We had a little FaceTime with our grandson, Ian.  He is five years old this week!

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In the evening we returned to the Highway 23 Museum.  We enjoyed a nice dinner, then the pickers began… Bluegrass music!

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There was music, dancing, singing, and even some square dancing!

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-02 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Louisville and their Slugger! – Day #8

Once again we boarded the bus…

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Soon we found ourselves in Louisville.

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Our first stop is at the Louisville Slugger factory.  But first, we once again attempted a group photo…

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And a selfie..

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And the final shot:

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The giant bat does dominate the skyline in this historic section on downtown Louisville…

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Inside we reviewed the current major league standings; how ’bout them Dodgers!

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The Louisville Slugger is made by Hillerich &  and Bradsby & Co.  They used to make butter churns, but they found that making bats is a more profitable business…

They have many bats that have been used in MLB games;  Lynda tried out the bats of current Dodgers Cory Bellinger and Justin Turner…  She also took a photo with Jackie Robinson…

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We watched a master bat maker working at his lathe making a bat.  It takes him about 30 minutes to make a bat, using the model bat as a template and hand-measuring every aspect of the new bat with a set of calipers to make sure it is an exact replica…

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(By the way, it takes 30 seconds for the CNC controlled lathes in the factory to make a bat, which is an exact replica of the specs that are programmed into the computer…)

The museum even has bats in its belfry…

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We enjoyed the tour (sorry, no photos…).

They use trees from western New York and eastern Pennsylvania; their trees are in sustainable forests, and most trees selected for bat-making are about 65 years old.  Bats are made mostly of maple, but also birch and ash.  They maintain 3,000 different bat designs.  Pros usually order 80-100 bats per player per season, to the tune of about $80 each.  Retail bats, and bats made for minor league baseball are cheaper…

Next on our agenda today is a river cruise up the Ohio River; Indiana is across the river at this point.

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We assembled for the lunch buffet on the lower, enclosed deck, out of the rain…

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Once underway the rain slowed and we could walk around the boat and see the sights…

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The water is quite high this time of the year…

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It was a nice boat ride.  Who doesn’t like boat rides?

Next we walked around downtown Louisville.  We are in the historic downtown, adjacent to the main financial district…  Lots of historical storefronts…

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Here is an area where the old buildings have been torn down, but the facades have been saved.  We also saw this with new, modern buildings built behind the historic facades.  Very nice!

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There are some Bourbon tasting rooms here, but we didn’t have time…

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We spent about an hour in the Frazier Museum…

We returned on the bus, and once again turned in early…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

And in the spirit of all things baseball, I present the McAnoy children…

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2017-06-18 Columbus, Indiana, Eliel Saarinen, and many other famous architects…

Our second day in Columbus was Sunday, so, naturally, we went to church. There are many modern churches in Columbus designed by famous architects, so we needed to make a choice. We selected the First Christian Church, designed by Eliel Saarinen (father of Eero…)

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It was fun to sing the old hymns in such a modern church. The church was built in 1942. It was the first contemporary building in Columbus and one of the first churches in the United States to be built in a contemporary architectural style.

After church we drove to the north part of town and spent 2 hours walking several blocks of very nice houses, some designed by famous, dead architects.

On this walk we saw:

North Christian Church, the last building designed by Eero Saarinen:

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St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, designed by Steven R. Risting (Ratio Architects):

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Schmitt School, designed by Harry Weese; the first school that took advantage of the Cummins Foundation’s offer to pay the architect’s fees:

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Northside School, designed by Harry Weese:

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We walked about 6 miles through the north Columbus neighborhood, so we needed a break at Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor (open since 1900) for lunch:

 

Since this was Day #9 on our trip, we spent the rest of the day doing laundry, cleaning house, and setting up computer paraphernalia… An enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

2017-06-17 Columbus, Indiana, and Eero Saarinen

We left the Casino Queen RV Park at 5:30 am and we continued east across Illinois. Our destination today: Columbus, Indiana.  First: We crossed the border into Indiana…

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Columbus, Indiana, is an architectural gem.  It is a typical Midwestern town of 44,000, located about 40 miles south of Indianapolis. It has a Victorian downtown, built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It is also the home of Cummins, Inc. And therein lies the story:

J. Irwin Miller joined Cummins, the family business, in 1934.  As the nephew of the President, he always felt like others at the firm treated him differently and minimized his contribution to the company.  When World War II broke out he took the opportunity to enlist, and he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific. However, he was called back when his uncle died unexpectedly.  He was executive vice president from 1944 to 1947, president from 1947 to 1951, and chairman from 1951 to 1977.

In 1950, Miller helped to establish the National Council of Churches (NCC) and later served as its first lay president (1960–63). Miller chaired the NCC’s Commission on Religion and Race, which coordinated organized religion’s support for strong civil rights legislation, and jointly sponsored the March on Washington. He led religious delegations that met with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to push for the legislation that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 1954, he established the Cummins Foundation; during the post-war boom, the city of Columbus started to build new schools. The first schools built were so ugly, and so poorly suited for fostering children’s education, that Miller felt he had to do something.  In 1957, he made an offer to the city that the foundation would pay all the architects’ fees for new public buildings in Columbus IF they were chosen from a list of architects selected by the Foundation.  Thus this small Midwestern city has buildings by Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Kevin Roche, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, César Pelli, Gunnar Birkerts, John Dinkeloo, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, many of which feature extensive interiors designed by Alexander Girard.  The American Institute of Architects in 1991 declared Columbus America’s sixth most important city in terms of architecture. 

So this is why we are heading towards Columbus. Today we will tour the Miller house, and tomorrow we will see the other significant buildings in the city.

After an uneventful drive across Illinois and Indiana, we checked into the RV park at Ceraland; here is another piece of Mr. Miller’s legacy.

CERAland Park, established in 1963 as the Cummins Employees Recreation Association, started out as a corporate recreation facility in Columbus, IN, that has 345 acres of beautiful park land consisting of both indoor and outdoor recreational activities.  In 2012, the CERA Sports Corp was established as a not-for-profit organization that is committed to developing CERAland Park into the highest-quality recreation and wellness provider in the community.

Ceraland offers an 11-acre stocked lake, fishing, paddle boats, row boats, and canoes, 324 site campground, 6 camping cabins, picnic areas, 7 shelter houses, 2 outdoor basketball courts, 4 permanent Corn Hole sets and 3 portable sets, 6 horseshoe pits, 2 sandpit volleyball courts, a go-kart track, 18 hole miniature golf course, driving range, 6 tennis courts, outdoor amphitheater, playgrounds, remote control airplane strip, rifle and archery range, trap and skeet range, 9 softball / baseball diamonds, aquatic center with large water slide and toddler play area, 30,000 square foot sports & fitness center with 2 full gymnasiums, cardio room, running/walking track, weight room, locker rooms, and much, much more.

Currently, CERA has over 100 local community corporations / partners that provide the opportunity for their employees to participate and utilize the services of CERA for discounted corporate rates.  In addition, CERA continues its community outreach by offering an expansive Youth Sports program and events schedule.  CERA is the host site for Bartholomew County Little League, numerous Fast-pitch Softball and Baseball tournaments and leagues and is an AAU sanctioned park.

In 2014, CERA was opened to the public, and, thus, we are staying here for a few nights…

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There were major softball/baseball tournaments going on this weekend, but the camping area was very quiet:

 

I don’t know why, but Lynda keeps insisting on taking pictures with me in them. I have expressed my dissatisfaction…

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After setting up, we headed back into Columbus and met the Miller house tour at the visitor center. After watching a short video we boarded the shuttle bus to ride to the house, about 2 miles away.  The house is about 6,300 square feet, and is set on over 13 acres of beautiful, landscaped grounds. To get an idea of the extravagance of the place, we were told that Mr. Miller paid $30,000 for the land and over $550,000 for the construction of the house. Do the math… This was an extremely expensive house when it was built in the early 1950s.

Unfortunately, no interior photography is allowed, so you can only get a feel for the exterior and the grounds…

The house was designed by Eero Saarinen, the same architect who did the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. This is one of only a few houses designed by Saarinen; he and Mr. Miller were close friends, and this house resulted.

The Millers had five children, and this was designed to be a true family home; in addition, was was designed on a grand scale to accommodate the many guests who came to visit – heads of state, titans of industry, famous architects.

The exterior walls are all giant slabs of black slate, with some walls clad in marble. The rest is glass… The interior walls are all the same white marble. There are linear skylights throughout the house, which means the quality and intensity of light changes as clouds pass by…

We entered the grounds through the service entry:

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The real entry approach for family and guests is off a small residential street:

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The front yard is impressive:

 

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So is the back yard…

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And the path to the pool:

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These exterior shots show some of the materials and detailing of the house…

 

All in all, a very impressive house. Designed to last for hundreds of years…

 

 

 

 

 

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