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April 17, 2014

Traces of Laurel: Recreation and Entertainment

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Pioneer life was filled with hard work and not much else. It took the efforts of every member of the family to sustain a life that provided the bare necessities of food and shelter.  In rural areas where roads were few and often impassable, recreation and entertainment were created out of the chores of daily life – corn huskings, barn raisings, and the occasional wedding celebration. Church services and funerals were well-attended for they were opportunities to lay aside the constant drudgery of the everyday and socialize.

In the mid 19th and early 20th centuries, with better roads and schools, and innovations in technology emerging, organized recreation and entertainment became more available to the average person, if they could afford it. Ball teams and bands were formed, dances and socials became a regular part of life, and excursions to places especially established to provide these activities began to appear.

The first band I find mention of is the London Brass Band, whose members in 1877 were listed as:  W. E. Smith, R. M. Jackson, John Pearl, John Jackson, A. B. Brown, Jas. R. Lucas, J. C. Jackson, J. T. Durham, and G. W. Faris. It was also sometimes called the London Cornet Band.  This band was led by various men in the beginning but did not really get going until  Prof. Alfred Chiesman took over in 1885.  After that they became known “throughout Kentucky”, according to Russell Dyche in “Laurel County History.”

Laurel Countians had a variety of other home-grown entertainment possibilities.  In his writings, Logan Ewell mentions the Huber Hotel at the Colony, the Swiss bowling alley under the cliffs, the Falls on Sinking Creek, Speak’s Mill, High Mounds, Rainbow Rock, Daylight Rock, the Halfway House, the Haunted Bridge, Skeleton Cave, and Lankford Furnaces.  Ewell doesn’t mention the Warner Hotel, but others have.

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
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