Interview with James "Omar" Allen-Polley, April 11, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - History of Elkhorn City, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: I am Justin Goff and we are doing the Elkhorn River History Project for the University of Kentucky on April 11th, 2015.

Segment Synopsis: James describes his past and his life growing up in Elkhorn City in the 1950s. He gives descriptions of the demographics in the town, its downturn and boom cycle, and the influence of alcohol on the town.

Keywords: Age demographics; Alcohol; Chess; East Ridge High School; Hiking; Pike County Public Library; Reading; Sports

Subjects: Childhood; Elkhorn City (Ky.)

GPS: Elkhorn City (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.303056, -82.347778
00:05:08 - Youth culture and ecotourism development

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Partial Transcript: So the kind of youth that come here today really just come for the ecotourism. Do you uh--I mean, are you involved with any of that?

Segment Synopsis: Allen-Polley speaks about tourism in Elkhorn and the attempts to develop it through the Russell Fork. He also talks about the youth in the area, as well as the music and art scene, and the appeal of the river to the youth.

Keywords: "Worshiping"; Art and music; Counterculture; Industrial expansion; Railways; Russell Fork River; Whitesburg (Ky)

Subjects: Ecotourism.; Youth

00:13:39 - Political aspirations and the politics of Elkhorn City, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So I already know I asked you about running for mayor, but could you kind of describe, um, I guess in detail what that story was like?

Segment Synopsis: Allen-Polley describes the challenges of running for political office in Elkhorn City, the strives he made during his candidacy, and his feelings towards politics. He also describes what he thinks is needed in order to be a politician.

Keywords: Annexation; Chris Anderson; City council; Debates; Development; Elections; Legislation; Mayors; Political candidates

Subjects: Elkhorn City (Ky.); Kentucky--Politics and government; Politicians--Kentucky

00:17:30 - Stand up comedy

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Partial Transcript: So, um, I guess I kind of want to ask about you doing stand up comedy because that seems like a, a really interesting aspect that we haven't touched on yet.

Segment Synopsis: Allen-Polley gives a description of what it was like for him to be a comedian for four years. He also talks about the comedians he met, and what led him to give up on comedy as a career.

Keywords: Comedy Off Broadway; Drugs; Harsh lifestyle; Jim Armstrong; Money; Pressure; Stage presence; Stand up comedians; Tom Codder; Youth

Subjects: Comedians; Stand-up comedy.

00:19:58 - Conflict between younger and older residents

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Partial Transcript: So, um, I guess, could you tell us about what your relationships are with people around, around town?

Segment Synopsis: Allen-Polley describes the conflicts between the old and young people in town over economic development. He talks about the drive to bring in music festivals to help the economy, and the differences in opinion between church members and the youth.

Keywords: Age differences; Blue Hole; Bush Whacking Festival; Civil War history; Social circles; Super Moon Music Festival; Youth involvement

Subjects: Economic development.; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Music festivals.; Whitesburg (Ky.)

00:25:03 - Hobbies and future plans for development

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Partial Transcript: So I guess could you, could you touch us on your hobbies or some of the different things you do for fun?

Segment Synopsis: Allen-Polley describes his favorite activities. He also speaks about what the community needs in order to develop, and how other towns around them have developed.

Keywords: Businesses; Chess; Community development; Comparison; Dunberry Bottom; Guitar; Haysi (Va.); Malcolm Gladwell; Music; Tax revenue

Subjects: Economic development.; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Pikeville (Ky.)

00:29:59 - Current problems of development and afflictions from industrial mining

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Partial Transcript: How do you think you would feel if it did develop and then changed you?

Segment Synopsis: Allen-Polley describes the current problems of rural decay happening in the town. He then goes on to describe how the coal mining industry has been a cause of environmental degradation.

Keywords: Aftermath of coal mining; Bethlehem Mining; Coal dust; Contamination; Diseases; Health issues; Industrial mining; Political action; Urban decay; Water pollution

Subjects: Coal mines and mining--Environmental aspects; Elkhorn City (Ky.); Environmental protection--Kentucky; Water quality.

00:36:35 - Alternative economies and alcohol

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Partial Transcript: Speaking of that, what kind of, I guess, uh, sustainable economies would you like to see develop here?

Segment Synopsis: Allen-Polley talks about developing an economy in Elkhorn, and the need for alcohol as a way to bring back business. He also speaks about how tourism, investors, and government assistance would be the only hope for entrepreneurs making a start up brewery in the area.

Keywords: Alcohol rights; Business development; Entrepreneurship; Investing; Moonshine Distillery; Roger Ford; Taxes; Tourist economy; Wet counties; White Water Distilleries

Subjects: Alcohol--Law and legislation--Kentucky; Distilleries--Kentucky; Economic development.; Elkhorn City (Ky.)

00:40:26 - Continuation of stereotypes / education

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Partial Transcript: Do you think the whole stereotyping of Eastern Kentucky might also be one of the reasons why it's much harder to get businesses or I guess just interests around this area?

Segment Synopsis: Allen-Polley describes the many challenges he has faced in attaining a degree due to his health. He also speaks about how many of the people are the exception to the stereotype but are forgotten about. He lastly speaks about his current degree program, and migrating out of Elkhorn because it lacks opportunity.

Keywords: Accounting; Barack Obama; Business; College education; Combating stereotypes; Healthcare; Migration; Opportunity; Workforce

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Stereotypes (Social psychology)

00:43:51 - Reflections on Elkhorn City's past

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Partial Transcript: So I guess, um, since we've talked a lot about the future of Elkhorn City, um, I guess, could you tell us what you think about the past of this place and how that really affects you?

Segment Synopsis: Allen-Polley ends the interview by describing how he thinks of Elkhorn City's past. He speaks about how some of the past still lives on today. He also talks about why he fights against extractive industries.

Keywords: Blood feuds; Clans; Exploitation; Extractive industries; Harry Caudill; Hatfields and McCoys; Isolationism; Moonshine; Outlaws; Resistance; Settlement

Subjects: Distilling, illicit; Elkhorn City (Ky.)