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Eat with us if it kills you, we need the money, read Hughes Restaurant sign

This is a glimpse of Rural Kentucky Women hero Lillie Kinnard Hughes who impressed, inspired and fed many in south central Kentucky near Edmonton High School, Metcalfe County, KY. The full story has photo(s). - LW

By Geniece Leftwich Marcum

"Eat with us if it kills you, we need the money," read the sign on the corner of North Main and Rogers Streets, two blocks off the public square in Edmonton, Kentucky. That sign brought a smile to all who passed by and was featured in the Louisville Courier Journal when a traveling writer spotted it on a trip through Metcalfe County. The robust owner operator of Hughes Restaurant, Lillie Kinnaird Hughes, was known for her many good works and for her business acumen.


The business was also located a couple of city blocks in front of Edmonton High School and was a favorite spot for young and old alike, and none were ever known to get sick, let alone get killed from eating the food there, but still the sign and its slogan stayed in place.

At about eight years old, I walked to Edmonton with Mama because her son Russell, my big brother, was working for the county and asked Mama to go into Lillie Hughes’ restaurant and get him something to take with him to work.

The restaurant was full of people when we went in and a waitress came to help us. I was ignorant and scared because I'd never been in a public restaurant. Mama asked the waitress if Russell Leftwich had credit there and I suppose the waitress didn't know Russell so she turned around and hollered, "Does Russell Leftwich have credit here?"

Lillie was busy behind the counter and never did even look up, she just shouted over her shoulder and said, "hell yes, Russell Leftwich has credit here!"

I was scared out of my mind. I'd never heard a woman swear before. I don't remember much of what Mama ordered because I was so shocked.

When I next saw Lillie Hughes, I was in high school and in her restaurant to get a hamburger -- she made the best ones I've ever eaten yet. I was sitting in a booth enjoying my hamburger and drinking a Coke when some boney old man staggered in and lurched over to sit near where she was cooking on the grill. I didn't hear what he said to her but whatever it was caused Lillie to come around the counter, grab him by the shirt collar and seat of his pants, march him all the way to the front of the restaurant, kick the wide screen door open with her foot and throw him bodily out the door, not push, but throw him out into the clinking coke bottle caps that covered the ground around the front of her restaurant. Clinking bottle caps was the last sound you heard as she went back inside and sat down, and he didn't come back in.

My husband Earl Reid remembered being with her at closing one night and asking, "Aunt Lillie, aren't you afraid walking home with so much cash?" He said she reached under her apron and pulled out a great long pistol, aimed at a tin can and hit it with one perfect shot. He said he laughed and told her, "I won't worry about you anymore."

Lillie married Bill Hughes and the two were affectionately known around Edmonton as Aunt Lillie and Uncle Billy. They had one son, Russell Neal, who was the apple of Lillie’s eye. He married Earl Reid’s sister Lovie Glenn (Gin) Marcum and so Aunt Lillie and Uncle Billie became part of the extended family.

In addition to her business management and her witty sign, Lilly made a difference in many lives and she was the subject of many discussions over the years. A local teenage student was overheard to say, "Lillie Hughes fed more hungry people in Metcalfe County than anybody else ever had.”
Geniece Marcum has many more stories like this one in her book, The Best of Senior Quest, available through columbiamagazine.com. Email her daughter, helper and admirer of Rural Kentucky Women heroes like her, her mother Addie Turner Leftwich who I can picture walking the two miles from their farm behind what is now Bowling Park, as well as Aunt Lillie and Aunt Gin, at linda@columbiamagazine.com for more details.


This story was posted on 2015-08-09 10:23:39
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Lillie Kinnaird Hughes grew up to own Hughes Restaurant



2015-08-09 - Edmonton, KY - Photo family collection.
Lillie Kinnaird Hughes would grow up in Metcalfe County and become known as the doting mother of "son" Russell, and the owner operator of Edmonton, Kentucky's Hughes Restaurant with the sign out front that read, "Eat with us if it kills you, we need the money." - LW

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