Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lillie D. Chaffin, April 12, 1978

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Background and family

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Partial Transcript: I had this way down. Mrs. Chaffin, I'd like to just begin with getting a few uh basic uh remarks down about your--of your background in Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin was born in Pike County. In the past few years, she has become interested in mining. Chaffin describes mining on a small scale when she was a child, before the time when strip mining started. Chaffin's father was unemployed as a result of a railroad accident. She grew up during the Depression, and although they were poor, they were food-secure.

Keywords: Flooding; Great Depression; Mining; Pike County, Kentucky; Pikeville, Kentucky; Railroad accidents; Strip mining; Varney, Kentucky

Subjects: Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Floods; Pike County (Ky.); Pikeville (Ky.); Railroad accidents; Strip mining; Varney (Ky.)

GPS: Varney (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.609843, -82.418289
00:09:40 - Reading

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Partial Transcript: I was a reader.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin describes herself as a reader. They did not have a radio for a long time, and did not have a television. A neighbor liked reading magazines and shared them. The teacher at the rural school was able to go to the county school office once a month to borrow thirty books, which was the school library. Chaffin's father intended to become a doctor, but became ill, and survived typhoid fever. Chaffin's father read books and newspapers. She describes herself as an "accidental child," and her father as a contrary man.

Keywords: Cincinnati Post; Family; Kit Carson; Lindberg baby kidnapping; Newspapers; One room schoolhouses; Radio; Reading; Television; Typhoid fever

Subjects: Education; Families.; Lindbergh, Charles Augustus, 1930-1932; Newspapers; Radio; Reading; Rural schools; Television; Typhoid fever

00:17:07 - Elementary school

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Partial Transcript: But I loved school, and I started t--I started attending school when I was four.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin loved school, which she started attending at age four. The teacher allowed Chaffin to attend school although she was younger than the traditional age. She recalls watching the schoolchildren playing at a time before she attended school.

Keywords: First Grade; One room schoolhouses; Primers

Subjects: First grade (Education); Rural schools

00:19:52 - High school

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Partial Transcript: But when I got, um, through eighth grade, I was twelve.

Segment Synopsis: After Chaffin graduated eighth grade at age twelve, she had no way to go to high school. She repeated eighth grade several times. She arranged to get other students who wanted to go to high school in order to have a school bus. They were unable to have a bus pick up the children, so the superintendent arranged for the children to be driven to take the bus. High school was rare at the time, not universal. Chaffin attended John's Creek High School. One by one, students dropped out, and Chaffin, too dropped out and got married. After three years, she went back to high school as a senior, and graduated.

Keywords: High schools; Marriage; Marriage age

Subjects: Education; High school; Marriage; Rural conditions; Rural schools--Kentucky

00:27:08 - College

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Partial Transcript: I think I was born to be a teacher.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin feels that she was born to be a teacher. There was a teacher shortage, and she got an emergency teaching certificate and taught first and second grade. She took weekend and night classes during this time. By 1958, she earned her bachelor's degree.

Keywords: Akron University; Bachelor's degrees; G.I. Bill; John's Creek High School; Pikeville College; Teacher shortages

Subjects: Education; Education, Higher; Higher education; Pikeville (Ky.); Pikeville College; Teachers--Supply and demand; Teaching

00:30:28 - Beyond her masters degree

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Partial Transcript: --which is, a minimum of thirty hours beyond your masters.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin hopes to go back to school, perhaps for her doctorate. Chaffin moved to Lexington not only to escape the flooding. Her husband has emphysema. They decided to move to Florida. Three days after moving, he had a stroke. As he was recovering, he requested to move back to Kentucky. Chaffin's husband selected Lexington to be near his doctor, who is based in there.

Keywords: Emphysema; Inner resources; Lexington, Kentucky; Stroke

Subjects: Education, Higher; Emphysema, Pulmonary; Higher education; Lexington (Ky.); Stroke

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
00:37:29 - Beginning as a writer

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Partial Transcript: Well how about your writing?

Segment Synopsis: As a girl, Chaffin wrote poetry and saved the poems in an old suitcase. She burned the collected poems when she got married. She did not write with a plan to publish, and didn't know how to publish.

Keywords: Writers groups; Writing poetry; Writing songs

Subjects: Authors and publishers.; Authors.; Creative writing; Poetry; Popular music--Writing and publishing; Publishers and publishing.

00:41:49 - Writing schedule

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Partial Transcript: There was a period when my husband didn't get home until late.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin describes her writing schedule: waking up at 2AM to work on school work and to write. She also discusses her sleep schedule.

Keywords: Books; Classes; Eastern Kentucky University (EKU); Husbands; Mornings; Sleep; Sleep schedules; Student teaching; Writing schedules; early

Subjects: Authors.; Writing

00:45:41 - Impact of other writers on her work

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned this, uh, small writers group that began as an influence on your work and perhaps taught you some more things too...

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin discusses some of her favorite authors and poets and their impact upon her own work.

Keywords: Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Ann Sexton; Books; Favorites; Gothic novels; Imitation; Impact; John Steinbeck; Marilyn Hacker; Memorization; Personal; Phases; Poets; Reading; Robert Lowell; Romantics; William Faulkner; William Wordsworth; Writers; Writers groups

Subjects: Authors.; Childhood; Writing

00:50:44 - Writing various genres in phases

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Partial Transcript: And I do the same thing with my writing.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin talks about her habit of becoming very interested in one particular genre and writing almost solely in that genre for a period of time. She talks about some of the genres she has written in so far.

Keywords: Bored; Changes; Children's books; Children's poems; Children's stories; Editors; Genres; Magazines; Novels; Phases; Poetry; Published; Revising; Revision; Short stories

Subjects: Authors.; Writing

00:55:42 - Writing groups and reading her works

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Partial Transcript: Are you reading anything else now?

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin talks about her participation in a poetry group. She talks about her feelings on reading her poetry to groups. She mentions some of the literary magazines she reads.

Keywords: Don Edwards; In-progress work; Learning; Lexington (Ky.); Magazines; Meetings'Minutes; Moving; Poetry groups; Poetry readings; Private; Reading; Subscriptions; Unpublished works; Writers groups

Subjects: Authors.; Writing

01:01:06 - Snow and living in Lexington, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: We moved into a little--new subdivision off Richmond Road and, uh, the street was not cleaned the whole year.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin talks about a house she and her husband moved into in Lexington and about being trapped inside it after a blizzard. She talks about her desire to return to teaching.

Keywords: Blizzards; Colleges; Eastern Kentucky University (EKU); English departments; Future plans; Houses; Neighborhoods; Snow; Trapped; Unsettled

Subjects: Lexington (Ky.).; Teachers; Teaching

01:06:57 - Chaffin reads some of her poems

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Partial Transcript: Uh, the poem I'm going to read is called "Teacher, please note" and it's from my first published...

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin reads several of her poems, including "Teacher, please note" and "When you return," among others.

Keywords: "8th Day, 13th Moon"; "A Stone For Sisyphus"; "Circe, remembering"; "Sisyphus"; "Special delivery"; "Teacher, please note"; "When you return"; Books; Contests; Gods; Manuscripts; Phases; Poems; Poets; Reading; Sonnets

Subjects: Authors.; Poetry; Writing