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Looking back at Owen County in the ’60s

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By Bonnie Strassell

 Although it seems unbelievable, 50 years have passed since the 1960s when a decade of historic events occurred — both in Owen County and across the country — events that affected the lives of all of us, and in doing so, presented opportunities to preserve our history.
Many of us are not too young to remember Nov. 22, 1963, when Owen countians’ wept with the rest of the nation over the death of President John F. Kennedy. In 1964, the United States became involved in a war in a small southeastern country in Asia called Vietnam, and Owen County men and women were not slack to heed the call to serve their country in the armed forces. Civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, was assassinated in April of 1968; and in June of that same year, the nation reeled with shock when the third murder of a national leader occurred with the shooting of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
Owen County also saw many changes in the ’60s with a surge of progress in recreation and building projects. A new resort development, Elk Lake Shores, was finished, and today is a credit to our county. Owenton’s new post office was dedicated in June of 1962, and the early 1960s saw a concerted effort by Owen countians to influence the routing of the new interstate, I-71, to connect Cincinnati and Louisville. It was asserted by some that the best route would be through Owen County, but the Kentucky Department of Highways had other opinions, and Owen missed the chance for a major thoroughfare. Perhaps this was good news for many who preferred to preserve the rural character of Owen.
In 1963, the educational achievements of several Owen countians instilled county pride when four Owen County High School seniors — Georgia Green, Sherry Lee, Ernie Stamper, and Larry Webster — placed in the top half of 1 percent of high school seniors in the nation, and an Owen countian, Dr. Arthur Moore, was elected as University of Kentucky’s Distinguished Professor.
In 1965, the narrow, one-way bridge over Big Twin Creek collapsed and dropped a school bus in the flooded stream below. The driver and 64 children escaped injury and by September a new Big Twin bridge was open for traffic.
One of the most notable events of the county’s history took place in June and July of 1969 when the sesquicentennial celebration of the formation of Owen County took place. Organizations and individuals joined together to create a memorable 10-day event, and the News-Herald covered the occasion in a special edition of the newspaper.
The Owen County Historical Society is dedicated to preserving not only the history of the ’60s, but the heritage and traditions of every decade. The yearly dues are $20, a small sum when one considers it would cost about the same amount to take in a movie or eat in a nice restaurant. The dues help pay for the upkeep of the museum, and we ask all historical society members to remember the month of January is the time to renew your dues. If you are not a member, please consider joining us. It’s never too late to leave future generations with an appreciation of their past.
The Historical Society Museum has new hours. We are now closed Sundays but are open Mondays from 11-5, the first and fourth Thursdays from 9-4, the second Thursday from 9-5, the third Thursday from 10-2 and 4:30-7:30 (evening), and Saturdays from 10-2.
Barring bad weather, the historical society will hold its monthly meeting, Thursday at the I.O.O.F. hall. Snacks will be served at 6:30 and a special guest, Ron Devore, will present a program at 7. Ron is an Owen County artist and dulcimer player. He will be entertaining us with his music, and displaying his compelling art, which will be for sale. Ron and his wife, Shannon, live in Perry Park, and he paints his creations from photographs taken by his wife. Ron attributes his success to Shannon’s vital contributions to his endeavors. He plays his dulcimer in a group called Mountain Echoes. When asked where they perform, he laughed and answered, “We’ll play anywhere for anyone who asks us.” Please join us for what promises to be an enjoyable evening.