The photo was taken some time in the 1930s in front of the South Portsmouth Post Office and bus stop.
The old two-story frame building also housed one of South Portsmouth’s most infamous businesses — the Tip Toe Inn. You can see its sign in the right side of the photo.
Several residents recall how the establishment was referred to in those days when beer and liquor were legal and the Tip Toe Inn was the only bar in town.
“Tip Toe Inn and Stagger Out,” said Linda Whisman of Portsmouth, formerly of South Portsmouth. “That’s what they said of the place in those days when it was operating.”
Some of the people posing in the photo no doubt were waiting on a bus to take them somewhere.
You can’t get to the Tip Toe Inn now by bus or any other means. It stood along what was then Route 10 just east of the South Portsmouth Depot and freight house. All traces of the depot and the old post office and every other structure that stood along the highway are gone now, wiped out and leveled by highway construction in the 1970s.
The Tip Toe Inn operated from the days when prohibition ended until June 30, 1945. That was the date when all beer and liquor licenses in Greenup County expired. In a wet-dry election just more than a month earlier, Greenup County voters voted 3,217 against the sale of alcoholic beverages, while the “wet” forces could muster only 1,417 votes. The results of the vote were recorded in the May 22, 1945 edition of The Portsmouth Times.
The county has remained dry for all of the 65 years since, with South Portsmouth residents who imbibe relying on the bars and carry-outs in city of Portsmouth to quench their thirst.
You can see the Tip Toe Inn’s sign on a pole jutting out from the second story. It’s right above the heads of the only really young people in the photo. The two boys appear to be 10 or 12 years old, which would put them in their mid- to late 80s now.
All the other folks in the photo, and maybe the two boys, too, are evidently in the cemeteries.
Who are these people? Or, who were they?
Whisman has passed a copy of the photo up and down through the community and has names for 10 of the 20. That’s Teddy Thompson wearing the cook’s hat and apron on the left. He later ran the Tea Room on The Corner in South Shore. He was a fan of the South Portsmouth Tigers high school basketball team and often used his car and gas to transport some of them to games on the road.
Three men seated on the edge of the front porch have been identified as, from left, Charles Cooper, Ace Hatfield and Tadge Hawthorn.
Seated in a chair directly behind Cooper is Floyd Thompson, and standing directly behind Thompson is the only woman in the picture, Opal Colvin. Standing to the right of her — the tall man with his right hand in his pocket and wearing a hat — is Charlie Colvin, who must be her husband.
The only other people who have been identified are the three men standing immediately to the left of the two boys. They are, from left, Chinks Ramey, Shad Jones and Fred Ferguson.
The man in the white shirt and black hat immediately to the left of Ramey, Whisman believes, but is not certain, is her father.
“He dressed like that. It looks like his face but I couldn’t tell for sure because I can’t see his eyes,” Whisman said. “Dad never drove anywhere. He either walked or rode a bus.”
She suggested running the photo along with a newspaper story to see if any of the others could be identified.
You used to be able to reach the site of the old depot by driving into Beattyville and following a dirt road up along the top of the river bank. Now, though, that road ends at the old Cap Factory, with trees and brush growing between there and where the Tip Toe Inn stood.
And where those 20 people stood, just a while ago, and posed for a photograph.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.