Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Burdette Kretzer, Jr., October 8, 1988

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:04 - Family / life in Van Lear, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Um, hi Mr. Kretzer. Tell me your whole name.

Segment Synopsis: Kretzer talks about his family and where his mother and father were from, and mentions his German and Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry. He talks about his family moving to Van Lear when he was 6 months old while his father worked in the mines hand loading coal. He says that he had a big family, with 11 brothers and sisters, but everyone always had plenty to eat and clothes to wear. Kretzer talks about the differences in how the black people in Van Lear lived compared to the white people. He believes that for the most part everyone lived the same way and black families had just as much as white families did. Kretzer says that once the mining industry started slowing down in Van Lear a lot of families left the area to find work elsewhere.

Keywords: Ancestors; Carter County (Ky.); Family; Fathers; Grandparents; Morgan County (W. Va.); Mothers; Parents; Race

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions; Appalachian Region; Appalachians (people)--Kentucky--Social conditions; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Van Lear Region; Families; Race relations--Kentucky

00:07:30 - Early memories of Van Lear / mine explosion of 1935

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Partial Transcript: When, uh, you picture your mom, uh--say if she got really worried or upset over something who would she be more likely to turn to?

Segment Synopsis: Kretzer talks about some of his earliest memories of Van Lear, including his mother getting bitten by a copperhead snake while she was walking outside, and going to baseball games with his father. He says his mother worried most about her children and making sure all 12 of them had everything they needed. Kretzer also talks about the mine explosion that happened in 1935, killing 9 men--including 2 of his uncles. He says that his uncles' widows moved away from Van Lear with their families after the explosion.

Keywords: Childhood; Mine explosions; Worrying

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Appalachians (people)--Kentucky--Social conditions; Coal mine accidents; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Van Lear Region; Mining camps

00:16:38 - Work and education / marriage

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Partial Transcript: Did your mother try to keep, uh, you and your brothers out of the mines?

Segment Synopsis: Kretzer talks about working in the mines with his father for two years after he left the military. He says he left the mines to be an auto mechanic, and later went to Mayo Vocational School for more training. He says that his wife also went to vocational school and trained in business, and currently works with senior citizens in Van Lear and supervises a local arts and crafts group. Kretzer believes that a marriage should be equal, and says that he and his wife have both worked all their lives and share housework duties. He remembers his parents' marriage, and says that his father was the head of the household.

Keywords: Education; Military; Parents; Working

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Appalachians (people)--Kentucky--Social conditions; Coal miners--Kentucky; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Van Lear Region; Marriage; Women--Employment

00:29:07 - Working in the coal mines

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Partial Transcript: My dad worked hard.

Segment Synopsis: Kretzer talks about the kind of work his father did in the mines, including foreman and fire boss duties. He says that the last five years his father worked he worked two shifts each day, and ultimately passed away due to Black Lung. Kretzer says that when he worked in the mines he was in the same place that the explosion happened, and it always bothered him to be in the mines. Kretzer assumes that his father was bothered by it as well, but his father never mentioned it.

Keywords: Black lung; Mine explosions; Mine safety; Working

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Coal mine accidents; Coal miners--Kentucky; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Van Lear Region

00:33:18 - Marriage / gardening

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Partial Transcript: Um, say you're talking about marriages, say your mother-in-law's and your father-in-law's marriage, was that a more egalitarian marriage...

Segment Synopsis: Kretzer discusses his mother-in law's and father-in-law's marriage, and says that his mother-in-law was the one in charge of the household. He talks about the kinds of work they would do, saying his father-in-law was a janitor at Van Lear schools and tended to grounds around the community. He says his mother-in-law was active in the community and took in laundry from the clubhouse and the more wealthy families in Van Lear. Kretzer talks about the gardens people in Van Lear used to keep, saying everyone had a hillside plot that they farmed in. He remembers that there used to be prizes for the family that raised the best garden. In his family, he and his sister would work in the garden while his mother worked on canning the food.

Keywords: Community; Van Lear (Ky.)

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Appalachians (people)--Kentucky--Social conditions; Canning and preserving; Country life; Gardening; Marriage

00:37:48 - Mother's life / working for money

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Partial Transcript: What'd she--what'd your mother do for--what would your mother do for leisure, or just for her own self?

Segment Synopsis: Kretzer talks about his mother and the kinds of things she would do. He says she never had time to do things for herself because she was too busy raising the children and taking care of the house. He says that she would always think of her family before herself, and that he was proud of her. He talks about how he would do extra work around Van Lear, cutting grass and working in corn fields, to get extra money for himself. Kretzer says his sister also worked for extra money doing housework and helping with canning, but she wasn't made to do certain types of work because she was a girl.

Keywords: Childhood; Children; Gender roles; Recreation; Women working; Working

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Appalachians (people)--Kentucky--Social conditions; Women--Appalachian Region; Women--Employment

00:44:21 - Sex and relationships / segregation in Van Lear

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Partial Transcript: Now I'm going to talk about dating and things.

Segment Synopsis: Kretzer talks about his lack of formal sexual education, saying that when he was growing up those sorts of things just weren't talked about. He says that if he had questions he would ask a friend before he would ask his father. He talks about interracial dating, and says that no one in Van Lear did that because it wasn't allowed. He says there was respect between the white and black populations in Van Lear, but interracial dating wasn't something people did. Kretzer discusses segregation in the community, saying that the black people kept to themselves, and didn't go to the same school as the white children. He also talks about the Ku Klux Klan's influence in the community when he was growing up.

Keywords: Abortion; Communication; Dating; Interracial dating; John L. Lewis; Recreation; Relationships; Segregation

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Coal miners--Labor unions--Kentucky; Ku Klux Klan (1915- ); Segregation in education--Kentucky; Sex instruction

00:57:30 - Homosexuality in Van Lear

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Partial Transcript: Um, I want to ask about this now. I've been doing interviews in Auxier for--since June.

Segment Synopsis: Kretzer talks about homosexuality in Van Lear, saying he knew of two men who lived and slept together. He recalls being told when he was younger that there were two teenage girls that were caught with each other, but that it didn't change anyone's opinion about the girls. He says that as far as he knows those two girls got married and had families of their own and lived conventional lives. Kretzer says that he believes that people have a right and freedom to do what they want as long as they aren't breaking the law.

Keywords: Abortion; Community; Van Lear (Ky.)

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Homosexuality

01:03:48 - Drugs and alcohol in Van Lear

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Partial Transcript: Was there any, um--was there much of a drinking problem in Van Lear?

Segment Synopsis: Kretzer discusses the effect alcohol had on the community of Van Lear while he was growing up, and how alcohol and drug abuse affects the community now. He says that drugs and alcohol are everywhere, and that Van Lear isn't any worse than other communities.

Keywords: Alcohol; Cocaine; Drugs; Marijuana; Substance abuse

Subjects: Alcoholism; Appalachian Region; Appalachians (people)--Kentucky--Social conditions