Interview with Bige Warren, August 20, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:16 - Introduction and birth story

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Partial Transcript: So today is the--August 20th, 2015 and, um, this is Kathryn Engle with Bige Warren.

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses being born on December 26, 1937. His father traveled throughout the community to find someone to assist with the birth but was unsuccessful and Bige was born by the time he got back. Bige grew up in a three bedroom house but his parents and older siblings previously lived in a log house on the property.

Keywords: Home births; Log cabins; Midwife; Stinking Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Childbirth.; Midwives

00:04:37 - Early days / family / local enterprise

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Partial Transcript: Most of my family, uh--the three brothers went to World War II.

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses being the 10th of 13 children. There were 7 boys and 6 girls. Three of his brothers went to WWII and one was killed. Other brothers went north to places like Michigan to find work. He discusses being the fourth generation on the property. He discusses how roads were bad and that people used foot logs and how his parents rode mules. Bige tells the story of how many in the community made moonshine to make extra money. He tells how Tip Carnes ran the mill and he predicted that someday people on the creek would be able to talk to and see people in New York. Bige then tells about early telephones in the area.

Keywords: Cincinnati (Ohio); Family; Michigan; Migration; Moonshine; Roads; Roaring Fork (Ky.); Stinking Creek (Ky.); Telephones; World War II

Subjects: Country life; Families.; Land use, Rural.; Rural conditions; Rural roads; World War, 1939-1945

00:13:15 - Cumberland College / teaching / working for Kentucky Education Association / family

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Partial Transcript: But anyway Kathryn, I, I was a--I didn't go to--back to myself just a minute here.

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses the influence of his agriculture teacher and enrolling at Cumberland College. He then discusses teaching in one room schools for a decade then working as a mediator for the Kentucky Education Association for 36 years. He married his wife Phyllis in 1980 and they have two kids.

Keywords: Cumberland College; Family; Future Farmers of America (FFA); Kentucky Education Association (KEA); Mediation

Subjects: Education; Families.

00:18:29 - Electricity and running water

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Partial Transcript: I was--going, going back, you were talking about the roads. What's the name of this road? Has it always been Roaring Fork?

Segment Synopsis: Bige tells of the naming of the road and getting electricity in 1948. The family got a telephone around 1956. He tells of drawing water and not getting running water at the house until around 1966. He tells of how the KCEOC (Knox County Economic Opportunity Council) helped put in a bathroom for his parents.

Keywords: Bathrooms; Electricity; Indoor toilets; Knox County Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC ); Roaring Fork (Ky.); Running water; Telephone; Wells

Subjects: Plumbing.; Refuse and refuse disposal.; Rural conditions; Sewerage.

00:25:05 - Farming / timber cruising

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Partial Transcript: Was your dad, was he just--was he a farmer or did he have any other, other jobs?

Segment Synopsis: Bige tells of how his father was a farmer and how his parents were great gardeners. He discusses how his dad, uncle, and older brother worked as timber cruisers, estimating board feet of timber. He also talks about how the KCEOC (Knox County Economic Opportunity Council) did a lot of good work in the community.

Keywords: Gardening; KCEOC (Knox County Economic Opportunity Council); Timber cruising

Subjects: Family farms; Lumber trade; Subsistence farming; Timber--Rafting; Traditional farming--Kentucky

00:29:12 - Gardening, farming, and canning

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Partial Transcript: So, um, back to the gardens, I’ve got a few questions about agriculture and things like that.

Segment Synopsis: Bige tells of the different things grown in the garden growing up. He discusses potatoes, corn, and beans. He talks about having a variety of fruits and vegetables and an orchard. He mentions killing livestock and canning outside. Bige mentions that people have gotten away from gardening and hopes that people will learn how to garden again.

Keywords: Agriculture; Apples; Corn; Food preservation; Gardening; Hillside plowing; Livestock; Orchard; Plowing; Potatoes

Subjects: Canning and preserving; Family farms; Food--Preservation; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming--Kentucky

00:38:02 - Memories of his mother / importance of school / church shootout and jail escape story

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Partial Transcript: Um, so who did--so did you mom ever work--have public work?

Segment Synopsis: Bige recalls his mother working hard. [The interview is interrupted for a couple of minutes because of a visitor.] Bige recalls how his parents stressed the importance of school, honesty, and church growing up. He says that his older siblings helped raise him. He tells of how his grandpa was a Methodist minister and that there was a shootout at the church. Bige tells the story of how the shooter escaped the jail with the aid of the jailer’s daughter. He tells of how his older brother Sol was a local historian and writer.

Keywords: Agriculture; Farming; History; Honesty; Jail escape; Jails; Methodists; Mothers; Murders; Religion; Schools; Shootouts; Women

Subjects: Churches--Kentucky; Families.; Rural crimes--Kentucky

00:49:35 - Tractors / lye soap / molasses / commercial fertilizer

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Partial Transcript: So you mentioned, um, the mule and the tractor. When did your family get a tractor?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses when tractors first came to the area and how his father never had a tractor. He talks further about having animals and crops on the farm. He describes his mother making lye soap and how the family made sorghum molasses as a cash crop. Bige discusses beginning to use commercial fertilizer in addition to manure in the 1950s and how World War II changed things.

Keywords: Agricultural change; Commercial fertilizer; Fertilizer; Gardening; Lye soap; Molasses; Sorghum; Sorghum molasses; Tractors; World War II

Subjects: Agriculture--Kentucky; Family farms; Farm mechanization; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming--Kentucky; World War, 1939-1945

01:01:28 - Store-keeping / family gardening, food preservation, cooking, and typical meals

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Partial Transcript: And you said storekeeper so some of your families were--was storekeepers, too?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses how his grandparents and parents had a store. He tells of how his family has been gardening in the area for generations. Bige explains how his mother was in charge of canning, with help from his father and the kids. He describes their staple meals and how people often stopped in and visited or stayed overnight at their house.

Keywords: Breakfasts; Country stores; Food preservation; Gardening; Gravy; Lunches; Meals; Store keeping; Visiting

Subjects: Canning and preserving; Food--Preservation; General stores; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming--Kentucky

01:08:33 - Seed saving / homegrown food / sheep and wool / agricultural changes

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Partial Transcript: What about, um, seed saving?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses seed saving and more changes since World War II. He discusses how growing up his family raised the vast majority (90-95%) of their own food on the farm rather than buying it and how now those numbers are opposite. Bige discusses having sheep and selling wool for extra money and also having goats for meat, selling, and milk. Bige discusses agricultural changes in the community, the transition from mule and manual labor to tractors and increasing labor costs on farms. He laments that gardens seem less common in the area but is hopeful that people are getting back into putting out a garden.

Keywords: Agricultural change; Goats; Home food production; Seed saving; Sheep; Wool; World War II

Subjects: Agriculture--Kentucky; Family farms; Farm mechanization; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming--Kentucky; World War, 1939-1945

01:22:16 - The future of gardening and agriculture

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Partial Transcript: And so that leads into my next question is: What do you see as the future of gardening or agriculture in the community?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses the future of agriculture and gardening, noting that he is encouraged. He sees different people putting out small gardens. He thinks it’s important to talk about gardening to encourage people to get interested in agriculture.

Keywords: Future; Gardening

Subjects: Agriculture--Kentucky; Family farms; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming--Kentucky

01:26:10 - Politics and family land

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Partial Transcript: Um, what about--you've been involved in local politics too, have, haven't you?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses his involvement in local politics and his political leanings over the years. He discusses how he and his family are fairly outgoing and well known in the community. He tells of how his great uncles were involved in different political jobs and how they used to hold court in the community. He explains how he ended up acquiring his property on Roaring Fork from the family.

Keywords: Barack Obama; Bill Clinton; Court; Democrats; John F. Kennedy; Land; Republicans

Subjects: Families.; Politicians; Politics and government

01:44:00 - Living on Stinking Creek past and present / community stereotypes / job availability

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Partial Transcript: So, if, if somebody was to ask you, how would you respond to the question, um, "What is it like to live on Stinking Creek?"

Segment Synopsis: Bige describes what it was like to live on Stinking Creek growing up and in the present. He describes that it was difficult growing up and he mentions how John Fetterman came to the community in the 1960s. He discusses how roads and infrastructure has changed, but how there is still a lack of jobs. He discusses how the community is stereotyped but thinks that there are problems in most communities.

Keywords: Community life; Infrastructure; Jobs; John Fetterman; Occupations; Roads; Rural change; Stinking Creek (Ky.); Work

Subjects: Employment--Kentucky; Rural conditions; Stereotypes (Social psychology)

01:58:32 - Issues and future of Stinking Creek: depopulation, one-room schools, and school consolidation

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Partial Transcript: And tha--this kind of--these kind of go along with it: what do you think are the--and you kind of touched on some of this--what are some of the biggest issues on the creek now?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses drugs and job availability being problems in the community. [There is a pause in the interview.] Bige discusses the future of the community and the depopulation he sees and how people have to drive a long way for work. He is somewhat pessimistic about the future of Stinking Creek. Bige discusses school consolidation and teaching in one room schools. He describes how the sense of community changes when a school is shut down. He talks about getting his Master’s degree and Rank I.

Keywords: Community; Community change; Depopulation; Drugs; Jobs; One-room schools; School consolidation; Stinking Creek (Ky.); Work

Subjects: Education; Employment--Kentucky; Teachers--Kentucky; Teaching

02:21:40 - Peggy and Irma and the Lend-A-Hand Center

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Partial Transcript: So when, when was the first time that you met or heard about Peggy and Irma coming here?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses his early interactions with Peggy Kemner and Irma Gall, founders of the Lend-A-Hand Center. He discusses the youth programs and medical programs at the Center. Bige talks about working for Irma under the Knox County Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC). Bige talks about how the women took in children and families and tells the story of how Peggy assisted the family when Bige’s nephew fell into a pot of hot water. He discusses Irma’s tutoring and how the women have made an impact on the community.

Keywords: Farming; Healthcare; Irma Gall; Knox County Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC); Lend-A-Hand Center; Nurse midwifery; Nursing; Peggy Kemner; Stinking Creek (Ky.); Youth programs

Subjects: Communities.; Community organization.; Community-based family services.; Community-based social services.

02:40:03 - Peggy and Irma assimilating into the community

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Partial Transcript: How did they--when they first got here, how do you think they assimilated into the community?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses what it was like when Peggy and Irma first came into the community. He discusses how they assimilated and how some people were wary of them at first.

Keywords: Acceptance; Assimilation; Community; Lend-A-Hand Center; Outsiders; Stinking Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Communities.; Community organization.; Community-based family services.; Community-based social services.

02:45:38 - Brave women of the Lend-A-Hand Center

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Partial Transcript: What do you think about them as women, you know, doing all these things?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses Peggy and Irma’s contributions as women to the community. He calls them “brave women” and discusses how they did things women didn’t traditionally do and how they provided services to women such as birth control.

Keywords: Appalachian women; Birth control; Farming; Gender roles; Healthcare; Tractors; Women; Women's empowerment; Women's programs

Subjects: Communities.; Community organization.; Community-based family services.; Community-based social services.; Medical care--Kentucky

02:53:07 - Most important programs of the Lend-A-Hand Center

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Partial Transcript: What do you think has been the most important program or the most important, uh, contribution?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses how he thinks the delivering babies, youth programs, and tutoring programs have been the most important contributions of the work of Peggy and Irma of the Lend-A-Hand Center.

Keywords: Education; Healthcare; Lend-A-Hand Center; Nurse midwifery; Stinking Creek (Ky.); Tutoring; Youth programs

Subjects: Communities.; Community organization.; Community-based family services.; Community-based social services.; Medical care--Kentucky

02:56:44 - Lend-A-Hand Board and Lend-A-Hand Road

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Partial Transcript: And then recently you got involved with the board.

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses becoming a member of the Lend-A-Hand Center Board of Directors. He also discusses putting in the back road to Lend-A-Hand which he named the Lend-A-Hand Road.

Keywords: Board of Directors; Lend-A-Hand Center; Nonprofit management; Roads

Subjects: Communities.; Community organization.; Community-based family services.; Community-based social services.

03:07:27 - The future of the Lend-A-Hand Center

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Partial Transcript: So what do you think, what do you think about the future of Lend-A-Hand?

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses the future of the Lend-A-Hand Center saying that the future is uncertain, but that he would like to see the organization continue. He discusses how Peggy and Irma are not able to do what they did in the past. Bige mentions that the organization has been looking for new leadership and might not do the same things as it has in the past.

Keywords: Lend-A-Hand Center; Nonprofit management; Red Bird Mission

Subjects: Communities.; Community organization.; Community-based family services.; Community-based social services.

03:16:29 - Knox County Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC)

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Partial Transcript: That--I guess the--that's pretty much all my questions.

Segment Synopsis: Bige discusses his participation in the Knox County Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) in the mid-1960s. He discusses programs at the Messer Community Center and at the Kay Jay Center where he was the director for a short time. He discusses the controversies of the program, including when an interracial couple who were employed by the program got married and Irma Gall was sent to Washington DC and met with Sargent Shriver.

Keywords: Appalachia; Community Action Program; Kay Jay Community Center; Knox County Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC); Messer Community Center; Sargent Shriver; Stinking Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Communities.; Community organization.; Community-based family services.; Community-based social services.