Paducah, Glad I Knew Ya

I don’t think I ever heard of Paducah, Kentucky before I moved to Durham. Why, as a kid who grew up in Connecticut, would I? It is a small city of 25,000 in Western Kentucky at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio rivers. Nothing about it had any intersection with my life. That was before I moved to Durham.

One of my very first and best friends in Durham, Jan McCallum grew up in Paducah. As we were becoming friends 24 years ago I learned all about her life growing up in this small southern city. Then, not long after I became friends with Jan I met my soul mate Lynn Toms and lo and behold she too was from Paducah. How could this be? Two great friends from the same small town.

I often peppered my friends with questions about growing up in Paducah. I loved the name of Lynn’s favorite restaurant, Beef Masters and Jan’s stories about the library and the summer reading contests. Then there was the National quilting museum. Yes, Paducah is the home of the only museum devoted to this terribly American handicraft.

So once I started quilting last summer Jan demanded that now was the time for me to make a pilgrimage to her home town. So we planned a trip for the first week of April because that sounded like a lovely time to visit and Jan’s friend Mary Jo could come with us.

Getting to Paducah is not easy. I looked into flying here, but two flights over nine hours did not seem the way to go. That is when Jan told me that should fly into Nashville and make the two hours drive. Perfect. Mary Jo, lives just south of Nashville and met us at the airport as Jan flew in from Texas just before I got in from Durham.

So today my introduction to Paducah finally happened live and in person. It was much colder than Kentucky should be in April, but that did not detour us from walking the whole downtown as Jan gave us the native tour.

We started at the flood wall murals where the history of Paducah is painted on the flood wall that protects the city from the rivers. From there we walked miles looking at the downtown buildings which have thankfully not been torn down. One of the best ones we went in was a costume shop that had 35 bunny costumes drying from post Easter cleanings. I’m not sure I had ever even seen a costume shop, let alone been in one. Only in Paducah.

We drove around town, seeing many of the highlights of Jan’s first 18 years. I got to see the place that had once been Lynn’s favorite, Beef Masters, which today is called Muddea’s, a soul food restaurant. Some things in small towns change slower than the rest of the world, like in Paducah they still have an answering service Business. We finished up with dinner downtown after so many laughs and good stories. Tomorrow we will begin the quilting part of this pilgrimage.

I am so glad I have had 24 years of build up before I came here. It makes all the stories I have heard from my friends come to life.

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