The Secretest Society
May 6, 2016
(Note: I wrote this in 2008 but with the recent and current state of congessional and presidential politics, it deserves a rerun.)
I’m in a secret location, typing whisperingly as I write this because the societies I am about to reveal have enforcement agencies whose mission is to prevent people from exposing them.
There are books written about secret societies. There are conspiracies which have been revealed and others which have been rumored.
But this is about the secretest society of them all.
Any person who wants to rise to a position of power in the political world must be a member of this society, heretofore only whispered about in dark, hidden places. This is the first time its existence has been revealed to the public.
I disclose today the existence of the Association of Simplistic Solutions. All people who hold political power must be an ASS. Many suspect that to be the truth, but no one previously has risked his very life to confirm that the Association of Simplistic Solutions, sometimes known as ASS, has this level of power.
In America, you can identify who is an ASS by the code phrases they use when they speak.
For instance, ASS trainers teach American politicians the technique they call Tap-W.
It’s really a very simple technique.
Whatever the issue is, the ASS politicians will address it using the Tap-W technique. Tap-W stands for “The American People Want.”
You’ve all witnessed it in use. “The American people want us to rescue the multi-billionaires who have put our national economy at risk by playing games with credit,” one ASS might say.
Another ASS will respond, “The American people want us to let the multi-billionaires who have put our national economy at risk by playing games with credit to suffer the consequences of their greed.”
Yet another ASS might say, “The American people want a cheeseburger.”
ASS training teaches that the ASS speaker should always invoke the American people, even though there is no single position that the American people want. In truth, we know that there are just about as many different wants as there are American people. I doubt if you can find any one position that all the American people support.
But the American people are easily misled and distracted, and – in many instances – distrust anyone who actually has the intelligence to be a national leader, so the ASS training is effective.
Offer simplistic solutions, the trainers say to the trainees. Don’t take a substantive stand on anything. If an opponent seems to be offering something that sounds like a potential real solution, distract attention by using a technique known as “Okay, his ideas sound good but who does he know?”
This technique can be illustrated like this: “Okay, he spouts some intelligent, elitist mumbo-jumbo, but one of his kindergarten classmates protested the Vietnam War. Does he truly love America?”
One of the masters of the ASS principles of simplistic solutions is the current president of the United States. (George Bush was president when I wrote this.) His brilliant use of the techniques was evident in a recent set of statements he made on September 30, speaking of the Congress’ failure to pass, at that time, what some called a bailout plan and what others called a rescue plan. He was quoted:
"I was disappointed in the vote with the United States Congress on the economic rescue plan," Bush said after yesterday's vote, during a White House appearance with the president of Ukraine. "We put forth a plan that was big because we got a big problem." He added: "Our strategy is to continue to address this economic situation head-on. And we'll be working to develop a strategy that will enable us to continue to move forward."
You will find no better example anywhere of how to utilize the speaking techniques taught by the Association for Simplistic Solutions trainers. Read those quotes again, carefully. Note the avoidance of anything of substance.
Few people know about ASS. Even fewer know that it is one of the organizations that make up the larger, umbrella organization, the Benevolent Society of the Self-Appointed Power Seekers, or the BS of the SAPS.
More groups than I have time or space to name fall under the umbrella of the BS of the SAPS. I may write more about that group at another time, assuming that I live long enough and can find a very secret place in which to write.
Meanwhile, since I tend to support Democratic tickets, I must now go off somewhere to ponder the Democratic Party and evaluate its relative rankings in the ASS organization.
The Church Unredeemed needs to raise funds
April 20, 2016
(Warning: Rated MA for Mature Audiences and SA for Sacrilegious Audiences.)
The Universal Divine Modern Primitive Sanctified Holographic Church Unredeemed of Signs and Wonders Ascendant Notwithstanding found itself in need of additional funds to maintain its fundraising programs and pay for the sign out front. It cost quite a bit to purchase and install a sign big enough to display the church’s entire name.
The church had suffered a significant reduction in donations because of recent layoffs at the toilet paper mill, where many of its members had worked.
In calling for a special board meeting to discuss ways to raise money, the Reverend Salvatore Vayshon – or Rev. Sal Vayshon as he is more widely known – told his closest advisers, “No crap, we need more money. Collections at our regular meetings every Wednesday and Thursday, and on alternating Sundays, are no longer enough to let us live in the style to which we hope to become accustomed.”
As you know, the church continues to hold its meetings in that pretty little building just down the road. Because of funding and other issues, it had to give up plans to purchase the property for a new church building at 666 Demon Drive. Some board members never felt good about the address anyway.
As board members began to file in, one complimented member Bertha Ucanlayme on the pretty rattle her 14-months-old son, Reginald, was shaking.
Bertha, the church’s most attractive and promiscuous member, was going to make her 24th appearance next week on the Maury Show. This time, she was 5000 per cent positive she had identified little Reggie’s father. Last time, she was only 4500 per cent positive.
Most of the board members remembered when Reggie was born and the church bulletin announced that Bertha had given birth to a baby boy. Board chairman William Bigglittle, the well-known sinful cynic, had grumbled, “I reckon it’s a good thing she didn’t give birth to a toddler.”
Mary Marie Merry asked Bertha where she had gotten such an attractive baby rattle.
“Brother Joshua gave it to Reggie,” she told them. Brother Joshua was a deacon at another church. “You know that new baby store on Easter Boulevard, the one named Jericho’s? The one that stocks diapers and car seats and baby clothes and pacifiers and toys? Well, anyway, Joshua bought the rattle at Jericho’s.”
In due time, the good Reverend Sal Vayshon called the board meeting to order and got right down to the business of finding ways to come up with more money.
Entrepreneur and slightly touched-in-the-head member Blind Lemonjuice Cornpepper, who frequently played hurdy gurdy and sang Delta blues songs at the nearby Blues and Bagels Club despite being neither blind nor talented, re-proposed his idea that the church should go into the business of selling flowers and flour.
He had found a supplier who could provide and package Jesus Christ Self-Rising Flour (the name being his own idea), and he had applied for copyright protection on his advertising slogan, “Mum’s the Word,” for the floral shop side of the business.
The board didn’t approve his idea, partially because of confusion about whether the spelling was flour or fluor, and no one was able to spell out the full name of the flower they called mums.
Rev. Vayshon said he hoped the lecture and discussion series the church had scheduled to start in three weeks would bring in some extra money.
“Remind me again what we’ll be discussing at that series,” board member Harda Herring asked, with her right hand cupped behind her right ear.
Rev. Vayshon said he would be glad to. Topics, he said, include:
“If we’re a nation ‘under’ God, does that mean this is hell?”
“Virgin birth: With chromosomes only from his mother, was Jesus a woman?”
“If no one comes to the Father except through Jesus, does that mean that Jews can’t go to Heaven.
"Did the kangaroos swim to the Ark or come over on a ferry?”
And, “How did they write the Bible in English, which hadn’t been invented yet?”
The time allotted for the board meeting was running out when Bruce Blome proposed that the church should sponsor a cornhole tournament with an entry fee of $50 per contestant. He said the tournament would raise quite a bit of money.
Blome had recently won his third straight championship of the church’s annual cornhole tournament. Members bragged that Blome, the only openly gay member of the board, was a cornhole expert.
Cornhole being a very popular activity at church picnics, the board unanimously approved Blome’s proposal and then, with the weekly bingo game already in progress, the board adjourned its meeting.
A rabbi and a politician walk into a town hall meeting …
February 3, 2016
I dozed off tonight while reading a book and missed the first hour of the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates’ appearance at the Nebraska town hall meeting.
I woke up and turned on the TV just as Hillary Clinton was being introduced and I watched and listened for more than half an hour before I had to make one of my frequent rest stops in my bathroom. I was already awake so I decided to sit here at the computer and discuss my reaction to one of the questions and her response.
A rabbi asked former Secretary of State Clinton a question which I will try to condense for purposes of what I’m writing. The question was how she would go about moderating the ego inherent in winning and holding such a powerful position with the humility that some citizens expect.
Her answer was appropriate but I don’t remember what she said because she talked for quite a while, as candidates are wont to do when they have an audience, and my short-term memory isn’t very good these days. Also, if you watch and listen to politicians you will have noticed that they use a lot of words, none of which amount to an actual commitment to a position. They leave plenty of room to act in ways we didn’t expect when we voted for them. But those three sentences are not what this is about.
I pondered the question and candidate Clinton’s answer and something dawned on me, something which perhaps dawned on you much sooner. It may have dawned on me years ago but managed to get filed away in hidden brain drawers that I no longer can access.
The power that can exaggerate the ego really isn’t a power inherent in the person who wields it. It is power that comes with a position, not power that the person brings into a position. People who exercise power in elected offices, therefore, are wielding power that we have given them. It is the power of the office, not of the person. I think most people who hold office forget that. They start believing that they hold a personal power. They tend to forget that they represent us, not rule us.
I’ve seen that phenomenon in government employees in top positions. The “adoration” they get when they go into the field and interact with lower-level employees, or the obeisance when they visit private companies which have received funding through the government office can inflate their heads and make them feel very powerful. They must be in for a letdown when they leave office and realize that no one really gives a damn about them anymore.
I know that no presidential candidate can say things like this but just once I would love to hear one steal a quote from my book. It is a quote of something Bill Ryan said to an uppity person trying to decide if Bill was worthy of being shown into the boss’s office. She finally got around to asking who he was and Bill replied, “I’m Bill Ryan, just as common as cat shit.”
If you are concerned about your ego, about getting too big for your britches, if you’ll just remember what Bill said and apply it to yourself, ego stops being an issue.
Thoughts on Background Check for Gun Buyers
Jan. 6, 2016
I see lots of posts about how people will not let the government take away their guns. I wouldn't either. But I'm not aware of the government proposing to take my guns away.
I also see people sharing that old bromide, "If you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns," as if it were a profound, original statement. I remember writing that very line back in the late '60s or early '70s when I was doing quite a bit of outdoor writing (as well as quite a bit of all kinds of writing) at the Cairo Evening Citizen. I thought it was an original, profound statement back then, but I'm sure it was neither.
You could turn it around to "If you don't outlaw guns, more outlaws will have guns," and it would be as vacuous as the original.
I think the second amendment refers to the right to bear arms, not to a right of unrestricted purchase of them. If requiring background checks at gun shows etc., keeps even one firearm out of the hands of someone inclined to use it to kill someone else, the little bit of inconvenience has been justified.
President Obama has not ordered or proposed the taking away of guns. Some people object in a knee-jerk way to all efforts to reduce deaths by firearms. They probably also would object to being called pro-murder or pro-violence, yet they resist every attempt to reduce the killings and woundings. They like to say that such laws won’t work because some people won't obey the law. If that is the criterion for having a law then we might as well cancel laws making murder a crime, and all other laws as well.
No, I'm not willing to give up my guns and since no one has asked me to, that's an easy position to take. I am willing to accept a bit more inconvenience if ever I should decide to purchase another gun. However, the three I already have seem to more than cover any use I might have. My guns don't kill people ... or ducks. Like some folks say, guns don't kill people, people kill people. Yes, someone's finger needs to be on the trigger, so the laws are aimed at the people with fingers. I'm okay with that.
Basketball Bladder and Serenity Pads
December 24, 2015
My cousin Barbara Tilley Moss invited me to her house tonight to have Christmas Eve dinner with various relatives. Barbie – that’s what I call her – grew up in the house where I now live in Monkey’s Eyebrow. She lives now on old Highway 60 next to another cousin, Gary Davis, and his Lawn Tamers business. That’s not too far from the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and Mansfield Auto Parts. Leigh’s Barbecue is also just up the road.
Barbie said I could bring a wrapped gift if I wanted to participate in a Dirty Santa gift swap after we ate.
She had to explain what a Dirty Santa exchange is. Each person who brings a wrapped gift draws a number. The person with the number 1 gets to pick one of the gifts. The person with number 2 can either pick a gift or steal the gift number 1 chose. And so it goes as each person gets a choice between gift or theft. No gift may be chosen more than three times.
After several choices and thefts, I wound up with a bag of 36 Tena Serenity Pads of ultimate absorbency potency, which – according to the package – provide discreet bladder protection and contain the Oda Plus ingredient which helps control odors.
I think some people felt sorry for me but as I was leaving I told Barbie that the time is drawing near when I will appreciate the pads. That’s because I have the condition known as Basketball Bladder.
“What’s Basketball Bladder?” she asked.
I told her, “That’s when you dribble down the floor at top speed (which isn’t all that fast at my age) and hope you reach the goal before time runs out.” Enlarged prostate assures me that the use of pads lies in the near future.
“Besides,” I added, “with the odor control function I can wear one under each arm instead of buying deodorant and put one in each shoe to keep my feet smelling fresh.”
Ahhh, youth is a terrible thing to lose.
Trading jobs for a wall display
Sept. 11, 2015
Please excuse my cynicism but I see no cause for celebration.
The headline over a story in today’s Paducah Sun tells us, “D.C. wall display showcases key piece of Paducah history.”
Apparently a bunch of folks went to Washington Thursday to watch the unveiling of a wall display about the history of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The display is on a fifth floor wall at the Department of Energy’s headquarters, the Forrestal Building. (By the way, I remember when I was a kid, we called it the Kevil plant.)
The story calls this a highlight of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual trip to D.C.
The story says Sandra Wilson, chamber president, said the display will help keep Paducah on the minds of DOE officials as they pass by it each day. She is quoted, "We're one of only four (DOE site) communities to have a display. I'm so proud that our community has been recognized this way."
Well la de dah. The display will help DOE folks keep Paducah on their mind. Meanwhile, we can drive close enough to see part of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and it will help keep the loss of hundreds of high-paying jobs on our minds.
If you’ve ever been in the Forrestal Building, you’ve probably not gone beyond the first floor. You have to have a pass to get in. You have to take elevators to the higher floors. There are lots of displays on the walls. Most DOE folks walk right past those displays and never look. This new one will be noted only on those rare occasions when a visitor from Paducah happens to make it to the fifth floor. Some DOE official can stop in front of the display and point to it and tell the visitor, “We have recognized only four DOE communities, and yours is one of them.”
I don’t know about Sandra Wilson and the other folks who grinned at the unveiling of the display, but I would rather our area had the jobs and DOE could shove the display … well, wherever they shove irrelevant displays.
Monkey’s Eyebrow shows up in lots of places
Sept. 9, 2015
I’m reading Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher book, “Make Me.”
Reacher has gotten off the train in a town named Mother’s Rest, just to find out how it got that name.
Reacher walks around the town, asking merchants about the name. He gets no definitive answers. The attitude seems to be, as we learn on page 32 (which is how far I’ve gotten into the book so far), “There are weird names all over the country. Why single out Mother’s Rest, in a nation with towns called Why and Whynot, and Accident and Peculiar, and Santa Claus and No Name, and Boring and Cheesequake, and Truth or Consequences, and Monkeys Eyebrow, and Okay and Ordinary, and Pie Town and Toad Suck and Sweet Lips?”
I wish the train had stopped in Monkey’s Eyebrow. Unfortunately, we have no tracks and no train. We don’t even have a stoplight.
August 17, 2015
(Note: This was sent to me by e-mail from George Shadoan, former resident of Wickliffe, Kentucky, who lives in Sarasota, Florida. He is the older brother of the late Will Shadoan. This is the second e-mail from him that I’ve posted here.)
At age 82, the attraction of reminiscence is sometimes overpowering. Today, reading more of your remarkable writing, this was the case for me. I walked again up that one sidewalk up the middle of the road leading to the exciting Wickliffe school, sharing the walk with the little noisy mob of boys and girls playing their way to school.
I again used our telephone party line and wondered whether the central operator listened to the entirety of every conversation. Certainly, if you wanted to know anything that was going on, you just called central.
I would have liked to read more detail about the old post office. For me, it somehow conveyed an atmosphere of official efficiency never captured by the new post office.
I was a little surprised that your description of Roscoe Patterson's place omitted any mention of the thriving blacksmith shop across from both Roscoe's place and the old post office. In those days, probably 1937- 1940, many horse drawn wagons flowed into Wickliffe on Saturday night. (Note from Joe: That was before my time, which probably is why I didn’t mention it.) I haven't the words to capture the romantic images retained in my memory.
And I never hear the song "You've Got Trouble" from "The Music Man" without thinking of Sis Phillips’ pool room in the back where I learned to play the game.
I don't know how your writing affects the young readers, but for this aging former resident, it is great beyond words that I can summon.
Thanks for the effort,
Not allowed to give a free plug
July 30, 2014
One of the things I like best about this time of year is that melons are ripe around this region.
The standard for a great watermelon is displayed on signs you’ll see propped against pickup trucks where the beds are full of watermelons. The signs read, “Missouri Melons.”
When I was much younger, you could drive across the Cairo Bridge, take a left over the bridge to Missouri and follow the road toward Charleston. There would be flatbed trucks parked along the way loaded with watermelons.
Sometimes people would be there to take your money – a quarter or 50 cents – but other trucks would have a box with a note to drop your money inside the box. It was an honor system. Might not work today.
How did you know if the watermelon was ripe? Well, if there was a person at the truck he would pull out a pocket knife, one of those three-bladed models, and use the thin blade to “plug” the melon. That involved making a triangular cut through the rind, sticking the sharp point of the blade into the rind and then removing the triangle, exposing some of the underlying red melon. It usually was very red, and confirmed that you had made a good choice.
Just as good as a Missouri melon back then were those from Sand Ridge, between Monkey’s Eyebrow and Oscar. It is as the name implies a ridge of sandy soil, the same kind of sandy soil you find in southeast Missouri, ideal for watermelons and cantaloupes.
I don’t think anyone grows melons there now. Robert Turner may have been the last of several who grew them. He gave up a couple of years ago when we had the high backwater that got into his house, and he moved to La Center. He told me that the most he had ever loaded onto a truck in one day was a thousand melons. Figure 15 or 20 pounds per melon and that’s a lot of lifting.
I buy melons these days mostly at the Farmers Market at La Center. I bought some cantaloupes this morning and while there I brought up the subject of plugging melons. They told me they’re not allowed to do that now, some sort of health regulation.
I wish they could. I know how to choose a good cantaloupe. Pick it up, sniff the end where the vine was attached, and if it smells like a cantaloupe it’s going to be a good one.
I don’t know how to pick out a watermelon. You can smell the end all day and still not learn anything about it. Some people thump the melon, but I don’t know what to listen for and, besides, they mostly sound alike to me.
I don’t think I’ve had a melon since I moved back here that tasted as good as the ones when I was a kid. They don’t seem to be as sweet now. Maybe my memories are bad. Maybe my taste buds have changed. Maybe cutting that triangular plug through the rind made them taste better.
The Arivett Family of Monkey’s Eyebrow And Other Settlers of the Area
(Note: This is based on conversations with Evelyn Hook Arivett and Leroy Arivett on May 21, 2010, and on some e-mails from Evelyn and her daughter, Wilma Hook Romatz, who lives in Michigan.)
Ples and Irene Wildharber Arivett and Ples’ brother Brad weren’t the first people to own a business at Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, but their businesses and their presence in the area are inextricably linked to the history of this small community that sports one of the most unusual names in the United States.
The name is frequently featured in atlas listings of unusual names; it has been the subject of at least two features on National Public Radio, and is featured in two books by author Mark Usler, who came to Monkey’s Eyebrow on May 21 to launch his new book, Hometown Celebrations.
The Arivett name itself is also a bit unusual in that it is consistently spelled Arivett, but is pronounced three different ways within the same family. Most of the members of the family and the people who live in the area pronounce the name as Everett, but Evelyn Arivett Hook, daughter of Ples and Irene, pronounces it as it’s spelled, Ar-i-vett. Evelyn’s younger brother, Leroy, who lives near Chicago, pronounces it Ar-vett, without the “i” sound.
Evelyn Arivett was born at Monkey’s Eyebrow in 1920, the first of four children born to Ples and Irene. Horace, who ran a store at Bandana and who died in Bandana a few years ago, was next. Then came Leroy, and finally Harold, who lives near Atlanta.
The family’s roots in Monkey’s Eyebrow stretch back into the 1800s.
The Wildharbers and Goodleys, Irene Arivett’s family, came to Ballard County in 1903 from Henderson, Kentucky. Ples Arivett’s sister, Maude, told Evelyn that when their great grandfather, Jesse Beeler, came to Ballard County from Tennessee in the early 1840s it was nothing but wilderness. For many years, he and his children all lived in houses along what is now called Monkey’s Eyebrow Road, or state route 473.
“Maudie was quite a colorful character too,” Wilma Hook Romatz, Evelyn’s daughter, remembers, “chewing snuff and spitting into a Calumet baking powder can. She had coal black dyed hair, and a huge diamond ring and red-painted nails. Her language was equally colorful.”
According to Evelyn, “Aunt Maudie said she heard that her grandpa had a whole trunk full of confederate money and her grandma kept trying to get him to change it. He refused, and lost everything after the Civil War was over.”
John William Arivett, Ples Arivett’s grandfather, was born in Virginia but moved to Ballard County in the 1860s. He lived to be 98 and was married three times. He lived in Wickliffe when he died in 1940.
The business history of Monkey’s Eyebrow goes back to before the Arivetts opened their first business, which was a gristmill. A man whose last name was Ray had Ray’s Store at the bottom of the hill, down in an area which some folks call Old Monkey. Later, Guy Borden ran the store. Ples and Irene Arivett lived in a house near that store, on the south side of the road. There are no buildings there today. The area is covered with trees.
Several families lived in the area. Before the road was paved, the old road made a 90-degree turn to the north, opposite what is now Palmore Road, then it curved back toward the west, behind where Jim and Jean Meadors live now. The Arivett Store and most of the residences were northwest of the Meadors’ house. The buildings are no longer there.
Charley Waldon lived across the field (no paved road then) south of the store in the white house where Imogene Alexander lives now.
A family of Beelers lived down the road. Evelyn’s grandfather, John Wildharber, at one time owned the farm due east of the old road, a farm later owned by a Graves family and then by Herman and Pod Tilley, a part of which is now owned by Joe Culver.
According to Evelyn Hook, Wildharber came here from California, lived here two or three years, and then went back. He played in a band, When he came here he built a box that his bass fiddle would fit into. He put the box on the back of the car and brought it here with him.
The house where Charley Waldon’s family lived – where twin brothers Dot and Tot were born – was previously occupied by a family named Moss. Evelyn remembers playing with their daughter, who was about her age.
Some other families who lived in the area were Redferns, Crabtrees and Yanceys. “And there were Turners who lived down there. They used to sell watermelons. Sand Ridge grew the best watermelons,” Evelyn Hook recalls.
“There used to be some Laniers who lived down there. Judy Magee was a Hayden, and when you go by the game reserve entry there and you go on down to that curve, the Haydens lived in the house just on that curve. That’s where Judy and her sister grew up,” Evelyn said.
There was a small school “right over there in front of where that antenna is,” Evelyn said, pointing to the WPSD TV tower. “There used to be a building that was still there. I don’t know if it still is, I haven’t been down that road for a while. The building was still there even after they built that antenna out there.
“It was called Graves School. I would say 25 or 30 children went there. It had been built for a two-room school but we used only one of the rooms. If it was good weather we’d play outside, but if it was bad we could go in there, in the other room, and play games or whatever.
“The teacher that we had was real good to read to us. We used to have box suppers and she would use the money that we made from the suppers and other activities to buy books and things to entertain the kids. I love books still, and I’m sure I got it from her. Her name was Laura Lee Holt.”
The Monkey’s Eyebrow children went to high school at Bandana. There were no school buses then, but Howard Owsley, Joe Owsley’s dad, took a two-ton flatbed truck and converted it into a bus. It was closed in, with benches around the walls and a bench down the middle. It also had windows.
“He charged us 10 cents a day,” Evelyn recalls. “He would take us to Bandana and then pick us up at the end of the day. There were 15 or 20 people who rode it. He started at Needmore and drove all around the area picking up children.”
Before he built the gristmill which he and his brother Brad ran, Ples Arivett worked in California twice. He also worked on Dam 53 when it was being built, when Evelyn was about four or five years old. The Arivett family lived at the bottom of the hill then, in a house just past Ray’s Store.
Leroy Arivett recalls that his father would get up very early in the morning and walk the five miles to where they were building the dam. Because he left before daylight, Ples would carry a lantern. Evelyn said he would walk down to where the wildlife refuge is now, cross a lake and go over to where the dam was. Evelyn says she was born in 1920 and that would have been around 1925.
“And then we went to California in 1926,” Evelyn remembers. “My dad and my uncle were working out in the oilfields. I guess the oil company owned houses and rented them to the people who worked for them. We lived out there in a mountainous area and my dad wouldn’t let me go to school because he said you’ll have to ride the bus and there’s all those winding roads. He was afraid for me to ride the bus. So I didn’t go to school until I was seven years old after we moved back.”
They lived in Paducah for about a year or so and Evelyn’s first year of school was in Paducah. After that, she finished grade school at the Graves School at Monkey’s Eyebrow. That school remained active until it was consolidated with Bandana.
She went away to college at Murray State in the fall of 1938 and I didn’t move back.
The Arivetts did some farming in addition to running their businesses. Wilma taped a conversation with her uncle Horace a few years ago when he talked about the time they raised acres of sweet potatoes during the depression, thinking that they could sell them and make a little bit of money. They found it was going to cost more to ship them than they would get, so they brought them back home and ate them all winter. Horace said he still couldn't look at a sweet potato years later.
The Arivetts’ first business enterprise at Monkey’s Eyebrow was a gristmill operated by brothers Ples and Brad. Evelyn says she was always fascinated with the machinery at the mill. They had a tractor chassis in the back part of the mill. It had a big drive shaft that went all the way across and the motor would run an assortment of pulleys and belts. It had a crusher that crushed the corn and there was another grinder that made meal.
“The mill made a lot of meal,” Evelyn says. “My dad usually did that. The Yopp Seed Company in Paducah would buy bags and let my dad fill them up with meal and they would take them back and sell them with Yopp’s name on the bags.”
About a year after they built the grist mill they started putting groceries in the front part. When Evelyn was about 12, in the early 1930s, the Arivetts built a frame building to house the store, separate from the mill.
There was a set of scales between the store and the mill. Farmers would weigh their loaded trucks before the corn was ground. They would weigh them again when the trucks were empty. The difference was the weight of the corn.
Evelyn remembers that the store had about anything that you would want to buy, except meat because there was no electricity to run a cooler to keep meat.
Later, after the Arivett brothers dissolved their partnership, Ples tore down the frame building and built a new store of blocks in the same location as the first store. Those stores were on top of the hill, a location some people call “New Monkey” to distinguish it from the Ray’s Store that stood at the bottom of the hill. With the advent of electricity, that store was able to sell meat.
The Arivetts ran that store until around 1955 when they retired and moved to Bandana, where Horace already had a store.
By the time the uranium enrichment plant was being built near Kevil in the 1950s, there were 14 people living beside or around the Arivetts’ house and store in Monkey’s Eyebrow.
When the state of Kentucky acquired several of the lakes in the area, Ples fixed up rooms to rent to hunters. “He was always looking for ways to make more business,” Evelyn says.
Evelyn moved away in 1938 to go to college at Murray State. She married Harold Hook in 1942, and they lived in McCracken County, but came back to Monkey’s Eyebrow often to visit her family.
She and Harold had a store for about three years in Camelia, where the road from the Paducah Airport intersections with Highway 62.
Ples Arivett died in 1975, and Irene lived until 1999. She was 96 years old.
Comments from readers
Here are some comments from people who have read this article:
Billy Lanier: “The Laniers mentioned in your article were my grandparents, Wallace and Alice Lanier. New Hope Baptist Church sits on land given by my granddaddy.”
Mary Helen Hicks: “The Barnhill family are the ones who lived closer to Monkey’s Eyebrow and raised watermelon, right in front of Mrs. Redfern. Their son is my brother-in-law, married to my youngest sister.”
Ava Magee Siener: “How nice. I go to read about the Arivett family and come across a mention of my mother, Judy Magee.”
Jeanne Culver Thorpe: “This is a great article. I love the genealogy.”
Joe’s Place not just a website,
It’s a memory exchange
May 4, 2015
(Note: This was sent to me by e-mail from George Shadoan, former resident of Wickliffe, Kentucky, who lives in Sarasota, Florida.)
Let me start by asking you to pass along best wishes to old friend Shirley Williamson with whom I lost contact about half a century ago.
My discovery of your site yesterday was like finding a long lost diary full of forgotten names and memories.
My name is George Shadoan. I graduated from Wickliffe High School in 1951. But the names and events in your writings that are most exciting are those dating from my elementary school years.
God knows how many hours I idled away in Bill Ryan's service station with the characters you resuscitate so well. I congratulate your writing style and stand in awe of your incredible memory. Gladys Haynes indeed. I still remember my first day in her class and how much more some of my fellow students knew. Some of the girls could actually read.
My brother, Will Shadoan, was probably well known to you. My last trip to Wickliffe was in 2010 to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. What I would not give to have the opportunity to relive some of the memories excited by your writing. I would like to ask him if he remembers Billy Bob's heroic throw over the courthouse dome to Bill Weaver's waiting glove.
And to just take all those old half forgotten names and go through them one by one. I had not read or heard of Charlie Pott for over 60 years.
As Bob Hope sang, "Thanks for the memories!"