Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happiness and Sadness of May

Where has the year gone? Just yesterday we were celebrating the holidays and now I’m back to working in the yard. My Granny Devine always did say time speeds up as you got older, and now I’m seeing this is so true.

While I’m not a hot weather, summer person, I am glad to finally leave the cold days of winter behind. Too many days of sub-zero weather has made my joints ache and creak, so I’m ready for a change. Warmer weather means more time in the garden, more time to walk and more time to soak up the daylight. Of course, it's still Kentucky, so we are still having some cold days - not to mention the inches and inches of rain we have had.

The month of May is the perfect time to shed our winter skins and slip into the latest summer fashions. After months of cabin fever and overwhelming darkness, you feel an almost rebirth at the excess of sunshine and warmth.

May has always been a transition month for my family. We are transitioning from the long winter and spring into the warmth of summer and from school to summer break. We are transitioning from slow time, early darkness and structured schedules to fast time, later sunsets and relaxed casualness. We say goodbye to prime-time television, large pots of chili and blue jeans with sneakers and say hello to drive-in movies, salad from the Farmer's Market and shorts with flip flops.

I cannot believe I no longer have any children in the local school system. Christine has just completed her first year at Berea College and she is excited about her college career. It has been hard adjusting to no children in the house, but now I have her home again, even if it's only for three months.

I am so incredibly proud of all three of my daughters – I could not have asked for three better girls if I had tried to order them from a catalog. They are all intelligent and responsible adults and they fill my life with joy. My granddaughter, Devon Mikayla, is already a special girl - and spoiled rotten - she has us all wrapped right around her little finger.

May 19th is a special day for Keith and I – it will be our 21st wedding anniversary. We have been together for 25 years and are happy to be celebrating such a great milestone. Like most couples, we have had our ups and downs, our sicknesses and health, our richer and poorer, but we have created a unique family with strong ties and our bond is even stronger today than it was 21 years ago. We have raised three beautiful, intelligent daughters and they are our pride and joy and we are both spoiling the granddaughter. We may not have done everything right, but we keep plugging away and try to keep everyone happy and on an even keel.

A big event at Fort Harrod State Park – Bark in the Park - just took place last weekend (May 14th). The Community of Mercer County Writers - my writing group - has written our 2nd volume of "Prose and Poetry for Pets" and we sold them for $5 each. All proceeds go to the Mercer County Humane Society, the charity of choice for our group. Even though it rained cats and dogs - pun intended - there were several people who ventured out. Trying to keep our tent above water was our major problem.

May also brought us Mother’s Day near the beginning of the month (May 8th). This is the first Mother's Day without my mother, Brenda Sallee; I really didn't handle it well, hiding in the house and wanting to be alone. My mother-in-law, Christine Holtzclaw Rightmyer, is a special lady and I am blessed to have her in my life. I thank God everyday that she brought Keith into my life.

Even though my Momma's first Angel Day is on the 23rd and I can't believe she has been gone one year, May is shaping up to be an exciting, memorable month,. It will be a time of great joy and happiness, grief and sadness and I look forward to making lots of new memories. Reconnecting with family and friends should be a priority this year, so why not plan some special events with your loved ones. Time is only getting shorter, so make the most of it while you still can. Remember, memories live on forever.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


The loss of a family pet can have a major impact on your lives, it is like losing a member of the family. About five years, our family experienced the death of our beloved dog, Pebbles. Although we have lost many pets over the years — mice, hamsters, fish, gerbils, iguana, cats — losing Pebbles was the first dog Christine had ever lost and she was taking it very hard.

Pebbles was adopted from the Mercer County Humane Society in 1997 — Christine was about five at the time, so the two of them have grown up together. Pebbles was a Sheltie-mix and she was approximately one year old when she came to live with us. Keith had seen a picture of this cute dog in the Harrodsburg Herald and the next day he and Christine went to check it out. It was love at first sight and they adopted her on the spot. He took a picture of Pebbles to bring home and show the rest of the family because it would be two days before she was ready to come home.

Christine picked out the name Pebbles after the Flintstone’s Pebbles and Bam-Bam. Amber and Marie were also excited about the new addition to the family; they had been wanting a dog and we just kept putting it off because we had an indoor cat. Pogo was Keith’s cat and she didn’t warm up to new people or animals easily. After Keith and I got married, it took a long time before Amber and Marie were able to even get near Pogo to pet her, much less pick her up. We were afraid a dog would throw her into shock. We lost Pogo over 20 years ago — she was over 18-years-old.

It didn’t take Pebbles long to become one of the family. She was most attracted to Marie, although she loved to be around all of us. After the first few weeks, Pebbles was not the same skinny dog we had originally brought home. She was happy and healthy and had put on some weight. Apparently, Pebbles had come from an abusive situation, because she had a tendency to “cow down” whenever anyone raised their voice.

I could never get Pebbles to come to me when I would call for her — she always seemed to run in the opposite direction when I would call her. But she would always come to Keith’s call or whistle. Pebbles would do almost anything Keith would tell her to do, with the exception of getting her to stay down at meal time.

Pebbles loved table scraps and she was not above begging everyone for a bite. We knew table scraps were probably not good for her, but she loved them so much. We also had a hard time keeping her out of the cat food, even though she always had food in her dish — she would always sneak back and finish up whatever the cats had not eaten.

Even though she would not come to me when I called her, Pebbles would follow me around the house like a shadow. Whenever I was home she would slept at my feet or follow me from room to room—even the bathroom. Pebbles could be a nuisance at times, but we all loved her and we could tell that she loved us.

Pebbles would get so excited when it was time to go outside. She would jump and prance around the door waiting for someone to open it. Then she would charge out the door like the Calvary coming to the rescue. She would run several laps around the front yard just as fast as her legs would let her. She would sometimes bark and root her nose into the ground.

Pebbles was a wonderful guard dog because she would bark at any noise she would hear outside. Once she became used to friends or relatives coming to visit, she would become excited to she them — running to the person or trying to jump up on them. The jumping up on people was something we were still working on with Pebbles, but we weren’t having much success.

Over years, Christine and Pebbles became the best of friends and you could tell they loved being with each other. Sometimes Christine would but the leash on Pebbles’ collar and take her for a walk, other times they would just run and romp in the backyard or the back field. I can still see Christine rolling around on the lawn with Pebbles jumping on her, trying to lick her face.

When Pebbles died, we still had three indoor cats, but Christine missed Pebbles. She immediately started to talk about finding a replacement dog. Although there is no substitute for Pebbles, it would be nice to have another guard dog. We are trying to put Christine off — we wanted her to get over the initial shock of losing her first dog before we become attached to another one.

Pebbles is buried in our pet cemetery, along with Pogo the cat, Tully the bird and Snowball the rabbit, WeeHawk the cat, and several more I cannot recall. I will occasionally see Christine near the pet cemetery and my heart aches for her sadness. We have a new dog now - Rusty - and even though he is a great guard dog and Christine loves him, he is no replacement for Pebbles. Pebbles will always remain in our hearts.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Buildings of Days Gone By

(Photos by Dan Felstead of Wood and Pixel Narratives)

In recent months, I have been so proud of all the improvements going on in downtown Harrodsburg. Historic buildings are being refurbished and repainted and new businesses continue to struggle along in the struggling economy. Even older businesses are beginning to join in the remaking process.

Three of my favorite businesses on Main Street are Studio G, Beehive Gifts and Kentucky Fudge Company. The first two are longtime businesses and continue to attract new customers every day. The Fudge Company may be a new face in downtown, but it is fast becoming a favorite spot in Harrodsburg.

Studio G – owned and operated by Goldie Goldsmith-Vigneri – offers instructions and seminars for men and women fours years old and up. Pageant training, vocal and acting lessons, and confidence building are just a tiny portion of what is offered at Studio G. In addition to lessons, Studio G can also be rented for private birthday parties, meetings, dinners, weddings and casino nights.

Beehive Gifts – owned and operated by Jim and Shirley Sprague – is a wonderful gift shop and great place to find all types of collectibles. Boyds Bears, Willow Tree Angels, Precious Moments, Tim Wolfe Sculptures, and Cherished Teddies are all available for purchase. Beehive Gifts also offers several different lines of candles, including Yankee, Bridgewater, Candleberry, and Woodwick. If you are having trouble finding the perfect gift, Beehive Gifts will offer the ideal suggestions.

Kentucky Fudge Company – owned and operated by Tim and Jennifer Kazimer - is located in the historic Dedman’s Drugstore. In addition to the yummy homemade fudge, Kentucky Fudge Company also offers an assortment of ice cream treats from cones to milkshakes to sundaes. The cafĂ© offers a different soup of the day, as well as the Harrodsburger, chicken salad, olive nut loaf and several other sandwich options.

As I reminisce about my favorite Harrodsburg locations, I have a sobering reality of the historical places disappearing from our landscape, most notably the Mercer County Court House. I understand the need for more space in the Mercer judicial system, but watching the demolition of the court house has been very sad. I drive through down town Harrodsburg every weekday on my way to work, so I have watched the deconstruction of this building with a heavy heart.

This also reminds me of the destruction of the Hat Factory several years ago. Until its demolition in 2003, the old St. Andrews convent – known as the Hat Factory – was the oldest residence in Harrodsburg. Although the ROC building owned by the Harrodsburg Baptist Church has been a huge success, I can’t help but wonder what our ancestors would think about our practice of tearing down a historic building to put up a gymnasium.

Most rural grocery stores have totally disappeared, only to be replaced by convenience stores with gas pumps. Two of my favorite stores, Purvis’ and Peavler’s, both ceased to operate while I was still a little girl. The building for Purvis’ Grocery was totally removed, replaced by the Mooreland Avenue entrance into Mr. Kwik. Peavler’s Grocery was located on Magnolia Street, and although the building is still standing, it is a sad reminder of our past. Other small stores I miss were located in Bohon, Duncan, and Antioch.

Driving through the country, I also notice the many barns and outbuildings slowing falling into decay from lack of use. Tobacco barns and cattle barns with roofs falling in or lumber falling off, they are pictorial reminders of a life gone by. Occasionally you can still see old outhouses, smokehouse, spring houses and root cellars, but these are also disappearing with each day that goes by. Along with the shrinking of family farms, along goes the buildings that made small farming possible. I recently heard someone call old barns, “the graying bones of our past;” poetic, but true.

Even the gas station where my father used to work is long gone. Once located at the intersection of Mackville and Perryville Roads, I have so many fond memories of visiting the gas station and being treated to a cold Coke from the old fashion machine. The old Mercer Roller Rink building is still standing, albeit vacant expect for one week during the year. When the Grand Old Mercer County Fair and Horse Show comes to town, the old roller rink is turned into the pride of Mercer County with the many exhibitors of the Floral Hall.

The Harrodsburg City Pool is now nothing but memories – I actually cried when the pool and building was torn down. I spent so much of my childhood swimming in the pool and sunbathing on the decks overlooking the Salt River. Now the pool is only a memory and my children will never know the joys it could bring.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Five years ago I was a happy, energetic married mother of three beautiful daughters, and although I am still happily married with three beautiful daughters, but I was no longer happy or energetic.

When my baby sister died in January 2005, my life went downhill fast, into a swirling, liquid, non-stop flight of depression and grief. I eventually quit my job as a Registered Nurse because I was suddenly unhappy with my work – or was it because my sister had been in nursing school and we had plans of her joining me at the hospital where I worked? Although I don't regret leaving my job for a single minute, I have isolated myself away from the world, surrounding myself into a cocoon of grief.

I used to love working in my gardens, but the past five years, my poor gardens have been terribly neglected because I haven't had the energy or desire to take care of them. My home is also not as clean, my meals not as delectable, and my volunteer work has blown to the wayside.

My wonderful hubby accepted me for who I was and loved me unconditionally, but I knew he was worried about me. The same goes for my three daughters – gone was the mother who participated in every aspect of her children’s lives, replaced by the shell of a mother who was just barely hanging on.

Up until about four years ago, I was the "take charge" person in every crisis, methodically working through the problems to find the right solution. Only after the crisis was over and everything was going back to normal did I allow myself a moment of panic. But since the death of my sister, the "take chargedness" has left me. Suddenly I am a person who falls apart at the first little hint of trouble, and when things really get bad, I melt down and have to go to sleep. Sleep is my new coping mechanism, protecting me from having to deal with situations or problems that cause me great stress.

For the past five years, I have been running from life - running from the grief of my sister's death. Her passing left a huge crater in my heart and it has been difficult to leap over the wide expanse of pain. My family has given me space – given me time to come to terms with my heartache and for that, I will always be grateful.

Just when I think I’m ready to jump back into the real world, my mother dies. For three weeks, on and off, she was in and out of the hospital and with the exception of one night, I stayed with her every night. If I hadn’t stayed, my Dad would not have left her sight and I knew he needed his rest. And after all, I had been a nurse for 20 years.

Again the pain and grief came crashing down on me. The only difference is my Momma had been sick for a long time, and I was comforted by the fact she was no longer in pain. I miss her terribly, even still pick up the phone to try and call her before I remember, I won’t be able to talk to her again for a long time.

My bottomless pit of misery didn’t last as long this time, probably for two reasons. The first is as soon as I realized how sick my Momma was, I worked with my psychiatrist to change my medications to help me deal with the depression, anxiety and anti-social behavior that still plaque my life. I knew I would be in and out of hospitals, so my anxiety had to be more under control so I could be more in control. The second reason, I think, is because my sister’s death was so sudden, unexpected; she had just turned her life around. Amy had changed her life; Momma was very sick.

Now it is time for me to begin living again. This year I am trying harder to pull my life together and enjoy the small things in life. Last year at my husband’s encouragement, I signed up for a writing workshop at my local public library. This was one of the best things to happen in my life for several years.

Not only did this workshop jumpstart my writing career, it has made a huge difference in my attitude on life and has given me a network of other writers to lean on. For someone with a severe anxiety disorder and phobia of being in large groups of people, I have been forcing myself to participate in public readings.
To say these activities scare me to death is an understatement, but I can actually see myself growing as a person and a writer, instead of always hiding in the shadow. I realize that in order to introduce myself back into society, I am going to have to put effort into going out in public.

After five years of self-deprecating pain and grief, I am now running toward life with new hopes and dreams. I'm still struggling, but the baby steps are turning into toddler steps and for the first time, I'm catching glimpses of my former self.
The shadows of my past are still leave scars upon my soul, but some are lightened with age; some are still fresh like a huge, gaping wound. The trials and tribulations which have shaped my life have been a mixture of feelings and hope, emotions and tears, lessons and sins. I have clawed my way up from the inside out, testing and trying to find the right way, hoping the shadow of painful memories will stop cutting me too sharply. I’m learning to stand tall again, learning to live life again and learning the mysterious lessons presented in my life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Favorite Dolls and Christmas

Growing up in the late 1960s and early 70s, dolls were one of my favorite things; they are probably the favorite toy of most girls all over the world. All I ever wanted to be was a wife and mother, so dolls were my childhood playmates, and a way to let my maternal side show.

Aunt Virginia Ann, my Momma’s sister, got me a baby doll in the mid-1960s and I cherished her for years. I honestly don’t remember what happened to my baby doll, but within a few years Barbie and Skipper had taken over my life. My babysitter’s daughter had a Barbie trunk with all types of Barbie and Skipper clothes and accessories. During the summers I could spend all day playing with these dolls and clothes, as well as my own. When school started again in the fall, I played with all my Barbies after school; that is until reading entered my life. I was so proud of my Barbie clothes because my Granny Devine had made many of the outfits. I only have one of the “polyester” dresses my Granny made for my Barbies and I still have my very first Barbie.

My most memorable Christmas centered around one toy, which I still treasure today. The entire Harrodsburg family was at my Granny Devine’s house and after a huge meal, my Aunt began to hand presents to me and my brother and sister. I was around eight or nine years old and I couldn’t wait to tear into my package, but as usual, we had to wait until everyone had a present before we could open anything. Ready, set, go…away we went, ripping the paper and ribbons. I loved all my presents, but this year held a delightful surprise. Granny had given me a china doll…my very first china doll. She was so beautiful with porcelain black hair on top of her creamy porcelain face, with blue eyes, just like mine, and pink rosy cheeks. Her dress was pink with tiny white polka dots and she had a matching bonnet on her head. She even had a crinoline skirt and petticoat underneath her dress. I was ecstatic! It was such a grown up present and I was so happy my Granny thought I was old enough to have my first china doll.

This was 1970 or 1971, but I can still remember the excitement of this particular Christmas Eve. When the present were all finally opened and the wrapping and ribbons cleaned up, the kids watched television while the adults talked. This particular year, I took a long hot bubble bath in Granny’s miniature bathroom and changed into the new pajamas my Aunt had given me; new pajamas were a must for Christmas. I was all ready to go home to bed so I could wait for Old Saint Nick. I couldn’t wait to rush my parents home so I could jump into bed, listening to every creak of the house, just knowing that Santa would arrive at any minute. As for my china doll, Miss Betsy, she is still one of most treasured possessions. She holds a place of honor in my glass cabinet where I can glance at her every day. All three of my daughters have several china dolls apiece, but they never cared for dolls as much as I do. My dolls are a significant part of my heritage and, although I have had many china dolls since Miss Betsy, none will ever remind me of Christmas, or my Granny Devine, like this one special doll.

Momma also loved dolls, although her obsession started when she was much older. Whenever she would go shopping or was on vacation, she would find another doll for her collection. At the time of her death, she had two china cabinets filled with porcelain dolls and stuffed Boyd’s bears. What I like about her dolls is the fact they all have real hair; I always wished Miss Betsy had real hair so I could brush it. Most of my girl’s china dolls also have hair, but as I said, they never seemed interested in the dolls. It took Momma about five years before she realized my girl’s had no desire to have a doll collection. Most of these dolls are put away, and when my grandchildren get older, I will give the back to their mothers. Some of my dolls are 40 years old, but the girl’s dolls are from 10 to 25 years old; what a collectable “hand-me-down” these dolls will be.

Aunt Joyce, my Daddy’s sister, also has a large doll collection. Here dolls are all over the house and in the bedrooms. Several of these dolls I recognize because Momma would have one just like it. As with Momma’s dolls, my aunt’s dolls mostly have hair, and they all are very beautiful.

Another person in my life who loves dolls is Mrs. Gertrude Reed of Harrodsburg. Gertrude’s daughter is in the process of having her mother’s old dolls restored. One that is my favorite, is a doll with a porcelain head and stuffed body and she rides in a little wicker stroller. Gertrude said her sister had a duplicate doll in a stroller, but she couldn’t remember if it is still around. Gertrude, or rather her daughter, also had several other of her old dolls refinished, and she is happy to show them off when she is feeling well enough.

I still love my dolls, even though I do not play with them anymore. I will occasionally take one out of the cabinet and just sit and hold her. Every doll I own brings back certain memories, most are good memories, but I do have one or two bad memories mainly because of the person who gave them to me. I can’t wait to see if my grandchildren are going to love dolls. The youngest is only six months old, so she is much too little to show an interest; the other will soon be three years old, but right now she loves all kinds of toys

What dolls or old toys do you have lurking in your attic or basement? You never know what item you will find from your past. These things would make wonderful keepsakes for your loved ones. Anything you hand down to another person will have its own heritage, but it will bring precious memories of loved ones you’ve lost.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Library Memories

I can remember the first time I went to the Mercer County Public Library, it was still located in historic Morgan Row. The building was old and this was in the late 1960s, so the wooden floors squeaked as you walked across them. Although the building held only a limited number of books, it was like the church sanctuary to me. I felt calm and at peace and free to touch and look at all the old books.

I didn’t get to go to the library much when it moved to the corner of Lexington and Main Street, but I did use the Bookmobile. I can’t remember what day the Bookmobile came to Riverview, but I always had a list of books I was looking for. Many times the Bookmobile Librarian would recommend a new book, but more times than not, she would have to bring the books I wanted back to me in two weeks.

As an elementary student, my favorite library was at Mercer County Elementary School. Ms. Joy Gash instilled the love of books and reading into my heart and I’ll forever be grateful to her. She always knew the perfect books to choose for me and many times would quiz me on what I had read. Even at this early age, I grew an attachment to certain books and when I started my own home library, these were the books I started with. “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Little Women,” “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret,” and the “Betsy” books were just a few of my favorites. I never was much for Nancy Drew, but I loved Trixie Belden.

It was my babysitter’s daughter who got me attached to Trixie Belden. I read all her books and then had to have my own collection. These were my pride and joy and I read each one of them so many times, I knew them by heart. Momma would always take me to J. J. Newberry Department Store on Main Street to find the newest book.

When I was 16, I thought I had outgrown Trixie, so I let a neighbor girl borrow my books – I never saw them again. When I started having children of my own, I would buy Trixie Belden books to read to them, but by this time, the books were all paperback. If I’m going to have a book in my home collection, it has to be a hardcover –unless the book comes no other way.

I had the Whitman 1970s edition of the hardcover books – the original 16 books. One year for Christmas, my wonderful hubby surprised me with a boxed set of all 16 of the Trixie books, just like the ones I had. He had monitored eBay for weeks trying to find just the right editions and the most perfect condition. You could tell that the girl who owned this new set of books had loved them and read them often, because I could feel her presence in every well-worn page and gently cracked spine. This has been one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever.

When I had my first children, the library was one of the first places I took the girls when they were old enough to behave in public. At three and four-years-old, Marie and Amber would attend summer library story hour with Mrs. Kathleen Day and the girls loved it. We would check out several books for the week. It was harder to make time for the library when I started nursing school, but we made do by checking out even more books when we went.

By the time Christine was born, Marie and Amber were not as interested in reading and had quit letting me read to them at bedtime. So, I read to Christine, even though she wasn’t old enough to understand.

When Christine was old enough to attend the library story time, Mrs. Day was still there and Christine fell instantly in love with her. We couldn’t check out enough books to last a full week and we ended up making two to three trips to the library per week.

Christine loved books so much, she started to have her own favorites, just like I did. If we would check out the same book more than four or five times from the library, then we would have to try and buy this book to have at home. Sometimes these books were easy to find; others were a little harder because they were older. One example is “The Best Little Christmas Tree” – we had to have it ordered from Tony Sexton’s bookstore that used to be where the Mercer Humane Society is now. We still read this book at Christmas and it still makes me cry.

About three years ago, I started a book blog – Bobbi’s Book Nook – and would post reviews of the books I read. It is unbelievable the number of book review blogs there are on the Internet. I was shocked; I had no idea there were so many. Even though the blog was for my personal use – mainly to help me keep track of the books I had read – I soon realized I enjoyed writing books reviews. Now I have a book review column “Kentucky Monthly Magazine” and for “GoodReads.”

With the opening of the brand-new Mercer County Public Library, I feel like a little kid again. No longer creeping across creaky wooden floors, but browsing almost 10,000 square feet of books and magazine. Some people may think enlarging the library was a waste of time and money, but for avid readers like myself, it is a treasure to the versatility of our community.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hallowed and Hushed

Unknown. Hallowed and Hushed be the place of the dead. Step Softly. Bow Head.

Living in Harrodsburg my entire life, I have a sentimental attachment to Youngs Park, located on Linden Avenue, between the Mercer County Fairgrounds and James B. Haggin Memorial Hospital. I have so many memories of playing in the park, eating picnic lunches and attending family functions. My Granny Devine lived within walking distance of the park and I’ve walked the short block from her home so many times, I could walk it blindfolded.

Youngs Park has always been one of my favorite places to escape to when looking for a nice, quiet lunch. Many times I have driven behind the park to the lower picnic tables and enjoyed a sandwich while watching the antics of the squirrels. The squirrels have become so used to human contact, they will sit within easy reach of picnic tables or cars, eagerly waiting for a scrap of bread or a French fry to be thrown their way.

Many of my fondest memories of Youngs Park occurred during my Girl Scout years and our annual summer Day Camp. One week of each summer was dedicated to numerous scouting projects with a different theme for each day. I can remember tie-dying T-shirts, painting pictures, cooking over a campfire, learning how to mark trails, just to name a few activities. During the summer of 1971, our favorite song to sing – and we sang it at the tops of our voices – was Three Dog Night’s “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog.” We thought we were so cool.
The highlight of the Day Camp would be the sleepover on Friday night. For the sleepover, the Boy Scouts would come and help us set up tents in the back portion of the park. Camping out was exciting and we looked forward to it every year. Campfires, homemade stews, and s’mores were all on the list of activities.

Another eager awaited tradition for the sleepover was the telling of ghost stories. Because most of the Girl Scouts ranged in age from 8 to 14, we were all susceptible to having the beegeezus scared out of us! And Youngs Park was the perfect backdrop for these scary stories because of the legend of the “girl who danced herself to death.”

I’ve heard the story all my life – an unknown young girl arrived at the long-gone Graham Springs Hotel and attended a lavish ball where she danced all night. She eventually danced herself to death, collapsing onto the ballroom floor at the feet of her partner. She was buried in an unknown grave on the Graham Springs property. It is only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve had the desire to check more into this legend.

Historic Graham Springs was located in the area of the current Physician’s Park and Haggin Hospital and was on the site of a natural spring. There were numerous springs in the Harrodsburg area and they were reported to have healing and restorative properties.

This Spring, that would eventually be called Graham Springs, was turned into a spa as early as 1807. In 1827, Dr. Christopher C. Graham purchased the Springs and in 1842 constructed the main hotel, Graham Springs Hotel. The hotel was a brick four-story building which Graham said would hold one thousand people.

Graham charged a fee of $20 per month to stay at the Springs and “take the waters.” Not only did guests enjoy and benefit from healing waters, they also joined in a lively social season which lasted from June until September. Balls and other entertainment occupied the guests while they drank the mineral waters. Graham claimed the waters helped to alleviate the aches and pains of people who suffered from such aliments as gout, rheumatism, dropsy, neuralgia, and “Autumnal fevers.”

Often called the “Saratoga of the West,” Graham Springs flourished until 1853, when it was sold to the United States Government for use as a military asylum for aged and invalid soldiers. Fire later destroyed main buildings and the place fell into disuse.

Sometime between 1842 and 1853, legend says a beautiful young lady appeared at the Springs. No one knew who she was, but it is rumored she came from “down South.” When arriving at the Springs, she signed the guest register with a fictitious name. After her dancing death, she became known as the “unknown lady,” although most people from Mercer County still refer to her as “the lady who danced herself to death.”

After her death and burial at the Springs, a mon-ument honoring her was erected. Currently, the tomb is located between the road and the shelter house, with a sign bearing the words:
Hallowed and
Hushed be the
place of the dead.
Step Softly.
Bow Head.
As I child, I thought I saw the ghost of this mysterious lady on numerous occasions, but as I’ve grown older, I realize it was probably mass hysteria brought on by ghost stories around the campfire. Although, there was one night in 2004, as I was leaving work at the Haggin Hospital at three o’clock in the morning, I would swear I saw a woman dancing through the park. She appeared to be dressed in white and was walking near one of the large oak trees in the middle of the park. Thinking back, it was probably exhaustion or my mind playing tricks on me. But then again …

Added note: As recently as 2002, an article appeared in the Mercer’s Magazine claiming to have finally learned the identity of this unknown woman. This article can be read in its entirety at: http://www.angelfire.com/tn3/masterdetective2/Old_Mystery1.pdf.

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank my brother-in-law, Don Rightmyer, from the Kentucky Historical Society for helping me find information on Graham Springs.