Saturday, July 31, 2010

638. Thus Ends July

"It's been an interesting week in Lake Wobegon" - thus says a well known tag line from the long-running APM radio show A Prarie Home Companion - PHC. In case you are looking at those letters APM and thinking those aren't the letters you remember, you are right. APM, American Public Media, has been the distributor of PHC for the last few years. Before that, the show was distributed by PRI - Public Radio International. But, I digress.

We aren't in Lake Wobegon or Minnesota. Here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, we, too, have had an interesting week. Earlier in the week, we took a road trip. My friend Lisa Tanner, political field organiser extraordinairre, is handling that task for the congressional campaign of Democratic challenger John Waltz in Kentucky's Fourth Congressional District. Kentucky-4 is a "stringtown" of counties mostly bordering the Ohio River from Ashland in the east to Prospect in the west, just upriver from our place here on the waterway. The Fourth also includes some interior counties such as Henry, Robertson, Bath, and Carter. If you think of the v-shape that forms the top of a map of Kentucky, that gives you the Fourth Congressional District.

At one time the Fourth also included a band of precincts around the Jefferson County perimeter from Prospect southwest to Valley Station. With the exception of ten precincts in Okolona and two south of Valley Station, those precincts are now part of Kentucky-3, represented by my favorite congressman John Yarmuth. The twelve mentioned above, once in the Fourth, now in the Second, are represented by Congressman Bret Guthrie, a Republican from Bowling Green. The Fourth was for many years represented by Marion Gene Snyder, he for whom the Jefferson Freeway was appropriately renamed. The Federal Court House, downtown on Broadway, was also named for him, although I can't give you a good reason as to why. The Fourth is currently represented by Geoff Davis, a Republican from northern Kentucky about whom I know very little. My friend Lisa's candidate, Mr. Waltz, is seeking to unseat Mr. Davis.

She called Tuesday afternoon with a few questions and wanted more than a few answers. Rather than hang on the phone until the batteries went dead, something I have often done while listening to Lisa on the other end of the line, I instead looked at my calendar and realized my Tuesday night was unexpectedly free.

Road trip!

I told Lisa that I would head up to Mr. Waltz' campaign headquarters, officially located in the southern Boone County community of Walton. For many Kentuckians my age, Walton brings to mind one person, a jockey named Steve Cauthen. Cauthen, who is a few months older than me, gained a spot in Kentucky horse racing history (and thus Kentucky history) aboard one of the greatest horses of all time, Affirmed, the last horse to win the sport's covetted Triple Crown. Cauthen did that as an eighteen year old in 1978. He was pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated a week after his Derby win, which was only a few days after his 18th birthday. As a side note to that most historic storied racing season, Affirmed, with Cauthen aboard, beat the same horse in each of the Triple Crown's three legs, a horse named Alydar. Alydar is the only horse which Placed in all three races. But, again, I digress.

John Waltz' campaign headquarters is located on Dixie Highway - the real Dixie Highway, not the imposter that runs through Louisville, which is signed as US25 in this southern part of Boone County, just west of the main CSX rail line to Lexington. While in the unincorporated commnuity of Richwood, the mailing address is in the Walton zip code. Walton city proper is a few miles to the south along US25. On the other side of Frogtown Road, to the north, is a tavern known as the Special K's Sports Bar. It reminds me of an old fashioned roadhouse, the kind you of place like where the Blues Brothers played in the classic movie Animal House. In Louisville, we used to have a type of roadhouse along Preston Highway, just north of the original alignment of the Watterson known as Coke (or Koch or even Cooke) Station. It was torn down in the 1980s.

Lisa and I ended up in the Special K's place for a sasparilla [thank you Jerry Kleier] and our discussion covered a multitude of questions and answers, amidst the usual crowd of bar patrons who had stopped in for a cold one after a day's work. There was a pool table, a juke box, cornhole and horsehoes out back, and three large screen TVs, all three of which were tuned to the same channel showing the same Cincinnati Reds baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Tuesday's game was centerpiece of a three day homestand against the Brewers. They had lost the night before 3-2. Tuesday's game, as well as Wednesday's, went in the win column.

We eventually returned to the headquarters where I met the rest of the campaign staff as well as the candidate Mr. Waltz, an aggressive and progressive young man with a solid resume for the job he is seeking. Mr. Waltz served on board the USS George Washington from 2000 to 2004 and was deployed in support of Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. He and his wife, Janie, live in Florence (Mall Y'all) with their four daughters. The group of us ended up in the headquarters parking lot discussing the specific events of the day and the general events of the campaign. Mr. Waltz' campaign website is Go visit.

That was my long road trip for the week. I've had a few shorter ones, including one last night out to the El Nopal restaurant east of Jeffersontown on the way to Fisherville. I met a group of friends who had been campaigning on behalf of Marty Meyer, the Democratic candidate for Kentucky's 38th Senate District. They had spent the evening at Saint Michael's Catholic Church picnic, about a mile away. We had a good time well into the evening afterwhich I took a short ride out into Spencer and Shelby counties before returning home.

As I said, it has been an interesting week.

Thus ends July. Happy Trails.

By the way, tomorrow, August 1, would have been my grandmother's 94th birthday were she living. Vivian Thomas "Tommie" Lewis Hockensmith, older sister to Frances Lewis Moore, mentioned a few entries back, was born August 1, 1916 in a house along the south side of Pea Ridge Road in western Franklin County, near the back of the property now occupied by the Game Farm on Louisville Road in Frankfort. She married Daniel Thomas Hockensmith on May 16, 1936 at a pastor's residence on Conway Street in Frankfort. The couple's only child, my mother Barbara Ellis Hockensmith, was born in the old Kings Daughters Hospital on Steele Street in South Frankfort, in 1940. During the war, while my grandfather was serving in the United States Navy, my mother and grandmother lived in Long Island, New York and Providence, Rhode Island. Other than those years, they made their home in Louisville. My grandmother died on February 18, 1976.

Tomorrow is also the birthday of two long time friends, folks I met when I was a young teenager in the Kentucky Young Democrats. Mary-John Celletti and Dale Emmons are both just a few years older than me, and both will get one year older tomorrow.

Time for August.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

637. ME7-1387

Tonight's entry number reminds me of old telephone exchanges. My Aunt Louise Roberts' (nee Anna Louise Hockensmith) phone number was ME7-1387. In my mind's eye, I can still see my grandfather's writing in his little phone book indicating his little sister's phone number. She lived on S. Floyd Street in Old Louisville, just up the street from the old Saint Philip Neri Catholic Church. She herself belonged to Walnut Street Baptist.

My grandfather's other little sister was also in that book with the number 50-BU3-xxxx. I won't list the last four digits because Aunt Mildred Smith (nee Mildred Hockensmith) still lives in the same house over in Clarksville where she lived when I was kid. And, still has the same number. Back then, you had to dial 50- to call over to Indiana. For a while, you had to dial 502-. All that has changed.

Those telephone letters were remnants from the older telephone exchanges from around town. I'll be honest - I never used them. I learned telephone numbers had seven numbers, not two letters and five numbers, except in Frankfort where all the numbers began with 22- so you just dialed the last five digits. But, I digress.

You could tell where a person lived by their phone exchange. We had EMerson, MElrose, JUniper (or JUpiter), SPring, TWinbrook, WOodlawn, WEst, GLendale, and CEcil, all of which later in life became phone numbers beginning, respectively, with 36-, 63-, 58-, 77-, 89-, 96-, 93-, 45-, and 23-. Back then all those exchanges served a particular area. South End, Old Louisville, Downtown, West End, East End, Okolona, PRP/Valley Station, the Highlands, and Fern Creek. I'm not sure what the exchange for Jeffersontown was, with its 26- numbers; some combination of the letters A-B-C with M-N-O - maybe COral or ANne or something like that.

I used to always try to figure out where the exchanges changed, from one set of numbers to another. They were sometimes marked with higher-than-usual phone poles with those ubiquitous upside-down glass jars in a line across one of the poles' t-beams. Where Belmar Drive goes under the Norfolk Southern Railroad is one of those cardinal points, bringing together the 36-, 63-, and 45- numbers. Similarly, 36-, 96- and 45- came together where Durrett Lane and that same railway cross under the Watterson Expressway. Where Wathen Lane crosses the Paducah and Louisville Railroad was the demarcation line between 63-, 36, and 44-, the latter serving the Shively area (and another exchange whose "name" I don't really know). Another spot is along Pennsylvania Run Creek, south of Mount Washington Road, where the separation occurs between 96-, 23-, and the 95- exchange in northern Bullitt County, known in history as the Echo Phone Company and later the Pioneer Phone Company, serving Zoneton, Brooks, and what was then called Maryville but since the 1970s has been known as Hillview.

As I know you know, numbers, in various configurations, have always intrigued me. Phone exchanges are just another set of numbers, which when linked together, allow people to communicate. Kind of like notes on a scale in music. In the proper order, they make sense.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

636. July 24th

My friend Rob died nineteen years ago today. It was a Wednesday morning. Below are the lyrics to Bob Dylan's 1973 song Knockin' on Heaven's Door, one of Rob's favorites. It was written the year he was born and gained wide popularity the year he died as part of Guns 'n' Roses Use Your Illusion album.

Rest in peace, Rob.

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

635. A nice night considering it is 81 degrees.

Had a perfectly swell end to my day with drinks at Amici with Bobby S. and Ken H. I had a peach/ginger Sangria - something different and light. Then I met my friend Craig for a walk around Garvin Place and Ormsby Avenue. He lives in the old Mayflower Hotel, shown at right, a 1920s beaux-arts style once-fashionable hotel just outside of downtown in Old Louisville, now converted to apartment homes of various shapes and sizes. Its most famous visitor was President Harry S. Truman.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

634. Happy Birthday Aunt Frances

Went to Frankfort last night - actually to Choateville (named for my Great-Great-Grandfather's family) - to celebrate the birthday of my oldest living relative, Aunt Frances Katherine Lewis Moore, little sister to my late grandmother, Vivian Thomas Lewis Hockensmith. Aunt Frances' 90th birthday party was held at the Choateville Christian Church, where many generations of my mother's family have been baptised or are current members. Happy 90th Aunt Frances.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

633. The real first day of summer

Lots of people have their own ideas about when summer begins, often differing from the official timetable of solstices and equinoxes which were observed about sixteen days ago. For some, that period between Memorial Day (or Decoration Day, as I was taught) and Labor Day constitutes "summer." Roughly three months, it is an equal number of days as that between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox. For others it is once the kids are out of school, roughly the same time period as between the holidays. Some may measure summer's commencement by the first day the temperature rises into the 90s, something it did here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 long before the official beginning. For me, there is another date of demarcation - the day you pick the first ripe tomato from your garden and proceed to eat it straight from the vine. For me, that day was today. And eating those tomatoes off the vine on a hot July afternoon was, well, as Al Purnell used to say about his mama's sausages made out in Simpsonville, "it's good!"

Saturday, July 3, 2010

632. The 234th on the Fourth

Tomorrow our Federal Republic, a nation too long at wars we aren't winning and can't fully define, wars which take too many of America's young women and men away from their families, friends, and sometimes their futures, celebrates its 234th birthday.

Here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, one of the ways we celebrate the aging of the country is by an Annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence, the document announcing our separation from King George III and his British Isles across the waters.

The Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party has for many years gathered at the War Memorial on the corner of 5th and Jefferson streets at 9 am on the 4th for the reading and this year will proceed as we have in the past. All are invited for this celebration in the morning. We'll sing the Star Spangled Banner and My Old Kentucky Home, then proceed on with our grievances against the King.

After the reading, Americans are free to go do whatever they wish in celebration. Tomorrow being Sunday, many will use their freedom to practice their religion by attending the church, synogogue, or mosque of their choice. Others will bar-be-cue, shoot-off fireworks, or go to the lake. If you have time, visit a National Cemetery (there is one in Louisville and another over in New Albany) and honor those who've gone before us in defense of the freedoms we celebrate. Even a tip-of-the-head when you pass a VFW, AmVets, or American Legion hall will suffice.

And although I've never learned how to do it, if I knew how, at this point I would upload a YouTube version of Ray Charles singing America the Beautiful. His rendition is among the most moving and is an appropriate way to celebrate. Amen, amen.

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.