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 the story of the banning of the novel “Strange Fruit” in Boston. “The boldest indecent passages I have ever seen,” sniffed Boston’s Police Commissioner Thomas F. Sullivan. Author Lillian Smith, for many years director of the Laurel Falls Camp for girls in Clayton, GA, achieved instant national fame as a result. The book centers on the forbidden romance between a white man, Tracy Dean, and a black woman, Nonnie Anderson.
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
“Most of the boys carried an old Russell Barlow pocket knife,” Clyde Mullins of Elkhorn City, KY explains in this next oral history segment. “You could get a one blade at a store for fifteen cents and a two-blade—that is, a long blade and a short blade—for a quarter. So every boy around, practically, carried a Barlow.”
Big Pharma had not yet perfected the widespread manufacture of synthetic drugs in 1932. Instead, the industry relied on western North Carolina, southwestern Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and eastern Tennessee to furnish 75% of the crude botanical drugs which North America supplied to the drug markets. We’ll take a look at the pickers who went back into the hollers to collect the golden seal, garget root, blood root and black cohosh the rest of the world sought out.
“The work of the mountain mother is burdensome and she bears more than her share of responsibilities of the household,” reported Dr. Frances Sage Bradley in a 1918 NC survey for the Children’s Bureau of the U. S. Department of Labor. “Her housework includes washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and often spinning and knitting for the family. Handicapped by lack of modern conveniences, her task involves undue hardship.”
There are family reunions and more family reunions in Alabama, but how many can claim their very own cove, complete with a pavilion in case of rain or a too enthusiastic sun? Furthermore how many have their very own museum? Or a commercial picture postcard with their name and a picture of the ancestral home site? John R. Kennamer, Sr organized the first Kennamer family reunion in 1929, and it’s still held today. Let’s listen in on how that first reunion unfolded.
We’ll wrap things up with a humorous Cherokee myth titled “Why the possum’s tail is bare,” gathered in 1900 by ethnologist James Mooney of the Smithsonian Institution. The Possum used to have a long, bushy tail, and was so proud of it that he combed it out every morning and sang about it at the dance, until the Rabbit, who had had no tail since the Bear pulled it out, became very jealous and made up his mind to play the Possum a trick.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Jimmie Rodgers in a 1928 recording of “Treasures Untold.”
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.