STONE, Ky. – In April 1977, I was a scared little 7-year old girl, who did not quite understand what I was afraid of. All I knew was something wasn’t right in my house.
My daddy (Kenneth Chapman), mommy (Connie Wilhite Deskins) and my granny (Verna Wilhite) all worked second shift, my daddy worked for Appalachian Power Company (APCO), which at the time was located in the vicinity of the vacant lot next to where CVS is now. My mom worked at Piggly Wiggly and my granny was a cook at the Moose Lodge in Williamson.
As a child, I didn’t realize it had rained for days, and I sure didn’t know that much rain would cause flooding.
I can remember my mom getting home and her staying in contact by phone with my daddy and granny who were both still at work.
As the night went on I could feel the tension in the house, although I did not understand the magnitude of what was going on, I knew my family was in some type of danger.
In addition to my daddy and my granny, I had an uncle, an aunt and their family in harm’s way and my mom was home with two small kids worried about her husband, mother and her brother and his family.
40 years ago, you didn’t have the privilege of cell phones, sending texts or Facetiming someone.
The four-lane was not finished at the time and I can remember my mom saying my daddy was taking my granny to Toler, Ky. to meet a long-time family friend, David Hatfield, who owns Hatfield Funeral Home. David had a jeep, he picked my granny up and brought her around the hillside, where a road had been cut to move the equipment for the construction of the road. My mom’s older brother picked granny up and brought her home.
My daddy and several other men from (APCO) spent three days on a knoll at Piggly Wiggly, which at the time was near the Harvey Street Bridge.
After three days he made his way through Hatfield, Ky and down Big Creek and back to our home at Huddy.
I spent each night sleeping in my little brother’s room with him, because I felt like I had to protect him from something bad, still not realizing the full extent of what was going on around me. I remember hearing the rain pounding against the window and the sound of the creek roaring loudly outside.
Who would’ve thought those three days of protecting that little two year old would’ve lasted for the past 40 years of protecting him.
My mom’s brother and his family, who lived around where Walmart sits now, lost everything they had in the flood. My daddy and his brother moved our camper into the driveway for my uncle, aunt and their four daughters to live in.
At this point the time frame becomes a little confusing, I don’t remember if Easter came first or if I had to return to school first, however, I do remember the details of the events.
I hated school and I can remember being so excited when I was told I would only have to go to school a half of the day for the rest of the school year because the kids from Varney Elementary would be sent to Runyon Elementary to finish out the school year. So we went from about eight in the morning until around noon and they would come to school from around noon until four.
My most vivid memory of this entire flood was Easter morning. Now I am not really certain how many days the flood hit before Easter, but I know it could not had been more than a week or so.
Anyone reading this who knew me as a child, would know that saying I was spoiled would have been an understatement and to say I was a brat would have been a very good description of me.
I can remember several weeks before the flood hit my granny taking me to Sears to pick out my Easter dress, they had the dress in blue and pink (little bells were sewn into the skirt and I jingled when I walked), I wanted both, so I got both. I also wanted a pair of white patent leather shoes, a little purse, it was round at the top and pointed at the bottom and a little headband and of course tights.
I had waited for weeks to wear this outfit and I would look at it every day, so come Easter morning I got out of bed and put my outfit on and went through the house, ready to go to church. I was met by my mom, who told me I had to take my outfit off because my cousins didn’t have anything to wear for Easter and we weren’t going to be attending church. I can’t really remember if it was because church services had been cancelled because of the flooding or not, but I do remember throwing one of my famous tantrums and refusing to take my Easter dress off.
During the course of writing this article, it has surprised me as to how many memories of that time I have suppressed. Those were the good old days, no matter how much the seven year old did not like, not being the center of attention, the 47 year-old has grown up and cherishes those few short weeks in April 1977, when she had the opportunity to have a tragedy turn to wonderful and unforgettable memories.
Kendra Mahon is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News, she can be contacted at [email protected] or 304-235-4242 ext 2278.