Owen County Historical Society: Owen countians share their huckster stories

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By Bonnie Strassell

We didn’t have much money but we had a lot of love, and we shared that with everyone.

Paying tribute to her mother and father at the historical society meeting last Thursday, Yolanda Lucas Ellis reminisced about her childhood as the daughter of an Owen county huckster.
Yolanda was born and raised in Bromley, worked in Owen County schools for over 30 years, and she, Glenna Clifton, and Pat Smoot were the first three women to serve on the Owen County fire department.
Despite several serious surgeries over the past few years, Yolanda volunteers at the Owenton Clothing Center and is a familiar figure at Owenton Manor where she devotes countless volunteer hours.
Many in the audience had fond memories of the much anticipated weekly visit from the huckster.
Junior Grisham remembers standing along the road waiting for the familiar truck to make an appearance.
Jarl Lee Harris’ favorite memory was purchasing bubble gum, and many of the women recalled the salves and tonics Bob Lucas kept in abundant supply.
Although she is too young to remember the days of the huckster, Glenna Clifton’s granddaughter, Sarah Clifton, attended the program and was soon caught up in Yolanda’s stories of the past.
Bob Lucas’ huckster route included Stewards Ridge where Edith Stewart Lewis grew up.
Because of poor health, Edith couldn’t attend the meeting but she called me on the phone to share some poignant huckster stories.
Edith remembers three hucksters who delivered their goods on Stewarts Ridge: Bob Lucas, Raymond Herndon, and Harold Snell.
One of the Stewart’s favorite treats was the can of pork and beans her family bought once a week and were savored at supper.
Laughing, Edith recalls how she was hesitant to purchase the metal canning rings and lids when they were first put on the market but Bob Lucas assured her these “new fangled” apparatuses would adequately seal her canning jars.
The kindness  of Bob Lucas was displayed as time after time he accepted rather unusual items in trade for groceries. When his wife Mary  asked what she was going to do with the large spoonbill catfish for which Bob had bartered some food, Bob replied, “We’re going to cook it and have a fish fry for the whole community.”  Of course, the community of Bromley consisted of only 14 residences, but nevertheless, everyone was delighted for the invite, eating their fill of fried fish.
One day, a farmer carrying a big snapping turtle with a board in his mouth met Bob on the road.
Of course, Bob didn’t have the heart to refuse such a outstanding offering.  That night the Lucas family ate turtle for supper and Grandpa Lucas cleaned the shell, shellacked it, and it took a place of honor as a magazine rack.
One of the most delightful stories Yolanda told was the tale of Mrs. Amos Green who would meet Bob and Yolanda carrying a pitchfork.
Frightened, Yolanda enquired of the purpose for the menacing tool.
Bob told his daughter that at times a rather testy bull claimed as his own the pasture through which Mrs. Green had to pass. Thus, the pitchfork was meant to persuade the bull to share his territory.
Every week when Amos Green asked his wife why she was taking the pitchfork, she replied, “ You can’t hold a conversation with a bull!”
Melvin O’Banion, the father of 13 children, was once quoted as saying, “If it wasn’t for Bob Lucas, we would have gone hungry;” and as Yolanda Ellis told her story, at times in an emotionally choked voice, the audience was left with a poignant reminder of the vital legacy left to us by the hucksters of Owen County.
Don’t forget the historical society chili dinner Feb. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The meal is $7 and includes chili, pimento cheese sandwich, drink, and dessert.
The historical society has a new Web site, designed  by and managed under the capable hands of Christina Rice. We will offer information on programs and updates on historical society goals. Articles of interest on Owen County history will also be included. Please check us out at: www.owencohistory.com.
It is with deep regret and sorrow that we report the loss of one of Owen County’s most dedicated historians, Berta Catherine Gayle. Berta was a member of the historical society for many years; and her enthusiasm and love for our history was reflected in every aspect of her life.
May Berta Gayle always be remembered as one of Owen County’s finest; and may we continue to preserve the history she so diligently recorded.