Thursday, May 14, 2015

Henry Wombles of Heirloom writes a novel, Under the Flagpole, about the people in his native Eastern Ky.

By Kayla Loy
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Henry Wombles signs books outside Heirloom Sept. 20
You can usually find Henry Wombles helping his son, Mark Wombles, run the Heirloom restaurant in Midway, especially since Mark opened a restaurant in Lexington. But while running a restaurant, Wombles recently finished a novel.

Under the Flagpole focuses on people in Eastern Kentucky who have never been outside the area or lived anywhere except the mountains.

Wombles said they are smart people but haven’t traveled a lot. The protagonist of the book, Miles Hudson, lies about his age when he joins the military so he was able to join at 16.

“I thought it was a story that never been told that really needed to be told,” he said.

As a younger man, Hudson develops a fever that reaches 103 degrees. His mother doesn’t want to take him to the hospital so she tells Hudson’s 17-year-old sister, Evaline, to go get Silver Eyed Jane to heal him with her magical powers:
“Scared and confused, Evaline lashed out. “I’ll tell you something, Miss Silver-Eyed Jane! I never wanted to come up here on your mountain in the first place, but my momma sent me here!”
Hudson goes through hardships and wants to do something more than only being a coal miner. He tries to find himself.

Wombles, 76, said he wrote the book because he is from Eastern Kentucky: Hazard, where his father owned coal mines. He said he always wanted to write a book about the region.  “I grew up in that area and knew all the people,” he said.

Those people in Wombles’ generation were very patriotic during the World War II years. “It was a different experience for them” to go to war, Wombles said, because the life they lived in Eastern Kentucky was different from the rest of the world.

During this time, people in Eastern Kentucky had movies and radio, but no television. The only thing they saw from the outside world was what they saw on the movie screen. In Hazard, there were two theaters.

“Everyone in the mountains loved going to the movies, especially the cowboy movies,” Wombles said. Many of them “never thought they would ever see anything except mountains.”

Wombles said he started on the book two or three times due to the deaths of his parents.
It took him about four years to write it. Finishing it was a “weight off my shoulders,” he said.

Wombles describes the self-published book as a “work of love” for the people he grew up with.

For several years after high school, Wombles worked for his father in the mines. After that, he found work in Hazard at an engineering company, then with an engineering firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that was restoring the home of Samuel Lerner, who owned the Lerner Shops.

“The home had a lot of history to it,” said Wombles, indicating Ernest Hemingway wrote many of his stories in that house.

The project lasted about three years. Wombles said it was a great experience for a man in his early 20s, and he hopes to go back to Bimini this summer.

When Wombles left Bimini, he moved to Winter Park, Fla., just outside Orlando. He lived there for about five years, working at a one-hour cleaners, but his father kept asking him to come back to Kentucky to help him work in the mines. Wombles did come back, but to Lexington, and traveled back and forth to work in the mountains.

When the coal business slowed down, Wombles got a job in single-copy sales at the Lexington Herald-Leader, where he made and directed training films for new employees. He retired from the newspaper at age 63.

Wombles held a few other jobs, then retired to his small farm on the Woodford- Fayette county line. 
“I just wanted to live out in the country. I like country living,” he said. "I’ve been there now close to 30 years.”

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