Month: November 2015

HEINE & TYLER’s OYSTER SANDWICH: Celebrating National Sandwich Day


Sure…it’s Election Day, and performing your civic duty should be reward enough. However, it’s also National Sandwich Day, so as a treat for casting a ballot, perhaps you should indulge in your favorite sandwich. Seriously, where would we all be without the sandwich? Just thinking of my lunchbox as a kid and I realize I’d be nowhere without the sandwich: bologna, tuna salad, PB & J, and that nasty salami with the peppercorns in it.

The importance of the sandwich in all our lives is undeniable, so naturally, we in the Local and Family History Department began to wonder about the history of sandwiches in our town. Specifically, what is Paducah’s most historic sandwich? The answer is naturally debatable; everyone has a favorite. For iconic significance, one would have to consider the pulled pork sandwich as a front runner. Or maybe you side with the state and go with the Hot Brown. Perhaps, too, you might entertain a dark horse candidate like Myrick’s Pimento Cheese on squishy white bread.

For your consideration, however, the Local and Family History Department suggests Heine & Tyler’s Oyster Sandwich. The bar/restaurant first opened its doors in 1916 at 119 N. 4th Street, and almost from its inception, was famed for its oyster sandwich. Oysters used to be huge in Paducah. Before refrigerated barges, river traffic from New Orleans that carried produce and seafood would stop in Paducah for ice, and the local restaurants would snatch up the oysters for the menus. As for the oyster sandwich, no one could hold a candle to Heine & Tyler’s. The sandwich was so famed that while the restaurant is long gone, Heine and Tyler’s oyster sandwich is still featured on Kirchhoff’s menu.

The attached picture of Heine and Tyler is from our forthcoming James Curtis/Broadway United Methodist collection. We think the photo dates from 1951. If you can make out the menu in the background, you’ll see the oyster sandwich cost 15 cents.

The Heine & Tyler Oyster Sandwich is our vote for Paducah’s Most Historic Sandwich. What’s your vote?

–Matt Jaeger

FISH HEAD: Irvin Cobb’s Scary Story


Question 1…need something eerie to read?
Question 2…ever read any Irvin Cobb?

The answer to the first question should be an obvious and resounding “yes.” Who doesn’t want something a little creepy to read this time of year? As for the second question, more often than not, the answer is “no.”

Though Cobb is one of Paducah’s famed native sons— heralded reporter, author of over 60 books, a nationally recognized humorist, radio host, screenwriter, Hollywood actor, host of the 7th Annual Academy Awards—a surprising number of Paducahans have never taken a look at his work.

Thus, satisfactorily answer both questions and take a look at Cobb’s short story, “Fishhead.” First appearing in the magazine “The Cavalier” in 1913, “Fishhead” was among Cobb’s first forays into fiction. Though Cobb ultimately became known for his humor, the tone of this story is distinctly different and is best categorized as “southern gothic” fiction. “Fishhead” proved to be a quite enduring story and was republished several times during Cobb’s life and beyond. In fact, the story was so influential that master horror writer H.P. Lovecraft cited it as an inspiration for a couple of his works. Lovecraft said that “Fishhead” was “banefully effective in its portrayal of unnatural affinities between a hybrid idiot and the strange fish of an isolated lake.”

The illustration provided is from one published version of the story, and the link below will take you to the text.

So, treat yourself (or trick yourself) tonight with one of Cobb’s best.

THE PUMPKIN FLOOD OF 1902: This Week in Paducah History


The pumpkins on the Tennessee and Ohio rivers were described as being “thick as peas,” and the Paducah Evening Sun suggested that residents go down to the foot of the river, hire a skiff and go “pumpkin fishing.”

Due to unusually torrential flooding on the Duck River during the first week of October 1902, pumpkin farmers in Tennessee found a lot of their crop suddenly gone, washed away by the waters, carried downstream by the ton. Pumpkins do float, so they naturally made their way from the Duck River to Paducah and beyond. The “Sun” stated that the flotilla of pumpkins “won’t stop until they run against the revolution in Cuba.”

John Rogers, a night guard on the steamer Dick Fowler, managed to gather up an entire wagonload of pumpkins himself and estimated that over a dozen more wagonloads were caught in the debris alongside the steamer alone. According to the report, this was merely a small fraction of the pumpkins that bounded along the current toward the south pole.

Wharf boat officers reportedly considered starting a couple new organizations, “The International Pumpkin Association or “How to Reap Without Sowing.”

For more about buoyant gourds, feel free to visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. And if you like this article, please also “like” our Facebook page.

–Matt Jaeger

*Due to some confusion, please note that attached photo is not from 1902, but a recent photo to illustrate that pumpkins float.

NOBLE YOUNG LADIES: Portraits of Paducah’s Noble Sisters

11218227_442630599258044_2420155523506748337_n 12019910_442630579258046_1387750547284035019_n

In the fall of last year, I traveled to Louisville to visit the Filson Historical Society for my latest art historical research quest. I ascended the grand staircase of this magnificent nineteenth-century mansion towards the archives, pausing to gaze upon several of the stately portraits that hung on the walls. Two particular paintings that caught my eye were a pair of rosy-cheeked little girls wearing white muslin dresses, staring right back at me. Their pouting lips and big brown eyes evoked a sweet expression of innocence. Glancing down at the label at the bottom of the frame, a familiar “Paducah” caught me by surprise. I took a closer look, and found the sitters’ names: Virginia Franklin Noble and Emma Calhoun Noble Clark. I instantly remembered that the Noble family was a prominent Paducah family in the nineteenth-century, recalling the namesake of the city’s Bob Noble Park. I experienced a sudden surge of emotion, anxious and eager to find out more about these darling Paducah girls. I immediately scratched my plans for my prior research pursuit, and made the Noble portraits my new research challenge.

Plunging into the Filson’s archives, I sifted through the large document folder that accompanied the portraits. The paintings came into the Filson collection in 1978 at the bequest of Catherine Noble Ingram, a Paducah native. She was the great-niece of the two painted sisters, Virginia and Emma. Virginia and Emma were the daughters of John C. and Elizabeth P. Noble. Originally hailing from Lexington, their father, John Noble, is most well-known for his position as the Editor of the Paducah Herald from 1837 to 1871.

Virginia Franklin Noble was born in April of 1849. She was presumably around four years old when her portrait was painted. Virginia is depicted sitting on the grass, surrounded by a scenic, dark green landscape. The sky includes grey, white, and pink hues, possibly representing either dawn or dusk. She holds either a straw hat or basket in her lap filled with an assortment of colorful wildflowers. The sleeves of her flowing white gown are held up with coral jewelry, as coral was a prevalent material of children’s jewelry in the nineteenth-century, due its legend of warding off illnesses. Virginia spent her entire life at the Noble house on Jefferson Street, but never married. In her obituary, Virginia was described as “a Christian lady of many lovable traits…She was a lady of literary attainments, and during her earlier life, wrote for a number of periodicals. She possessed an unusually bright mind, and was a great favorite with all who knew her.” Virginia died on April 5, 1903 of a reoccurring illness. I suppose her coral jewelry featured in her portrait did not stand the test of time…

Emma Calhoun Noble Clark was born on January 20, 1851, revealing her age to be about two years old in her portrait. Emma is seated atop a red velvet cushion in a domestic interior space. The sleeves of her white muslin dress are also held up by coral jewelry. In her hands, she holds a Victorian rattle adored with a navy blue satin ribbon. A fluffy gray dog with a quizzical expression watches intently as Emma plays with her toy. Canines throughout art history symbolize protection, loyalty, and faithfulness. Emma grew up at home with her sister Virginia, but was married at age twenty-two to Dr. Jonathan Clark on February 2, 1874. She remained a housewife, watching over her three children, until her death by lung cancer on July 27th, 1915. Emma’s obituary describes her as “a most estimable lady, of the old school, and had a wide list of friends.” Both Virginia and Emma are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, surrounded by their families.

James Thomas Poindexter, the artist of the two young Noble girls’ portraits, was originally from Indiana. According to a city directory, Poindexter was residing in Evansville in 1853, the same year as the portraits of the Noble girls were painted. Perhaps Poindexter had a reputation for being a prominent local artist, and the Noble Family commissioned him to paint the double portraits. Art historian Estill Curtis Pennington believes that the artist “utilized print sources, almost certainly from Italian Renaissance depictions of the Christ child and St. John for the anatomical features. The legs … seem awkward, but are meant to suggest animation and to give the picture added depth and perspective.” Many of his paintings reside in Kentucky and Indiana museum collections today, such as the Evansville Museum of Art and Science, the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University, the Speed Museum, and the Transylvania University Art Museum. After a brief stint as a telegraph operator in the South during the Civil War, he built a permanent residence in Eddyville, Kentucky, and remained there until his death.

Although I wish these beauties were still in Paducah, you can still visit them personally at the Filson Historical Society, housed in the gorgeous Ferguson mansion in Louisville. The Filson boasts an extensive collection of Kentucky and regional portraiture. For more information on the Filson’s portrait collection, see Estill Curtis Pennington’s book Lessons in Likeness: Portrait Painters of Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1802-1920, or visit the Filson’s website at

–Carly Dannenmueller

HOLY GHOSTS: Churches and Synagogues of Paducah’s Past

12002937_440369142817523_8919106182777402040_n 12019783_440369139484190_7561245938876045222_n 12029548_440369159484188_5607675676796527275_o 12036762_440369136150857_3684426383732952188_n 11879047_440369156150855_2327871770507809661_o

In Donald Barthleme’s brilliant short story, “City of Churches,” a real estate agent gives a prospective buyer a tour of town that has no buildings except churches: ”The Bethel Baptist stood next to the Holy Messiah Free Baptist, St. Paul’s Episcopal next to Grace Evangelical Covenant. Then came the First Christian Science, the Church of God, All Souls, Our Lady of Victory…”

While that may be an absurdist’s concept for a story, a lot of small towns, especially small southern towns like ours, can somewhat resemble this scenario at times, even more so in bygone days. In its infancy as a boisterous port town, Paducah had far more saloons than sanctuaries, but with temperance and prohibition movements making strides in the early 1900’s, houses of worship soon began to outnumber the taverns. During that time, the area between 9th Street and the river was the heart and soul of the city, and Paducah’s downtown was not only rife with business and entertainment venues, but also with churches/synagogues. Look at a map from that time and it almost seems as if there’s one church every block

Only a handful of those old buildings remain. The oldest standing house of worship in Paducah belongs to Grace Episcopal Church at the corner of 9th and Broadway. The structure has been in continuous use since the first service was held on June 21, 1874. But as you can see by the accompanying pictures, many more grand churches and synagogues once stood in downtown Paducah; the five photos here (taken from the library’s digital collection) represent only a small sample. The congregations of these five churches still exist, but the buildings do not—some succumbed to fire, some to age, some to expansion.

Pictured are:
First Christian Church at 630 Jefferson.
First Baptist Church at 5th and Jefferson.
Immanuel Baptist Church at 408 Murrell Blvd. (now Walter Jetton Blvd.)
Kentucky Avenue Presbyterian Church at 602 Kentucky.
Temple Israel at 702 Broadway.

To see these photos (and others) in high resolution without the watermarks, visit the Postcard section of the library’s online Digital Collection at www. If you’d like to read the Barthleme story “City of Churches,” visit www.…/Bartheleme,%20A%20City%20of%20Chu…

And as always, for more about old Paducah, feel free to visit us in person at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.

–Matt Jaeger


* On Mondays, we’ve taken a trip into Paducah’s football history with Dusty Luthy, a library clerk and former sports writer. We’ve explored Paducah’s firsts, bests and funny vignettes in between. This is the final installment of MNF with Dusty. *

So while we can all agree that the South is a hotbed for football, Paducah and western Kentucky, despite making strides of the football notoriety variety, aren’t known for our overall prowess with the pigskin.

Kentucky is a basketball state, and forever will it remain that.

But, western Kentucky can still claim its own place in the NFL, starting with its most well-known star, George Wilson.

Wilson, a Paducah native and Paducah Tilghman alum, has played 10 seasons in the NFL, starting first with the Buffalo Bills and then playing the previous two seasons as a starter for the Tennessee Titans. It doesn’t look as if Wilson’s contract with the Titans will be renewed, and we’re not exactly sure what his future might hold, but he has certainly made Paducah proud.

After graduating from Tilghman, Wilson played college football at Arkansas as a receiver. He originally signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent before making his way to the Bills. After little success as a receiver, he switched positions to play as a safety in 2007 where he found much more playing time and fame.

Perhaps what makes Wilson Paducah’s favorite hometown boy more than tackles, sacks, interceptions or forced fumbles is his community involvement. Wilson is as approachable as they come, and has started the George Wilson S.A.F.E.T.Y. Foundation which was started to “Save Adolescents from the Everyday Trials of Youth”. It’s not unusual to see Wilson leading sports camps, retreats or fun nights at the local bowling alley, all to benefit Paducah’s youth.

12004763_439539222900515_3919695991874422646_nPaducah can’t exactly claim western Kentucky’s next famous NFL athlete, but we’ll try to be cool by association. Tim Masthay, punter for the Green Bay Packers, graduated from Murray High School and played college football at Kentucky. Masthay is a Super Bowl champion, playing with the Packers in Super Bowl XLV in 2011, defeating the Pittsburg Steelers.

And if we here in Paducah will lay claim to Masthay, why not extend our pats on the back to Jerome Bettis? Bettis was just named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015. “The Bus” played for the LA and St. Louis Rams as a running back before finishing his career as a Steeler in 2005 as a Super Bowl Champion. So how can we claim the former Rookie of the Year?

Bettis traveled to Paducah in 2012 as a part of the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?” which traced the family trees of celebrities. Bettis’ family history led him to Paducah and your very own McCracken County Public Library, where a portion of the show was filmed.

Of course, here at the Local and Family History Department, we always like to know who was first. Using the database, we were able to track down Spencer Rork.

Joseph Spencer Rork played in the NFL for one season – the 1922 inaugural season after changing its name from the American Professional Football Association – for the Evansville Crimson Giants.

Rork was a beloved athlete at Paducah High School as a senior in 1915. Rork played football, basketball and track and field and was the athletic editor of the Owaissa, Paducah High’s yearbook.

Rork wasn’t without a touch of scandal, however. In 1913 his name was attached to what could be the earliest eligibility squabble recorded in the area. Spencer Rork and Dick Miller, members of the Paducah High team, were not recognized by team manager Prof. W.H. Sugg, also the principal of the school, when Paducah traveled to play at Henderson. It is unclear what newly-formed Western Kentucky Athletic Association and school rules Rork, a sophomore at the time, and Miller violated, but the Hopkinsville Kentuckian reported that a petition signed by 75 Paducah students asking that the players be reinstated was ignored.

In protest of Rork and Miller’s suspension, the Paducah team quit and disbanded.

The school and team eventually reached a compromise thanks to the impetus of honoring a contract with Hopkinsville: Rork and Miller would be allowed to play in the game since the game contract was conceived in March before the WKAA rules went into effect. They would not, however, be allowed to play in the remainder of WKAA sanctioned games.

Rork, who in his Senior Will bequeathed a pair of slightly worn football shoes to Ellis Bass on the condition “that she wear them only to dances”, went on to play football for a time at the University of Kentucky.

After his stint at UK and entering the auto repair trade, he entered the army in 1918 during World War I. In 1922, he is listed as a member of the Evansville Crimson Giants.

Our initial search on showed other native Paducahans in the NFL over the years: Kurt Barber (1992-1995), Frank LeMaster (1974-1982), Robert Poole (1964-1967), Glenn Shaw (160-1964), Derrick Thomas (1987), Robert Winkel (1979-1980). This list of course excludes other football players who were not born in Paducah, but who have ties to Paducah and western Kentucky like Hunter Cantwell, another beloved Paducah Tilghman graduate and record-setter. Cantwell was technically born in Chattanooga, Tenn., and played in the NFL from 2009-2011, playing on the practice rosters of the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens. He was promoted to the Panthers’ active roster for a short time his first season.

Thanks for joining us for “Monday Night Football with Dusty” as we’ve delved into Paducah’s early years of football lore.

For more information on sports, football, Paducah and all things periodical, visit us at the Local and Family History Department of the McCracken County Public Library.