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Vicco, KY: Yesterday and Today 

 

by Willard Ashworth

Vicco, the Dodge City of the East, a town that would not die, has.  

Located in the southern tip of Perry County, 12 miles from the county seat of Hazard, this one-time watering hole for miners from some 60 miles in any direction has finally gone belly-up. 

The town itself was never much of a residential neighborhood.  It was more like a modern-day shopping center with a carnival atmosphere seven days a week.  It catered to coal companies in every direction; there were 12 within a two-mile radius. 

From about 1935 through the early '50s, these coal companies ran at full speed and used manpower for labor.  Coal miners made a decent wage and most of them believed in spending it.  Vicco was there to help them do just that. 

The name Vicco comes from the initials of the Virginia Iron Coal and Coke Company.  This large land company is still in Appalachia.  A town in Virginia has the same name. 

At its height, Vicco had two new car dealerships, a bakery, a Double Cola Bottling Company, a beer dealership, a theater, shoe shop, ice plant, bus station, hotel, baseball field, high school, laundry and a bank.  The first bank robbery in the county took place there. 


There were pool halls, two whiskey stores, a large department store, and 23 beer joints, or as Mom called them, "jenny barns." 

There was no local jail , so the only police officer or town marshal, Ambrose Deaton, was kept busy running carloads of drunks the 12-mile, one way trip to Hazard to be locked up. 

From local coal companies with names like Raccoon Coal Company, Scratch Back, Bluebird, Kodak, Green Ridge, and Defiance, young coal miners would descend on Vicco on weekends for a night of drinking, loving and fighting.

I feel sure that the mothers and spouses of these young people worried as much about them when weekends came as they did while they worked underground all week.  The danger was as great either way. 

All of that is gone now, as are the coal camps.  Vicco has one branch bank, one whiskey store, and three small grocery stores.  The streets are empty. 

The only things left in Vicco are 10 or 12 unsolved murders over the last 20 years. 

The Pastime Theater is gone.  The Hole-in-the-Wall beer joint no longer exists.  The Southpoint was later converted into a lawyer's office when the run on blacklung was at its height. 

The carnival atmosphere that was always present in Vicco is now replaced by a feeling of loneliness as one drives through.