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Program 1404

1. Skeeter Davis
2. legends of the KHSAL
3. the Battle of Perryville
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Grant County

Producer: Tom Thurman
Videographer: John Schroering
Audio: Noel Bramblett
Editor: Dan Taulbee

Free Spirit

Skeeter Davis

Growing up on a farm outside Dry Ridge in the 1930s, Mary Frances Penick made up her mind pretty early that she wanted to become a country music star. And she did—but the name the world would get to know her under would be Skeeter Davis. The “skeeter” part was a nickname originally bestowed by a grandfather for her restless energy. “Davis” came from her first singing partner, Betty Jack Davis. After meeting in high school, the two teamed up as the Davis Sisters.

The faux sisters recorded several hit songs, appeared on radio and television programs, and seemed headed for national stardom. But just as their song “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know” was climbing the charts in the summer of 1953, they were involved in a horrendous car crash that killed Betty and left Skeeter severely injured.

After her recovery, Skeeter performed briefly (and apparently not too willingly) with a real sister of Betty’s. But then Chet Atkins, who had played guitar on many of the Davis Sisters’ recordings, took her under his wing, producing solo recordings for her and introducing her to the Nashville establishment. She joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1959 and in 1963 scored her biggest hit of all, “The End of the World,” a crossover hit on both the country and pop charts.

At that point, of course, the nation was heading into tumultuous times, and Skeeter’s unconventional personal style didn’t always sit well with those trying to stem the tide of change. She drew media attention for such eccentricities as a home menagerie that included a pet ocelot, married and divorced several times, helped welcome folk-rockers the Byrds to the Opry—an appearance made tense by the disapproval of some of country music’s old guard—and was even suspended from performing at the Opry herself for a time after making a statement criticizing the Nashville police. Eventually she was reinstated, and she remained one of the Opry’s most popular performers for years.

Diagnosed with cancer in 1988, Skeeter died in September 2004. Her 1993 autobiography Bus Fare to Kentucky is her own frank and free-wheeling depiction of her many ups and downs. In this remembrance, we also hear the perspectives of her brother Buddy, sister-in-law Peggy, and childhood friend Corine Hammonds.

Jefferson County
Fayette County

Producer: Tom Thurman
Videographer: Michael Follmer
Audio: Brent Abshear
Editor: Otis Ballard

Hoops History

Willy Lee Kean and S.T. Roach

Like most other aspects of life in Kentucky, high school basketball was a strictly segregated affair during the first half of the 20th century. Our next segment for this edition salutes two coaching legends of the African-American Kentucky High School Athletic League: Willy Lee Kean of Louisville Central and S.T. Roach of Lexington’s original Dunbar High School.

A multi-sport standout himself at Central, even though he stood only 5'1", William Lee Kean made the 1922 Negro All-American Team as a college quarterback at Howard University. He returned to his hometown and to Central to teach health and physical education and to coach football, track, tennis, baseball, and basketball.

Kean’s football Yellow Jackets were pretty formidable, compiling a 225-45 record during his tenure. But his basketball record is even more impressive. While going 857-83 overall (an astonishing 91% winning percentage), Kean’s teams won five KHSAL state championships, four national Negro high school championships, and two Louisville Invitational Tournaments as basketball moved into the integrated era. The coach died in 1958, but his roundball legacy also includes a grandson: NBA star Allan Houston.

One of Kean’s coaching rivals for domination of the KHSAL was Sanford T. Roach, who started out at his own alma mater in Danville but became a coaching legend at Lexington Dunbar. A Kentucky State University alumnus, Roach once cemented his reputation as a no-nonsense disciplinarian by benching all five starters for a curfew violation—during a district tournament. In two decades at Dunbar starting in 1943, he compiled a 512-142 record. Dunbar’s 1948 KHSAL championship win over Hopkinsville in double overtime is still considered one of the greatest high school games ever played in Kentucky.

Roach, who also taught biology, physiology, and anatomy at Dunbar, eventually retired from coaching to concentrate on the education side of things. He became the first black principal of an integrated school in Lexington and has served as an education adviser to two Lexington mayors.

Bonus Video: “Coach Roach” talked athletics and academics in a 2007 edition of Connections with Renee Shaw.

Boyle County

For more information:
• About the park: Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, 1825 Battlefield Rd., Perryville, KY 40468, (859) 332-8631
About the battle

Producer, editor: Jessica Gibbs
Videographers: Darius Barati, Michael Depersio, Mindy Yarberry

The Blue and the Gray

the Battle of Perryville

Our next destination is a place Kentucky Life has visited several times—but then it’s a place well worth revisiting periodically in order to remember a pivotal time in Kentucky—and American—history.

At the start of the Civil War, both sides knew that controlling Kentucky would be critical for maintaining river and railroad transportation into the South. On October 8, 1862, Union and Confederate forces squared off outside Perryville in what would become the Rebels’ last major stand in the state. The seriously outnumbered Confederates held the day, but had suffered too many losses to pursue their advantage. They withdrew back into Tennessee, and the South was never able to mount another Kentucky campaign.

For most of the year, the Boyle County battlefield is a contemplative place. One of the least disturbed of all Civil War battlefields, it still offers vistas very much like those the soldiers would have seen in 1862. And once each year, on the October weekend closest to the 8th, reenactors gather to retrace those soldiers’ steps and to re-create both the battle and the surrounding camp life. Several of them show some of their preparations and talk about their reasons for participating in this visit to the 2007 reenactment.

You’ll find more about the Battle of Perryville in Kentucky Life Program 210 and Program 911.

Boyd County

For more information:
Highlands Museum and Discovery Center, 1620 Winchester Ave., Ashland, KY 41101, (606) 329-8888

On Location

Dave Shuffett hosts this edition from the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center in Ashland, where the exhibits and activities cover topics ranging from Appalachian history and culture to science and nature. Kids of all ages can try out their piloting skills on a flight simulator, make music with an interactive wooden sculpture called the Music Quilt, or try out challenges from one of KET’s popular children’s series in the Fetch Lab.

SEASON 14 PROGRAMS: 140114021403140414051406140714081409
142214231424142514261427: Lincoln: ‘I, too, am a Kentuckian.’1428142914301431

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