Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Jane W. Eller, May 25, 2001

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: It's May 25th, 2001. I'm talking with Jane Eller as part of the University of Kentucky's oral history project. Our focus will be on the landscapes and forests of Appalachia. My name is Rebecca Glasscock.

Segment Synopsis: Jane Eller provides an overview of her educational and professional background. She talks about earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees, teaching, and later working for the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center and the Kentucky Environmental Education Council.

Keywords: Charleston (W. Va.); Environment; Health; Kentucky Environmental Education Council (KEEC); Medical anthropology; Mothers; Political science; Social work; Teachers; University of Kentucky Appalachian Center

Subjects: Education, Higher; Environmental education.; Environmentalism; Families.; University of Kentucky

00:02:05 - Family background

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Partial Transcript: Who--who are your parents?

Segment Synopsis: Eller talks about her family's deep roots in the West Virginia area. She talks about her parents' livelihoods before she was born, including her father's career at DuPont chemical company and her mother's career as a secretary.

Keywords: Clarksburg (W. Va.); Coal mining; DuPont; Fayette County (W. Va.); Gas fields; Grandparents; New Guinea; Parents; Parkersburg (W. Va.); Ritchie County (W. Va.); World War II

Subjects: Careers.; Families.; Family histories.; Genealogy; Occupations.; Professions.; World War, 1939-1945

00:06:04 - The environment of her childhood in Rand, West Virginia

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Partial Transcript: Let's turn the focus to the landscape--

Segment Synopsis: Eller talks about the environment in Rand, West Virginia, where she grew up. She describes the area in the 1950s, including the houses, cinder roads, the Kanawha River, and the surrounding landscape.

Keywords: Chemical Valley; Cinder; Kanawha River; Pollution; Rand (W. Va.); Roads; The Midland Trail; US 60

Subjects: Childhood; Country life; Families.; Land use, Rural.; Rural children; Rural conditions

00:08:51 - Summers at her grandparents' farm

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Partial Transcript: But in the summertime, because both of my parents worked, I would go and live with my grandparents.

Segment Synopsis: Eller talks about living with her grandparents at the farm during the summers. She recounts the drive to the farm in detail and being greeted by her grandfather. She talks about the tasks she would do at the farm.

Keywords: Appalachian identity; Chores; Cows; Creeks; Dirt roads; DuPont; Eggs; Gardens; Hard roads; Milking; Mountains; Outmigrants; Pastures; Plumbing; Ritchie County (W. Va.); Roads; Water; Woods

Subjects: Childhood; Country life; Families.; Family farms.; Farm life.; Land use, Rural.; Rural children; Rural conditions; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming

00:15:05 - Creek life on the farm

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Partial Transcript: But walking up that creek--uh, it was mainly a dry creek in the summer--there was a little water that came through...

Segment Synopsis: Eller describes the creek at her grandparent's farm. She remembers the smells and sounds of the farm. Eller talks about different things they would do in the creek including building rafts, swimming, and fishing. She describes the wildlife in and near the creek, and the different outbuildings on the farm.

Keywords: Box turtles; Bugs; City life; Creeks; Fish; Fishing; Insects; Outbuildings; Smells; Snakes; Sounds; Target practice; Turtles; Washing cars; Woods

Subjects: Childhood; Country life; Families.; Family farms.; Farm life.; Land use, Rural.; Recreation; Rural children; Rural conditions

00:19:24 - Forest resources at the farm

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Partial Transcript: Do you think that those--those--uh, that timber had been logged out at some point?

Segment Synopsis: Eller talks about the characteristics, history, and stories of the farm's forest. She describes the difficulty of exploring the dense woods as a child. She shares how her understanding of Appalachia was different than the Appalachia described by Appalachian Centers in Kentucky. Eller talks about her experience with traditional herbal remedies as she was cared for by her grandparents. Eller discusses her "modern" mother's perception of traditional ways, and her own. She briefly shares her feelings about being a professional from Appalachia.

Keywords: Acifidity bag; Anti-slavery; Appalachia; Asafetida; Asafoetida; Barns; Farmsteads; Folk medicine; Herbal remedies; Logging; Modern; Ohio River; Old-fashioned; Old-timey; Timber; Underground Railroad

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Childhood; Country life; Families.; Family farms.; Farm life.; Land use, Rural.; Rural children; Rural conditions

00:23:55 - Playing in the hollow

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Partial Transcript: Now, later on, when we moved from Rand in the sixties up to a place, uh, actually, a little closer to Charleston, but it was moving up and it was sort of, out in a holler--

Segment Synopsis: Eller talks about moving from Rand to a hollow near Charleston in the 1960s when she was in fourth grade. She talks about playing games and building forts in the woods with her neighborhood friends. She shares about a special moment on a beloved rock and having a pet cemetery in the woods. Eller describes the many adventures and freedom she had growing up outdoors.

Keywords: Campfires; Charleston (W. Va.); City schools; Forests; Grapevines; Hollers; Hollows; Outdoors; Pet cemetery; Playing

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Childhood; Country life; Families.; Family farms.; Farm life.; Land use, Rural.; Recreation; Rural children; Rural conditions

00:28:45 - Mother's side of the family / Raising children in the city

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Partial Transcript: I can remember digging sassafras roots and selling them to a lady.

Segment Synopsis: Eller shares about her mother's side of the family, and the various teas and brews they would make. She remembers family members dressing up as "hillbillies" to greet family at the airport who "got above their raising." Eller returns to the memory of the beloved rock from her childhood and discusses the challenges her children have faced living in the city without the freedom of playing outside. She talks about the value of nature and how this value has manifested differently among her children and grandchildren.

Keywords: "Hillbilly"; Blackberry wine; Camping; City life; Cycle of life; Dandelion greens; Dandelion wine; Gardens; Lawns; Nature; Pesticides; Sacred places; Sassafras roots; Sassafras tea; Sassafras trees; Socialization; Wetlands

Subjects: Appalachian Region; Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Childhood; Country life; Environmental education.; Families.; Family farms.; Family histories.; Farm life.; Genealogy; Land use, Rural.; Recreation; Rural children; Rural conditions

00:35:40 - Maternal grandparents' home and gardens

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Partial Transcript: Speaking about the bugs, did--uh, and you talked earlier about the sound of the bugs, um, when you, when you learned the facts about the bugs, what are the beneficials and all that sort of thing, who did you learn that from?

Segment Synopsis: Eller talks about her maternal grandparents' gardens and the landscape of their homeplace. She describes the route she would take to get there. She remembers an origin story that her grandfather told her about the Kanawha River. She recounts learning how to swim in the Blue Hole, having picnics, and picking berries. She discusses a few of her mother's early memories there.

Keywords: Apple butter; Berries; Bugs; Canned goods; Chewing gum; Coal areas; Coal mines; Companion planting; Fruit trees; Gardening; Gauley River; Gooseberries; Grandparents; Insects; Kanawha River; Lansing (W. Va.); Mountain homes; Naturalists; New River; New River Gorge Bridge; Organic gardens; Swimming; Swimming holes; Water

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Childhood; Country life; Environmental education.; Families.; Family farms.; Family histories.; Farm life.; Genealogy; Land use, Rural.; Recreation; Rural children; Rural conditions

00:44:06 - Paternal great-grandparents' homeplace / Logging and farming

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Partial Transcript: Her landscape was so different from my father's.

Segment Synopsis: Eller talks about her father's memories of his grandparents' apple trees. She describes how her family maintained the roadsides, and the different gardening tools they used. She talks about the challenge of growing food for the family, and the environmental changes she has noticed, including a fewer number and diversity of insects, which make it more difficult to garden. Eller also discusses her family felling trees on the farm and other places. She talks about how her grandparents met at a logger's boardinghouse.

[Audio issue at 47:13 and 47:17-20]

Keywords: Apple orchards; Boarding houses; Boardinghouses; Bugs; Butterflies; Cherry trees; Cows; Garden tools; Gardening hoes; Gas fields; Insects; June bugs; Lumber camps; Mattock hoes; Oil Ridge (W. Va.); Scythes; Sheep

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalachian Region--Social life and customs; Childhood; Country life; Environmental education.; Families.; Family farms.; Family histories.; Farm life.; Genealogy; Land use, Rural.; Logging; Rural children; Rural conditions

00:50:30 - Changes in the landscapes of her childhood / Logging in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: One more question about, about West Virginia and then I'd like, if you would, just talk a little bit about your experience in Kentucky and the forests of--

Segment Synopsis: Eller talks about the disorienting changes on her grandparents' farm since it was sold. She also talks about seeing a rise in the logging industry in Kentucky.

Keywords: Creeks; Culverts; Eastern Kentucky; Films; Forests; Kentucky River Authority; Outbuildings; Timber; Trees; Trucks

Subjects: Childhood; Country life; Environmental education.; Families.; Family farms.; Family histories.; Farm life.; Genealogy; Land use, Rural.; Logging; Rural children; Rural conditions

00:57:02 - Learning from forests and mountains

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Partial Transcript: I think it's a really a--probably a--tough kind of thing for you to grapple with in your job as an environmental educator, what, what do you want to teach the young people about the forest?

Segment Synopsis: Eller remembers interviewing a young coal miner and how their conversation helps her grapple with the loss of the forests and mountains. She talks about feeling called to return to the mountains as she got older, and describes the security of living "up under a mountain." She talks about the old age of forests and mountains, and how humans benefit from being around them. She wonders how much longer humans can continue to extract from forests and mountains before permanent loss occurs.

Keywords: Appalachian families; Coal miners; Coal mining; Colleges; Economy; Fishing; Forests; Hunting; Impermanence; Interviews; James Still; Jobs; Mountaintop removal mining; Old-growth forests; River of Earth; Spiritual awakening; Strip mining

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Country life; Environmental education.; Environmentalism; Families.; Family farms.; Farm life.; Land use, Rural.; Rural conditions