Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Jeffrey Cawood, March 20, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:01:00 - Introduction and background information

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Partial Transcript: Alright, we're recording.

Segment Synopsis: This is an interview with Jeffery Cawood on March 19, 2015 conducted at the Depot in Corbin, Kentucky. Jeffery is a nontraditional student at 31 years old. He studies Sociology at Eastern Kentucky University. He grew up in London, Kentucky but came to Corbin often as a child where he developed a fascination with trains. He attended North Laurel High School and graduated from there in 2001.

Keywords: Eastern Kentucky University (EKU); North Laurel High School; Rail yard

Subjects: Childhood; Corbin (Ky.); London (Ky.)

00:02:27 - Childhood

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Partial Transcript: Like, could you go into your childhood a little bit and just explain what it was like?

Segment Synopsis: Cawood recalls seeing the C&O trains with the black Chessie Cat symbol. Jeffrey was diagnosed at 9 with a heart issue and couldn't participate in regular kid activities. He volunteered on an ambulance from 12-18 years old, played in the marching band, pep band, and symphonic band. Jeffrey also kept a job at the Dairy Queen in downtown London, Kentucky that has since been torn down.

Keywords: Ambulances; C&O Railroad; Illnesses; School bands; Trains

Subjects: Childhood; Railroads.

00:03:39 - Heritage and history of the Corbin railroad

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Partial Transcript: So, um, what does the railroad mean to you personally?

Segment Synopsis: Cawood says heritage is what the railroad is really about. He believes it is important to understand your past before you know the future of the railroad and the potential development of the industry. The attitudes, thoughts, and experiences of the people working in the industry are also important to understand. He talks specifically about the L&N which was chartered in the 1850s and expanded in the 1890s to Appalachian coal fields. Corbin became a gateway that merged four points of the L&N. In 1895-96 construction on the Corbin yard was completed and a roundhouse was built. People from all over started to come to Corbin for work on the railroad. The original depot here was called The Florence House where people would eat and often board.

Keywords: Attitudes; Boardinghouses; Corbin Depot; Experiences; Heritage; History; L&N 2132; L&N Railroad (Louisville and Nashville Railroad); Roundhouse (Train maintenance)

Subjects: Communities.; Corbin (Ky.); Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company; Railroad stations.; Railroads.

00:05:56 - Community and the railroad

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Partial Transcript: So, um, could you go into, uh, a little bit about what the community, like, uh, shares with the railroad?

Segment Synopsis: Cawood says that a community member donated the land that the yard was built on in hopes to create some jobs. Corbin became a melting pot for people traveling. There was an identification with the people here in the community and the L&N.

Keywords: Gateways; Identity; Jobs; L&N 2132; L&N Railroad (Louisville and Nashville Railroad); Land; Traveling; Work

Subjects: Communities.; Corbin (Ky.); Employment--Kentucky; Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company; Railroads--Employees.

00:07:41 - Smells, sights, and sounds of a railroad community

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Partial Transcript: So you've obviously been around trains a lot due to your work but, um, could you tell us a little bit about like the smells and sights and--

Segment Synopsis: Cawood says that in the early days trains (steam locomotives) were dirty. The coal smoke and cinder covered everything. In the '50s and '60s the industry transitioned from coal to diesel and required fewer crew members to operate, and became quieter, more efficient, and cleaner.

Keywords: Alternative power sources; Diesel engines; Dirty; Fuel; Future; Industry; Senses; Smells; Sounds; Steam engines; Technology; Trains

Subjects: Railroads--Employees.; Railroads.; Technological innovations

00:10:51 - Unions and railroad workers

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Partial Transcript: We've touched on the mechanics of railroads but we haven't really talked about the, uh, the unions and the relationship between workers and that side.

Segment Synopsis: Cawood says that in the beginning most of the labor forces had their own individual unions. The work groups were separated by work types, which over the years have merged into 2 or 3 different units. There was difficulty with the development of these unions, especially between miners and railroad workers, and their unions.

Keywords: Boilermakers; Centralization; Coal industry; Conflict; Cumberland Valley Division; Diesel engines; Engineer Street--Corbin (Ky.); Engineers; Labor unions (AKA Trade unions); Mergers; Mine unions; Railroader (Profession); Steam engines; Tensions

Subjects: Coal miners--Labor unions--Kentucky; Railroads--Employees--Labor unions.; Railroads--Employees.; Strikes and lockouts

00:13:03 - Dangers of the railroad

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Partial Transcript: So at the railroads, they, um--it wasn't always the safest job. Could you explain maybe some of the dangers in working--

Segment Synopsis: Cawood says that there are always dangers in this industry, even today. However, in the early days it was a very dangerous job, many men lost hands, fingers, legs, and even their lives due to the profession.

Keywords: Brakeman; Cars (automobiles); Casualties; Citizens; Dangerous; Deaths; Injuries; Medical care; Sinks (Ky.)

Subjects: Railroad accidents.; Railroad tracks.; Railroads.

00:16:19 - Coal industry

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Partial Transcript: So I'd like to switch gears and, um, actually talk about the coal business and what you know of that.

Segment Synopsis: Cawood discusses his knowledge of coal and the heritage associated with it and many of the people living in Corbin. He describes life in coal camps.

Keywords: "Cadillac coal camps"; Coal camps; Community; Dangerous; Employees; Ice cream; Identity; Lifestyles; Living conditions; Poor; Poverty; Railroads; School consolidation; Stereotypes; Treatment; Working conditions

Subjects: Coal mine accidents; Communities.; Company towns; Corbin (Ky.); Harlan County (Ky.)

00:19:38 - Stereotypes of Eastern Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, um, could you talk about the stereotypes that a lot of Eastern Kentuckians have to deal with in this region?

Segment Synopsis: Cawood says that the people of Eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian region are considered to be less intelligent or are labeled as "hillbillies." He discusses why this is not a fair or accurate representation.

Keywords: "Hicks"; "Hillbillies"; Diversity; Eastern Kentuckians; Education; Families; Gender; Intelligence; Knowledge; Race; Religion

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Stereotypes (Social psychology)

00:21:49 - The 1919 race riot

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Partial Transcript: So, um, I'd like to delve back into the history because usually people seem to assert stereotypes because they mischaracterize historical events...

Segment Synopsis: The 1919 race riot and the events leading up to it are discussed.

Keywords: 1919 Race Riot, Corbin (Ky.); African American laborers; Community; History; Jim Crow cars; Knoxville (Tenn.); Misinformation; Race issues; Racial slurs; Racial violence; Racially motivated

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; Communities.; Corbin (Ky.); Race discrimination--Kentucky; Race relations; Racism

00:26:00 - Colonel Sanders

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Partial Transcript: Corbin actually has a very interesting history with Colonel Sanders. Could you tell us what you know about him?

Segment Synopsis: Cawood discusses the Sanders Cafe, the take off of the KFC franchise, and a little about Mr. Sanders himself.

Keywords: Character; Colonel Sanders; Cursing; Depot Street--Corbin (Ky.); Frustration; Harland Sanders; Harland Sanders Cafe; Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) (Restaurant); Motels; Museums; Personality; Politicians; Politics

Subjects: Sanders, Harland, 1890-1980.

00:29:16 - Railroad infrastructure in Corbin

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Partial Transcript: So, um, going along with the history, could you explain maybe some of what the, uh, the landscapes and what the constructed like bridges, um, add to Corbin and the experience of it?

Segment Synopsis: Engineer Street Bridge is a reconstructed railroad bridge that could no longer support the weight of trains and has since been preserved. Cawood also describes the rail yard.

Keywords: Back shops; Boardinghouses; Bridges; CSX Transportation; Community; Corbin Yard; Engineer Street Bridge; Engineer Street--Corbin (Ky.); Identity; L&N 2132; Louisville (Ky.); Passes; Preservation; Railroad yards (AKA train yards); Roundhouse (Train maintenance); Section housing; Theaters; Turntables; Underpasses

Subjects: Communities.; Corbin (Ky.); Railroad stations.; Railroads--Employees.; Railroads.

00:33:26 - Getting involved with the Corbin Railroad Museum

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Partial Transcript: Okay if I ask a question? Um, I was just wondering, um, if you could tell us about how you got involved with the museum...

Segment Synopsis: Cawood discusses how he got involved in helping curate a museum in Corbin, the process of doing so, and some of the issues they have faced throughout the process. He also goes into detail on the ideas and and visions they hope to create within the museum.

Keywords: 501c3 status; ADA compliance; Artifacts; Attitudes; CARES grants; CSX Transportation; Challenges; Community; Corbin Depot (Train station); Corbin Rail Museum; Corbin Railroad Museum; Costs; Donations; Eastern Kentucky University (EKU); Exhibits; Legal issues; Maggy Kriebel; Partnerships; Professors; Property; Relationships; Research; Technology; Trust

Subjects: Communities.; Corbin (Ky.); Corbin (Ky.)--Buildings, structures, etc.; Railroad museums; Tourism--Appalachian Region; Tourism--Kentucky

00:44:08 - Sister city steam engine

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Partial Transcript: So could you tell us about, uh, your sister city that you've been working with and how hard it was to acquire that steam engine?

Segment Synopsis: Cawood was able to find the only remaining L&N-built steam engine which was located in Bainbridge, Georgia. He was able to facilitate her return to Corbin. In the process, Corbin created a "sister city" relationship with Bainbridge.

Keywords: Gifts; Heritage; History; L&N 2132; L&N Railroad (Louisville and Nashville Railroad); Logistics; Research; Restoration; Sister cities; Steam engines; Transportation

Subjects: Bainbridge (Ga.); Communities.; Corbin (Ky.); Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company; Railroad cars.; Railroad museums; Tourism--Appalachian Region; Tourism--Kentucky