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Tall Tales shared at Copperas Cove birthday party

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Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 12:00 pm

By Lauren Cabral

The Cove Herald

A sizeable crowd showed up to Copperas Cove's 132nd Birthday Party on March 25 at the Copperas Cove Public Library to enjoy cake, punch and fun historical stories told by long-time city residents.

Mayor John Hull began the celebration, hosted by the chamber, by cutting the birthday cake and sharing a few comments.

"I haven't been here quite 132 years, but I've been here 78," he said. "I think the progress is just starting. We're proud of it, and I hope everyone else is."

Linda Ledger told a few facts to set the record straight and a few tales to entertain attendees about activities from long ago.

"I'm not a true historian, but I like to tell the flashy stuff," she said.

Ledger drew laughs from the crowd when she told of one of the city's old newspapers, the Copperas Cove Crony, whose slogan was "The only newspaper in the world that gives a damn about Copperas Cove."

More laughter came when she explained one particularly unfortunate but funny incident. A story of a crumbling building being demolished was due to run on the front page, with a photo of the building, but had to be replaced at the last minute.

The mayor's wife had died, and that news of course took the place of the building story.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to switch out the caption, so the building photo's caption ran under the woman's photo in the paper the next day.

"An old eyesore, gone at last," it read.

Ledger also told an intriguing story of a 1934 murder. Bernice Blankenship allegedly shot her husband, Joe Dean, and then herself at their Copperas Cove home.

"They tried to make it look like a murder-suicide and blamed it on Bernice," Ledger said.

But when Ethel Johnson, Joe Deen's mother, testified, the jury came to a different conclusion. Ethel was charged with murdering the couple for life insurance money and was sent to Coryell County Jail.

She became the cook, and was released regularly to get groceries. Her conviction was later overturned on a technicality.

Ledger also shared stories of even farther back in Copperas Cove's history. She said the city had its first oil boom in 1888, but the quantity found was too small for production, and the wells were later abandoned.

"The only ones who made money were those who sold their land to speculators," she said.

There was also gold mined in Anderson Mountain, one of the city's five hills.

"Not only are there five hills, but there's gold in one of them thar hills right now," she said.

Ledger admitted she liked telling the stories of her town, but there was not much to go off of.

"Copperas Cove has a lot of history," she said. "Unfortunately not much of it has been written down."

James Powell, the chamber of commerce's unofficial historian, also shared some of Copperas Cove's history and said learning it was important.

"History is just a collection of stories, and in Texas the stories get pretty big sometimes," he said. "We wouldn't be here if these things hadn't taken place. People don't stop and think; we need to be good stewards of our blessings."

Carol and Robert Golding also contributed to sharing the history of Copperas Cove by bringing in a collection of newspaper clippings about the city from the past 30 years. Carol said she has also created clipping collections for Fort Hood, Killeen, and key national figures and events.

"I have been doing scrapbooking since the '50s," she said. "I just didn't know when to quit collecting."

"You name anything historical, she's got it," Robert said, and added that one day the couple planned to donate the books to the library.

Betty Price, vice president of the chamber of commerce who served as MC of the event, said making people aware of the city's history was important.

"As the chamber, it's important for us to look at history. It reflects why things are the way they are," she said. "We want people to know and be proud of their city and proud of their heritage. We want people to know about Copperas Cove."

Contact Lauren Cabral at lcabral@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7476.

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