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Uncle Jack Fultz’s Memories of Carter County: Flying and the changing English language

By: Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

Last week we talked about the “Flying Fultzes” and wondered if the term “flying trip” meant what it seemed to mean. If it did then it certainly didn’t match the history books, which show the first powered flight in Kentucky didn’t take place until 1908, when Olive Hill’s Matthew Sellers flew his quadplane for the first time. Turns out the term flying shouldn’t have been taken literally. 

While Carter County does deserve recognition for the pioneering aviation work done by Sellers – he not only made the first powered flight in Kentucky but designed the world’s first retractable landing gear – the Fultzes won’t be added to that list anytime soon. What we found in those pages of the old Olive Hill Times weren’t relics of unknown aviation pioneers, they were relics of a change in the English language! 

Local author and history buff Neal Salyers reached out to us to explain that “flying trip” in that day and age meant something completely different, more akin to what we would call a “day trip” today. 

“The best way to describe the terminology is if you use the word ‘dashing’ instead of the word ‘flying,’” Salyers explained. 

It was a quick trip made someplace, for a specific purpose, but wasn’t an extended or overnight trip. So, despite our fantasies of gliders or airplanes zipping over the Carter County skies of the early 20th century, that wasn’t the case at all. 

It also isn’t the only instance of obsolete or changing language found in the pages of the Olive Hill Times or its successor papers the Progressive and the Carter County Herald. 

For instance, when “Walden Fultz drove a drummer to several country stores,” (Olive Hill Times, 4-30-1906) he wasn’t driving a musician around. A drummer in that time was a term used for a traveling salesman. It could also be used to describe the type of wagon used by those traveling salesmen. 

The February 12, 1914 edition of the Progressive uses the term “idiot” in a different way than we use the term today. While it’s a common enough, if very impolite, insult for someone who doesn’t comprehend something today, it once had a specific legal connotation. In 1914 an “idiot” would be someone who, in modern terms, suffered an extreme cognitive disability that rendered them incapable of caring for themselves. 

Of course, the papers of that time were much more casual in their language too. Just look at items like the brief piece in the Herald from December of 1914 admonishing those who borrowed their neighbor’s papers to go ahead and subscribe. 

Four years later the Herald was still at it, being much more casual with calling out “a certain business man (sic)” for his insults to the paper as well as those who did printing business outside of town instead of patronizing local businesses. While the Carter County Times has ran editorials calling for the support of locally owned businesses as well, we haven’t had the audacity to be quite as blunt as the Herald was in their column. Or, maybe, it just seems blunt by today’s standards. Regardless, it’s interesting to see how language and acceptable standards have changed over the last century. 

Also of note is that, while the 1908 Seller’s flight was surely newsworthy, and likely covered by the paper of the time, Uncle Jack apparently did not include a clipping of it in his scrapbooks. We can’t say why, but it’s interesting in its omission. 

Editor’s Note: This is the 28th in a series of articles drawn from the historical newspaper clippings and documents in the scrapbooks of Jack Fultz. We thank Sally James of Sally’s Flowers in Olive Hill for sharing her uncle’s collected clippings with us and the community. – Jeremy D. Wells, editor, Carter County Times

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