Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tobacco market gone

I was in a residential neighborhood of Huntington today, so I thought I would swing by and see what the old Huntington Pride in Tobacco Market looked like nowadays. That was where farmers from a wide area around brought their burley tobacco in the fall to be auctioned to tobacco companies. Burley is one of three varieties of tobacco that are blended to make cigarettes, and many country folk relied on the area's main cash crop to get them through the winter, to buy groceries or maybe make a large purchase.

Seeing tobacco grow in patches along the river road was a common sight up into the 1980s and 1990s.

In my daily newspaper reporter years, I would call the manager of the Huntington market after each weekly or semiweekly auction and get the numbers: amount sold, high price, average price, number of checks written to farmers, that sort of stuff. The market closed several years ago as burley production declined.

So I went by there today out of curiosity to see what use the old building was being put to. What I saw was a vacant lot with fresh dirt and a couple of pieces of idle earthmoving equipment. So I guess someone needs the spot, and the old building just didn't fit the bill.

And another piece of my past disappears. I know this sort of creative destruction is a part of life, but watching your past erode away like that brings on memories. There was the time on a Thanksgiving day back in the 1960s when I went down there with my father in his blue 1964 Dodge flareside pickup to offload some tobacco. The FFA at my high school raised tobacco as its major fundraising project for the year.

Oh well, that's past. I guess tobacco farmers around here to go Morehead, Ky., or Ripley, Ohio, now.

The photo above was taken along Ohio State Route 7 in the late 1980s. I believe that's the Valvoline when it was owned by Ashland Oil. Note the stack emblem and the Ashland logo below the pilothouse.

Radioactive pollution in the Ohio?

With what's going on in Japan, it should be noted that a labor dispute at Metropolis, Ill., has come to the point that workers say radioactive mud is leaking into the Ohio River, although the EPA does not confirm this.

Kayaking down the Ohio

A fellow named Brett Ciccotelli is kayaking down the Monongahela, Ohio and Mississippi rivers from about 25 miles above Pittsburgh to New Orleans. His stated purpose is "to document the impact of energy, in particular coal, on that watershed and its communities."

His most recent entry as of this morning have him on the Ohio at about Mile 46. You can read his travels here.

And he's posting photos he takes on his Flickr photostream.