Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 28, 2014

Ashland walking tour recalls WWII days

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — Plans for a downtown Ashland walking tour aim to turn time back 70 years, recalling the days when hundreds of thousands of soldiers visited the city to report for duty during World War II.

“We wanted to highlight what was going on downtown as it was during World War II — specifically 1944,” said Matt Potter, president of the Ashland-based Eastern Kentucky Military Historical Society, who explained the project fit nicely with the group’s mission statement.

“This will be a 70-years later type of thing,” Potter said, noting the walking tour will feature the modern locations of places and activities nearly lost to local history.

“Even people in their 50s and 60s don’t really remember 1944. They remember Ashland in the 1960s. We want to remember all of the little cafes and restaurants, the multiple theaters, the family-owned department stores and numerous banks. And, what happened here during the war. Ashland was very much a homefront town,“Potter said, citing local industrial support for the war as well as “Red Cross offices, processing centers and the draft board operating at the Ventura Hotel.

“Just about every guy from the East Coast came through Ashland,” Potter said. “There were hundreds of thousands of guys that came through this city for the war.”

Potter said EKMHS board members are intentionally designing the walking tour to reflect the city’s history as opposed to highlighting beautiful old homes and other notable landmarks.

“This will be very different from previous tours with everything in the city crammed into one thing,” he said.

People with an interest in developing the tour are encouraged to attend a 9 a.m. Monday meeting in the genealogy room at the Ashland/Boyd County Library.

“A representative from the city will be in attendance. Also, Danny Craig, director of Ashland Mainstreet (now Ashland in Motion) will join us. Also joining us briefly will be Carol Allen, director of the Highlands Museum,” Potter said, explaining the agenda includes a review the plans made up until now; receipt of rough-concept map from Bill Martin; dividing Winchester Avenue into sections for research and fine-tuning; the search for images with photographer Tom Worden’s “Then and Now” project; assignment of roles and identification of areas where assistance is needed; and creating a list of prospective guides.

For more information, call Potter at (606) 547-2607.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.