Memories of growing up in Evarts


Doug Hampton, Contributing Writer

I graduated from Evarts High School in 1966, so I grew up in Evarts in the late 50s/early 60s, which was a much simpler time and a wonderful time to grow up. Every storefront in Evarts had a mom/pop business, including a furniture store, clothing store, movie theatre, several grocery stores, several restaurants and the center of our social universe, Pierce Rexall Drugstore. Like most drugstores, there was a lunch counter and booths and delicious sandwiches, hot dogs etc. If you were looking for someone, all you had to do was call the drugstore and tell whoever answered the phone and odds are you would soon find them. We didn’t have a lunchroom, so most students would flock to the various restaurants and eat downtown.
There was a 9 o’clock curfew and they would blow a siren at 9 p.m. and everyone under 16 was supposed to be off the streets. We would start running if we were out and heard the siren. There was a jail and a fire department. I can vividly remember Luke Kirklin and me riding on the back of the fire truck on the way to a fire near Verda. Can you imagine doing something like that today?
Most of our teachers were friends of our parents, and if you got in trouble at school you begged them not to tell your mom and dad. Katie Carter was an assistant principal and at the time a lady assistant principal was a big deal. I can tell you this: EVERY boy in that school was scared to death of her.
In summary, it just a simple time to grow up. Very little, if any, drugs were around. People sat on the front porch after supper and basically everybody knew everybody in the town. We integrated when I was a junior and it was, as best I remember, completely without any major incidents or racial discord.


I was the first person in my family to play sports and I loved sports for as long as I can remember. My dad was a coal miner and my older brother didn’t play sports and girls didn’t have the opportunity back then. We lived about a five-minute walk from the football field, which also served as the Little League baseball field for the Evarts Lions Club team.
If you loved sports and lived in Evarts, Kentucky, you were soon going to cross paths with Charlie Hunter, or simply coach Hunter. He let me be a “manager” for the football team when I was in sixth and seventh grade. This was hog heaven for a little fat boy because I could race over to practice after school and hang out with the players AND I got to ride the bus to and from the games. I learned the words to every “naughty” song they sang after wins, and I learned to be real quiet and stay away from coach Hunter after losses.
Harlan County had Evarts, Harlan, Harlan Rosenwald, Hall, Loyal, Wallins, Cumberland and Lynch high schools at the time. Every team wanted to be the best team in the county and there were big crowds at the Friday night games, especially when two county schools were playing each other OR if a county school was playing the hated Harlan Green Dragons. Evarts held its own within the county and had several players go on to play college football.
Two things I remember most about the honor of playing for coach Hunter was the military bearing that he had and the way he could actually incorporate military language into our drills. For example, we had one blocking drill that instead of a football cadence such as down, set, hut coach Hunter would call out ready, aim, FIRE!! Also he took great pride in our game uniforms, buying us the best and insisting that we keep it in like new conditions, which again reflected his military heritage.
The second thing I remember is how well prepared for what the opponent would do and this was in a time when we would only film two or three games a year. Coach would send assistant coaches to watch two or three games in advance of our game, and most of the time we knew exactly what the other team was going to do in certain situations.
I’m speaking mostly football, but I also played basketball and “Coach” was our coach all four years We had a really good team when I was a freshman and went to play in the regional tournament at Bell Co. I don’t think I got to play, but it was a big thrill to be on the bench.
I had the privilege of playing for two great football coaches, Charlie Hunter and at EKU I played for the legendary coach Roy Kidd. Nobody would have ever referred to these two guys as “a player’s coach.” It was basically their way or the highway and as a teenager playing for them I didn’t want to disappoint either of them. Also, like a typical teenager, I thought both of them were way too tough on me and there were days I couldn’t stand them for being so demanding. As an adult, I look back and cherish the toughness and discipline that they brought to my life and to the relationship I had/have with them.