December 18th, 2006 by The Lexington Herald-Leader

Typo residents don't question town's name

CBERTRAM@HERALD-LEADER.COM
LBLACKFORD@HERALD-LEADER.COM

Once, many years ago, Eva Baker took her husband, Sid, to the hospital. The admitting nurse asked where they lived.

"Typo," Eva replied.

"I don't need your blood type," the nurse replied, "I need your address."

"And I just told you," Eva said.

That story has become legend in the Perry County hollow and riverside community known as Typo.

In journalistic terms, a typo is a typographical error. It's not necessarily something you don't know how to spell; it's more often when something gets transposed because of how the keys om teh keybosd aer arranfed.

There's no placement error about Typo -- a hamlet of houses placed in picturesque woods along Big Creek, moving down to where it flows into the North Fork of the Kentucky River. It was strategic, near the bustling metropolis of Hazard, close to the mines, close to the railroad that carried the coal away.

But the name and its history, well, that's something as covered up as the shacks and trees covered with the now-brown kudzu.

"I have no idea," says Sid Baker, he of the famous story who has lived here on Typo Tunnel Road for all of his 76 years. He suspects it's something to do with the railroad, which curves between his house and the river before it disappears into one of the two Typo tunnels, built in 1904.

The railroad, which still carries car after car full of coal, appeared in 1912. Every day, the men of Typo would gather on those tracks to talk over the day's doings. But not, apparently, to swap stories about Typo's origins.

"They (the railroad) probably put it on the map and named it," he says. "But I really have no idea."

Deola Feltner knows how nearby Bonnyman got its name. He was the operator who opened up some of the nearby mines. Deola still lives in one of two original white-shingled coal camp houses, right where Typo Road turns off Ky. 15.

She was born 70 years ago, in a hollow behind Coal Bowling Lanes, which was later torn out to make room for Ky. 15. She remembers walking down the road to the Kentucky River and crossing over the swinging bridge high above the water. Back then, the water was so clean that all the kids would swim in it. At the coal camp commissary, you could buy whatever you wanted. Hazard, now a five-minute drive, was the big city. Everybody knew everybody, but nobody, apparently, knew anything about how Typo got its name.

"I never really thought about it," Feltner says.

Neither did Rita Ivey, who sits in her flannel candy-cane pajamas on the front porch in a chilly morning light, wrapped in a blanket as she smokes a cigarette.

"I have no idea, and I've lived here since I was 16," she says.

A small stream of smoke curls above Ivey's head, but above her house, way up the hollow, a plume of smoke billows out. That's where Brian Young is tending a fire behind his house, burning the plastic coating off copper wiring. His friend just burned himself when one of the coils flipped onto his arm, and he has taken himself to the hospital.

"I told him it was just skin, it'll grow back," Young said. "But he didn't believe me."

Young is young, that is to say, younger than many in Typo. But he's never heard any stories either.

"You know I always thought it was an odd name, but I never asked too many questions," he says. Questions were taboo just over the hollow where police used to routinely bust a moonshine still.

Harold Campbell doesn't know either, but then he's a newcomer, only been in Typo three years. He runs a herd of goats over the old railroad tracks to clear out the kudzu. The person who sold him the goats threw in a miniature donkey, which is not much bigger than the goats but has a mighty yodel.

The name Typo doesn't really matter to Campbell. He just likes the peace, the quiet, the bubble of the creek, the now-bald trees and their evergreen brethren.

"When I get under those trees, my blood pressure drops 10 degrees," he says.

Typo's high hills don't seem to engender much curiosity in its residents about the name, and in the end, what does it matter so long as you've got a pretty view, some quiet and nice neighbors? It's not a misspelling, not a railroad term. It's home, and that's all most people need to know.

But someone does know, and maybe naturally, that person is Bill Gorman, mayor for life of Hazard, expert of all things not Hazardous, but Hazarditic. And in the end, there's nothing inscrutable, nothing mysterious about Typo's provenance.

In the days before the railroad and the days before dams, his grandfather used to float the big Eastern Kentucky timber down the Kentucky River to Frankfort.

"Typo was named because of the location at the mouth of the Big Creek," Gorman said. "They used that location to tie poles to the logs to make the rafts to take down the river, so that became Typo."

6 Responses to “Typo: It’s no mistake”

  1. I was very pleased to find this web-site. My father, Theodore Rice Jr. was born in Typo in 1925. He was the son of Theodore and Naomi Rice. I enjoyed the pictures and story. Thank you. God Bless

  2. According to info I found out recently, yes, folks would tie poles together to make rafts at the location stated by Mr. Gorman. At some point in time, when one would ask the other where he was going, he would answer to “tie poles”. Later on the term was shortened to “Typo”, instead of saying “going to tie poles”.

  3. I lived in typo ky as a child, over 60 yrs ago. I recently went back to see what it was like now. Alas, no big river in front of where I lived, no tunnel, no swinging bridge I crossed every day to go to school, nothing was

  4. excuse me I hit wrong key and didn,t finish. Any how, can anyone tell me what happened to the beautiful river where I learned to swim at TYPO Ky? Thanks C Mills

  5. Sid and Eva were my aunt and uncle. I use to ride with Sid in his coal truck working the mines 40 yrs ago. From the last time I was in Typo much had changed for the worst. Sid and Eva now gone as well as my grand father and grand mother that lived there for 8o yrs. Goes to show you that progress tends to forget the past.

  6. Sid & Eva were also my aunt & uncle. My grandparents, Nick & Alaphair Hurt, lived in Couchtown and then built a house in Typo. My brother (Doug) and I use to spend our summers in Typo. We were typical city kids from Mo. that had a lot of eye opening experiences of the mountains. I have been to Ky. since & things have definitely changed !! The river is still there, no swinging bridge, and the tunnel is a lot farther down the tracks than I remember as a child. I will always remember my roots as I was born in Couchtown !!

    I love this informative article!! Good job !!