It is startling to pass the house on Cherry Street in Miners Cove. Precious little eyes peering from each dust-framed glass window would pique even the most jaded passerby. In 1917, Big John was drafted into the U.S. Infantry in World War I. He wasnít "Big John" then, but merely a tall gangly young soldier boy terribly in love with his childhood sweetheart, Alice. John kissed Alice a tearful goodbye and left to fight the "War to End All Wars." He was a smart fella, an apprentice builder, and soon was promoted from PFC to Sgt. John Greely. Those were hard years for John and Alice, but finally John came home ó minus his right leg. At first John told Alice she was free, and should marry someone else, but Alice loved John much too much for that, and at last they were married.
John had to find a way to make a living as a one-legged man, no longer able to use his education. He started buying and selling anything he could find, and soon became an astute (and "filled out") business man. Everyone in Miners Cove knew "Big John." John turned the old dilapidated house on which he and Alice paid a meager down payment into "Big Johnís Trading Store."
These two young newlyweds learned to live on very little, but the store grew and grew because of Big Johnís kindness. He always paid a fair price for those goods brought to him and charged a fair price for their sale. Except for the dolls! Alice would always save any dolls back they came by, knowing there was probably a heartbroken child somewhere. She would cherish them, keep them clean and protect them "just in case." There were Janes, Annettes, Shirley Temples, and even a Betsy Westsy through many years.
Big John and Alice were blessed with a beautiful little doll of their own they called Elizabeth, and their hearth was complete. Alice dressed up in flapper silk shifts and cloche hats, Big John in a wide-brimmed straw. This little family had the time of their lives even if Big John couldnít dance the Charleston.
Then, crash! Yes, the 1929 big crash. People brought so many goods to Big John he could barely buy them, let alone sell them. They got by very sparsely eating potatoes sometimes for a whole week. Through their worst times, John would not let Alice sell the dolls. Big John didnít even succumb to the fad of making bathtub gin. On Elizabethís first Christmas, Santa squeezed in beautiful baby doll for her, and each Christmas there followed another. Oh, how she loved her dolls. Alice never allowed her little human doll to play with the dolls she had held back, but saw that Elizabeth was furnished happily with dolls of her own.
Elizabeth grew gracefully, fell in love with a handsome college student named Bert, and the two of them soon moved across the country. Elizabeth spent her own lonely times while Bert too served as a Sargent in another World War. He was at the Battle of the Bulge, but unlike his father-in-law, he came through uninjured, and Elizabeth and Bert spent a good life together as he was raised to a Captain. Alice and Big John had the pleasure of seeing Elizabeth and Bert, with their two children, Alice and "little" John, but only occasionally, due to the Army traveling life of Elizabeth and Bert.
As the maker has designed it, Alice first, and then Big John left this world for their rewards, leaving the big old house, now beautifully refurbished, to Elizabeth and Bert. Bert was tired now and had to use a walker most of the time. Their children were living their own lives, so Elizabeth and Bert reclaimed Elizabethís old home place in Miners Cove.
Even though you may pass by and see them wandering through its rooms, they are never lonely. Bert is more often is reading contentedly with Elizabethís sweet face glowing by their old stone fireplace. Almost every day they watch some aging lady point to one of Aliceís dolls in one of their windows. Why just today, Bert caught Rebecca looking and pointing upward at one of the windows. He walked out to meet her and her friends and asked "Do you like that doll?" "Oh, yes, oh, yes!" I had one just like it when I was a little girl, and my parents had to leave it behind so they could move to find work." "Iíll get it for you so that you may see it up close," Bert smiled to himself. Bert retrieved the doll, and Rebecca hugged it so longingly, and then with complete astonishment! "It is my doll - look at that broken foot. I did that when I dropped her down the front porch stairs!" Tears were flowing down her wrinkling face. "Her name is ĎCuddles.í" So Cuddles and the little child in all of us were re-united, and Bert and Elizabeth made new friends talking about early Miners Cove over steaming cups of tea with Elizabethís special blueberry scones.
Miners Cove is so picturesque in the mountains of Kentucky that it has been renovated and restored to its historical significance. So many former Miners Cove families return to "go home again" to reminisce that this scene is repeated over and over. So, if you are from Miners Cove and you donít see your long lost doll baby right away, come back because Elizabeth has a basement full of carefully loved dolls, and another will fill the empty window tomorrow.
© Norma (Twi1ite@sbcglobal.net)