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Family and Gender in the Coal Community Oral History Project  

This guide will help you find primary source oral histories on Family and Gender in Coal Communities.
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Annotated Guide to the Family and Gender in the Coal Community Oral History Project: Part I

If not available online, audio copies and/or transcripts of the interviews in this project are available in the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.

Guide Edited by Suzanne Maggard

2006

88OH105 APP 136

GRACE LITTERAL

Date:  June 14, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour 20 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Grace Litteral was born on Little Paine Creek in Floyd County, Kentucky in 1898.  She recounts some of her memories of growing up on a farm and going to school, which she attended only through the eighth grade.  When she was approximately 45 years old, she moved to Auxier, Kentucky where her husband worked in the coal mines.  They lived in company housing.  She describes the company store, and remembers that the church in Auxier was one place to socialize.  The church was originally non-denominational and was built for all the people of Auxier.  She remembers worrying about the safety of her children who had to cross the railroad tracks to get to school.  She recalls the town doctor.  She comments on women’s place in the church and talks about church activities over the years.  She discusses consumerism and states that “people are not willing to live like they used to.”

 

88OH106 APP 137

IRENE AND CARL CLIFFORD MCKENZIE

Date:  June 14, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour 20 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Irene McKenzie was born in Auxier in 1921.  She lived in the country on John’s Creek while she was growing up, and moved back to Auxier in 1937 after she married.  She describes her mother’s work on the farm, and what children did for fun.  Her father was a motorman and was killed in 1933.  Her family lived on the insurance money and supplemented their income with food from their garden.  Irene McKenzie’s husband worked in the mines.  She recalls being a member of the Ladies’ Aid in Auxier which bought gifts for impoverished children during Christmas.  She describes getting together with other women to cook and bake.  She remembers medical care in Auxier.  She describes the coal operators as fair and the people who worked for them as loyal. Irene McKenzie’s husband, Clifford McKenzie, also comments about some of his work in the coal mine.

 

88OH107 APP 138

CLARA ROBINSON

Date:  June 14, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour 20 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

 Clara Robinson was born in Auxier, Kentucky in 1918 and lived her whole life there.  She describes the home that she lived in as a child and explains how they got their furniture and household goods at the company store.  She states that the boys and girls were not raised differently when she was young. 

Robinson married a miner in 1935, and although they did not have children of their own, they raised her sister’s daughter.  She states that the company paid a fair wage, and explains that there were not any problems in Auxier when the union organized.  She remembers professional women in the town and women who worked for wages.  In fact, her sisters both worked in company offices, but Robinson never worked outside the home.  She recalls trying to keep the house clean from all the coal dust, and she states the people in town helped each other out.  They would not let their neighbors go hungry.  She also describes the Methodist church in Auxier.

 

88OH108 APP 139

EULA HALL

Date:  July 19, 1988

Location: Grethel, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour 25 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: Yes

Restrictions: None

Eula Hall was born in 1927 and grew up on Greasy Creek in Pike County, Kentucky.  She describes the negative reputation of the coal camps.  Hall states that the housing conditions were better in the coal camps, but that the miners were looked down upon.  She states that the company “whipped the men” if they did not work enough.  She discusses the hardships that she faced growing up, including the poverty and having to work as a “hired girl.”  Hall expresses strong feelings of class-consciousness.

 

88OH109 APP 140

ERA WEBB

Date:  June 15, 1988

Location: Paintsville, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour 20 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Era Webb was born in 1908 and grew up in Auxier, Kentucky.  She recalls attending school in a two-room schoolhouse in Auxier.  She describes their home in Auxier, and the pasture her family rented.  Webb recalls the company doctor and a midwife who lived in Auxier.  She discusses ordering things out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog.  Webb attended school through the eighth grade and married a local miner.  She remembers when her husband lost a thumb on a cutting machine in the mine. 

 

88OH125 APP 143

OPAL GOBLE

Date:  July 19, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 25 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Opal “Massy” Goble was born in 1913 on a farm in what is now Jenny Wiley State Park.  Her father was a miner in Auxier and her entire family moved to Auxier when she was fourteen.  She remembers that her father was hurt twice in slate falls, and she reports that the company doctor insisted he was “good as new” even though he had broken both legs and had his chest smashed.  She states that the coal mine “just gobbled him up.”  Her husband was also hurt in the mines and broke his pelvis twice. She recalls gardening to supplement their income.  Before she married, Goble earned extra money by taking orders for the Lee Manufacturing Company.

 

88OH126 APP 144

OPAL MCKENZIE

Date:  July 19, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: No

Restrictions: None

Opal McKenzie describes the company store in Auxier.  She recalls how the company store would stock-up on Christmas toys and store them on the top floor of the store.  Parents would be allowed to view them and make their choices.  The toys would be put on lay-away and the miners would pay them off.  The company store would then deliver the toys on Christmas Eve.  McKenzie also states that there were few class distinctions in Auxier.

 

88OH127 APP 145

PARIS GOBLE

Date:  July 19, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour 15 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Paris Goble’s family has a long history in Kentucky.  He was born in 1901 and moved to Auxier when he was fifteen.  He began working in the mines when he was sixteen as a motorman driving the rail cars through the mine.  Goble also was employed as a mule driver, motor brakeman, and pumper.  He describes the specific jobs and titles of miners and the mining methods of the hand loading era.  He remembers the North East Coal Company as a good company.  He discusses the physical surroundings of the camp including the company houses.  Goble states that the ridges around Auxier were cleared and planted with corn, beans, and potatoes until the 1960s.  He remembers that people also kept livestock on the hill.  He mentions the company store where prices were high, so his family often went to Prestonsburg or Paintsville for major purchases. He recalls moonshiners in the 1920s.

Goble worked in a Newport News, Virginia shipyard for some time, and recalls his shock at the bad race relations in Virginia.  Goble and his wife moved to Michigan after World War Two to work in an automobile manufacturing plant.  When he was laid off in the early 1950s, he moved back to Auxier.  He remembers that other people from Auxier moved to Michigan during this time.  Goble is a natural musician and plays the cornet.  He describes traveling to coal camps with a musical group.

 

88OH128 APP 146

DROXIE HOPSON

Date:  July 19, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 25 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Mrs. Hopson moved to Auxier from McDowell, Kentucky in 1925 when she married a miner.  Her father was a farmer, and she describes how he made staves and shipped them on the river.  Her mother died when she was seventeen of an unknown illness.  Hopson had eleven brothers and sisters.  She discusses her own battle with rheumatic fever as a young woman.  She remembers a time when her husband was laid off, and states that her husband supported the union.  Hopson only finished the eighth grade in school, but she earned her GED as an adult.

 

88OH129 APP 147

MALTA MILLER

Date:  July 19, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 55 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Malta Miller was born in 1901 in Johnson County, Kentucky.  She remembers that her mother made a big dinner on Sunday and invited all the neighbors.  Miller states that it was her mother who really ran their home.  Miller attended Berea College and became a teacher.  She married at age 22, but divorced after eight years.  She had two children and worked in the post office in Auxier, and also worked as a clerk in the company store.  She recalls other women who worked outside the home. She also made and sold clothes to the neighbors.  During World War Two she went to Michigan to work in a plant that manufactured bomber aircraft. 

 

88OH131 APP 149

ERNESTINE WELLS

Date:  July 20, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour 20 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Ernestine Wells was born in 1924 in Auxier.  She remembers life during the Great Depression when the men worked as little as one day a week or not at all.  She states that her family kept cows and hogs, as many families did, and that she feels like there were few if any class distinctions in Auxier.  She remembers that mine officials’ children wore store bought clothes, but that there was never a snobbish attitude.  She states that at one time the only cars in Auxier were owned by the company officials.

 

88OH132 APP 150

LUCY PATTON

Date:  July 20, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Lucy Patton moved to Auxier in 1928 at age 22 after she had married.  Her husband had been a miner, but he later worked as a clerk in the company store.  Mrs. Patton recalls growing up on a farm near Auxier.  She describes her mother’s excellent sewing and knitting abilities, but her mother died at a young age after a miscarriage.  Mrs. Patton helped to raise her youngest sister.  Mrs. Patton describes her own knowledge about pregnancy before marriage.  She discusses the birth of her first child and helping her sister deliver a child.  She recalls the role of the town doctor in labor and delivery.  Patton also shares her memories of Christmas as a child and as an adult.  She explains that she and her husband bought a building from her grandfather and opened their own store. 

 

88OH133 APP 151

RUTH KISER

Date:  July 21, 1988

Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Ruth Kiser was born in the town of Quicksand in Breathitt County, Kentucky in 1922.  In 1930, her family moved to Millstone, Kentucky at the Southeast Coal Company coal camp.  She remembers a very strict mining community led by the superintendent of Millstone.  She describes the superintendent’s family, and a strict class division as the superintendent’s children did not play with the other children in town.   She states that life became much better when Henry LaViers took over the mine.

Kiser discusses the Great Depression and recalls that her father worked for $3 a day but only one or two days a week.  She recalls what the children did for fun at Millstone, and describes the school she attended.  Her mother worked in the school lunchroom that was funded by the government.  Kiser also remembers visits by the state health department.

Kiser recalls when a church was began in Millstone and the many changes that the town underwent throughout the years.  She also describes the company doctor and the unionization of the mines.  Ruth Kiser and her husband left Millstone in 1981 to be closer to their children.

 

88OH151 APP 152

PARIS GOBLE

Date:  September 11, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 45 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with Paris Goble, who was born in 1901 near Prestonsburg, Kentucky.  He recalls the hard life he had as a child.  He states that jobs were scarce and many people did not have much money.  Goble recalls that families shared what they had with other families, and social activities in Auxier.  He describes the church in Auxier and remembers that before the church was formed a circuit rider preacher would come through town.  He describes his marriage as an equalitarian one.  He remembers hunting in the woods as a child and finding a little person living in a tree.

 

88OH152 APP 153

MARJORIE CASTLE

Date:  September 11, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Marjorie Castle states that she was born in 1910 in Ashland, Kentucky. [She clarifies in a later interview that she was actually born in 1909.  See APP 177.]  She moved back and forth from a farm and Ashland while growing up.  She describes a very comfortable life in both contexts.  After her marriage, Castle and her husband moved to a mining camp at Thealka, Kentucky.  She describes her husband’s work in the mines.  They left Thealka after the mine closed down and went to Van Lear.  Later, they moved to a farm.  Castle recalls living on the farm, making food from scratch, and doing laundry. She explains that her nine children were born at home.

 

88OH153 APP 154

MALTA WATSON

Date:  September 12, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 40 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Malta Watson is a native of Auxier, Kentucky.  Her parents had moved to Auxier in 1910 and she was born there in 1915.  They lived in a shack in a nearby hollow until homes were built in the town.  Watson describes games she and other children would play, and she remembers Christmas in the coal camp.  She discusses mine officials and their families, and states that people in the town got along.  She also recalls mine accidents, and the death of her first husband in a train accident.

 

88OH154 APP 155

BLAINE FRALEY

Date:  September 9, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 35 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Blaine Fraley was born in 1905 on Long Branch in Floyd County, Kentucky.  He remembers when the town of Auxier was established, and states that Sam Auxier owned all the land that came to be the town.  He describes when Calhoun Mayo inspected and surveyed the area.  Fraley states that the Northeast Coal Company from Ohio put a bridge across the Johns Creek, built two power houses and started building the camp.  He talks about Mayo and Henry and John LaViers.  Fraley started working for the coal company in 1928.  He remembers steamboats and timber rafts going to Catlettsburg. 

 

88OH155 APP 156

ONDA LEE HOLBROOK

Date:  September 11, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Onda Lee Holbrook’s family moved to Auxier from Ohio in search of work.  Her father became a coal loader at the mine and she was born in 1917 in Auxier.  She recalls playing with other children and states that the children would play together “more like relatives than friends.”  She remembers that at Christmastime the women of Alice Lloyd College would bring each child a little toy or some little treat.  She states that no one was embarrassed and that she does not think that there were any class tensions in Auxier.  Holbrook also describes her mother as having the reputation of being the best housekeeper in the camp.

 

88OH156 APP 157

EMMA RAE WELLS

Date:  September 11, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Emma Rae Wells was born in 1923 in Virginia and her family moved to Auxier when she was a small child.  Her earliest memory is when she started school in Auxier.  She talks about leisure activities in Auxier, mentioning that on Sundays the children would roam across the hills or go to the movies in Paintsville on the train.  She feels like there were some class distinctions in Auxier, and states that some children wore better clothes, had writing paper and books for school, and some children “picked their friends.”

 

88OH157 APP 158

MARJORIE CASTLE

Date:  September 12, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 35 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with Marjorie Castle who grew up in Ashland, but lived in a coal camp in Van Lear as an adult.  She remembers her father had a drinking problem  and the worry that it caused her mother.  She discusses courtship behavior, menarche, and the silence about sexual matters when she was a young woman.  Mrs. Castle also talks about music in eastern Kentucky and describes the Luly Viers murder ballad.

 

88OH160 APP 159

B.B. KRETZER

Date:  October 8, 1988

Location: Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 40 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

B.B. Kretzer was born in 1925 in Van Lear, Kentucky.  His mother, Bertha Kretzer, was also interviewed for this project (88OH184 APP 181).  His father was a mine foreman.  He remembers a mine explosion which killed five miners in 1935.  Two of his uncles died in the explosion.  Kretzer talks about his mother-in-law, who he describes as a “high-strung” woman he admired.  She took in washing, did the washing for the boarding house, and managed the miners’ burial fund.  He states that his own mother was a “humble person” who put her family first and herself last.

Kretzer talks at length about race relations in Van Lear.  He remembers that the school superintendent, Verne P. Horne, tutored a black child in his office.  He describes buying tickets for a church supper at the African American church.  He and his sister were the only white people there.  He does not recall any interracial dating, but he does describe an incident where the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross to threaten a man who talked against John L. Lewis.  Kretzer also states that switches were left on a man’s porch as a threat because he did not take care of his property.

 

88OH161 APP 160

O.W. HARRIS

Date:  October 8, 1988

Location: Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 75 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

O.W. Harris was born in 1916 in Catlettsburg, Kentucky.  He remembers the union organizers and labor recruiters from the 1930s.  He mentions the involvement of women in efforts to unionize and states that some of the women were “mouthy.”  Harris discusses courting his wife and birth control.  He notes the availability of condoms at the recreation center.  He also describes the sexual double standard. 

Harris refers to the schools in Van Lear as the best in the state and mentions that the high school offered physics.  He describes the role of blacks and immigrant groups in Van Lear.  He states that many companies made it a policy to not hire African Americans or foreigners.  Northeast Coal Company, which had mines at Auxier and Thealka, Kentucky, was one such company.  He lists the nationalities present in Van Lear including Albanians, Poles, Czechs, Italians, Romanians, Yugoslavians, Hungarians and Russians. He remembers an Italian labor recruiter, Tony Dan.  He states that African Americans came to Van Lear from Alabama and Georgia, and he recalls one interracial marriage in Logan, West Virginia and one incident with the Ku Klux Klan.

 

88OH165 APP 162

AUD WILLIAMSON

Date:  October 10, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 45 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Aud Williamson is a native of Boone’s Camp in Floyd County.  He was born in 1909 and began working in the mines in 1926.  He describes the African American families in Van Lear and states that he admires black people for overlooking the past wrongs to them.  He recalls the scarcity of cash when he was growing up, and speaks lovingly of his wife, Julia.  He remembers the hard work she endured daily caring for him and their children.

 

88OH166 APP 163

INEZ MUSIC

Date:  October 14, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Inez Music’s parents were from Alabama and she was born in Trafford, Alabama in 1915.  As a child her family moved between Alabama and coal camps in Kentucky and Virginia.   She met her husband, Ben Music, while they were living in Betsy Lane, Kentucky and that is where they married and started their “housekeeping.”  Music remembers that everyone in Betsy Lane “seemed like family.”  She states that she does not recall a large group of African Americans in Appalachia, but she tells the story of a black woman she met in Wheelwright, Kentucky who had sharecropped on her grandfather’s land.

 

88OH167 APP 164

ORA REYNOLDS

Date:  October 14, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 55 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Ora Reynolds was born in Auxier, Kentucky in 1913.  She states that her mother was an excellent homemaker who wrote verse.  Mrs. Reynolds recounts the story of the murder of Luly Viers, a young woman killed by her fiancée.  Mrs. Reynolds describes a devoted married life where her husband made breakfast, waited on her, and took over much of the child care of their two young daughters. 

Reynolds reflects on her husband’s involvement with the United Mine Workers of America, and she recalls the long hours that her husband had to work.  She remembers going to the store and upon hearing that one of the clerks was on vacation, she thought “Now, wouldn’t that be something if a poor old coal miner could have a vacation!”

 

88OH168 APP 165

MALTA MILLER

Date:  October 14, 1988

Location: Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with Malta Miller, who was born near present-day Auxier in 1901.  She describes attending school in the early twentieth century in a one-room schoolhouse.  Miller describes her mother’s opportunities for education and states that she believes that her mother would have been a great advocate for suffrage and women’s causes if she had had the opportunity.  Miller attended Berea College and was there when the flu epidemic hit.  She recalls her mother nursing those sick with the flu in Auxier.  Mrs. Miller discusses birth control and states that she knows that her parents used condoms because she saw them.  She also remembers an incident where a man in Auxier was suspected of being a homosexual and she provides her views on homosexuality.

 

88OH169 APP 166

OPAL RICHMOND

Date:  October 15, 1988

Location: Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 40 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Opal Richmond was born in 1916 in Martin County.  Her family moved to Van Lear where she attended school.  She worked in the company store from 1936 until 1949, first as a clerk, then in the scrip office.  She explains how the scrip system operated and states that it was clearly not a system of credit.  It seems that a person could only draw out as much scrip as he had already earned.  Richmond states that many times she was in the uncomfortable position of having to give a miner all the scrip due to him, knowing that he would drink or gamble it away and his wife and family would suffer.  Richmond remembers that her salary was $1.04 an hour when she quit her job in 1949.

 

88OH170 APP 167

ELIZABETH TRIMBLE

Date:  October 15, 1988

Location: Van Lear Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 40 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Elizabeth Trimble’s family moved to Van Lear from Pike County in the later 1920s when she was a baby.  Her father worked as a coal miner, pumper, and electrician, and she remembers him working day and night.  She describes living conditions in Van Lear and remembers a few African Americans.  She discusses her education and different teachers that she had.  She says that life in Van Lear was not boring and that although there were people who had more, she states, “we all had plenty enough.”

 

88OH171 APP 168

RUTH TRIMBLE

Date:  October 15, 1988

Location: Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 40 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Ruth Trimble is a native of Salyersville in Magoffin County, Kentucky.  She was born in 1905.  Her mother died of pneumonia when she was nine and her father remarried.  Trimble met her husband while he was boarding at a neighbor’s house.  He was working in the oil fields at Mashfork in Magoffin County at that time.  When work got scarce in the oil fields in 1928, Trimble and her husband moved to Van Lear, Kentucky.  She discusses her religious beliefs as a Baptist and talks about drinking and smoking both within her family and in Van Lear.  She mentions her husband’s pay and talks about a joke her husband’s friends played on him by making sure he got paid in one dollar bills.  She discusses her lack of knowledge of sexual matters when she got married.  Mrs. Trimble also describes voting and not telling her husband who she voted for.

 

88OH172 APP 169

DOROTHY CASTLE

Date:  October 15, 1988

Location: Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 40 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Born in Lawrence County, Kentucky in 1919, Dorothy Castle was two or three years old when her family moved to Van Lear.  Her father was a motorman in the mines, and her family moved around to different coal fields.  They lived in David and in Jenkins, as well as in Van Lear.  She remembers a mine accident when she was a child in which nine men were killed.  Castle attended two years of college at St. Mary’s in Huntington, West Virginia and finished her education at Booth’s Business College in Ashland.  Mrs. Castle mentions both her first and second marriage.  </

 

Annotated Guide to the Family and Gender in the Coal Community Oral History Project: Part II

If not available online, audio copies and/or transcripts of the interviews in this project are available in the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.

 

88OH173 APP 170 MINNIE LONG

Date:  October 20, 1988

Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 75 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Minnie Long was born in 1910 near Whitesburg, Kentucky.  Long describes growing up on a farm and remembers her mother’s support of suffrage.  She recalls the unionization of the mines in eastern Kentucky because one of her sisters lived in Harlan County.  She describes when the Dreiser Committee came to eastern Kentucky.

Another sister and brother-in-law lived in McRoberts, Kentucky where he was the butcher at the company store.  She visited often and even moved in with them for her last two years of high school.  Mrs. Long describes living in McRoberts.  She remembers immigrants from foreign countries including Italians and Poles.  She discusses recreational activities in McRoberts and helping her sister with the daily chores.  She recalls the lives of the coal mine managers and their families.  She states that many of the wives belonged to the women’s club, played bridge, and traveled. 

Mrs. Long finished high school and even took a business course in Louisville after graduation.  She worked for the Kentucky Relief Association in Letcher County, and she describes her work there.  She later worked for a bank in Whitesburg and for the state health department in Louisville.

88OH175 APP 172

MINNIE LONG

Date:  October 23, 1988

Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with Minnie Long.  Mrs. Long was born in 1910 and grew up on a farm in Letcher County, Kentucky.  She explains that her grandparents were prosperous farmers and had orchards and sheep.  She remembers that they sent their wool to North Carolina to be dyed.  Mrs. Long remembers that her mother made everything that they wore and she states that her mother was a suffrage supporter.  Long describes living with her sister and brother-in-law in McRoberts, Kentucky where her brother-in-law was the company store butcher.  Mrs. Long is critical of the United Mine Workers for not teaching the miners how to manage money.  She also discusses leisure activities in McRoberts.

 

88OH176 APP 173

GUSSIE JOHNSTON

Date:  October 23, 1988

Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Gussie Johnston was born in Soddy, Tennessee in 1911.  She had nine sisters and two brothers.  She was twelve years old when her family moved to McRoberts in Fletcher County, Kentucky in 1923, and she recalls all of them squeezing into a five-room house.  Her father started working in the mines as a coal loader and became a fire boss.  He had certificates to be a mine foreman in both Kentucky and Tennessee, but Johnston states that her father did not like that the mine foreman was expected to treat the miners badly.  She recalls immigrant groups including the Italians and Hungarians and remembers that people called the immigrants “Hunkies.”  She describes recreational activities and states that the boys could get away with anything, but that her parents were stricter with her and her sisters.  She recalls that the town was segregated.  African Americans had their own section of town and their own company store.  She describes the Great Depression, and states that she was able to attend the Fugazzi School of Business only because her brothers helped to pay the tuition.  Johnston also recalls her parents’ disagreements on politics.  Her mother was a Republican and her father was a Democrat.

 

88OH177 APP 174

GUSSIE JOHNSTON

Date:  October 24, 1988

Location: Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 40 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with Gussie Johnston who moved to McRoberts, Kentucky in 1923 when she was twelve years old.  Her father was a fire boss in the mines and he supplemented his income by painting, wallpapering, and keeping a large garden and hogs.  Mrs. Johnston describes the class structure of the camp, beginning with the superintendent, John F. Daniel, and going down through the hierarchy of the mine foremen, the maintenance superintendent, the managers of shops and stores, and the coal loaders.  She reports that coal loaders were ranked by productivity, not by seniority.  She remembers the lynching of a black man who allegedly killed the sheriff in the early 1920s.  She also states that her mother belonged to the missionary society and that people would often come to her father for advice.

 

88OH178 APP 175

LILA CLIFTON

Date:  November 5, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Lila Clifton was born in 1916 and her family moved from Thealka to Van Lear when she was five.  She talks extensively about birth control and her remarks reveal much about her own relationship with the company doctor.  The doctor even advised her and her husband about using condoms.  She talks at length about the social relationship between blacks and whites.  She remembers the Consolidated Coal Company as a good company.

 

88OH179 APP 176

LILA CLIFTON

Date:  November 6, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 35 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with Lila Clifton who lived in Thealka and Van Lear as a child in the 1920s.  She describes the good relationship that she had as an adult with her mother-in-law.  Clifton remembers medical care when she was a child, and describes having her appendix taken out.  She discusses her father’s difficult life after his mother died, and he was forced to take care of himself as a twelve-year-old.  He worked on push-boats, and then the railroad.  She remembers Thealka when she was a child, and discusses class structure in the coal camps.

 

88OH180 APP 177

MARJORIE CASTLE

Date:  November 6, 1988

Location:  Auxier, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a third interview with Marjorie Castle who was born in 1909.  She describes the medical care that she received as a child and their family doctor.  She remembers that some of her siblings were delivered by midwives.  Castle describes why people left their farms for the coal camps and states that they “wanted to have a better life.”  She remembers people fixing up their houses in the camp and getting more things.  She discusses the work required on the farm.  Castle states that the food on the farm was better than in the camp.

 

88OH181 APP 178

FRANK CLIFTON

Date:  November 5, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 40 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Frank Clifton, a native of Prestonsburg, Kentucky, was born in 1916.  He was eleven years old when his family moved to Van Lear so that his father could work in the mines.  He remembers how his mother used to play the banjo, but states that his father made her give it up.  Mr. Clifton talks about his father drinking “right smart” but says that his father never neglected his family.  Clifton also mentions the topic of politics in his home as a child and as an adult. He describes the need for a large family on a farm.

Clifton also describes working in the mines and remembers a mine explosion in 1935 which killed several men.  He recalls what happened to the families of the deceased miners.  He also talks about diversity in Van Lear.  Clifton remembers Mrs. Henry Singleton, a black woman, who taught the African American children in her home.    He states that there were no serious prejudices against immigrant groups like the Italians and Hungarians.

 

88OH182 APP 179

FRANK CLIFTON

Date:  November 6, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 40 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with Frank Clifton who was a coal miner in Van Lear, Kentucky.  He recalls people who lived outside the coal camp and “commuted” to work on horseback.  He discusses the organization of the mines by the United Mine Workers of America.  He remembers the police that the company hired.  Clifton talks about the leisure activities of the miners including playing baseball, softball, poker and beer parties. 

 

88OH183 APP 180

BERTHA KRETZER

Date:  November 5, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Bertha Kretzer married at sixteen years of age in 1922, and gave birth to her first child shortly thereafter.  She had thirteen children all told and explains that she does not believe in birth control.  She was born in Rush, Kentucky near Ashland and moved to Van Lear, Kentucky in 1924 where her husband got a job in a coal mine.  She states that she worried constantly about the dangers of mining.  In fact, two of her husband’s brothers were killed in the 1935 mine explosion in Van Lear.  The Kretzers also lived in West Virginia for five years.  She remembers an African American man who worked for her husband and came to dinner at their home several times.  She describes her daily work, her children’s schooling, and her husband’s drinking habits. Kretzer remembers her mother, who was a midwife, and helped with the delivery of her children. 

 

88OH184 APP 181

BERTHA KRETZER

Date:  November 6, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 35 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with Bertha Kretzer.  Mrs. Kretzer reads a five-page account of her life.  She remembers her father who she loved dearly, and describes his death.  She explains how her mother kept the family going by taking in boarders and washing.  Kretzer recalls how little she knew about the menstrual cycle and about childbirth as a teenager.  She describes her husband’s drinking and abuse.

 

88OH185 APP 182

JAMES C. WARD

Date:  November 18, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

James Ward’s family moved to Van Lear in 1925 when he was four.  He talks at length about the material differences between his family and the families of the management class.  He remembers that the company charged the miners a fee each month for the costs of sharpening their augers.  The men often had his father, who did not charge a fee, do the sharpening instead because ostensibly the company’s blacksmith did not do a good job.  He remembers bill collectors coming from Paintsville each payday, and states that it was not embarrassing because everybody owed money.  Ward also describes racial segregation in Van Lear, but does not remember blacks and whites being segregated in the mines. He tells several stories about the miners who would sit on a bridge and whittle after work.

Mr. Ward describes his life as a teenager in Van Lear.  He recalls occurrences of other teenagers drinking, smoking, and having sex, but states that things were not as out in the open as they are today.  Ward remembers the company store and the use of scrip.  He describes his attitude towards the union and becoming a coal miner himself.  Ward states his feelings about women coal miners and the role of women in the union.  He also remembers an accident that occurred while he was operating a loading machine.  He explains that he was not hurt.  Ward describes the hierarchy of the mining jobs.

 

88OH186 APP 183

BETTY J. WARD

Date:  November 18, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Betty J. Ward was born in 1925 near Columbus, Ohio but her family moved to Van Lear, Kentucky when she was only a year old.  She remembers that her family became close friends with an Italian family, the Campagottas.  This family offered to pay to send Mrs. Ward to nursing school in Huntington, West Virginia, but her family would not let her go so far from home.  After she graduated from high school, Ward went to work in the Consolidated Coal Company’s grocery store.  She worked there for two years in the early 1940s.  She talks about the sexual double standard and the acceptance of young women who had children out of wedlock.

 

88OH187 APP 184

JAMES C. WARD

Date:  November 19, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 40 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with James C. Ward who grew up in Van Lear, Kentucky in the 1920s and 1930s.  Mr. Ward remembers that the company store stocked the ingredients for making “homebrew.”  He states that the men drank so much, not because of boredom, but for the escape.  “It wasn’t the hard work…it was doing without a lot of things.”  Ward recalls the Baxters, a leading black family in Van Lear.  He discusses the times that his father had to request a cash advance from the superintendent, and states that his father was never turned down.  He recalls that the union pay scale in 1939 was four dollars a day for a five-day work week.

 

88OH188 APP 185

DAVID WEBB

Date:  November 19, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None   

David Webb was born in 1930 in Webb Hollow, just outside the corporation limits of Van Lear, Kentucky.  He describes attending the Van Lear schools.  He remembers just three families of African Americans living in Van Lear in the 1930s, and describes his experiences with them.  He states that the black families only attended church once a month when an African American minister and his wife would come to Van Lear for services. 

Webb’s parents were farmers and he explains that they “peddled” their produce throughout the town.  He remembers that large groups of people would sometimes gather down at the soda fountain in the center of town on a Saturday night.  Ward speaks highly of the town police, and recalls that the Northeast Coal Company would hire the older boys to cut grass, pick up trash, and clean out ditches every summer.  He also recalls that during the Depression people always had enough to eat.

 

88OH189 APP 186

TOM HANDY

Date:  November 19, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None        

Tom Handy was born in 1919 and grew up in Menifee County, Kentucky on a farm where he was the primary worker.  His father worked in the logging industry, the oil fields, and in a factory in Ohio.  He reports that the coal camps had a good reputation, but that he never had a desire to go underground.  He remembers that his father worked at a rock quarry six days a week for twelve and a half cents an hour.  He wielded a sixteen-pound sledgehammer and paid 25 cents a day for a ride to the quarry.  Mr. Handy recalls cattle drives to Mt. Sterling, and geese drives, too.  He attended a Moonlight School in Plumrow in the mid-1930s.  Mr. Handy also describes his experience in the army in Italy during World War Two.

 

88OH190 APP 187

RUSSELL RUCKER

Date:  November 19, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None        

Russell Rucker grew up in Hitchens, Kentucky in Carter County where his parents owned a small farm and orchard.  His father worked in the brickyard plant, and his family moved to Van Lear around 1930.  He describes moving to Van Lear with what they could fit in the back of their car.  Rucker recalls attending school and the clothing that he and his siblings had.  Russell went to work in the mines during what would have been his senior year in high school.  He describes the social dynamics of race in the coal camp and in the mine.  He remembers two African American men who would take the hardest jobs in the mines because they paid more money.  He states that black men and white men were always joking comfortably in the mine or in the bathhouse, but “when we were out in the community they took their place and I took my place.”  Rucker also explains that he served in the Army Air Corps.

 

88OH191 APP 188

BETTY J. WARD

Date:  November 19, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour 10 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None        

This is a second interview with Mrs. Betty J. Ward, who was born in 1925 in Columbus, Ohio.  She recalls her childhood in Van Lear, Kentucky where her family moved when she was a one-year-old.  Ward states that her mother was hot-tempered and would go to the company office and complain when someone else received some extra paint or wallpaper.  Ward also talks about class distinctions in the community; for example, she states that only some of the houses in the camp had painted porches.  In fact, the miners’ houses did not have painted porches.  She describes the disorderly atmosphere that she grew up in which included beer parties.  She talks about the high housekeeping standards of her grandmother, and her grandmother putting strips of bacon in the sides of the jars as she canned so that when she opened the green beans in the winter they would already be seasoned.  Mrs. Ward remembers the role of the church in the community and being “saved.”  She discusses African Americans, who lived in Van Lear. 

 

88OH192 APP 189

RUTH E. HANDY

Date:  November 19, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Ruth Handy’s father did not have a regular job because he only had one leg.  He was a magistrate for a while and had weighed coal for the mining company at one time, but he spent most of his time farming.  Handy was born in 1923 in Webb Hollow near Van Lear, Kentucky.  She describes her schooling and explains that her sister was one of her teachers.  She graduated from high school and completed two years of education at a business college in Ashland, and then went to Cincinnati to work in a B-17 bomber aircraft factory during World War Two. Handy describes how her father took care of the farm with only one leg.  Her father also taught the children how to read music and sing, and she remembers listening to the radio.

 

88OH193 APP 190

GARNETTA RUCKER

Date:  November 19, 1988

Location:  Van Lear, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 55 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None        

Garnetta Rucker was born in 1925 in Martin County, Kentucky.  She states that her mother was three fourths Native American, and she remembers a visit by a Native American man.  She was eight years old when her family moved to Van Lear where her father was a miner.  Rucker talks about the farm in Martin County and her mother’s difficult life raising fifteen children.  She tells stories about violence in Martin County.  Rucker finished high school in three years, attended cosmetology school, and worked for the post office for 22 years.  She states that moving to Van Lear increased her family’s economic status.  Rucker married and raised four children.

 

88OH253 APP 200

MAE FRAZIER

Date:  December 8, 1988

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None        

Mae Frazier was born in 1912 in what is now Hotspot, Kentucky in Letcher County.  Former names for the town include Dalna and Elsiecoal.  She remembers that her father leased a team of mules to the coal company.  Her father died when she was eight and her mother never remarried.  Instead, her mother supported the family through their farm.  They raised sheep and made their cloth and clothes from the wool.  Frazier talks about the isolation on the farm and the importance of the coal company opening up the mines.  She talks about difficulties during the Depression.  She was teaching at this time and only making $48.10 a month.  She states that she felt paralyzed about not being unable to make more money for the family.  She later became a nurse, and in 1944 she and her mother moved to Lexington.

 

88OH254 APP 201

LOWELL PHILLIPS

Date:  December 8, 1988

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None        

Lowell Phillips is originally from Flat Gap in Johnson County, Kentucky.  He was born in 1914, and his family moved to Van Lear when he was four.  His father became head of construction at the mine.  They lived within 600 feet of coal mine No. 2, and he remembers that men were hurt or killed regularly in the mine.  Phillips describes some of the African American families in the town, particularly the Singletons.  He talks about sexual issues, noting changes over time.  He recalls young people going to roadhouses and nightclubs in the early 1930s.  He makes a distinction between ‘nice’ clubs and some of the worst roadhouses and “jenny barns.”  He states that condoms were easily available.  He remembers his parent’s and his own marriage.  His wife was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

88OH255 APP 202

LOWELL PHILLIPS

Date:  December 9, 1988

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with Lowell Phillips who grew up in Van Lear, Kentucky in the 1920s and 1930s.  He states that he thinks people came to the coal camps because they had a general desire to better themselves.  He notes the importance of education in the decision to move to the camps, the longing for the “the necessities,” and the desire for leisure time.  He explains that the county schools were not adequate.  Phillips also talks about mining technology, specifically about mining low coal and about the duckbill and shaker machinery that came with the mechanization of the mines.  He mentions working in a company shop where they did everything from winding armatures to building motors, and he remembers the unionization of the coal mines.

Phillips states that the women of Van Lear were brave.  They would see the injuries and the fatalities in the mine, but then go and help their husbands prepare for work.  He explains, “Now she didn’t want her man to go back in there, but she wanted to feed these little children.”

 

88OH256 APP 203

JUANITA WORSTER

Date:  December 10, 1988

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 50 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

Juanita Worster was born in 1919 in Van Lear, Kentucky.  Her father was an assistant supervisor for the Consolidated Coal Company, and she describes Van Lear as a large mining town which did not fit the image of the typical coal camp.  Van Lear had two hotels, a clubhouse, and a movie theatre.  Worster does not remember any unusual troubles during the Great Depression.  She states that she always had what she needed and that people in Van Lear helped each other out.  But Worster recalls that the African American families in Van Lear had inferior housing.

Worster graduated from high school in 1938, attended college, and began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse near Van Lear in Butcher Hollow.  She explains that she wanted to teach in one of the Van Lear schools, but that those positions were difficult to obtain.  While in Butcher Hollow, Worster taught future country music star Loretta Lynn for one year.  She explains that she knows some of her pupils did not come to school in the winter because they did not have shoes. 

Worster discusses the social life and sexual mores when she was a young woman.  She recalls men who did not want to tell their sons about the facts of life and states that she told her son herself.  She explains that dating was not common when she was a young woman.  Instead, the teenagers socialized in groups. Worster moved to Lexington, Kentucky during World War Two.

 

88OH257 APP 204

MAE FRAZIER

Date:  December 12, 1988

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 45 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a second interview with Mae Frazier who was born in 1912 in Letcher County, Kentucky near what is now Hotspot.  She states that people left their farms to move to the coal camps for the money.  She remembers that the people in the camps did not eat as well as farm people, but that they enjoyed better opportunities for education and medical care.  Fraiser explains how work was segregated by gender when she was a young woman.  She talks about church and states that the most common religion was Baptist.

Frazier also talks about pregnancy, child birth, and the menstrual cycle.  She remembers that when a wife was sick the husband would find a “hired girl” to do the housework.  She talks about herbal medicines and taking whiskey for severe cramps.  Mrs. Frazier started teaching when she was only sixteen and describes this experience.  She later went to nursing school.

 

88OH258 APP 205

S.M. CASSIDY

Date:  December 13, 1988

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 1 hour

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

S.M. Cassidy was born in 1902 in Lexington, Kentucky.  He studied mining engineering in college and worked summers in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky.  He describes his first experiences in the coal mine, and states that he knew that he wanted to go into mining operations.  He talks about some of the cultural differences between mountain people and himself.  He explains that a boss would have to request that a miner do something and not order the miner around.  He recalls that a man would just walk off the job if he felt offended.

Cassidy worked as superintendent of Carbon Glow Coal Company in Carbon Glow, Kentucky and for Greenough Coal & Coke Company in Hellier, Kentucky among other management positions in mines in Illinois and Pennsylvania.  Mr. Cassidy talks about the changing demographics of the mining population.  He states that in the early years most of the miners were immigrants and African Americans.  By 1936, in his opinion, native whites were the majority of the miners.  He provides an overview of the development of mining in eastern Kentucky, and also talks about the rough life of miners at Carbon Glow.

 

88OH259 APP 206

LOWELL PHILLIPS

Date:  December 15, 1988

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Glenna Horne Graves

Length: 35 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript: First Draft

Restrictions: None

This is a third interview with Lowell Phillips who worked as a supervisor in the Van Lear mines.  His wife was a teacher in Van Lear, and he describes her concern with families who experienced difficulties.  She would often ask around the town for old clothes for the needy, and she would visit homes and ask what she could do to help.  He states that his wife would even do other people’s washing sometimes.

Mr. Phillips talks at length about the social life of young people in the 1920s and 1930s.  He states that there were night clubs from Paintsville to Virginia.  He describes them, and makes a clear distinction between them and the much less respectable “roadhouses,” “honkytonks,” and “jenny barns.”  He also discusses the mores and behavior of men and women in this time period.

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