I remember this day very well. We lived in the former Bob Buskirk’s log house at the Forks of Big Hurricane. The morning of the train collision, the two Ratcliffe sisters, Dorothy and Lois Ann, we’re standing in our kitchen keeping warm while waiting on the school bus. No bus ran up the Left Fork of Big Hurricane, so the sisters and their brother Billy would walk 1 mile out of Left Fork to catch the bus. That morning was spent talking about things going on at FGHS, not knowing this would be the last time we would see them. The girls funeral was held at the Big Hurricane Baptist Church. we were great friends and spent many weekends playing together. David Carroll, a football player and a mother and her daughter were also killed. Their name slips my mind at this time.

G B Berry



We extend our sympathies to one or our exceptional alumni, Bessie Jude, on the passing of her husband recently.  Bessie and her sisters Rebecca and Alice Fay have been strong contributors to the Fort Gay High School Memorial Scholarship.  Each year they bake an assortment of cakes, muffins, and bread and sell it at the Alumni tent on Fort Gay Heritage Day, passing the proceeds along to the scholarship.  They are all truly great ladies.

I know all will want to join me in praying for Bessie and her family.  May God Bless.

The following was posted by Russell Lee Whitlock who is a historian from  the area along the Big Sandy River and is quite knowledgeable of the history of development of transportation in that area.  His comments pertain to an earlier article.  I love to read about the steam boats and early development of rail travel.  I hope you enjoy his comments as did I.

New comment on your post “STEAM NAVIGATION ON THE LEVISA FORK by Russell Lee Whitlock”
Author : Russell L. Whitlock (IP: , cpe-174-101-79-160.columbus.res.rr.com)
E-mail : whitlockrussell45@yahoo.com
URL : http://whitlockrussell45@yahoo.com
Whois : http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/
It might be of interest to folks to know that the two steamers owned by C&O Rail Road were used extensively in completing construction of the rail road from Whitehouse on into Pikeville which was around 1905. CANDO’s sister boat was named DONCA and was reputed to have been the fastest boat on the river. I believe the fact that the well experienced steam locomotive mechanics caring for her engines contributed greatly to that fact. During construction of the Whitehouse to Pikeville leg of the railroad these two boats served to transport all the heavy equipment and supplies as well as workers up river. I have a list of over 100 steamers which operated on the Levisa Fork and it a mystery to me how few people are aware of their history. My mother, Janivea Daniels was born in 1912 at Thealka , Ky. which was home port of the steamer by that name. My mom had many wonderful memories of the river steamers and as she grew up in the coal camp of Auxier, Ky. always looked forward to hearing some one call “steam boats a coming” and hearing that distinctive whistle before the boats reached one of Auxiers two Landings. The lanes leading to the landings still remain but that is all that is left. My father left Auxier on one of the last boats to run but she grounded on a sandbar just south of Prestonsburg and he had to walk home in the rain down the railroad tracks, a distance of about 6 miles. In the 1940’s several attempts were made to channel the river and return the boats to operating in the coal transportation business but there were never successful. Sure would have been helpful to our highway system and to the environment by limiting the hundreds of coal trucks. To my best knowledge the last commercial steamboat operation on the Sandy was in 1937 when 3 barge were brought down river from Torchlight. The name of that final boat has been lost through the years but I am still searching for some one who might know it. I am getting well along in years and am unable to continue my research but would still like to hear any new news that is available.

The below article is pretty self explanatory and was written about someone who most of us that attended Fort Gay High School during the turbulent 1940’s would have known.  The article was written by Charles Frasher as a tribute to his brother Jack.  He graduated in 1946 and led a multifaceted life there after.  Thanks to Dan Watts for sending this along

Fort Gay’s own daredevil airman


            Jack Lester Frasher, named for his father’s best friend, Luther Lester Lycan, was born in Fort Gay WV in 1928. Those were the days when boys squatted down around a circle of marbles and shot with their best tall. And Jack was a marbles champion of Fort Gay Graded School.

In those times the boys slipped away from their mother’s sight and swam in the Big Sandy River, paying the consequences when their mothers smelled the river water on their hair that night. Some summer nights they caught June bugs and tied strings on their legs and watched the bugs fly around and around. But in Jack Frasher’s mind, he was dreaming about the day when he would do the flying. He would climb in an airplane and fly around the world. As a matter of fact, he drew pictures of the plane that he planned to fly.

Oh, what he wouldn’t give for an airplane! In his mind we are sure that he dreamed of flying over Fort Gay…..over Louisa! He would finally get a bird’s-eye view of his home. “By gosh,” he probably thought “if I had an airplane, I would fly it under the Fort Gay-Louisa Bridge”.

His mother, Myrt Frasher, would often declare that she never could keep a bar of soap in the house because Jack got every single bar and whittled an airplane out of it. As a boy, Jack drew pictures of airplanes. He carved planes from blocks of wood. We are sure that he dreamed of airplanes.

The years went by. After graduation from Fort Gay High School, Jack, Frank Robinson and Fred Reid joined the U.S.  Air Force. The three were close buddies. Perhaps they saw joining up as a way to see the world as well as a way to finance their college expenses with the GI Bill. And we are sure Jack was searching for a ride in that plane because he joined the Air Force where most all of the airmen would have some connection with an airplane.

After serving his stint for his country, Jack returned to Greenville, S.C., and married Lillian Dow, the girl of his dreams whom he met at Donaldson Air Base in Greenville. After completing undergraduate work at Marshall and Furman, where Jack taught chemistry for a year or so, the couple moved to Baltimore where he entered dental school.  After graduation, Jack and Lil and their young son, Jackie, moved back to Greenville and Jack set up a dental practice there.

Sure, he loved fishing, boating and other sports, but still what he really wanted was a plane.  Finally, he was able to buy his own, and the day came when he flew it to Huntington to pick up his brother, Charlie, and they flew to Morgantown to see a Mountaineer football game. Hot Dog!  They were going in style! Jack was flying his own airplane.

After the game, they flew over Louisa and Jack buzzed his sister Pat’s house and then flew back to Huntington and dropped off Charlie at Tri-State Airport.  Then Jack headed back out into the wild blue yonder!  He followed the Big Sandy River as he began his trip back to South Carolina.  In a few minutes he saw the Tug and Levisa forks of the Big Sandy with  the Fort Gay-Louisa Bridge spanning both rivers. He lined up the nose of his plane with the Tug Fork and got in just the right position.  Whoosh! I can see him in my mind swooping down like a big bird, slowing down and sweeping under the widest part of the bridge—-then whoosh, and he was under the bridge….now he was nosing up, up, up! And he was heading home. He had achieved his longtime dream. He had flown under the bridge!

That night Charlie Frasher heard about Jack’s latest adventure.  The next day, Sunday,  Charlie and his wife, Joy, left Hamlin where he operated a pharmacy, and drove to Fort Gay and Louisa. As they came through Fort Gay and approached the bridge, they were discussing Jack’s claim of flying under it. “I don’t believe it,” Joy said. “Ask the toll collector.”  When they stopped to pay the toll, on impulse, Charlie asked the toll collector, “Anyone flew under the bridge lately?”  The man chuckled and said, “Not lately.”  Then he paused and  his eyes widened as he said:  “Did yesterday! Was that you?” I can imagine his reaction the day before when he heard the roar of Jack’s plane as it swept under the bridge and seemed to rise up out of the dark water of the Tug Fork before it climbed into the sky and headed for South Carolina.

Jack had a very active life, He was a Fort Gay boy who had dreams. He accomplished many of those dreams and one of  them was to fly under the bridge. That flight comes to our minds often. We cherish the memory of his spirit.

Jack’s love of the outdoors was cited in a story written by Herb Johnson in a Greenville newspaper.  It mentions that Jack got his first shotgun when he was eight years old,  a .410  single barrel, which he used to hunt rabbits and squirrels.  His dad, Lace, urged him to hunt birds with him, and he shot his first quail, when he was 12.

His next shotgun was a .20 gauge. He won turkey shoots and the State Handicap Trap Shoot in 1968,. But when he began using it to shoot geese with No. 6 shot, he had to get an eyewitness because no one believed him.  “After that, no one would believe my eyewitness, either,” Jack quipped.

Jack died of brain cancer in 1994. He wanted his ashes thrown off the bridge.  So one misty evening, his second wife, Pat, his brother, Charlie, and his sister-in-law, Joy, stood on the bridge remembering his daring spirit as they threw his ashes from the middle of the span into the Tug River.

The Fort Gay-Louisa Bridge was a narrow, antiquated structure built for horses and buggies and was sadly out-of-date by the time it was replaced in the 1970s.  But it was an engineering marvel when built and opened to traffic in 1906 and a boon to commerce between the two communities it served.

Before construction, you either used a ferry, a boat or you waded when the rivers were shallow enough.

A popular Louisa dentist, now deceased, had the distinction of being the one person born on the bridge.  Dr. John N. Ryan, who was married to the former Valeria Roberts of Fort Gay, was born Oct. 24, 1918, in a two-story toll house on the Point Section at the middle of the bridge. His mother, Mrs. Mary Waldeck Ryan, made her home with her parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. John A. Waldeck.  Mrs. Ryan and her father were employed as toll collectors.  His father, C.C. Ryan, worked for the C&O Railway Co.

Dr. Ryan lived in the toll house for about 10 years, during which time he saw an airplane fly under  the structure.  An Army aviator, Major John Woods, flew under the bridge in a bi-plane on the Levisa side about 1925 or 1926.  He made it safely under the span and narrowly missed power lines strung across the river downstream.

(Charlie Frasher was assisted in writing this memoir of his brother, Jack, by his wife, Joy, and his sister, Patty Frasher Wallace.  The bridge information came from the Fort Gay-Cassville Centennial Observer published by Dan & Cora Watts in 1975.)

Below is all of the information regarding our upcoming reunion.  Please note that contacts and reservations for the banquet and for golf tournament related activities are different individuals.  Any questions, feel free to contact me.






June 25, 2013


Dear FortGay Alumnus;


Enclosed is information regarding our annual banquet, reunion, and golf tournament.  We hope that you will find this year’s events equal to or exceeding any past reunions.


As many are aware, the Fort Gay Middle School will has closed the doors of the old high school and is in the process of moving to their new facility during the summer.  Because of this it has become necessary to move the site of our annual banquet this year.  This year’s banquet will be held at the First Baptist Church of Louisa, KY located at 301 West Pike Street, Louisa KY.  This area is air conditioned and is quite large and comfortable with plenty of parking.  It is the best site we have had since beginning the banquet back in the 1990’s.   Registration and reception will begin at 5pm on Friday, August 30.  Beverages will be served during the reception and dinner will commence at approximately 6-6:15 pm.  Please note, due to the caterer needing time and space to set up, you will not be able to enter prior to 5 pm. 


The cost of this year’s banquet will remain at $25.00 per person, the same as in previous years.  While we have been able to accommodate all reservation requests in the past, we would recommend that reservations be made as early as possible because of the limited seating area.


We will honor the class of 1963 this year.  They will have reserved seating as a group if they wish and will be introduced individually.  We would ask that if you are a member of this class and that your class has made plans, that you note that on your reservation request so that we may provide adequate seating.


The deadline for receiving reservations this year will be Monday, August 26.  This is necessary so that the caterer may do her meal planning.  Your check will be your reservation and should be made payable to “The Fort Gay High School Alumni Association”.   Reservations should be made through and checks mailed to our Banquet Chairman, Rita Palfrey, 1105 2nd. Street, Huntington, WV 25701.  Rita may also be contacted at 304 525 5563 or email at r.pelfrey@yahoo.com


It is with sadness that we announce the passing of  Joe Damron.  Joe was a long time member of the Alumni Board and had served as golf chairman for twelve years.  Joe also had served as treasurer and as assistant chairman of the board.  He led the golf tournament from its humble beginning to the success it has become today.  In memory of Joe, the golf tournament is being named in his honor.  Beginning with this year’s tournament it will permanently be known as “The Joe Damron Memorial Golf Tournament Supporting The FGHS Memorial Scholarship”.


The first annual  “ JOE DAMRON MEMORIAL GOLF TOURNAMENT SUPPORTING THE  FGHS MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP” will be played this year at the Eagle Ridge Golf Course located at YatesvilleLakeState Park near Louisa, KY.  The tournament will be held on Friday, August 30, 2013.  The tournament will again be a best ball tournament with a shotgun start at  approximately 9 am. Registration will commence at 7:30 am.  A sack lunch will be served on the golf course and water bottles and snacks placed on each cart.  We will also have a continental breakfast for those players arriving early.  There will be a number of prizes and awards.  The cost will be $50.00 per player or $200.00 per team which includes cart, greens fees, breakfast, snacks, beverages, and lunch.  The course should be in excellent condition.


The golf tournament is our major source of income for supporting and growing the FGHS Memorial Scholarship.  One of the major aspects of the tournament is the sponsorship of a golf hole by individuals, groups, or businesses.  This has been very well supported in past tournaments.  We have high  hopes for a like response this year.  We are making a plea that if you have sponsored a golf hole in the past,  that you would consider doing so again.  If you have not sponsored a golf  hole in the past,  then we would welcome you on board.   Hole sponsorships are $100.00 each. 


For additional information regarding the golf tournament, to sign up to play, and or sponsor a golf hole, please contact Golf Chairman,  Paul Salmons, 9811 South Highway #1, Webbville, KY 41180.  Phone 606 652 4048 or email at psalmons@hotmail.com. All checks for hole sponsorships and golf reservations should be mailed to Paul at the above address.    We are pleased to announce that four Tolsia High School graduates who are enrolled at Marshall University will be receiving $12,000.00 in support this year from the FGHS Memorial Scholarship fund.  We hope to have one or more of these students as our guest at the banquet.




 An additional honor has now been bestowed upon the FGHS Memorial Scholarship.  All students receiving the scholarship are now designated “FORT GAY SCHOLARS” by Marshall University.  The FGHS Memorial Scholarship continues to thrive and provide support for four students each year from Tolsia High School.  The students receiving the scholarship this year will be sharing in excess of $12,000.00 in financial support from the fund.  In the event that you do not plan to attend the reunion but wish to financially support the scholarship, you may do so by sending contributions to our treasurer Paul Salmons at his address mentioned earlier in the letter.  Checks should be made payable to FGHS Alumni Association and noted for FGHS Memorial Scholarship.


You may have noticed that underneath the letterhead there is an internet address.  We have been operating an alumni blog site for a couple of years titled “The Viking Chronicles”.   It is kind of a fun site with a variety of subjects,  information, and pictures placed on it several times a month.  Many of our members find it somewhat entertaining. You will see continuing information during the month of July and August concerning the upcoming reunion.  To find it simply go to https://fghsaa.wordpress.com.  You may leave comments and it is operated at no cost to the Alumni Association.  If you would like news, items of interest, or pictures posted, simply send them to me at my home address and I will see that they are posted.  I will return any pictures sent .  There is also a face book page designated for use by FGHS Alumni.  Please visit it OFTEN and check out the pictures and make comments.  It is a great way to communicate with former classmates and friends.


At our 2012 reunion Banquet or at the Fort Gay Women’s Club reception on Saturday night, a small silver colored  camera was lost. It was a Canon Power Shot A1100 IS.  If anyone found it could you please get in touch with me at my mail address, email, or either of my phone numbers.  Thanks much.


Anyone having questions or needing additional information, may contact me at my address, phone, or by email.





Richard A. Plymale, Chairman, FGHS Alumni Association

1468 Pine Meadow Rd.

Lexington, KY40504


Phone 859 255 5836 Cell phone 859 361 3318    Email:  richard.plymale@gmail.com







In response to  an item regarding the passing of Cynthia Fink, former FGHS teacher, Julian Hazlett wrote the following.  Sometimes events today does prompt memories of many years ago, some pleasant and some unpleasant.  This event occurred in 1960, nearly 53 years ago.  Thanks to Julian for sharing.

Julian Hazlett commented on CYNTHIA FINK’S FUNERAL SERVICES

A memory of Cynthia Fink: It was a beautiful day in May 1960. The year I graduated from high school. John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey were campaigning in the presidential primary in West Virginia. The entire Kennedy family was covering every inch of the state encouraging everyone to vote for Kennedy. I was in Cynthia Fink’s journalism class when she announced that there would be someone arriving momentarily to speak to us. We looked out the window and there was a long line of black cars on the street. Mrs. Fink proceeded to apply lipstick and rouge to prepare for the moment. The door opened and there was this handsome man, tall, tan and exuding such confidence. He said, ” Good morning, my name is Edward Kennedy. I am the brother of John Kennedy, who is running for President. I would appreciate it very much if you would tell your parents to vote for him. Thank you very much.” And he was gone. And the rest is history. That moment is forever etched in my mind.

I found this great piece written by North Carolina writer and author of books John Rosemond.  This article appeared in one of the  McClatchey group of newspapers.  He so nails many of the problems and their pathway back to what we knew then as the “Age of Aquarius.”  I am proud to say that I am a proud member of his generation and was raised in exactly the manner described of the 30s and 40s.  Guns were for procuring food for the table, drugs were for curing existing diseases, and there was no “free love” as put forth by the Aquarians.  I hope all enjoy this as much as I did.   Thank you John Rosemond for your wisdom.

American parents have been listening to professional psycho-babblers tell them how to raise children since the late 1960s. I was in graduate school at the time, and my professors thought the babblers were geniuses, sent by some New Age divinity to correct all the egregious wrongs parents had done to children since time immemorial. Children were about to enter a Golden Age in which their opinions would not only be listened to but also taken into consideration, and from an early age. And they would be allowed to express their feelings freely! And parents and teachers were going to tell them how wonderful they were and how everything they did was wonderful and so children would do more and more wonderful things and the Age of Aquarius would dawn and peace and love would fill the universe!
Problem is, it didn’t turn out quite the way it was planned. Indeed, parents and teachers did all the “right” things. In fact, nearly everything they did was pretty much the opposite of the way previous generations of parents had done things. The result? Well, let’s just say the Age of Aquarius has yet to dawn.
Child mental health in America, across the demographic spectrum, has declined markedly in the past 50 or so years. Compared with a kid from my generation, today’s child is five to 10 times more likely to become clinically depressed before his or her 16th birthday. And parenting, as it is now termed, has become the single most stressful thing a woman will do in her adult life. Mind you, her great-grandmother probably raised a lot more kids and experienced very little stress. She was, however, able to stress her kids rather effectively.
When are parents – mothers, especially – going to get it? When are they going to wake up to the fact that the babblers have done nothing – and yes, I mean nothing – but damage? In my estimation, the Age of Aquarius will begin when American parents shut the babblers down and return parenting – to borrow from the vernacular of the 1960s – back to the people!
Because today’s parents have no experiential understanding of the way it was, I’ll highlight a few of the more salient features of pre-1960s childhood. But before I do, I’ll respond to those who claim that I “idealize” the 1950s. No, I do not. I simply maintain what is verifiable fact: American children were better off back then – as well off, in fact, as they’d ever been and certainly a whole lot happier than today’s kids.
The biggest difference was that mom and dad paid more attention to and talked more to one another than they paid attention to and talked to their kids. In fact, kids back then didn’t get a whole lot of attention from their parents. We were supposed to pay attention to them, not they to us. And so, by the time we went to school, we’d learned to give our undivided attention to adults, which is why we were taught successfully (our academic achievement was much higher than today’s kids) in overcrowded classrooms. By the time we were in our early elementary years, we were doing more for our moms, in the form of chores, than they were doing for us. Oh, and our moms weren’t “involved” with us. Oh, happy day! They expected us to figure out our own entertainment, do our own homework, settle our own squabbles, lie in the beds we made, and stew in our own juices. Need I point out that today’s mom is doing nearly all of that for her child, including the stewing?
We were allowed to express our opinions, but they didn’t count for much (and shouldn’t have). And no, we were definitely not allowed to express our feelings freely. Have you ever met someone who expresses his or her feelings freely, without regard for the sensibilities of others? That defines an obnoxious, narcissistic, sociopathic boor.
Finally, I am a proud member of the last generation of American kids who weren’t allowed to have high self-esteem. When a child back then had an outburst of high self-esteem, his parents told him he was acting too big for his britches, which is what high self-esteem is all about anyway – popping one’s britches.
And yet, we were happier. We may have missed the Aquarian train, but I hear it ran off the tracks sometime around 1975 anyway.