Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Larry Sizemore, August 26, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Growing up, farming, country life, school, and coal mining

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Partial Transcript: Okay, we'll get started here.

Segment Synopsis: Larry Sizemore discusses being born at Redbird during the 1957 flood. He tells about his family and how they farmed. They had livestock, gardens, farmed the hillsides, and got coal out of the nearby mountain. His family did not have running water or electricity when he was young. He believes his family got electricity in 1966. Larry tells about starting school at Dewitt when he was four years old. He discusses the Erose School and how the one-room schools consolidated and the school bus started to run. He tells about walking to church. He remembers coal oil lamps, having a well, curing meat in the smokehouse, and keeping milk in the spring. He remembers his mother canning and storing potatoes and apples in a hole in the ground. His father farmed but also worked some in the nearby coal mines for Coleman Fuel.

Keywords: Coal mining; Country life; Family farms; Gardening; Stinking Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Agriculture--Kentucky; Childhood; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Education--Kentucky; Families.; Food--Preservation; Rural children; Rural conditions; Rural electrification; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming--Kentucky

00:11:03 - Memories, families, and migration

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Partial Transcript: So what was it like growing up here?

Segment Synopsis: Sizemore discusses growing up and farming together with his family. He remembers fishing and swimming in the creek and doing chores after coming home from school. He remembers there being more families in the community when he was growing up. He says that it's peaceful and quiet to live on Stinking Creek and he remembers sharing food with neighbors. Sizemore tells about people moving out of the community. He remembers his mother making a big breakfast every morning.

Keywords: Agriculture; Gardening; Out-migration; Rural change; Stinking Creek (Ky.); Subsistence farming; Traditional farming

Subjects: Communities.; Country life; Families.; Rural conditions; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming

00:17:03 - Farming life--Livestock, plowing, planting, harvesting, cooking, and hunting

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Partial Transcript: So--(coughs)--how long have you been gardening?

Segment Synopsis: Sizemore discusses gardening and farming all of his life. He tells of growing crops organically and says that his family didn't buy fertilizer when he was growing up. Sizemore remembers plowing with a mule and the commands for the mule. He thinks that he and Irma Gall and his neighbor are the only people who still milk on the Creek. He tells of starting to drive a car when he was 12 years old. His family sometimes sold and delivered house coal, would work in other people's gardens, or do odd jobs to make money. He remembers having cows and chickens and that his mother would fry a chicken every morning. He remembers his grandmother cooking for the church crowd. His family would kill 4 to 6 hogs a year. Sizemore has raised and killed hogs as an adult and shared with his siblings that have moved out of the community. He remembers planting corn and beans by hand and planting the whole hillside. He comments that deer and turkey weren't in the area until about 15 years ago. He tells of hunting and preparing small game. Sizemore recalls the staple meal growing up and harvesting by hand.

Keywords: Appalachian agriculture; Cooking; Gardening; Harvesting; Hunting; Plowing; Steep slope farming; Stinking Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Agriculture--Kentucky; Communities.; Country life; Farm life.; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming--Kentucky

00:31:05 - Canning and saving seeds

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Partial Transcript: Tell me a little bit more about canning.

Segment Synopsis: Sizemore discusses his mother canning in a #2 washtub. They canned meat as well as fruits and vegetables. They had a big pantry inside and his mother would cook and his sisters later helped her. He remembers his mother washing clothes. Sizemore discusses saving seeds and starting transplants. He tells of the different crops they raised and getting apples and storing them. Sizemore remembers neighbors helping each other out, and his family only buying a few different items at the grocery store. Sizemore remembers being told about a mill his in-laws had and how a portion of the ground meal was the fee. Sizemore's family grew pretty much everything they had and he doesn't remember getting federal assistance.

Keywords: Gardening; Seed saving; Stinking Creek (Ky.); Subsistence agriculture

Subjects: Agriculture--Kentucky; Canning and preserving; Communities.; Country life; Family farms.; Farm life.; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming

00:42:27 - Continuing farming traditions and memories

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Partial Transcript: And so how did that change growing up?

Segment Synopsis: Sizemore discusses how what he buys now in the store versus what he grows himself has not changed too much since he was growing up. He still raises his own meats and cans his produce. He says very few people have hogs on the Creek anymore. He recalls canning cracklings. Sizemore says you can can anything. His family canned meats, including mutton. He recalls that most of the families around him growing up grew most all of their food. He does not know about people in town because his family mostly stayed at home because they had a lot to work to do. He remembers there was no one going hungry and that people helped each other out. His uncle even grew his own tobacco. He does not recall very much selling of produce but he does remember sharing and giving away food.

Keywords: Gardening; Hogs; Stinking Creek (Ky.); Tobacco

Subjects: Agriculture.; Communities.; Country life; Farm life.; Rural conditions; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming

00:49:15 - Changes in agriculture, selling produce, diets, and the future of agriculture

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Partial Transcript: So how do you think, um, how do you think agriculture has changed over the years?

Segment Synopsis: Sizemore tells of how agriculture has changed and farms have gotten big. Work takes a lot less time, and sprays and fertilizers are used. He says few have livestock and some people just have a small garden. He recalls using fertilizers and spray on corn at one time and having big harvests. He also sometimes leased land to grow on. He also remembers planting in the wood ash pile and having great harvests of beans. He tells of recently selling extra produce on Facebook. He tells of how his neighbor/renter has helped him. He tells of how farming went from a mule to a tractor. Sizemore tells a story of going to Cynthiana, Kentucky to help cut tobacco and offering to help an Amish family plow with a tractor. They declined and about a week later different families came with horses and had the entire field plowed. He says that unlike now, back in the day you didn't hear of people dying of heart attacks because they worked. Sizemore talks about how diets have changed and how if people came back to gardening it would help their health. As far as the future of agriculture in the area, Sizemore thinks very few people will continue to garden. He hopes to be able to continue to garden. He only thinks the kids of the big farmers will continue to maintain the farms. He doesn't see kids getting very involved with gardening but thinks the Grow Appalachia program might be a way to go. He tells of his own children and granddaughter, and talks about the FFA program.

Keywords: Agricultural changes; Diets; Future Farmers of America (FFA); Gardening; Produce; Rural changes; Stinking Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Agriculture.; Communities.; Country life; Farm life.; Rural conditions; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming

01:02:08 - Factory work, truck driving, mining supplies, working at the school, and horse logging

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Partial Transcript: You said you went to school and then got your GED.

Segment Synopsis: Sizemore tells of how he worked for East Kentucky Steel for five years then worked driving a truck and hauling mining supplies for seventeen years. He talks about selling cap board wedges for the mines. Sizemore then got his GED and started working at the high school. He has been there since 1995 doing custodial work. He also continued to farm. He tells about fixing up an oxen plow for someone and how his grandfather had a pair of oxen. He tells about logging with horses and selling timber. He recently got rid of his horses but still has donkeys.

Keywords: Animal traction; Cap wedges; Coal mining; Horse logging; Horses; Jobs; Logging; Occupations; Oxen; Stinking Creek (Ky.); Timbering; Work

Subjects: Agriculture.; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky; Country life; Employment--Kentucky; Farm life.; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming

01:08:13 - Lend-A-Hand Center programs, community centers, and one-room schools

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Partial Transcript: So what's been your experience--tell me about Lend-A-Hand.

Segment Synopsis: Sizemore discusses his experience with the Lend-A-Hand Center. He went to Sunday school and 4-H at the Center. He has bought milk cows over the years from Irma Gall. He remembers buses picking kids up and some of the volunteers at the Center that ran programs. He tells of Peggy Kemner delivering babies in the community, including some of his siblings. He remembers going to the clinic and getting shots from Peggy. Sizemore remembers the community center programs during the War on Poverty, and tells of the singings and ball games they had. Sizemore discusses the old one-room schools and says his older sister had Irma for a teacher.

Keywords: 4-H; Appalachia; Childbirth; Irma Gall; Knox County Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC); Lend-A-Hand Center; Nurse midwifery; One-room schools; Peggy Kemner; Rural healthcare; Stinking Creek; Teachers; War on Poverty

Subjects: Communities.; Community organization.; Community-based family services.; Community-based social services.; Country life; Education--Kentucky; Kentucky--Social life and customs; Medical care--Kentucky; Rural children; Rural conditions

01:18:43 - "Stinking Creek" book, media representation / Impact and future of the Lend-A-Hand Center

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Partial Transcript: And I guess also, you were saying about the, the "Stinking Creek" book...

Segment Synopsis: Sizemore discusses the book "Stinking Creek" by John Fetterman. He remembers Fetterman being in the community and taking pictures. He thinks Stinking Creek gets a bad rap and he discusses the media and how it skews things and often only presents negative aspects of things. Sizemore thinks the Lend-A-Hand Center has been a great asset to the community and has helped a lot of people. He discusses the different ways they've helped, including medical services. Sizemore thinks that in order for the Center to continue someone will have to come along and take it over. He thinks the Center could continue to do what it has done in the community.

Keywords: Appalachia; John Fetterman; Lend-A-Hand Center; Non-profit organizations; Non-profits; Stinking Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalachians (People)--Kentucky--Social conditions; Communities.; Community organization.; Community-based family services.; Community-based social services.; Country life; Regionalism--Appalachian Region; Rural conditions; Stereotypes (Social psychology)

01:28:33 - Issues, future, and opportunities for Stinking Creek

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Partial Transcript: What do you, uh, what do you think are some of the biggest issues on the Creek today?

Segment Synopsis: Sizemore discusses issues on the Creek. He doesn't see many opportunities in the area and thinks it is difficult to make a living in the area because of changes in the mining industry. He believes agriculture might be a possibility for the area but would require lots of hard work. Sizemore is unsure about the future of the community, but thinks few people will stay on the Creek.

Keywords: Coal mining; Gardening; Out-migration; Rural changes; Stinking Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Agriculture.; Communities.; Employment--Kentucky; Industries; Rural conditions