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March 31, 2018

Growing up in Louisa – Easter!   

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

As a child this special weekend used to be all about kids getting new ‘Easter’ clothes, getting chocolate Easter bunnies (loved to bite off the ears!), a basket full of Easter eggs, cellophane grass, and lots of jelly beans. It was a time that most families would go to church and thereby swell the ranks of parishioners by twice again the normal crowd. Special music would be presented by the choir and the preacher’s sermon was sure to tell about Christ’s resurrection. There would be with hymns of praise in thankfulness for the salvation obtained for us by Jesus’s death on the cross.

 I’ve seen it snow on Easter and I’ve seen it when it was warm. I know that some churches band together to hold a consolidated sunrise service, often on the banks of a river, lake or sea. This allows for us to watch the sun break above the horizon. We could feel the light and warmth of the rising sun even on the chilly mornings. With our faces lit, we hugged and prepared to make this the best Easter ever. This practice is based upon the Gospel narrative that tells us it was early in that first Easter morning when they found the tomb was empty. He had risen! Indeed, Christ is risen! Churches have long celebrated with a ‘sun (son) rise’ service. Today, I’m afraid that many of us have rolled over in bed knowing full well it was time for our feet to hit the floor. With a little encouragement we finally stir and join the new day. After all, getting up early once a year isn’t all that hard. Most of the time we joined the choirs in their singing and listened to the preachers retell the story. Once the service has ended and the sun was clearly up, we rushed home to get into our Easter best for the main service later in the day.

Easter is also a time of visits with extended family members coming in from out of town. Surely the social notices in the little weekly paper would be full of people visiting families and friends. Kids would be home from college and would see their cousins, or their friends after a long winter’s absence. Of course, along with many kinds of political correctness, the Easter break has become ‘Spring Break.’ Along with that ‘off-topic’ approach came the headaches of parents trying to keep kids in the family celebrations and away from Florida’s beaches. That struggle continues to the point that expectations are that college kids (and some high schoolers) would rather party in the tropics rather than join in the religious celebrations on Easter Sunday morning. We have thrown God out of our schools and turned to hedonistic wanderings, yet we wonder why evil is so prevalent and why mankind has seems to have gone wild.

Easter also means it is time for daffodils and jonquils to bloom. The flower shop are busy suppling the churches and finer homes about town with Easter lilies, perhaps even a tulip or two. Flowers adorn the new dress or suit. Pear trees will have some blossoms but other fruit trees like the pink cherry trees are just starting to turn. Yellow forsythia also blooms. Everything smacks of spring. If we kids were lucky it would be warm enough that day to play outside. We’d waited a long time to break out our ball mitts, or to ride our bikes. Like the preacher points out, Easter is about ‘new life.’

 Little girls would be out in their new pastel dresses. Some would dress up their dolls and push the baby strollers up and down the sidewalks. I remember their cute white socks that they wore that had lace or little flowers sewn around the top edge. Their black patent leather shoes, or in some cases, white patent leather shoes, would reflect a shine that no ‘shine-boy’ could ever deliver. (Try to find a shoeshine these days) There would be ribbons for her hair and a flower corsage to pin on the front of the Easter dress. I remember a few little flowery Easter hats, too! It was also fashionable in those days that the girls wear short white gloves, while the ladies wore them up to, or beyond the elbows.

Another memory includes special music, whether hymns or popular songs. You’ll remember the one worded, ‘In your Easter Bonnet, with all the frills upon it…’ That one sang out on the radios telling us all about the Easter Parade on New York’s 5th Avenue. While New York living wasn’t part of our culture the music was. Another song was ‘Here comes Peter Cotton Tail, hopping down the bunny trail.’ Of course, the Easter Parade song was out of a popular movie of the day. I doubt I saw it on its first run, but at some point, I enjoyed the musical right there in the Garden Theater, maybe on an early spring day with some of you.

In church we’d sing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Alleluia,” “Because He Lives,” “He Lives,” and “Christ Arose.” This holiday was second only to Christmas and was a grand time of celebration and augmented by the unusual crowds that showed up at church. There were a few churches that had Easter cantatas or song-fests. The Halleluiah Chorus from the “Messiah” rang out as the congregation rose to join in the singing. Whether in a small country church or a large, towered cathedral, the world that I knew in those days paused to remember the resurrection. In that lies the hope of mankind.      

 An annual occurrence at church, and often again at home, was the big Easter egg hunt. Some years that would mean that the adults would hide the eggs we’d carefully decorated all around the yard. There were years that they were hidden indoors because of mean weather conditions, but we hunted them nonetheless. Some were well hidden enough they wouldn’t be found for days, or weeks. Yuck! Because we were mostly older kids during these times we all hunted at the same time. I remember times when only the younger kids could hunt. Later, the older kids would take the eggs and hide them again for the younger ones. There may have been several cycles of hiding and finding.

I remember the days just prior to Easter when mom had me in the kitchen with the other kids and we’d decorate the eggs. She had already hard-boiled them, so we only had to carefully dip them into the little bowls of different colors that she had concocted. I remember that she used a vinegar base with food coloring, or a kit with tablets of different colors. The kit had a little wire holder that allowed one to dip the eggs into the color without them slipping and falling in. It also kept little fingers out of the mix. I found it fun to experiment with the color selections to get a variety of different results. The kit also had a wax pencil that allowed us to write our names on the eggs prior to dipping them. The color would cover the whole eggs except for the written names. It was basic, but to me it seemed like magic.   

Even with all the excitement, somehow that day also seemed to be a day of peace. We had the big family dinner with all the guests, talking and laughing. I especially enjoyed the desserts and listening to the adults swap stories. Afterward, we found ourselves with heavy eye-lids as we settled on the living room furniture. For some, it was nap time. A few of the adults went out for a spell to visit other friends and relatives. Some settled in their bedrooms, but I just sank deeply into the couch in the front room. Along the way, between church and naptime, we boys lost our neckties, or bow ties, and kicked off our shoes. It was time to just settle back and enjoy feeling good.

Suddenly, there was a commotion! The ladies of the house came up with a brainstorm! Out came the Brownie cameras and back on went the Easter outfits. We were busy crowding around to take pictures of everyone. We sat up in groups, singles, and every way that came to mind. Those snapshots would be developed and shared around, destined to fill the latest album. I have copies of one or two of those that I still look at when I’m feeling nostalgic. I’ve scanned most of those now, so I can pull them out easily from my computer. Man, has that ever changed.

When I do look back, I think that those faces of our youth are haunting. I can see the innocence of youth and the lack of worry or concern, but albums will also show that this would change over time. We were bound to find challenges nearly every day of our lives. It might have been a tough school lesson, making a team, getting a date, going off to school or the military, getting married, having kids, and seeing them marry, too.

 Even as this cycle goes on much remains the same. My family still does Easter egg hunts, goes to church, visits with our grown children and their families, have a big meal, and maybe again wish for that nap. Even though there is a much more important reason for Easter, freely provided for us by the grace of God, we also still cherish those wonderful times with friends and family and those Easter traditions we continue to share together.

Hmmm, now, who took my chocolate bunny?

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March 27, 2018

I do a lot of reading — and often write about — Kentuckians who’ve made a positive difference for our state. One person who I believe often gets overlooked is Catholic priest Father Ralph Beiting, who died at age 88 in 2012. He’s perhaps most easily recognized as the founder, in 1962, of the noted Christian Appalachian Project (CAP), called a “nonprofit, nondenominational organization to help the poor help themselves.” Though known in that special organization and the Catholic Church in the state, I’m not sure that he gets his just due outside those realms.

I doubt if that’s the kind of thing that ever bothered him; I support the idea that he deserves more, however, so I’ll write about him.

Besides the importance of CAP, I find his entire life story highly fascinating. I realized that recently as I perused sources such as The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky and Wikipedia and talked to some people who knew him. For me, he’s certainly a “person of interest” when seeking to understand the rich fabric of the Bluegrass state. During his years on earth, he showed up in different places in Kentucky, always with a “roll up my sleeves and get to work” mentality that he hoped would invigorate those he helped to be empowered. He had a humble influence, and a lasting one.


Father Beiting Father Beiting

Beiting was the oldest of eleven children born to Ralph and Martha Beiting in northern Kentucky during the Great Depression. He attended St. Joseph School in Cold Spring as a child and later Newport Catholic High School. Later, while attending St. Gregory Seminary in Cincinnati, he spent the summer of 1946 in Paintsville, in eastern Kentucky, doing mission work. That experience turned out to be a forerunner of his future life working with economically challenged people in Appalachia.

He was ordained in 1949 and stayed in northern Kentucky as associate pastor at St. Bernard Catholic Church, in Dayton. A year later, Father Beiting was assigned to start a Catholic church in the Madison County town of Berea. But, according to the Encyclopedia, the “declining coal-mining industry, enduring poverty, and pervasive anti-Catholicism made the assignment a difficult undertaking.”

Though not easy, Beiting embraced the opportunity and built an effective mission center in Berea. Then, in 1951, he established St. Clare Catholic Church there. He relied on his many contacts back in northern Kentucky to supply food, clothing, and household goods for the mission.

Several years later, in 1957, he partnered with his associate pastor, Father Herman Kamlage, in founding Cliffview Lodge, a summer boys’ camp located on some land at Herrington Lake in Garrard County. The two used their own money to do so, and the outreach was racially integrated—unusual during the period. Cliffview, according to Wikipedia, “offered recreation and fellowship in a Christian atmosphere to boys from poor families in the counties where Father Beiting ministered…(and was) a success.”

The plan Father Beiting had for CAP when incorporated in 1964 was that the organization should maintain its independence (religious ideals) and rely on private donations rather than federal funding. It “would focus on creating opportunities for people in the region to start self-sustaining businesses that would provide a living for the owners and workers,” noted the Encyclopedia. Along with those stated goals for CAP, he also sought to make available educational services for all ages, and have summer camps and Bible schools. It would foster family growth, if possible.

Today, a key part of CAP’s success is the spirit of volunteering, inspired by Father Beiting’s servant leadership demonstrated in the early days of the organization. People of all faiths and from all parts of the country provide labor, as well as donations, either “in kind” or directly financial. A quick look at CAP’s web site, www.christianapp.org, makes clear that through the instruments of faith, service, and compassion: “We are building hope, transforming lives, and sharing Christ’s love through service in Appalachia.”

Even in his death, Father Ralph Beiting’s legacy is made apparent through the thousands of people CAP touches every day.

Amazingly, Beiting managed to juggle other endeavors while involved with CAP. He served as pastor of parishes in Garrard, Rockcastle, Jackson, and Madison counties until 1981. In 1973, he was involved in a five-year effort to restore Camp Nelson, (supported by CAP), though a fire and weather catastrophes put a stop to the effort, and resources were needed elsewhere. He spent his later years as a pastor (after CAP involvement) much further east, in Louisa, at St Jude Parish, a church he helped start in 1992.


(Photo from Christian Appalachian Project)(Photo from Christian Appalachian Project)

Father Beiting also is remembered as a “street preacher;” Encyclopedia noted that he “brought his street preaching to parishes in northern Kentucky by cruising the Ohio River in a houseboat and making stops along the way on both sides of the river to preach to people who gathered to listen.”

Sandra Koenig, raised in Ft. Thomas but now living in Montgomery, Ohio, recalls a special time as a youth when she was a middle schooler at St. Thomas School: “Father Beiting came to our church to ask for help and donations for the work he was doing in Appalachia,” she explained. “I remember sitting on the pew listening to every word. This was the very first time that my eyes were opened to poverty. I thought, up to then, that everyone lived like I did. He had a way of telling his stories that took (you) right to the area and people he was talking about.”

A family connection to Father Beiting brings these insights to his character. A niece, Donna Beiting Hicks, Cold Spring, shared her remembrances:

“The people of Appalachia were not his ‘job’ or his ‘clients,’ she said. “They were his heart and his soul. It was what he did and who he was. This assignment was not something he was initially thrilled with. But it took very little time to realize those mountains were exactly where he was supposed to be.”

Donna told a few light-hearted stories about her uncle. “’Father Bill’, which is what we all grew up calling him, married my husband and me,” she said. “At our wedding, his homily was 23 minutes long. This was a Catholic mass on a hot July 1 day. Nearly fifteen minutes of his homily he somehow wound back to the people of Appalachia and his mission there. We knew that would probably happen, which is why we timed it just for our curiosity.”

There were two requests Father Beiting made for his funeral, related Donna. One was that his casket be a simple one, not flashy. That was taken care of easily by a family member who made one earlier.

“His other request,” she said, “which my dad had a really hard time with as executor, was that there would be a collection (for Appalachia) during the funeral mass. Everyone, including many of the priests that were there, dug into their pockets. Father Bill would have been thrilled, and was probably giggling up in heaven. He was awesome. Just a genuinely caring guy who would have given the shirt off his back to someone in need.”

I wish I’d had a chance to sit down over a cup of coffee with this man.

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STEVE-FLAIRTY

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

March 26, 2018

Appalachians are storytellers...

 

By Melissa Martin

Self-Syndicated Columnist

Wheelersburg, Ohio 

APPALACHIAN STORY TELLING... PHOTO/ RAY HICKS APPALACHIAN STORY TELLING... PHOTO/ RAY HICKS

Storytelling in Appalachia is as old as the mountains—well, not quite. But before newspapers, radio, television, Internet, and other forms of social media, rural folks gathered together around wood stoves, front porches, hunting campfires, church steps, garden fences, barn dances, quilting circles, general stores, and anywhere country people congregated to hear stories; both fiction and nonfiction tales.

Spoken stories served the purpose of informing, entertaining, educating, sharing, and passing down beliefs, values, and ideas to younger generations. Children learned to listen by listening to storytellers and the stories. Children learned to communicate by retelling stories and creating their own narratives.

Summer Front Porches Shorpy historical photosSummer Front Porches Shorpy historical photosAccording to Ohio Arts Council, “Traditionally, storytelling has been the mechanism for maintaining a culture's collective memory. Major events were held in memory by an oral historian who retold the highlights over and over, keeping the event alive generation after generation. Other stories taught proper social interaction or explained spiritual principles and creation.” www.oac.ohio.gov/.

Despite technological devices, oral storytelling in Appalachia is experiencing a revival of the traditional mixed with the modern. Storytelling festivals and competitions can be found in many Appalachian areas.

The Appalachian Ohio Storytelling Project is out of Athens, Ohio. Kentucky is home to the Cave Run Storytelling Festival near the town of Morehead. The West Virginia Storytelling Guild teaches storytelling and “grows new storytellers and story listeners.” Jonesborough, Tennessee, is home to the International Storytelling Center. The Stone Soup Storytelling Institute in South Carolina hosts the Stone Soup Storytelling Festival. Georgia hosts the Azalea Storytelling Festival. Virginia is home to the Culpeper Tells Storytelling Festival.

However, many Appalachians incorporate the art of storytelling into everyday conversations—and they’re not aware it. Many times I’ve heard individuals preface what factual and nonfiction information they want to share as, “I have a story to tell you” or “Let me tell you a story” or “Oh! Listen to my story.” My own relatives preface dialogue this way and so do I. I’ve lived outside of Appalachia, and this discussion introduction is distinct to the Appalachian region. I find it to be cultural as well as delightful.

“In Appalachia, we tell our stories not only on front porches and around kitchen tables but also in the aisles of the local Walmart and the waiting rooms of hospitals. We tell tales in our gardens while we hoe beans or far back in the deepest coal mines. Often they are stories of nostalgia, for we are a people always mourning the past. Always holding tight to the old ways, grieving because we know how easily things can slip away forever. But just as often our stories are rooted in the modern world and told in increasingly modern ways: on laptops, blogs, social media, digital cameras, in texts and videos.” That’s what writer Roger May composed in his online magazine entitled The Bitter Southerner.

This is your homework. Listen to your Appalachian family, relatives, friends, and coworkers to see if they introduce conversations with a phrase to talk about daily happenings and events.

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Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in southern Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.