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The story of how Daddy got a job: By David L. Ray 2-25-1999

Daddy was out of work at the time, I think he had been laid off from the Clay Pit at Pryorsburg, Ky. It was in 1947. We were living at the "Red House" on West North Street in Mayfield, Ky. and I suppose he was drawing unemployment while he looked for a job. I was 9 years old. It was winter, and we lived a short walk of about a half block from the railroad yard where the coal was unloaded and taken in trucks to the coal yards.
Dad was down there picking up coal that had been spilled or dropped from the rail cars and coal trucks, to burn in our heater at home. Mr. James A. Wheatley, owner of Wheatley Coal and Ice Company came along and saw what Dad was doing. At first Dad was afraid he would have him arrested or run him away from the tracks, but Mr. Wheatley instead offered him a job! He went to work for Wheatley, hauling coal in the Winter and water in the Summer. He hauled water to people who had cisterns in those days instead of wells. He also hauled water to the dirt race track on the Saturday nights that they had races. Between races he spread water on the track to hold the dust down. I think he was earning $36.00 per week. I know that is the amount he was making for many years. I still marvel when I think how Mom made that $36.00 stretch the way it did, with four kids to feed, clothe, and educate! Daddy worked there many years, I wish I could say how many, until Mr. Wheatley closed the coal yard. He later worked for Mr. Wheatley again when he was in charge of the Mayfield Housing Authority. Dad did maintenance work, from mowing to painting. Note; some of the facts in this story are but a dim memory to me, and may be remembered differently by others in the family, but the basic story is accurate.
Dec 01, 2002 · Reply
Written by David Lee Ray on Jan. 21, 1999:
One of my early memories is of the times our family would go to see "Pappy and Mammy" Ray. I remember in particular a time we went in the winter, and we didn't have a car. It was about 35 miles from Mayfield, Ky. to where they lived, outside Cottage Grove, Tenn. We made it O.K. hitch-hiking until we had to turn off the Paris Road toward Cottage Grove. It seems like we finally got a ride to Cottage Grove, but by then it was dark. There was snow on the ground, and we had to walk the remaining 3 miles or so of gravel road. It was my parents, myself, and my brother Wesley who was very young and had to be carried a lot of the way. I think he was about 2 and I was about 6. I remember it was bitter cold. In those days very few people out in the country had telephones. I suppose Mom had written and told them we were coming, but I'm not sure of that. At any rate, no one came to pick us up, no cars passed, and we walked the entire way from Cottage Grove. (Note to the reader, please do not think me crude in reporting the following, it is a very vivid memory to me.) I remember as we all walked along my Daddy needed to relieve himself, and he did so, while walking along!
When we finally arrived we went to my Aunt Lottie and Uncle Bulon Bell's house across the road from my grandparents. I don't remember now if my grandparents had gone to bed before we arrived, so don't know why we went to Aunt Lottie's instead of their house. I remember they had a big fireplace in the "front" room, which served as a living and bedroom. There was a large fire in the fireplace, and with no insulation in the house and the cold weather outside the fire wasn't able to keep even that one room good and warm. We would stand in front of the fire and warm our front side, then turn around and warm our backside!
I seem to remember the bedroom we slept in that night was upstairs, and very cold. I think we all four got in one bed, under a lot of homemade quilts and a feather bed, and kept each other warm.
Another time we visited Mammy and Pappy I remember I had expected to have milk on the table at "dinner", which we call lunch now. We were poor and seldom had milk at home, but my aunt and uncle had cows, and they had always had milk before. I don't remember how old I was, but do remember when they told me there was no milk I cried, loud and long. It seems that somehow they found me some milk!
One more thing that stands out in my memory was the time one of Daddy's co-workers who had a car, and who happened to be black, carried us to see my grandparents. At dinner time he sat down at the same table with us to eat. This was in the 1940s, before there was any movement toward integration, and the word "nigger" was very commonly used. I remember when the black man came to the table Pappy Ray welcomed him, saying something like " you can eat at my table any time you bring Alvis and them to see us, I've ate with niggers before". The man sat and ate, and seemed to be honored rather than offended!
Copyright 1999 David L. Ray
Dec 01, 2002 · Reply