Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with LaVon Conley, August 26, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:01:10 - Birth / Family

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Partial Transcript: So this is an interview with LaVon Conley at her home in Jenkins, Kentucky on the twenty-sixth of September 2015--

Segment Synopsis: Conley describes being born in Rocky Hollow, Kentucky as the fourth of eight children, going to the Burdine School, and meeting her husband in high school. Conley recalls that her family moved from Beefhide, Kentucky to Jenkins, Kentucky so her father could work in the mines. However, he did not like that work and instead started his own store in Jenkins, built another store in Radford, Virginia, and left his family. Conley discusses being raised by a single mother.

Keywords: Beefhide (Ky.); Burdine School; Legal blindness; Legally blind; Raising children; Rocky Hollow (Ky.); Store owners; Storekeepers

Subjects: Burdine (Ky.); Coal miners; Families.; Family histories.; Fathers.; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Mothers.; Pike County (Ky.); Radford (Va.); Single mothers.

00:06:17 - Burke's General Store / Siblings' names

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Partial Transcript: Will you--will you tell me about the store itself?

Segment Synopsis: Conley gives a physical description of Burke's General Store, her father's store in Jenkins. She describes Burke's expansion, taking customer orders, and ordering product stock. She also describes all the products Burke's kept in stock. Conley talks about how her father worked around the Blue Law in order to keep the store open every day. Conley also details her siblings' names and birth dates.

Keywords: Blue law; Burke's General Store; Feed rooms; Goods; Products; Saddles; Siblings; Stock; Storage rooms; Tire rims

Subjects: Bridles; Business.; Cider vinegar; Dry-goods; General stores; Horseshoes; Jenkins (Ky.); Kerosene; Letcher County (Ky.); Names.; Paint.; Selling.

00:19:16 - Life in Radford, Virginia

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Partial Transcript: The reason that my dad went to Radford, Virginia--it was right when the war was starting and he was located near the Hercules Powder Company in Radford.

Segment Synopsis: Conley describes her father's store in Radford, Virginia, which sold ammunition in wartime. Due to strong business, Conley's father left the family and stayed with his new store. Conley describes her and her siblings having to live with their father during the summers and hating those summers because of his strictness.

Keywords: Leffy Lee Burke; Raising children; Store owners; Stores; Summer breaks; Summer vacations

Subjects: Ammunition.; Cartridges; Fathers.; General stores; Hercules Powder Company; Parenthood.; Parenting.; Radford (Va.)

00:21:46 - Memories of World War II / Cosmetology and Shoppe de LaVon

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Partial Transcript: I can remember at the store, people would gather on our store porch.

Segment Synopsis: Conley recalls brief memories of the draft, major headlines, and the end of World War II. Conley also discusses her passion for cosmetology, obtaining her instructor's permit in cosmetology, and opening up a beauty shop, Shoppe de LaVon, in her home.

Keywords: Cosmetology; Cosmetology schools; Customers; Home businesses; Instructors; Shoppe de LaVon; WW 2; WW II; WW2; WWII; World War 2; World War II; World War Two

Subjects: Beauty shops; Cosmetology teachers; Education; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); World War, 1939-1945; World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American

00:25:58 - Taking care of her mother

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Partial Transcript: I took care of my mother. The last four years of her life, she stayed with me.

Segment Synopsis: Conley describes what it was like to take care of her mother before she passed away. Conley also describes what her mother was like and how she raised Conley and her siblings.

Keywords: Caretaking; Family separation

Subjects: Children.; Families.; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Mothers.; Parenthood.; Smoking.

00:27:28 - More on Burke's General Store

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Partial Transcript: Did you sell anything at the store that people couldn't get elsewhere?

Segment Synopsis: Conley gives more description on the types of products sold at Burke's General Store, especially during World War II. Conley also discusses how her mother helped people with debt at the store and how she handled a stealing incident with a former clerk.

Keywords: Burke's General Store; Goods; Products; Stock; Victory goods; WW 2; WW II; WW2; WWII; World War 2; World War II; World War Two

Subjects: General stores; Generosity.; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Ration books; Stealing; World War, 1939-1945

00:30:39 - Siblings / Aunts

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Partial Transcript: But I always said if--mommy made a good living for all of us.

Segment Synopsis: Conley discusses how she and her siblings entertained themselves growing up. She also talks about where all her siblings were born. Conley then talks about looking up to her two aunts as role models.

Keywords: Burke's General Store; Childhood entertainment; Childhood play; Family dynamics; Family relationships; Maternal figures

Subjects: Aunts; Childbirth.; Families.; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); McRoberts (Ky.); Role models; Siblings

00:33:54 - Marriage / Jimmy Conley

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Partial Transcript: I got a good man. Fantastic husband.

Segment Synopsis: Conley shares how she and her husband, Truman Conley, married the night of their prom without telling Conley's family. She talks about their decades of continuing marriage. Conley also talks about Truman beginning to show symptoms of dementia and how their son, Jimmy Conley, helps the married couple manage.

Keywords: Family relationships; Jimmy Conley; Romance; Romantic relationships; Truman Conley

Subjects: Aging parents; Children.; Elopement; Husbands; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Marriage.; Teenage marriage; Teenagers.

00:41:13 - Burke's customers

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Partial Transcript: I'm a talker.

Segment Synopsis: Conley discusses who shopped at Burke's General Store. She describes how large chain stores like Walmart eventually out-competed smaller stores like Burke's.

Keywords: Burke's General Store; Customers; General merchandise stores; Shoppers; Shopping habits; Small businesses; Store competition

Subjects: Jenkins (Ky.); Lakeside Park (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Pikeville (Ky.); Shelby County (Ky.)

00:42:41 - Kenneth Conley / Christine Conley

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Partial Transcript: I have a brother that graduated from UK.

Segment Synopsis: Conley discusses her younger brother, Kenneth Conley's, work and place of living today. Conley also discusses her younger sister, Christine Conley, their relationship, and coping with Christine's passing.

Keywords: Christine Conley; Kenneth Conley; Sibling dynamics; Sibling relationships; Sister relationships; Texas Instruments

Subjects: Alzheimer's disease.; Brothers; Grief.; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Siblings; Sisters; University of Kentucky; Versailles (Ky.)

00:44:25 - Hobbies, college, and Christianity

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Partial Transcript: That's something you can put down on there. I am a quilter.

Segment Synopsis: Conley discusses her hobbies of quilting, baking, cooking and how she learned to sew from her aunts. She talks about learning to use computers and earning college credit on them with her husband and a group of senior citizens. She also talks about being a Christian.

Keywords: Burdine Freewill Baptist Church; Clothing; Colleges; Higher education; Instructor's licenses; Pocketbooks; Quilters; Quilting groups; Senior citizens

Subjects: Baking.; Belk, Inc.; Burdine (Ky.); Christianity.; Cooking.; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Quilting.; Sewing.

00:49:41 - Competition between stores

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Partial Transcript: Merta Lee's (??) store was in seeing distance from mommy's store.

Segment Synopsis: Conley talks about the non-competitive, helpful relationships between smaller stores in East Jenkins. She talks about the harder competition being between small stores and company stores.

Keywords: Borrowing; Business competition; Business dynamics; East Jenkins (Ky.); Small stores

Subjects: Business.; Company stores; Competition.; General stores; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.)

00:53:29 - Losing family

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Partial Transcript: We have a wonderful family.

Segment Synopsis: Conley talks about losing family members with age. Conley particularly discusses one brother living in a nursing home.

Keywords: Coping skills; Losing family; Losing siblings; Siblings

Subjects: Brothers; Death.; Families.; Grief.; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Nursing homes

00:55:34 - Coal miner husband

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Partial Transcript: Would you tell me a bit about your husband?

Segment Synopsis: Conley talks about her husband who worked in the mines, worked as a maintenance person, and in factories. He played football and liked to fish. He was born in 1928. She talks about his family and his personality. She talks about dating. She talks about his career at Consolidated Coal Company and why he doesn't have black lung despite working in the mines.

Keywords: Bethlehem Energy; Maintenance foremen; Repairmen; Truman Conley

Subjects: Bethlehem Steel Company; Coal miners; Coal miners--Kentucky--Jenkins; Coal miners--Kentucky--Letcher County; Coal mines and mining; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Jenkins; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Letcher County; Coal mines and mining--Safety measures; Consolidation Coal Company; Husbands; Jenkins (Ky.); Joy Manufacturing Company; Letcher County (Ky.); Personality.

01:00:54 - Cabin in Jenkins

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Partial Transcript: The--another thing. We have a cabin.

Segment Synopsis: Conley describes how her husband built them a cabin in the Jenkins mountains. She talks about giving the cabin to their son and how he has turned it into a resort and event location.

Keywords: Cabin resorts; Cabins; Self built

Subjects: Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.)

01:05:56 - Socializing in Jenkins

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Partial Transcript: So when you were a kid, did you have much contact with other kids outside of school?

Segment Synopsis: Conley talks about making friends as a child in East Jenkins. She talks about how church and the movie theater were the main places for socialization.

Keywords: Burdine Freewill Baptist; East Jenkins (Ky.); Friends; Movie theaters; Movies; Reda Theatre; Social life; Socializing

Subjects: Cheerleaders; Childhood; Christianity.; Church.; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Socialization.

01:08:53 - Truman and Conley's family

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Partial Transcript: Did you have more freedom after you got married?

Segment Synopsis: Conley talks about how her marriage to Truman Conley impacted her family. She says Truman inherited her siblings along with her in marriage. She describes how much her mother loved Truman for the way he took care of her mother.

Keywords: Family dynamics; Family relationships; Siblings

Subjects: Families.; Husbands.; Marriage.; Mothers-in-law; Mothers.

01:13:35 - Grandson

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Partial Transcript: But my grandson wants it.

Segment Synopsis: Conley talks about one of her grandsons. She tells a near-fatal story of his work as a policeman in the narcotics division.

Keywords: Narcotics Division

Subjects: Grandsons; Henderson (Ky.); Justifiable homicide; Police; Police--Kentucky

01:16:21 - African Americans in Jenkins

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Partial Transcript: Can I ask you one more question?

Segment Synopsis: Conley talks about interactions with African Americans in East Jenkins. She discusses others in the community getting along well with African Americans, housing, and getting company jobs. However, she also describes a distance from African Americans due to segregation in the community and schools at the time.

Keywords: Community dynamics; East Jenkins (Ky.); Racial dynamics

Subjects: African American; African American families; African Americans--Economic conditions; African Americans--Education; African Americans--Employment--Kentucky; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Segregation--Southern States; African Americans--Social conditions; Integration; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Race relations; Rural African Americans.; School integration; Segregation; Segregation in education; Segregation in education--Kentucky; Segregation in education--United States

01:20:46 - Pastimes

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Partial Transcript: My husband loves to read.

Segment Synopsis: Conley describes what she, her husband, and her son like to read. Conley also talks about liking her computer and playing piano for the church.

Keywords: Amish literature; East Jenkins (Ky.); Kentucky Explorer Magazine; Pastimes

Subjects: Books.; Computers.; Hobbies.; Jenkins (Ky.); L'Amour, Louis, 1908-1988.; Letcher County (Ky.); Literature.; Piano; Reading.

01:22:48 - Changes and hopes for Jenkins

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Partial Transcript: One last question for you. What are some of the biggest changes you see in, in this community and, and what are your thoughts?

Segment Synopsis: Conley describes how Jenkins has many empty buildings now. She describes how the community is better for older, retired people than young people raising families. Conley hopes factories can bring more jobs to Jenkins and that services, like hospitals, will be built closer to Jenkins.

Keywords: Community aspirations; Community changes; Community dynamics; East Jenkins (Ky.); Infrastructure

Subjects: Community development.; Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Transformation

01:26:12 - Nieces / Archaeology / Bill Gibson and Phyllis Tackett

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Partial Transcript: So I met your nieces. They, they live here with you?

Segment Synopsis: Conley talks about her nieces, who are currently staying with her. She asks Komara about the field of archaeology. She talks about Bill Gibson and Phyllis Tackett and their writings about Jenkins.

Keywords: Bill Gibson; East Jenkins (Ky.); Phyllis Tackett; Town histories

Subjects: Anthropology.; Archaeology.; Christiansburg (Va.); Jenkins (Ky.); Letcher County (Ky.); Nieces