0:22 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript:This is tape for women of coal project, Kentucky oral history. Today is November 13, 1993. Randy Norris doing the interview.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewee, Alta Whitaker is introduced. She gives her biographical and family history.

Keywords: family members--grandparents; family members--parents; family members--siblings; Kentucky Historical Society; Kits (Ky.)

Subjects: Harlan County (Ky.) mines and mining--Kentucky--Harlan County

2:53 - Moving to Kentucky

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Partial Transcript:When did you move up here from Tennessee? As late as 1933, 'cause my oldest son Roy was born in 1935. I reckon I'm getting it right.

Segment Synopsis: Whitaker moved to Kentucky in 1933 at the age of 14 or 15. She originally lived in Tennessee, but was brought to Kentucky by her father after she became pregnant. She speaks of surviving on only one dollar a day.

Keywords: Great Depression; Kentucky; relocation; Tennessee


5:59 - Coal camps

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Partial Transcript:When you moved up here in the Depression, what were the coal camps like when you moved up here, just best as you can remember?

Segment Synopsis: She discusses the living conditions in the coal camps when she moved to Kentucky. The coal miners could not afford to buy coal and were forced to buy all their supplies from the company store. Whitaker tells how her husband lost his leg in a mining accident. After he lost his leg he was out of work, but the family was paid only 800 dollars. They were on compensation from the mining company in order to survive.

Keywords: coal camps; Great Depression; mining

Subjects: Depressions--1929

7:37 - Mining accident

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Partial Transcript:That was after my husband had worked for them for so long, and then he lost his leg. Did he lose it in the mines?

Segment Synopsis: Whitaker continues to tell how her husband lost his leg in a mining accident. After he lost his leg he was out of work. but the family was paid only 800 dollars. They were on compensation from the mining company in order to survive.

Keywords: injuries; mine accidents; worker's compensation

Subjects: Mine safety

9:12 - Raising children

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Partial Transcript:I never had an easy life in my life. Well, what was your day like, raising three boys? Rough.

Segment Synopsis: She discusses raising her children through a divorce and a second marriage. The coal camp provided schooling and healthcare for the children. The children were only taught until the fifth grade and they had to walk to school.

Keywords: divorce; education; parenthood; remarriage; single mothers


12:24 - Unions

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Partial Transcript:Now, tell us about when they were, was this during the thirties they were trying to unionize?

Segment Synopsis: She talks about unionizing in the thirties and forties. Each mining company owned roughly fifteen to twenty mines. The company could send men to any mine despite the amount of travel needed to get there.

Keywords: coal mines; employment opportunities; union rallies--coordination


14:14 - Control of the people

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Partial Transcript:That...tell family stories about raising gardens.

Segment Synopsis: The coal camps were designed to create dependence on the mining company. Families were given only a small portion of land, forcing them to purchase food rather than growing their own gardens. Money was deducted from miners' paychecks to pay for doctors and the commissary.

Keywords: coal camps; commissaries(stores)


18:14 - Changes in coal society

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Partial Transcript:What were the big social things? Church? Did the coal camps allow you to have church?

Segment Synopsis: Church did not play a big role in the lives of the mining families. They were allowed to attend church, but it was not a priority in their hectic lives.

Keywords: church; coal industry; decline; social security

Subjects: Church Churches--Kentucky Religion

21:00 - Whitfields

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Partial Transcript:Who are some of the most colorful characters that you've known here in the coal fields over the years?

Segment Synopsis: She discusses the Whitfields, who owned the mine in which her family worked. This family controlled the fate of every family within the coal camps.

Keywords: Kits (Ky.); Little Creek; mine owners; Whitfields


26:31 - Politics

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Partial Transcript:What about politics? Were you all allowed to be involved in elections and everything? Oh God no, you better vote for who they wanted...

Segment Synopsis: Mining families were not allowed to be involved in politics. They were forced to vote according to the desires of the mine owners. The consequences of disobeying were unemployment and eviction.

Keywords: eviction; politics; unemployment; voting

Subjects: Politics, Practical

27:37 - Dreams and education

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Partial Transcript:When you first came here, what were your hopes and your dreams?

Segment Synopsis: Whitaker has had such a difficult life that she never had any dreams or aspirations. She simply wanted to have enough to survive.

Keywords: coal camps; education; personal growth; primary education


32:34 - Closure of the mines

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Partial Transcript:Once the mines were down and out of operation whatever, the Whitfields were lost in time. They're sitting right here lost in time.

Segment Synopsis: The lives of the miners and company owners are discussed after the closure of the mines. She discusses being a bootlegger.

Keywords: bootleg alcohol; coal mines; emotional; Harlan County (Ky.); prohibition

Subjects: mines and mining--Kentucky--Harlan County

36:50 - House fire

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Partial Transcript:Tell us about the time the house burned. Well now it was sitting right out there.

Segment Synopsis: Whitaker describes a particular hardship in her life when her house burned down. Everything was lost in the fire.

Keywords: house fire smoke; loss of property


40:16 - Conclusion

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Partial Transcript:She's not bitter. She still, she enjoys her family. She enjoys her life around her.

Segment Synopsis: Whitaker discusses the future and her past. Despite the hardships suffered in her life, she shows no bitterness or regret. The interview is concluded.



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