Monday, September 13, 2010

647. Off to Oldham, and back

After work today I ventured up to Jefferson County's neighbor to the northeast, Oldham, and specifically to the small village of Westport, an idyllic gathering of maybe six city blocks of one-lane roads (and one large modern subdivision) set on the banks of the Ohio River about eighteen miles upriver from Louisville and eight miles due north of Oldham's county seat, La Grange - or LaGrange, without the space. I usually use the space. Westport at one time served as the County Seat for the county - in fact it did it twice before La Grange finally took the title for good in 1838. Westport is a very old village, as old as (or perhaps a year or two older than) our hometown of Louisville here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. If my math is correct, Westport is somewhere close to Milepost 588.

Getting to Westport is simple. Go out US42 until you come to KY524. KY524 intersects US42 at two different places. If coming from the east at Sligo, it is about a five and a half mile journey. From the west at Skylight it is just over a three mile journey. While the directions are simple, the road itself is a little treacherous with its narrow shoulders and undulating pattern. I wouldn't want to have to drive it on any regular basis nor would I want to drive it at all on snow or ice.

The occasion was the Friends of Westport forum for candidates. I went to see John Waltz, the Democratic candidate for Kentucky's Fourth Congressional District at the invitation of my friend (and fellow State Party Committeemember) Lisa Tanner. Besides Mr. Waltz and his opponent, the Republican incumbent, there were also speeches from candidates for the State House and Senate. Not speaking but mingling in the crowd were two judicial candidate as well as an old friend, former Jefferson District Judge John Carter, an Okolona native and Southern High School graduate who is the Republican nominee for Oldham County Attorney. I've known Judge Carter for many years and we had a nice chat. Danny and Patty Meyer, more friends of many years, were also present. Danny was the 8th Ward Aldermen and later the 38th District State Senator in Louisville in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. He and Patty retired to the outskirts of La Grange a few years back. I had seen them earlier in the day at a press conference held by their son, my friend Marty Meyer, who is running to reclaim for the Democrats the Senate seat formerly held by his father.

The setting for the event in Westport was quite simple - the local firehouse. All the trucks had been pulled outside opening up the floor for a dais and chairs. Actually, there weren't many firehouse chairs and the townspeople had been advised to bring their own chairs which most did. About 30 people were gathered for some simple speeches from the candidates. Although the county sheriff stood at the firehouse door, it was all a very friendly affair, complete with pitchers of lemonade and kool-aid, along with several varieties of cookies. I focussed on the peanut butter cookies. It took me four before I decided whether or not I actually liked them. I did.

After the forum the townspeople returned to their homes, many on foot carrying their fold-up chairs, while the out-of-towners trekked back to civilisation along KY524 and US42. Before leaving the little village (a place I've been to maybe six times over the years, and along with Taylorsville, one of the first places off the beaten path I drove to when I was sixteen and alone behind the wheel) I lit a nice cigar and took a walk.

The firehouse is located at 3rd and Clinton streets - again both not much more than one-lane wide. I walked down the alley beside the firehouse to Second Street, or Covington Ridge Road as described on the map. Turns out that alley was actually Court Street. Then a few feet eastward was another extension of Clinton Street which takes you down the hill toward the river and Front Street. The older part of the town is up on the hill. There is a market, a restaurant, a Baptist Church, and a post office. Oldham County government maintains a park and boat ramp at the foot of Main Street near to the river. My walk took me down to the water's edge where, following an ancient tradition, I slipped off a shoe and sock and stuck my toes in. Two women sitting on a boat pier watched my little performance but said nothing, at least while I was within earshod.

The first time I went out there in 1977, there was no new subdivision. The Jack Taylor Place subdivision of large homes on large lots was built in the 1980s. It is to the west of the town on a cleared plain. West of town means west of Washington Street, another one-lane road and east of Eighteen Mile Creek, which empties into the Ohio just above Eighteen Mile Island. On the outside corner of Fourth and Washington, at what appears to be the original southwest corner of the town, is the Westport Public Cemetery. Another cemetery, also on Fourth, on the east side, meaning two blocks away, is a walled cemetery named for three families. Unfortunately, only one caught my attention - Palin. I wonder if the former governor of Alaska's husband has any kin back here in Kentucky. Almost every family which went west does. Maybe Todd Palin is no exception.

After my walking tour, about 3/4 mile, I returned to my car and, like the other non-locals, made mmy way back to US42, and thence southwestwardly home. It was a pleasant little trip.

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The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.