Memories of Poole  
From "My Childhood Memories"
by Lt. Col. Clarence "Strawberry" Reynolds
 


After living one year in Illinois we moved to Poole , Kentucky. My Dad's work was in the oil field and a move was not unusual or unexpected. He preceded us to Poole , locating a temporary place for us to stay. Again we moved in a truck and lived a short time in a farm house with the owner and later moved into a house in Poole . This was 1942 and the wars in Europe and Japan disrupted lives and affected day to day living. We lived on a side road that led to Camp Brackenridge and daily, convoys of army vehicles passed directly in front of us. It was impressive to view the trucks, tanks and big guns almost as passing in review. The soldiers were always friendly and waved at us. At night we were directed to use only the lights we needed and to pull the shades and close the curtains. It was practice for an air raid. Air raids from Japan did happen on the west coast in California . My mom worked in an ammunition facility in Evansville , Indiana making bullets. Many types of food were rationed. We were limited to how much sugar we could purchase. Replacement tires were almost unheard of and they did not make any new cars for public use. With purchases you received S&H Green Stamps which you collected and placed in a book. With different amounts of green stamps you could trade for a variety of gifts

. We kept warm with a coal burning fireplace. There was an old water well in the back yard but had to be cleaned before we could use it. Dad lowered Atwood and Red down about twenty five feet on a rope. There they filled bucket after bucket of water which was hauled up and dumped.

The well refilled with clean fresh water. We also had an outdoor toilet. We had chamber pots in our house for use at night. Mom cooked with a kerosene fueled stove that left the house smelling like an explosive fuel. Needless to say the food probably tasted of it also. Mom had a large garden in the back where she raised several kinds of vegetables. Christmas that year I received a wooden army jeep with a removable driver. It was on the mantel above the fireplace Christmas morning. Some fifty years later I saw one in an antique shop in Gruene , Texas . I went back later to buy it and it was gone. I am still looking for one.

Poole was a small, quiet, country town with a population around three hundred and fifty. For the most part I believe the makeup of the town's people was of families who had lived there for generations. There were so many families with the same surnames. There were the Meltons, the Tapps, the Pooles, the Powells, the Duncans , the Chandlers , the Russells, and the Williams. Then, there was this new family named the Reynolds. Every new family to the town was a curiosity and I am sure fed most of the gossip. There was one black family in town with children. I don't know where those kids went to school and I never saw them anywhere except around their house. The center of town was at the road intersection of highway 41 and highway 56. At that time there was no red light or caution light at the intersection. Poole consisted of four churches, three stores (one grocery), two garages (gas stations), one restaurant and the Poole School which had twelve grades. There also was a bank, a doctor's office, a flour mill, a post office, a barber shop and the Russell's so called auto shop where they did repair work. There was very little crime and few accidents with life threatening injuries. The accidents that happened were from car accidents. The flour mill was the only industrial work place in town. Poole did not have any law officers, fire department or any ruling officials. There were no code compliance rules and no garbage pickup.

V. H. Allen's Café, the only restaurant in town, was owned by Vilas and Ethel Allen. The restaurant was my favorite place in town. Old folks sat on the bench out front solving the world's problems while the kids went inside to a soda fountain for a coke or ice cream cone. Yes, they even had penny candy there and some of the best hamburgers on the planet. Cracker Jacks with the prize inside the box was a favorite to purchase as well as Tootsie Rolls. My favorite chewing gum was Clove, Blackjack and Beemans. With ten cents you could feast on an RC and Moon Pie. Electric fans rotated from the ceiling blowing a cool breeze. Wrought iron chairs and tables with marble tops (like Coke Cola furniture) were the décor. They even had a small set for children. They also had a soda fountain with chrome red top stools and a huge mirror surrounded by a wooden frame. The mirror posted an advertisement from Coke Cola. Later some of the middle age and older men started playing poker for packs of gum in the back of the restaurant. The younger generation found it interesting to stand around and watch the games. My Dad played and we always had chewing gum at home. There was a juke box with all the latest tunes, mostly country. It made you feel good if you had an extra nickel and could go play a tune. On the big front window of the restaurant was written, “Confectionery.” For years I did not know what that meant and I wouldn't ask anyone.

Later I looked it up in the dictionary and found it means candies and other confections collectively. This was also the location to purchase tickets for the Greyhound Bus.

Located next door was the Crowley Brothers garage and they advertised “General Repairs – Gulf Gasoline – Good Tires.” In the center of the parts department was a huge Ben Franklin Stove. In the winter it was always stoked up and all the guys would huddle around to keep warm. Blustery cold days and nights were common and the stove afforded a bit of reprieve. Surrounding this stove the old guys discussed the day's activities or replayed the night's basketball game from beginning to end. A lot of the old guys chewed tobacco or dipped snuff and used a spittoon which they usually missed. My dad chewed on an unlighted cigar, a pacifier for cigarettes which he was forced to give up. Occasionally a customer would buy gas out front and would open the door to come in and all that cold air would rush in. We always hoped they would not have any customers. I enjoyed time spent with my dad there. He was a jovial man and loved to make people laugh. He always had great stories to tell. Across from the garage was the Methodist Church .

On the other side of the restaurant were the Post Office and a barber shop. The Post Office had combination locks for all the boxes and everyone in town got their mail there. It was intriguing to twist that lock dial and see the door open up for that peek inside. There was a drop off box in front. There was one barber and he gave one kind of haircut and that was short. He had the big red and white stripped pole in front. The red part of the barber pole means that they also do surgery there, but that was a thing of the past. Out behind the shop they wanted to explore digging for a water well. A neighbor came over with a cherry tree branch and said if he holds it just right and it twists down toward the ground there will be water there. After several attempts the branch did twist down. A well was dug and there was plenty of water. I even did it myself and I think I felt it twist down.

Across the street was George Puryear & Sons General Merchandise Store which was mostly like a general store while it did carry some groceries. A sign out front read, “ A Good Place to Trade.” I remember they did sell candy and I enjoyed the shop because it was kind of mysterious. Maybe it was because it was dark or dimly lighted inside. Next door was the Poole Deposit Bank with deposits insured up to $10,000. This was a place that intrigued me. Inside was the banker behind a bared window and all was so quiet except for the echo of foot steps enhanced by the wooden floors and walls. I think because I had seen so many western movies with bank robberies that I was a little afraid of being inside.

Next to the bank was the Garrard's Radio & Electric store. My friends Bill and Shirley lived on the second floor with their brother and parents. Mr. Garrard was a radio repair man and he did many things. Years later he went to Evansville and bought a TV for my dad. It was the first TV in the area. The store had a player piano with tubes to play the music. It was magical how the tube would turn and the keys started moving up and down and the music flowed. I believe it had a foot pump to provide air for the piano to play. They had a lot of electronic equipment for sale. They also had a drop off for the cleaners. Bill and Shirley would pick up the daily Evansville news paper that the Greyhound Bus delivered and distribute it throughout town. They both had new bicycles to ride and I frequently went with them. They would sometimes invite me upstairs and their mom would serve us ice cream in a cone. I watched her wrap Christmas presents and what I observed there I still use to wrap presents today. It is amazing what small impressions remain with you throughout life.

Next door on the corner at the road intersection was the Crowley Grocery. They advertised “Dry Goods – Grocery - Meats.” That is where we purchased nearly all of our food merchandise except for milk and eggs that we got from the country. We also got ham from the country. They always had big empty cardboard boxes that they discarded out back and I would retrieve them and make box houses on our front porch which was just behind the store. Upstairs over the store was the Masonic Lodge. That was another mysterious place as we were never allowed in there and did not know what happened there. My Dad was a Mason but he never talked about it. I remember one day he got stopped by a highway patrolman for speeding and when he saw Dad's Masonic ring he just signaled and let him go with out a ticket.

Across the street on the same side was the Jake Tapp's Garage. I would go in there with my dad and he would play this game with coke bottles with his friends. The bottles had city names (where they were made) on the bottom and were placed in this machine that was flat on top. You would put a nickel in and slide the coke out the side. The person that had the coke with the least distance away had to pay for everyone else's coke. We would then get a package of peanuts and pour them into the coke bottle, drinking the coke letting the nuts into our mouths. It was such a sensation that I want to go and do that right now. They had a battery charger there and we used it on occasion.

South of the intersection is where the Poole Milling Company was located. They advertised, “Home Manufactures of Flour, Meal, and Feeds – Quality Products.” That was an interesting place to visit to see and hear all that big machinery in motion. I still remember the aroma of the grinding of the corn. Red worked there one summer, but I don't know what he did. Across the street was the Russell's garage and back off the adjoining side street is where the black family lived.

Farther south was the Baptist Church and then Poole School and beside it was the General Baptist Church . Every summer the churches conducted Vacation Bible School and they were always a fun time to get together with friends. They usually ended with a field trip somewhere. Back across the street from the school was a place called Linger Longer. It was once a roadhouse but since converted into a general store. Sometime we would take our lunch money and buy something there. Usually for me it was sweet rolls or a candy bar and a Double Cola.

The houses were mostly single story with large porches out front. Most every one had a swing on the porch and could be seen there resting in the evenings. They all had big trees and nice green lawns. I remember most people used coal for heating in the winter and there was sometimes a haze over parts of the town. People walking by would usually stop and chat for awhile. Things moved slowly and we had time to do everything. One farmer parked his Model T Ford (or some similar car) next to our house and I was always looking into it and thinking about taking it for a drive. The town was made up of mostly pretty healthy people, young and old. Occasionally an elder would pass away and the arrangements were so different from today. The body would be taken to the funeral home for embalming then returned to their home where they were placed on display for two or three days with an open casket. On the other side of that the best celebrations were when there was a chivaree. That was a surprise gathering at the house of a newly wedded couple. It was expected but unannounced and the pair would be prepared with refreshments. Years later at Marjorie's chivaree, James Ashby set off a couple sticks of dynamite that startled everyone and shook up the house.

That summer I met several friends that lived near by. There was Bill, Shirley and Thornton , all who were in the second grade and I was in the third. Walking to school that first day they convinced me I should go to the second grade and we could all be together. It sounded like a great idea, however that didn't work our either. I remember that my sister Evelyn would often carry my school books home so I could play with the boys on the way. Poole School was a twelve grade school that averaged about twelve to fifteen students per class. We had two school busses with one going east toward Sebree then south just short of Petersburg . The other bus went south then west toward Tildon. People living in town were not was allowed to ride the bus.

After completing the third grade we moved to the country so Dad could be close to his work. This house was on the James Ashby farm and had not been occupied for I don't know how many years. On our first visit there we were greeted by hogs in the living room. The house was definitely a fixer upper from the get go. After a considerable amount of cleaning and repairing we moved in. The water was provided by a well down the hill beside a pond. We carried water to the house in buckets. Again we were blessed with an outdoor toilet out back which was furnished with a Sears & Roebuck Catalog. We did not have electricity. My mom cultivated a huge garden and it was a major source of our food with canned goods carrying us through the winter.

We had chickens which provided meat and eggs. We would kill hogs with James Ashby and he would provide us with one. Kill hog day was a big event. Several hogs were designated for the kill. They were shot in the head, hung up by their hind legs, and then their necks were cut for bleeding. They were then disemboweled and placed in scalding water where the hair could be easily removed. There were other things that happened that I won't go into. The next step was dissecting for the different cuts. We would jack up a rear wheel on a car, attach a grinder and with the car engine running we had a method of making ground meat. It worked like a charm. There was a large iron pot that we boiled water and put in the hogs fat. From there somehow they developed pork rinds (chitlins) and eventually lye soap. Pork rinds for snacking and lye soap for washing clothes. The meat was then rolled in a mix of some kind and after smoking in a smoke house it was hung in the garage. It was an all day affair and one that you were glad to have behind you. That day in history is one I would just as soon forget about; however it did become an annual event. During the year in this house the Sinclair Oil Company was building dad a new house on the field where he worked.

When I was a freshman at Poole School some world renowned person had predicted the end of the world would happen a certain day that school year. It was written up in all the papers and talked about on the radio. We waited that day with intense apprehension. It was predicted to happen in the early afternoon. Several of the girls were crying all morning and there was a sense of insecurity in everyone's mind. What would you do if you really believed the end was coming? The time passed and nothing happened. Maybe most of us did not believe that it would but it was comforting to be past that time.

I remember going to a church revival at the Poole Methodist Church and listening to a guest speaker. The services were always one hour and you could count on it. I remember when the music director told us to go to a hymn on page number so and so in the hymn book; I would open the hymnal and it would just go to that page. I thought I must have some special ability to do that. Later I realized we only sang certain songs and the books easily opened there. One revival night the sermon was extremely long taking a much longer time than usual. Finally the pastor said, “I am sorry for talking so long.” I usually put a mint in my mouth and stop preaching when it dissolves. Tonight I put a button in my mouth.

Going to Poole School was an interesting experience. I was never taught how important school is to an individual and did not reap the benefits of a good education. I accomplished what I had to and spent the rest of the time having fun. I often wish someone had sit me down and explained to me that my objectives were all wrong and how I needed to prepare myself for the future. Sixteen hours of credit was required to graduate and the school taught eighteen hours. There was little choice of subjects. However, students participated in everything. If your class had a class play everyone was required to participate in some manner. It took nearly all the boys in high school to make a basketball team. You would most likely be a class officer. Most all of the students came from a somewhat equal social and economic standing. We were all poor (just didn't know it) while some had more or less than others. Standouts would be in basketball where we did have some pretty good players. Fun times there included box lunch sales, the donkey basketball games, movies and just being with your friends. I was a skinny boy with not much muscle and the sensitivity to my size almost kept me from playing basketball, but I did. I had large front teeth, freckles and acne. I had low self esteem. My dad gave me a new car when I was a senior and I never felt bad about myself again. The freckles always bothered me and I tried many things to rid me of them. I was told to rub my face with cut cucumbers and they would disappear. It did not work. I had a wart on my arm and a man asked me if I would sell it to him. I said of course I would sell it to him. He gave me a penny then rubbed the wart with his thumb and said to put the penny with others and when I spend it the wart would go away. In a few weeks I had spent the penny and the wart was gone. It returned later so I guess I got that same penny back.

 

I remember one night Red, Atwood, Evelyn and myself were going to a party at the DeGraffenreids. Driving on the dirt roads to the party someone sped up beside us and passed us leaving us in a trail of dust. A lot of jokes were made about that at the party and we didn't like it. On the way home this same driver and car passed us again. We were not going to have any part of that. We speeded up and the only way for us to pass them was to go off the road into the field, which we did. We got right up beside them and then we hit a stump and the car went up in the air and turned over. We got out and no one was hurt except our egos. Someone took us home and we knew we had to go in and tell Dad. We did, and he asked if anyone was hurt. We said no. He said well, go to bed and we will go and get it in the morning. We were expecting much worse. We escaped again. His philosophy was you can't change what has happened and we must go forward.

There was a salt water pond created in the oil field outside of Poole . Rumors were that girls would go bathing in the nude there. I never witnessed that. Shucks!

Basketball was the biggest event at the Poole School . I don't think my dad ever missed a game. He was the only spectator I have ever seen to get a called for a technical foul. A call was made against the home team that he thought was bad and he let the official know. But the official let him know who was in control and called the technical foul. I was proud of him.

In the summer we would raid the watermelon patches around Poole . We would go in the fields after dark and break open a melon and just eat the heart out. Sometimes the farmer would hear us and we had to skedaddle pretty fast.

One Saturday night an Air Force T33 jet trainer crashed just south of Poole . Several of us drove out to the accident crash location but not knowing what had crashed we did not go all the way to the site. The pilot apparently ejected, but too late to get a fully deployed chute and did not survive. I picked up a page from an aircraft manual and I still have it today.

Jerry Daniels a friend of mine came to visit me one Saturday night. We drove off in his pickup and my Bel Air Chevrolet. We went to Sebree where we picked up three girls from Poole . He drove off with two girls and I took one in my car. We went to the restaurant in Poole and played the juke box for several songs and enjoyed the evening. He departed and drove out highway 56 toward Sebree. I was still at the restaurant when someone came in and said Jerry had an accident. I drove out to the spot just one mile out of town and found the truck overturned in the ditch. Gerry was thrown out of the truck and was decapitated. This was a horrific shock to me. The two girls were uninjured but were hysterical. We all needed help, so we helped each other and received help from family and friends. This was a devastating time in our lives; a time that we would never forget. A friend lost forever

In my senior year civics class I was required to recite the following poem. I didn't comprehend the meaning of those words until much later in life. That poem has remained with me all my life and I have followed it to the best of my ability. I often reflect back on this poem.

Be the Best Whatever You Are

If you can't be a pine on the top of the hill

Be a scrub in the valley--but be

The best little scrub by the side of the rill;

Be a bush if you can't be a tree.

If you can't be a bush be a bit of the grass,

And some highway some happier make;

If you can't be a muskie then just be a bass--

But the liveliest bass in the lake!

 

We can't all be captains, we've got to be crew,

There's something for all of us here.

There's big work to do and there's lesser to do,

And the task we must do is the near.

 

If you can't be a highway then just be a trail,

If you can't be the sun be a star;

It isn't by size that you win or you fail--

Be the best of whatever you are!

Douglas Malloch

 

Our graduation date was approaching and I realized the care free fun days of high school were quickly coming to an end. Am I ready for the next step in growing into adult hood? Where do I go from here? What am I to do? Atwood attended Business College and Red had a successful career in the oil field. Was the oil field my future? My Dad talked to me and said, when he was in the army he saw that the officers had a pretty good life and I might want to try that. He would send me to college to enroll in ROTC and earn a commission. I said I would like that, but I wanted the air force and I wanted to be a pilot. He agreed and that day set the course for the rest of my life.

After high school graduation I would attend Western Kentucky State Teachers College and achieve that commission in the Air Force. My dad had promised me early in my childhood that I would get that airplane ride. He kept his promise: I would be a pilot in the United States Air Force and get that ride, many times over.

In our senior yearbook we had a paraphrase of James Witcomb's poem, “Little Town Taihote.” I changed the paraphrase just a little to read:

 

The Little Town of Poole

Some folks boast about their cities and their steady growth and size,

And brag about their county seats, and business enterprise,

And railroads and factories, and all such foolery,

But the little town of Poole and our school were big enough for me.

You can brag about your skyscrapers high up in the sky,

Or talk about your airport with all the things that fly,

You can talk about your theaters, and all you've got to see.

But the little town of Poole and my friends was show enough for me.


It was disconcerting like to some, I am willing to admit,

To have but one post office and a woman running it.

There was Crowley 's Garage, and Allen's Café,

Garrard Radio Store, the Linger Longer,

And the groceries, two or three.

But the little town of Poole was handy enough for me.

You can smile and turn yer nose up, and joke and have your fun,

And laugh and holler, “ Poole is a better hole than none.”

 

If the city suits you better, then that's where you orter be.

But the little town of Poole was good enough for me.

Friends from my childhood, I will remember thee.

Poole, My Poole you were good enough for me.

Graduation Day arrived on 19 May, 1953 marking the end of an era. We were leaving our comfort zone and weaving our way into Tomorrow Land . Was this the end of our long caring social group? How often would this close group of friends have their paths cross again? The future was as if viewed through a tube. I knew what I wanted, but could I achieve that? Do I have what it takes to fill my dream of becoming a pilot? I knew one thing, if you have an opportunity, you have to try. I knew not what my capabilities were, but I also knew I would give my all to achieve my goal.

Graduation Night was completed with all the fanfare one could expect. A large segment of Poole attended to witness the completion of this phase of our lives. It was a jubilant, rewarding and self satisfying evening. We were congratulated by our elders and challenged to further our education. As I departed the stage for the last time I looked over my shoulder and viewed our class motto on the backstage wall.

 

“Not Finished – Just Begun.”

 

 

 

Straw Reynolds – Class of 1953