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Lester Dotson

Early Life

Our father, Lester William Dotson, was born in KY. His family left KY in 1919 when he was 5 years old. In 1973 Dad asked Mom to record some of his memories of his early years. She wrote:

...They went to Carey, Ohio in 1919, where he thinks they farmed onions. They went back to KY for the winter, and came back either the next spring, or a year later, to the marshland south of McGuffey, (Ohio) to farm onions. His father's brother, Alex, was already here. They built a house across the road from Alex, built by Mr. Yant, and rented it to Bascom Dotson (Lester's father) on a share crop basis. The farm was 60 acres, much of which was onions which had to be weeded by hand, crawling across the hot muck on your knees, or if you were big enough, pushing a wheel hoe between the rows.
Later they moved up the road, west on Shady Vale Road, on the south side of the road, where they continued to raise onions, mostly, on a share crop basis. Lester started weeding onions when he was 6 years old, working 10 hours a day. He started pushing the wheel hoe when he was 12 to 13 years old.
They used horses to harrow the ground. Lester remembers putting on the harness when he was so small it was so heavy he could hardly get it on the horses. He also remember one time when he turned too short and turned the harrow clear over.
Some things he remembers from KY ...There was a "branch" (pretty good sized creek-2 to 3 feet wide) between the house and barn which was not there when we visited KY. The only thing that still is the same now is the well. The people who live there now-Grover Holbrook-are distant relatives of Julie Shepherd Dotson, Lester's mother. They built a cover over the old well, and still use it.
Lester remembers that the old house had stood west of the present one, and faced north toward Middle Creek. Middle Creek is wide, probably 30 to 40 feet. At that time there was no bridge, just a foot log bridge to walk across when the water was high.
Lester remembers that his Dad used to log lumber down the Middle Creek. He also thought that most of the hills which are now covered with timber had been farmed when he lived there. (Lester's brother-in-law Adam Prater lived in the area as an adult) Adam says that is right-that all those hills were cleared and farmed-that what is there now is second growth timber.
Lester remembers a picket fence around the house. Also, he remembers that the east side of the house was high off the ground and they used to play under it a lot, and go under it to gather eggs.
He remembers fishing for catfish in the river when the water was high and how the muddy water rushing by made him feel dizzy. He also remembers playing on the rocky ford when the creek was dry. That ford was where the bridge is now. He remembers how the muddy banks got slippery when it rained a lot and the wagons had trouble fording the river and getting up the hill. They laid down poles crosswise to make solid footing for the horses and wagons.
As he remembers the house, there were four rooms-front room with a fireplace, and with a bed or two in it; a bedroom also with a fireplace, another bedroom, and a kitchen. He remembers a closet off the front room where his Dad kept his muzzle-loading gun. He remembers getting the gun and looking at it, and the mold in which they made rifle balls. He also remembers a big spinning wheel which his mother had. He is sure they went off and left that all down there as he never saw them in Ohio.
He went to the first grade somewhere close down Middle Creek road. This road is the main road through this area now-from Salyersville to Prestonsburg. His teacher was his first cousin-Oscar Richardson. He can still hear the sounds of the kids as they whistled with their hands cupped to their mouths, and how it echoed in the hills.
The farm his Dad owned there had about 100 acres as he recalls. Adam said he couldn't remember for sure. He laughed and said he wasn't sure they measured farms down there by the acre. Adam was 75 years old then, his wife, Eunice 68. The farm lies south of Middle Creek, about 7 miles west of Prestonsburg.
Lester's birth certificate shows his birth place as Dotson, KY. There was a grocery store and gas station about 1 mile west of the farm when we were there about 3 years ago, operated by this cousin, Oscar Richardson. He thought that years ago "Uncle Doc" Malcom Dotson, the physician who delivered Lester, and brother of Bascom, had a post office there and that place was Dotson, KY.
Lester remembers going back to what they called a coal bank, back of the barn somewhere on one of the hills. That was where they got coal for fuel. They dug the coal out of what was like a little cave.
Another thing he remembers is that they grew sorghum cane on a bottom land field near Middle Creek. Some man came to their place with equipment which he set up along the creek in the field, used his Dad's horses, and drove them around in a circle to grind out the juice. Then they boiled it. The kids used spoons and scraped off the foam and ate it. Perhaps the spoons were really wooden paddles. They stored this in wooden barrels in a smoke house near the well. In the smoke house were crocks of pickled beans, pickled corn, pickles, and sauerkraut. Also, hams, bacon, and salted pork.
Another interesting memory is about a hen that used to come in every day and lay an egg on the bed. He also recalls that they roasted chestnuts in the coals in the fireplace.
He thinks they must have gone back to KY each winter for a few years after they first came to Ohio


Like many working families of the era, the Dotsons placed great emphasis on the value of physical labor and little on education- particularly for the males. Rudimentary readin', writin' and arithmetic were sufficient to handle farm work at that time. Consequently, Lester was limited to finishing the 8th grade. As an adult, his reading, employment and involvement with his wife and children's education provided valuable Life Experience education.

Employment History

Superior Coach, Lima, Ohio 1949-50?

Westinghouse Electric, Lima, Ohio 1950-1984?

Rosalie found this tribute to our father, written by our mother in 1978. Because it covers much of his employment history, we include it here:

Lester and I have been married nearly 40 years now but nearly every day I learn something new. When I met him, he was very quiet and shy, but very handsome. He has always been very neat and dressed in very good taste. The girls all thought he was a real "catch", and they chased after him all the time. When he parked his car in town to go into a store when he came out there was nearly always a girl in it. He told me one time that the reason that he "fell" for me was because I didn't chase him. I guess I was lucky-I didn't chase him because I never had any way to get to town- or I probably would have tried too!

Here are some good qualities which I feel his children and all descendants should know about him"

His 6th grade schoolteacher, Mr. Wagner, wanted Lester to come live with him. He wanted to put him through school to be a doctor. No doubt that teacher saw the good mind that Lester has and also how unhappy he was. Lester knew he dare not go for fear he would be a failure.

Few people who know him have any idea that he was forced by his father to quit school because "farmers don't need a high school education". Lester has always read well, read much as a youth, and still reads a great deal. Also, he remembers well what he has read. His father forbid any of his boys to leave home to get a job. Lester farmed for his father until our marriage, when Lester was age 24. He was told, "If you ever leave, don't come back."

Lester got a job as a school bus driver which he had when we were married. He got it because his father bought the bus intending to drive it himself and found that he could not because he was on the School Board and they would not permit it.

The first time Lester applied for a job was at Superior Body (school bus bodies) for summer work. Most of the other bus drivers worked there. He was so frightened that the Dr. who gave him the physical for the job said, "Sit down here and relax. I'll take your blood pressure later. No one could live with blood pressure that high!"

Lester retired in May of 1967 (?) . Everywhere he worked his foreman and those he worked for praised him highly. In the fall of 1942 Lester took a government Trade School program in Cleveland, Ohio and learned to be a machinist. The teachers often used to have other students watch Lester to see what the teacher was trying to tell them. While going to Trade School at night, he worked at Westinghouse days. His foreman at Westinghouse did not want him to leave when Lester finished school. Lester explained that we had a home at Alger, Ohio and that I was expecting a new baby. The foreman sent a full sheet letter of recommendations on Lester, about what a good worker he was, asking the Lima, Ohio plant to hire him, which they did. They said it was very unusual for a foreman to do that.

In the meantime, Lester applied for and was to go to work for Lima Locomotive as a machinist. He decided it was wiser to go to Westinghouse since he would get service credit toward retirement for his time at the Cleveland plant. His foreman at Westinghouse told him later that Lima Loco had telephoned Westinghouse and tried to get them to fire Lester so that he would be forced to come work for them.

In order to better himself, Lester often "bid" on better-paying jobs. Usually his foreman would try to talk Lester out of leaving their department and taking another job because, they would say, "You're the best man we've ever had on that job. Two foremen were unhappy with Lester because he intended to go on a new job in their Department but he let his present foreman talk him into not moving. All these different jobs also kept Lester from getting laid off, because there were so many different things he could do. By this time he gained enough self-confidence that he realized he was as intelligent as any one else, and he used to tell himself, "If someone else can learn it, I can too."

When he went into Westinghouse as a machinist he operated automatic drill presses. The foreman always had Lester set-up the new and difficult jobs. He operated one machine- a "Hob" machine that everyone else was afraid to operate. Every job he was on, all the difficult set-ups were left for him.

One summer when work was slack at Superior, Lester worked for Commercial Motor Freight. They wanted him to move to Cleveland full-time. Lester said, "Why do they need help there?" He was told, "We need good workers everywhere."

At one time Lester worked part-time at the B&O. They were going to have to lay a man off. They were going to let a young man with a family go. Lester said, "I already have a job at Westinghouse, and this is his only job. Why don't you lay me off instead?" They said, "Because you're a better worker."

THIS IS THE KIND OF MAN THAT LESTER DOTSON WAS AND IS: He quit that job, even though his pay at Westinghouse was not that great.

Now in 1978, his health is bad. He lives in constant fear that he will have a heart attack any day as several in his family have had, and as the Doctors have said he may. They are considering "bypass" surgery. He has had surgery so many times (10), he does not think he will agree to it. He said if he did it would only be so that I would not be alone. He feels he is not useful because he can not do physical labor. I have said the decision should be his alone.

I feel that he has contributed a great deal to the world. He has done many a good deed and planted many a beautiful flower. He feels that he should just let things ride and go when God is ready-so if that is the way he wants it, that is what I want too. He has done much to make my life better, and to make it possible for me to help others-and I have every assurance that we will someday share eternal bliss with our God whom we love.

He regrets not having done more for God than he has, however, I feel that he has done what he felt was best at the time. He has been respected by those with whom he worked as one fellow-worker said, "No vices". He has been asked by the 2 church of Christ congregations where we have worshipped for several years to permit his name to be submitted as an elder. He declined because he felt he did not meet the Bible qualifications. His neighbors wherever we have lived have had respect for him as a "good, kind man". He is a man whose descendants can be proud to have listed in their "family tree".

Interests, hobbies

Reading- books, newspapers, magazines.




Our Memories

A Tribute to My Father
by Rosalie Dotson Yoakam

My father was a proud hardworking man who suffered and survived several hard blows in his life time. He always regretted not being allowed to graduate from high school. His father, who was a school board member, would not allow him to continue his High School education. He told Dad that since he was going to be a farmer all he needed was to be able to read a little and do some Math, (a common Appalachian philosophy).

Dad had a good mind and was an avid reader. I've always said he was one of the most educated men I knew, he just didn't have the diploma.

Some of my earliest memories of Dad are from the time we lived on the farm near Roundhead. He worked the farm by day and at the Westinghouse factory in Lima at night. I remember him coming home with candy in his black metal lunch pail for Dan and me. He bought Chuckles from the vending machine at work. I remember him strumming on a guitar at night, although I don't think he could play many songs, he seemed to be enjoying trying. I remember walking in the woods and picking wildflowers while he rounded up the cows and I remember running across the newly plowed fields to take him a message from Mom. I think I've been told rather than remember the time he hid behind a snowman and I was amazed to be able to carry on a conversation with a snowman. I began first grade at Roundhead.

That fall Dad was whitewashing a milk house with a pressurized dispenser. The lid came off and whitewash went into his left eye. He washed it out with water and went on. That evening he woke up and said his eye felt like mush. Whitewash contains lye, his eye had been chemically burned. One doctor told him it was like dropping his eye into boiling water. The loss of his eye colored the rest of Dad's life and impacted all of us as well. They sold the farm and we moved into the town of Ada. I started in Ada Public Schools in the middle of my first grade year. It was a very difficult adjustment for me. I shed many tears. I've always blamed the change in schools and a more strict teacher. Now, I think perhaps some of my pain was the change in my Dad. From the time of the accident he lived with pain. One doctor told my mother that there was the possibility that he could lose his mind. He didn't but, as might be expected, his personality did change. He became withdrawn and short tempered.

The eye healed but was covered with scar tissue. For six years he went from city to city and doctor to doctor seeking help. A doctor in Columbus tried burning the scar tissue off. A preliminary surgery was done in Ann Arbor to see if a cornea transplant would be successful. Nothing helped and plenty hurt. Finally, after about seven years, he gave up and had the eye removed.

He adjusted to the problems associated with having only one eye. Depth perception and alignment are off when you have one eye. In spite of his handicap, he was a very good bowler and golfer.

My Dad enjoyed farming and raising flowers. When they retired to Arizona, he missed the green grass and trees of Ohio. He enjoyed taking pictures and going on trips. I have reels of movie film that he took of our family and vacations we made out West.

My father was one of those men who have trouble telling their family that they love them. After I was married and had children of my own, I decided to tell him. He was in the hospital recovering from surgery. I stood in the doorway and said across the room, "Dad, I love you". He said, "Rosalie, I love you too. I always have. It's just hard to say it." I treasure those comments today.

He wasn't perfect. He made mistakes and was hard to live with sometimes but he was my Dad. In many ways he understood me better than anyone. I loved him and miss him.

Prepared by Dan Dotson Last modified 1 July 2011