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Traditions Fading

Arguments over Traditions Have Faded Away at Oddville

By JOE WARD
Courier-Journal Staff Writer

ODDVILLE, Ky. – The last Republican who came out on top in this Harrison County community was Herbert Hoover. But Louie B. Nunn managed a tie here four years ago and nobody was predicting anything early yesterday.

The problem, at least in part, is one of generations, according to Hershal Whitaker, whose general store is Oddville’s focal point.

“They just don’t argue at election like they used to,” Whitaker told a visitor. “These young people just go vote and don’t say anything.”

And what Whitaker was hearing, mostly from older voters, didn’t sound entirely traditional.

Grover Judy, 79, whose wife says his first name gives away his politics appeared to have edged away from Harrison County tradition, for example.

When Ford broke the tie for fast time,” he hinted, “I said I’d never vote for him again. And I don’t think I’ve broke my promise yet.”

“I got a few hens over at my place and I got to fasten ’em up after dark to keep the varmints out,” Judy explained. “And (in summer) I can’t fasten ’em up until 10 o’clock I can’t even take my shoes off or I got to put ’em back on.”

On the other hand, the talk around the voting machine in the old school across the road from Whitaker’s store didn’t sound like a Republican landslide was in the offing either.

“First time I ever got a chance to vote for a man for governor who wasn’t a lawyer, and by cracky he’s gonna get it,” one man said. The same Ford who voted for daylight savings time is not a lawyer.

And there were other indications that, a strongly Democratic record in the precinct notwithstanding, voters there take a certain mount of pride in considering the candidates separately from their parties.

“I don’t vote for parties. I vote for good men,” one voice said as be approached the machine. The curtain closed, a lever turned, and it opened again. “And the Democrats always run good men,” he said.

A good many voters took more time than that, though. If you sat around in the room where the machine was for a few hours, you heard a lot of tabs that, indicated a split ticket being flipped.

“I believe more people are scratching than usual,” election sheriff Y. E. Muntz said.

Word about what was being said and-to the extent possible-what was being done at the voting machine was filtering back to Whitaker’s store, because Oddville isn’t very big.

In fact there’s a village joke based an how small Oddville is. The stranger stops at Whitaker’s store and Whitaker looks at him severely. “Say, you didn’t run that stop light out there, did you?” he says.

And the stranger squints back out toward the highway-where there are, of course, no stoplights-and sometimes even gets as far as exclaiming, “Why, I didn’t even see one,” before he realizes that he’s been the butt of a bit of a kneeslapper.

There is one store besides Whitaker’s’ and a couple of garage, and both stores double as filling stations. There’s one church, and you have to drive to Cynthiana, five miles south, for a drink.
Whitaker is very proud of Oddville, “I don’t have a key to a door in my house,” he said. “There isn’t a finer community in the state.”

Both the storekeeper and his wife grew up on farms a few miles away, and they both remember that Oddville had a heyday a few years ago. “We used to have a post office and three stores,” he said. “There were some houses up on the hill there, and we called it ‘upper Oddville.’”

Both Whitakers were graduated, from the school where the voting took place yesterday, but there has been no high school there since 1950 or elementary school since 1964. All of the children now are bussed to schools near Cynthiana. Whitaker sees the passing of the school as a kind of milestone in the decline of Oddville, end he thinks consolidation “really hurt the community.”

They still get excited at Oddville when school election comes up, according to the election sheriff, but Whitaker doesn’t think things are like they were.

The Oddville precinct-which includes territory from a couple of miles north of the village south to Cynthiana and at least two Cynthiana subdivisions-has about 600 registered voters. But election work weren’t expecting more than “about 400, maybe” to vote yesterday.

The ballot included only two candidates who weren’t running for statewide election, and neither office was contested.

“Quietest election I ever saw,” Whitaker said.

A Republican victory might put some of the old zest back into conversations at Whitaker’s, but on the other hand, Oddville has a history of adjusting quickly to setbacks.

Take the way the town was named. The story goes that when the community got its post office, the citizens wanted to call it Mount Washington. But the post master general rejected the idea on grounds that there already were too many Mount Washington’s in the country. He suggested they try something a little more unusual, something odd. So they called it Oddville.

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