Interview with Joy Bale Boone, June 10, 1991

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

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Partial Transcript: This is an oral history interview with Joy Bale Boone for the University of Kentucky Libraries Kentucky Writers Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Boone gives biographical details and also talks about her parents, siblings, and relatives. She talks about her childhood and having relatives in England. She talks about her sister's suicide. Her childhood was lonely, she says, though she has happy memories from later years. She talks about the schools she attended as a child. There was limited science education in her school.

Keywords: Chicago (Ill.); Kentucky poets; Poets from Kentucky

Subjects: Authors; Childhood; Education; Families.; Genealogy; Poets; Poets, Women

00:13:04 - College education and first two jobs

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Partial Transcript: And I really wanted to go to University of Chicago and be a journalist.

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about going to university in Coral Gables and not finding it serious enough for her. She talks about the experience of taking her first job at a paper in Coral Gables. She then got her next job at Miami Beach News as an editor, which she much enjoyed. She thought it was a great learning experience.

Keywords: Coral Gables; George Gershwin; Miami Beach News

Subjects: Education, Higher; Higher education; Journalism; Journalists; Miami Beach (Fla.); Newspapers.

00:17:55 - Working at Chicago Daily News

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Partial Transcript: What did that experience do to your aspirations to be a journalist?

Segment Synopsis: Boone describes her experience working at the Chicago Daily News, which is out of business now. She worked on the women's page in the paper, writing headlines. She talks about the different people associated with the paper.

Keywords: Women journalists; Women's pages in newspapers

Subjects: Chicago Daily News, Inc.; Evanston (Ill.); Journalists; Newspapers.

00:19:39 - Marriage and the Great Depression

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Partial Transcript: And then I met Garnett Bale.

Segment Synopsis: Boone describes meeting and marrying Garnett Bale, who was in medical school. They moved to New York. Her husband did not get paid for being an intern for two years after his medical training. She talks about working at various jobs during those times. She was a dental assistant but didn't stay at the job long.

Keywords: Dental assistants; Great Depression; Medical internships; Weddings

Subjects: Depressions--1929; Employment; Marriage

00:23:00 - Work at a photo studio

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Partial Transcript: But anyway, I then got a wonderful job.

Segment Synopsis: Boone describes getting a wonderful job after a period of unemployment. She worked as a receptionist at a photography studio. She and her husband lived in Manhattan. She enjoyed the job and the place. She remembers visiting various places.

Keywords: Photographic studios

Subjects: New York (N.Y.); Photography

00:26:19 - Move to Louisville, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: After that we went to Louisville and by then I was expecting our first child...

Segment Synopsis: Boone describes their move to Louisville because her husband was from Kentucky. There were no jobs because it was during the Great Depression. Young doctors were looking for jobs with CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camps. But her husband fortunately got hired by U.S. Coal and Coke company to work in a coal mining camp in Lynch, in Harlan County, Kentucky. She describes her time in Louisville. She also talks about her children.

Keywords: Coal mines; Life in Louisville (Ky.); Medical jobs during Great Depression

Subjects: Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.); Coal mines and mining; Depressions--1929; Families.; Louisville (Ky.); Physicians--Kentucky; US Coal and Coke Company

00:29:44 - Time in Lynch, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So anyway, we went to Lynch.

Segment Synopsis: Boone describes her experience staying in Lynch, Kentucky. Her husband got a good salary and they got their first house. She describes the political situation of the time, in particular the work of labor unions. Though they enjoyed being there, they had a hard time dealing with the restrictions imposed on them by the chief surgeon. They weren't allowed to associate with anyone except other doctors and their families. She describes an incident of unfair treatment of a miner, which eventually led to their leaving the job and town.

Keywords: Doctors in coal camps; John L. Lewis; Physicians in coal camps; U.S. Coal and Coke Company

Subjects: Coal miners; Coal miners--Labor unions--Kentucky; Coal mines and mining; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Physicians--Kentucky; US Coal and Coke Company

00:34:19 - Time in Lynch, Kentucky--Views on treatment of employees

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Partial Transcript: But I am not sorry we left, you know.

Segment Synopsis: Boone describes the problems her family and others faced in the restrictive environment in the coal camps. Their movement was restricted. There were armed guards monitoring the movement of people and goods to and from the camp. She never got to know why there were these restrictive rules.

Keywords: Restrictions in coal mines; Treatment of coal company employees

Subjects: Coal miners; Coal miners--Kentucky--Harlan County; Coal mines and mining; Company towns

00:38:19 - Children

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Partial Transcript: We went back to Elizabethtown and really settled in.

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about her children and her decision to have 6 children. She cannot imagine having that many children in the current times--she could not afford it.

Keywords: Bearing children; Planned Parenthood; World War II

Subjects: Families.; Planned Parenthood Federation of America; World War, 1939-1945

00:42:50 - Move to Elizabethtown, Kentucky--House and maid

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Partial Transcript: Where did you live when you first moved to Elizabethtown?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about her time in Elizabethtown. They got a house there when her husband left to work as a flight surgeon in World War II. She talks about the trusted help (a maid) she had for over 30 years.

Keywords: House help; Housemaids; Houses in Elizabethtown (Ky.)

Subjects: Elizabethtown (Ky.); World War, 1939-1945

00:46:19 - Work to end segregation / community service

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Partial Transcript: She was, uh, an interesting person.

Segment Synopsis: Boone describes her work to end segregation in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. She integrated nearly all the restaurants in town. Growing up in Evanston, Illinois she did not encounter many black people. So when she came to Kentucky and witnessed the racial situation, she was determined to do something about it. She and her husband went to Frankfort, Kentucky and marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the late 1950s or early 1960s. She says that the end of segregation in schools was smooth in Elizabethtown. She talks about having her African American maid buried in the family cemetery. She talks about her community service work before working on integration. She started the League of Women Voters in Elizabethtown in 1944 and was the state president of the league later on. She talks about the inspiration that started her on the path of community service.

Keywords: Civic education; Evanston (Ill.); League of Women Voters, Elizabethtown (Ky.); Local government; Segregated restaurants; Segregation in Elizabethtown (Ky.)

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; Blacks--Segregation; Elizabethtown (Ky.); Integration; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; League of Women Voters; Segregation; Volunteers

00:59:32 - Working for the school for the mentally disabled

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Partial Transcript: What would you say your greatest contribution w, was to the League?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about her work in the League of Women Voters. She worked on the issue of mental health, which led to the establishment of the first school in Elizabethtown for mentally disabled children. She talks about the struggles she and others working with her went through to get the school started.

Keywords: Mental disabilities; Mental health in Kentucky; School for mentally disabled; Special needs schools

Subjects: Education; Mental health

01:02:32 - Work to settle runaways / voting machines

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Partial Transcript: I also remember this with the Fiscal Court though: back then, juveniles, you know someone who had run away...

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about her efforts to create a place for juvenile runaways who were earlier kept with prisoners. She describes the difficulties in convincing the fiscal court about the need for proper care for these children. She also talks about the work of the League of Women Voters in selecting voting machines for the county and educating people on how to use them.

Keywords: Juvenile runaways; Runaway teenagers

Subjects: Elizabethtown (Ky.); League of Women Voters; Runaways; Volunteers; Voting-machines

01:05:25 - Different positions held as a volunteer and on boards

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Partial Transcript: To what do you attribute your interests in politics and civil rights?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about the origins of her interests in community service and politics. She volunteered even as a child and her father was influential. She also talks about other state-wide activities she has been involved in. She was the president of the mental health association of Kentucky. She served for 9 years on the council on higher education and was on the editorial board of the University Press of University of Kentucky. She is now chairperson of the endowment committee of the university press. She was also the president of the Friends of Kentucky Library for many years. Though she enjoyed working on these projects, she is disillusioned by the government and thinks not much has changed for the better.

Keywords: Community service; Friends of Kentucky Library; Mental health in Kentucky; Mental health institutions; Politics

Subjects: American Heart Association; National Mental Health Association (U.S.); University of Kentucky; Volunteers

01:10:32 - First husband's death / choosing to die

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Partial Transcript: Now you say your first husband passed away; when was that?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about her husband's death. He died of a brain tumor in 1972 at the age of 64 years. He stopped taking any food or fluids because he did not want to experience the complications of the last stages of the tumor. She talks about the novelty of the decision her husband, Garret, made. It was later, after his death, that the American Medical Association said that it was all right not to give food to patients who do decide not to eat. She talks about the article written about her husband and the paper her son wrote on death and dying. She also talks about living wills.

Keywords: Brain tumors; Death and dying; Health care ethics; Starving to death

Subjects: Brain--Cancer; End-of-life care; Living wills; Medical ethics; Starvation; Terminal care

01:18:19 - Second marriage

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Partial Transcript: Uh, and then you were, uh--how long was it before you--

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about her second marriage, to George Street Boone, three years after her first husband's death. She describes the circumstances surrounding her first meeting with George and how he was a family friend for some time before they got married. She also talks about living in Elkton, Kentucky where she moved after remarrying in 1975, and how it is very different from the bustle of Elizabethtown.

Keywords: Elkton (Ky.); George Street Boone

Subjects: Remarriage

01:24:34 - Sullivan Award from University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Your writing is what I want to really talk about next...

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about getting the offer to be on the editorial board of University Press of Kentucky in the 1960s. She talks about receiving the Sullivan Award from the University of Kentucky that same year for her civic work. In Elizabethtown, she had been helping disadvantaged children to learn and frequently gives poetry sessions for college and high school students. She says she has a lot of enthusiasm, even if not professional experience in teaching.

Keywords: Sullivan Award, University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky Press

Subjects: Poetry; University of Kentucky

01:28:19 - Work on the editorial board of University Press of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: --would you say was your greatest interest when you were on the consortium of the University Press?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about her work on the editorial board of the University Press of Kentucky (UPK). She describes one project where she had to talk to various women's clubs and get some assurance that a colorful book on Kentucky plants will have buyers if it was published by the UPK. She was able to get the needed support. Currently, as the endowment committee chair, she works on getting the funding to publish special volumes that the press cannot afford to publish otherwise. She also talks about her involvement with the bicentennial committee's (American constitution's) publication of Kentucky Encyclopedia, to which she is contributing a piece.

Keywords: Kentucky Encyclopedia; Plants of Kentucky; University Press of Kentucky

Subjects: Publishers and publishing.; University of Kentucky

01:33:16 - Kentucky poetry anthology / founding the magazine Approaches

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Partial Transcript: Uh, will you tell me a little bit about that publication and--

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about the circumstances surrounding the founding of the Kentucky Poetry Review, which was initially called Approaches. It started with her interest in publishing an anthology of Kentucky poetry back in early 1960s. The anthology was published and sold out. Approaches was started after that in order to continue to give a forum for Kentucky writers to share their poetry. Initially, the print quality was bad, but they received a three-year grant from the National Endowment for Arts which helped them achieve better quality publication. After her marriage and move from Elizabethtown to Elkton, Kentucky, she left the editor position, though she still serves on the editorial board.

Keywords: Approaches magazine; Poetry magazines in Kentucky; Poetry publication in Kentucky; Poets from Kentucky

Subjects: American poetry; Poets, Women; Poets--20th century.; Publishers and publishing.

01:43:26 - Contributors to Kentucky Poetry Review

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Partial Transcript: When you started the magazine, did you try to, uh, publish poems on the basis of--

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about the process of selecting poetry for the Kentucky Poetry Review. The editorial board decided on the merit of the poems, and did not try to have a balanced geographical representation. Most poetry came from eastern Kentucky, the Appalachian region, and the Louisville area, while there weren't many submissions from western Kentucky. She talks about some of the extraordinary poets from Kentucky who contributed to the magazine. Even though they might not be nationally known, she thinks their work is better than many others that are published in big national magazines. She also talks about the origin of the annual reader's choice award.

Keywords: Kentucky poets; Poetry from Appalachian region; Poets from Kentucky

Subjects: American poetry; Authors.; Poems; Poets--20th century.; Publishers and publishing.

01:48:13 - Robert Penn Warren Center at Western Kentucky University

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Partial Transcript: Oh, every now and then. And I've got to tell you about the Robert Penn Warren Center.

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about the Robert Penn Warren Center at Western Kentucky University. There is a Warren room there, with a collection of things related to the author given by his family members. She talks about some of the rare editions they have of his works. She talks about the purpose of the the center, which is to preserve the legacy of Warren, educate the new generation about the author, and help researchers. She talks about taking people to visit Warren's birthplace in Guthrie, Kentucky.

Keywords: Kentucky writers; Robert Penn Warren; Robert Penn Warren Center

Subjects: Guthrie (Ky.); Warren, Robert Penn, 1905-1989; Western Kentucky University

01:54:31 - University of Kentucky Symposium on Warren

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Partial Transcript: U of K had a big symposium on Warren.

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about a University of Kentucky symposium celebrating Warren's 75th birthday. She describes some anecdotes related to it. Warren's birthplace city, Guthrie, was not much fond of Warren at that time. She talks about the controversy regarding moving Warren's house (where he was born) to Western Kentucky. She talks about the scholarship and fellowship given by the Robert Penn Warren Center. The center also regularly organizes other events.

Keywords: Robert Penn Warren Center; University of Kentucky Symposium on Robert Penn Warren

Subjects: Authors; Authors, American--Kentucky; University of Kentucky; Warren, Robert Penn, 1905-1989

01:58:51 - More on the Robert Penn Warren Center at Western Kentucky University

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Partial Transcript: How did you first get involved with the Center?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about the establishment of the Robert Penn Warren Center. She describes the efforts by Western Kentucky University to buy the house where Warren was born. The purchase did not go through but the contributors did not take their money back. This money was put into the educational efforts of the Warren Center. She also talks about the programs run by the center. There is a one man show - on Warren's life - performed in various cities and for schools. There is a also a map of "Warren Country" being printed.

Keywords: Guthrie (Ky.); Robert Penn Warren; Robert Penn Warren Center

Subjects: Authors, American--Kentucky; Warren, Robert Penn, 1905-1989; Western Kentucky University

02:04:52 - Personal connections with Robert Penn Warren

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Partial Transcript: And I was real lucky when Joe Blotner came down before--oh, just at the beginning of our committee...

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about the time she spent going out to interviews with Joseph Blotner, Robert Penn Warren's official biographer, conducted in Guthrie (Ky.). Everyone had only good things to say about Warren. She also recounts her conversation with Warren at a dinner when they talked about education.

Keywords: Biographers; Biography of Robert Penn Warren; Joseph Blotner

Subjects: Authors, American--Kentucky; Authors, American--Kentucky--Biography; Education; Warren, Robert Penn, 1905-1989

02:09:21 - Early interest in poetry

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Partial Transcript: Uh, I wanna ask you really about your own writing.

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about her interest in poetry. Since she was a child she used to write poems. She used to borrow a lot of poetry books from the local library and type her favorite lines and passages. She talks about her love of poetry and literature.

Keywords: Libraries; Literature; Poetry books; Poets

Subjects: American poetry; Authors.; Writing

02:12:44 - Favorite poets

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Partial Transcript: Uh, do you remember what poets you liked best when you were a child?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about the poets she liked in her childhood and also those she likes now. Among them are: Robert Browning, E. E. Cummings, Dorothy Parker, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson. But she doesn't think any of these poets were influences on her, except temporarily. She credits public libraries and her background for her education in poetry and literature. As a child she was also doing well in her English classes. She has been saving the poetry she writes since she was 18 or 19 years old. She has regularly written poetry throughout her life.

Keywords: Public libraries; Writing poetry

Subjects: American poetry; Authors.; Poets--20th century.; Women poets; Writing

02:19:07 - Published books of poetry / themes of poems

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me a little bit about your two books of poetry?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about the publications of her poetry books and the circumstances surrounding them. She published a narrative poem on Cassius Marcellus Clay after publishing a collection of her poetry titled "Never Less Than Love." She is working on a third poetry book. She talks about the different kinds of poetry she writes. She thinks poems about people she loves are the most difficult to write. She says one of her most liked poems is about her father.

Keywords: "Never Less Than Love"; Poems about fathers; Poetry books

Subjects: American poetry; Authors.; Poets, Women; Publishers and publishing.; Writing

02:25:13 - Approach to writing / writing book reviews

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Partial Transcript: How do you compose your poetry?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about her process of writing. She talks about the difference between journalism and poetry. She thinks that while the former is restricted to facts, the latter makes use of imagery. Both, however, are about truth. She also talks about how much she enjoyed doing journalism. She also likes writing letters - it's like visiting someone. When her children were growing up, she found time at night to write book reviews for The Courier newspaper. She still writes those reviews.

Keywords: Book reviews; Fiction writing; Journalism; Letter writing; The Courier

Subjects: Authors; Poets, Women; Poets--20th century.; Writing

02:31:46 - Writing short stories and novels

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Partial Transcript: What about short stories?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about her inability to write short stories and novels. She talks about the different kinds of writing involved in poetry and novels, particularly the need to invent plot in the latter format. She thinks she could have been a better writer if she was not involved in as many practical activities, such as her work in the League of Women Voters. But she enjoys doing these things.

Keywords: Creative writing; Novels; Short stories; Story plots; Writing styles

Subjects: Authors, American--Kentucky; Poets, Women; Poets--20th century.; Writing

02:35:31 - Views on creative writing classes and on poetry

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Partial Transcript: What sorts of projects would you like to do most, writing projects?

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about the writing projects she would like to do. She also talks about being part of workshops and being an adjunct professor in the English department at Western Kentucky University. She recounts an anecdote about a poem she read.
She also gives her views on how creative writing classes should be taught. She doesn't think creative writing could be taught, but students should be taught how to write clearly. She thinks that what needs to be taught is the idea that everyone's feeling is equally valid. She also talks about her views on poetry.

Keywords: Creative writing; Creative writing classes

Subjects: Authors, American--Kentucky--Biography; Poets, Women; Poets--20th century.; Teachers; Teaching; Writing

02:42:05 - Advice to young authors

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Partial Transcript: You know another question about writing that interests me--not journalistic writing but poetry, fiction...

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about how all writing is, in a way, autobiographical. She talks about what advice she might give to young authors. She thinks that they should know that poetry should be fresh, it has to have its own rhythm, and it should have its own form, even if this form breaks away from traditional ones. The task of writing could be exhaustive. She talks about giving workshops and sessions. They were able to invite authors like Robert Hayden and George Garrett for these workshops.

Keywords: Autobiographical writing; Creative writing; George Garrett; Poetry workshops; Robert Hayden; Young poets

Subjects: Authors.; Creative writing; Poets, Women; Poets--20th century.; Writing

02:47:47 - Influence of Kentucky on her writing / concluding remarks

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Partial Transcript: You've talked about how moving to this house changed your writing.

Segment Synopsis: Boone talks about the influence of living in Kentucky on her writing. She thinks the state is beautiful - the greenery especially - and this was an influence. She thinks there is a kind of spiritual quality to old houses, like the one she lives in. She also talks about fog in the countryside, which became almost a character in her poems. She describes the place where she lives. She feels fortunate. She also talks about the history of violence in the area. They talk about how everyone seems to be related to everyone else in the area. She makes some concluding remarks about her life.

Keywords: Countryside in Kentucky; Family relations in Kentucky; Fog in Kentucky; Scenic beauty in Kentucky; Writing inspirations

Subjects: Authors.; Kentucky; Place attachment; Poets, Women; Poets--20th century.; Rural conditions; Writing