"BYE GRACIOUS ALIVE" - Uncle Charley Starcher Remembered


Charley's decaying old store building was dark and desolate last night down the hill from the Village of Hur. Years have past since the emporium was open with Uncle Charley Starcher holding court 'round the wood burner, Jake, Orde, Virgil, and Giff, and a bunch of men from down on Rowel's getting in their last dibs. Uncle Bill Slider would have already gone home, falling out with Uncle Charley for the tenth time this month, vowing to never stand in his presence again

By Bob Weaver

Uncle Charley was one of Hur's favorite characters. One could never forget his Walter Brennan gimp as he ambled across the bottom from his clapboard house to his store on Slider Fork below Hur, his ancient mutt dog a few steps behind. In his later years he used a crutch for extra support.

Charley was nearly always adjusting his hearing aid, squelching it down from a high pitched racket or spitting tobacco juice against the red hot wood stove in the center of the tiny store. You could hear the sizzle out on the porch.

Charley's wife Lottie cookin' in her kitchen,
the walls covered with newspapers

Charley's hardscrabble farm near the Village of Hur

Jack-of-all-trades Charley on his mowing machine

The Starcher General Store was a fixture in the narrow hollow, up from the right fork of Barnes Run and down the hill from Hur. He opened it about 1950.

He was a jack of all trades, most notably the operation of the blacksmith shop in the Village of Hur during the first 50 years of the century. He farmed and cut hair, and Lord knows what else.

His wife, Lottie, was of equal interest, spending most of her lifetime "lining out Charley." His son, Eddie took over the store for a while after Charley died in 1967, often complaining about the layers of hardened tobacco juice on the floor behind the counter.

Uncle Bill Slider would walk up to the store most days of the week to argue with Charley, and sometimes they would fall out for a few days.

The entertainment of the day would be enjoyed by bench sitters and loafers who would prop themselves up beside the creek bank or around the pot-bellied stove in winter.

Some of the notorious creek dwellers would take advantage of Charley's good nature or handicaps. One fella came in to inquire about some shoes and Charley pulled the boxes out on the counter.

Then he got busy with another customer, to come back later and inquire if he found anything he liked. He told Charley that nothing suited him and left. Several days later Charley was taking inventory of his shoe stock and opened a box to find a pair of well-worn, muddy shoes - the new pair obviously worn out by the customer from Rowels.

Uncle Charley used what is often referred to as a "bye-word," and about every third sentence would start with the statement: "Bye gracious alive."

One time a Barnes Run man who had a bad reputation, got into a squabble with Uncle Charley. His anger was so severe that he went up against the hillside and dug a grave, telling him that if he ever caught him out alone, he would put Charley in it.

Another time Charley shot the electric line in two with a shotgun while trying to catch burglars. The electric went out in the area and Charley called for help, declaring that robbers had come to get his stuff.

Charley had some reasons to be wary of thieves. About once a month someone would break through the rear window of the store, and take a few items.

I installed a burglar alarm on the back window, which sounded a bell over Charley and Lottie's bed across the creek. Sometimes Charley had trouble hearing the bell, and he asked me to install a light bulb over his bed as part of the alarm system.

It worked pretty well.

Charley would tear out into his front yard, shooting his shotgun, scaring the thieves back up the holler.

"Bye gracious alive" there are a hundred stories to tell about Uncle Charley.

Charley's blacksmith shop, which was located up the hill in the Village of Hur, has been moved to the Calhoun Park, now a part of Heritage Village.