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January 17, 1978 Around Adair with Ed Waggener

The article below first appeared in the January 17, 1978, issue of the Adair County News. Topics included sledding and how easy kids had it in 1978, a nail-biting skiing expedition at Plum Point, the green thumb of former Columbia Mayor Ralph Willis, Joe Johnson's Checker Club, K.C. Bradshaw's litter of mostly-collie puppies, and nearly-Black-Friday level sales at retailers during the Inauguration Day events. --Pen

By Ed Waggener

Sledding is different today
The snow this past week brought out the sledders.

Sledding is not the rigorous sport it was when I was a kid, if what Joe Johnson told me is true. He saw a group of kids riding over Graded Hill on Frazier Avenue, the way we used to do. But, he said, they had a modern labor-saving device to get them back up to the top of the hill: they'd hitch onto a four- wheeler which would pull them back up. "They were really having a time," Johnson said. "They had a big bonfire built at the top and with the four-wheeler taking the work out of it, all they have to do is ride over the hill."

When Joe Johnson was a kid, he had to make his own sled. "I did it by cutting off the the bottom rungs of a ladder. then I took some guttering and made me some runners. it worked pretty good."

Willard Cheatham, owner of Columbia Gulf, says that he had his own method of getting around when he was young and it snowed. He'd cut down a cedar tree, hook it on behind a mule, and ride all over the farm, perched on the soft boughs of the cedar.

Ski season is here, too
You just have to look for the best in everything. Snow has its advantages. Just ask the owners of the now-defunct Renegade Resort, at Crossville, Tennessee. They wanted snow. Their lodge went out of the picture because no snow meant no snowy ski slopes and no snowy ski slopes meant no skiers, and no skiers meant no money to pay the mortgage.

Or ask Neal Gold, who is from New Jersey and who is married to the former Sarah Arnold. Sunday afternoon, Gold and a companion, John Lehman, went to old Arnold home country up around Plum Point--Gold to do some skiing, and Lehman to call the ambulance in case it were needed.

It almost was, on Gold's first descent over the hill below Camp Coy at Plum Point landing. The hill has been made extremely rough by four-wheelers, and, on Lehman's report, Gold went feet over head two or three times going down that hill. Next Gold tried the old Knifley road bed on the hill above Plum Point. It was much safer, but not quite steep enough to give the thrill Gold would like to have had. Thank goodness, for Cousin Sarah's sake and the sake of little Benjie Gold, Neal Gold encountered no rougher experience than his tumble on the Camp Coy Hill, and lived to eat chicken on Sunday night at the Burger Queen.

At least as long as we have this Yankee weather we might as well make the most of it. Maybe someone will even come up with a snowmobile here.

A man for the job
In last week's Adair County news, some anonymous writer suggested a park on the Square to honor Mayor Downey and the Downey family. Former Mayor Ralph Willis has put in an application to be caretaker of the would-be park. I'd have to go along with Cousin Ralph, not just because he's blood kin, but because I know it would be a right respectable park if he ran it. Besides, I know he's got a green thumb which runs clean up to his elbow. Before Cousin Ralph moved from Jamestown Hill to the urban side of town, he used to garden up a storm. He'd make the grandest garden from the roughest soil in the neighborhood. Two and three-pound tomatoes weren't uncommon from his garden. There were the prettiest gladioli since Mrs. Sandusky grew them where the convenient parking lot is today, and there were plenty of potatoes, radishes, Kentucky lettuce, and carrots; and Ralph Willis grew hill onions as though he were a Republican. Besides that, he was a good mayor; he's the one who brought natural gas to Columbia. He'd make a good caretaker for the park, if there really were going to be one and if he were really serious.

Not on television, yet
Columbia has a little-known, but highly active sports arena in town. It's the Checker Room, on Fortune Street between Watson and Walker's building and the City parking lot. The Checker Room is in the building which has served variously in Columbia history for everything from a liquor store to a taxi stand.

Today, a dozen or so members of the Checker Club meet randomly for "Rise and Fly" checkers. That means, member Joe Johnson says, that a man can sit down and play until he loses two straight games, then he has to rise and fly. The building is owned by the City of Columbia. The city charges the Checker Club $10 per month, and the checker players chip in $3 per month to pay the rent and the utilities.

The Checker Room was recently renovated, with a new wall paint job, a new floor, and air conditioning added. CETA workers accomplished the job, Johnson said.

Among the regulars, the members are, besides Johnson, Sam Taylor, Dan Waggener, Willie Overstreet, Monk Oliver, Amos Fox, Arnold Keen, Eldridge Bragg, Donald Upchurch, Bill Stotts, E. Campbell, and Ralph Turner.

Besides these, players come often from afar. Regulars Fox and Oliver hail from Russell Springs, and Johnson says, "we get players from Burkesville, Liberty, Someset, and lots of other places." Glasgow furnishes a lot of top players, Johnson said, and once was the site of the world checker championship.

So far, ABC sports hasn't moved in to do any coverage on the events at the Checker Room, but action is fast, and local spectators are welcome, if they behave themselves, Johnson says.

The games have no special time to start. There's two tables, enough room for four players at a time, and the Checker Room may be opened by members with keys almost any time of the day or night, seven days a week.

"If you know anybody who'd like to challenge us," Johnson says, "send them on. We're ready for them."

Good dogs available
K.C. Bradshaw, the veteran Chappell's representative, has a fine litter of pups available for free-if the recipients pass the rigid Bradshaw screening to determine that the mostly-collie pups get a good home. The pups are three weeks old, Bradshaw says, "and they both told me that the dogs were good with stock." With the two given to V.T. and V.R. Yarberry, Bradshaw has nine left. To make an application, call K.C. at 384-xxxx. His home is at 215 Frazier Avenue, Columbia.

Bullish on the square
After the Inauguration, things ought to be looking up for businesses on the Square. If anything, the event showed that the Square is still a might potent merchandising center. Sales at stores were high. One report is that one spiffy downtown shop did more business on Inauguration Day than any other day besides the biggest day before Christmas. Many of the merchants were caught off guard, without enough help to handle the crowds, but customers were happy even if it was crowded. I feel as though the event proved that the Square is alive and well and will prosper, if more events are planned and if the merchants on the Square plan further innovations.

If I owned property on the Square, I wouldn't be too eager to sell, just yet.

Just an idea, but it might work: To check out the feasibility of the Square being a mall, the City might allow art shows, fairs, street dances, carnivals, country music shows -anything to draw a crowd-after regular business hours through the week or in the afternoon Sunday.

Profit-making enterprises could be charged a set-up fee, which would go to the city, and the money could be used for clean up after the events and for improvements to the Square. The streets could be roped off, to take traffic off the downtown, turning the Square into a pedestrian mall.

If the idea worked, and regular merchants wanted to join in the odd-hours, that would be their privilege. If they don't like the idea, at least the itinerants would not be interfering with regular business. It wouldn't cost the downtowners a dime, we'd draw more visitors to Columbia to eat in the restaurants which are open late week nights and on Sundays, and we'd have a better idea of whether or not the Pedestrian Mall idea would work.

Two things are certain: If changes on the Square would be harmful to the businesses, nobody wants to see changes. But if changes would prove beneficial to the Square, the landlords and merchants should be the first to advocate them.

This story was posted on 2020-01-26 10:08:22
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The Checker Room

2021-01-19 - Columbia, KY - Photo by Pen.
The Checker Room was in the building which has served variously in Columbia history for everything from a liquor store to a taxi stand. It's located on the edge of the Municipal Parking Lot on East Fortune Street. In its heyday, regular checker players included Joe Johnson, Sam Taylor, Dan Waggener, Willie Overstreet, Monk Oliver, Amos Fox, Arnold Keen, Eldridge Bragg, Donald Upchurch, Bill Stotts, E. Campbell, and Ralph Turner. Frequent CM contributor Billy Joe Fugde passed many hours there "on call."

Memories of the Checker Room/Checker House:

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