Dan Birdwhistell

05/02/2016

The Five Moffett Girls and How They Grew

The Five Moffett Girls and Ophelia near Asheville, NC on their way back from a trip to Georgia. 

The family took several fun trips, the energetic parents and the lively little girls in tow. They journeyed occasionally to Lexington for doctor's appointments and shopping downtown in the pre-Mall days. They had to cross the Kentucky River on a two-car ferry at Tyrone, which meant a fearful drive DOWN a hill onto the ferry, followed by an equally fearful drive UP a hill on the Woodford County side. Sometimes, if the River was 'up,' they took the 'Clifton ferry,' getting on at the end of the Ninevah Road. There was great relief when the Joe Blackburn highway bridge across the Kentucky River was finally opened and dedicated in June,1932.

The Moffett Girls and cousins Jane and John Allen pose in front of their 1933 DeSoto

To accommodate everyone, Mr. Moffett purchased a new 1933 DeSoto automobile, which, according to the girls, "held all seven of us, plus Miss Georgie!" One memorable trek was to Atlanta in the summer of 1934, to visit Mrs. Moffett’s brother, John Moore, who worked for a shipping rate company there. Martha was fighting appendicitis, but the family decided to forge on with the trip, which included an overnight in a blistering hot Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville. While in Atlanta, they visited Stone Mountain (then under construction) and other local 'sights'. On the return trip, the Moore family (Uncle John, Aunt Allie, Jane, and John Allen) drove along in their Model-A Ford for a visit to Kentucky, and there were several flat tires. The families initially attempted to spend the night at the Southern Baptist assembly grounds at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, but there was “no room in the inn.” and they spent another hot night in an Asheville hotel. Even though rarely living in close proximity, the Moffett girls and "Uncle John's family" have remained close. As a teenager, Jane Moore would spend several weeks each summer with the girls on South Main, while John Allen would stay at "Aunt Martha" Goodlett's house on Broadway.

The Moffett Girls along with Melwood Stevens, Uncle John Moore, and his children John Allen and Jane Moore

The fall of 1934 provided another memorable experience. On November 16 President Franklin D. Roosevelt was scheduled to come to nearby Harrodsburg to dedicate a federal monument to George Rogers Clark at Fort Harrod. The sisters recall rising before dawn on a bitterly cold day to get to Harrodsburg in time to find a good place to stand. The family had a good vantage point for Roosevelt's address, then ran quickly to get a good place on the route his departing car took. They are convinced that FDR waved directly at them and smiled as he drove by.  More frequent family outings included jaunts to Salt River for picnics and wading and to annual Fourth of July celebrations.

Church attendance was at Sand Spring Baptist Church, the family church of the Moore clan. Each of the girls was active in church life and at the appropriate time was baptized into the church membership. They recall the fun of being taken to Sunday School by “Miss Georgie” Wise in her pony cart. As teenagers, each became a leader in the children’s work of Sand Spring, a tradition they had inherited from “Aunt Sallie” Short and “Aunt Mary” Williams. “Aunt Sallie” frequently drove the horse (“Old Billy”) and buggy home from church carrying the girls to Sunday dinner at the Moore home place in Ripyville.

The Moffett girls attended the public schools of the town, the grade school on Woodford Street and the high school (“City High”) on North Main Street. Memories include skating to town on the newly created sidewalks of Lawrenceburg, leaving their skates at “Uncle Robert” Hanks’ gas station near the school. Kitty and Bitty were the first to graduate from City High, in 1933 and 1934, respectively. Kitty was class salutatorian, Mary Lois the class valedictorian. Mary Lois recalled her terror at having to give her valedictory speech in the high school gym on North Main Street. Mr. Moffett was evidently so upset about the whole affair that he “drove his car all over the county” the day before the evening’s event.

After a year off from school to learn typing and shorthand from Eueth Crossfield, the two oldest daughters were off to Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College in Richmond in the fall of 1935. The painfully homesick Kitty did not return to Eastern after the Thanksgiving holiday, but Mary Lois finished her first full semester in January, 1936. Meanwhile, in 1935, Ira Moffett had suffered a major heart attack (at the age of 45), including a six-week hospital stay and a year’s convalescence in bed, and the family's resources were focused on his recovery and everyone doing what she could to help. Kitty began a job as receptionist at the Anderson County Health Department in December, 1935, a position she would hold for over 40 years. Mary Lois withdrew from college to begin work at the ASC office in the spring of 1936, where she endured farm survey trips all over Anderson County during the blazing hot summer of that year, the hottest July and August on record in the state. Squire Gordon, a good friend of Ira Moffett, helped the girls find these jobs.

During Mr. Moffett's convalescence, two local black men, 'John Bill' Searcy and Chris Thurman, helped the family with chores such as gardening and milking. Mr. Moffett was very precise in his supervision of his beloved vegetable garden. In later years, John Russell helped with the milking. It was also about this time that Alice Johnson joined up as the designated 'ironing lady' for the family. Soon thereafter Rose Huggins Penny became the family's beloved 'cleaning lady,' a position she held faithfully for fifty-nine years, until her death in 2001.

It was about this time that the two older girls needed to learn to drive, because Mr. Moffett was still confined to bed. A family friend, Dick McGurk, who worked at the Ford garage in Lawrenceburg, was their driving instructor, giving each girl two lessons and “turning them loose.” They recall learning to drive about the time that Lawrenceburg installed the first sewer line on South Main Street, which necessitated installing boards over the ditch so that cars could get out of the driveways.