Just as they have on the first Saturday of each October for more than a half century, Boyd County natives who are at least 50 and non-natives who have lived in the county for at least four decades will gather at the Ashland Elks Lodge on Carter Avenue Saturday for the 59th annual Boyd County Old-Timers Breakfast. While they feast on a traditional breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy and potato casseroles prepared by the Elks and reminisce with old friends, they will be treated to a talk by someone who has been a member of one of the nation’s best-known vocal groups nearly long enough to be classified as an “old-timer.”
Joe Bonsall, 64, a member of the Oak Ridge Boys since 1973, will be the guest speaker at the 9 a.m. breakfast, but it is his accomplishments outside of his singing career that bring him to Ashland. In 1997, Bonsall released a four-part children’s series titled “The Molly Books” and six years later, he published “GI Joe and Lillie,” a book about his parents’ lives during and after World War II. Both parents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
“I’m very excited that he was available and that we’re able to bring him here,” said John Vincent, chairman of this year’s breakfast, of Bonsall. “I know he will give an interesting, uplifting and informational speech to the group.”
While the Old-Timers Breakfast has always had a guest speaker, those addressing the group usually have been local residents known as interesting speakers with good stories to tell. However, a year ago the level of speakers was raised a bit when Col. David Wilcox gave an inspiring and uplifting patriotic talk to the group, and since that time, Vincent has been working diligently to have Bonsall as a fitting encore to Wilcox’s talk. Bonsall, who does most of the talking when the Oak Ridge Boys are performing, is a gifted speaker, and Vincent said people he knows who have heard Bonsall speak have given him rave reviews.
However, we suspect Bonsall won’t be the main attraction at Saturday’s breakfast. The Old-Timer’s Breakfast is the one annual event that is both exclusive and inclusive. It’s exclusive because not everyone can come. To be classified as a Boyd County Old-Timer, one must either have been born in Boyd County 50 or more years ago or be a non-native who has lived in the county for at least 40 years.
It’s inclusive because the breakfast attracts people from all racial and economic brackets. In fact, about the only thing that unites the Old-Timers is their long-time connection to this community, and that’s more than enough to keep bringing them back year after year.
The main attraction at Saturday’s breakfast will be the fellowship that comes when people gather to share old stories and talk about the “good old days” in Ashland, Catlettsburg, Westwood, Rush and the rest of Boyd County. Joe Bonsall will be the dessert, and he will be a good one. We commend Vincent for getting such a renown and gifted speaker to come.