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 5 “Whose History Is It, Anyway?” As the 1950s progressed, the colonel constantly grumbled about having nothing to do, even considering himself unemployed. As he complained of ennui, he continued to work on the M-19, wrote (with a secretarial staff) the last volumes of his masterpiece on the machine gun, visited Frankfort as often as he could (where his old buddy Happy Chandler kept saying he’d find something for him to do), and became interested in local subjects such as historical preservation, especially of nearby Fort Harrod, civic clubs, and even the humane society. On top of all these “nondoings ,” he was frequently invited to speak to numerous organizations (usually about fealty to one’s country) in Harrodsburg and surrounding towns and villages. He was also reformulating a few plans for the resurgence of the Cave House, which had closed in 1938. He had a difficult time convincing other people that he really didn’t have anything to do. One thing he had to do was help his old friend Bud Dedman publicize the area and its attractions (Dedman’s family owned the Beaumont Inn). Frequently Chinn and Dedman tied two houseboats together and went up the Kentucky River with “several travel editors and writers” on board, the reasons for which were obvious.1 Often, these tied-together boats carried a full complement of booze and music, accompanied by singers, dancers , and vaudeville-like entertainers. They were not quite the Kentucky Maverick 80 same as the great “showboats” that paddled down the Mississippi and other major water thoroughfares in an earlier generation , but they were certainly big enough to catch the townsfolks’ attention and encourage them to attend performances. Chinn never turned down a speaking invitation from civic organizations: Rotary, Civitan, Lions, Jay-Cees, churches, and schools. His speaking topics generally had to do with love of country, World War II, and Harrodsburg (which, he ardently believed, was the oldest settlement in the Commonwealth, predating Boonesborough. He was ultimately involved in a pretty rowdy series of events in regard to this question). He also loved speaking to local Marine and naval groups each November 10 on the birthday of the Marine Corps (which had been commissioned in 1775). He rarely missed giving a speech to the Leathernecks in the Bluegrass area on that date between the late 1950s and mid-1980s. He had relished just about each moment of his twenty-six years in the military and fully enjoyed imparting his knowledge and experiences to younger audiences. He spoke to Marines, retired and on active duty, in all likelihood, at Beaumont Inn. He lightened things up a bit when he told his audience that he was “happy to be here tonight,” adding, “But anybody at my age should be glad to be anywhere.”2 The passage of time often reminded him of his marriage to Cotton. Though audiences rarely asked for it, he gave them some marital advice anyway. When a quarrel between spouses reached a reading of 9.7 on the Richter scale, the one who was losing should leave the house and walk around “until they had cooled down” enough for normal conversation. Such a practice, he maintained, had greatly contributed to the tranquility of his own household, “but it is also responsible for my good health due to the thousands of miles I have walked out in the good fresh air.” He counseled that a man should keep “suppressed rage” to himself before going to sleep at night: there was no point in getting in “little digs” at the wife “that will send her airborne.” “Whose History Is It, Anyway?” 81 The strategy worked for Colonel Chinn—he usually woke up each day calmly and serenely. “But,” he deadpanned, “I did find it a bit hard to go without a wink of sleep for as much as 4 or 5 weeks at a time.”3 Audiences loved these moments of frivolity and returned time and time again to hear him speak, even though he sometimes used the same lines. He did get serious in these Marine Corps speeches and other discourses. He said he did not have the “emotional stability” to look back on his personal experiences in World War II and the things he had seen, but there was one event that he solemnly related to his audiences. Returning from Japan just as the war ended, Chinn’s plane made a fuel stop on a tiny Pacific island that was a staging area for...


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