By Hazel Craft - 2001
In 1935 I graduated from Henry Clay High School and started making arrangements to find a college, where I could get my teacher's training, a big goal in my life. I was accepted at Transylvania College with a scholarship and the chance to stay with a family with two small children for my board. Accidentally, I heard of Alice Geddes Lloyd and the Caney Jr. College at Pippa Passes, Kentucky, in Knott County, where I could work my way.
Then and there I decided that was where I wanted to go. I then wrote Alice Geddes Lloyd and explained my circumstance; that I had been orphaned at eight years old, sent to the Odd Fellows Home at Lexington when I was ten, and that I had completed 11 grades in eight and one-half years in the Lexington school system. I did this by skipping grades and doubling up. I told her that my greatest desire was to be a teacher. I told her I had no money to attend the larger colleges and that I was very interested in her little college (now Alice Lloyd College). She accepted me, and in September 1935, I started my college days.
Now when I think of my college days, no other school of higher learning can compare with what I gained from this secluded little college nestled between two hills in Knott County.
I did go to the Caney Jr. College (now Alice Lloyd College) in the fall of 1935. I knew nothing about the college, except what I had heard from others. I had the idea that I could get off the bus, catch a taxi, and drive up to the college. Was I ever fooled!
I caught the Greyhound Bus at Keck, Kentucky, where Sylvester Howard lived. From there I rode to Hazard, where I caught a little bus going toward Hindman. I inquired at the bus station how to get to Caney Jr. College. The lady informed me to go through Hindman and get off at Molly Gayheart's Store. Was I ever in for a rude awakening!
There was no available taxi, just a three or four mile trek up a dirt road to a hill, which overlooked Caney Valley. Here I was with a large, heavy, metal suitcase, which was impossible for me to carry. It so happened that a good samaritan, Clive Akers, was making the same journey as I. He carried my suitcase the whole distance. Recently, I told his sister, Ruby Akers, how I appreciated her brother. The older I get the more I appreciate Clive Akers.
After we crossed the hill, we stopped to rest at Sam Allen's place. His son was Woodrow Allen, the registrar at the college. Later in life I met with Woodrow. In fact, he paid us a visit at Caney, in Morgan County, not long before he died. He made two remarks that I'll always remember: "If my dad had known we were related, he would have loved you to death;" and "two things I remember about you were that you were from Sky, Kentucky, and had made such good grades in the Lexington school system."
From Sam Allen's place we could get a view of Caney Valley. It seemed the hills almost touched. Anyway, snuggled among these hills were the buildings of the Caney Creek Community Center. I don't know what I was expecting, certainly not the crude buildings on each side of Caney Creek that had been constructed out of native materials by the men and boys of the area. These Caney Creek citizens became interested in the works of Alice Geddes Lloyd, who was making every effort to supply an education for the eager mountain boys and girls.
At first, I didn't think I could take it. In fact, I packed my suitcase twice to leave. Thank the Lord that didn't happen. One thing in particular almost caused me to go home was that June Buchanan, Mrs. Lloyd's assistant, posted my name on the bulletin board with three zeros for being out of uniform. My mother had made my uniforms; she had put two yards instead of three in the skirts.
In six weeks time, I had gained several pounds on the starchy diet and had certainly outgrown my original uniforms. I was desperate, I didn't know what to do. I went to Mrs. Lloyd and related my story. I told her that June had given me three zeros for being out of uniform, and I had no way of getting uniforms that would fit me.
I told her, "The only thing I know is to pack up and head for Sky, Kentucky."
She made no remark, and I walked to the girls' dormitory and began packing. In a short time, I saw Della Litteral with two nice, new uniforms across her arm, walking toward me with the remark, "Mrs. Lloyd sent these to you."
How relieved I was! By this time I had become acquainted with the primitive conditions and had become closely connected with students from Appalachia, who were just as interested as I was to get an education. From these girls, many lifetime friendships developed.
I kept thinking to myself how fortunate I was that Mrs. Lloyd had come to my rescue, and I wouldn't have to leave. I walked over to her office. She was always available. We felt free to enter her office and discuss our problems at anytime. Anyway, I walked up to her office. She saw me standing at the open door and invited me to come in. I thanked her for the uniforms.
She made the remark, which left a lasting impression on me, "I didn't want you to leave." These precious words have stuck with me all these years.
Another thing I remember about Mrs. Lloyd was that we were supposed to pay $10 each semester as a goodwill offering. When I would offer her my $10 she would say, "I don't want your money." She knew how poor I was.
Just recently, Jane Collett and I visited the college on Appalachian Day. Seeing what has been accomplished since I was a student there in 1935-37 is almost unbelievable; no more crude classrooms and no more water pumps. It was almost like walking into another world with modern dormitories, a modern administration building, a modern dining room, and a modern alumni building; so many improvements, it's hard to enumerate them all.
While walking on the campus, viewing the great improvements, my mind drifted back to Alice Lloyd and her mother making the long trip from Boston, Massachusetts, to this remote section of Appalachia in 1916, via horse and buggy. How two women made the trip I'll never understand. Doctors in Massachusetts had informed Mrs. Lloyd she should seek a warmer climate due to her crippling condition caused by polio.
They came to an abandoned cottage across the hill from Caney Creek. It was at this location, a poor, illiterate man from Caney Creek told the women he would give them a piece of land, if they would move to Caney Creek and start a school to educate the unfortunate, deprived children. So Mrs. Lloyd and her mother moved to the shack on the present-day campus. This cabin is still standing.
On my recent visit, I walked through the two-room shack and viewed the original belongings of the two women. I also walked up the hill where Mrs. Lloyd, her mother, and June Buchanan are buried with a native stone for a monument. As I stood there viewing the three graves, many thoughts flashed through my mind of what these three women had contributed to the youngsters of Eastern Kentucky, especially what Alice Geddes Lloyd meant to me. She has certainly been a great inspiration to me.
Many, many thanks to Mrs. Lloyd; I'll never forget you. It's impossible to give all the details of what Mrs. Lloyd meant to Eastern Kentucky. Several books have been written about her contributions to educating future leaders. One book in particular, Stay On Stranger, is one of the better accounts of the life and times of Alice Geddes Lloyd at the Caney Creek Community Center.
As the saying goes, half has never been told.
To make a long story short, I graduated from Caney Jr. College as a full-fledged teacher. At that time a teacher's certificate could be secured with two years of college. My first teaching job was at the Mudlick School in Breathitt County, Kentucky. The next year, I taught at the Clear Fork School (my home school) on Frozen, in Breathitt County.
After I married in 1938, I taught for 25 years in Morgan County and two years in Letcher County, where we ran the Mountain Haven Children's Home, making 29 years of teaching in Kentucky. Then I taught 13 years in Sellersburg, Indiana, before retiring in 1982. My substitution days were cut short when Wardie, my husband, became ill five years before his death on February 28, 1998.
Coming back to my college days, I didn't get my AB degree from Morehead State College until 1949. Wardie and I graduated together. Soon I started working on my Master's degree, which I received in 1959. After that I earned ten more hours at Morehead State University and 23 hours at Indiana University; totaling 33 hours above my Master's degree.
One of the mottoes I gained at the Harrison School, in Lexington, was, "I won't quit school until I get through." I was now satisfied that I had reached my goal.
Author's Note: If you readers would like to find out more about Wardie and my struggles through our almost 60 years of married bliss, you can purchase, The Life and Times of Wardie and Hazel Bach Craft, Memory Hill, A Dream Come True. Anyone interested can contact me. Price of the book is $20, plus $3 S/H. Tilden Bach also has a wealth of material on Wardie and my ancestors, including Bachs, Crafts, Taulbees, Carpenters, Caudills, Stidhams, Fields, Fletchers, and many more connections in this book.
Hazel Craft, 89 Memory Hill Lane, West Liberty, KY 41472, shares her story and photos with our readers.