Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Helen Garner, November 14, 1991

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:06 - Sex education

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Partial Transcript: --with Helen Garner in her home, uh, to finish the story of Midway and the story of Helen.

Segment Synopsis: Garner says they received no sex education during their youth and their parents didn't tell them anything. She discusses girls who became pregnant and what happened to them. She was told not to let a boy touch her and she didn't know what that meant. She says they would pick up ideas from other girls their age and older. She didn't know where the baby was going to come from when she was first pregnant. She didn't get information about menstruation other than she could now have babies.

Keywords: African American families; African Americans; Babies; Birth control; Black families; Black people; Child birth; Childbirth; Contraception; Giving birth; Infants; Menstruating; Periods; Pregnancies; Sex; Sex customs; Sex education

Subjects: African American history; African Americans--Social conditions; Bottle feeding.; Breastfeeding.; Church.; First pregnancy; First sexual experiences; Human reproduction.; Kentucky--History.; Menarche; Menstruation.; Midway (Ky.); Pregnant women.; Reproductive rights.; Sex counseling.; Sex instruction.; Sexual health.; Sexual intercourse.; Teenage pregnancy.; Unplanned pregnancy.

00:06:23 - Home remedies

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Partial Transcript: Well, now that we're on health matters, um, w--how did people take care of their health?

Segment Synopsis: Garner says she only remembers going to the doctor once for sores in her mouth. She discusses some home remedies, including catnip tea and pine syrup for colds, and mutton grease and flannel on your chest and homemade salves for measles and chickenpox. Cod liver oil, castor oil, and coal oil (with sugar) were other remedies that were given often. Bacon, cobwebs, and coal oil were used for cuts and stepping on needles. Sassafras tea and cherry bark were also used. She mentions the people who did home remedies for others. Ivory soap was used for constipation.

Keywords: Alternative medicine; Castor oil; Catnip; Catnip tea; Cherry bark; Cherry bark tea; Coal-oil; Cod-liver oil; Colds; Complementary and alternative medicine; Complementary and alternative therapies; Cuts; Home remedies; Homeopathic medicine; Homeopathic remedies; Homeopathy; Illnesses; Kerosene; Lacerations; Petroleum; Pine needle syrup; Pine needles; Salves; Sassafras; Sassafras tea; Sicknesses

Subjects: Cherry; Chicken pox; Cold (Disease); Constipation.; Diseases; Ethnopharmacology.; Kentucky--History.; Lubrication and lubricants.; Measles.; Medical care.; Midway (Ky.); Oils and fats; Ointments; Penetrating wounds; Physicians.; Respiratory infections; Sassafras albidum; Self-care, Health.; Soap.; Spider webs; Syrups; Tallow; Tea.; Traditional medicine; Whooping cough.; Wounds and injuries

00:17:39 - Work throughout her life

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Partial Transcript: Alright, I think that's, um, a good picture of health and medical matters here in, in town.

Segment Synopsis: Garner says she has been working ever since she was in the 8th or 9th grade. When she was younger, they would mop other people's houses. In the summer, they worked in tobacco. She got a job taking care of a few children and stayed on with the grandmother and grandfather cooking the evening meal every other Sunday. They were required at home to give up a day's pay. When they got a regular job, they had to get a life insurance policy. She describes where she moved after school. She worked redrying tobacco. She worked in Lexington for good wages. She got married and had six children and then left her husband and worked multiple jobs at once. She worked at factories and day jobs up until around 1968 when her ex-husband had a stroke and was declared disabled and she got social security and a veteran's pension and quit two of her jobs, continuing to work at the factory job until she got injured.

Keywords: African Americans; Black people; Caretakers; Childcarers; Childminders; Cleaning; Cooking; Divorce; Factories; Families; Husbands; Income; Life insurance; Marriage; Money; Moving; Nurserymaids; Redry tobacco; Redrying tobacco; Strokes; Tobacco; Tobacco redrying; Veterans' pensions; Wages

Subjects: African American history; Cerebrovascular disease; Children.; Cleaning.; Columbus (Ohio); Day care aides; Dayton (Ohio); Disabilities.; Governesses; Guardian and ward.; Kentucky--History.; Labor.; Midway (Ky.); Military pensions.; Moving, Household.; Nannies; Occupations; Pensions.; Social security.; Work.

00:25:42 - Childcare

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Partial Transcript: Well, then, for childcare, you could rely on your parents.

Segment Synopsis: Garner paid her mother to look after her children. She mentions living in a duplex with the neighbor looking out for the kids. Her mother would stay until the kids went to sleep. She describes the girls next door with whom she was friends. The kids had everything that was necessary. She discusses the kids getting bicycles. Her mother was good at sewing.

Keywords: African Americans; Bicycles; Black people; Caretakers; Child minding; Child rearing; Childcare; Childcarers; Childminders; Children; Duplexes; Kids; Neighbors; Nurserymaids; Parenting; Parents

Subjects: African American history; Babysitting; Child care; Death.; Dwellings; Fathers; Friendship.; Gifts.; Housing; Housing.; Interpersonal relations; Kentucky--History.; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Midway (Ky.); Mothers.; School-age child care; Sewing.; Social interaction.

00:32:02 - Social life and children's activities

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Partial Transcript: Well, I have to ask you another question--

Segment Synopsis: Garner went out on weekends, on Saturdays socializing. She would take the kids to football and basketball games and drop them off and pick them up later. The children had a reliable schedule to their daily routine. She said they were pretty obedient children. She spanked all of the kids who fought at all. Everyone went to church and Sunday school. When she was a kid, on Sunday they couldn't do anything except listen to religious music. They would go to her great grandmother's house and make cookies on Sunday and pull candy and make ice cream and popcorn balls and fudge. She tells a story from her childhood about walking to town instead of going home and ducking into church to try and get out of trouble, but they got in trouble in the end. She thinks making children obey constantly is better than how her grandchildren were raised which resulted in them sometimes talking back to their parents.

Keywords: Arguments; Baking; Basketball; Candy; Control; Controlling; Cookies; Fighting; Fights; Fist fights; Fistfights; Football; Friendships; Fudge; Grandchildren; Music; Obedience; Parenting; Religious music; Routines; Spanking

Subjects: Child rearing.; Children.; Christianity.; Church.; Corporal punishment.; Flagellation.; Interpersonal relations; Kentucky--History.; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Midway (Ky.); Naps (Sleep); Religion.; Religious; Sacred music.; Scheduling.; Social interaction.; Sunday schools.

00:42:55 - Schooling and integration

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Partial Transcript: Do you think that church really reinforced what you did at home?

Segment Synopsis: Garner says the church was a help in raising the children. She transferred her kids from Lexington to Midway because the schools in Lexington were rougher. They continue to discuss the children's schooling. At the beginning of integration, there was a lot of prejudice. One teacher choked one of her kids. She told them she would be the one to punish them, not the teachers. They put her brother out of school because he missed so much school because he was sick, but he did graduate in service. Garner says prejudice still exists today in schools and Black parents need to stay interested in their children's schooling and how they're being treated at school. She discusses some incidents with Black children and prejudice in school, including dissuading Black children from advanced studies.

Keywords: African American teachers; African Americans; Black children; Black people; Black teachers; Diseases; Education; Elementary schools; Illnesses; Junior high schools; Middle schools; Parenting; Parents; Prejudices; Rural schools; Schools; Sickness; Students; Teachers; Teaching; Violence

Subjects: African American students.; African American teachers.; Black people--Segregation; Children, Black; Corporal punishment.; Discrimination in education.; Kentucky--History.; Learning and scholarship.; Lexington (Ky.); Midway (Ky.); Minorities.; Racism.; School integration.; Segregation in education.; Segregation.; Students, Black; Teachers, Black

00:59:13 - Transportation, travel, and work

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Partial Transcript: It really started more too when you had the means to leave town and go off into Lexington and get a job.

Segment Synopsis: Garner discusses the transportation into Lexington. People started getting cars in the 1960s and that, combined with a lack of affordable housing, resulted in more people leaving Midway. She has a cousin who works in Lexington. The community started as a farming community but the distilleries took people away from the farms. She was offered a housekeeping job that she once would have jumped for, but not anymore. Garner discusses how people still have roots in Midway and return for reunions. She discusses some people she remembers who were memorable.

Keywords: African American families; African Americans; Agriculture; Automobiles; Black families; Black people; Boredom; Buses; Cars; Distilleries; Dwellings; Families; Farms; Hog killings; Horse farms; Housekeeping; Houses; Housing; Local transit; Local transportation; Passenger trains; Railroad trains; Restlessness; Rural land use; Shopping; Swine; Trains; Travel; War; World War I; World War II

Subjects: African American history; Agitation (Psychology); Christianity.; Church.; Families, Black; Family reunions.; Home.; Kentucky--History.; Korean War, 1950-1953.; Labor.; Land use, Rural.; Lexington (Ky.); Midway (Ky.); Midwives.; Migratory restlessness; Military.; Occupations; Ohio State University; Religion.; Religious; Slaughtering and slaughter-houses.; Tennessee State University; Work.; World War, 1914-1918; World War, 1939-1945.