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Program 312

Burnside, Then and Now
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Producers: Charlee Heaton Pagoulatos, KET; WKYU-TV
Videographer: Gale Worth
Editor: Dan Taulbee


That Was Then; This Is Now

Byron Crawford with Velma Perkins remembering Old Burnside

This entire episode is spent in and around the Pulaski County town of Burnside—a place well worth passing a little time in.

Burnside began life as Point Isabel, but was renamed for Gen. Ambrose Burnside after he fortified it as a base from which to defend Union loyalists in eastern Tennessee during the Civil War. For the first half of the 20th century, the town was a regional commercial hub, handling goods that came by railroad and via the Cumberland River.

Then in 1952, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers erected Wolf Creek Dam in a flood control/power generation project, and part of the Cumberland River became Lake Cumberland, a long, narrow lake that is Kentucky’s largest at more than 50,000 acres. The plan called for flooding most of Burnside, and so the residents moved the town to higher ground to the north. (An area known as Bunker Hill remained above water level and today is the site of General Burnside State Park, Kentucky’s only island park.)

Life changed dramatically in Burnside after that, with tourism becoming the new economic base and the population ebbing and flowing with the season. During our extended visit, Kentucky Life visits with several long-time residents to learn about Burnside “before and after.” Former train conductor Chauncey Love tells railroad stories, and host Byron Crawford gets a tour of the sights of old and new Burnside from Velma Perkins (pictured with Byron above, with Burnside Marina in the background). Stella Grissom, nearly 100, reminisces about her days running the Seven Gables Hotel, which was famous for an oft-photographed fountain. Other topics include pre-lake flooding; train excursions and steamboat rides; the one house that was actually moved when the waters were dammed; and the one-woman “news bureau” of Bernice Mitchell, who made it her mission to keep the local boys off fighting in World War II informed about regional events.

Note: Mrs. Grissom died in January 1997, shortly after this program premiered. The episode is dedicated to her memory.


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