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Smile Awhile
Sara Blair


Last Saturday evening my husband asked me to get dressed because he was taking me out to dinner. Excited about the prospect of dining out I got ready and off we started in the direction of Lexington. I was thinking about all the restaurants he might be taking me to when he turned right off 460 close to the Magoffin/Johnson County line.
Somewhat puzzled by his change of direction, we soon came to a stop in the parking lot of the old Oil Springs High School.
“Don’t tell me we’re going to make out,” I said, drolly. “Nope, we’re going to the OSCAR (Oil Springs Cultural Arts and Recreation Center). They are having a dinner theater whodunit tonight and I thought you’d enjoy it.”
Actually, I did know where we were going because we had been anticipating this for weeks. And we weren’t disappointed.
The meal was as good as any 5-Star restaurant complete with stuffed pork chops, scalloped potatoes, green beans, and corn on the cob. (Hor’d’oeuvres and a tomato bisque were served first while a desert to die for —- brownie cake, with chocolate syrup, ice cream and a cherry —- topped off the grand fare). My Granny Wheeler was an old Oil Springs resident who learned to cook in that vicinity, and these women were just  as good as she ever was.
While we were dining, actors from the murder mystery mingled with the diners and talked about the murder that had occurred in a factory owned by a family called “Buttersballs.” (I thought that was great in keeping with the Thanksgiving spirit).
At this point, I wish I had kept my Playbill so that I could give you the names of the actors, but true to form, I forgot mine on the table. However, Terry Salyer and his cast of characters once again delighted us with their acting abilities and made the entire evening an enjoyable experience.
The OSCAR is a “diamond in the rough” so to speak. Local artisans and devoted residents from throughout the county have worked hard to renovate the old high school building and they have been very successful. This is the second play we have seen there and both times we have enjoyed it. And it’s in our own backyard.
I’m not going to name names because I will surely forget some of them and none of these people need to left out. Too much hard-work and love has gone into this endeavor. I just want them all to know how impressive it was and we look forward to their next production in February. But seating is limited, so don’t delay when you hear the “buzz” about their next dinner show.
Please look into all the events and find out about the workshops (pottery, quilting, painting, etc.) that go on at the OSCAR. You might find something you’d like to do there and you will be welcomed.
Have a great Thanksgiving and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!

Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

Thanksgiving: A personal holiday

As wonderful as the holiday season is, when you reach a certain age it becomes a bit bitter sweet because there are just too many memories of how it used to be. Couple that with the stark realization that those happy times of our youth can never come again, and one cannot help but wax a tad nostalgic.
I guess the first time I ever became aware of Thanksgiving was when our teacher started telling us about the Indians and the pilgrims all getting together for a big meal and stuff. From that first banquet in a clearing in the woods, of course, comes our traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  However, there are a couple of differences between then and now, the first being that after stuffing themselves, the Indians and pilgrims couldn’t sit and watch a football game on TV … before dozing off.
Another thing that was apparently quite different is turkey. Somewhere along the way turkey has become our food of choice. However, historians are convinced that in the days of the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, turkeys were not in great abundance and probably didn’t grace the table when the Indians came to dinner.
Of course, even if turkey was chosen on a false belief, I’m perfectly okay with it. I mean, it could have been worse. Like what if folks today were under the impression that John Alden and Pricilla could have found nothing to throw in the pot except a puny little squirrel or a groundhog? Would we still have preferred the “traditional” fare of our founding fathers? I can just imagine that when I was a kid and everybody had finished eating and wandered away from the table to do whatever we did after eating in those days, Mom yelling, “Anybody want any more of this ‘possum gravy before I clear the table?”
All this silly stuff aside though, other than the scrumptious meal that awaits us tomorrow, we all have many more important things on our minds. If we were asked to list ten things for which we’re most thankful, as likely as not, except for family, good health and our freedoms, no two people’s list would be the same.
After all, thankfulness is a personal thing as is people’s perception of the holiday itself. I’ve always enjoyed poet Langston Hughes’ thoughts on the subject as he wrote in 1921 in a verse he simply called “Thanksgiving Time.”
When the night winds whistle through the trees and blow crisp brown leaves a-cracklin down, When the autumn moon is big and yellow-orange and round, When old Jack Frost is sparkling on the ground, It’s Thanksgiving time.
When the pantry jars are full of mince-meat and the shelves are laden with sweet spices for a cake, When the butcher man sends up a turkey nice and fat to bake, When the stores are crammed with everything ingenious cooks can make, It’s Thanksgiving time.
When the gales of coming winter outside your window howl, When the air is sharp and cheery so it drives away your scowl, When one’s appetite craves turkey and will have no other foul, It’s Thanksgiving time.
And of course, my own list of thankfulness would most certainly include thanking you for reading this column over the years and for all the support you’ve given me.
From Wilma Jean and me, have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Education and Common Sense
It’s time to plan for Thanksgiving dinner

When I married Harold Rice in 1950, I found that he was a member of a very supportive school faculty. He taught Drafting at Mayo State Vocational School in Paintsville, and the Faculty Club was active. One of their activities was a Christmas Potluck Dinner to which all faculty families were invited. The food was spectacular.
One of the dishes that I particularly enjoyed was Cranberry Salad, which had been brought to the dinner by Irene Vance, one of the secretaries in the office, Her husband was the proprietor of a barbershop in downtown Paintsville, She gladly shared the recipe with me, and I think I must have made it for Thanksgiving and Christmas as long as I had a kitchen. It used to be a pain to make when I had to grind the cranberries with a hand-powered food chopper, but it was infinitely easier once I became the owner of a blender. This year my daughter Cathy has already made two dishes full of the recipe to take to two different potluck affairs she plans to attend.
This is the recipe for

4 cups cranberries,( ground in food chopper or blender)
2 cups sugar
2 cups crushed pineapple (Number 2 can)
2 red apples (chop with peeling) (You have to do this with a knife- blender won’t do)
2 oranges, seeded (ground up with peeling)
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 family-sized package of orange Jell-O
1 family-sized package of red raspberry Jell-O
4 cups boiling water
2 packages Knox Unflavored Gelatin dissolved in
1 cup cold water
Check cranberries for soft or rotten ones. Grind cranberries and oranges. Add sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients. Dissolve the Jell-O in the boiling water and the Knox Gelatin in the cold water. Add the dissolved gelatins to the rest of the ingredients. Put in decorative dish you plan to serve it in. Refrigerate. This makes a 9”x 13” Pyrex dish full. I always enjoyed serving it with turkey and dressing at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
(You need to make this a day or two before the company comes so you can get the kitchen cleaned up before they get there.)
The above recipe comes from my cookbook, “Common Sense Cooking” (for the cook on the run) that I published in 2002. It is a 63-page collection of about 70 favorite recipes that I have invented, adopted or adapted for my own use and for my many library assistants that grew up, got married, and invited me to their wedding showers. It is written so that the most inexperienced cook can follow the recipes. If you can cook, it’s a funny book. If you can’t cook, it’s a survival guide.
The price is still $5 plus $1.50 postage. My address is 901 Blankenbaker Pkwy. #2114, Louisville, KY 40243. It’s a useful, inexpensive gift that almost any cook will appreciate.
I hope you try my cranberry salad recipe this holiday season. I would appreciate hearing how well your guests liked the dish.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgivings blessings for which I am

Soon and very soon, another Thanksgiving will be upon us. Individually and collectively, we will celebrate the day for what is our own good and various reasons. Mostly, though, this dinner will supposedly be eaten in memory of those pilgrims who came to begin this new country. That long ago November, winter was upon the immigrants, and there being no crops laid by to feed them, they were in imminent danger of starving.
Even so, they persevered, made a communal dinner with what little food they had, giving thanks to the one and only Almighty God that, having survived a difficult sea voyage, they were still alive, and by God’s help, would endure. We all know the story of how natives already living here came, bringing food of their bounty to share with the newcomers; food harvested from nature’s growing, some taken from the forests around them. This must have seemed like ambrosia to the pilgrims, filling their hearts and their bellies with a blessing of gratefulness.
In our so-called modern world, having a big Thanksgiving dinner is a tradition to which we still cling. We have our favorite foods, which will usually include either turkey, ham or a rump roast, or in my family, all three. This is because some of my children like one thing, some another. Covering all my bases, I fix them all. And yes. I still cook our family’s Thanksgiving Dinner. I know very well that if I cook it, my children, my grandkids, even the great grandkids (who can), will come. For this blessing I am thankful.
Now I am the first to tell you that I am not one of those great, pretensive cooks like those on the Food Network. I like food that tastes what it is, its flavor not altered by additives and/or the herbs they have tried to brainwash us into using. I like turkey with the skin crisp and browned, the meat inside it well done but still moist and tender. I like ham that tastes like ham, and not pineapple or cloves or any other such thing; just ham that is made with a little apple cider vinegar or even a can of ginger ale poured into the bottom of the pan it bakes in, keeping it moist and deliciously tender.
I myself do enjoy a beef roast, liking the gravy made from its juices so brown and rich. However, when it comes to the dressing that we serve with our turkey, I can never get enough sage in it to satisfy my family, who really love stuffing.
For myself, I prefer the recipe for turkey dressing that Brenda Jarrell gave me. I once tried this out on my family. They tasted it and then asked what I had done to the dressing. When I told them that I was trying out a new recipe, they adamantly declared that they liked it best the way I used to do it. This just proves that our children tend to prefer those foods they are used to, and Mom’s is always the best. I have even had my daughters tell me; “When I make this it doesn’t taste the same as yours.” I smile, remembering when I used to say the same thing to my own mother. So if I ever get to have any of Brenda’s good stuffing it will have to be at some church potluck dinner where she is, and knowing how I love her dressing, she will make sure I get my share.
It is unfortunate that even as we prepare for our coming repast, we realize that not every family has the means to make the foods they might wish to have for this holiday dinner, and my heart is grateful for those organizations that strive to rectify this lack. In addition, there are those who are no longer able to do the labor involved in this undertaking. Yet here and there are those who will take a plate of food to some shut in. God knows all about it, and will bless every cup of water given in His name
For myself in a kind of nostalgic counting of my own blessings I think of the many thanksgiving dinners I have eaten at my mothers table, in those days when she was the heart of our home. After all these years memories of those dinners are just as clear in my mind as they ever were, and for this I am thankful.
I am also thankful that unlike it was for the pilgrims, while we might live in a land filled with turmoil, the ingredients for our thanksgiving dinners are just as close as the nearest grocery. This too, is one of our blessings.
I wonder. Do we ever really take time to count our blessings? Are we even half as thankful as the pilgrims were? Bottom line? Have you ever considered that in fact, we all are pilgrims? We seek a land not made by man, to a home eternal where there are no taxes, death or inhumanity, no slaughter and no night. For Christ Himself will be the light of that land. Thus, and until we blast off to that desired homeland, it behooves us to live our lives the best way we can. On Thursday next, then, we will gather into our individual homes, to a table that we hope will hold some of our favorite things to eat. I hope we will all say our prayers of Thankfulness to the God who sees us all, knows us all, this then being one of our many blessings.

Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

Some old memories still ring a bell

When the tipple was idle and no sound of any consequence was present on those long-ago Sunday mornings; when the familiar clear, rich peal from the bell tower of the old Free Will Baptist Church echoed through the little community and bounced off the surrounding hillsides, it was like even the dogs stopped barking and birds stopped singing long enough to listen. I don’t know how far the sound would reach, but you could sure hear it loud and clear at our house.
 Along about the summer of my tenth year, I was fortunate enough to become part of the bell-ringing ritual as I proudly accompanied Dad, who was one of the church’s deacons and whose job it was to ring the bell 30 minutes before services were to begin, then again just as they were ready to start.
 He’d never let me pull that long seagrass rope that was looped around a large nail just inside the entrance, but I’d stand next to him and stare at the ceiling to see the movement that sent out the four-or-five minute message to the whole community.
I’d then park myself outside on the top step and watch to see if anyone had gotten the message. Without fail, within a minute or two, folks would start to drift, one or two at a time, toward where I was sitting. The women, some of the older ones having donned a clean apron and all smelling of fresh powder, Juicy Fruit gum and Evening in Paris cologne — and often with a kid in tow who obviously would rather have been anywhere else in the world — would quickly enter the building and take their seat, usually on the exact same pew week after week. The men, on the other hand, would loiter outside, many waiting until the last minute while they smoked one more cigarette or gave one more chomp to the chaw of Red Man in their jaws before spitting them into their hands and tossing them aside.
Somewhere along the way, I heard someone say that the big bell that alerted worshipers to the little white clapboard church house – and still rings in the far recesses of my mind – had at one time been part of a steamboat that navigated the Levisa Fork in the late 1800s. I guess I pretty much always accepted that as fact since I’d also heard that riverboats were certainly bountiful on the Big Sandy half a century or more before I was born.
Anyway, when I was “helping” Dad ring the church bell, I was of the opinion that it was indeed the ringing of the bell that caused people to come to church; that without the bell, the preachers would have had to deliver their fire and brimstone sermons to empty pews instead of a row or two of squirmy boys and girls sitting with their mommies and being convicted by the fiery words.
I’m sure there are still many old country church congregations in Eastern Kentucky whose bell rings an invitation on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. And although I no longer believe that my helping ring the church bell sixty-five years ago had anything at all to do with filling a dozen or so pews, I believed it then and still enjoy the memory.

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