Poorhouse Creek Diary: Keeping Ewing on the Map
Who's doing laundry today? In Ewing, KY (pop. 300) you may know. Wally Thomas tells where the town's been and where it, and its washwater, are going.
Major league pitcher Woodie Fryman, the "Fleming Flame," hailed from Ewing, KY
Let me introduce you to Ewing, Kentucky, a small town in north central Kentucky. I used to say we were known for two things: big league pitcher Woodie Fryman and State Representative Pete Worthington. Then Woodie retired from big league baseball to come home to farm and Pete left us way too early. Our main claims to fame were gone, and Ewing needed to find a way to remain relevant.
That is what gets us to today. Ewing’s is an interesting story with many, beyond-real characters and events dotted through the years (Details to come). But I will stay with a short, pc account that gets most everyone up to speed.
The community of Ewing was founded in the 1870s when the Ewing family donated land for a depot to be built for the Maysville and Lexington Railroad. As we know, the trains made a number of stops on their runs and we were lucky. Ewing was one of them. The small community grew to become a fairly bustling town with the rail yard and related businesses — a coal yard, lumber yard, hardware store, bank, post office, hotel, blacksmith, newspaper, grocery, restaurant and assorted other establishments.
A train rolls past
Ewing's refurbished depot
Photo: Marc Prewitt
Things went well through the turn of the century and up until the 1940s and “˜50s, but then modernization, transportation, technology, school consolidation and all the other death nails of small towns struck, and the vibrant community slowed.
The 1970s brought a brief respite from the march to oblivion. A flamboyant gentleman named Colonel Maurice L. Dixon helped us survive into the '80s as a town that mattered. Colonel Dixon came to Ewing in the early 1970s and opened a small factory making 12″ -square pillows with colorful tops. He switched from pillows to small decorated teddy bears with foam rubber filling and they sold like hotcakes at Stuckey’s and other truck stops along the interstates in the South. He employed over 50 people at one time, a tremendous boost to this small community. But the same advancements that slowed us in the “˜50s hit again. Colonel Dixon’s business declined and eventually he was taken in an auto accident.
The next 15 years were rather depressing when viewed from the present. Dixon’s factory closed. The depot and associated small businesses stopped operating. The popular, well-respected owners of the grocery retired, and the locals did not take to the out of towners who eventually took over. The poolroom closed. The laundromat closed. The barber passed away. The beauty shop eventually closed. The small engine repair business became a delivery courier for oil, fluids and related products. The garage and farm equipment business closed, and the owner became a trucker and backhoe/dozer operator. One of the three churches became an environmental concern due to the pigeons. The local nursery, greenhouse and florist started, became successful and then left town. That business passed to the next generation and finally came back home; it’s continued as a second-generation success. One local building contractor is a second or fourth generation contractor (Fourth, if you let him skip the generation that did not want to drive nails).
As I look at Ewing today, we have about nine businesses that we can count. We have a vet's office, a commercial building contractor, a flower shop, bank, post office, oil and fluids distributor, backhoe and trucking company, Handi-Mart, and greenhouse/florist/landscaper and two churches. About 1.5 miles out of town we have a fourth generation feed mill/farm supply store that is a great place to trade, if they have what you need. And if it has to do with farming, lawn care, hardware or any kind of property upkeep, they probably have what you need, including the people to show you how to make whatever you’re buying work.
Today I find myself mayor of this community of about 300 people. We are trying to install a sewer system, so that on the two days of the week that one local does laundry, we don't have to know it by seeing the washwater run down the curb of Main Street. We need the sewer system so that when the owner of a newly constructed duplex pumps his holding tank, we are not reminded we could have development and some new structures if the lot size would allow a septic system to be installed. We watch as another older house that used its former well or cistern for a septic tank becomes abandoned, because the health department will not allow the cistern or well to be used as such. The city has completed renovation on about half of the old depot. It looks nice and is used on a regular basis. The city also constructed new sidewalks from the railroad bridge to the Handi-Mart a few years ago. We are in line for a new school and the battle is to keep it in town.
We are a small community in a critical position. To use terms our pro-casino governor might endorse, we can use the cards we’ve been dealt to make a winning hand, or we can fold. If more of our residents would get involved with community improvement and work together as a group, this community can again show that life in a small town is well worth the effort.