By: Sphar Thomas Burklow, Sr.
I am Sphar
Thomas Burklow, Sr. and am writing the following autobiography
so that my children will know their father a little better. I
realized after I grew older that I would have liked to have known
more about the personal lives of my parents. I loved them and
they loved me. I was just too dumb to learn about them until it
was too late. They are gone my life is less complete because I
didn’t know more about them. So, …… the following
events, consisting of high adventures and mysteries, are for my
children and grandchildren. (Most of what you will be reading
concerning birth through 5 years of age was told to me later in
life, so there may be a few errors due to defective recall).
two responsible for my entrance onto the stage of life were Lillian
Glenmore Brunner (Burklow), and Duke Harrison Burklow. Lillian
and Duke were living in Wheelwright Kentucky at the time of their
first pregnancy. Lillian was a housewife and Duke was the manager
of the No. Two Company Store, in Wheelwright.
Wheelwright is a coal
town located in Floyd County, in eastern Kentucky. This small
town is nesteled in a narrow valley between foothills about as
tall as those near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I don’t know of
any famous person or special event associated with Wheelwright,
it was just an average coal mining town with average people. Wheelwright
was owned by the Inland Steel Company and was a real company town,
with company housing, company stores, and even company produced
metal coins called “script”. (Workers would borrow
against their next paycheck. This borrowed money was a loan to
the worker in the form of script. If a worker borrowed too much
he really would, “owe his soul to the company store”
as in a song made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford titled, “Fourteen
Duke and Lillian decided
to go to Neon, Kentucky for this life changing event. No one asked
me how I felt about Neon, Kentucky but that happens to you a lot
when you have not been born yet. I think Duke went to Neon because
Lillian wanted to go to Neon. Lillian probably chose Neon because
her parents lived there and also the doctor was sober.
I am not referring to Duke and Lillian as dad and mom yet, because
at this time I haven’t been born! These two people are just
your normal everyday nervous wrecks, having mixed thoughts about
Sphar and Patsy Brunner, Lived in a modest little house located
in Hogg Hollow (pronounced, “Hog Hollar”). One could
get to this house be either walking or driving up a creek bed
if the water wasn’t too deep, or the rocks weren’t
parents were James Thomas Burklow and Maggie Young (Burklow) and
they lived in Fleming, Kentucky. Fleming was a coal mining town
just a mile or so from Neon.
During Lillian’s labor Duke, on several occasions, would
leave the room muttering words of encouragement such as, “what
have I done?.... Never going to do this again!”. Lillian’s
mother was very sympathetic on these occasions. She would tell
Duke, in her new mother-in-law tone of voice, “This is all
your fault….. Get back in that room and stay there until
the baby comes!”. Poor Duke and Lillian, both of them hurting
but for different reasons. These two fine people were about to
have their lifestyle changed beyond belief.
April 24, 1931, a great
day in my life… I was born! I think I was born about 4 o’clock
AM, but since I was so young this is basically a wild guess. I
am told I was a hard delivery and after entering this world my
head shaped like a football (Patriarch of the cone-head dynasty).
I must have looked pretty bad because a blanket was placed over
my head in such a way as to hide the shape of my head.
I got even with my parents for taking me out of a nice warm womb.
I had colic for about six months! I think that I must have been
a lot of trouble during the first year. It is quite possible that
mom and dad were considering limiting the size of their family
to ONE CHILD.
I am really glad that
they recovered from the shock that their first born must have
caused. I was the first of five children (plus one miscarriage).
I realized later in life that I was part of a very loving family.
I have always appreciated this family because it was always there
for me. Don’t get me wrong, we had all of the fights, spats,
and fun that any normal family has during that time when children
are growing up.
was where I was born, but Wheelwright was where I grew up. Two
or three weeks after I was born mom, dad, and I returned to Wheelwright.
I only remember living in one house in Wheelwright, and that households
many fond memories. The house was located about a ¾ mile
from the main part of town and about 1 ½ miles from the
Junction (The entrance to the hollow in which Wheelwright was
located. Wheelwright was in one end of this hollow and the Junction
was at the other end.)
The railroad tracks
came straight out of Wheelwright, starting at the assembly yard
near the main part of town. The assembly yard was where the coal-filled
railroad cars were gathered prior to being pulled out by a steam
engine. The road for automobiles ran parallel to the railroad
tracks three times after it left the main part of town. The store
that my father managed (referred to hereafter as the No. 2 store)
was located where the automobile road crossed the railroad tracks
the second time.
The house, that I remember,
was a two-story house located diagonally across the railroad tracks
from No. 2 store (No. 1 store was located in the main part of
town) and was the last house in that row of houses. There was
also a small creek that flowed out of Wheelwright right behind
my house. You talk about a playground made for a kid… mountains,
creek, mud, dirt, trees, slate dumps, railroad tracks, and lots
of play time! I was going to have to play 24 hours a day to use
all this equipment, it was a dirty job but I was just the kid
that would love every minute of it!
If you were facing
the front of the house you would see two stories; first floor
left side was a living room, immediately above this room was a
bedroom the same size and shape as the living room, to the right
of the living room was another bedroom, immediately above this
room was a bedroom the same size and shape as the one below it.
There was a door leading from the end of the living room adjacent
to the downstairs bedroom outside to the front porch. This porch
with banisters ran the length of the house and had a swing on
the left end.
Behind the living room
was the dining room, behind the dining room was the bathroom (added
later when I was about five years old). Separating the living
room and the dining room was a staircase and landing. Adjacent
to the dining room and behind the downstairs bedroom was the kitchen.
Behind the kitchen and adjacent to the bathroom was a small back
porch. The front porch was about one foot above ground level and
about 20 feet from the railroad tracks. The back porch was about
eight feet above ground level and about ten feet from the creek.
I have described this
house from loving memories, and as you can see it is a house made
for a kid! I could run out of the front door to the railroad track
where an inexhaustible supply of small round rocks (railroad beds
were constructed from creek gravel) was available for throwing
or use as ammunition for slingshots. I could run out of the back
door and jump into the creek. If mom was really after me, I could
run around in circles, from room to room, inside the house until
I was exhausted. I never ran upstairs because that was the only
place where she could corner me!