Article: Writings from Kentucky: Growing up in Blackey by 2dCousinDave: Blackey

 
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Image Writings from Kentucky: Growing up in Blackey by 2dCousinDave
By Sharon Brown on April 8, 2010

The terrain and the people of Kentucky are so varied, those of us who grew up here never have the same stories to tell. Wonder of wonders, though, I recently met a gentleman who grew up only a handful of miles from where I was born. We were probably there at the same time, walking those same dusty roads, and climbing the very same mountains. Here's a story from our All Across Kentucky Cubit, written by my friend Dave. Please leave a comment for him on the threads that follow, and you are welcome to visit our Cubit.

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ImageSharon
Aug 22, 2010 8:44 AM CST
Name: Sharon
Kentucky
It does, and I don't really know.
Same is true of this end of the state, though not so much as years ago.
ImageCajuninKy
Aug 22, 2010 9:58 PM CST
Name: Cheryl
Eastern Ky
Truth should be everpresent.
Looks like it started here back in the beginning days of the coal mining.
Please join me at my Websites:
At Home Away from Home ~ Cajun's Corner

ImageSharon
Aug 22, 2010 10:21 PM CST
Name: Sharon
Kentucky
A long time ago.
ImageCajuninKy
Aug 22, 2010 10:24 PM CST
Name: Cheryl
Eastern Ky
Truth should be everpresent.
I guess as long as coal mine owners put money in the pockets in Frankfort the corruption will continue.
Please join me at my Websites:
At Home Away from Home ~ Cajun's Corner

ImageSharon
Aug 22, 2010 10:31 PM CST
Name: Sharon
Kentucky
Actually, over the years there has been improvement, it's not a lot better, but there is improvement. I wish I could be more specific.

There was a big controversy the Black Lung issue. Aide was handed out, and a lot of that money ended up in the hands of corrupt politicians. I don't remember the details, but that's an example, too.
ImageCajuninKy
Aug 23, 2010 7:02 AM CST
Name: Cheryl
Eastern Ky
Truth should be everpresent.
So sad. The system is so messed up across the board.
Please join me at my Websites:
At Home Away from Home ~ Cajun's Corner

Image2dCousinDave
Aug 25, 2010 9:39 AM CST
Name: Dave Kinneer
Fredericksburg, Virginia
The scenes in the movie supposedly shot in Washington state, in a little honky tonk, where Doo first urged Loretta to get up and sing were filmed in Blackey. The film company remodeled the inside of an old store to make it look like a tavern, complete with a bar (interesting since Letcher is a dry county). They left the building which was then used as a recreation center. Also, the scene on the railroad tracks where Doo was trying to get her to get back in the car was filmed 100 feet from the railroad depot pictured earlier in this thread and also visable in the last picture I posted, of Blackey, viewed from the railroad tracks. My mother watched them film the scene on the tracks (it was only 500 feet or so from her house), and every time she saw that movie (which was often), she would point to that location and also call out the names of the many locals that were in the bar scene.

I was gone during the the days of JFK's New Frontier and LBJ's Great Society, and the attention those programs focused on eastern Kentucky, but I heard plenty about it from my mother, at the time and later.

One quick way to get Mother riled up was to mention the name Charles Kuralt. He apparently brought his big bus to Blackey, looking for pictures that matched his preconception of what Applachian life looked like. He liked my mother's porch and old rocking chair but he wanted to film another woman in the chair ( a woman that chewed tobacco and for all the world looked and talked like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies). Well, this didn't go over so well with Mother, but when he asked to use her bath room and she pointed to the out house, (which he declined), that did it for her, She told him he might find indoor plumbing in Hazard (about 25 miles away) but to her knowledge, no one in Blackey had it.

After that she always thought of him as a phoney and when she learned about his decades long "shadow" life with a woman in Montana, that surfaced after his death, that surely confirmed it, at least in her mind.

But as much as she disliked Kuralt, she adored Harry Reasoner. She found him very down to earth and genuinely interested in the people and the conditions in which they lived. He spent many afternoons on her porch and in fact, one of his daughters spent most of one summer, living with my mother. My mother corresponded with the Reasoners (Christmas cards, mostly) until his death in 1991 and with the daughter until my mother died in 1998.
David Kinneer
Fredericksburg, Virginia
[Last edited Aug 25, 2010 10:02 AM CST]
Quote | Post #376559 (7)
Imagesunfarm
Aug 25, 2010 5:52 PM CST
Name: Sally
East Central Kentucky
Dave, I really enjoy your expansions on the stories about your homeplace. I traveled into SE Kentucky quite a bit when I was working (1970s until I retired in 2004) and always wished my children could see how beautiful the countryside was and how daily living was so different from the "big city" of Lexington. I share your mother's distaste for the exploiters of the region and its people.
Living sustainably comes with learning to see the world in a new way.
ImageSharon
Aug 25, 2010 6:19 PM CST
Name: Sharon
Kentucky
We all share distaste for the exploiters of the region and its people. It's what makes for much distrust of 'outsiders'. It was quite evident when I roamed over the mountains when I was there in June. I passed an old fellow who looked to be somewhere in his 80's. He was walking along one of the logging roads and waved me down. I thought he might need help, but instead he asked me what a 'girl like you's doin' in my mountains?'

I almost laughed at the 'girl' part, but was a little afraid to laugh.

I told him that I'd grown up there and just wanted to see the changes in 'my mountains'.

He said, "Who's yore family?' sort of in a low growly voice.

I told him my daddy was a Webb, and my mom was an Adams, and that's about all it took. Turns out he knew who I was before I said another word, said I looked just like my Mama, and I got to hear all about his family too. He told me we were distant cousins, by way of 'Uncle Earl', and I just let him talk. I know my ancestors, and there's no Uncle Earl in either branch, but he was enjoying himself so much, I kept right on listening.

He invited me to his house for some fried green 'maters' his granddaughter was fixing him, and I almost took him up on it. Instead I walked along beside him to the next house up the holler, and recognized the woman on the porch. She had been a friend of my mother, though younger than Mom, just a little older than I am. Her name was Joy, and when she said "Pa, you've brought home a friend" I realized the old man was older than I had first thought.

They were kinfolk, that's for sure, though distant, and I was really glad to talk with them for awhile. She asked me if her daddy had tried to run me off. I told her he might have tried till I told him my name. She said he was 'real wary of strangers.' About that time Joy's daughter came and told them the 'maters were ready, and I hugged them and went on my way.

I guess I'd be pretty wary of strangers, too.
I wish now I'd stayed for those fried green 'maters.

What towns did you work in when you were there, Sally?
Imagesunfarm
Aug 26, 2010 6:32 AM CST
Name: Sally
East Central Kentucky
Sharon, I am a retired concrete technologist and worked on projects all over the area. Your story reminds me of my first trip to Harlan in the early '70s. I stopped for gas and got a bunch of questions from the store owner about who "my people" were, He said I "looked like a Pollitte." I didn't know whether that was something to claim or deny, so I just said that my mother's family was from Virginia, not explaining that it was the part adjacent to Washington, DC. His questions made me nervous, to say the least.

I was there for a couple of weeks and had a nice motel to stay in, with cable TV for entertainment, since I dared not wander around on my own. That was before all the fast food options, so I took an electric fondue pot and used it for heating everything from water for coffee to canned stews and soups in the motel room.
The project I was working on was the new "high rise" senior citizens' housing; I think it was five stories tall.

Another incident I remember from that project was answering the phone when I happened to be the only one near the contractor's office trailer. I called him to the phone and found out later that it had been his wife on the phone. She did not believe that the female answering the phone was the concrete inspector and drove all the way from Louisville to check my story out. I always wondered if she was just suspicious or if he had given her reasons to be distrusting.
Living sustainably comes with learning to see the world in a new way.
ImageSharon
Aug 26, 2010 7:28 AM CST
Name: Sharon
Kentucky
Yes, I can see that happening. Harlan County is probably even distrustful of those of us from Letcher County. We're probably also outsiders to them. Sometimes we have to list our lineage to prove ourselves to our neighbors!

They've always been clannish there, probably the Scotch and Irish blood that flows through their veins, maybe the Cherokee, too. But to have been exploited on the cover of national magazines in the 60's and early 70's made it even stronger.

I'm glad you made it back home unscathed.
Imagesunfarm
Aug 26, 2010 9:12 AM CST
Name: Sally
East Central Kentucky
Sharon, I felt much more comfortable on subsequent trips. I find your comments interesting as I thought I might have been overreacting to my limited familiarity with the area aside from having read about the "Bloody Harlan" history. By the time I retired women on construction sites were not quite the novelty that they were in the '70s.
Living sustainably comes with learning to see the world in a new way.
ImageSharon
Aug 26, 2010 9:54 AM CST
Name: Sharon
Kentucky
I don't think you were over reacting.

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