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 right side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here:
We open today’s show with a saga of science and political cover-up. In October 1960, Dr. Bernice Eddy gave a talk to the Cancer Society in New York without warning her employer, the National Institutes of Health, in advance. She startled the attendees by announcing that she had examined cells from monkey’s kidneys in which the polio virus to be used in polio vaccines was grown, and had found they were infected with cancer causing viruses. This talk cost Dr. Eddy her career.
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.
Author James Milton Hanna’s memoir , “Cornbread and Beans for Breakfast,” published in 1995, portrays the Depression era scene from his childhood in Cherokee, AL. His title story from that collection recounts the teenaged Hanna’s visit to a friend’s house, and the young man’s surprise when he learns that he’ll be sleeping in a bed with his friend AND the friend’s two sisters!
Curt Jett, the ‘wild dog of the mountains,’ was a member of the Hargis clan in Kentucky’s Hargis-Cockrill feud at the turn of the 20th century. He was given life imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for the cold blooded murder of two men on two separate occasions at the Breathitt County courthouse. But rather than breaking him, prison brought Jett to God. “Even the expression of Jett’s face has changed and he has none of that hard look that he used to wear,” stated a reporter for the ‘Owenton Herald News’ seven years into Jett’s sentence. “He is bright and cheerful and the warden, Col. Mudd, says there is not a better prisoner in the penitentiary than Jett. The Rev. Joseph Severance, the prison chaplain, says that Jett is one of the best Bible scholars he ever saw and knows more about the Bible than many earnest church workers.”
Did you ever wonder why you came home from the carnival empty handed? Remember how you tried to ring the bell by hammering the catapult or how you tossed ring after ring trying to win a cane? Swindled? Well, maybe! In this next segment, a Modern Mechanix article from June 1930 tells how carnival operators gimmick their games so that you can’t win.
James Alfred Sartain wrote his “History of Walker County GA” in 1932, a little over a decade after the boll weevil decimated the cotton industry throughout Georgia. “Noxious insects and weeds as we have them today are not as a rule indigenous to the soil,” he observed. “They have come in by transportation. Our forbears were not concerned about so many troublesome insects and plant diseases as we experience. The boll weevil and bean beetle have been here a dozen years. Other insects and weeds have come in at various times. No doubt others are to arrive by and by. This is one price that we must pay for our civilization.”
We’ll wrap things up with “The Yellow-billed Cuckoo,” by columnist Emma Bell Miles, published in the ‘Chattanooga News’ on June 30, 1914. It’s one of the Fountain Square Conversations, written as dialogues between the animal visitors to the Chattanooga landmark.
“Now, they tell about me, again and again, that I don’t make a nest, but lay my eggs in the home of another bird, being too lazy to bring up my own babies,” complains the Cuckoo to any bird who’ll listen. “Of course it’s a slander.”
And, thanks to the good folks at Rounder Records (Old Originals, Vol 1– Old-time instrumental music recently recorded in North Carolina and Virginia) , we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Delmar Pendleton in a 1976 recording of “Tommy Love.”
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.