We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. You can start listening right away by clicking the podcast icon over on the left side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here.
We open today’s show with an oral history from Brenda Collins Dillon of Richwood, WV. She describes how her grandfather lost his older daughter, his wife, his sister-in law, and his brother-in law to the Great Flu of 1918. The man was crazy with grief and left with a baby (Dillon’s mother) whom he felt wouldn’t live either. He wrapped the tiny baby and placed her into a cigar box, covered it with a towel, dropped her off with a trusted neighbor, and disappeared from town forever.
Kentuckian Sara Ogan Gunning lost lots of loved ones prematurely, too. But her grief was tinged with rage over the local company bosses and the wretched conditions they forced on their workers. Luckily for us she was talented enough to write it all down in song. We’ll take a close look at one of her pieces, “I Hate the Company Bosses.”
Remember Beta vs. VHS? That same kind of rivalry happened between the Victaphone and Movietone methods of adding sound to the movies. Sherwood Anderson, later to become a world famous novelist, edited the Smyth County News for a time, and his 1929 article explains the difference between the two systems.
Ever run into an old school flame far from home, only to strike it up again? Steubenville Ohio’s ‘Harding Bee Hive’ newsletter kept school alumni apprised of who was dating whom long after graduation. In this next segment recent college grad Jimmy Roberts encounters ‘Mary’ at a business seminar in Cleveland and they dive headlong into a whirlwind romance. Not so strange for old high school flames, perhaps, but ‘Harding Bee Hive’ was the newsletter of Harding JUNIOR High School.
End of June means time to bring the hay in if you’re a farmer, and before the advent of tractors, that meant pitchforks, strong backs and a haywagon. Martinsburg WV native son Kenneth Tabler relates how as a teenager it was his job to stand atop the wagon as men on either side heaved forkfuls in his direction. He had to tamp the hay down properly so it didn’t slide off the wagon. In this piece he gets to drive the wagon for the very first time.
Summer time is carnival time. If it seems to you that every time you try you fail miserably at games such as ring toss, there’s a reason for that. This 1930 article from Modern Mechanix magazine lays out in glorious detail all the tricks of the trade to keep you from winning those big stuffed toys.
We’ll wrap things up with a look at the ongoing controversy between artifact collectors and archaeologists. Both value antique treasures that emerge from the ground, but who’s got rightful claim? We’ll zoom in on a dustup that occurred in Dayton, TN around the turn of the century between these two camps.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Internet Archive we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music The Bluegrass All-Stars in a 1930s recording of “White House Blues.”
So, call your old blue-tick hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.