This is the first of a three part brief autobiography. This part covers the time before Dad built our home on Booth Hill and the early years there.
This Place I call Booth Hill
The view is roughly northwest from the top of the hill almost overlooking Vanceburg, Kentucky that I grew up on. To be grammatically correct, I should have written ‘upon which I grew’ or something like that, but that doesn’t read right. The river is the Ohio at Six Mile curve and the flatland is in Ohio. My hometown is to the left and hidden from my view except for the white roof at the far east end of town..
My Grandmother, Sarah McKinney Abbott, let Mom and Dad have this hilltop part of her farm to build a home after the great Ohio River winter flood of 1937. At that time the hilltop was called Strawberry Hill or Gobbler’s Knob because strawberries grew here and turkeys liked strawberries and so they hung out here.
I have chosen to call my home ‘Booth Hill’ as there are no longer any strawberries, only an occasional turkey, and my Abbott cousins have moved away. There is a Booth still here though, me. The picture is the view from Booth Hill of my physical world during the warm, sometimes hot, summer months. This column hopefully will be more about the views from Booth Hill of my asomatous world.
I found the word, asomatous, while searching for an antonym for physical. It is an adjective meaning ‘having no material body.’ I liked it and decided to use it here even though it is well beyond words I usually use. I probably can’t pronounce it and probably will never remember or use it again.
In plain words I will have Booth Hill views of whatever pops into my head when I sit down at my keyboard. Topics may be factual, spiritual, visionary, fantastic, political, and maybe once in a while educational. Some will be short; some will be longer, but hopefully not too long. I hope most of you will like most of them.
How I Got to Booth Hill the First Time
I was born in a small (four room) house on the lowest plot on Rowley Avenue in Vanceburg. Willard, Edith and George Ray Hamm lived on one side of us. Miss Sarah Carrington, the Vanceburg Independent School 5th grade teacher, lived on the other side.
Two things happened back then that should have kept me from being here. First, I was an accident. Mom told me that. Mom and Dad had been married some seven years when I came along. Second, I was a breached birth and should have died in childbirth. I didn’t, thanks to God and Dr. Bertram.
That got me into this world very early (January) in 1933. The 1937 flood got me out of town and onto Booth Hill. I vaguely remember getting on what we called a putt-putt boat because of the sound its engine made. I’m sure it was the power boat that ran the ferry back and forth across the river in normal times. We got onto the boat by way of a plank walkway from the railroad tracks in front of the Commercial Hotel. We rode it across the backwater to where Dad’s car was waiting. I spent the flood days in my Grandmother’s home on Alum Rock Ridge suffering with whooping cough and the mumps so I was told.
I don’t remember this but was told that Dad said, “I’m not doing this again,” as he walked across the filthy washboard floors of our Rowley Avenue home on our return after the flood. I do vaguely remember the washboard floors.
Dad got a construction loan from the Citizens Deposit Bank and Trust, hired Clarence Doyle to design and build our home, and work started. First came clearing the way (about a quarter mile of hillside path) and building a road of sorts so a truck could bring materials to the home site. Then the home was built. I have a mind’s eye picture of a partially completed foundation. The house was built of 2X4s that measured two inches by four inches, not today's one and a half by three and a half inches. We moved in probably in 1940. I know we were there on December 7, 1941. My room was upstairs overlooking the river.
As a tribute to Clarence, there is not a single crack in the brick foundation after some 75 years.
Growing Up Here
I lived here during my Grade School (except for the 4th grade in Catletsburg, KY) years and the first three years of High School. The end of my Junior High School year saw the beginning of my life away from Booth Hill.
A version of this story was originally printed in the October 13, 2015 issue of The Lewis County Herald of Vanceburg, Kentucky.