Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Reba Virginia Holt-Whalen, November 11, 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 interview with Reba Holt conducted by Kim McBride at Reba's house in Revelo on November 11, 1991.

Segment Synopsis: Reba introduces herself, talks about her parents and where they are from. Her parents came to Barthell at a young age and she tells a story about how they met and got married.

Keywords: Oneida (Tenn.); boarding houses; family; fathers; marriage; mothers

Subjects: Families.; Family history.; McCreary County (Ky.); Parents.

00:03:10 - Reba's father comes to Barthell

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Partial Transcript: I believe you had told me your father was recruited to come and work.

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about her father coming to Barthell when he was 12 and started working in the coal mines. She talks about her father's side of the family and how many siblings he had. He walked to Barthell to live with his oldest sister. Mr. Butler gave him his first job in the mines. Her father was very skilled but did not go to school. He was always helping the others in the community.

Keywords: Barthell, Mr. Butler; aunt; father; miners; mines; moving

Subjects: Coal miners; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Family history.; Fathers.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:08:32 - Relatives and extended family

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Partial Transcript: Did you get to know many of his brothers and sisters over the years?

Segment Synopsis: Reba discusses her extended family. Her grandfather married an American Indian. She talks about where her family comes from and when she met her cousins and relatives.

Keywords: Joel Holt; Native Americans; cousins; family; grandfathers; grandmothers; relatives

Subjects: Families.; Family history.; Fathers.

00:13:51 - Work in the mines

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Partial Transcript: Well, did he ever tell you about his early days in the mines, what he did as a young boy as he worked his way up?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about her father's early days in the mines. He started working with his mules and worked with machines. She describes his working environment and what he did in the mines. Her father lost a finger working in the mines, but that was the only injury.

Keywords: bits; father; horses; injury; motors; work

Subjects: Children of coal miners; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:16:17 - Greasing the fans

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Partial Transcript: There wasn't a thing he couldn't do. I mean, any-anything that they--like grease the fans. He even did that. These big fans, you know, that kept the mines running.

Segment Synopsis: Reba discusses her father's jobs in the mines. He greased the fans that were used in the mines. The power would have to be turned off in the mines.

Keywords: Ice Camp; Work in the mines; fans; father; grease; jobs; responsibilities

Subjects: Coal miners; Coal mines and mining.

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:17:30 - Houses in Barthell

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Partial Transcript: Did he ever say anything, or your mother, about how many houses were there when they first moved there, or did it grow over time?

Segment Synopsis: Reba is unsure of how many houses were there when her parents moved to Barthell. She remembers that the houses were rarely empty and when they were, her and her friends would play in them.

Keywords: buildings; homes; houses; structures

Subjects: Company towns; Dwellings.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:18:45 - Homemade paint

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Partial Transcript: You talk about being financially poor, honey. We was. Now this was when I was little and I was telling you about the big green house we lived in.

Segment Synopsis: Reba's family was too poor to even afford paint. Her parents would fill a tub with clay mud and water to make their own paint. It turned out to be an off-white color but could be dyed. Her mother also used sand and water to clean the floors. Talks about other families covering their walls with magazine pages.

Keywords: clay mud; cleaning; colors; dyes; makeshift paint; poor; poverty

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Company towns; Dwellings.; McCreary County (Ky.); Paint.

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:24:38 - Home decoration / traveling salesmen

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Partial Transcript: How 'bout, um, decorating walls? Did people try and hang pictures?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about how families decorated their homes in Barthell. She describes particular pictures that hung in homes, and how people got them. Reba discusses the traveling salesmen that would come around and sell various products to her and her family. Her family was too poor to drink soda, but they could buy drinks from the salesmen.

Keywords: Watkins products; poor; purchases; salespeople; soda; traveling salesmen

Subjects: Company towns; Dwellings.; Interior decoration.; McCreary County (Ky.); Traveling sales personnel

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:28:20 - Keeping food cold

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Partial Transcript: We didn't have nothing like refrigerators or anything like that. And maybe once in a while, you would run across somebody that was fortunate enough to have, like, a little ice box.

Segment Synopsis: Reba discusses how she was too poor to have ice. Having ice was a luxury in Barthell. The residents of the community had other ways of keeping things cold, such as keeping them in running streams.

Keywords: cellars; chilled; cooling; ice; ice box; milk; mines; poverty

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Economic conditions; Company towns

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:36:13 - No bathrooms / no cemeteries

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Partial Transcript: Well I have noticed, when we went there to walk around, there are some, some pipes.

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about how once she left the town, the houses finally got running water. She notes that very few houses had bathrooms. She talks about her father's wish to be buried in Barthell. Reba discusses how there were no cemeteries in Barthell and no one was buried there.

Keywords: 1936; bathrooms; bathtubs; burial; cemeteries; death; fathers; homes; pipes; showers; water

Subjects: Bathrooms.; Cemeteries; Company towns; Dwellings.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:43:58 - Roller coaster

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Partial Transcript: He even made a roller coaster for his baby son. He built him--Daddy, by himself, built that child a roller coaster.

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about how her father made his son a roller coaster in their backyard. She speculates pieces of the railing are still in Barthell.

Keywords: construction; entertainment; fathers; homes; rollercoasters; sons

Subjects: Company towns; Dwellings.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:45:39 - Heating with coal

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Partial Transcript: What about when you were very small? How did they heat the houses?

Segment Synopsis: When Reba was younger, residents of Barthell heated their houses with coal stoves. She had to carry the coal to her house in buckets from the store. The sove was used for heating and cooking. The school had a huge coal stove.

Keywords: carrying coal; coal; coal gon; coal stove; cooking; heating; homes

Subjects: Company towns; Heating.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:50:17 - Swinging bridges

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Partial Transcript: And the swinging bridges, they were something too. Like, you had to cross that swinging bridge.

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about the swinging bridge and how she had to carry water across it. The bridges didn't really have rails and were very small.

Keywords: buckets; drunks; falling; swing; swinging bridges

Subjects: Bridges.; Company towns; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:55:55 - Banjo contest

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Partial Transcript: Well you said he played music, what instruments did he play?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about her father and the instruments he played. She talks about a contest in the community and how she left the area occasionally to go dancing.

Keywords: Charleston; Coal Creek March; banjo; competitions; dances; dancing; guitar; music; self taught

Subjects: Contests; Fathers.; McCreary County (Ky.); Musicians.

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
00:58:33 - Shooting at her home

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Partial Transcript: I remember this one night, uh, they were playing, and, and, uh, all at once, it was just like--well it was dark. But we had like, you know, our, our kitchen light on.

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about men shooting at her home and her father shooting the men in return.

Keywords: Elbert; guns; motorcar; self defense; shootings

Subjects: Company towns; Fathers.; McCreary County (Ky.); Shooting.

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:02:07 - Gardening in Barthell

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned something in that story that was very interesting to me: the cornfields. Did people have lots of gardens?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about the gardens in Barthell and how popular they were. She talks about a picture of her with her three pigs.

Keywords: cattle; cornfield; food; garden; sows

Subjects: Company towns; Gardens.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:09:51 - Socialization in Barthell

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Partial Transcript: The school was a big gathering place to play?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about where she socialized with her friends such as school and the store. They would take pictures for fun.

Keywords: ball; cameras; friends; photography; playing; school; store

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Company towns; McCreary County (Ky.); School buildings

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:12:01 - Parties in Barthell

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Partial Transcript: And like birthday parties, I wasn't allowed to go to birthday parties. I--Dad was very strict, very strict on me. And I wasn't allowed to have any.

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about the parties that she did and didn't go to. Her father was very strict and so she wasn't allowed to go to many social functions.

Keywords: birthday parties; strict; weenie roasts

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Company towns; Fathers.

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:14:58 - Canning and gardening

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Partial Transcript: Well how did people preserve their, the produce that they grew in their gardens?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about canning and its importance to food preservation. Talks about why some people did not have a garden. She also talks about gardening and hogs.

Keywords: canning; garden; hogs; mothers; pigs; produce; vegetables

Subjects: Canning and preserving.; Company towns; Gardens.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:18:43 - Butchering

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Partial Transcript: Was there a central place where people did their butchering?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about the different methods of butchering they used on the pigs in Barthell. She also talks about sharing meat with her neighbors.

Keywords: butchering; butchers; hogs; pigs; porkchops; smoke houses

Subjects: Company towns; McCreary County (Ky.); Slaughtering and slaughter-houses.

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:27:39 - Sharing in Barthell

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Partial Transcript: Well did other families help distribute food when they had extra the way that your dad did?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about sharing in the community and how the mothers got together to cook sometimes.

Keywords: community; cooking; distribute; divide; gardens; greens; pinto beans; sharing

Subjects: Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Appalachians (People); Company towns; Gardens.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:34:37 - Boardinghouse

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Partial Transcript: Um, I wondered if you could tell me anything about the boarding house that your aunt, or your father's aunt, ran?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about the boarding house that her aunt ran. Single men that worked in the mines would live there.

Keywords: Lawrence Miller; boarders; boarding; cots; men; mine workers; tenants; twin beds

Subjects: Boardinghouses; Company towns; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:41:08 - Housing in Barthell

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Partial Transcript: Well, can you tell me what a typical house might've looked like inside?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about the houses in Barthell and what they were like inside. She recalls her childhood home and the set up of the rooms.

Keywords: bedroom; floor plans; house; interior; rooms; stove; stoves; three roomed house; windows

Subjects: Company town architecture; Company towns; Dwellings.; Housing.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:50:41 - Trash disposal / yards

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Partial Transcript: Where did people put their trash, if they had anything to throw away?

Segment Synopsis: Reba discusses the trash disposal issues in Barthell. Her family burned and buried trash to get rid of it.

Keywords: burning; garbage; slop; sweeping; trash; trash disposal

Subjects: Company towns; McCreary County (Ky.); Refuse and refuse disposal.

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:53:22 - Flowers / outhouses

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Partial Transcript: If they could be a flower grow anywhere, anyplace, my mother would have a flower popping up out of the ground.

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about how her mother loved flowers and what flowers were common in Barthell. She talks about residents having sheds, hog pens, and outhouses. She talks about cleaning the outhouses.

Keywords: flowers; homes; lime; roses; seven sisters; sheds; yucca

Subjects: Company towns; Dwellings.; Flowers.; McCreary County (Ky.); Outhouses.

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
01:58:34 - Home furnishings

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Partial Transcript: Um, we were talking about the kitchen. I wondered, um, do you remember what your parents' living room looked like in that house down in Ice Camp?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks more about her parents' home in Barthell, and describes the dining room and various furniture they had. She talks about the lighting in the house and describes her parents' bedroom.

Keywords: Dining rooms; bed; beds; clothes; curtains; dresser; electricity; furniture; library tables; lights; mirrors; radio; stoves; wardrobes

Subjects: Company towns; Dwellings.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
02:02:13 - Paint choices / cleaning

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned facing. That just, um, struck me as something that was kinda fancy. The company put facings around the doors and the windows?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about the company allowing residents to choose what color they wanted the interior of their home painted. She talks about cleaning the homes, and cleaning the stove.

Keywords: cleaning; colors; doors; frames; furniture; paint; paths; rakes; stoves; windows

Subjects: Cleaning.; Company towns; Dwellings.; Housing.; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278
02:05:47 - More on aunt's boardinghouse

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Partial Transcript: Well, did she run the boardinghouse for the company, or was that just a private thing she did?

Segment Synopsis: Reba talks about her aunt being employed by the company to run the boardinghouse. She talks about photos she would like to show the interviewer. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Elsie Acres; employees; salaries; wages

Subjects: Boardinghouses; Company towns; McCreary County (Ky.)

GPS: Barthell, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.686389, -84.525278